Thursday, March 3, 2011

A new superintendent and APP

Let's start a new thread on the impact of having a new superintendent on APP. Expectations? Hopes? Wild speculation?


Steve said...

As parents of kids in the APP program, I hope that collectively we can become organized to take advantage of what one of the board members last night described as a "new day." There will hopefully be a lot of reorganization of district budgets in the coming weeks/months to reflect new priorities, and we should be there in force to advocate for the Advanced Learning program. I hope the Advisory Committee is thinking about being proactive in this regard.

On a personal level, I like the idea of working to kill off MAP testing as an expensive and poor tool for measuring student performance (and worse, for measuring teacher quality). My wife and I are talking about pulling our child out of MAP testing, which is something you *can* do without impacting your child's academic record (at least in 2nd grade). At Lowell, MAP testing consumes about 3 months of Library time a year, and frankly, I think our kids would make more progress actually using the Library.

If a lot of APP parents organize and refuse to have their kids take the MAP tests, I think that would be good.

Anonymous said...

i'm considering having my son enter the APP program at TM next year, so i'm interested in hearing what are the main priorities/wishes of the APP community. i hope our top issue isn't the MAP test. seems like the math curriculum, better specialists, more resources of some type,etc. should be higher on the list.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

I have exchanged a few emails with Dr. Enfield since she has been here in Seattle and also met with her in December(along with Geeta and Kathy from the APP AC, Superintendent MGJ, Dr. Vaughan, and Kay Smith-Blum)to talk about APP.
I would say Dr. Enfield very much supports APP and Advanced Learning Programs. She supports the self-contained model for APP, stated she sees the need for this at both ends of the spectrum of students. She speaks directly and is personable.

As far as MAP testing, Dr. Vaughan stated at an APP AC meeting that the district may change to testing twice a year instead of three times. According to him, MAP is an excellent assessment tool for gifted kids, it has a very high ceiling. They do need to figure out how to have it take less of a bite out of the classroom time and how not to take up so much time in some school libraries.

Southerly said...

I'm glad to hear Dr. E is a champion of advanced learning (I didn't have the same feeling about Dr. G-J), and I will watch for actions that reflect her words.
If I could wish for anything I'd wish that we could put Humpty Dumpty together again, and undo the damage done to the program in recent years.
Rewind to 2007. Lowell was a school dedicated to the particular needs of our kids (not trying to be all things to all people). We had a strong anti-bullying program. My kid's year at Lowell was golden, and our family felt safe and supported.
But can we afford the disruption involved in creating ONE
elementary APP school like we used to have? Probably not.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Anonymous. As the moderator, I try not to comment too much, but let me say that, summarizing past comments on this blog, I'd guess the main concerns of APP parents are overcrowding at Lowell and Garfield, getting a north-end elementary APP that is in the north-end (or, alternatively, some have argued for going back to having one elementary for all of Seattle, as Lowell used to be), and otherwise being left alone (the last few years have been traumatic with repeated threats to the very existence of the program and two splits being forced on the APP program over the objection of most APP parents).

The APP program is a good program and has been doing well, but, if I have this correct, many seem to feel that is in spite of not because of the actions of the district in recent years. If Susan Enfield is a supporter of APP and other alternative programs in Seattle, I suspect that would be seen by many APP parents as a welcome respite.

Anonymous said...

thanks, greg, for the background.

from my tour at TM yesterday, it seems highly unlikely that the wish to put all the elementary APP students back together in one school will least not at lowell. according to principal julie b., there just isn't enough room at lowell given the expected size of the program.
btw -- i was pleasantly impressed with what i saw at TM yesterday. seems like they have made strides since last year.

Anonymous said...

I'm lucky that my older child tested into APP and is thus guaranteed a spot. However, I have friends whose kids are Spectrum eligible - but because there aren't enough Spectrum spaces, have to go through a lottery to see if they get in. It dumbfounds me that the school district limits how many kids can be in Spectrum. I'd love to see some advocacy around this issue. Jane. MAP testing - I don't know that it's needed 3 times a year - but I kind of like it because before I would only know that my kids passed - but I wouldn't know where they were. I like the concept that they keep getting asked harder questions until they hit the peak of their ability (though I'm sure there are APP kids who still hit max out).

Anonymous said...

The overcrowding at Lowell is a serious issue, though many schools are dealing with this issue. The difference with Lowell is that portables can't be used to ease overcrowding (based on rules about the ratio of school footprint to open space).

Now for a rant about MAP:

So MAP is liked by some because it is considered to have a higher ceiling. How does this actually benefit APP students?

Whether your child scores 99% or 99%+, what does it change? Is Advanced Learning advocating for improved math curriculum based in MAP scores? No. Are they allowing students to accelerate beyond the APP math pathway based on MAP scores? No.

We have seen no benefit academically and believe the loss of both learning time and library time are huge.

I would love to see actual numbers from the library comparing circulation in years before and after the institution of MAP testing.

End of rant.

Anonymous said...

"Whether your child scores 99% or 99%+, what does it change?"

This is exactly why I have opted out of any further MAPS testing until the district can assure me that curriculum offerings will be modified to meet the abilities demostrated by the student on this test.

In terms of Dr. Enfield, I hope that she does support advanced learning as I think the key to raising achievement is to raise the bar systemwide. MGJ thought the exact opposite and her results on the achievment gap demostrate that she was wrong.

Josh said...

Hello everyone,

This is my first time posting here. Our son has qualified to enter the APP as a 1st Grader next year and we're trying to figure out whether we should send him to Lowell or enroll him in the Spectrum program at our neighborhood school, Wedgwood, instead. Are there any resources we can turn to for help with this decision?

The factors we are considering:
- Too much change: Should we force him to go to yet another school and make yet another set of friends just a year after he did the same thing when entering Kindergarten? He had a relatively tough transition to an environment that is much more structured than what he was used to and his teacher still says he's a little disruptive in class and he *does not* enjoy going to school. Would we be setting him up for failure by forcing him to make another transition or would an environment with gifted kids like him actually help in this regard?
- We live two blocks from Wedgwood, which supposedly has a good Spectrum program. Is the APP better enough to justify busing him an hour each day?
- Going to his neighborhood school means we live near his school friends. Busing him to Lowell means we don't.
- His younger brother will go to Wedgwood for at least one year. If he doesn't qualify for APP, do we really want to deal with kids attending two different schools? On the other hand, do we really want to "hold one back" on the count of the other? Is sending him to Spectrum, really "holding him back"?

For what it's worth, he scored 99th Percentile in each of the CAT and MAP tests and 98th and 92nd percentile in the Math and Reading

Sorry for the long post and thanks for reading and for any advice you might have to offer.

SIngle Child said...

As far as I remember, if your child qualified for APP but is enrolled in either Spectrum or ALO he will keep his APP eligibility for future (middle school or high school). So, you can leave him in Spectrum for now and see later if you want to transfer him to APP.

Anonymous said...

"As parents of kids in the APP program, I hope that collectively we can become organized to take advantage of what one of the board members last night described as a 'new day.'"

Steve, you make a very good point.

I would urge APP parents to be organized and be strong. In particular, don't take anything for granted. It isn't just a matter of fending off changes to the program you justifiably object to. You should also recognize with praise what you think is working.

Please keep in mind that the people who need to hear from you include not just Dr. Enfield but more importantly the layer of management that supervises the principals. These are the Executive Directors who supervise the principals at the schools which your children attend or will attend.

If you see something you like at a school your child is attending or will attend, please send an email to the appropriate Executive Director and "cc" the principal.

The page for Executive Director emails is here.

Signed, In the Know

Corina said...

Hi Josh, You are asking yourself all the right questions. The next step is to do a classroom tour of Lowell and, while in the classroom, look for the kid who reminds you of your son: What is he doing? Is he engaged? Happy? Bored? The big question for you will be one of "fit".

Many kids enter Lowell disruptive and not enjoying school, and mature beautifully there. The additional challenge, social curriculum, and peer group can make a big difference.

Both of our kids are at Lowell now, but we did the two-school rodeo for a year. I am on the Lowell parent phone list and happy to answer any remaining questions you may have.

Lori said...

Josh, I agree with Corina that you are asking yourselves the right questions.

A key point in your story to me is why doesn't he like school? Is it just the structure or is it deeper and related to giftedness? That is, is he bored with the work, not challenged? Fighting you about doing homework (which is paradoxical; my daughter fought us over doing easy homework every nite prior to going to Lowell because she viewed it as a waste of time, on top of the 6 hours she'd already wasted sitting in class that day [her words, not mine]). Is he making friends? Does he fit in socially? To us, the decision came down to more than just test scores, and I feel like a broken record sometimes, but it's true what people say about the benefits of the peer group. The change in our child, socially and emotionally (as well as academically), has been dramatic. It's incredibly gratifying to make a *hard* decision for your child and see it pay off so well!

As far as neighborhood friends, that was a big concern to us too. Lowell feels far away when you live in the NE corner of town. But, I think you will find many, many NE families at Lowell. We started a yahoo group last year to help families connect, particularly during the decision-making phase. I didn't know anyone at Lowell this time last year, but was amazed at how many people I met when I started asking around for opinions (even people in our current grade at our current school who were considering the move but hadn't had a way to connect). Ultimately, our daughter knew a lot of kids by September, either from her old school, other aspects of life (preschool, even PEPS!), and of course, we arranged opportunities for NE kids to meet over the summer too.

If you aren't already on our list, feel free to join and post your questions there. There *might* be more readership or at least people willing to opine there than here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Josh -

Just a quick response to your question. My son entered APP at first grade after a _very_ bumpy kindergarten year. We struggled with the decision to send him to Lowell for many of the reasons you've stated, and I worried that the transition would be difficult for him.

In our experience, my son started at Lowell and it was like he met his people. It clicked for him. The level and quality of conversation and friendships that he has with his peers at Lowell are so much deeper and satisfying to him that the ones he had in kindergarten. I also think he was bored out of his mind in Kindergarten, and that added to the "disruption" factor. I'm not saying that he is now perfect, but it is so much better than it was. Plus, I think his teachers "get" him much more than his K teachers did, and that helps.

I'm glad we sent him at first grade because it let him start with a whole cohort of kids who were all new to the school, and he's been able to develop friendships with the same group of kids and settle into the school without fear of having to transition out until middle school. And, his best friend lives a few blocks away from us and rides the same bus.

Also, one of the reasons why we chose Lowell over Spectrum is that our closest spectrum school had all the kids self-contained in one class/grade. This meant if there were any personality conflicts he would be stuck with the same group of kids throughout elementary school. At Lowell, the cohort is big enough for mixing classes each year.

Ballard Mom

Josh said...

Wow. Thank you very much for all the responses. They are very encouraging.

@Corina: Thanks for the offer! I will contact you if I have more questions.

@Lori: As far as I can tell, he's fitting in very well from a social perspective. It's very encouraging to hear about the positive changes in your child. Thanks for the reference to the NE APP Discussion List. My wife has joined the forum now. Knowing other parents from the neighborhood whose children go to Lowell or who are considering sending their children there will be very helpful indeed!

@Anonymous: Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm hoping we will have a similar experience if we do send our son to Lowell. Not to oversimplify things, but I think his troubles in class stem from a combination of, among other factors, a) boredom, b) resistance to following orders and c) not enjoying working on things that don't come easily to him (like writing). Obviously, we have a lot of work to do on b and c, but I think a more stimulating and challenging environment will help him in the long run. You make some good points about entering when everyone else is also new and also about how being in a separate Spectrum class (as Wedgwood also does it) would mean experiencing fewer different classmates.

Anonymous said...

Josh--our son started at Lowell this year as a second grader. No real acting out at his neighborhood school, definitely fitting in well socially there, but he would come home and complain of boredom on an almost daily basis.

We tried to involve him in the decision a bit--his biggest concern was leaving behind friends. He still plays sports with a mix of Lowell kids and neighborhood kids so in a way has the best of both worlds.

It was hard, because we really liked our neighborhood school, but he seems to have taken to Lowell very well. For better or for worse, he doesn't really base his sense of self on academic achievement at this point--he's all about recess and P.E., frankly--but at the same time, no longer comes home saying "I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored."

Just NOT hearing that has been wonderful, and he's had to step it up in terms of his writing, which had been a pain point for him in first grade. I suspect it took too long to write what he was thinking--and though smart, he was not above trying as many shortcuts as he could to just be done with busy work.

For what it's worth, assimilating in second grade wasn't hard (for him anyway--we didn't have him tested until he was a first grader) and the teachers stressed that there are new kids coming each year--though I suspect it's nice to get into a cohort at first grade.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...


Talk with your son's current teacher as well as Principal Cronas. The expectations of teachers definitely increase from K to 1st grade. Lots more writing in 1st grade. Currently at Wedgwood many of the Spectrum classrooms have APP eligible students, whose parents have chosen for them to be in Spectrum for a number of different reasons. The classrooms are self-contained, but new students join every year at least through 3rd grade, then the classrooms are generally full unless someone moves. At some grade levels the Spectrum classrooms do a lot with the other classrooms. They share Friday funtime. They go to PE and music together, not as a classroom but 1/2 from Spectrum 1/2 from a regular classroom go together.

Wedgwood parent

Anonymous said...

We are considering moving my son to Lowell in the APP program. We attended a Q&A last week and we are in the midst of scheduling more visits, etc. We left our initial visit (and the research we've done so far) feeling very positive about this potential move.

A question I have for this group - I noticed Lowell's scores on family/staff climate & engagement are low in staff categories. Does anyone have any insight to this?

Michelle said...

My son recently qualifed to attend the APP program at TM. I was reading the Seattle Weekly blog from about a year ago by Nina Shapiro but I cannot find information on how those issues were resolved. I'd appreciate any insight. I was also curious if parents had carpools or other means of dealing with transportation issues. Thank you in advance for you help.

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to take into consideration the family/teacher scores at Lowell, some of what is reflected there is the lingering results of bringing together two very different school cultures, and some of the ratings are a reflection on the leadership style at Lowell, whihc might work for some but not all.