Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Open thread

Talk about whatever you like!

Update: Joyce asked me to mention that an old thread on what to do about Lowell overcrowding still has a pretty active discussion. Might want to skim it over if you haven't read it recently or join in if you want to add something.


Meg said...

I strongly suggest that people have a look at the proposed revision to attendance policy, which is being introduced tonight.

The policy is basically aimed at kids who are performing below academic standard and have lots of excused absences. It is a badly conceived policy - which could be said of any policy enacted for a small portion of the population but which affects everybody.

I know it seems boring, but... have a look. I doubt we'd all agree on what constitutes an appropriate reason to let a kid skip school. That said:

1. The decision should largely remain with parents and guardians

2. There's no evidence that stringent attendance policies increase the attendance and academic achievement of struggling students with poor attendance.

Anonymous said...

The main issues are:

1. Teachers will not be required to allow students to make-up missed work if the absences are no longer excused for short family trips.

2. The definition of "Excessive absences" is 20 excused absences.

3. The vote changes the policy to a Superintendent Policy and takes away the Board's authority on future changes.

Bellevue allows three excused days for family trips (seems reasonable, yes?) and institutes detentions and ultimately in-school suspension for tardies.

Anonymous said...

According to the Board report, the policy would take effect immediately (rather than with the beginning of next school year).

Does that mean they could file truancy petitions this year for excused absences that occurred under the current policy?

Anonymous said...

For those that have been following this pls sign the petition to reinstate Cliff Mass to KUOW guest commentator position.

basically said...

Does anyone have a final count on how many APP students chose to go to Ingraham IB?

Fremont Mama said...

When and how do we find out what teacher our child will have?


Anonymous said...

Teacher assignments are typically mailed a week or so before school starts. Even then, classrooms may be rearranged after the first day to remove/add split grade classes and evenly distribute the class numbers.

Anonymous said...

Just got this email from Lowell's PTA
UPDATE: Lowell Capacity Issues
Dear Lowell Families and Staff:

Last Tuesday (5/31), a few members of the Lowell PTA board met with Robert Vaughn (APP Director), Marni Campbell (Special Ed. Director) and Tracy Libros (Enrollment Manager) to discuss the capacity issues at Lowell.

The PTA members spoke with them about the following:

1. All three programs at Lowell cannot continue together at the current location with the growth next year and potential future growth in following years.

2. Not any one program at Lowell should be split, as we don’t want to further dilute the strength of our programs.

3. The neighborhood students and Special Needs program take priority over APP at the current location.

4. Any change proposed by the district should be a long-term solution, not a “band-aid” approach.

The goal is to be proactive and get ahead of any district decision, to also be a part of the decision process and to communicate timely and factual data to our school community.

Currently the district is finalizing their capacity data analysis and is not in the position at this time to discuss any options and transition possibilities for Lowell. The PTA board plans to have a representative at upcoming capacity management workshops and will work with the district to collect your valuable feedback through a parent survey.

We expect the district to issue their capacity realignment proposal in late fall, followed by a period of community engagement before finalizing any plans.

As most parents are aware, Lowell is just one of the many capacity issues plaguing the district at this time. To avoid unnecessary stress, rumor mill mayhem and duplication of efforts, we ask that you please direct your concerns and questions to the PTA so that we can act as a collective voice for all of the students at Lowell. Please feel free to email any member of the PTA board — you can find their names/addresses here: Also, ‘capacity management’ will be an agenda item for the next Lowell PTA board meeting, Tuesday June 14th at 1:30 pm, and all are welcome to attend this meeting.

Thank you for your support.
Lowell PALS PTA Board
More information may be available online.

Anonymous said...

Meg --
What's the best thing we can do to get changes made to this poorly thought out attendance policy? Email board members?

Anonymous said...

Yes, write Board members, as the vote is in two weeks.

Not Meg

Anonymous said...

Summary of State rules:


According to the Washington State mandatory attendance policy (RCW 28A.225), a school district may file a truancy petition alleging a violation of the law by the student, by the parent or both the parent and student when a student has had five (5) or seven (7) unexcused absences within a month or ten (10) unexcused absences within the school year. According to RCW 28A.225.020, an unexcused absence is counted when a student is absent the majority of the day without a parent/guardian excusing the absence.

Seattle is proposing action for excused absences, when the law is directed at unexcused absences.

Meg said...

email board members. Go to director coffees and find out why they would endorse a plan that will cost money to enforce and probably won't work.

That said, I'll be honest: there is only the slimmest of slim chances that the board will remove this from action items and not vote yes on it, no matter what you do.

I cannot think of a single instance where something that has made it to introduction hasn't passed. Sometimes the vote is delayed, but everything that's introduced goes through.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am missing something, but the new regulation would permit 20 excused absences, right? That's 4 full weeks of school.

While I agree that we probably wouldn't all agree on how many excused absences is just right, I think that missing more than 4 weeks of school is going to hamper any child's performance in the classroom, from his or her ability to bond with classmates and teacher to his or her ability to complete classroom learning.

I feel that the district ought to be able to step in and tell parents that school is important and that it must be the priority, especially over family trips. Heavens, we have 2 weeks at Chirstmas, one week in the spring and all of summer to plan our trips. Unless there is a family emergency, taking the kids out of school for more than 20 days says nothing more to the child than school is not important. Perhaps homeschooling would be a better fit for someone whose family needs to take that many trips in one year?


Anonymous said...

Meg: thank you for highlighting this "big brother" change.

Kimberly: I agree that missing a lot of school is a problem, but I can't swallow that they are making family vacations unexcused absences, while at the same time making missing school for religious purposes excusable.

My family is not religious, but we do have good judgment about taking our kids out of school for important family activities once or twice a year and this is a matter of parental prerogative.

My take on this new policy is that at best it is aimed at taking care of kids in trouble, but at worst, it is self-serving of the district to want every child to have reading and math every day. I suspect this has more to do with test scores than anything else.

Anonymous said...

An (excused or unexcused) tardy can count as an absence, such as dental appts, etc. that can't always be scheduled before or after school.

So, two weeks of illness and monthly appointments could easily bring a student to 20 - it's not necessarily 4 full weeks of school.

The deal with family trips is that unexcused absences (which the new policy would consider them) wouldn't require a teacher to allow for make-ups of tests and assignments.

Rather than focus on students that are failing because of excessive absences, all students are being placed under a more restrictive policy.

Anonymous said...

From SaveSeattleSchools:

The following districts allow for pre-arranged excused absences (with parental request and school approval):


And those are just the few I've checked. I have yet to find a district that explicitly disallows an excused absence for approved family trips.

Anonymous said...

My kids have had teachers who count family travel as unexcused absences. I just emailed the teachers/office and said they were sick. Sometimes you just need to work around the system to make the system work.

David said...

I am still confused on this attendance policy change. Could we walk through a couple examples?

Let's say an elderly family member is severely ill and our entire family goes to be with them for a month, including the kids. Is that a problem under the old policy? Under the new policy?

Let's say our teenager misses two weeks on a short-term international exchange program then later is sick for some periods that total two weeks. Is that a problem under the old policy? Under the new policy?

Let's say our child is badly ill and misses four weeks of school due to illness. Is that a problem under the old policy? Under the new policy?

My understanding is that all of these are a problem under the new policy due to the new section on excessive excused absences ("students who exceed twenty (20) excused absences in a school year will be subject to school-based and central intervention"). Is that correct?

Anonymous said...

There are overlapping issues...

If the school counts the trip as excused, then the teacher needs to allow for make-up work (within reason). With the new policy, not only will the trip be unexcused (and make it harder to negotiate for time to make-up work), there will be no way to "work the system" as you call it.

Any absence, excused or not, will count toward the 20 needed to justify the filing of a truancy petition. The Becca law was written to address excessive unexcused absences, yet the proposed district policy is considering any absence as equal.

Do you think skipping school is the same as visiting out-of-state grandparents in Topeka? Is skipping school the same as being home with the flu? Is skipping school the same as missing half the day for a doctor's appointment? I don't think so, yet the policy doesn't allow for much distinction.

Approving the policy will also allow the Superintendent to make future changes without Board approval or input. Do parents want to lose representation on this policy?

Anonymous said...

The proposed policy also subjects elementary students to interventions and a possible truancy petition for 10 tardies in a year (excused or unexcused, defined as missing 15 min or more of core instructional time). Under the proposed policy, 10 orthodontic appointments could subject a 9 year old to interventions and a possible truancy petition.

The Becca Law triggers the filing of a truancy petition for 10 unexcused absences in a year or 7 unexcused absences in a month.

The proposed policy is not consistent with the intent of the State law. The district's policy is written with unfounded assumptions that all students are equally affected by absences and all absences should be treated with the same level of punishment.

I don't think an administrator with any common sense would file a petition on a 9 year old for documented medical appointments, yet according to policy they could. Why even write such a policy?

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the sort of bureaucratic BS that makes private school seem worth the money. I get awfully tired of being treated like a potential criminal, rather than a customer.

Anonymous said...

I was on the Source this morning and saw a funny messsage from the Hamilton registrar.

"Hello HIMS Community,
All placement recomendations from the Math and Music programs will come at a later time and issued directly to the registrar... "

My understanding that math placements occur for 6th and 9th grade; but this message seems to indicate all grades. Does anybody know if they are going to change the APP Math Pathway for current
6th and 7th graders? Also, didn't parents get the placements w/ the option to opt up one level? Is that gone? Could there be a change that has not been communicated?

HIMS Parent

Anonymous said...

From what I hear, Ingraham has about 60 or so in the first APP cohort. Amazing considering they only had a few months to put it together.

APP parent

Shannon said...

Thanks for bringing up the proposed changes to definitions of excused absences. We have regularly taken my son out of school and "caught up" while away or in anticipation of a trip. Frankly, in elementary school - we can teach him as much as he learns in class in half the time. We have family on three continents and we can't afford the cost of flights in peak vacation time so we often leave a few days earlier or later than scheduled breaks. Also, orthodontists are the most frequent doctors appointments ever when you're in the active stage and even an 8.40am appointment leads to being a bit late. I know its inconvenient if a kid is visiting family but I've never felt the need to make up anything and my son continues to do well in APP.

Anonymous said...

Prepare for APP to be even more crowded as Spectrum is now being systematically dismantled.

The AL office is using this as the model for the new advanced learning.

hschinske said...

On a lighter note, just for interest:

"Now, a small group of cognitive scientists is arguing that schools and students could take far more advantage of this same bottom-up ability, called perceptual learning. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine, after all, and when focused properly, it can quickly deepen a person’s grasp of a principle, new studies suggest. Better yet, perceptual knowledge builds automatically: There’s no reason someone with a good eye for fashion or wordplay cannot develop an intuition for classifying rocks or mammals or algebraic equations, given a little interest or motivation."

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Could you expand on how Spectrum is being "dismantled"? (Or point me to another discussion or resource that explains it?) This is the first I've heard about that.

Anonymous said...

Read through the SaveSeattleSchools blog on changes to Wedgwood Spectrum. Self-contained classrooms are being switched to "cluster groupings," which sounds like the description of ALO.

Anonymous said...

Wedgwood is getting rid of Spectrum self-contained classrooms for 1st grade next year and 2nd and 3rd in 2012-13. 4th -5th will be in 2013-2014. They are going to cluster grouping similar to Lawton. See Save Seattle Schools for more detail.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing there will be an increase of kids shifting to APP at Lowell if the District keeps dismantling the Spectrum programs. I have never understood why the District doesn't better support Spectrum and why it caps the number of Spectrum slots. Jane

Charlie Mas said...

I have advocated test boycotts to the advanced learning community a few times before.

Seven years ago my threat of a WASL boycott by Spectrum students drove then-superintendent Raj Manhas to make six specific promises to the Spectrum community. The boycott was broken, but so were all of the promises.

About five years ago I proposed opting out of the WASL as a tactic for Spectrum and APP families to evade proposed re-qualification requirements. The District pushed back by threatening to exit any student who didn't test. It got ugly for a little while, but the District blinked first and the re-qualification requirement was dropped.

Two years ago I recommended a WASL boycott to APP families that would end only when the District fulfilled the promises they made when splitting the program. The APP Advisory Committee didn't want to take or endorse any direct action and the result has been that the District hasn't done anything to fulfill their promises to APP students and families.

Now we see the beginning of the end. One Spectrum program, Lawton, has been killed. Another, Wedgwood, is climbing the steps to the guillotine. There are dead programs littering the field already: North Beach and Wing Luke to name just two. APP has been cut in half and it doesn't take the Amazing Kreskin to figure out that the District is going to split it again. There will be two north-end elementary locations.

The time has come for the advanced learning community to step up and take some action to save itself. There is only one action that we can take: boycott the standardized tests. Opt your children out of the MSP and opt them out of the MAP. The kids should not intentionally fail the tests, they just shouldn't take the tests at all.

You are entirely within your rights to preclude the testing of your children. It does your child no harm. It does their teacher no harm. It does their school no harm. The only people who are hurt by it are the District administrators who get hit in their pride. These people live on test scores. It is all they care about. It is their currency.

And we control it.

It is time for us to exercise our power. It is time for us to demand that they fulfill their commitments.

Spectrum families at Lawton and Wedgwood should opt their children out of the MAP and the MSP to protest the changes in their programs to to compel the District to fulfill their commitments to the Lawton and Wedgwood communities.

All other Spectrum families should opt their children out of the MAP and MSP in solidarity with the Lawton and Wedgwood communities and to compel the District to fulfill their commitments to other Spectrum communities.

APP families should opt their children out of the MAP and MSP in solidarity with the Spectrum communities, to save their own program, and to compel the District to fulfill their commitments to the APP community.

ALO families should opt their children out of the MAP and MSP in solidarity with the Spectrum communities and to save their own programs and to compel the District to fulfill their commitments to ALO communities.

All families should opt their children out of the MAP and MSP in solidarity with the Spectrum communities and to compel the District to fulfill their commitments to all communities.

Stop taking the tests. This is your path to recognition and power.

Anonymous said...


Why would boycotting MAP a good thing? Also, since MAP score is part of the qualification for ALO, Spectrum, and APP, would not taking MAP kill all programs? Maybe this is what SPS want us to do. There should be better ways to voice our concerns.

Greg Linden said...

I moved Charlie's comment to a top level post. Please go there to discuss it further.

Anonymous said...

Anyone go to the APP AC meeting last night? How did it go?

Anonymous said...

Anon June 8-

I went to the APP AC meeting last night to hear about Lowell. It was ugly. What do you want to know?

Lowell parent

Anonymous said...

Thanks! How ugly was it about Lowell and was there any earnest discussion about solutions, who was most thrown under the bus and do they really think that bldg will hold 700 kids next yr?

Oh and any surprises?

Anonymous said...

Have there been current numbers released about enrollment for next year?

What was the district's response to parents' concerns?

If someone could provide a somewhat objective rundown of the meeting and what discussions took place, it would be appreciated. Lowell's last PTA meeting (June 14, 1:30 pm) is also supposed to discuss the overcrowding issue.

Anonymous said...

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.

Lowell parent

Greg Linden said...

Thanks for the summary, Lowell Parent. Seems like this will be something people will want to talk about.

I lifted your comment to a new thread so it could be discussed more easily. Please move discussion of the recent APP AC meeting and what it means for APP over there, thanks.

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...

Anonymous said...

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

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

a north end APP 1-8 does solve certain problems, but not others...
I wish it were that simple!

It is important also to consider also what impacts would that have on TM and WMS? Also factor in ptsa funding and how that impacts our schools, for example, current Lowell ptsa is able to raise much more than the TM ptsa, and this does support core things like library and counselors, teacher support. This equity was something that came up in thinking about the elem/mid school splits something to at least consider as we think about any future changes in the north end. Most parents at that time said they wanted to see a certain degree of equity between APP sites.

Stephanie Bower, APP AC said...

we are hearing from parents at TM that they are pretty happy at the school, they don't want to move again (back to Lowell) and disrupt their school and their students and teachers.

where's the math? said...

HIMS Parent,

My understanding that math placements occur for 6th and 9th grade; but this message seems to indicate all grades. Does anybody know if they are going to change the APP Math Pathway for current 6th and 7th graders? Also, didn't parents get the placements w/ the option to opt up one level? Is that gone? Could there be a change that has not been communicated?

A bit late on the reply, hope you're still reading.

There is no option for APP families to use the "opt-up" Math Placement Contract. The option is available for any student in the city except APP students. You can read the contract itself on the SPS web site, but the key phrase is: "Students may not skip two course levels, and may not opt up beyond Math 8", which was added this year.

There is no valid reason for this, so families in this situation should continue to hound the district (Robert Vaughan's office) about this forever and ever until it gets resolved.

where's the math? said...

From what I hear, Ingraham has about 60 or so in the first APP cohort. Amazing considering they only had a few months to put it together.

Actually, it was about 50 kids. Still impressive.

Anonymous said...

There will be a new Math and Science Program Manager for next year (A-M is leaving as Math Program Manager), so there is still hope that the discussion is not closed.

We have child that will most likely want to accelerate beyond the APP pathway come middle school, so it is definitely on our radar.

wtm said...

There will be a new Math and Science Program Manager for next year (A-M is leaving as Math Program Manager), so there is still hope that the discussion is not closed.

Yes, we're heard this as well. Has her replacement actually been chosen yet? In place yet?

I don't think we can wait until fall to get this fixed, it needs to start ASAP.