Monday, November 1, 2010

Open thread

What's on your mind, APP parents?

74 comments :

Anonymous said...

I am hoping to get some feedback from other ALO parents at Lowell about the Lowell ALO program. I have sort of been lying low waiting for the students and teachers to settle into fall routines, get their MAP testing done etc... I expected that this would be about the time that the students who tested into ALO would actually begin getting ALO materials... for example homework for one grade above level, more advanced reading. There appears to be no ALO teaching plan at Lowell as at other ALO schools which proudly describe formal training material for the ALO teachers, ALO report cards, pull out opportunities. I broached the subject with my child's teacher who responded that there was "nothing in writing" that the they were supposed to be doing with the ALO kids. It was not at all clear the teacher even KNEW which if the kids were ALO. I was also told that the advanced learning was for kids who missed APP by a point or so...."YES! I said, that is my child... SO what are we doing?" Then I was to the principal's office -literally! I hope to learn more from Mr. King. I sense the school resources have been stressed by many issues since '09- new kindergarten, TT Minor merge and more. As far as I can see Lowell's ALO program is a program in theory only. Anyone else? I know many of my child's classmates tested very high on MAP and possibly CoGAT as well and I suspect you parents are also wondering about when and how the advanced learning opportunities will actually manifest....

Anonymous said...

Coffee Chat with Mr. King on Friday, Nov. 5. Kay Smith-Blum will also be there. It would be a great opportunity to bring up the ALO question.

Steve said...

My impression is that this is a general problem with ALO. There are apparently no standards for it set by the district (other than perhaps general ones), and each school determines the specific of each program. And I wouldn't be surprised if the program varied from teacher to teacher, given that it doesn't appear there is any training, etc. At least this is how it appears to me.

In our previous elementary school, the written description of the ALO offering didn't jibe with what our child experienced.

In addition to talking to Principal King, you may want to ask this question of Dr. Vaughn in Advanced Learning. The ALO web page is here: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/program_alo.htm

Anonymous said...

Did anyone attend the APP AC meeting last night, or the Board meeting tonight?


I received a few APP AC meeting emails today, indicating that APP would be "discussed" relating to both Lowell and Garfield capacity.

To quote: "Given the situation at Garfield, we expect that school and APP to be discussed."

Here is the link to the APP AC email:



http://groups.google.com/group/app-ac-seattle/browse_thread/thread/4ed04d747f39a85e


My interpretation: Splitting HS APP is on the table, so are further program revisions...

Does anyone have more information or facts?

Thanks,
Concerned APP parent

Anonymous said...

The PowerPoint from tonight's Board work session, where background on the upcoming New Student Assignment Plan transition decisions was presented, is up on the Seattle Public Schools community blog. Several of the vaguely-described potential "options" for fixing the overcrowding problem at Garfield seem to involve APP.

My bet is that the District isn't going to tell us what this latest round of hosing will look like until January. This would be a GREAT time to get someone from the APP-AC to answer some questions on this blog, guys, chief among them being "Who, exactly, is advocating for our kids in this process?"

Sorry to be cranky. I still have PTSD from the elementary split.

Ruthie

Mercermom said...

This from the Seattle Schools blog re last night's meeting:

Some things are pretty clear:

The District staff don't really want to do anything about changing the Garfield attendance area. In fact, they don't appear to really want to change any attendance areas. Instead, a lot of the options for Garfield had to do with re-arranging APP.

zella917 said...

Anyone else mad about the use of the MAP test as a criteria for advanced learning testing? We have a 4th grader in APP and would like to have our kindergartner tested too, but her MAP scores, after a month or less of school, don't qualify. Does anyone know of any way to appeal other than private testing? This just doesn't seem valid to me, especially for kindergarten. I wonder if APP in first grade next year will be especially small.

Lori said...

zella, I'm curious, did you fill out the normal application for testing but then get denied a testing date due to the MAP scores?

It's been unclear to me whether they were using MAP to cast a wider net and identify students whose parents didn't apply for testing or whether they are using MAP as a barrier and only testing students above the 85th percentile, regardless of teacher and parent input.

NC said...

I'm looking into Kindergarten now for my pre-K daughter. She has tested above threshold for the APP program, and, due to our location, would presumably attend Lowell in 1st grade (2012-2013). Is there any benefit (or possibility, even) to applying for the K program at Lowell? Alternatively, she would attend K at our neighborhood school and move to Lowell for 1st.

zella917 said...

Lori,
Yes, we did apply for testing on time and the kindergarten teacher turned in her recommendation form also. Since we did our part, the only reason I can think of that she hasn't been scheduled for testing along with other students at her school is the MAP test 85% percentile threshold.
Zella

lendlees said...

Hey Zella--

MAP scores are available on The Source now. You can check her score/percentile there. I'm not sure what the policy/procedure is going to be about appealing decisions with MAP as the new 'gatekeeper', but definitely contact Advanced Learning about it.

Lori said...

Oh, Zella, I'm sorry to hear that. It makes me mad as I think it's completely inappropriate to ignore all of the other evidence in favor of a single snapshot of a child's ability based on a fall MAP score, especially for Kindergarten.

Absolutely start making some phone calls and contact Board members. I don't think anyone knew or intended for MAP to be used this way.

Let us know what you find out about potential appeals. There had better be a way to appeal because if there isn't, then basically the district is saying that Kindergarteners who score below the 85th percentile in the fall cannot enter any advanced learning program until 2nd grade (ie, would have to wait until fall of 1st grade to officially test in, then basically wait out that whole year to transfer to an appropriate program).

zella917 said...

Lendlees,
We did check her MAP scores on the Source and they are below 85%. Just slightly below for math but a bit more significantly for reading. But she's just in kindergarten and doesn't know how to read yet, especially after less than a month of school! And the kindergarten teacher even expressed some doubts about the validity of the test; apparently the computers were very slow in answering and the kids were losing interest between questions. Anyway, I'll see about contacting Advanced Learning to see if we have any recourse.
Zella

Anonymous said...

how did you check elementary scores on the source?

zella917 said...

My husband actually did the registration, but I believe you just need your student's ID number to access it.

kimberly said...

Zella,

Unless you've received a letter stating that your child wouldn't be tested, I wouldn't jump to conclusions. I believe testing hasn't been scheduled yet.

You might want to call the Advanced Learning office and double check.

zella917 said...

Other students at her school have been scheduled for testing, and her teacher called to alert us that she wasn't on the list. I have also e-mailed the Advanced Learning office to see if there's anything we can do. Maybe there's just a misunderstanding or we didn't fill out a form correctly. If it's something easy like that, I'd be relieved!

lendlees said...

Zella-

I misread your message, sorry about that. I would be adamant with Advanced Learning that MAP should NOT be used as a gatekeeper for a kindergartner. The test is not designed for that low a grade. Five-year old children who, after two weeks of school, and potentially no exposure to a computer before that, can't have reliable scores on that test.

You might end up having to do the appeal route, which isn't fair either.

Be loud and persistent so you don't miss the testing window. Also, copy Kay Smith-Blum. This exact topic was discussed today at the Lowell coffee chat.

zella917 said...

I just called the Advanced Learning office a little while ago and was told we'd be getting a letter telling us why our child wasn't scheduled for testing (which the person on the phone admitted was the MAP scores), and what we could do to appeal. She didn't specify what we would need to do, so I guess I'll wait and see the letter. And I did e-mail Robert Vaughan, but didn't think to include Kay Smith-Blum too. Thanks for the advice Lendlees.
Zella

Anonymous said...

My child scored above the 85th percentile but we haven't received anything yet scheduling a test date. Anyone else in this situation? I guess I will have to call next week.

Jen said...

Lendlees - if you have any, can you post notes from the Nov 5 Coffee with Greg / Kay Smith-Blum Chat?

Thanks.

lendlees said...

Jen-I posted my best recollection under the Coffee Chat thread.

zella917 said...

We got a response from Dr. Vaughan saying that over 550 of the 950 kindergartners whose parents applied for Advanced Learning testing did make the 85% percentile threshold on the MAP test. Our child did not, so we can try again in a later year, or perhaps we could try to appeal. Gathering enough evidence for an appeal at this point seems a daunting task, so I guess we'll hope for better scores next year. But cynically I can't help but notice that the district will save a lot of money by not testing those extra 400 kindergartners.
Zella

Greg Linden said...

Here is a link to get to Lendlees' summary of the Nov 5 meeting with Kay Smith-Blum:

http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2010/11/kay-smith-blum-at-lowell-nov-5.html#comments

lendlees said...

Zella--

An appeal isn't that hard, just expensive. You would have to do private testing to see if she makes the cutoff for APP. If her scores are high enough, then you have legitimate grounds for an appeal. And a solid rationale of why MAP doesn't work at the kindergarten level as a gatekeeper.

Anonymous said...

Zella--we're parents of an APP second grader (this is our first year at Lowell)and a K student as well, and also got a similar stat from Dr. Vaughan when I asked how we could appeal getting our K child CogAT tested. He shared what he had also told you, that 550 K students and suggested that if our K student wasn't yet academically advanced that we let him advance and follow the trajectory of his older sibling.

Our son made the "threshold" in math, but not reading. I'm not surprised--he doesn't yet know how to read. :) Neither did his older sibling at this point. They both have late summer birthdays. I am thrilled with his K experience and don't want him anywhere else. I wrote Dr. Vaughan back and said I am not concerned in the least about kindergarten, but I *am* concerned about first grade, and the fact that because we are "barred" from the SPS CogAT we are essentially out of luck regarding Spectrum/ALO, let alone APP, based on a computer-based test taken during the first month of school--when our son does not yet read!

We're at a great school, so he certainly won't be scarred for life if he does stay there for first grade by any means. He may not even qualify for any advanced learning programs, but I am a little frustrated that the MAP test has become a barrier for entry--especially for kindergarteners!--rather than an additional means of identifying kids who might benefit from advanced learning.

NEmom

zella917 said...

NE Mom,
You've expressed how I feel very well, and it seems like our situations are similar. I'm sure our kindergartner could do better on the MAP test later, especially once she learns to read, but it's frustrating to be barred from even finding out how she might do on the CogAT because of the MAP. I'm sure she'll be fine staying where she is for first grade, but again, we would have liked to know. Paying for private testing isn't really in our family budget, so we'll stick with where we are for now. But I'm left feeling frustrated.
Zella

Anonymous said...

I think there is a good argument that MAP does not "accurately reflect" math and reading achievement of K-1 students. I'd like to see some validation of it's use for highly capable testing at this age. This is part of the Washington Code that governs highly capable identification:

WAC 392-170-060

Nondiscrimination in the use of tests.

All tests and other evaluation materials used in the assessment shall have been validated for the specific purpose for which they are used and shall accurately reflect whatever factors the test purport to measure. If properly validated tests are not available, the professional judgment of the qualified district personnel shall determine eligibility of the student based upon other evidence of cognitive ability or academic achievement. This professional judgment shall be documented in writing.


If you do not get a satisfactory response from the District, I would suggest contacting customer service at OSPI. They will assign a person to act as mediator on your behalf.

kimberly said...

I don't think it's appropriate to use the test as a barrier when we don't even know that much about it. My daughter was in K last year and her teacher wouldn't even discuss MAP scores (nor share them) because it was too early to understand them.

I think it's good that they are using it to notify parents that they may want to consider testing - especially in the southend where I fear that kids aren't tested at the same rate. But to exclude other parents based on one score seems harsh. Especially If there is no data to support that no APP or Spectrum kids have ever scored below 85th %. And if the do have that data, I would want to see it.

Shannon said...

The other piece I am interested in is whether this will have a net effect of reducing the number of kids in Spectrum, APP or now.

What was a typical number tested for K and what percentage 'qualified'? How does that compare to this year?

And, I guess. Are the same kids qualifying - ie. how do K map scores correlate with the old screening test.

Lori said...

I've been curious about the effectiveness of MAP as a screening tool, but I don't know where to go for an answer. Maybe this is something that a Board member needs to ask?

Basically, when you design a screening test, whether it's to screen for cancer or screen for a gifted ed program, you need to know how sensitive and how specific your test is. Sensitivity refers to the ability of the test to identify what it's looking for, so in this case, the percentage of qualified kids who have a MAP score above the threshold divided by the total number of qualified kids (ie, those with MAP score above and those with score below the cutoff).

This is not hard to calculate using data the district already has. The district should look at all of last year's CogAT results and cross-tabulate them with last fall's MAP scores for the cohort who took the CogAT. They should probably break this down by grade level and set a MAP threshold for each grade, not as one single metric because I bet the threshold will need to be lower in lower grades, given the vagaries of computer testing young kids.

If it turns out that the sensitivity is low (and low in this sense could be defined as 80-85%), then the district could be accused of knowingly depriving a significant number of kids from an appropriate learning opportunity.

If I were a parent with an older APP-qualified kid whose current Kindergartner was denied a testing date this fall but there is other evidence of potential giftedness (ie, teacher filled out the paperwork as under old system), I would be asking how exactly they settled on 85% and whether they can tell me the sensitivity of this threshold as a screen for Kindergartners. If they can't and 85% is completely arbitrary, I'd continue to pursue the matter as a legal issue (see the Anonymous comments about WAC)

Meg said...

I wrote Bob Vaughan to ask about the testing, and why the decision was made. This is what he said:

"We have 5,100 applications for advanced learning programs that are
designed to serve students who are good candidates for operating
successfully in curriculum pitched one to two grades advanced relative
to what is normally offered in a given grade level. This year, we have universal information about who is relatively advanced in reading and math from MAP assessments conducted this fall. More than 1600 of the 5100 applicants are performing below the 85th percentile in reading and
math, and it is reasonable (and legal according to Washington
Administrative Code) to decline additional testing for advanced learning eligibility this year, especially given every family's opportunity to appeal and given their opportunity to apply for evaluation every year from kindergarten through seventh grade."

The Advanced Learning site has some info - 5100 is waaaay up from most years, when the range has run 2300-3000.

It looks to me that the 5100 is probably a direct result of some of the many issues in the NSAP. It looks like rather than recognizing that if the NSAP issues settle down, applications will also likely return to normal levels, SPS has decided they need to gatekeep. I suspect that the kids most likely to get booted because of the MAP cut-off will be 1) younger (sounds anecdotally like that's the case), 2) kids whose home language isn't English and 3) kids living in poverty. I don't know what the cost per kid is to test, but the decision to use MAP as a gatekeeper seems like utter nonsense.

What's more is that poking around, it doesn't look as if a) other districts that use MAP use it as a gatekeeper for advanced learning programs or that b) MAP, a test marketed to SPS parents as a tool to inform teaching, was ever intended to sub in as an achievement test that acts as a gatekeeper to programs.

And FYI (I know, too late for this year): if you opt out of fall MAP testing, you will retain your advanced learning testing spot.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Meg that using MAP is more likely to discriminate based on age, especially when evaluating K-1 students.

The traditional tests used for AL testing in the early grades account for age differences and are normed to the age of the child when taking the test. The MAP norms are based on grade only. So a summer birthday would put kids at a disadvantage with MAP as the gatekeeper.

Anecdotally, our child (with a summer birthday) was not reading when taking the test years ago in K, but met the benchmarks nonetheless. By the beginning of first grade, our child was reading chapter books with ease. In my opinion, it is unlikely that a computerized test, given at age 5, would have been a valid measure of abilities.

hschinske said...

I think there's always been a particular concern that the first-graders in APP be advanced enough in reading to use reading-heavy curriculum. There was even one year when 99th percentile on the Woodcock-Johnson for kindergartners was not enough, you also had to reach a grade-equivalent score of two years ahead (which was above 99th percentile). Yes, some kids have growth spurts after testing and catch up, but you can't expect once-a-year testing to be ideal for anyone -- there are bound to be a few cases where a student who would ideally have qualified has to wait a year.

Relying so heavily on MAP testing (especially so early in the year) is problematic for lots of reasons, and I don't think any one score should ever have veto power, but I don't have a theoretical objection to their wanting first-grade APP students to be reading at a reasonably high level, especially as scads of kids enter later anyway.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

The traditional tests used for AL testing in the early grades account for age differences and are normed to the age of the child when taking the test.

Not sure that's true, if you mean the district testing. Both the CogAT and the Woodcock-Johnson have age and grade norms available, and schools frequently use grade norms as that's the population the child will be judged against. Actual IQ tests, of course, such as the WISC-IV or S-B V, are normed by age only.

Helen Schinske

Greg Linden said...

Looks like there is a new thread on use of MAP testing for APP placement over on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/11/signed-annoyed.html

Anonymous said...

the fact that because we are "barred" from the SPS CogAT we are essentially out of luck regarding Spectrum/ALO, let alone APP, based on a computer-based test taken during the first month of school--when our son does not yet read!

This'll probably win me know friends, but I'm not particularly worried about kids who don't know how to read in Kindergarten being barred from taking the CogAT.

A kid has to be in the top 5% in reading to enter APP. I strongly doubt that a kid in Kindergarten who isn't reading yet is in the top 5% for academic achievement in reading.

If there are kids out there who are working at a high level in Kindergarten (more than a year ahead) and are not testing high on the MAP, I'd be concerned.

A kid not yet reading at the start of Kindergarten isn't that kid.

This is not to say such kids aren't smart or won't shoot ahead in K.

It's just to say that there is no need to rush to test them for advanced learning when the general ed Kindergarten curriculum currently suits them.

Anonymous said...

Whoops.

That should be no friends, not know friends.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:10 and 6:12:

I agree with much of what you've written. But here's the thing--I am not desirous of CogAT testing for my son as far as it applies to kindergarten. He has an outstanding teacher, loves his class and is learning every day. He is exactly where he should be at present.

We didn't test our older child in kindergarten. Both kids have late summer birthdays, so with our first we just hoped for good social and emotional development with a little literacy and math thrown in for good measure.

At the first parent-teacher conference we were told we should consider advanced learning testing. Since that conference occured in November, our first opportunity to have him tested was the fall of the following year. Our child scored very well, yet we still debated about leaving our very strong neighborhood school. What swayed us? Our child fit in well socially and was doing fine academically. But each day we would hear, "I'm bored. I already know how to do this."

His first grade experience was fine--sometimes even very good--but not, I think, what it could have been had he been in an APP program.

I can guarantee that he was not reading the third week of kindergarten. Had he been given the CogAT as a kindergartener, would he have tested into APP for first grade? I don't know. Would he have tested at the Spectrum/ALO level via the CogAT? I strongly suspect that he would have, much as I strongly suspect that his younger brother would.

I share the concerns voiced elsewhere in these threads that a computer-based test delivered in the first few weeks of school tends to favor certain socio-economic groups as well as older students. That's less than ideal in terms of attracting qualified students from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds. I actually like the idea of MAP being an additional means of flagging students who might not have applied for advanced learning otherwise.

My personal bias, which I freely admit to, is wanting to know more about my son's cognitive abilities via a test specifically intended to measure those cognitive abilities, in this case the CogAT which is orally administered to children K-2 per the Advanced Learning web site.

Note also that I make no assumption that he's a slam-dunk for APP, this year or any year. At our neighborhood school (to date, anyway) kids are required to undergo the SPS-administered CogAT for Spectrum/ALO classification. If he were to remain at our neighborhood school, it would be ideal to determine whether he falls into the Spectrum/ALO range so that he can receive appropriate differentiation for first grade.

I am not trying to push my son into APP if he doesn't belong there. I do want him to have access to appropriately challenging instruction in first grade and the CogAT has been designated by Advanced Learning and our school's ALO/Spectrum program to be the means of determining that.

Therefore, I remain frustrated that a computer-based literacy test of a five year-old who does not yet read, within the first weeks of school (a test originally put forth as a teaching aid), is now a gatekeeper to the cognitive test which would help determine appropriate placement for first grade, APP or otherwise.

NEmom

hschinske said...

The stats I've seen show only about 1% of entering kindergartners able to read words in context (the highest level of fluency tested). http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000070.pdf

"As children enter kindergarten for the first time, 66 percent pass reading proficiency level one
(recognizing their letters); 29 percent pass level two (beginning sounds); 17 percent pass level three (ending sounds); 2 percent pass level four (sight words); and 1 percent pass level five (words in
context) (table 5)."

Helen Schinske

zella917 said...

But I think NE Mom's point is valid; a child's level of reading proficiency can change dramatically from the very beginning of kindergarten to first grade. My older daughter who is currently in APP (she started in second grade) also didn't read at the beginning of kindergarten. We didn't think about having her tested in kindergarten since she was our first child and we were all just getting used to the full day school experience in general. But by first grade she was reading at a very high level and spent a lot of time reading on her own while waiting for the other kids to catch up, which was pretty boring for her. I know there are no guarantees but we were hoping to avoid this same experience for our younger daughter. She is fine in kindergarten, loving it and appropriately challenged right now. I just hope the same is true in first grade since she wouldn't now have the chance to qualify for any advanced learning programs until second grade.

hschinske said...

a child's level of reading proficiency can change dramatically from the very beginning of kindergarten to first grade.

Yes, that's perfectly true (happened to my older kids as well -- oddly enough my August-born boy was the earliest to read fluently), but it's not the way to bet. Though if I remember correctly my daughters were reading a bunch of sight words and starting to sound things out long before reading really "clicked" with them, so they might have done quite well on a formal reading assessment in kindergarten. At that time the CogAT was the gatekeeper, however, and they weren't allowed a chance at achievement testing until the next year.

Helen Schinske

Bird said...

She is fine in kindergarten, loving it and appropriately challenged right now. I just hope the same is true in first grade since she wouldn't now have the chance to qualify for any advanced learning programs until second grade.

I think the turn around time for getting a kid into APP is the more legitimate concern here.

That the MAP is barrier for kids not yet reading is not, I think, a serious issue.

The fact that you have to kick off the application process after one month of school is a more serious problem.

This touches our family too.

We have an APP qualified kid that isn't in APP. The neighborhood elementary seems to be serving our kid fine so far, but since we don't have ALO at our school we do have to send our kid through testing every year. Otherwise, if it looks like the current school is becoming a problem, we have to wait two years before being able to enter the APP program.

I wonder if now that the new student assignment plan is in place, whether they couldn't push every thing back two months. I assume that the very early dates in the past were to accomodate the complex assignment process, and planning for enrollment. The work associated with that should be much reduced.

At the very least, it seems like the deadline for application should be after parents receive their students MAP scores.

Dorothy Neville said...

Regarding use of MAP and highly capable testing, please read this, especially page 3.

zella917 said...

Wow. Seems pretty clear they're going against their own recommendations on the use of the MAP test. What about those 3 points of data??

data watcher said...

@meg

"The Advanced Learning site has some info - 5100 is waaaay up from most years, when the range has run 2300-3000. "

I found some of what it looks like you're referring to at: 10 year eligibility.

However, that data is a 6 years of date, and those numbers do not agree with the data that I've been carefully keeping track of for a number of years. If I was a suspicious person I would wonder if someone is attempting to rewrite history.

Here are details from an APP meeting a few years back, where Colleen Stump, Ruth Medsker and others presented this data:

Year - #tested - #eligible - %
02/03 2267 133 5.8%
03/04 2953 179 6.1%
04/05 3042 239 7.9% (chg to 2 of 3 on cog)
05/06 3383 306 9.0% (kept 2 of 3, added in-house appeals)

I'm missing 06/07, but from an 08/09 meeting
07/08 3400 (given as approx)
08/09 4050 (with more to come)

So it's really been 7-8 years since we've seen anything less than about 3,000 applicants, and there were 3,000 as far back as 1997/98. And unless there's been a contraction, there have been over 4,000 for the past 3 years. So I don't see where there has necessarily even been a huge jump in applications this year - though probably some incremental bump.

The percentages above weren't included in that presentation, but were easy to calculate at the time. Notice that there was not only a steady increase in the number of applicants, but a steady increase in the percentage of eligible kids, due to fiddling with the entry criteria.

Everyone listen up! This is the problem our program has been facing for many years. The district has been dumbing down the eligibility in order to "grow" the program for a Long Time. Note the recent talk of creating yet a 3rd elementary site, which will be the nail in this coffin if we let it happen. Breaking up Garfield is just one of the many pieces of this puzzle.

data watcher said...

@dorothy

That's some pretty damning evidence against using the MAP scores as a hard filter for entry into Advanced Learning programs. Definitely not in line with the recommendation.

Yes, I do see the incongruity of this combined with the "we want to grow the program", but I attribute most of that to left hand/right hand issues and overall incompetence.

Clearly the MAP is an inappropriate tool for assessing kindergartners, and the fallout will be that even fewer disadvantaged and under-represented kids will make it into the program next year in first grade. But the info on page 3 leads me to believe that Bob Vaughan did not necessarily intend the MAP to be used in this way. He proposed using MAP scores "to identify students from under-represented demographic groups in order to recruit students to consider testing into advanced learning programs. MAP would be used along with other student performance data points"

So who is making these decisions?! It sounds like the head of Advanced Learning doesn't even get to set the eligibility requirements.

Meg said...

data watcher - the more recent information is helpful. I would argue that 5100 still represents a significant jump from 4000-ish.

Please have a care in how you talk about the program being dumbed down. As it happens, both of my children are Mexican-American and both entered APP after eligibility was dumbed down. Maybe they would have gotten in with more stringent standards, maybe not.

The rigor of the overall program is, while related to growth, a separate issue from splitting high school APP. Reduction of growth will not necessarily keep the district from wanting to split up high school APP kids, something SPS proposed doing as early as 2005.

Lori said...

My understanding is that eligiblity has always required scoring in the 98/99th percentile on CogAT, but that the reading and math score thresholds were lowered from 98/99th percentile to 95th percentile a few years ago.

I find it a little hard to believe that a child with an IQ in the top 2% but a math/reading percentile of "only" 95th perecentile doesn't "deserve" to be in APP.

What am I not understanding about the claims that eligibility has been "dumbed down"? It seems to me that using reading/math at or above 95th would help pick up younger kids with great potential (high IQ) but who perhaps did not have early education interventions like effective preschooling to get their math and reading scores in the top percentiles.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I would hope that any family whose child enters APP but struggles to keep up would self-select out of the program and put their child in a more appropriate environment. I guess we haven't been in the program long enough to know whether or not these claims that APP is being harmed by too many inappropriately placed children are true or not. It seems hard for me to believe that's the case.

hschinske said...

My understanding is that eligiblity has always required scoring in the 98/99th percentile on CogAT, but that the reading and math score thresholds were lowered from 98/99th percentile to 95th percentile a few years ago.


Lori, I don't think that's correct. When my kids started in APP, the exact achievement thresholds for Spectrum and APP were not generally mentioned, and only the *averages* for those admitted were released. The achievement average was usually 97th-98th or so, so it must have included scores below that. I suspect it's been 95th percentile for quite a long time.

Found an exact quotation from an old post of mine on SpectrumAPP: the _Review of Highly Capable Programs 2000-2001_ stated "Last year, students selected for this program [Spectrum], averaged scores at the 95th percentile on measures of intellectual ability, and at the 92nd percentile on math and reading achievement tests." (p. 52) (APP figures were 99th and 97th percentile respectively.)

The real mess-up came when they started trying to use kludged-up percentile scores on the WASL, which is not susceptible of a norm-referenced interpretation.

The difference between 95th and 99th percentile on a grade-level test (such as the old ITBS) is likely to be small anyway -- you really can't rank students accurately that way. It was another matter with the Woodcock-Johnson.

Helen Schinske

d.w. said...

@meg

data watcher - the more recent information is helpful. I would argue that 5100 still represents a significant jump from 4000-ish.

I'm curious about the 09/10 and 10/11 application #s, anyone seen those? The 4050 (actually a bit higher) was from 08/09, so there are two years between that and the 5100, right? Certainly the app #s are growing, but my point was that I didn't see it as a huge one-year jump. Guess it depends on those 2 missing years. In any case, I certainly agree there has been a large jump over the past 6-7 years.

Another thing that's bothered me for a long time is this: the universal cogat was done in 02/03, but the total # of applicants that year is much lower than any of the surrounding years. I may have just forgotten, but does anyone have an answer for that?

Please have a care in how you talk about the program being dumbed down. As it happens, both of my children are Mexican-American and both entered APP after eligibility was dumbed down. Maybe they would have gotten in with more stringent standards, maybe not.

Perhaps the terminology ("dumbed down") isn't the best, but it's whispered often, and no matter what we call it the end result is the same. I have one child that was admitted after the changes, and I too don't know if it would have made a difference. But it doesn't change the fact that the rigor, and very nature, of the program has changed quite a bit, and it hasn't gotten stronger. Kids never used to arrive in first grade that weren't strong (and mostly avid) readers, but they do now. That completely changes what a teacher can do, in pace, breadth and depth. Very few kids used to arrive without solidly strong ability in math, but that's changed as well. I think these things manifest themselves differently in the older grades, but it's still there.

Lori: I find it a little hard to believe that a child with an IQ in the top 2% but a math/reading percentile of "only" 95th perecentile doesn't "deserve" to be in APP.

The problem wasn't just the 98->95 change, although if you look at a normal distribution you'll see that has the ability to "grow" things more than you'd think on a percentage basis.

The other significant change was requiring high marks on only 2 out of 3 cognitive tests. This allows for potentially large "holes". I understand the rationale and goals, but the most obvious goal of increased participation by underserved populations certainly hasn't been achieved. So why not switch back? Because they need to show growth!

The rigor of the overall program is, while related to growth, a separate issue from splitting high school APP. Reduction of growth will not necessarily keep the district from wanting to split up high school APP kids, something SPS proposed doing as early as 2005.

I have to disagree with this. Growth and splits go hand in hand, and the district has been using growth as a rationale for splits even before 2005. For many years now, APP growth has been effected by central office decisions (not by more smart kids magically sprouting up!), and I strongly believe that it has been pushed precisely because they want to have some data-based evidence that a split needs(ed) to occur. It's resume padding. "Growing" sounds good to the layperson. "Adding a new program" (not "splitting a successful one") sounds good to the layperson.

As someone mentioned on another thread somewhere recently, do we strive to "grow" our special ed programs? ELL programs? No! We create programs to serve the kids' needs. With APP that's wishful thinking.

Bird said...

It was another matter with the Woodcock-Johnson.

So are they going to continue to use the Woodcock-Johnson?

I wonder if they switch to the MAP whether it will introduce new variabilities into the skill set of kids entering.

This NWEA doc about the primary MAP RIT scores has an interesting appendix which shows kids scoring in the 95th percentile have a RIT score roughly equal to kids at somewhere around the 50th to 60th percentile for the next grade.

I don't know how accurate this all is or if it is significantly different from the Woodcock and Johnson test. It does, however, go against the old rule of thumb that APP kids should be working two grade levels ahead.

Bird said...

Regarding the growing number of applicants and eligible students for the elementary APP program, I think it is worth noting that there are 1382 more K-5 students now in the district than there were two years ago.

The number of K-5 students is going to continue to grow in the near term, so likely the applicants and eligibile APP students will grow as well.

hschinske said...

Bird, a student who scores solidly at 95th percentile, year after year, is going to rocket around *wildly* in how many "years ahead" they're scoring. That's one of the many reasons that grade equivalent scores (which are just another way of saying "at which grade level would this student be 50th percentile?") are not very reliable. It's not consistently 50th to 60th the next year up at all.

In general, there's much more difference between one year and the next early in elementary school, when students are making much bigger leaps (including the one from not-reading to reading, most of them), than there is later. Note that on this scale, the 50th percentile for 2nd grade (on any of the six norm tables given, reading and math for fall, winter, and spring testing) does not even appear on the kindergarten measure: it's above 99th percentile. On the Woodcock-Johnson, that's true for reading but not for math, if I remember correctly. I would not be surprised if grade-equivalent scores vary quite a bit from one such test to another.

Later on, two grades ahead may be an almost trivial bump, because there is so much less difference in the average score from one year to the next. Typical talent search participants, taking the SAT in 7th grade, tend to score around the median for students four or five years older. That doesn't necessarily mean that they should be studying curriculum meant for students four or five years older, but that they have more fully mastered the curriculum they have studied.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the increased interest in the APP program is partly a function of kids not being served in their neighborhood school. If more schools had flexible walk-to-math or reading groups (which the District seems to discourage), many kids' needs would be met without opting in to the APP program.

Also, when we express concerns about needing more challenge, we're reminded that the goal is to be working toward two years ahead, by the end of 5th grade, not at the beginning of 1st grade. They aren't expected to have the knowledge and skills of a third grader when they enter in 1st grade.

hschinske said...

Actually by 5th grade they're slowing down -- it's only in 4th grade that they're a full two years ahead in math, for instance (the 6th-grade CMP booklets get spread out over 4th and 5th grade). There have been a lot of complaints that the program isn't really "accelerated," and indeed at points is decelerated.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

The CMP books are considered remedial texts in California and do not meet CA math standards. One could argue that the 6th grade text is closer to 5th grade content, making it only a year ahead content wise.

Greg Linden said...

[... anonymous comment deleted by moderator ...]

If you are not willing to put your name on a comment, please make sure it contributes to the discussion. Anonymity is allowed in comments on this blog primarily to reduce risk for APP parents who might want to offer constructive contributions to a discussion with other APP parents but could be subject to retribution (especially at their place of work) if they were to do so. It is not intended to be used as a shield to attack others anonymously.

Dorothy Neville said...

Total SPS enrollment declined each year from 46932 in 2000-01 to 45262 n 2007-08 (except for one small blip up).

Enrollment in elementary APP increased about 50% in that time. I believe it was about 340 in 2000 and about 525 in 2005. My understanding is that the 340+/- figure was steady for years, but I do not have proof of that. Certainly, scheduling and building use supports the idea that it had been steady. The influx (which did correspond with changes to acceptance policy) significantly changed the program. PCP art and music times were cut about 20% as the art and music teacher were stretched more thinly.

And yes, in 2000-2001, the first graders (only 28 total) were doing third grade work, including third grade language arts texts and being evaluated with third grade Classroom Based Assessments from OSPI. Acceptance in first grade was limited to a higher standard. The commonly understood reason is that they ensured strong readers. They had let that requirement relax in the past but the results had not been good, so the teachers got it reinstated.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you deleted my comments regarding "dumbing down" and testing into APP. However, they are accurate. Do doubt there are certain truths about the program you'd like to keep out of this blog as well as any more public forum.

hschinske said...

Anonymous's lies regarding the validity of private testing are in fact common currency and appear over and over almost any time APP is discussed. I've answered them dozens of times and am not going to get drawn into doing so again and thus derailing this otherwise useful discussion thread.

Helen Schinske

d.w. said...

Thank you Dorothy for confirming (much more succinctly) the core of my previous post.

Parents, APP growth is NOT a good thing. It's controlled by the central office in two main ways: entrance criteria and Spectrum support (or lack thereof).

If Spectrum was strong and supported, many families of "edge case" kids would be more than happy to let their children have a local education. Isn't that the goal? More families happily choosing schools in their neighborhood? We would have loved that.

Then APP would naturally and organically be the place for only the super-outliers, because there's no practical way to serve them in their local buildings. That's how it worked for years because that's how it's supposed to work! But instead of strengthening Spectrum around the city in a meaningful way to serve kids around the city, they're weakening APP and splitting it, doing everyone a disservice.

How can we get this point across to the Board and/or staff? It needs to be done quickly!

hschinske said...

Then APP would naturally and organically be the place for only the super-outliers, because there's no practical way to serve them in their local buildings. That's how it worked for years because that's how it's supposed to work!

I'm not sure the APP/Spectrum thing has EVER worked quite the way it's supposed to work. I don't think there is any golden age back there. There have been a lot of good things done at different times, but they were never all done at the same time.

I do agree that strengthening Spectrum and ALO programs can only help APP.

I think it makes a certain amount of sense to have higher standards in place for the youngest students to enter -- both because of the need for strong reading skills, and because you'd be that much more certain that it was the right decision long-term. But the more stringent standard for first-grade students appears to have been a policy that wasn't widely publicized, and may have been against some broader policy (the state code?) requiring that the same standards be used for any student.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

Just as a follow up because I got an email pointing out that while overall enrollment was going down during the years I mentioned, elementary enrollment was increasing.

But another data point. In 2001-02 school year, there were 72 app fifth graders. In 2004-05 there were 129. 79% larger.

In 2001-02 there was one first grade class with 28 students. In 2004-05 there was a first grade with 24 and a 1/2 split with 21 (I do not know how many were first or second graders).

Meg said...

I was thinking about it just a bit - so I could be way off, and once again I have sort of a random collection of thoughts.

It used to be that if you tested in, you retained eligibility for two years. I think the change to needing to test every year was made either right before 2005-06 or during that year (mostly because the rule changed when my oldest hit kindergarten). Is it possible that the increase in testing - and qualification - spiked up in part due to this rule change? It looks to me as if it could be, at least in part.

The growth in the program... I'm not sure. I do know that many north end elementary schools started to get a significant rise in enrollment in the same period, despite overall losses in district enrollment. Does this necessarily mean the program has not been watered down? No. Even if I'm right, standards could have been lowered.

As a family, we're late to the program and often hear people talk about The Way It Was. I expect, however, that APP was imperfect Back In The Much-Reminisced About Day, just as it is imperfect now.

Regardless of program growth, watering down, changes, in a district with so many problems, I don't understand why staff continues to spend time and energy dismantling a program that is inexpensive, that SPS gets additional money for and that by and large, is robustly functioning. I don't think the program is so wonderful that it works for every academically advanced kid - I've spoken with numerous people who have removed their kid from the program, not because of what the district has done, but because the program really didn't work for their kid.

But I still cannot understand why, in order to gain a temporary fix in capacity issues combined with juking a building's stats, the district is screwing around with a healthy program, instead of fixing problems for students whose programs aren't working. It's not just unfair to APP - it's a serious injustice to students in struggling programs.

Anyway, that's just me.

d.w. said...

No Meg, it's not just you, and very well said.

Yes, even in its Heyday, there was always the occasional family who found things didn't work for them. With no data to back me up, I suspect that particular stat hasn't changed much, even as everything else has. No program is perfect for everyone.

I don't understand why staff continues to spend time and energy dismantling a program that is inexpensive, that SPS gets additional money for and that by and large, is robustly functioning.

and why, in order to gain a temporary fix in capacity issues combined with juking a building's stats, the district is screwing around with a healthy program, instead of fixing problems for students whose programs aren't working. It's not just unfair to APP - it's a serious injustice to students in struggling programs.

Bingo and bingo. I've always wished I could peek inside a few brains, just for a minute or two, to understand this mindset. How do you wake up in the morning and think Oh, what a great idea! Let's take the few good programs in the city and muck with them! (not just APP) And what's that, you say? Fix the stuff that's not working? Nah, that's really hard work. I'd much rather kick up a few dust storms, because I'm good at that. It's fun to watch everyone scramble around while I exert my control.

What are they really thinking?! What is the rationale?

Dorothy Neville said...

Agree with DW, Meg gets it. Why spend all this time and energy mucking with something that is working, for some short term "solution"?

As for the two year eligibility, that was for only a brief time, perhaps only two years? It was instituted in order to save money on testing. I cannot remember the rationale for dismantling it.

Yes, the program has been "watered down" from the old IPP days, but really, the fit and the amount of rigor for any individual kid is mostly based on who they get for a teacher. And not that one teacher would be universally better than another, but would be better for particular children. I do know that Julie B tightened up some rigor, so in some ways, it has gotten less watered down.

But APP (as opposed to IPP) has never been a program that accelerates, in fact, quite the opposite. It is a program that is supposed to be working two years ahead. What this means is really that their fuzzy goal of reaching toward that two years ahead mark. So this is advanced relative to our state curriculum (which is arguably not strong enough), but kids who are capable of working at a faster pace are not really accommodated.

So they don't accelerate, but do the kids get more depth? I found that to be very hit or miss, mostly miss, as the focus seemed way too much on posters and dioramas and very little on thoughtful, reflective reasoning. Junior Great Books did provide that for first and second grade, but only sporadically.

I don't know what PCP time is like these days, but back when there were only 340 kids in elementary, is was pretty nice. When I toured the school in January 2000, the 4th grade music class was doing theory and composition. By the time my son was in those grades, the program had grown so much, they cut 20% or more of time spent on music and art, and the one teacher worked with 50% more students, so was exhausted. They did nothing at all like music theory not to mention composition. And those upper grades rites of passage art projects that looked like they took real work to develop, those that I saw in the halls when my son was in first grade? Again, by the time he was in upper grades, so much art time was cut, they didn't have nearly as rich a curriculum.

hschinske said...

I don't know when the rule went in that you could retain Spectrum/APP eligibility throughout elementary as long as you were enrolled in an ALO. You'd think that would affect something, but I'm not sure which way.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

The guarantee of retaining APP eligibility through elementary, while staying in Spectrum or ALO at your local school, is one reason several North end parents are testing.

The newly remodeled Hamilton campus is appealing to those even in the Eckstein service area. They can keep their children at the neighborhood elementary school, then have the option of Eckstein or Hamilton for middle school.

wseadawg said...

Good questions, Meg.

The cynic in me hears "ha-ha, APP!" echoing somewhere in the district. Something tells me populism can provide a lot of CYA for incompetence. APP has its detractors, and that elitist reputation, and sometimes scapegoating sacrificial lambs keeps the masses distracted and casting blame away from the incompetence of the powers that be.

Like the peasants cheering at rolling heads during the French Revolution, it could be that the district placates people by throwing the red meat of "socking it to those APP elites," regardless of the fact it provides zero benefit to any non-APP folks, except to make people think those "have-it-all" APP types deserve to suffer like anyone else.

I've seen that sentiment expressed enough on this blog to calculate that some folks in JSCEE & maybe on the Board figure they'll never be unpopular, but gain popularity for kicking APP in the groin from time to time & selling it to the masses as "here's what we're doing in the name of equity & fairness."

Or am I too cynical.

none1111 said...

wseadawg, you may be a cynic, but that doesn't mean it's without good reason. You know what they say, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you!"

I've sat in plenty district-wide meetings, and I don't doubt that you're on the right track. There is terrible prejudice and misunderstanding of APP across the city among our fellow parents, who just don't get it.

It's especially sad because it doesn't need to be that way. Some cities take pride in their advanced learners - oh the horror! With some stronger support from SPS administration, a great deal of the problem could be diffused, but it rarely happens. I will say that I have seen Susan Enfield take a stance and attempt to educate some mildly APP-hostile parents at a non APP school about the benefits and need for a self-contained APP program. That impressed me.

Bird said...

I don't know when the rule went in that you could retain Spectrum/APP eligibility throughout elementary as long as you were enrolled in an ALO. You'd think that would affect something, but I'm not sure which way.

Our school doesn't have ALO, and we would be testing less if it did.

So far, we've decided to keep our kid at our local elementary. Since we effectively have to decide in September whether to test, so far we've been re-testing. We're not sure so early in the year whether we want to stay or transfer.

I'd love to stop testing, and honestly think it's a little ridiculous. Our kid last year was 99 for the current grade, but the scores would also have been 99 if she were in the grade one year ahead. I think it would perfectly reasonable to let the kid retain eligibility for a year without another test. It does feel like a waste of resources and time, but this is the system if we want to retain the option of transferring.

another mom said...

Two years of eligibility may have been to save money on testing, but don't kids have eligibility through the 8th grade-as long as the APP report card is used? The student would still not be able to attend GHS unless enrolled in APP in WMS or HIMS. Transferring into the program could happen without having to test again. I could be wrong as I am out of the loop of these things.

hschinske said...

It's the ALO report card that provides continued eligibility for Spectrum or APP, whichever -- and you can't use it unless you're in an ALO.

Helen Schinske