Wednesday, June 8, 2011

APP AC meeting and the future of APP

Lifting from the comments, a Lowell parent summarized his or her impression of the APP AC meeting last night, saying:
The biggest surprise to me last night is that Washington APP is looking to allow non APP kids into APP science next year. They say they have to because of "scheduling issues." If this really happens, it is the beginning of the end. We were told at the time of the split that APP is a "self-contained" program. I guess it is only if it's convenient. I really appreciated the WA. middle school teacher bringing this up. If they are going to start dismantling the program, parents should be aware.

Lowell is going to be over 700 next year and it's going to be unbelievably crowded. I got the distinct impression that next year is the final year for APP at Lowell. Bob Vaughn only said APP #s for Lowell next year. I didn't write down the number, but it was about 450 - just about 2x as many as TM. The split is sure working to bring south end kids into the program!!!!

The "school district" doesn't come to these meetings. I have no idea what they think about all this. Those of us involved in the split a few years ago knew that this was coming. Bob Vaughn seems to believe that APP is growing because of map testing highlighting additional kids who should be given the Cogat test. While that may be true, he didn't talk about overcrowding in the NE or the dismantling of Spectrum. I think these are both huge factors in more kids choosing to come to APP north.
Anyone else attend that meeting? Impressions from the meeting?

Update: Good discussion and additional information in the comments.

Update: Lifting from a comment over on the Save Seattle Schools blog, Kay Smith-Blum was at the APP AC meeting. An excerpt from the comment summarizing what she said:
At the APP-AC meeting on Tuesday, Kay Smith-Blum showed up, which was great.

Lowell will be incredibly overcrowded this fall ... Honestly, I don't know how the numbers we're hearing (easily over 700) can be safely accommodated.

KSB made one suggestion that got a round of applause: an APP 1-8! ... A mushroom 1-8 APP at John Marshall, with 6-8 filling in from the area. One could imagine a Spectrum program in the building that could pull (not push!) kids from Eckstein. And she mentioned using Lincoln at the temporary building for the north APP kids for 1 year while getting Marshall up to code. NOTE: this was not an official proposal by her, just something to discuss and consider.

On the downside, she also brought up something that many of us feel would be the final stake in the heart of APP: more splits. As in further splitting the Lowell cohort into a central and north APP (as if ThM is south!), and she mentioned even splitting again for West Seattle.

64 comments :

Steve said...

I didn't go to the meeting, but I'm curious if there was an indication from the APP Advisory Council that they are going to do something about the issues you mention, and about the meta-issue: is the district consciously changing/dismantling Advanced Learning (e.g. changes to Spectrum that will cascade to APP)? If not, what are they going to do about these issues? If so, when will they be transparent about these plans?

Is the APP AC the right avenue for seeking these answers and some action, or is there a better one?

CCM said...

Interesting about WMS APP science.

I had heard that Physical Science (APP 7th grade) would be piloted for 8th grade Spectrum at WMS starting next year. That is actually good news to me - those kids should get access to Physical Science early so they will have access to science electives in high school as they implement the standardized curriculum.

I'm looking for more specifics on which "APP" science classes will be blended?

I'm not necessarily a "contained class only" advocate for middle school, as I think the math classes that include kids that have tested in have been just fine.

More details on how kids will test into science would be great - as supposedly the APP elementary kids are getting middle-school science in 5th grade which Spectrum kids may not be receiving?

Anonymous said...

My 6th grade Spectrum student is in the APP math class and doing great. She was near the cut off point for APP/Spectrum. We did not re-test for APP this year for no particular reason but this means that she can't do APP science for 7th grade, even though she is at the top of the math class and we expect that she would do really well in APP science. We are going to test her next year and fully expect her to be APP qualified but then she would move (in the same building!) from the Spectrum track to the APP track for 8th grade.

I don't think that is a particularly good scenario for anyone. I know folks are crazy paranoid about program dilution as they should be but what do you do about kids that can easily do the APP work but didn't get the paperwork right for one reason or another.

I just don't get why it would not be OK for the teachers to move a handfull of Spectrum student to round out the APP classes in the exact same way that they have taken a handful of students to round out Spectrum classes.

I think the important thing is the curriculum.

Spectrum mom

Anonymous said...

We are still at Lowell, so I am not familiar with how middle school science works. At the meeting last night, they mentioned that only non APP kids who were taking Algebra 1 would be allowed into APP science (I hope I understood correctly). I don't really care how they choose kids - that's not the issue. Either APP is self-contained or it isn't. One reason we chose APP over spectrum was that spectrum does allow non spectrum kids into the program (this was true for 1st grade at Whittier when we looked into it). Teachers already teach to the middle and the lower you make the middle, the more watered down the program.

There has forever been confusion about the APP AC. I don't really understand their role. They are not an advocacy group they are an "advisory" group. Good luck with getting the district to be transparent.

Kay Smith Blum was at most of the meeting last night. She heard all of the conversations, so she knows the issues people are having around APP. She said parents should be writing to the board about what they want.

Lowell Parent

Gouda said...

I've had two APP kids move through the Washington APP science program. There is nothing particularly that stands out to me about these classes that would be "the beginning of the end" for APP students.

For me, this is an issue of equity. When students move to Garfield, APP students will have access to more science classes than Washington students. And remember, at Garfield classes are ... wait for it now ... BLENDED WITH NON APP Kids. (I know you all are shuddering now.)

Get over yourselves. You think that self-containment somehow implies a level of rigor or special-ness that it just doesn't, particularly around science at Washington.

In classes where students are performing at significantly higher levels (reading and math) stand alone classes make sense. But in science (where none of the kids are going to know the material), I say, the more the merrier.

I'd rather be known for allowing kids who want rigor to have it than excluding kids in order to protect ... something.

What is that something, btw? I now have a junior at Garfield and I'm not sure what that something special was.

Meh.

suep. said...

Y'know, Gouda, it is possible to make your point without being obnoxious.

People have very legitimate concerns about the what the district may do to their kids' programs and schools. The district has a bad track record on transparency, accountability, genuine community engagement, and a great record for bait and switch, breaking promises and diluting academic rigor (e.g. canceled algebra classes at APP middle schools post-split).

If everything worked out well for you and your kids, that's great. But it's really hard to tell where the district is going with advanced learning right now, and those with younger kids coming up may be wondering if anything will exist for their kids' academic needs if advanced learning options get whittled away.

Right now, it's hard to tell whether the district is offering more rigor to more kids (that would be good), or diluting existing rigor to achieve some sort of, I dunno, politically motivated but academically hollow 'narrowed achievement gap' perhaps.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gouda and in no way find their comment obnoxious.
The APP science classes at Washington are not all that rigorous. I don't think having a few motivated capable Spectrum/Gen Ed students in science with APP students is going to dilute it in any way. They certainly do not dilute the math classes. If students are able to perform well in the advanced math classes, they should have the same opportunity in science. In fact I think many Spectrum students do just as well in math, if not better than the APP students who have been in the program since elementary school. The APP students might actually enjoy the added diversity as well, especially at the middle school level.
It really depends on the student as to how much they want to learn, not the program they are in.
Daffy

Anonymous said...

Gouda was snarky. How is saying "Get over yourselves" not snarky or helpful? As the saying goes, you can disagree without being disagreeable.

I agree that allowing non APP kids into the program goes against the rules the district has set up. This is what it says on the district's own website about what APP is - "Service delivery is through a self-contained program during grades 1-8."

Is it self-contained or not? If it's not, we need to be told. I thought Enfield was supposed to improve transparency.

Another parent

Anonymous said...

Its funny to see the difference between elementary school parent perspective and middle/high school parent perspective.

I believe that the current high school parents are referencing WMS science before the curriculum changes and I would agree that our kids were in a less-than impressive 6th grade science class last year.

However, we have seen more rigor this year with 7th grade Physical Science and our child is much more engaged.

That being said, APP kids do just fine with highly motivated Spectrum kids in their math classes and I think the same would be true for science. In fact, in my kid's APP math class this year - there are 3-4 students not passing -- all elementary APP students, not Spectrum.

So - you can dig in your heels and scream that the district has promised self-contained APP classes 1-8, but at least at the middle-school and high-school level, I think listening to the perspective of families that have "been there, done that" could make the conversation more productive.

-No snark intended

Joyce said...

I have been hearing much about the overcrowding at Lowell and how that might be handled in 2011 as well as Fall 2012. My understanding, especially reading between the lines on the recent note from Lowell PTA, is that they're looking to move the whole Lowell APP program out of the bldg. Was there any concrete discussion at the APP AC mtg (or elsewhere) about where exactly the Lowell APP program would/could be placed? Also wondering if the expected overcrowding at Hamilton was discussed - some have mentioned the possibility of moving that APP program as well, tho I've also heard WMS is similarly crowded and growing so not sure why they (whoever "they " is - the District? B Vaughn/AL group?) would consider separating out HIMS APP but not WMS. In short, there are many rumours floating around and I'd love to get feedback from someone who might've heard specifics regarding moving current/future APP kids at Lowell or HIMS to a separate location. FOr the record, I agree that "blending" qualified or even just highly motivated kids is prob a gd thing - I'm really looking forward to my kid's entrance into MS and getting to meet new kids and parents, from all 3 programs (GenEd, SPectrum, new incoming APP kids). Moving the APP group to a separate location would further isolate the APP kids, I dont like that idea at all.

Lori said...

If the plan is to move APP en masse out of Lowell in 2012, then I wish they would just come up with a plan and do it now.

How does it make sense to spend $100K renovating Lowell to accomodate 700 kids for just one year? Then the following year, you move 400 of them out?

Plus, think of the inconvenience to incoming families. If there is going to be a move, wouldn't it be easier on all the new families to transfer their child only once instead of twice in 2 years?

It seems like no one in the district ever wants to make a hard decision or a proactive decision, but putting your head in the sand or covering your ears doesn't make problems go away. It just allows them to get worse. We pay big bucks to all the top brass in the SPS; we should expect competent, proactive management of our schools in exchange.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

A lot to respond to, here's the start:
the APP AC is both an advisory and an advocacy group, in fact, we work hard on advocacy. One example: just this year, we went to every school board member individually to lobby for APP high school choice between Ingraham and Garfield (among other things), a huge issue for APP, and we were successful.

We are but one, albeit collective voice in advocating for APP...we always encourage parents to advocate for the needs of their children, we try to provide information and perspective so that parents can do this most effectively. We hear from and speak with A LOT of parents and staff, we base our advocacy on that information and our historical perspective. I personally email folks downtown, the school board, the Superintendent, and they seem to have an open ear because at the end of the day, we work in a respectful way. The APP AC is part of a wide range of folks who advocate for the needs of their kids, including ptsa, parents, students themselves.

The district does attend meetings...Bob Vaughan comes to pretty much every APP AC meeting, stays till the bitter end in parking lot discussions,
and he is very high up the ladder, reports directly to Superintendent. He also goes back downtown to work on issues that come up as voiced by the APP AC, meetings, parent emails, etc. He has a huge job. Much of this work is done in a pretty quiet way, you may not know how things get changed, only that they do get changed or influenced because of his work and also the APP AC's work. We are parents and staff in the schools too! So write us directly with your issues, as many people do.

OK, Science in the next email, then Lowell, then I have to go to my job!
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

The big issue is where would you move anyone in the north end, let alone a cohort of at least 400. Moreover, a cohort that would be guaranteed to grow if it was more convenient. Everything in the north end is just full or soon to be full.

The only type of building that could even be considered to handle a cohort of about 500 would be either a new/large elementary. In this case APP would need to have the entire building.

If the district continues to insist on sharing, then the only type of building that can even be considered is a former middle school. There are a few in the north end.

Broadview Thompson and Jane Addams are both former middle schools. BT is enormous and likely has some space. Jane Addams is smaller than BT and in the heart of the most congestion. Jane Addams has 550 and is growing like a weed.

Wilson Pacific and John Marshall are former middle schools in inventory. Wilson Pacific is being scoped out as the next middle school for the north end. So it is very likely that APP middle school will be relocated there, even though nobody is talking about it.

The only other option is to either move the neighborhood Lowell families or the APP families to Madronna where there is space at the moment but not likely for the long haul.

This is just so crazy making!

north seattle mom

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

The science in middle school issue is rippling down from science in high school. Now that the new student assignment plan is in effect, most of our high schools have officially become "neighborhood" schools, so the district and school board want consistency between them for equity.
But there has been push back, particularly from Garfield, because they prize the current science sequence at the school, and many love the genetics, marine science, and ecology courses currently offered to most 10th graders. With the proposed alignment, these would become electives offered after Biology, for most, in 11th and 12 grades.

Separate from this, APP has accelerated to start the high school sequence--Physical Science, Biology, followed by a number of choices, but starting PS back in 7th grade. This has angered a lot of people in high school because they want similar early access for their kids. There was a heated meeting at Garfield this spring about this. Mary Ann and I spoke very emotionally on behalf of APP
and our kids.

What came out of the meeting was that
1)the district wants to start to offer Physical Science in 8th grade, and they will pilot a program at WMS.
2) When the science alignment goes into effect (which has now been postponed from 2011-12 to 2012-13), the district will offer students the opportunity to test up directly to Biology in 9th grade, where it is currently offered. This will allow some students to access the higher level science classes earlier in the upper grades.
3) remember, the changes in science alignment are SEPARATE from APP curriculum acceleration.

We hear there is a natural link between the Physical Science course and Algebra 1 (indeed, science and math go hand-in-hand in many classes), but there is still some confusion yet to be resolved about WHO will be taking PS in 8th grade. Dr. Vaughan has stated that students in Algebra 1 in 8th grade will be offered PS in 8th grade (mostly Spectrum level students), but School Board director Kay Smith-Blum stated her intent is to offer PS to everyone in 8th grade. Many at WMS would probably like to make Science ability-based in this way, the same as math. Most students in the math classes APP kids take are APP students, but a handful of Spectrum students and an occasional gen ed student also qualify for that level of math. Also, quite a few APP students take math one level down from the general APP peer group.

So yes, the district and even the now Interim Superintendent have said they support self-contained classes for APP students. This is a slippery slope for APP, what's next, LA? But on the other hand, it could very well be appropriate to blend APP Science with other high-achieving students.

I think what will happen is that the pilot will roll out in the fall, and the district and school will see how it goes. If PS becomes a high school course (it is determined by the State to be a high school course) that all 8th graders take, maybe APP will roll down to PS in 6th grade? This would impact science curriculum down to elementary as well--one change causes many ripples to be worked out.
Stephanie

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Lowell overcrowding, things to consider:
--moving all of APP out of Lowell (next year, a whopping 446 APP kids assigned to Lowell)...
where would they go? Would moving the entire group out and placing them in one building in essence recreate the model that the school board and district wanted to break into smaller pieces and co-house with other programs? 2-3 years ago, the school board was emphatic about not creating a mega-APP elementary school, but is this a different situation and different board today?

--we APP parents have often lobbied for an APP 1-8 model over the years, but the issues were where to put them, how would they be co-housed with other programs (which is what many public school parents want. Also, most students themselves want new friends after 5th grade and welcome the broader community offered in comprehensive middle schools.

--creating 3 APP elementary locations. Director Kay Smith-Blum has talked about wanting multiple locations for APP elementary, north, south, true central, west seattle. The issues we dealt with 3 years ago were wanting equity between the sites as much as possible and also central locations for ease of teacher collaboration. These will be challenging issues if APP is spread into yet more elementary and/or middle school buildings.

--equity...when advocating for your child, do consider the issue of equity between sites. Say all of Lowell is pulled into a new north end site into a mega-APP school, elementary or 1-8...where does that leave TM and WMS? TM raises FAR less in PTSA funds at their school, what would happen to APP in these schools in this scenario?

By all means, please advocate for your family and the needs of your child...but I respectfully ask that as parents think about the solutions to overcrowding at Lowell, consider the needs of the whole school and community and also think about the overall health of the APP program in terms of program success, access for kids, and equity between locations--think big picture, both short term and long term.

It is A LOT to ask teachers, students, parents to deal with an elementary school of between 700-750 students and the thought of moving or splitting the cohort again...the stresses are and will be extremely high. The district is putting $$ into some renovations this summer to help accommodate the load next year.

The APP Advisory Committee is involved, we are gathering information, talking with parents and the District, getting emails, and figuring out how we might advocate for overcrowding solutions at Lowell in the context of the broader APP program. Initially, it was important that the concerns were brought up by the Lowell PTSA and not the APP AC, as these issues impact the whole school, and it is the PTSA that speaks for the whole school community.

Timing...the district would likely propose long-term changes in the late Fall 2011, parent input after that, probably a vote by the school board in January 2012...this has been the pattern over the years.

Email us directly with your thoughts and ideas...
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Lori said - it sure would be nice if the district could give us some indication now whether APP will move out of Lowell after next year. I have an incoming Lowell first grader and I might make a different decision about school for next year if I knew Lowell would be for only one year.

Incoming Lowell Parent

Anonymous said...

So if they move Lowell APP to North in 2012, then current kids in the walk-zone will be allow to move North too? I can see that knowing now would be good so that maybe new walk-zone family can decide to switch to TM instead. This would then reduce the overcrowding for this coming school year.

Lori said...

Thanks for your insights, Stephanie. I agree that there are absolutely no easy solutions.

But quite frankly, it isn't my job as a parent to find a solution. It is the district's job to have some sort of long-range vision and competent capacity planning. Anyone living in NE Seattle could have (and many did) predict that this would be an issue sooner rather than later. I am just so tired of every decision (with the possible exception of IB at Ingraham) being completely reactive.

If the district goes ahead and puts 700+ kids into Lowell next year, all I can say is that they better be able to ensure that every single one of those kids can safely evacuate that building god forbid there should be some sort of fire or disaster. I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but it seems like safety is a legitimate and serious concern in this case. Do we even have a risk management department in SPS that thinks of these sorts of things? A lawsuit related to putting children's lives at risk should anyone be harmed due to crowding is not really something that the district should take lightly.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Hi Lori, thanks,
We have heard that the fire department has signed off on the building safety, they say it will be OK. Lowell will add a lunch period and will divide up all-school meetings, among other accommodations.

I agree with you, it is up to the district to offer solutions, as parents, we can't be put in a position to ask other programs or buildings to be changed on behalf of our kids. But they say they want to hear our ideas now and in the fall, and it sounds like Dr. Vaughan is working on a parent survey (which was successful for the Ingraham program--an APP parent helped create and launch the survey).

So we have a little dance going now...they want our ideas, we need their information, also a sense of what they are willing to change or offer the program. I hope the solution will be a win-win in most respects, as it has been for Ingraham/Garfield (we really wanted everyone to stay at Garfield, but given the situation, the solution will hopefully work pretty well.)
APP parents are good at thinking through statistics and considering a myriad of possible solutions--we can't help ourselves! That's what is going on now.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

It really sounds like we will have 3 elementary APP schools in 2012. TM for South, Lowell for Central (Capital Hill, Downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia), and a new school for North. Would there be enough kids for Central? I really hope they keep it to 2 location if we move Lowell APP up North.

suep. said...

I don't see how the fire department can sign off on a building that has a functional capacity of 490, current enrollment of 581, a predicted enrollment of 700, around 60 special needs children, a number of whom need physical assistance to evacuate the building in an emergency, and ZERO FIRE SPRINKLERS.

The sprinklers were earmarked in the Spring 2010 levy. The levy passed. What is the district waiting for? I suggested in my testimony to the board last week that the district have them installed over the summer at the same time it is doing other construction on the building.

Anonymous said...

I doubt they would split it into south/central/north. I understand that QA and Magnolia only have around 39 kids, and I suspect downtown has very few. Doesn't seem like it would be enough to form a cohort. My vote would be to keep it as two cohorts or if another split had to occur to have the split occur in the north starting with Capitol Hill. Seems like that would keep the three APP elementary schools somewhat on par numbers wise.

QA mom

susan said...

Stephanie (or anyone else who has knowledge about this issue) - can you plz provide feedback as to how the changes at Lowell APP might impact Middle School APP? Specifically I have heard discussion about current overcrowding at HIMS, esp way more APP kids than planned/expected, and obviously this will grow more dire as lower grades at Lowell APP continue to swell. Has the APP AC or the District discussed moving APP out of the current Hamilton bldg, yes or no? I understand the current pressing issue is Lowell overcrowding, but if any changes to the current configuration at Hamilton are even being discussed, whether for 2012 or beyond, we would like to know. Thank You.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Susan,
We have certainly talked about the enrollment increases at Lowell and Hamilton within the committee, with Dr. Vaughan, and even with the now Superintendent when we met with her last fall.

Because of the domino effect of changes, any changes at Lowell will need to be in concert with other changes in the district, which may or may not include Hamilton. The district and school board look at enrollment and capacity everywhere, then make suggestions. I think they'll have to wait and see who shows up in the fall to really get a head count, as some say they are coming but don't-- but yes, the increases in enrollment are working their way up to Hamilton, and realistically, if this trend continues, it's likely that something will need to change there too within the next few years.

HIMS is not in the circumstances that Lowell is in for next year, so people are only now starting to ask about it, seeing what's likely to be coming up the road.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

About self-contained APP science at middle school, it isn't about APP wanting to hoard some sort of precious resource, it is about teaching special needs children within a context that is set up very specifically for them.

When people comment on "watering down" the program that isn't something that any other group should take as a personal assault. The facts are simple, even if they are unpopular, it is a test-in program.

If students that haven't tested in are mixed in it takes away from the special needs teaching that the district has acknowledged the APP qualified students need and deserve.

It stands to reason that it could/would be a great experience for a high achieving general ed or spectrum kid to join in an APP class, but it very predictably may take away from an APP kid who is possibly already bored.

Please consider that "one man's ceiling in another man's floor" in a mixed population classroom.

--living on the floor

Anonymous said...

Hamilton is almost as crowded as Lowell for next year.

They are going to be able to fit the estimated 950 students into Hamilton next year only by fully using every class room - ie the classes are used for all six periods. That means that teachers will no longer have any in class prep time. So the Hamilton issue is here already too.

They have been scoping out Wilson Pacific as the new middle school for the north end. I would not be at all surprised to find that APP is slated to move to Wilson Pacific as soon as that is announced.

I would also not be surprised to find out that the "new" Wilson Pacific students are at Lincoln for the two years or more that it takes to rebuilt WP.

- mom of 2 APP students, expecting to return to Lincoln.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Garfield has already been doing the trick of teacher prep time elsewhere so that a classroom never lies dormant during the day. WMS also started doing that before the APP split.

Teachers at Hamilton (and everywhere else) have to have a prep period even if it isn't in their classroom. Hamilton is tight, but nothing like what Lowell is facing next year.

It will indeed be interesting to see what happens with both Wilson Pacific and Lincoln...
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,

I get that other schools are operating with all classrooms without prep periods. My worry for Hamilton is

The neighborhood schools are growing
APP is growing
Immersion is growing.

One of the issues at Lowell is that it is challenging for three distinct populations to share a building. Hamilton also has three populations. Someone is going to get kicked off the island sooner or later and well ... the island is full now.

- mom of 2 APP students, expecting to return to Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

I'm a TM APP parent, so maybe someone could explain this: If Lowell is too small for the current APP population and people complain that the building is run down, why don't parents support moving it to another, bigger, possibly newer school building?

Some say that APP is somehow being dismantled, but in fact it's growing rapidly. And wasn't that one reason why Elem APP was split into two schools?

TM APP is growing -- okay, not as fast as Lowell -- but TM APP may have three 3rd and 5th grade APP classes next year. Let's assume this is partly an endorsement from parents and partly a result of the economy and a turn away from private schools. But TM APP is pulling in new students from McGilvra and Stevens and other good neighborhood schools. That's a pretty strong endorsement.

So if Lowell is bursting at the seams and demand for APP is only growin, and the district can offer a larger school building, why not consider it? Almost all the children would move as a group anyway.

TM mom

concerned said...

Since we are talking about the APP AC meeting, I heard (hallway chatter) that Theresa Roth brought up the issue of staff morale at Lowell. I wasn't at the meeting, haven't seen any minutes yet and have wondered for some time if anyone (any Lowell teachers out there for this anonymous format?) was willing to discuss staff morale at Lowell the last year or so. What with high attrition of well liked teachers (I for one don't believe it is a combination of individual circumstances) and general tone of the building - I am wondering what has made the change? what can we do about it? Can anyone speak frankly about this?

Mercermom said...

If the WMS plan is to allow Spectrum kids to accelerate science as they do with LA/SS, that seems eminently reasonable. (I've often wondered how SPS can justify no accelerating science in an advanced learning program.) It also seems like the WMS approach offers an opportunity for kids who demonstrate aptitude for acceleration in one, but not both areas tested. By the same logic, in middle school where classes are self-contained by subject area, why would you not let a child who demonstrated capability in reading participate in Spetrum or APP for LA/SS, even if they weren't ready for acceleration in math (or science)? I get the concern that this could be a step in the direction of every class being "general ed"; but WMS seems to manage it well in terms of math.

Anonymous said...

I think we should have a north APP perhaps at WP 1-8 and a south APP at Lowell... Problems solved!


Sorry for the triple post!

Anonymous said...

The staff turnover is around 1/3 of the teaching core, so it's understandable that there would be some morale issues. The reasons are varied, some being health and family related, but there is the added tension of next year's ridiculous (and unsafe) overcrowding, the unexplained third administrator, and the unknowns for the following year.

Having gone through the split, it's hard to muster the energy to go through another big change. Just when you think things may settle down and the focus can be on just getting an education...

As far as the Fire Marshall "signing-off," I don't think it's about total numbers so much as how many can be in each room at a time. So meeting fire code means 4 lunch periods (!) instead of 3, and no all school assemblies.

Health and safety code also takes into account restroom and handwashing facilities, which surely will be inadequate for 700+ elementary students. I'm not sure how the code compliance works, but I thought permitting for modifications resulted in code review.

Lori said...

1/3 of staff leaving Lowell? Yesterday's Thursday note mentioned a farewell party for 5 teachers. I count 27 teachers in the school directory for this school year. That's not 1/3 of staff.

Where are people getting these numbers from? It feels to me like a lot of anonymous posters are hinting at morale problems yet few if any who are willing to put their name on their posts are speaking up to this topic. I'm vocal on this board, and I haven't heard about morale problems. Maybe because I'm new this year and I don't have the right "connections." But I'm getting tired of all the hints of problems at Lowell. If you know something, say it. And sign your name. thanks.

Laura said...

There are other teachers that left mid-year, Drummond and Saunders --perhaps others (a music teacher??) In the special ed. department, I believe both speech therapist left mid-year (can someone confirm?). In other words, no speech therapist in the building right now.

Here is the pre-split APP teacher lists from a 3/22/09 e-mail:


APP Teacher Assignments

Patrick Johnson, Instructional Director, announced APP teacher assignments last week. These teachers will continue at Lowell: Teresa Sherwood, Erika Dore, Althea Chow/Tamra Hauge (job share), Allison Fenzl/Kristen Anderson (job share), Dustin Wood, Candace Jacobsen, Caroline Perkins, Bob Schilperoort, Theresa Roth, and Margaret Saunders. Teachers moving to Thurgood Marshall are Cindy Numata, Ashley Priest, Susan Moon, Cathy Villanueva, Arlene Vosti, Ann Gilpin, Mary MacDonald, Will Miller, Al Dunlap, and Spring Zoog.

The only APP teachers scheduled to return next year with three or more years experience teaching APP are Chow, Wood, Jacobsen, and Roth.

Based on my experience at other schools (Salmon Bay and Adams Elementary) this rate of turnover is extraordinary. Perhaps there are other schools that have this turnover, and things are just fine.

I have no insight into whether or not teacher morale is low. I do think, however, it's helpful for newer APP teachers to have mentors to work with, and next year, Lowell will not have a large number of mentor teachers. That's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Ms Roth DID speak about low teacher morale at the APP AC meeting this week. She was very emotional as she spoke, so it was obviously something that is really troubling her.

The poster who mentioned the high number of teachers leaving Lowell, should have specified they are APP teachers. I personally know nothing about the ALO side other than that a current Lowell K teacher, Mr Bass, is moving over to teach APP 1st grade next year.

Lowell parent

Lori said...

thank you, Laura. That's really helpful info and insight.

I know that the 2nd grade cohort has worked closely together this year, with two new teachers working with Ms. Chow and Ms. Hauge. It's been a great year for our child, and I know other families are similarly pleased with the 2nd grade experience.

So there will be a number of teachers with at least one year of APP under their belt in the fall.

My gut says that with the recent Lowell/TM split, it shouldn't be surprising that there would be turnover a year or two later. And of course, splitting the experienced teachers between two schools means fewer experienced teachers at each. While it's always a shame to lose great teachers, there are other great teachers that can be hired and strong new teams can be built. It feels like a lot of folks are viewing everything as a negative without necessarily any evidence. Mr. King hired great staff last year, and I'm optimistic he can hire more great staff for this fall.

Anonymous said...

Since the split (over the last two years) it is close to 1/3: at least 3 of last year's teachers did not return, 5 teachers will be leaving this year, plus there are new art and music teachers.

I don't think the previous poster was trying to exaggerate.

Anonymous said...

My son is in 2nd grade APP at Lowell and his teacher was a new teacher to Lowell this year. She has been really good. Mr King has hired really good teachers so far. Teachers that work really hard. They usually stay until around 5PM on most days.

Lowell Parent

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

Thanks, Lori, I have to say I tend to agree with you on this:
"My gut says that with the recent Lowell/TM split, it shouldn't be surprising that there would be turnover a year or two later. And of course, splitting the experienced teachers between two schools means fewer experienced teachers at each. While it's always a shame to lose great teachers, there are other great teachers that can be hired and strong new teams can be built. It feels like a lot of folks are viewing everything as a negative without necessarily any evidence. Mr. King hired great staff last year, and I'm optimistic he can hire more great staff for this fall."

Teachers come and go all the time, and with the smaller APP cohort of teachers at the schools, the impacts are bigger--one of the consequences of the split (Kay Smith-Blum said at the APP AC meeting that we need to stop saying "split", it is APP "expansion", but it WAS a split in every way!)

My 9th grader started Garfield this year with 3 of his 6 teachers unassigned. There were folks at the front of the class teaching, but permanent hires weren't in till early October, or in one case, even later! They were very good new hires, and Garfield did a good job scrambling in a difficult situation.

Stephanie

suep. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I also wonder about a direct comparison with TM as far as teacher turnover. TM has Julie B, a principal all of those teachers have worked with before. If turnover is due solely to the stress of the split, the same ratio of teachers should be leaving TM as Lowell.

I am not at TM, but I haven't been hearing of huge teacher turnover there. I know of one teacher leaving just after the split before the year even began and one other leaving since.

Lowell parent

Anonymous said...

my friend's child goes to TM and they say about 7 APP teachers have left this year. they had a horrible time and they are glad to leave the APP program.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, I'm wondering if you can provide further clarification on your earlier posts about HIMS overcrowding, and the further comments from parents (Anon) regarding potentially moving HIMS APP kids to Wilson Pacific or Lincoln. Has the APP AC actually discussed this option with the district? What is the official position of the APP AC regarding physically separating MS APP students from the general population of the school? My feeling is that in MS and HS, its so impt for the kids to have the full social experience and diversity that WMS and HIMS offer. I understand yr saying that this option is currently under discussion for Lowell out of necessity due to overcrowding this Fall, but at this pt, has this option (moving APP kids out of the Hamilton bldg) been discussed as a potential solution, even down the rd, to imminent HIMS overcrowding?
Signed - Parent Who Would Like to Know What's Going On

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

As far as I know, no specific solutions to overcrowding now at Lowell and in the future at HIMS have been discussed by district staff or the school board. Some times school board members will throw an idea on the table, but it is the parents at this point who are looking at numbers, spaces, schools, trying to anticipate what the District might propose.

We have done all this before...many ideas swirl around a this stage of the process, but I think people have now learned to be very careful about not asking for other communities to move or change so that APP can get a configuration they might want..the "throwing others under the bus" people refer to. Finding a solution is very hard, as it will impact our schools and others too, and it gets very emotional for everyone.

Historically, it has often been elementary parents who want an APP 1-8, while once their kids get into middle and high school, they actually seem to like the diversity of students a comprehensive public middle or high school brings. Students seem to like this too as they are ready to meet new kids, although a 1-8 does have certain advantages too.
Parent perspective often, not always, but often changes at middle school. Indeed, this is a big part of what makes Garfield a school that stands out nationally--diverse, urban, academically high achieving. All schools have issues, as housing APP anywhere is going to be a complex challenge in certain respects. This is a big part of what the APP AC parents and staff work on all the time.

At this point, Director Kay Smith-Blum (I have not spoken with the other directors about this recently) is saying they want to hear parents' ideas, want people to think outside the box. Whatever changes might be proposed next year in the Fall will need to be dovetailed with changes in other buildings and other communities in the district.

My request in particular for Lowell parents is as they try and think about what they want for their own child, they also consider the health of the entire program...as Co-Chair of the APP AC, I will be thinking of the folks at TM as I consider what might work at Lowell, same for WMS and HIMS, same for GHS and IHS. The district and school board will hopefully be considering this big picture as well.

We want a certain degree of equity between our buildings and for ALL of APP to thrive. What that might look like, no one knows yet.
Stephanie

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 9:21 --
are you checking any facts about TM teachers at all before you post? there were only 8 APP classrooms this current year at TM. to say that 7 teacher left and the year was horrible is factually inaccurate. my understanding is that 1 teacher is switching out of APP and into ELL within TM for next year and they are adding 2 more APP classrooms. by nearly all accounts, TM is headed in the right direction under julie b.

Anonymous said...

RE Self-Containment/non-Self-Containment: Boy, why the snarkiness? Get over ourselves? WTH? Have I no right to be proud of or defend a great public school program for my kids? Well, I guess I'm full of myself then.

BOOYA!

There is no reason why kids outside the program shouldn't be allowed to take classes with APP kids if they can handle the rigor, except one: The Slippery Slope. Self-Containment, while exclusive, has preserved program integrity. Would that suffer with blending of APP & Non-APP kids? Probably not at first. But later, when an 89th percentile math student is let in, but an 88th percentile kid isn't, guess what you get: Injustice! It's not fair! And all the rest.

In a perfect world, there'd be no need for self-contained classes. But with budgets constantly getting axed, more kids crammed into each class, and teachers expected to grow wings and fly (it seems), you will no doubt see a "broadening" of curriculum to enable those kids right on the edge to be forcibly squeezed into a classroom of peers (or close enough to still close the door!).

The issue is curriculum integrity. If that is agreed upon by all to be the utmost important value to be protected, then bring on the Spectrum kids, many of whom fit fine in APP (As did many Lafayette Spectrum kids now in APP at Washington).

No one will concede to watering down anything. Instead, watch for the code words: "broadening, differentiating, and such." That's your flashing red light! Be on the lookout.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The price of a quality public education is the same. Don't knock parents for caring too much about their kids educations. It's kinda what we want, isn't it?

pjmanley

Anonymous said...

Self-contained vs. non self-contained.
I am not sold on the self-contained only idea especially for middle school students.
Some kids are very strong in one area, be it math or LA. They should not be held back because they can't get the high enough percentage in both subjects on the APP test. If a student gets a really high math score, then they should be allowed to take APP math and science even if they did not score high enough in LA. The same goes for LA/SS. In all fairness, all students should be given the opportunity to take advanced classes, but only if they are capable and motivated.
I know for a fact many APP students who have been with the program since elementary school are neither capable or motivated, yet they get to continue taking APP classes without review, even if they are failing.
Daffy

suep. said...

I think teacher turnover at Lowell is due to a number of converging factors.

Teacher morale is low nationally, district-wide and, I've also heard, at Lowell, because of the current ed reform obsession with "teacher evaluations" and that meaningless term, teacher "effectiveness."

(I wrote about this not too long ago here: Plummeting teacher morale in Seattle’s Public Schools — a serious issue)

This has led nationwide to what basically amounts to bullying of teachers, especially senior teachers with more experience (and bigger salaries). In the corporate ed reform mindset (and this is what is dictating current national and local ed policy), cutting costs trumps quality at every turn.

SPS has also been contaminated by this mindset and I suspect our principals are being told to crack down on teachers, in the name of "raising student achievement."

Teachers are being straitjacketed by standardized curricula, students measured by MAP and other tests, their creativity stifled. Teachers are being judged by student test scores, even though this has been proven to be inaccurate and unfair.

This approach to education and teaching is stupid, destructive and short-sighted.

What these reformers fail to realize is that the best teaching and most inspired lessons cannot be bought from Pearson Publishing or the Columbia Teachers' College. Experience and dedication should matter and be valued.

Of the teachers Laura lists, some left for various reasons that may be personal as much as professional. One left immediately after the split. Another is on maternity leave.
The school's beloved music teacher retired in part because of health reasons.

Another teacher is leaving at the end of this year because of a long commute and desire to work closer to her young family.

The new music and art teachers by all accounts are welcome additions. And I know of at least one other newly hired APP teacher who is terrific.

I also know of at least two teachers whose departure is not necessarily a bad thing, in my estimation. They simply weren't very strong teachers.

But there are some experienced and well-regarded APP teachers who have left/are leaving and I agree this is a great loss to the school. Though each has a different reason, it is troubling that leaving is a more viable option for them than staying.

Lowell has had too much churn these past few years overall and it is sad to see a once terrific school in such a constant state of flux and uncertainty. The overenrollment the district has created at the school for next year and the likelihood of another move for APP only adds to this uncertainty.

As parents I believe we need to support our teachers and speak up for them. Ideally, a school should be a place where teachers enjoy working and feel respected and appreciated. This makes for a better environment for everyone, including our kids.

Anonymous said...

The problem with removing the line between Spectrum and APP is that there are good reasons that these were created, and have been maintianed, as separate programs.

There are students who meet up in the middle, those who are at the low end of APP and those who fall at the high end of Spectum. Blending might benefit these groups.

The protection needs to be in place for those kids who fall in the 99.9% percentile, those with IQs of 145 and up, they are the ones APP was designed for.

There are only a handful of these kids in the whole district, which is why the program is an all city draw, and why we need to protect access for these exteme cases.

Offer whatever best serves all other populations within program boundries, but don't pretend that blending will serve all. Upper APP outlyers will lose out if the style shifts for accomodation of other learner types.

Upper APP kids are very often asked to wait while others catch up, they are accustomed to missing out on depth when others can't handle it, and they are reguarly asked to help others understand what they have already mastered.

These problems already exist in the current APP classes, it is a real fear that they will increase if APP is no longer recognized as a separate program and identified need.

living on the floor

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact many APP students who have been with the program since elementary school are neither capable or motivated, yet they get to continue taking APP classes without review, even if they are failing.

Daffy: What evidence do you have to support that statement? And how would you know, btw? Are you peeking at report cards or relying on hearsay and gossip that runs rampant among parents in SPS?

I've heard those rumors for years, yet I have yet to see any real proof. In fact, every thing I've seen proves the opposite, as I've seen numerous kids counseled out or go private when they can't handle the rigor in APP. Most, in fact, go private, so you won't see many kids go into APP, then transfer back out.

But the idea that "failing APP kids" get a free pass is simply not credible. No good teacher or caring parent would undermine or devalue their child's education like that. Its not like they get a special
"APP Graduate" designation or credential, so what would be the point? To fake your kid's achievements? Give me a break. pjmanley

Anonymous said...

Once lines start getting blurred between programs, it won't stop. Not under the "commodity delivery friendly" ALO model. Thus far, ALO is not much more than a label. What it allows, however, is for as many kids as possible, of any ability, to be shoved into the same classroom like sardines, with a teacher expected to work miracles for every kids.

Can you spell "D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R?"

It would be one thing if APP and Spectrum weren't working, but they are. Extremely well.

APP & Spectrum better hang together, or we'll damn sure hang separately on this one. Support and expand advanced learning in all forms. Never compromise or sacrifice it over petty squabbles. Both programs are far to valuable. pjmanley

Anonymous said...

Pj Manley
I admit my use of the word failing was a poor choice. To clarify my idea of failing is getting by with a C or D in a LA/SS, math or science APP class. I believe that if your student qualifies for APP they should be able to perform at a level better than a C or D. Of course, this is just my opinion. I don't believe that very many of the students are performing at this level, but I know for there are some.

One teacher at my child's middle school posts each student's grade percentage in his class. Everyone in all his classes can see these scores. I also hear from my child how some students get D's or low C's on tests and papers. Students share test and paper score information freely, it doesn't seem to embarrass them if they do poorly.

I'm not hearing rumors from other parents. I'm getting my information from my student who sees, hears and lives it everyday.

APP is not perfect and mixing a few Spectrum kids into science isn't going to make it any less rigorous than it already is.

Daffy

Anonymous said...

APP kids are still sometime bored or don't focus on stuff they don't have interest in. Getting a C or D on some assignment/test does not mean they are failing the class or program. Remember that each APP kids are very strong in something and not as much in others because of interest level. Also remember that they are doing 1 to 2 grades above so a C in 2 grades ahead is still pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Pj Manley
I wanted to respond to your comment asking why parents would keep a stuggling child in APP because there is not a special 'APP Graduate' designation.
It is true there is not an 'APP Graduate' designation, but there is a good guaranteed high school placement if your child is in APP in middle school.
Would YOU prefer to send your student to Rainier Beach? What about West Seattle High? Cleveland? Ingraham(if the APP program wasn't there)? Would you pick any of these schools over Garfield?
Do you think the parents that can't afford a private school will voluntarily pull their stuggling kids out of APP when they have few good public school alternatives?
The same goes for elementary and middle school. With the NSAP, families are choosing APP to avoid neighborhood schools that either don't meet their students needs academically or socially.
Daffy

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous at 11:16,
I agree that kids get bored and that they are not always interested in the subject, especially at the middle school level. The point that I am trying to make is that allowing some Spectrum or gen ed kids that are performing well(getting A's) in science and who are already performing well at the math level of their APP peers is not going to dilute the APP science classes. It would not be the beginning of the great decline of APP as we know it because some APP students are not performing at high levels(for whatever reasons).
I do believe if they start letting poor performing students into these classes it would lower the standards for APP. The school needs to have a well thought out criteria for admitting students to the APP classes.
Daffy

Anonymous said...

specific to failing APP students according to Bob V. the average MAP scores were 95%+ accross the grades for APP students. So must not be too many to maintain that percentage.

:-)

Anonymous said...

Daffy, if the kids belong in APP, nothing is stopping them from getting in. If a Spectrum kid can do work 2 grades ahead in math and science, it should be available to them without sacrificing program integrity. We are talking about walk-overs and there ought to be a way to do it without hurting anyone.

But focusing on a handful of kids who might not belong in a program is misguided. APP is not perfect... Really? Show me where anyone ever said it was. Let's be empirical.

I agree kids shouldn't be arbitrarily and artificially excluded from classes they can handle. But all the thinly-veiled insults accusing APP parents of manipulating or gaming the system secure unfair advantages for their kids is petty and inaccurate as Anonymous@4:11pm aptly demonstrates.

And the idea of parents "choosing" APP willy nilly to avoid a bad high school -particularly when, as you allege, many of them don't actually belong on APP - is quite a stretch.

I support any parent who advocates for their kids, but not when they have to tear others down to build themselves up. That's divisive, rude, and will only produce negative results. Not a good idea at all in this district, where capitalizing on division is a time-honored practice. pjmanley

Anonymous said...

Daffy, if a kid qualifies for APP, they get in because it's a special needs program. The idea of parents "choosing" APP willy nilly to avoid a bad high school -particularly when, as you allege, many of them don't actually belong on APP - is quite a stretch.

That said, the constant digs accusing APP parents of manipulating or gaming the system to secure unfair advantages for their kids is petty and inaccurate as Anonymous@4:11pm aptly demonstrates.

Nobody ever said APP was "perfect" by the way. Your words. Your issue. pjmanley

Anonymous said...

PJ Manley,
For one let me clarify that I NEVER said APP parents were "manipulating" are "gaming" the system to receive unfair advantages for their students.

Those are your words.

You missed my point completely or maybe you chose to only focus on what you perceive to be my criticizm of APP.

My comment about parents moving students to APP to get away from a bad elementary, middle, or high school was not because they are 'manipulating' the system to receive unfair advantages, but because they want a better education or social environment for their child than their neighborhood school is able to provide.
Yes, it is true that many parents choose APP just for this reason, especially for middle and high school.

I understand your concern that allowing non-APP kids into the APP science classroom COULD create a problem. It is a valid concern if the school does not do it right.

This brings me back to the point I have been trying to make all along.

Allowing a FEW Spectrum or Gen Ed students who are in accelerated APP math into the APP science classes will not make the class any less rigorous than it already is.

And yes I did say APP was not perfect, but not because I was insinuating that you thought it was. You happened to leave off the rest of the dialog that went along with it, which was the point I was trying to make.
Daffy

quiet as a mouse in the building said...

Lori,

You said: "I'm vocal on this board, and I haven't heard about morale problems. Maybe because I'm new this year and I don't have the right "connections."

All I can say is that if you haven't heard (or seen firsthand) morale problems at Lowell this year, you haven't spent much time in the building or talked with the teachers. It's been spreading like a disease throughout the year, and as the end of the year approaches some teachers are feeling more open to talking about the situation, which borders on out of control.

and you said: "But I'm getting tired of all the hints of problems at Lowell. If you know something, say it. And sign your name. thanks."

Not a chance. Just the fact that you say this shows you don't understand what's happening in the building. Threats and retribution, fear, yelling, calling security (and I think police), etc. It is bad. When a staff member is told to lawyer-up, you know there are huge problems.

quiet in the building said...

sue p

I know you've got "feet on the ground", and you have a decent idea of what's going on, but it's even worse than you think. Of the staff that are already gone and are leaving at the end of this year, I believe only one is due to "natural circumstances". The rest are due to the untenable situation in the building right now. And it's more than just the 5 teachers for whom there was a party. Ever wonder what happened to our speech therapists? Laura is right to ask about that. That story will give you chills, but it's not mine to tell.

As the end of the year is upon us, teachers are opening up a bit more, but they are literally afraid for their jobs, not just in the building, but the ability to continue to work anywhere in the district. Bad write-ups on your record can wreak havoc, and the union doesn't seem to be doing much to help right now. In fact, someone there seems to be a tattletale, so there's nowhere for the teachers to safely turn for help. It's going to be up to us, as caring and active parents to grab this bull by the horns and get control. Not every teacher that's leaving is stellar, but many are, and we're very quickly losing the heart and soul of the elementary program.

Anonymous said...

Can someone who truly knows the details, plz enlighten us as to what exactly happened with the Speech Therapist? I've heard many references to this situation but have been unable to confirm exactly why the therapist left (?) abruptly. I agree that teacher morale is low, i have heard this from long-time teachers I trust HOWEVER I can't say exactly why this is - I agree about the pressure on teachers from District/national emphasis on using test scores to evaluate teachers. These issues are likely exacerbated by the expected overrowding and other issues at Lowell. BUT SInce there are several posts alluding to or specifically pointing to Principal King as the source of the morale problems at Lowell, and specifically the issue w/the Speech Therapist, I would love to hear exactly what happened there. Thnx to Greg (moderator) and all posters who so generously share info - many of us working parents dont get to spend much time "in the halls" at school -- all I know is my son is pretty happy and had a great yr - but i have no doubt that if there are problems with "the leader"the staff and eventually the children will be affected. If parents have concrete feedback, we need to know and I'm unaware of another forum where we could exchange the information.
-Lowell Parent

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that the last few people who posted can move their posts to the top most open thread section. This thread is so far down that I think your comments may be missed.

A parent who would like others to see your posts.