Saturday, April 10, 2010

Advisory Committee warns of threat to APP

An announcement of a recent APP Advisory Committee meeting on April 6 included this warning:
Seattle Public Schools is facing significant cuts in funding for all its schools ... We hope to discuss the status of proposed changes and how they might impact ... schools where APP is offered, and the program itself.
Stu commented ([1] [2]):
I've gotten more paranoid over this past year but I found the above sentence ... kind of disturbing. It almost implies that they're planning on moving/changing the APP schools . . . and the program.

Unfortunately, I believe the commitment to advanced learning really ends with ALO. This administration wants ALO in every school, possibly some Spectrum programs in each "cluster," but will look to end APP in the near future. Based on everything they've been doing, I don't see how APP fits in their plans. It takes the "smart" kids out of the neighborhood schools, where their scores would help curve things up a bit, and adds to the overall transportation costs. With APP gone, they get to cut transportation, staffing, buildings . . a whole lot of things.

Splitting the program, and ignoring the history of divided buildings, was the first step . . . I'd love to see it last but, on a personal level, don't believe our current 5th grader will ever get to Garfield.
SoundEndScribe later summarized the meeting, including saying this:
It wasn't long ... [until] the question of continued commitment to the APP program in particular was raised ... Bob Vaughn tried to reassure the parents that indeed there was a long-standing (30+yrs) and long-term commitment to advanced learning. He stopped short of saying that there was a long-term commitment to APP in its current form. He didn't say that change was imminent or inevitable but he also didn't say that it wasn't.
It sounds like this AC meeting was not discussing advocating for APP, so let's open a thread on that here. Is there anything parents can do?

41 comments :

Stu said...

The funny thing about APP, at least at the elementary level, is how well the program worked before the split. There were enough kids to offer a self-contained program in a single building, thereby meeting the special educational needs the top learners without having to shift them around and pull them out of regular classes.

As far as I could tell, there were two problems with the program: first, there was the "appearance" of it being an affluent, white, North-end, club, which was obviously not true. Second, there was the issue of accessibility which was trickier. APP itself is amazingly non-discriminatory . . . you test in, you go. GETTING kids to test and convincing families to send their children to the APP school, that's a different issue. Much of the second issue could have been fixed by getting schools to work harder to identify qualifies students AND getting local principals to ENDORSE the program and not try to hold on to smart kids for their test scores.

Now, of course, by splitting the program, you invite direct comparisons between school populations, you screw the general-ed kids by diminishing the FRE percentage in the building -- well, that was an MGJ/Board decision -- you split the funding so after-school programs can't be equally offered, you cut into the enrollment so there are more split classes . . . basically, you dilute it so much that, eventually, it becomes a less attractive alternative to the local ALO/Spectrum. That'll cut into APP enrollment more and, eventually, MGJ (though I doubt she'll be here that much longer -- people are going to start expecting REAL results from her decisions so I'm betting she'll leave before the cards fall around her) and the Board will be able to say, without giggling too much, "look . . .so many APP-qualified kids are choosing their local schools . . . we must be doing something right, let's close APP!"

Self-fulfilling planning, eh?

stu

Ben said...

It almost appears—see if you can follow this—that the superintendent and the board don't really—stay with me—care much for APP. I know, I know! That's a crazy statement to make.

I take great (that is, almost no) comfort in knowing that we were right to be extremely suspicious of the split. The rationales for splitting the program were many, shifting, and irrational. The predictable negative consequences were loftily ignored. The "advisory" committee advised that we go along and not make too much noise.

The fix was in. And if APP is dead in 2 or 3 years, I won't be at all surprised. I'll be disappointed as hell, but I won't be surprised.

Bird said...

I really don't see any evidence of a conspiracy against APP.

I know the stated rationale for splitting the program, "to provide equity and access" holds little weight. The best one could say is that moving half the program a bit further south provides more access to kids from the South end and that co-housing the program with a more diverse general ed program might encourage more families from underrepresented groups to send their kids to the program. I doubt, however, either of those things will make any significant impact on the make up of APP, so they are pretty weak arguments. I believe the district just used that as argument, but it wasn't really a motivator.

I know the fact that the "equity and accesss" rationale makes no sense leads to these sort of conspiracy speculations, but honestly, I think you can just look at the realities of the split to see the reasoning behind it.

The split didn't happen in a vacuum. It happened during the school closure process which was about capacity management. So, likely, the APP split was really about capacity management. Looking at the what happened in the closure process, you could see that MJG looked for programs that could be moved around. APP wasn't the only program or alternative school to be affected. Despite the fact that the closure process was motivated mainly by the need to reduce capacity in under-enrolled neighborhood schools, MJG chose to deal with much of the capacity problem by shifting around programs. Why? It would be purely speculative to try to reason that out, but if you are putting together a conspiracy it better include the shifting around of all the programs - alternatives, the SBOC and APP.

Personally, I think she was just trying to lessen the impact on the neighborhood schools, and maybe keep open some under-enrolled south end schools. Perhaps the district didn't want to close some south-end buildings in top condition just because they were under-enrolled under the old SAP. This reasoning helps make more sense of the initial plan of moving both the north and south APP programs to under-enrolled south-end schools. That was a bizarre idea. Why do it that unless you are trying to keep more south-end schools open?

It should be said that I believe there was talk of splitting the elementary program earlier than that closure plan (I'm a newbie to the district so I'm fuzzy on the details), but once again I think that was largely motivated by capacity management rather than a secret plan to destroy APP. Back in the 1990's the elementary program included something like 380 students, in 2008 it was 528. I think the growth in the program caused the rumblings for the split -- an old timer can correct me if I'm wrong, once again I'm new and was barely paying attention to APP prior to this year.

I understand how splitting the program might make you feel defensive about it. I'm not saying the split was necessarily a good idea. I'm just saying that not seeing it in a larger context is a bit myopic.

Stu said...

I understand how splitting the program might make you feel defensive about it. I'm not saying the split was necessarily a good idea. I'm just saying that not seeing it in a larger context is a bit myopic.

Bird,

You make some really good points but I don't believe I'm being the slightest bit myopic. In fact, I think that I'm basing much of my concern on your facts PLUS others. I won't go into lots of details but I'll throw out a few thoughts:

1. The district had a split program years ago that was problematic, to put it nicely. The decision was made to house the elementary program as one unit so as not to cause a lot of the problems happening now;

2. The district commissioned an outside organization to review APP. This report did not suggest splitting the program but, more importantly, said that IF you had to split the program, make sure you house it with a "like" community, so as to avoid so many of the problems of the past . . . some of which we're seeing now;

3. The district was warned, time and again, that the split AS DESIGNED would have a negative impact on the general ed community in the school . . . now the TM community is losing $200,000 and, don't believe me if you don't want to, the APP community is going to look like the bad guy in the eyes of the general public;

4. They originally wanted to close Lowell but backed away after "remembering" they'd just spent a couple of million dollars fixing it up a bit. They originally wanted to move both to the "south end" for strictly political reasons, as it was shown that it was actually more North end students that were deciding not to come to APP.

5. As was pointed out by someone else a while back, they "really studied" the split carefully, (insert your own sarcasm here), changed their mind, changed which communities would be effected -- remember, they decided to move Montlake into Lowell -- changed their mind two weeks later -- perhaps when the well-organized Montlake community protested --and then came up with the current "well studied" plan.

6. It was the North end that needed capacity, not the south end.

7. The APP program was pretty well funded through donations and PTA support. By splitting the program, they effectively split the money and, therefore, can't offer the same amount of support. Since the district never planned to "replace" that money, they didn't save anything and, in fact, I would argue that by having the two programs in different places, actually increased their financial burden.

In my opinion, every decision made about advanced learning in the past year has been leading to the end of APP as we know it now. The "hard work" on establishing the strong ALO in every school, the sudden consideration of supporting Spectrum . . . these all mean finding ways to keep the "smarter" kids in their local schools. (I also firmly believe that many decisions are made to raise BUILDING scores, regardless of what the students actually might need, i.e., Cleveland/STEM.) The more the APP-qualified students decide not to take the bus, the stronger the argument for "we're meeting their needs in their community and don't need to have APP anymore."

Again, everything you wrote is true . . . I just see the glass a little bit emptier.

stu

hschinske said...

I was actually for the split in the sense that I thought the program at Lowell was too big, and I thought students who would benefit from APP were being kept out by the commute. But the way the split was handled made it crashingly obvious that none of the actual reasons that a split might be a good idea were getting considered at all.

Helen Schinske

Bird said...

Stu,

Well, that certainly is a comprehensive list of the many, many ways the district has botched handling the recent changes to APP and has squandered the trust of families in the district. It is certainly ugly stuff. We can agree on that.

I'm of a different opinion about the current efforts to better provide ALO and Spectrum services across the district, however. This is a rare case of the district doing the right thing. It's always been ridiculous how erratically the programs have been administered across the city.

I think the new found interest in the programs is motivated by the fact that we are now all supposed to go to our neighborhood schools rather than some secret plan to weaken APP ( though, I suppose, it might, as you outline, draw down the APP numbers).

In the past, the fact that a nearby schools didn't offer any real ALO or Spectrum programs was supposed to be made more palatable by the fact that you could choose another school (although, in fact, in many cases families didn't have any real choices). Now that they don't have that excuse, they have to offer some sort of equity. I don't know if they'll be able to get it right, but I definitely see this as a move in the right direction.

I understand your concern about losing students who would otherwise join APP, but, I think if programs are good enough that people want to stay in their neighborhoods, I can't really be against people making those sorts of choices.

Full disclosure: I have an APP qualified kid who we are, at least for now, keeping in the local school. So perhaps from your perspective we are part of the problem?

Stu said...

Full disclosure: I have an APP qualified kid who we are, at least for now, keeping in the local school. So perhaps from your perspective we are part of the problem?


I wouldn't consider you part of the problem for a second; I think that anyone who gets involved with the process, is willing to discuss this stuff in an open forum, AND can advocate for their own child's needs, it part of the solution.

We all have kids with different needs and I think it's great that there are programs available . . . that's part of the problem. The many alternative programs, including to some extent APP, are the very ones that MGJ has been dismantling. Unless every assignment school can offer the same quality education AND similar programming, then there are going to be problems. As they whittle away at the programs, I believe the inadequacies are going to be magnified significantly.

I believe that every high school should offer AP courses, music, theater, languages but, instead, the district spreads them around so that there isn't equal access. (In Northeast Seattle, for example, Eckstein has a great music program but, while some of the kids get to move to Roosevelt, which also has music, other have to go the Nathan Hale, which is just starting an orchestra.)

It's not a matter of picking and choosing, it's the loss of choice, the loss of alternatives, and the eventual loss of programs like APP, that I fear.

stu

Ben said...

You can't have "APP in every school." That doesn't mean anything. In every classroom, you'd have 1 or 2 kids working (or capable of working) years ahead of their peers. How will they be taken care of? They won't.

Anonymous said...

"You can't have "APP in every school." That doesn't mean anything. In every classroom, you'd have 1 or 2 kids working (or capable of working) years ahead of their peers. How will they be taken care of? They won't."

But you could serve many of the kids that are currently in APP that would do fine with some additional challenge in their neighborhood school.

APP has become the way for savy parents to get honors level classes for their kids. You are either in schools with struggling kids or APP. Not very good choices. Many of the kids on the lower end of APP aren't highly gifted, just bright and come from families that provide lots of learning opportunities outside school.

APP should serve those kids that truly can't be served in their neighborhood school because they are real outliers that consistently score in the top 2%, not just test in in a single year.

Maureen said...

I think Anonymous makes a good point. If neighborhood schools are more able to meet the needs of the borderline advanced learners then APP will have a higher concentration of kids who are real outliers and so be better able to meet their needs. I'm not sure that that is the District's plan, but it could be one positive result of their focus on ALOs.

(disclaimer--like Bird, I haven't moved my APP qualified kids from their alt school and since Garfield isn't open to them, it looks like I never will.)

Lori said...

Anon writes: APP has become the way for savy parents to get honors level classes for their kids. You are either in schools with struggling kids or APP....Many of the kids on the lower end of APP aren't highly gifted, just bright and come from families that provide lots of learning opportunities outside school.

I haven't been following this blog for very long but started to because my child will be moving into APP in the fall. Comments like this, quite frankly, really bother me. I want to be joining an inclusive community that values all the children, not a community that is "secretly" judging which children deserve to be there and which don't.

I've seen a few comments now, usually from Anonymous posters, who somehow claim that APP is harmed by children who don't really belong there but whose parents are gaming the system. Where does this attitude or belief come from? Do others agree with this?

I'd like to think that all the children are there because they have the district-defined test scores and their families believe it's in their best interests to learn in a group of similarly able children. Yes, I know there will be outliers even within APP, but I hate the idea that it's somehow a competition to see who has the highest IQ and thus "deserves" to be there.

Stu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArchStanton said...

Lori: Unfortunately, anonymous posters can get away with that sort of thing. Is the poster you mentioned an APP parent? A parent whose child qualified for APP, but chose to remain at a neighborhood school? Or maybe a parent whose child didn't qualify and resents that some kids get in on appeal. Or just someone who wants to stir the pot? We don't have any way of knowing.

I can't speak to gaming the system for AP classes (in HS and MS I assume) because we're only in 2nd grade. I can tell you that (in my experience) APP is an inclusive group where you can find parents that share your experiences. We don't sit around secretly judging whether or not a child deserves to be in APP. I just don't have this sense that there are a bunch of parents that paid someone off to let their not-quite-eligible kids get in.

If savvy parents are taking advantage of a program that sets the bar a little lower than it ought to be, the fault lies with the district, not the parents.

Honestly, in spite of being in what might be considered a "safe" community for discussing our issues; I have found that parents are still sheepish about discussing their kids' gifts (e.g. MAP scores or IQ tests). It's unfortunate because it makes it hard to agree on what to advocate for. I can know that my daughter scored well on some portion of the MAP, but I can't very well say that APP needs more rigor if I don't have a sense of how other children are doing (e.g. if I didn't know that one of my daughter's peers hit the ceiling on a section of the MAP, how could I support their desire for more differentiation?)

The result is that even within APP, parents seem afraid to acknowledge their childrens' strengths and accomplishments because we've all been cowed into worrying that we're bragging or offending someone. Our kid's strengths are the result of nature, nurture, or some combination of the two just like any athlete. But somehow it's okay to provide well-funded, exclusive programs for and tout the successes of the athletes, but it's shameful to do the same for the gifted kids.

In the end, you need to do what you feel is going to serve your child and family best. Either way you might have to deal with the disapproval and snarky comments of more-or-less anonymous posters, but they're hardly worth hanging your decision on.

ArchStanton said...

If neighborhood schools are more able to meet the needs of the borderline advanced learners then APP will have a higher concentration of kids who are real outliers and so be better able to meet their needs. I'm not sure that that is the District's plan, but it could be one positive result of their focus on ALOs.

While such an approach might be reasonable, it seems to necessitate concentrating the outliers in a single school in order to have a meaningful cohort. Given the split, it seems unlikely that is the direction things are headed.

Anonymous said...

I am the annonymous poster and will elaborate a bit where my belief comes from. It comes from having an 8th grader that has gone through the system on that edge and knowing many of his peers who are there as well. Some made it into APP some are in Spectrum. There is very little difference in their academic abilities. Here are a few examples that reinforce my belief:

I know many parents that tested their child every year through elementary school and gained admittance only after several tries, outside testing, petitions.

I know a student that was given access (he opted to go private) because he was a minority eventhough he didn't have the required test scores.

I know a student in APP who didn't get the 95th percentile on the WASL to go to the Robinson Center the year after he was admitted to APP while kids in his class that were in Spectrum did. The Spectrum kids did fine in those classes.

There are students in Spectrum at WMS that are in math classes ahead of students that are in APP.

The data supports that very early testing is not an accurate predictor of giftedness (especially at the bottom end) but early admittance locks in access for k-12.

My son is not in APP, he is in Spectrum. He tested into APP from CoGat in 1st grade but we choose not to further test for achievement because we did not plan on leaving our neighborhood school. He tested into Spectrum for middle school, but he tested into the APP math track at WMS.

All these examples point to a flawed testing/acceptance process and sets up resentment among those not lucky enough to get their kid in because the opportunities are so lacking otherwise.


The kid I think should be in APP is the one that is likely to utilize the early entrance program at the U. If those were the kids that APP served then it would be clear to everyone in the general community that those kids' needs couldn't be served in their neighborhood school. And then there could be more effort made to offer advanced classes in the neighborhood schools.

As it is now everyone struggles to get their kids into APP to guarantee the best chance at a challenging curriculum path through K-12.

Ben said...

"As it is now everyone struggles to get their kids into APP to guarantee the best chance at a challenging curriculum path through K-12."

Well, we didn't "struggle." What we did was have our kid take the test.

And you're seriously faulting parents for trying to get their kids "the best chance at a challenging curriculum"?

If you have this little faith in APP, how in the world can you believe SPS will create an entire system of wonderful schools that can reach all kids exactly where they need to be?

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to stir the pot but trying to give some real insight into why some of the resentment regarding APP has some basis. Obviously every program has its flaws, but I do believe it was a mistake for the district to relax the criteria for admission a few years back. Instead they should have improved the alternative so the group in APP remained as narrow as possible.


I am not resentful of the people that get in. I am angry at the district for setting up a system that makes everyone that has the slightest chance at getting in give it a try because the alternative at so many schools is so mediocre.

Stu said...

reposted cause I meant to say "could not disagree MORE" but forgot the "more!"

I'd like to think that all the children are there because they have the district-defined test scores and their families believe it's in their best interests to learn in a group of similarly able children. Yes, I know there will be outliers even within APP, but I hate the idea that it's somehow a competition to see who has the highest IQ and thus "deserves" to be there.

I could not disagree more with the "anonymous" posting. The families we've met at APP - this is our 4th year in the program -- have been incredibly diverse with students of lots of different levels. It's just that these "levels" start at a different place.

In general, the students we've met in APP are highly qualified to learn at a higher pace and education level; they need the challenges that come from the advanced academics and a cohort that enourages and inspires success. Our son was incredibly bored in his regular elementary but that's not a criticism of THAT school; he needed more and APP was there for that purpose. It's not penalizing the other students, nor is it necessarily rewarding him, he simply learns at a different rate in a different way. We're incredible grateful that the distrcit has this program and I always resent when people think that families are "gaming" the system or that other kids are suffering or somehow getting "less."

Welcome to the APP community . . .you'll be surprised at the diversity and inclusiveness and pleased to discover how well your child interacts and thrives when surrounded by the others in this program.

stu

Lori said...

Anon, you say that if a child can't get into APP, then there are limited choices in the neighborhood skill for academic rigor. But then you go on to give examples of Spectrum children doing well in the Robinson program, while an APP kid couldn't even get admitted, as well as Spectrum children taking higher level math at WMS than APP kids.

My child is only in 1st grade, so a lot of this is out of my experience range, but just those two examples suggest that Spectrum is a great option for some kids, which sort of contradicts your claim that you have to get into APP to have a good experience.

I guess I still don't see what is "lucky" about getting into APP. If my daughter hadn't qualified, then I would have taken that to mean that she shouldn't go there, and I'd be the first person in line advocating that the local ALO/Spectrum options be appropriate for her needs.

Maybe in the unique situation where a child really isn't thriving locally and has borderline scores, I'd support repeat testing and trying to get in another year. As I understand it, gifted testing at an early age misses a lot of gifted children, so really, repeat testing isn't gaming the system. It may just be an appropriate way to identify children who weren't identified earlier. At the same time, once a child is in APP and thriving there, there is little reason to repeat testing because you aren't going to make someone leave a program in which they are doing well.

Stu said...

Wow . . . and I thought I couldn't disagree more with anonymous.

I know a student that was given access (he opted to go private) because he was a minority eventhough he didn't have the required test scores.

Don't believe you. You can test in through the school, you can test in privately, but you have to test in.

I know a student in APP who didn't get the 95th percentile on the WASL to go to the Robinson Center the year after he was admitted to APP while kids in his class that were in Spectrum did. The Spectrum kids did fine in those classes.

Every kid is different and getting a 95% on WASL isn't indicative of whether a child should be in APP. Not every child gets above 95% on the WASL, not every family cares about the WASL, and, since in our experience the teachers at APP didn't bother to "teach to the test," and most of the families we know didn't really care about that test, this has no bearing on the program. (Keep in mind that the WASL has been replaced. . . many of us thought it sucked as a test anyway.)

There are students in Spectrum at WMS that are in math classes ahead of students that are in APP.

Yep! And students in ALO/Gen Ed programs who are even further ahead. You're comparing individuals with a program. As a WHOLE, the APP classes work on a more advanced level than Gen Ed or Spectrum. There are students ahead and students behind.

The data supports that very early testing is not an accurate predictor of giftedness (especially at the bottom end) but early admittance locks in access for k-12.

Personally, I've always dislike the "gifted" label 'cause I don't believe it accurately describes our son nor the kids in his class. To me, it's more like they were identified as being able to learn in a different, perhaps faster, way and we already at a certain "base level" in their grade. Our son could read and write in Kindergarten, not cause we did any great private stuff but because he wanted to and could. At the same time, there were kids who had never seen the alphabet before. In first grade, he was being pulled out for math, pulled out for reading, and sent off on his own during certain times 'cause he wasn't engaged. The APP program gave him just the right amount of challenge, and a group of "like" peers, and was a godsend. Is he "gifted?" I don't really think of it that way . . . he's just a little ahead of the other kids his age. In the old days, they would have skipped him a grade; we don't like that idea 'cause he's not "socially" advanced.

continued

Stu said...

continued from previous post

My son is not in APP, he is in Spectrum. He tested into APP from CoGat in 1st grade but we choose not to further test for achievement because we did not plan on leaving our neighborhood school. He tested into Spectrum for middle school, but he tested into the APP math track at WMS.

Right. Your son is not in APP. Therefore, you have no firsthand experience with the program and prefer to repeat things you hear, as if repetition of a fact makes it true. (Do you watch Fox News a lot?) APP students are identified by testing in three areas. If you're child is at the border on one, you can retest or negotiate but there are guidelines. Also, if you planned on not leaving your neighborhood school, why did you bother to test him anyway? Regardless of what you've heard, second or third hand, most of us in the APP community don't think of it as a status thing. Most of us are trying to get the best education for our child. And, by the way, I think you'd be surprised at how many APP families believe in education as a whole, not just as APP. Most of our friends donate to their local school as well as APP. On a whole, I think you'll find that APP families are very involved with the district policies and not in a selfish way.

All these examples point to a flawed testing/acceptance process and sets up resentment among those not lucky enough to get their kid in because the opportunities are so lacking otherwise.

I don't believe there's a flawed test process although I believe that the district and schools should work harder to identify students who could work at the APP level. However, I'll point out, that your other arguments negate your "opportunities are so lacking" cry, since there's Spectrum, Alternative Schools, and ALO throughout the district. And, by the way, it isn't about "luck." That's the haves vs have-nots argument that screws up EVERY program. (I'd also suggest that there are unlucky aspects of leaving all your walk-to-school friends, all the kids in the neighborhoods, and neighbors, so you can ride a bus for an hour to a different part of the city, just to get an education.)

The kid I think should be in APP is the one that is likely to utilize the early entrance program at the U. If those were the kids that APP served then it would be clear to everyone in the general community that those kids' needs couldn't be served in their neighborhood school. And then there could be more effort made to offer advanced classes in the neighborhood schools.

Yikes . . not sure where to start with this last one. We're not trying to turn our son into something he's not. We're not drilling him and challenging him to get through APP, graduate early, do early entrance stuff . . .sheesh, he's 11 years old and we just want him to learn the basics in a way that's interesting and challenging. We don't care if he learns MORE than everyone else but, left in the Gen Ed classroom, he would learn less or be left to his own devices. Most of us, APP or non-APP, in this district aren't advocating for amazing advanced learning for everyone; we just want consistency and intelligence. Teach the math, teach them writing, teach science and history,expose them to the arts . . . well rounded is much better than advanced. And lastly, in reference to your last line, YOUR child is taking and advanced program in YOUR neighborhood. ALO and Spectrum are all over the place; there are language immersion programs we would kill for but can't get into; there's the new STEM program -- we're for it, just against NTN -- and lots of alternatives. Everything for which you advocate is there . . . the only difference is that you make your point putting down APP, with no real understanding of what it truly means. No wonder you're anonymous.

Stu

Stu said...

I am not trying to stir the pot but trying to give some real insight into why some of the resentment regarding APP has some basis.

I know I just posted a long thing . . . and don't mean this as "piling on" but . . .

Your post did give me some real insight into some of the resentment, I just don't believe that ANY of your reasons have any basis in the facts. I do believe that there's resentment but I believe that it's primarily due to ignorance about the program, the types of families and students in APP, and misunderstandings about the purpose of MANY programs throughout the district.

It's unfortunate 'cause I believe there are many people like you out there, also usually anonymous for some reason, who love taking shots at the "affluent, white, north end, smart, well-connected," people who define APP. It's their kind of thinking that has pitted the south and north districts against each other -- stuff like closing north schools, regardless of capacity 'cause we were closing south schools -- when we should all be fighting for every school to have what it needs.

stu

ArchStanton said...

Obviously every program has its flaws, but I do believe it was a mistake for the district to relax the criteria for admission a few years back. Instead they should have improved the alternative so the group in APP remained as narrow as possible.

I'll allow that a stricter criteria might be warranted, but no matter where you set the bar you will have those that get over and those that don't. Some will get in on appeal and some will resent that. Some will feel that those in the low end of the range are holding back the extreme outliers. And of course there will be those that feel that APP kids are getting something "more" or "better" even if all they are getting is the exact same curriculum delivered two years ahead of their peers.

And again (sorry for the rant); we don't make a fuss about it if we recruit all the gifted athletes to the schools with winning sports teams or funnel all the gifted musicians to schools with exceptional bands. Somehow in those contexts it's acceptable, even expected, that we differentiate and separate (e.g. Varsity vs. JV or different bands).

Andrew said...

what stu said!

One thing we've learned from history is that nothing rallies the masses like a common enemy.

Lori said...

To somehow tie this all back to the original question posed in the thread, here are some of my thoughts.

I appreciate ArchStanton bringing up the analogy of the varsity sports, which no one blinks twice about. We can group athletes and musicians by ability because we recognize the benefits to those kids, but when it comes to education, somehow it's elitist to also want to ability group.

Lately, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about gifted education (and like others, I don't like that term. We've told our daughter she's a "fast learner" and we trying to stick with the lingo in the absence of something better). Anyway, another analogy is that APP is in fact special ed. No one argues if a child with an IQ of 70 gets special services, and rightly so. If the "average" IQ in a population is 100, people need to stop and realize that a child with an IQ of 130 (or higher!) is about as different from the "norm" as is that child with the IQ of 70. Yet again, if we want to put the child with the IQ that is two or more standard deviations above the norm into an appropriate learning environment, somehow that's elitist. I think people just either forget or don't know that plain and simple, kids on the far right hand side of the bell curve have different needs. It's not about luck. It's not about giving them something special or better than what others get. It's about giving them something that is appropriate for them. End of story.

My child is like Stu's, not challenged enough at her current school. In addition, she hasn't made many friends, in part because she has different interests than other girls her age. I'm cautiously optimistic that she will thrive in APP. But even if she doesn't and we have to find some other way to meet her needs, I would never begrudge other families the opportunity to have their advanced learners in an ability-based program, which studies show is optimal for these kids. In the typical class room, they risk boredom, underachievement, and social isolation. Sorry, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to try to avoid those fates for my child. And I appreciate that the district makes the APP option available.

I don't know what the district has planned for APP in the future. I look at what they are doing to special ed, and I worry, because APP is in fact a type of special ed, in my view. They are trying to have all special ed children educated in the school closest to their homes. I've read on the other blog that it doesn't cost the district much to bus kids to APP programs (something about state or federal funding?! anyone know for sure?), and if that's true, then perhaps the program isn't on the chopping block for financial reasons. But I would also hope that folks in the district don't make the same mistakes as some other members of the community who think APP is a privilege or a treat. Instead, for some children, it may be the only way to engage them and help them reach their potential. It's one thing to do well, which these kids can do in a traditional classroom, but that's not the same as doing your best. And to do your best, you need appropriate challenge.

Anonymous said...

I think if you live north, APP is a choice made somewhat reluctantly to serve the needs of kids whose needs are not being met in their neighborhood schools. If you live in the central and south clusters, APP is a choice of necessity, an escape hatch from the lower performing schools in the area. I have always joked that Lowell is our other neighborhood school (like pork is the other white meat). In our neighborhood there are a disproportionate number of kids in APP, and many have tested in privately, with all that entails. Knowing that you need to have your appointment in the fall for the appeal testing in February, or even privately testing before the district testing to be ready for the appeal. I know families that have tutored to have kids more ready for the test. Is there anything wrong with this if the motivation is getting your 93% kid over the barrier to a 1000% better school? Absolutely not. But the point anonymous makes, which is that if all neighborhood schools were serving all kids, the 93% kid's family wouldn't be so desperate to escape the currently mediocre, at best, neighborhood schools in central and south Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Boy what a lot of anger! Let's start again...

APP used to be targeted to the "highly gifted" student. A few years ago the cutoff was lowered and hence APP enrollment is increasing and the range of abilities in APP has expanded. That is not in question, right?

I don't begrudge anyone that is in the program and I would try like everyone else to get the best education available for my child.

I agree that most if not all of the students currently in APP are capable of doing the work.

I agree that many of the kids in APP need a special program.

I am not arguing that my child should be in the program.

What I am suggesting is that there are lots of Spectrum kids in the neighborhood schools that are also bored, need to be challenged, and are not getting it just like many APP students. And I would argue that many are capable of doing the same coursework as many of the kids in APP and are no more or less "gifted" than many of the kids on the bottom edge of APP.

Six Spectrum kids from my son's 5th grade class tested into APP math for middle school and have thrived there. But those same Spectrum students have no guaranteed access to Spectrum and have no Spectrum science at all! So a Spectrum student accelerated two years in math has to be in general ed science. It just seems like a system that is set up to build resentment between haves and have nots.

The problem is that once you test into APP, there's no denying there are a lot of perks. Who wouldn't be envious of a self-contained class throughout K-12 of highly motivated students of similar academic ability? Yes, there will always be those on the edge that didn't get in and are resentful, but the lower the bar, the more people fall into that "edge".

I'm just suggesting in an ideal world a better system would be to have honors courses and an accelerated path for all that can handle it that might be able to meet the needs of many of the kids in Spectrum and the botom end of APP, and thereby decreasing the growth of APP and the need to pull out kids from their neighborhood schools.

The information I gave is correct. I have 8 years of experience talking with parents in the system and many have shared their stories openly. The minority student that got in was a close friend in grade school and I know his situation first hand. My son is in APP math, most of his friends are in Spectrum and APP and I have been embedded in his peer group since kindergarten. I know lots of parents with kids in Spectrum and APP and have talked for years about it. I'm not completely in the dark about the program.

I understand your defensiveness about the program and I am not arguing to dismantle it. I just wish there was more effort to increase the advancement in neighborhood schools so that more of the people at the lower end of APP didn't feel the need to leave the neighborhood schools.

Anonymous said...

I guess I need to work on my delivery, because the message I intended was similar to the one the poster before me gave.

I also live in the Central Area cluster and now after going through middle school I know what I didn't know then. I should have tried harder to get my border line kids into APP.

ArchStanton said...

I understand your defensiveness about the program and I am not arguing to dismantle it. I just wish there was more effort to increase the advancement in neighborhood schools so that more of the people at the lower end of APP didn't feel the need to leave the neighborhood schools.

In theory, that is what Spectrum is supposed to provide. I have no experience with Spectrum, but others (Charlie Mas, in particular) have documented on the various blogs the various problems plaguing Spectrum: programs that are Spectrum in name only, total lack of accountability, huge variation in what Spectrum offers at different schools.

Absolutely, those programs should be made strong and equitable and held accountable. "If wishes were horses..." unfortunately there's no sign that it will happen during MGJ/Gang of Four dynasty. Heck, APP doesn't even have the standardized curriculum it was promised to appease those unhappy about the splits.

So, yeah, we get defensive and angry at generalizations like:

APP has become the way for savy parents to get honors level classes for their kids.

Many of the kids on the lower end of APP aren't highly gifted, just bright and come from families that provide lots of learning opportunities outside school.

In our neighborhood there are a disproportionate number of kids in APP, and many have tested in privately, with all that entails.

I know families that have tutored to have kids more ready for the test.

..the motivation is getting your 93% kid over the barrier to a 1000% better school?


Sure, maybe there is anecdotal evidence for those statements, but really, can you quantify a "1000% better school"? What do you mean by "tutoring"? A one-time session to help a child unfamiliar with test-taking or a few months of marathon sessions geared to doing well on an IQ test? What does "all that entails" really mean and what does it imply? And so on...

When this sort of thing gets posted and repeated in the echo chamber that is the internet/blogosphere, it reinforces the vague negative associations that people with no direct knowledge have of APP/gifted programs.

(and for the record, I don't care for the term "gifted" either, but lacking a better commonly accepted alternative, I use "gifted" without hesitation)

Anonymous said...

What is the percentage increase from a school that has a math pass rate in the 20th percentile compared to a school that has a pass rate at near 100%? Perhaps not 1000%, but a huge difference by every measure. And should a kid who tests high be in the school with the 98% pass rate, or where the district tells them to go...the neighborhood school with the abysmal scores?

This is not the difference between Bryant or Lowell, or Viewridge or Lowell, but Madrona or Lowell, or Bailey Gatzert or Lowell. And it does make a big difference. There are no viable Spectrum programs in the central and south parts of the city, except at WMS. And people privately test to get into WMS Spectrum, not just APP. It is a reality forced on families by the inequities in the district, not a criticism of the advanced learning programs.

Stu said...

This is not the difference between Bryant or Lowell, or Viewridge or Lowell, but Madrona or Lowell, or Bailey Gatzert or Lowell.

But, once again, you're playing the district's game of comparing apples and oranges. (To finish this thought, I need to go back one year, before the split . . . it makes the point clearer.)

Viewridge is a school; Madrona is a school; APP is a program. The test scores are higher because the community is made up entirely of high-testing students. There is no comparison and the split has made it worse because now the APP students have been combined with a non-APP community and are considered "schools" but, regardless of how you frame it, it is a separate community, with different teaching and budget needs. This is why so many of us are pissed off about the TT Minor and Thurgood Marshall kids losing funding; neither community has changed and yet their needs are bunched together as if they were in the same program.

As has been discussed many times before, the district has abandoned Spectrum in many areas of the city. Without guaranteed Spectrum placement, some school have a few kids while other have self-contained classes. This is incredibly unfair to the Spectrum-qualified students, as is the lack of immersion language choice throughout the district, as is unequal ALO, as is disproportionate funding and class size. However, each of these failings is not the fault of another program; each is unique. I mean, I bet if you had an entire middle school take a French test, the French class would get the highest scores, right?

Why are APP families defensive? People repeat rumors; people blame the success of the APP program for the failure of other schools. People perpetuate the myths and it leads to things like the split. The best the district could come up with for reasoning was accessibility, and yet didn't change the way students were identified, it just shipped them someplace different. (If accessibility was that important, they would have moved half the program north, right?) There are directors on the record as saying that they had to close schools in the north 'cause they were closing schools in the south, even though capacity in the north was non-existent and the south had lots of space. It's this kind of political nonsense that destroys alternative programs and shoves everyone into a cookie-cutter design. But THIS district doesn't even bother with the cookie-cutter design! This district forces everyone into neighborhood schools WITHOUT bothering to even the playing field, WITHOUT offering similar programs or resources, and WITHOUT and concern for the inequality.

Your fight should be equal access to Spectrum or ALO or Languages or Sports or Music or AP Classes or Money or Funding or Grants. EVERY program has needs and this district is tearing apart successful programs WITHOUT building up others. It's spiteful, it's immoral, it's ill-advised, and it's wrong. And every time someone spreads another venomous little "look what the APP kids have" story -- Nina Shapiro and her "affluent" article, for example -- without exposing the real problems, they help MGJ and the Gang of Four with their latest smoke and mirrors trick. It's diversionary tactics and it always works!

stu

ArchStanton said...

Beside the issue of apples vs. oranges, you're also still talking in generalizations that lead to stereotypes.

What is the percentage increase from a school that has a math pass rate in the 20th percentile compared to a school that has a pass rate at near 100%? Perhaps not 1000%, but a huge difference by every measure. And should a kid who tests high be in the school with the 98% pass rate, or where the district tells them to go...the neighborhood school with the abysmal scores?

The problems with the SAP notwithstanding, your example doesn't provide enough information for a good analysis. On the face of it, we all assume that the school with the better pass rate is the better school. But, we can't assess whether the school with the low pass rate is successful in spite of challenges like ESL/ELL students, low SES, etc., but laudable because of good teachers, curriculum or differentiation. Likewise we can't say that the high pass rate is not due to kids that come from high SES, and receive outside tutoring while the teachers are able to rest on their laurels.

They've been hashing this out on the other blog for the past week with regards to teacher assessments. A low pass rate alone does not a bad teacher or a bad school make.

Anonymous said...

But the low performing school is not a place you want your high performing student while the adults hash out the definition of quality. If 5 out of 20 students in an elementary classroom are passing math at the most basic grade level, it is not the right classroom for a high performing student. But for families in the central and south, it is the only classroom available to them unless they test into APP, win the alt school lottery or go private, especially under the NSAP. Will there be more equity between schools under the NSAP? It's the chicken and egg story. But if you have a 7 year old, you don't have time to wait and see what is going to happen.

Anonymous said...

"The problems with the SAP notwithstanding, your example doesn't provide enough information for a good analysis. On the face of it, we all assume that the school with the better pass rate is the better school. But, we can't assess whether the school with the low pass rate is successful in spite of challenges like ESL/ELL students, low SES, etc., but laudable because of good teachers, curriculum or differentiation. Likewise we can't say that the high pass rate is not due to kids that come from high SES, and receive outside tutoring while the teachers are able to rest on their laurels."

If you had a Spectrum student in the general ed science class at WMS you would better understand.
Imagine if they tightened the cut-off for APP and you suddenly were placed in the regular program at TM? It is a precipitous drop in rigor. It has nothing to do with the test scores reflecting the ability of the teacher. The test scores are low because the kids are way behind. Do you want to place your borderline APP kid there?


That's the reality of the Central cluster. So you can see why parents here are desperate for entry into APP.

You say I should advocate for Spectrum instead of be resentful of APP. But expanding the eligibility for APP just makes less families available to advocate for Spectrum.


I am by advocating for a system that does not exclude kids from courses they are qualified to take. Why shouldn't middle school work like Garfield where you can self-select into advanced classes?

There are plenty of schools outside of SPS that follow a model where your coursework determines the track you can pursue. If you do well you can go/stay on the rigorous/honors track. I'm advocating for this model in place of Spectrum because I think it would meet the needs of most students, including many on the bottom edge of APP.

hschinske said...

I know a student in APP who didn't get the 95th percentile on the WASL to go to the Robinson Center the year after he was admitted to APP while kids in his class that were in Spectrum did.

The whole percentile score on the WASL thing is a crock. There ARE no true percentiles on the WASL -- it is not a norm-referenced test.

Incidentally, the Johns Hopkins Talent Search will accept students for out-of-level testing based on getting a 4 on either section of the WASL.

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

"But expanding the eligibility for APP just makes less families available to advocate for Spectrum."

This has been mentioned several times now in this thread. Can anyone explain how and when criteria were expanded? I thought it's always been the top 2% (98th and 99th percentiles).

ArchStanton said...

If you had a Spectrum student in the general ed science class at WMS you would better understand.
Imagine if they tightened the cut-off for APP and you suddenly were placed in the regular program at TM? It is a precipitous drop in rigor. It has nothing to do with the test scores reflecting the ability of the teacher.


You are correct in stating that if I were in that situation, then I would better understand that situation. Now we are talking more specifically and that is more useful.

To reiterate my point; it is when people start extrapolating specific experiences and anecdotes into generalizations that are repeated on this blog and elsewhere that people like Lori start feeling uncomfortable and are lead to believe that APP is not a "community that values all the children", but instead is a "community that is "secretly" judging which children deserve to be there and which don't." before they've even set foot in the place and had a chance to decide for themselves.

If I started speaking of other schools or programs in a similar fashion, I'd get called out for it, too. You only have to see the response on the other blog when someone disses RBHS without having first-hand knowledge to know that.

lendlees said...

Lori-

From what I've heard, a few years ago, in order to ostensibly increase 'access and diversity,' the threshold for APP was lowered a percent or two. It did not achieve what it set out to do, so the cutoff was set back to 98-99%.

Someone who's been in APP longer than my family, might know more (Helen?).

Anonymous said...

From my understanding, the cut-off of 98% on the Cogat or IQ test was not decreased, but the achievement requirement was lowered from 98% to 95%. I believe this change occurred about 5 years ago.

ArchStanton said...

Can anyone explain how and when criteria were expanded? I thought it's always been the top 2% (98th and 99th percentiles).

I don't know much about this, except anecdotally, since we're only in 2nd grade. My understanding is that they made changes in order to identify and recruit kids from underrepresented groups, but that they didn't get the results they were expecting.

I found Underrepresentation and Advanced Learning
on the SPS website which appears to be from 2005 or earlier.

The pertinent bullet points seem to be:

* The achievement threshold for eligibility as academically highly gifted has been revised to the 95th percentile and represents greater alignment with national practices.

* The nonverbal component of the Cognitive Abilities Test is given equal consideration as the verbal and quantitative components of the test, with students found eligible who meet threshold in 2 out of these three areas.


Here's the current Advanced Learning Eligibility Criteria for reference.

hschinske said...

The Advanced Learning Office (then the Highly Capable Office) used to report only averages, not cutoffs. (If I remember correctly, APP averages were then 99th for cognitive and varied between 97th and 99th for achievement.) They now seem to have firm cutoffs at 98th and 95th percentile for cognitive and achievement respectively. I've never been clear on how much that represents a real change. I get the impression that the Spectrum cut scores were actually lowered, but I'm a bit hazy on that.

The other thing that changed is relying on the WASL for most achievement testing. As the WASL is not normed at all, let alone nationally normed, that means they've been out of compliance with state law for some time. (And if you've ever looked at your kid's WASL test, you know that the scoring is so subjective that whether a student hits the cut score they call 95th percentile or not is going to be pretty random.)

There have been other shifts in means of qualification, but they predate most of us here. The original program, IPP (Individual Progress Program), started out serving students who were at least *four* years ahead of grade level, not two, and presumably required higher scores (or else a whopping portfolio, dunno).

The district also had a system in place for a while that I think used local norms -- at any rate there was something in the paper (which may have been inaccurate) about taking the top 1% from each of five racial groups. That too was a long time ago.

There have probably been some other subtle changes from year to year. For instance, in 2003 we were told (the words are Jane Fellner's paraphrase of what she was told by the HC office) "[parents of] kindergarteners who scored at the 99th percentile in reading and math, but not on the cognitive testing, should check with the highly capable office to see what the grade level scores were before booking an IQ test. Scoring at the 99th percentile as a kindergartener does not guarantee a spot in APP. Kids also need to be reading at a 2.5 grade level or beyond."

That last one went away pretty soon, maybe even by the next year; it's definitely not policy now.

Helen Schinske