An introduction from Sharon Peaslee:
Dear APP parents,In deference to Sharon's limited time, I would like to do this Q&A differently. Please post questions in the comments. A couple days from now, I will look for common themes in all of the questions and then pick 5 - 10 of the questions for Sharon to answer. I hope that will work well for everyone.
I'm very interested in a Q&A that will give you some insight into my thoughts on APP issues, and that will also help me get up to speed on your concerns and where you would like to see changes and improvements. If I'm elected to School Board I'll work with you collaboratively. I don't pretend to have the best answers now, and will likely stand by that in the future. I believe the best answers come from working with others to thoroughly define the problems and a wide range of possible solutions – then in crafting a plan of action that can be executed given the constraints of time, money and other limiting factors.
That being said, I'm steadfastly committed to meeting the learning needs of all students and envision strengthening APP. It's clear that parents have been excluded from the decision making that has led to enormous changes in APP, and that needs to change. I will be sure you are included in the future, if I'm elected. But meanwhile, let the questions begin. Greg will moderate, and I'll let him describe how this process will work.
Update: A couple days later, I collected questions from the comments, identified common themes, and, rephrasing a few, here are the questions for Sharon Peaslee:
- Goal and vision: What do you see as the goal of APP, advanced learning, and alternative programs in Seattle Public Schools? Why does the district offer advanced learning?
- Measuring success: What would it mean for advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools to be successful?
- Stability: APP has been split at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the past two years. Parents are concerned about stability and the future of the program. How can the program be made stable?
- Yes/no questions: Are the splits and others recent changes to advanced learning consistent with your vision for advanced learning? Would you support a 1-8 APP? Would you support elementary APP in a building without a general education population? Would you support APP in many or all schools in the district instead of having dedicated, self-contained programs as we do now? Would you support increasing the entry criteria to limit the number of students in APP? All children in APP are guaranteed a spot; should all children who qualify for Spectrum be guaranteed a spot?
Goal and vision: What do you see as the goal of APP, advanced learning, and alternative programs in Seattle Public Schools? Why does the district offer advanced learning?Please use the comments to discuss further. And a big thank you to Sharon Peaslee for doing this Q&A with APP parents on this blog.
The goal of APP, ALO (including Spectrum) and alternative programs is to offer educational pathways for students whose unique learning needs would cause them to be under-challenged or under-engaged in general ed classrooms. The district offers advanced learning to ensure that these students are provided with an education that is appropriate, challenging and engaging.
Public education must work for all students. We have an obligation to meet diverse and unique learning needs and styles. Success should be measured by the extent to which we inspire and prepare all students for the futures they want for themselves.
Due to the persistent involvement of APP parents your program is doing a better job of this than most. I realize there are problems with placement, splitting and other shifts. However, the extent to which your students are engaged and challenged is the envy of many parents in the district. I see this as an enormous plus. Your efforts will lead to ongoing improvements to the programs, and I look forward to working with you in a collaborative mode as a school board director.
Measuring success: What would it mean for advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools to be successful?
Well, for starters we need to clarify the intent and objectives of each program and resolve issues of placement and stability. Then we can further develop all the programs to meet the advanced learning needs of more students. It’s very important that we have a range of programs that are placed so that all students have access. It’s equally important that programs be clearly defined in their purpose and execution so that they are truly supporting the needs of the students in them.
ALO and Spectrum need much greater clarification and development. We need both of these to be working well in all schools, and currently some are being collapsed—pushing students into either APP or general ed, neither of which adequately support their learning needs.
APP needs to be stabilized, and we need to determine how it should be grouped and in what buildings. We also need to be sure the special needs of students within APP are met.
Success would mean that we identify all eligible students, place them in the appropriate program, and provide them with the level of engagement and challenge they need to get the most out of their education.
Stability: APP has been split at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the past two years. Parents are concerned about stability and the future of the program. How can the program be made stable?
We need a long range plan for APP that resolves the ongoing transience. It’s important that APP programs be permanently placed so that students from all parts of the city can access them. Although the recent moves and splits have been disruptive and painful for many, we are migrating toward two geographical clusters of programs that will provide easier access for students in all parts of Seattle. That being said, we need to determine whether it’s best to group 1-8 or to house elementary and middle separately. This needs to be explored in a manner that engages the APP community.
I realize that growth in the program is regarded by some parents as a problem and splitting is also regarded as a problem due to reduction in size and therefore certain resources. However, if our now divided groups continue to grow with assurance that new students are qualified it’s likely that we will be able to allocate resources to meet the special needs of some students within two complete APP programs.
We could also consider the possibility of having highly specialized resources available only in one APP program if the group is too small to support two. And right now I’m referring to the need for a math class above the APP level for 8th graders, although there may be other special needs, as well.
Yes/no questions: Are the splits and others recent changes to advanced learning consistent with your vision for advanced learning?
They are consistent with changes to the district assignment plan, poor capacity management and lack of long-range planning for APP. We need to resolve this with good long-range planning that takes into account the inevitable growth and inclusion of more students from all over the city.
Would you support a 1-8 APP?
Yes, most certainly. I would support two. But this needs to be examined to determine whether it would be an improvement over the current grade splits. My hunch is it would be, but we need to consider input from APP parents and also look at programs that are working well in other districts. If it’s a better structure for our students we should move in that direction.
Would you support elementary APP in a building without a general education population?
This currently exists at Lincoln as a temporary situation. I think we need to find a permanent building that includes other elementary programs, or a 1-8 APP. As stated above, this needs to be fully examined with the APP community.
Would you support APP in many or all schools in the district instead of having dedicated, self-contained programs as we do now?
APP is so unique it must be dedicated and self-contained. I would support stronger Spectrum and ALO in all schools. We need huge improvements in these programs.
Would you support increasing the entry criteria to limit the number of students in APP?
I think the entry criteria should be set so that the program admits students who will thrive in it. Criteria should not exclude students who will benefit, nor should it include students who will not. We really need to be sure other ALO programs are in place so that students end up in the program that is best for them.
All children in APP are guaranteed a spot; should all children who qualify for Spectrum be guaranteed a spot?