Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Discussion on advanced learning

In a post "Advanced Learning", over on the Save Seattle Schools blog, Melissa Westbook has a useful (but depressing) summary of meetings she had with Dr. Enfield and Dr. Vaughn.


The slow death of APP said...

Depressing indeed.

So many of our problems in APP are related to capacity, and are actually rooted in the lack of support for Spectrum around the city.

Think about it. If (when) Spectrum was better-supported around the city, many parents are happy to have their kids attending schools in their neighborhoods, or at least in their cluster. Especially if the school is doing a reasonably good job of attending to the needs of these kids.

The more kids attending schools in their area, the better for everyone! Less district transportation costs, more neighborhood friends, less parents driving all over town for after-school pickups and meetings, the list goes on.

That kind of system leaves APP for the true outliers. The ones that just cannot be served well without a cohort of outliers. That's what APP should be, but it's moving the wrong direction now. By killing Spectrum around the city, APP is the only decent option some of these families have, so of course they're going to jump! But with these moves, APP is dying a slow death. It's growing, which means splitting, which attracts even more kids who's needs could be met in a local Spectrum program. Using the MAP as any part of the entry criteria for Advanced Learning programs doesn't help (its reliability degrades significantly for high achievers, go look at the data).

APP is becoming what Spectrum should be, and Spectrum is turning into ALO at best and practically nothing at worst (Wedgwood).

Some changes can be made quickly, such as killing Spectrum at Wedgwood, but parental attitudes are more like ocean tankers. They take a much longer time to form, and they take longer to change (in aggregate). Even if the district were to announce all kinds of great support for Advanced Learning programs, it would take a while before families would actually believe in the changes, and base their decisions on them.

It's clear that we're in trouble, but what can we do about it?

Anonymous said...

What defines Spectrum/APP? Are there grade-by-grade standards and curriculum? No. So it becomes whatever the teacher/principal/whomever decides it is. Isn't that part of the problem?

Most depressing is that Charlie's assessment has so much truth to it.

-the more things change, the more they stay the same

Jan said...

It's clear that we're in trouble: it seems to me that "what we can do about it" is restore Spectrum, in its prior incarnation --or a better incarnation (which the average ALO is not). If the district cannot do "better," then they should return to self contained Spectrum, but expand capacity to make it available to every child. I think it could be improved, though, by allowing more kids to "self select" in (with some strong exit criteria, for kids who cannot work a grade level ahead and handle increased depth/complexity). I also think we need to look at more models for kids who have aptitude in one area (math, for example) but not both.

Difficulty delivering the model does not necessarily mean we should just throw in the towel -- though that seems to be the District's position.