Sunday, November 14, 2010

Problems at Hamilton APP

There have been several requests for a new thread to discuss problems parents and students are seeing post-split with the new middle school APP at Hamilton.

It appears Hamilton APP was discussed at some length at a Nov 5 meeting with Kay Smith-Blum. Lendlees summarized:
Lots of discussion on how Hamilton and Washington were not equal, how Hamilton's teachers are not used to working with APP kids, how Hamilton's library isn't set up for APP, and how there isn't critical mass at either school to offer advanced math. In addition Hamilton is not offering very advanced math in 6th grade as they do not have an advanced enough course at 8th grade. And, finally, the music program at Hamilton is in jeopardy because they did not plan properly in the rebuild and there is no space for it.
Over on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog, Gavroche added:
Algebra class for APP 6th grade has been eliminated as a result of the split.

APP 8th graders at Hamilton have been told there is no math class for them anymore, so they are being used as free TAs to correct papers in 6th grade math classes, or told they can go do an online course, at their own expense.

There is not enough physical room at Hamilton for the music program, so the school had to give up a gym space for the music program and divide the main gym in half to accommodate multiple PE classes.

At least 3 teachers in Hamilton 6th grade APP this year have no prior APP experience and this has resulted in inappropriate assignments and expectations.

One of the APP math teachers at HIMS is only teaching gen ed math this year.
And, in other comments, two other parents offer some additional details ([1] [2] [3]) on what happened with math instruction for APP students at Hamilton.

Others have additional information? Or thoughts on what to do about it?

Update: In the comments, APP AC Chair Stephanie Bower disputes the accounts above, saying that they contain "information that is incorrect and/or exaggerated". Could others who might have knowledge of the situation at Hamilton APP clarify what is going on there?


Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

I believe there is information that is incorrect and/or exaggerated in the opening statements of this thread.

--There are teachers new to APP at both WMS and HIMS, they all have to adjust, at the elementary and high schools too. This is not new. Teachers change, enrollment changes. It is important to have appropriate teachers for APP, and for that, lobby the principal at your school. They are in charge of hiring teachers and overseeing their work in the building.
--What does it mean, Hamilton's library isn't set up for APP? Consider it has taken years to build the library at WMS. There was funding (I believe it was $18,000) allocated to the HIMS library as part of the splits to start increasing their library. Not every school has the large collection that WMS has, even high schools.
--For the advanced math classes, one has to separate the issues of the split and the changes with the new math curriculum that happened at the same time. There ARE math courses for 8th graders 2 years accelerated which is the vast majority of APP students. For those 3 years accelerated, they have come up with other options, but this does need some work, as it is not a satisfactory solution yet. Working as TA's is not an acceptable solution for this group of kids.
--The music program is definitely not in jeopardy, and especially because they did not properly plan and there is no space. There is space. I and others have met with the principal and are bringing some concerns to the school board. The school is willing to move one of the music groups to a large multi-purpose space, which is one of the spaces we asked for in the beginning of the planning for music at the school. It is a huge space with some degree of acoustical treatment.
This exaggeration will needlessly scare people and potentially damage enrollment in the music program at HIMS. THAT is where the jeopardy to the program is. Please don't contribute to it.
--Consider the possibility the math teacher change was maybe by choice.
Consider that at WMS there are no "APP math teachers" as math is not program based.

Bird said...

I'm curious what the math situation at Washington is.

I would imagine that there kids on the three year acceleration track at both schools. Is this not the case? If it is, how was this handled at WMS?

Anonymous said...

I'd really rather not name names which will make this sound coy.

I am acquainted with one of Hamilton's principals from before that person went to Hamilton. I can say with certainty that this person had an active antipathy for advanced learning. Maybe that's changed, but I doubt it. I can't see how such an active dislike wouldn't trickle down and affect the way programs/opportunities are offered or not to APP kids at the school.

OverTheEdge said...

Consider that at WMS there are no "APP math teachers" as math is not program based.

Stephanie, this is in direct conflict with some of your earlier comments regarding "...the integrity of the self-contained model" in the other thread. In any case, I'm glad to see this one point acknowledged.


As to music, I fully concur with Stephanie on this. The music program is not in jeopardy, it is in fact doing fairly well given the circumstances. The APP AC may not be helping at all with math, but Stephanie and several others did do quite a bit of work related to music. There are overcrowding issues now in band, but this was a problem because the building was originally designed for the international program without any consideration for a music program whatsoever. Stephanie was part of the effort to get the space that we do have, and even that was no small task. Yes, there will be more to work through, but it's far, far better than it could have been.

This was yet another example of extremely poor planning on the district's part when they cut, move, merge and shoehorn programs around willy-nilly.

gavroche said...

I stand by my statement that there are 8th graders at HIMS who have been told there is no math class for them, and some are being used as TAs. Granted, this is not all of the 8th graders -- I think it may be about half a dozen -- but my understanding is that this has happened two years in a row now, so it seems that the most advanced math students at Hamilton M.S. are not being served.

My point about the music program is not that it is in jeopardy. I never said that. But it is requiring more space than apparently anticipated and competing for space with the rest of the school; that may cause some friction. It is great that the music program at HIMS is growing, and I agree that Stephanie Bower did help the school prepare for that before the split, to her credit.

Yes there are new teachers to APP at all levels from time to time. But, if middle school kids are given nothing but teachers who are new to APP in a school where APP is still new, and these teachers don't fully understand how to teach these kids, and there is no clear curriculum, it is a problem.

It doesn't matter whether the math teacher chose not to teach APP this year or not, the point remains the same: one fewer APP experienced/qualified teacher for APP kids at HIMS this year.

I wouldn't be so quick to call parents' statements and concerns "exaggerations." No one's trying to scare anyone. We're all just trying to convey the reality of the split APP schools in the hope these problems can be fixed and avoided in the future if the District does go ahead and split it again at High School.

A strong and growing program is in everyone's interest. But glossing over the real problems of the split schools does not serve anyone well.

Anonymous said...

I think it would also be appropriate to cover the inequities between the APP elementary programs at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall here too.

The imbalance of students and ratio of APP to ALO is very different between the two locations, with Lowell having one more whole APP class at each grade level for than Thurgood Marshall has.

Also at Lowell the number of APP students overwhelms the number of ALO students, where as that is not true at Thurgood Marshall.

Anonymous said...

From the HIMS website:
"This program (APP) is a comprehensive, cohesive, rigorous course of study consisting of APP Science, APP Language Arts and Social Studies, and Mathematics taught by instructors who have experience and endorsement in teaching gifted students."

My student has one APP experienced teacher this year. Personally I understand having new teachers to a program, and I do not have any problem with that.

BUT...these teachers need support and training. HIMS needs to ensure that all curriculum is APP level.
I am not seeing that in LA and SS. In fact there are two different tracks running for 6th grade LA/SS, one is a block/looping (which I am not clear about) the other is straight LA and SS. The blocked LA/SS has been opened to non-APP students and these student are also being told that they are behind the other class. (I have no problem with non-APP students in a class, I do have a problem when my student comes home saying, "they are behind.")

I went to curriculum night and it was very clear that these teachers were struggling. I did appreciate the acknowledgement that they realized that some of the assignments/curriculum had already been done in elementary school.

However, over a month later, I am not seeing the "correction" needed.

I believe that many parents (including myself) were willing to let things slide at HIMS. But now that their students are faced with a second split program at the high school level, lot's of issues are now going to be daylighted.

If the school or district was ensuring parents that they are also aware of these issues and corrections are in place, I would have confidence in a HS split.

At the moment, that is not the case.

lendlees said...

The library issue at HIMS was brought up by a substitute teacher who was trying to teach the Renaissance and there weren't any books in the library to use on that topic.

When the library doesn't have books relating to topics being taught at the APP level, that makes it not set up.

Jessica said...

What are the perceived inequities between Lowell and Thurgood Marshall? I guess the library at TM is still developing.. but what else?

Anonymous (a few posts ago) said that Lowell has more APP students than regular-ed students. The same is true at TM, where 48% are advanced learning, bec the school also has focused program for autistic children in addition to APP and regular ed.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Hi Anonymous at 7:07am,
thanks for this information, it is helpful and clear.
The statement on the HIMS is incorrect and should be changed. I'll contact Kathy Tanaka and ask if she can look into that.

I agree it is important not to gloss over problems...the APP AC tries to identify, highlight, and address problems. Our meeting minutes are full of problems we try to address!

For teaching, you must respectfully put pressure on the principal. Principals are responsible for hiring teachers and overseeing how they teach in the building. We have tried to get Bob Vaughan to havea hand in APP teacher hiring, but he is unable due to union issues.

It is up to parents to ask the principals that teachers be APP appropriate. It is a shame really the system is this way, as there should be some baseline requirements for teachers in special programs. We also need to get the state to create a gifted teaching endorsement, and then require that teachers have that endorsement. Of course, that doesn't guarantee they will actually be good teachers.


Maureen said...

lendlees, can I add a little perspective? Every year our 6th grade teacher covers ancient Greece (and Rome and China...), every year parents go to the public library and check out books for the classroom so the kids can do their research.

Hamilton should have books on the Renaissance, but my school 'should' have (more) books on ancient civilizations. The fact is that there is no budget for books (even text books) if you guys want them, get your PTSA to give up something else and write a check (or have parents check them out of the public library.) OR have the HIMS and WMS Social Studies teachers coordinate and share their books. It sounds like N end APP families were "promised" that the APP library would be split in half (a la Solomon's baby?), well maybe that's the price you pay for fresh paint and new windows. There are other solutions to this one. I'm thinking you guys should focus on curricular issues.

Anonymous said...

"For teaching, you must respectfully put pressure on the principal. Principals are responsible for hiring teachers and overseeing how they teach in the building."

I think pressure is being put on the principal, by the non-APP parents to have the APP teachers moved into general ed courses.

So essentially what you are saying is that we need to go put pressure to get the APP teachers back.

Do you recommend that as a course of action?

Anonymous said...

WOW! This whole discussion is very depressing for this parent of with 2 ALOs (one's an APP). We kept our kids at our local school with spectrum (though this past year, spectrum in our school is slowly being dismantled and kids will no longer be grouped in a critical mass). What is going on? Is the district just trying to get rid of advanced learning altogether?

We were looking forward to APP at Hamilton as a breath of fresh air and a new start, but it sounds like it is having the same political problem as our elementary school. Should we be looking at private school? When we went to the Bush school open house for our eldest many years ago, we were followed around by their diversity recruiter. This made us felt a bit self-conscious, so we opted not to go that route. But hey, we were welcome. Which principal at Hamilton should we ask to see if our APP kid will be welcome or not? We want the (ugly) truth rather than waste a year.

We truly don't get this. Are the advanced learners in other school districts facing the same dismantling of their G & T programs? Is it about the budget and these ALO programs are too expensive to run/manage?


Anonymous said...

Anonomyous at 5:03 - My suggestion would be to tour the school and talk to other current APP parents. APP isn't perfect, but I believe that the perspectives shared on this blog is not representative of the entire APP population.

Anonymous said...

APP isn't perfect and it never was a perfect fit for lots of kids. In it's current state it is still a good program and many kids will do well with it. In it's current state it is the best option for many kids.

A lot of negativity on the blog is from people with history in APP who see that changes in the last few years have been hurting the program. It's still good, but we so so wish the district would improve it (or at least leave it alone) instead of hurting it repeatedly.

Lowell Parent said...

It seems significant problems at Hamilton (from what I have heard and seen posted) stem from what is perceived as Principal Carter's lack of support for the APP program: teachers, students, resources. If accurate, this is a huge problem. Stephanie if you are still willing to answer questions on the blog, plz let us know if the APP AC has heard from HIMS parents about this issue, and whether anything can be done about it? What is the APP AC's relationship w/Principal Carter at this pt?

It seems a huge disservice to the school at large, and especially APP students and teachers, when their own principal does not make them feel welcome! It must cause huge tension. As a Lowell parent pre and post-split, I can confirm that Gregory King has actively worked to support and merge the programs at Lowell: ALO, APP, and SPED. SOme things work, some dont, but parents and staff know the effort is there. Can any current HIMS parents either verify or dispute this situation?

Here are some posts from Save Seattle Schools (and there are more along these lines):

apparently from a HIMS teacher:
11/14/10 3:20 PM Anonymous said...
HIMS Principal and a great number of staff did not want our program there, do not want it there still and the admin is doing everything possible to get rid of us APP teachers that came from WMS going so far as threatening and carrying through disciplinary action on the APP teachers where the union has had to step in several times. It is sad when the tone of a school is not about the kids but about the admin's wishes to get the teachers they want to hire to "make everything fair." Unfortunately, that is the way this district is going with this school board and Goodloe-Johnson. Teachers are in despair here.

Here's another post:
I do not get the sense that the principal is going to toss a lot of energy into the program and help resolve some of the basic issues like making sure that HIMS and WMS have the same textbooks and materials, that all teachers have experience with the APP population AND want to be teaching in APP classroooms. (the latter is becoming one of my biggest concerns). Yet he seems thrilled at the bump in test scores.

hschinske said...

Another problem, perhaps kind of penny-ante compared to some: getting gym credit when you take music. The number of hours needed got upped a bunch this year, and it's really hard to put together, even with after-school activities right at the school (though I do appreciate those free activities a LOT).

My son has a firm commitment Mondays and Wednesdays (Northwest Boychoir), so only two days of HOST activities are available to him, and somehow Tuesdays and Thursdays always seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to gym activities. Getting classes anywhere else that run more than an hour is quite difficult, and for some reason Tue/Thur afternoon classes of any kind are thin on the ground. You'd think this would be a prime opportunity for local martial arts outfits, and other places with gyms (the Boys and Girls Club is right there, for instance), to run classes.

How are other people managing?

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I think it would be helpful to know how many additional hours are now required and is this the same as other schools waiver requirment or just HIMS. Meaning is HIMS requiring more hours than the other MSs for PE waiver hours?

hschinske said...

The requirement is 90 hours now. I think it was 60 last year.

Whoa, I hadn't realized this wasn't a district-wide change.
Whitman's is 60.

Eckstein's is 60.

Washington's is 60 (they don't exactly say so, but they have the same 100 minutes per week language).

Okay, I guess this isn't so penny-ante after all.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Regarding the PE Waiver requirment at WMS, I think the info on the website is from last year. For the waiver to be valid at WMS it needs to be 200 minutes a week for one semester, or 100 minutes a week for the entire year.
I agree that it is very difficult to find a sport that offers the required amount of minutes. I was surprised to see that HIMS offered so many free host classes after school that were PE related, where as WMS offers none, with the exception of breakdancing.

hschinske said...

The WMS waiver form was linked from a Sept. 2010 post at, which stated: "Students in grades 1-8 are required by the state of Washington to participate in PE classes an average of at least 100 instructional minutes per school week for the entire school year, or 200 minutes per school week for one semester. At WMS, the students are required to take PE one semester each school year."

That's four fifty-minute periods per week for a standard PE semester. 90 hours times 60 minutes equals 5400 minutes, which they clearly are not expecting you to do at 100 minutes per week for the school year, as 54 weeks is longer than the calendar year!

It seems far more likely that the overall expectation is 60 hours, 3600 total, which would take 36 weeks at 100 minutes per week and 18 weeks at 200 minutes per week, which -- voila, implies 180 instructional days a year, which is what SPS has.

So yeah, it looks as though WMS indeed has a 60-hour requirement. I haven't found anything for any other middle schools yet, but I haven't looked very hard.

Helen Schinske

none1111 said...

So yeah, it looks as though WMS indeed has a 60-hour requirement. I haven't found anything for any other middle schools yet, but I haven't looked very hard.

HIMS increased the requirements just this year, so I'd have to think the most likely reason for the discrepancy is that the other buildings either haven't gotten around to updating their web sites or didn't update them properly.

Seems like a couple calls to registrars at other middle schools would resolve the question. It's kind of a big deal though because it would be unacceptable for individual buildings to tweak that stuff independently.

hschinske said...

Okay, I'm emailing the Hamilton and Washington registrars and will let you know what they say. It's a policy that should be the same for all schools, but I find it especially concerning that Hamilton and Washington should have discordant requirements, given the recent split.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Why would the requirement be 4 days times 50 minutes? Wouldn't it be 5 days? I thought all the schools had the same schedule everyday.


Anonymous said...

Helen-You are right that WMS needs 60 hours for the PE waiver, as well as the other schools you mentioned. It's not right the HIMS should require more hours than other middle schools. I'd bring the issue up with the school counselor and/or principal.

hschinske said...

I've had an answer from one of the counselors at WMS: "Here at WMS we are following the District's recommended time of 100 minutes per week over the school year, or 200 minutes of week for the semester. This is the last info we have. If that's changed, we haven't heard about it, and we will continue to honor waiver forms submitted under those guidelines."

Tami, the four 50-minute periods was my hasty guess at how they were justifying the time -- not sure where my brain came up with that. It's quite possible that out of five class periods, 200 minutes might be the amount allotted to actual strenuous activity, though.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Helen-have you heard back from your school? I think they must have it wrong, maybe it's a typo and it should say 60 hours instead of 90. I don't see this as just an issue of inequality between WMS and HIMS. It is an issue of inequality between HIMS and all other middle schools that require only 60 hours instead of 90.

hschinske said...

It's not a typo, that I am pretty sure of -- seems to me there was attention called to the increase in hours.

I'd still be interested to hear about T/TH afternoon fitness classes of any kind, by the way, if people have found good options in the Wallingford or Ballard areas.

Helen Schinske

none1111 said...

Is this really something that each building can dictate on their own terms?! Aren't there district or state rules regarding standards?

Anonymous said...

High School requirement for a PE waiver is 90 hours per semester. Maybe that's where they got their numbers.

Maureen said...

Helen, since you asked more than once, my 16 year old helps teach Tae Kwan Do on Tues/Thurs afternoons at 'Taekwondo Revolution' (aka Crossfit Northwest)466 NE 70th Street,
Phone:(206) 526-5425. It's pretty low key (most of the kids are young and the owner's focus is increasingly on CrossFit). He might want to bring a friend though, since he would be among the older ones who isn't teaching (there doesn't seem to be a set age range for the class but it's small so the kids get individual attention).

hschinske said...

Thanks very much, Maureen! I got a fax squeal on that phone number, and the NW Crossfit site doesn't even mention tae kwon do any longer, but I'll send them an email and see.

Helen Schinske

Syd said...

I heard from my 10th grader (garfield) that Mr. Pounder no longer fields a math team. That team was the center of my child's middle school experience. Does anyone know anything about this?

hschinske said...

I got a very nice email saying that the tae kwon do class Maureen mentioned is closed to new participants -- they don't have space to grow the program and are concentrating on CrossFit. Ah, well.

Helen Schinske

Math Is Cool said...

I heard from my 10th grader (garfield) that Mr. Pounder no longer fields a math team. That team was the center of my child's middle school experience. Does anyone know anything about this?

Yes, that's a fact. Pounder is not fielding a math team, nor is he working with the 8th graders that are "on their own" this year for Algebra II. No idea if these two items are related.

As for the math team, parents are handling a scaled down informal group that will compete in several contests.

As for the 8th graders, rumor has it that part of the deal the Advanced Learning office made to support them was a stipend for Pounder, which seemed fair enough, as it would entail some extra work on his part. But the Advanced Learning office failed to honor that deal, and things fell apart at the beginning of the year. Can anyone verify this?

David said...

I had a Mr. Pounder when I was WMS way back when in the mid-80's. His first year there was when I was in 7th grade. He taught science and wrestling (I always thought he had the perfect name for that). I distinctly remember him -- huge guy, short-cropped hair, like a drill sargent. He was always re-tucking in his button down shirt while lecturing. This can't be the same guy, can it? It's been 25 years!

Math is Cool said...

This can't be the same guy, can it? It's been 25 years!

Yes it's the same guy, and it's been more than 25 years. I think 27 or 28 years at least. And even longer for Shadow, who I believe is at 31 years now!

hschinske said...

The HIMS registrar states that Hamilton is in compliance with state law and everyone else is low: apparently is the new requirement, which states that "By 2010, all students in grades one through eight should have at least one hundred fifty minutes of quality physical education every week."

So if you're trying to do it in one semester, that's 300 minutes per week, or 5 hours. That's tough to manage if there are any days you aren't available for after-school classes.

Helen Schinske