Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First day of school and topics for this blog

The first day of school is today! It is a good time to gather topics for this blog for the new school year. What would you like to talk about here on this blog in the next few months?

Perhaps another Q&A for new parents to ask questions of existing parents?

Anyone still interested in discussing the APP split (Lowell/Thurgood Marshall and Hamilton/Washington) and its aftermath?

More discussion of any additional splits that should or should not happen? Perhaps more discussion of the future of APP at the high school level as well?

Maybe compare Seattle APP to the expanding PRISM and GHSP programs in Bellevue? What is good and not so good?

Whether we need an advocacy group for APP? What parents are doing to supplement math (and whether we should be supplementing math)? Transportation issues? Other topics?

Please chime in on the comments to this post with what topics you might like. I will do my best to start threads on them over the coming months as well as covering any APP-related news that comes up over the year.


Steve said...

Our child just started in the APP program at Lowell today. For people who have been involved in the school for a while...could you shed some light on the facilities problems that exist there? It's an old building, and based on my visits to 3-4 other elementary schools (including TM), it's in sub-par shape. I've heard about heating issues throughout the building that haven't been fixed in years. I know the district has a massive backlog of maintenance work, but also that some money from BEX (I believe) went to a bunch of schools to update heating systems and other things.

My question: why doesn't Lowell get prioritized for updates? Is there a history of the school administration and parents asking for it but being turned down? Is the district not willing to put money into the building (and if so, what is the alternative)? Or, is it really not in that bad of shape and I should just not worry about it?

The desks are old as well, and while I know there's been some new paint and other minor work in recent years, there appears to me to be a need for updating. (And other than the building, we're excited to be at Lowell and look forward to a great year!).

lendlees said...

Ah Steve--Welcome to the 'red-headed stepchild' school. According to the district two years ago, Lowell was in such bad condition, it had to be closed. Suddenly it was OK when there was nowhere for the north-end APP kids to in the north-end? But, my guess is as long as this administration is around, APP will get nothing as the master plan is to service all children at their local schools.

When there is a change downtown, maybe Lowell will get torn down and rebuilt.

Luckily enough, the kids don't care where they are, the boiler only breaks once a year and, as long as the rain isn't too bad, we won't flood the 1st floor.

Sorry to be such a pessimist...but I just don't see Lowell ever getting prioritized.

Steve said...

Hmm..I guess now that Lowell isn't just an APP school, but houses general education and a special needs program, doesn't that make their argument go away? I'm just wondering if the community has asked for it and the answer has been "no," or the community hasn't asked for fear of having the school closed and the programs moved.

hschinske said...

Steve, just as a footnote, special ed has been there since the building was built, long before APP. (I went to Lowell as a child, incidentally.) That whole wing was designed with a dedicated special ed program in mind, and was state of the art for the time.

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

We didn't get a first day packet yet (maybe it's coming today), but I did get a forwarded copy of the Thursday Note, which raises a few questions for me as a new Lowell parent.

First, there is a vacancy for an assistant principal at Lowell. That surprises me. Was there a vice principal or head teacher last year? Or is this a new position? We transferred from a similar size K-5 school that has always had two leadership positions so I'm really amazed that Lowell would have this vacancy, what with three distinct programs and 500+ kids. Just curious what the scoop is. I can't imagine one administrator doing this job alone for very long.

Next, it says that parent-teacher conferences are 11/22 to 11/24, with a 230PM dismissal on 11/24. So there is school on Mon, Tues, Weds that week? Are parent conferences held in the evening? We got that entire week off at our last school, and I thought that was a district standard.


lendlees said...


Lowell was only 440 students last year which didn't qualify the school for an Asst. Principal, and now with almost 570 students the school qualifies for one, hence the vacancy.

As for the November parent/teacher conferences, it is a school specific decision whether to have conferences the week of Thanksgiving or both that week and the previous one, not a district decision. The 2:30 dismissal is on the district calendar.

ArchStanton said...

I am curious what the classroom sizes are looking like at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall. One of the reasons we switched to private this year was class size, so I am curious how that has turned out.

Anonymous said...

Re: class size -- My son is a third-grader at Lowell and his class currently has 22 students. My understanding is that the other third-grade classes are about the same, ranging from 22-25 students. Haven't heard what the other class sizes are like.

And, have to say that I am really happy with the change to move recess before lunch. It was a huge problem for us in the past getting my son to eat lunch, as he was anxious to get out on the playground. I hope this new approach is successful for the school, as studies have shown that students eat better with recess first.

sonicmom said...

Re class sizes: unfortunately Lowell 5th gr APP classes are running approx 31 students per class(there are 3 APP classes). Not sure the ALO class size. However I've heard that our old school, John Hay on Q Anne, has 34+ kids in the 5th gr classes! WHen we left J Hay in 2nd gr, all classes were well under 30 kids per class: 22 - 24 was the average for all grades. I'm assuming Coe, and perhaps the other popular elementaries, are in the same boat. It's unfortunate, but I was also told there would be some kind of classrm aide (an intern?) in these larger classes.

TechyMom said...

The ALO K, K/1 split and 1 at Lowell have 26-28 each class. They're still moving kids between classes to get the best balance. That's pretty big for those grades, especially for a split.

There were 12 kids on the K waitlist the week before school started. There won't be a second K class, so I doubt that will move at all.

I haven't heard the numbers for the higher ALO grades. I'm assuming they're similar to last year, which was pretty small.

Anonymous said...

TM 3rd grade APP has 22 or so kids per class, which is up from last year (17-18 per class).

Steve said...

Our 2nd grade APP class at Lowell has 25 students...

Meg said...

5th grade APP at Thurgood Marshall is at/slightly over 30 kids in each class.

It's hard not to raise an eyebrow, since the district's FAQ on the new teacher's contract notes that SPS has tried to reduce class size where "small staffing ratios matter most: in special education, English language development, and elementary school classrooms." (emphasis mine).

In May 2009, according to a district FAQ, having 28 5th graders in a class for 2009-10 represented a class size increase of about 2 kids per class. Anyone else wondering how, exactly, the district has tried to reduce class size?

For all my complaining, my kids are both happy and what I've seen and heard about their teachers has been good.

Lori said...

Is anyone planning to attend one of the Superintendent's coffee chats?

I hope to go to the one at Jane Addams on October 12th. Given that it's at 9AM and many local families will be taking their elementary students to school at that very time, I suspect that meeting will have middle and highschool parents, along with APP parents residing in the NE whose kids take the bus to Lowell. Perhaps it will be a good opportunity to discuss APP-specific concerns.

I may ask if the split last year achieved its desired outcomes and how they are planning for capacity in the future. The K classes in the NE this year are as large or larger than those in the recent past. I suspect there are going to be capacity issues at Lowell in the very near future. Since a seat is guaranteed for those who test in, what will happen in the future if demands exceeds building capacity?

Maureen said...

It's interesting to me that no one here has proposed a discussion of the situation at Garfield (boundaries drawn too large - over crowding - kids not being able to fill their schedules.) Maybe the audience here skews young? Another topic for older kids is whether anyone is trying to get HS credit for Middle School APP coursework (Algebra/Geometry/Biology)

Mercermom said...

I'd very much like to have a discussion re APP at Garfield. I'm not so much interested in trying to read the tea leaves re possible program splits/placements the District could make; rather, I'd like to hear from Garfield parents re why having whole APP cohort at Garfield makes sense, why it wouldn't work to simply move the program (in halves, presumably) to other schools, etc. We're in the current Garfield area, and I have no doubt that my now-7th grader would choose to remain at Garfield with his school friends rather than follow APP to another school.

Anonymous said...

This morning the two APP 1st grade classes got shuffled a bit.

One class has 19, the other 20 children.

Both are now straight 1st grade classes instead of one being a split 1/2.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - the above note refers to the 1st grade enrollment at Lowell.

Central Cluster Mom said...

I mentioned the overcrowding at Garfield on the Open Thread. No one responded because I do think this site skews to elementary (primarily Lowell) parents.

The high school situation will effect elementary parents sooner than they think - but sometimes I think it is perceived as too far in the future for parents of 1st-4th graders...

Re: applying for high school credit for middle school classes. Our child was informed that both his 7th grade math and science classes are eligible for high school credit, as well as French. So he could conceivably go to high school with 5 credits already completed (2x Math, 2x Science and 1x World Language). We haven't decided whether we will apply yet - don't have to until the course is completed from what I understand.

I don't really care about earning the credits - as much as I am interested that he is enjoying the subjects (Physical Science, Biology, Algebra etc.)and its not too much as far as workload.

I guess we'll wait and see how he does - if he feels he has mastered the subject matter - I guess we'll apply....?

It would free up the high school schedule a bit - so he could more varied classes I guess. Is that the benefit that most are looking for?

Meg said...

Maureen - I've been thinking about it, but haven't brought it up here. It looks to me as if the district could well try to boot APP from Garfield.

I think it would be disastrous for the program at all levels. It seems like there are an awful lot of parents (and please, all, chip in with all your reasons for putting or not putting your kid in APP) who put their kids in APP so that they're a) "normal," instead of The Nerd, b) in for the benefit of moving through the system with a large group of bright kids who, whether they are motivated to do so or not, are pushed a little to learn at a faster pace and c) frankly, a guaranteed spot at Garfield, where they'll have what may be the widest range of academically challenging courses (and I cannot prove that last other than by hearsay).

If APP gets split or dispersed at HS, is there really a reason for it at the elementary and middle school level? You could argue yes (and I'd love to hear why), but I think it's like saying you could still use your body if only your head was chopped off.

Steve said...

Meg, we have a 2nd grader at Lowell, and to be honest, I think more about middle school than I do about high school right now. Flowing with a cohort of kids to an APP program at Hamilton (the school we'll go to assuming we live where do now) is attractive to us.

That being said, our assumption has been that our child will go to Garfield for HS, even though it's even farther away for us than Lowell. Again, for us, it's the cohort model *and* the fact that Garfield has a lot of classes that will likely serve our child well. I think the district will have a hard time replicating that elsewhere. (But then, we just started down this path, so I'm not yet 100% sure what APP is about!).

Anonymous said...

What is the point of high school credits for the courses taken at the middle school level? Selective colleges want kids to take math, languages and SS every year at HS no matter what; so, if your APP child gets credit for Algebra 1 and Geometry during middle school, do you want him to take Algebra 2 during the freshman year and then do no math for 3 years? Moreover, if the child gets enogh credits to graduate (3 math credits for WA state), the school can simply refuse to let him take more advanced classes if there is too much demand for them...

Confused Mom

Meg said...

Steve - okay. I was a little dramatic. A lot, even.

Garfield APP is and isn't an actual program. It is because the district characterizes advanced learning as through grade 12, and offers Garfield to qualified kids (and I don't get what's up with not being able to enter the program after a certain age, either. You're qualified or not, and if you are, you should get admittance). It's not because there doesn't seem to be an actual program at the HS level. The point could probably be argued either way - but it would be hard for SPS to do so, since if it wasn't through grade 12, they would likely get less money from the state.

Maureen said...

Confused Mom, I don't think I've ever heard of an APP parent who could imagine their kid finishing High School math with Algebra 2! :)

Getting HS credit for classes taken in MS allows a kid to skip past those classes and move on to PreCalculus, AP Calc A/B and then AP Calc B/C or AP Statistics. Getting HS credit for Physical Science and Bio lets a kid go straight to Marine Bio (are they still offering it?), Chem, BioChem/Organic, Physics, AP versions of some of those....

One result - the kids are challenged at the appropriate level. Another result, they can enter college with a chunk of their distribution requirements completed and take the courses they really want to take.

if the child gets enogh credits to graduate (3 math credits for WA state), the school can simply refuse to let him take more advanced classes if there is too much demand for them...

I don't know about this. I have heard that something like this happening at Garfield because they have to focus on the kids who are just trying to graduate. I haven't heard about it happening at my kid's HS. And there is always Running Start or the early entry program at UW...

(An aside--I think I see your point about math -- to date, kids have been placed into the appropriate level math class even if they don't have HS credit for the lower class. I don't think that is true of the science/LA/SS classes though--e.g., you would have to prove you have taken HS Bio to place into an advanced Bio class (not just that your MS science teacher was really great and covered all of that stuff.))

Greg Linden said...

So far, the topics look like overcrowding and threats to the APP program at Garfield and overcrowding and maintenance issues at Lowell. Any others?

Greg Linden said...

Oh, and I'll also post a reminder of the superintendent's Q&A sessions, building off Lori's comment, if that sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, if your child takes Bio in APP level 8th grade (with a teacher who qualified to teach at HS level) then nobody can force your child to repeat Bio in HS, even if there is no HS credit taken for this MS course. Same with math. On the other hand, if your APP-qualified child takes science with regular science teacher, you cannot claim that she took HS Bio just because the teacher was great.

Appropriate HS placement is more important than credits.

Confused Mom

Maureen said...

if your child takes Bio in APP level 8th grade (with a teacher who qualified to teach at HS level) then nobody can force your child to repeat Bio in HS, even if there is no HS credit taken for this MS course.

Is this recorded somewhere? The SPS counseling handbook?

What about "9th grade science" at RHS, would APP kids have to take that since they haven't taken "9th grade science?" The course description looks like Physical Science at other schools but it is called "9th grade science" and is intended as an intro to HS science.

I agree that placement is more important than credit. I just think that if you have the credit then you won't have to twist any counselors' arms to get the correct placement. (My concern is based on emails with the RHS head counselor--she did not have an appropriate science pathway in place for APP kids as of last spring. That may have changed.)

Bird said...

Maureen - I've been thinking about it, but haven't brought it up here. It looks to me as if the district could well try to boot APP from Garfield.

I think it would be disastrous for the program at all levels.

I'm sure you're right. Some parents wouldn't choose APP without the guarantee of Garfield at the end.

For our part, for now, we're keeping our kid in the local elementary. I had thought we'd send the kid to Lowell, but the new SAP guarantee's her seat at a good high school (Roosevelt).

I'd rather stick close to home in elementary. Before the new SAP I thought APP was the only way I could guarantee a seat in a particular high school. No more.

I doubt I'm the only APP parent making that sort of calculation.

Lori said...

Bird, I'm glad your child's needs can be met locally. But as I'm rapidly finding out, that isn't the case for everyone with an APP-qualified child.

My daughter was unhappy all of 1st grade at the neighborhood school; she was bored, frustrated, and lonely all year. The other kids didn't "get" her, and she didn't "get" them. On our walk to school each day, she'd ask me why she had to go there and waste her time; couldn't she just stay home and read books since she learned more that way anyway? It was heart-breaking and frustrating all around.

Two weeks into the Lowell experience, and I feel like I have my old child back. She is happy and in a good mood again. She has already made friends that she wants to invite over to play (she didn't make a single friend all of last year). She sits down and does her homework without any complaint. She's talking nonstop about her day. It's absolutely astonishing; the contrast is stark.

We choose APP because it felt like it might be the only way to try to have her needs met in SPS. We weren't thinking about middle school or high school at all - we'll cross those bridges when the time comes. Instead, we were looking for a short-term solution and hoping APP would work. If that option weren't there, we probably couldn't remain an SPS family.

Anonymous said...

We had a similar experience with both of our children. Both were bored in non-APP schools, one ended up alleviating boredom by getting in trouble constantly, the other pretended not to know things to reduce teasing by other students. APP has been extremely helpful for both, and we're very happy to have the program.

hschinske said...

if it wasn't through grade 12, they would likely get less money from the state.

I thought the Advanced Learning budget went on salaries for those in the AL office and on testing, and that was it. How would that change if the program were 1-8?

I don't see how they could get by on any less, anyway. It's one of the few offices at JSC that ISN'T overstaffed (no one's offered _them_ a Broad intern -- not that I want them to have one).

Helen Schinske

Bird said...

I'm glad your child's needs can be met locally

Oh, just to be clear. So far, I don't my kid's academic needs have been met at the local school.

It's just that in our case it isn't making our kid unhappy so far. Our kid is quite adept at satisfying their own needs for learning outside of what the school offers.

We stay because I think we can support our kid socially better by staying in the local school. Our kid, though very advanced academically, is not the "odd man out" socially.

I'm sure there a lots of kids like Lori's, however, whose situation is drastically improved by the move to Lowell.

My point is that there are a fair number of kids that don't have such drastic adjustment problems to their local elementary, and if the program is changed at the high school level, this will affect whether those kid's families choose the elementary APP program or not.

dj said...

For APP parents at both Thurgood Marshall and Lowell, have any of you considered sending (or actually sent) non-APP siblings to those sites?

hschinske said...

I would never make a decision for my child's academic needs that far ahead. If nothing else, I'd figure on the district pulling the rug out from under us before we got there. For us it's always been year to year.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

In reading this thread and that on the Seattle Schools blog, I am curious if the school district has specifically talked about dismantling the current track for APP kids (i.e., APP kids get a guaranteed spot at Garfield).

We are new to APP, and one of the things that made APP attractive for us was the idea of the cohort, through high school.

CCM said...

I don't believe that the school district (or board) have implicitly stated that high school APP is going away -- it may be more of a general paranoia in our community based on the run-around that we got during the split (only elementary will be affected - nothing is happening with middle school....oh yeah - we're closing Meany - we're splitting middle school too.)
Bob Vaughan has been "assured" that high school APP is staying at Garfield - hence the curriculum shift of classes for freshman.
That was last year before the overcrowding - I think now people are reading between the lines and thinking that the district has ulterior motives.
The October APP meeting at Hamilton should be interesting.

Bird said...

The district hasn't spoken of such a change recently.

It has been discussed in the more distant past (like 2005).

Bird said...

Since it is purely speculative, I hate to add fuel to the fire, but I do have a suspicion that the district will be motivated to change APP access to Garfield.

When I look at the program changes in the last couple of years at schools, I notice they have been all be motivated by capacity management rather than rational planning about the programs involved.

They said they were splitting APP at the elementary level to allow for "equity and access", but really they did it for capacity management purposes.

The Lowell population was growing every year, making Lowell a tighter fit, but more importantly they wanted to reduce overall district capacity while trying to avoid closing some perfectly functional south end elementary buildings. They split the program to do this.

Up in my neck of the woods, they reconfigured JSIS, removing ELL students and expanding the immersion program, not because they wanted to make well motivated changes to the program, but instead because there was an unmanageably large wave of elementary students coming up in the local area.

The district can and will diddle around about changes for many reasons, but they won't diddle over capacity problems. They have to accomodate students in schools and that will drive all other decisions.

Fiona Cohen said...

Another new topic: I'm very interested in what people have to say about the experience of girls in elementary APP. I know they're outnumbered by the boys, particularly in the younger grades. What is the social world of APP girls like? How quickly do girls adjust after moving away from their neighborhood school? How does being outnumbered by boys affect their school experience?

Anonymous said...

Another new topic:
Inequity of the two APP Elementary programs. Lowell's PTA raised 4x what Thurgood Marshall's was able to, giving their program a huge advantage. Thurgood Marshall's primary elementary numbers are down, and Lowell's are overflowing. Julie Breidenbach said to one parent she would be glad when former Lowell parents would be out of the Thurgood Marshall building so they wouldn't be able to compare the two programs by talking with their friends who are currently at Lowell.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9/29 2:11 -

A great topic. Can anyone at Lowell talk about how PTSA budget is being allocated this year? I'm curious to know how extra funding impacts specific aspects of the APP program (vs. what is being used building-wide).