Friday, June 11, 2010

Board work session on Advanced Learning June 16

The Seattle Public Schools Community Blog reports that "on Wednesday, June 16, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm, will be a Board Work Session on Advanced Learning." The School Board calendar is here.

Opening a new thread to discuss that if anyone wants to organize people who want to attend, talk about what should be addressed in that meeting, or follow up afterward with a summary of what happened.


G said...

There seems to be something brewing on the high school level for APP. Not surprisingly, they are saying that all high schools (esp Franklin, Ballard, Roosevelt) will have more AP offerings starting fall 2011, so kids will be able to go to their neighborhood schools. Code: APP will no longer have cohort preference to Garfield. If this is not something the APP community wants to see happen, you should start fighting NOW!

hschinske said...

Code: APP will no longer have cohort preference to Garfield.

You may well be right, but I'd hate to find myself saying that AP offerings *shouldn't* be beefed up at any other school. (I don't mean that you did, but that it would be easy to accidentally sound as though one meant that.) Could so easily be twisted into dog-in-the-manger myths.

Helen Schinske

Shannon said...

I hope that there are a number of people able to attend this work session. Unfortunately, I already have a board meeting conflict on that day but would love to go and read between the powerpoint slides to see how AL will be used next.

On a less cynical note. There was a significant grant for increase of AL opportunities in schools with lower socio-economic profiles. That must be used somewhere.

G said...

All high schools should be equally rigorous and attractive. Every student should have access to the most challenging coursework they can handle. But if Franklin has 10 AP classes in September 2011, and they make a commitment to improve their music program, will the APP families who live within the Franklin boundaries be satisfied that Franklin is offering the same opportunities that Garfield has offered the APP cohort for decades? Can the rigor of the Garfield program be replicated to all high schools in one school year? As with every other change we have seen the district make under MGJ, they will enroll the kids at their neighborhood schools, and well, maybe they will be offering what they are promising, and maybe they won't. But at least the kids will be sitting in the buildings they want them to be sitting in.

Charlie Mas said...

For years and years when families questioned the existence or legitimacy of high school APP, the District defended it as a cohort program. They acknowledged that there weren't any specific classes, but that having the cohort together was the program.

Now they want to say the exact opposite, that the classes were the program and that the cohort doesn't matter.

They can't have it both ways.

Maureen said...

Now that APP in MS offers Biology and (some sort of prequel to AP World History? I'm not sure.), it's not enough that other HSs offer plenty of AP (or IB) classes. They also have to offer a pathway for 9th graders to go straight to Chemistry and AP World History. From what I have heard, Roosevelt doesn't seem to be willing or able to do this. Are other schools? And what about math? Can 9th graders go straight to Algebra 2 or PreCalc at any high school? (I believe they can at Roosevelt)

Anonymous said...

My ninth grader is in pre-calc at Ingraham this year.

hschinske said...

What math texts is Ingraham using these days? Is precalc in the IB sequence?

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

So I was looking at the Powerpoint for this work session.

On page 2 it says:
•2 programs at high schools

International Baccalaureate (IB) at Ingraham and Chief Sealth

Advanced Placement (AP) courses at other 8 comprehensive high schools

Both offer excellent college prep curriculum, teacher education, and exams

No mention there of the "cohort" that "is the Program" at Garfield. Though on p. 9 GHS is indicated in the "Today" APP configuration. (467 APP kids at GHS in 09-10 (up from 433 in 08-09)

No explicit mention of splitting (or not splitting)APP at the HS level.

Anonymous said...

If the district was transparent, (and they are not) they would have included any plans for APP at the high school level on the slide, "Where do we go from here."
This would have been where they would have addressed the capacity issue at GHS and they ignored it, on purpose.

Look for a change coming shortly.

Lori said...

Thanks for the link to the slides, Maureen.

Is this comment from slide #3 even true? It's about the 2008 APP audit:

All audit recommendations have been addressed and reported to senior leadership.

I'll be curious to see what is said as each slide is shown. None of the questions that I would have are addressed in this slide set. For example, they say on slide #10 that APP enrollment is up post-split and support it with raw numbers. That slide is placed after a slide about the split, from which they may want us to infer that one caused the other.

But they don't tell us how overall enrollment in the district has changed or whether next year's enrollment is statistically significantly different than what would have been expected otherwise. Are there simply more students in the district now, which increases the eligible population? Are more people testing? Are more of those who do test ultimately choosing APP, suggesting greater interest? Wasn't the goal to increase minority participation in APP? Did that happen?

So many questions that simple raw numbers cannot answer.

Charlie Mas said...

A board member, I think it was Sherry Carr, asked for a complete list of audit recommendations and for specifics about how they were addressed.

There was a lot of talk about reporting out to the community. Dr. Vaughn essentially said that he did it at the APP AC meetings. He acknowledged that he didn't do it on the web site, but claimed lack of staff time to update the web page.

Charlie Mas said...

The disparity in the sizes of the Thurgood Marshall and Lowell programs was noted.

Dr. Vaughan attributed it to the assignment of Lowell walk-zone students to Lowell instead of Thurgood Marshall and the size of the Lowell walk-zone.

There was definitely a lot of talk along the lines of replacing Spectrum with an ALO at every school and some talk that hinted at dispersing high school APP once there are enough AP classes at every high school.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the walk zone is responsible for problems at Thurgood Marshall is absurd.

If Dr. Vaughan did not want a walk zone, he should never have supported the ridiculous and widely criticized plan to place the north-end APP at the Lowell south-central location.

Now that he made that foolish decision, he has to deal with all the problems it created. And one of the many problems is how to assign people to the south-central Lowell location when it is supposed to be a draw for the north-end. No matter how you do that assignment, it is going to be sub-optimal and involve long travel times, but it particularly makes little sense to abandon the walk zone and force people who walk with their children to school to drive for miles to attend some other school.

The core problem is that Dr. Vaughan supported putting the north-end APP in a south-central location. The real solution, as most of us APP parents recommended at the time, to this problem is to put the north-end elementary APP program in the north-end.

Anonymous said...

Is ALO an adequate replacement for Spectrum?

Spectrum "serves students who are academically gifted", according to the district website.

ALO "serve two primary student groups: (a) district-identified students who are academically highly gifted/gifted, and (b) teacher-identified students who demonstrate skills and readiness for participation in an accelerated and rigorous curriculum", according to the district.

But, on the ground, ALO appears to be nothing but a name, an empty shell, a marketing ploy. They appear to be completely normal general education classrooms with few or no differences other than the name.

Do I have this wrong? Is ALO an adequate replacement for Spectrum?

Maureen said...

Anonymous at 7:32, if you look at slide 7 in the Powerpoint I linked to above, you'll see that ALO kids actually do better on the MAP than Spectrum kids. Of course that probably reflects the fact that there are quite a few APP qualified kids who stay in their neighborhood schools when their needs are met via an ALO (and leave if they aren't). I'm not saying that makes Spectrum unecessary, but SPS might.

(by the way, it's really nice when Anons pick a name, any name!)

Lori said...

I think whether a school calls its program Spectrum or ALO is just semantics. There is enough variability among Spectrum programs that the name doesn't really tell you what your child will actually experience at any given school. It could be a pull-out model for math and reading only or it can be homogeneous classroom assignments. Under the old SAP, you as a parent could decide which model you preferred (or perhaps in some areas, I should say which school's Spectrum wait list you preferred).

It is clear, however, that the district wants every elementary school to have a formal, approved plan for advanced learners. Once that's the done, they can retire the Spectrum moniker and tell parents that their local school offers everything their advanced learner might need. Too bad if you believe in ability-based grouping but your neighborhood school's plan is in-class differentiation. Similarly, too bad if you prefer heterogeneous groupings but your school only offers ability-based groupings. With the move to standardization, I'm surprised this much variability is allowed to exist.

ParentofThree said...

My experience with ALO (middle school) was a joke. It was quarterly projects that students, with an A in the class, could do on their own time. That's it. And some quarters the teachers didn't even offer projects.
Moved my younger students to Spectrum school, far better program than any ALO we partipated in at a non-Spectrum school.

Lori said...

interesting, just noticed that Maureen's link now goes to an updated slide deck, which does give the status of each audit recommendation (most of which say "in progress") and has less "conclusive" slide titles. What I reacted to on the previous slide #10 has been toned down a bit. I guess that's good?

Anonymous said...

What do those numbers 1 through 9 at the x-axis on slide 7 (Maureen's link, MAP curves) represent?

Lori said...

Slide 7, I believe, is supposed to show MAP score percentiles by grade level. Median or mean? I don't know, it's not labeled.

Anyway, that slide is a terrible way to show these data because you should not connect the data points with a line when you have categorical variables on the X-axis. The eye sees that chart as showing some sort of trend over time or relationship between the data points where none exists. Much more clear to use bar graphs for each grade level because each tick on the X-axis represents a unique population.

Am I picky? Yes. But I believe if we want to make data-driven decisions, we need to put some actual thought into how we present and interpret data. Of course, I wasn't at the work session, so I don't know what the speaker said about this slide, but its poor design makes me suspect there wasn't much of a meaningful interpretation either. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

So the question is if APP will be scattered for high school - will all high schools be able to accomodate the curriculum path for history, science and math?

Yes - they will offer more AP classes - but what will the kids do in 9th grade prior to AP if they already have biology etc.?
The aligned curriculum would be at odds with the APP path....right?

Will all high schools allow kids to accelerate into higher level classes - will there be room for them?

I think that is a point that could maintain the Garfield path...assuming there is still room at Garfield - which could be unlikely based on the enormous assignment zone.

lendlees said...

Anonymous @7:27 is sort of right. The walk zone has nothing to do with the 1/3-2/3 APP elementary split.

I was crunching the numbers last year during the whole split discussion and brought up to more than one board member and Tracy Libros that, based on the numbers, there was an inequity in the split.

So, this inequity has been there from the beginning--no one wanted to deal with it.

G said...

The boundary around Garfield is drawn too large in order to give more leverage to the argument that APP should be dispersed. The boundary is crazy big. It should be redrawn well before the APP cohort is forcefully dispersed to alleviate the purposeful overcrowding of Garfield. Compare the Roosevelt boundary to the Garfield boundary. Roosevelt was drawn purposely smaller, Garfield intentionally drawn HUGE. The APP cohort should not be dispersed based on artificially drawn boundary lines! Don't let them throw the APP cohort under the bus to allow the district to achieve the neighborhood school concept in high school.

pjmanley said...

If they "disperse" high school APP, then the whole program dies. Nobody will send their kids across town, then return them to the neighborhood they left for APP.

I can hear the private school operators clinking their glasses right now.

Maureen said...

pjmanley, can you explain why you think people will stop sending their kids to APP for 1st-8th if the HS cohort is dispersed? It seems to me that the same incentives will exist for elementary and especially MS. I guess I could see that the HS level APP kids from certain neighborhoods would be more likely to go private, but I really don't see why people would pull APP kids from 7th grade at Hamilton or Washington just because the cohort will be broken up for HS. (The cohorts at many MSs and K-8s are shattered for HS and that doesn't make people leave early.)

Do you have any HS age kids?

Charlie Mas said...

ALOs are no substitute for Spectrum. Most of them do not exist in reality, only on paper. Of course there are no assurances of quality or efficacy in any of the Advanced Learning programs. A number of Spectrum programs exist only on paper. Nor is there any assessment of quality or efficacy, nor is there any description of any of the programs, nor is there any assurance that programs will be operated as described. The District refuses to take any responsibility for this or provide any accountability.

In the McClure, Whitman, Hamilton, and Eckstein service areas 80% of neighborhood elementary schools have an advanced learning program. In the Washington, Mercer, Aki Kurose, Madison, and Denny service areas only 25% of the elementary schools have advanced learning of any kind. There are no ALOs in West Seattle.

When Dr. Vaughan promised the Board that there would be three new ALOs in the southeast he specifically told them that these schools would not have "ALO in name only". Ah, if only he would make that promise about the existing ALOs.

pjmanley said...

For us and many parents from stronger neighborhood schools (ours was Lafayette Spectrum in WS), the APP decision was gut-wrenching and difficult. Pulling a kid out of a school full of neighborhood friends was tough, and putting my 8 year old on a bus across town was even tougher. The trade off that matters, and matters to a lot of parents in WS, was the sure path and known quantity of graduating from Garfield HS. My neighbor's kid did so and just finished his freshman year at NYU. Garfield is a big deal to those of us in the South End because of the long standing APP pathway up from elementary APP on through HS. As a parent, trading the security and convenience of the neighborhood school system for cross-town busing and all that goes with it was made doable because of the certainty of the destination for HS.

Garfield housed the APP kids, so we knew, and know, it remains supported and a focus for quality and rigor consistent with the APP pathway.

Neighborhood High Schools, on the other hand, have been notoriously inequitable and suffer greatly from the disparate focuses of their leadership. Chief Sealth is the new gem now. 10 years ago it wasn't. WS is not popular with many of the neighborhood folks around it. Many are choosing Sealth instead.

As a parent, I want to know where my kid is headed long before they get there. (Nobody in SPS seems to understand or give a damn about that, by the way.) We make decisions on where to live, where to locate our businesses, etc., what routes to drive, bike or bus, etc., based on what schools our kids attend.

Why would I rip apart my kid's social network for 8 years, just to have them return and sit in the same classes with kids they attended school with 8 years before, missing all the social bonding of the intervening 8 years?

Why burden the already overworked teachers with differentiating for my child and a few others if their needs are beyond those of their Spectrum peers?

Unless I'm going private for HS, it makes no sense to break up the cohort at the HS level on the promise that my kids can get what they need in the neighborhood schools. If that were true, why would I put them in APP in the earlier years if they'll eventually get what they need during HS? Then who needs APP in the early years?

I'm working on the presumption that the district is wrong. They will not be able to meet the needs of my children at the local HS, because they can't do it now, and haven't done it ever.

Does anyone really believe that AP English at WS or RB will be the same as AP at Garfield today, with a class full of APP peers?

I don't think its even remotely possible. I'm not trying to be arrogant about it and say my kid is better than anyone else's. I'm saying they are now part of a nourishing community that I simply do not believe for a second can be replicated upon a return to their neighborhood HS. I think that is fanciful thinking to the extreme.

That said, I could see a split of the HS cohort working, but not a dissolution. Destroying any school community is always a terrible idea.

ArchStanton said...

When Dr. Vaughan promised the Board that there would be three new ALOs in the southeast he specifically told them that these schools would not have "ALO in name only". Ah, if only he would make that promise about the existing ALOs.

As if the promises were worth anything... I suppose they will give you another data point in the broken promises column.

Maureen said...

pjmanley, thanks for your point of view. I guess I just assumed that if the whole point was HS, then most people would stay local until 7th grade and then move.

I think that some in SPS downtown really believe that if they just offer 'enough' AP classes at all of the HSs, that will serve Advanced Learners. I think they don't really appreciate the fact that not only does GHS offer AP and Honors classes, they also are set up to allow kids (APP or not)in the lower grades to enroll in them.

RHS offers at least as many AP classes as GHS, but they don't allow kids to differentiate themselves until 11th grade at the earliest--so your APP eligible kid will still have to sit through Physical Science in 9th grade and Biology in 10th because they don't have a pathway for kids who come in at an advanced level. Not only that, they don't offer separate Honors classes (except in math), so your science geek 10th grader may be the only kid in his Bio class who has any interest in science at all. AND, 75% of the kids in their AP Human Geo or AP Language/Composition class would never have volunteered to be there and the teacher knows it.

On the other hand, the kids seem to be basically good students and aren't disruptive. So if my kid spends three weeks helping to teach stoichiometry to his classmates it's probably not the end of the world. (I just wish he could get Honors credit for it at least -- geek that I am!)

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what we did: stayed in our local school until 7th grade and now we are transferring to WMS for the APP 8th grade. Even though Garfield is our reference HS and we would get there anyway, it is more applealing to go as an APP student because of changes in the APP science and SS.

Maureen said...

I communicated with counselors at both RHS and HIMS today about the lack of (especially science) pathway for APP students who might choose Roosevelt over Garfield. The HIMS counselor said there is no path now but pointed out that when students are able to earn HS credit for MS courses (supposedly in 10-11), RHS will have to honor those credits and allow 9th graders to skip Physical Science and Bio. The RHS counselor didn't acknowledge that to me--not sure if she hasn't thought about it/doesn't know or if she is just not admitting that it might happen until it is a reality. (I had put it in the context of a current 6th grader.)

(HIMS counselor was very helpful and prompt in response.)

G said...

My ninth grade daughter at Garfield has had an amazingly rigorous biology class this year, the first year the 9th graders were able to choose biology as an honors course. They have had substantial extra work, written 4 detailed research papers on an organism of their choice (covering homeostasis, evolution, and I forget the other two topics), and have extra questions on exams. It has been one of the more challenging classes I have seen at Garfield and applied the honors designation very seriously (I also have a junior). Pushing biology nominally down to middle school, without the high school faculty and student maturity, is something I wouldn't wish for after this very complete and challenging 9th grade bio class. I know there are big complaints at WMS and HIMS about the science teachers, and they are certainly not covering 9th grade biology in the same depth that the kids are experiencing at Garfield. Why would you want your kids to race through biology at 13/14, in middle school with middle school teachers, never to see it again until college? It would seem to put them almost at a disadvantage as they take more advanced science down the road without a solid grounding in biology.

Central Cluster Mom said...

G - that's a really good point. I believe that the middle school math teachers are high-school certified. Is the same true for the science teachers? If not, I can see that there might be some issues with the depth of learning and then the retention throughout high school. The thought is that the kids will take AP Bio and AP Physics - I guess? Will they retain enough from the middle school courses to be able to take those classes? I'm sure the kids who love science will be fine -- but what about everyone else?

Anonymous said...


Pre-calc at Ingraham was using Precalculus with Trigonometry - Key Curriculum Press. I'm not sure what edition. I believe IB Math SL (Standard Level) covers pre-calculus.

Anonymous said...

The 9th grade biology class at Garfield was already a solid, demanding class when my older kid took it. I don't think it's suitable for 8th grade APP, particularly at Washington where the kids are already so overworked in social studies. Nor do I trust Mr. T. at Hamilton not to make a hash of it. Seriously considering homeschooling for science to get OFF that pathway.

Maureen said...

It will be interesting to see if the rigor of 9th grade Bio at Garfield declines when all of the APP kids bypass it. That would be a sad thing for all of the other highly capable kids at GHS who didn't happen to come up through APP at WMS.

Anonymous said...

Nor do I trust Mr. T. at Hamilton not to make a hash of it. Seriously considering homeschooling for science to get OFF that pathway.

Mr. T is not scheduled to teach 8th Bio.

While on that topic, is Ms. V qualified to teach 8th Bio, and separately, do we trust her "not to make a hash of it"?

Carrie said...

Mr. T has taught 8th grade biology this year. Are you saying he's not teaching it next year?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the science teachers are slated to change. But as with almost everything related to specific classes and teachers, nothing is concrete until the first day of school!