Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Open thread

It's a new year! What's on your mind, APP parents?

A few ideas for topics for discussion:

An article in The Atlantic on Finland's schools success and how that example might be relevant to SPS and APP.

The new Seattle Public Schools student assignment plan and proposed waiver policy and how it might impact APP, Spectrum, and related alternative programs.

2011 in review, what happened to APP in 2011, and what Charlie Mas called the death of Spectrum in 2011.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I followed a link in the Finland article to yet another article on the same topic, but I think the second article is better.

http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/82329/education-reform-Finland-US?page=0,0

It doesn't claim there is a single definitive reason why the Finnish system works so well; it explores several possible reasons. I'm especially intrigued by the differences in the teaching profession in Finland.

Lori said...

One thing on my mind, although I haven't had time to research it carefully, is the possible value of using local norms instead of national norms for gifted identification here in Seattle.

A few weeks ago, Prufrock Press posted a scholarly paper on its Facebook page on this topic: http://faculty.education.uiowa.edu/dlohman/pdf/LohmanUnconventional%20uses%20for%20conventional%20assessments4.pdf

It makes sense to me on some levels. One "criticism" I see on the blogs from time to time is that APP currently enrolls more than 2% of the SPS population, which some interpret as a problem. Now, that's never bothered me because I understand that the frequency distribution (or bell-shaped curve) for test scores for a geographic region is never going to exactly mirror that of the larger, national population. So there is nothing "wrong" with having more than 2% of your kids testing at the 98th/99th percentile. It's just how sampling works.

But this article got me thinking about whether the national norms really do make sense for enrolling to APP and/or Spectrum. From that article:

Advantages of local norms. The primary limitation of national norms is they do not take into account local variations in ability or achievement. However, the need for special programming at the local level depends on the discrepancy between students’ current levels of cognitive or academic development and that of their classmates – not all other students in the nation. In some schools, the average student scores at the 20th national percentile (NPR). In such a school, a student who scores at the 70th NPR is probably significantly mismatched with her peers. Conversely, in some very high-achieving schools, a child who scores at the 95th NPR may not be seriously mismatched with the instructional challenges in the classroom. Because schools vary widely in the average ability and achievement of their students, policies that require all students in the district or state to attain the same level of excellence on a nationally normed test result in schools in which no child is served by the program and other schools in which a substantial fraction of the children are labeled “gifted.” Local norms eliminate both of these problems.

Intriguing, yes? The article goes on to say how such an approach can increase participation in gifted programs by traditionally under-represented populations.

I also wonder how something like this would fit into current discussions about changes to Spectrum at schools like Wedgwood. If in fact there is a narrow range of ability at that school, perhaps self-contained Spectrum doesn't make sense. Or maybe the qualifications need to be raised.

I'm just speculating, obviously, and I know that won't make self-contained proponents happy. But ultimately, with an advisory group on Advanced Learning meeting this year, this may just be the kind of thing they should be discussing. Particularly when we are having a capacity crisis in APP, maybe we need to rethink whether our entire system is currently serving the "optimal" populations in each of its gifted programs. Maybe APP's numbers should be going down, not up, as we reconfigure it to reach our local outliers rather than the national outliers while simultaneously reconfiguring gifted opportunities at neighborhood schools to better match their local populations.

Thoughts? Has this been discussed and rejected in SPS in years passed before I was paying attention?

Anonymous said...

Lori,

The idea of using local norms vs. national norms makes some sense, given the SPS current population and the over-representation of nationally normed top 2%'ers.

However, wouldn't the only way to implement that be on a school-by-school basis as the peer group in each school could vary dramatically?

Then you get into the semantics of establishing a cut-off of x% of school population is ok to provide adequate challenge. If a school doesn't meet that percentage - then what?

Unfortunately, I'm thinking that the process would require way more thought, time and effort than I see the district willing to give.

hschinske said...

"Conversely, in some very high-achieving schools, a child who scores at the 95th NPR may not be seriously mismatched with the instructional challenges in the classroom."

But what about the curriculum? If you have a district with standardized curriculum, you won't be challenged any more at the high-achieving school than at the low-achieving one. Indeed, possibly less, if you seem like less of an outlier. That was certainly our experience with schools that seemed content to rest on their laurels.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I have a question regarding supplementing the current math curriculum with add'l work at home (be it something online or singapore math, kumon, etc.).

I keep reading about the deficits to the Discovery Math curriculum, but I can't determine if it
a) actually skips important concepts, or
b) covers everything, but doesn't spend enough pure computational time for kids to master the skill, and/or
c) doesn't work for kids who struggle with math but works fine for above average math learners.

My duaghter is in second grade APP and enjoys math and does well in it. I believe her teacher to be good. So, does anyone with more knowledge of SPS APP curriculum and what's expected at the next levels (and outside SPS) have an opinion on whether supplementing is important, particularly for APP students?

I don't want to bury my head in the sand and just believe it's alright until I'm proven wrong a decade from now, but I also don't want to spend valuable free time doing unnecessary math drills.

Thanks in advance,
APP Mom

Anonymous said...

My advice is to supplement the district math, APP or not. In general, the closer the teacher follows the district curriculum, and the less the teacher supplements, the more you should probably supplement. Our experience has varied widely.

The district materials are weak on computational skills and math facts. Make sure your children know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide using standard algorithms, on paper, with multidigits. Practice math facts through 12x12 (not just 10x10).
Practice long division with both decimal and fraction remainders.

With the middle school materials (4th and 5th grade) it gets easier to supplement because they cover topics in unit books. After a few years of CMP, the weaknesses I saw in my child's skills were on unit conversions/units of measure, multiplying and dividing fractions, and powers and exponents.

My advice for the CMP years is to review the concepts at home because the books almost dance around them. Also try to find problems that extend the concepts, use real (less contrived) numbers, and require computational skills. You should know some middle school teachers allow a liberal use of calculators.

It's really not something you need to stress out about or do every night, but I wouldn't sit back and think they're fine because they are in APP.

Anonymous said...

Ted Dezember is joining HIMS as the new House Administrator, coming from McClure. Does anyone have experience with him or his outlook toward advanced learners?

open ears

Anonymous said...

On the SPS Career page, the position of House Administrator is listed for schools with an enrollment of 999 or more (Hamilton is around 820).

Responsibilities include implementing the student discipline and attendance programs for a middle school, maintaining liaison with parents on discipline and attendance, and supervising school building and grounds to enforce appropriate student conduct.

Is this an issue at Hamilton?

suep. said...

Hmm, someone on the SSS blog is indicating that Ted D. may not be good news for HIMS. (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=28765366&postID=3557998002763354431)

I don't know of discipline issues at Hamilton.

And I thought enrollment was closer to 963. Though high, that still wouldn't qualify the school for another administrator, (according to the SPS career page info).

What could this be about?

Anonymous said...

According to the SPS enrollment page, Hamilton is at 919. Either way, it is still lower than the posted number for adding a House Administrator.

Anonymous said...

The paranoid in me sees deja vu with Lowell this past year. Last year they added a third principal to Lowell, also with a bad rep., for no apparent reason and then they split the school.

There are so many rumors swirling about where the Lincoln 5th graders will go, who knows?

Once bitten, twice shy

Anonymous said...

Okay in a age of MAP being the achievement portion for APP (a fact that I believe was not talked about enough) what do you do if your K kid got <95% in the fall and >95 in the winter rounds of MAP? We can probably use MAP for appeals assuming they don't recheck the scores and assuming they are sticklers on the initial achievement levels. Any assistance on this from last year would be great. Did they use MAP last year too?

Fremont Mama said...

How did you find out your child's MAP scores? My kids' scores are still not up on the source. My kindergartner took the advance learning test this fall and I haven't gotten any results for that either! I am anxious to see if he will be joining his sister at Lowell next year!

LHFive said...

I have the same question regarding MAP being used for APP. My son's fall MAP scores were 97, 91. Winter (his teacher just informed us) 98, 99. Does the district only look at the scores for fall or will they accept winter scores? I would really rather not have to pay for private achievement testing. Anyone who has been in a similar situation and has a definitive answer please respond. It is crazy how ambiguous this whole process seems! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

fall MAP should be on The Source FM. Also their teacher should have them as well but you should look up the RIT scores to make sure you have the 2011 percentiles (a point or two lower than 2008) as my kids teacher didn't have the updated score.
http://www.nwea.org/sites/www.nwea.org/files/resources/NWEA_2011_RIT_Scale_Norms_0.pdf

But yeah you would think you should be able to use MAP for an appeal right?

Anonymous said...

On the Advanced Learning - Application & Testing Process page, under "Achievement Testing," I see that Winter MAP scores are considered for Kindergartners. Not sure whether this means that Fall scores are NOT considered, but my understanding is that Winter was chosen because many schools opted out of Fall MAP.

- New to this

LHFive said...

My son is in 3rd grade so the K info doesn't apply. Thanks, though.

Anonymous said...

LHFive, I would think that you should be able to use the winter scores as an appeal. And thanks for that bit New To This so it sounds like my K will get in without an appeal.

Anonymous said...

My k sps kid did the cogat in mid November--anyone get their cogat score yet? District website says don't call or email -- we will mail it to you around jan. 31. My school did not do fall map and they haven't even completed the last part of their math map... So, I can't look even maps up yet...
Parent

Anonymous said...

Last day for winter MAP testing is tomorrow, Fri. Jan 20th, under the contract SPS has with NWEA.

Grace said...

When are the MAP scores going to be posted ??? It's been AGES.

LHFive said...

FYI, the teachers have their scores and you can ask them for your child's scores at any point after the test has been taken. I don't understand why it seems like the scores are such a big secret. Supposedly, one of the great things about MAP is that it provides instant feedback to the teacher about where their students are. I feel like the parents should have access to that instant feedback as well.

Anonymous said...

Today was the last day of Winter MAP testing (the testing period was extended a week due to snow days).

Anonymous said...

My child was done with the Winter MAP testing the week before last, and I was able to request and get the scores sent home to me on Monday (first day back after the snow).

I had an inkling of how well my child did because he watched for his score at the end of each testing session, and I looked up the percentile ranking online.

It was interesting to see his scores under the new norms - several points lower but still in "APP territory." I imagine they will go up in spring like they usually do.

I too am waiting for the CogAT results/advanced learning letter. I keep wondering if the weather last week will cause a delay in sending out the letters.

~Just wondering~

Anonymous said...

My K student took the Winter MAP in early Dec, and our teacher said the results would be shared "later in the month". They haven't as yet been shared. I presumed I needed to wait for the Source to update, but it is ok to ask the teacher? I don't want to burden her with special requests but the results, and the cogat results, will be part of a request that we're putting together (for non-SPS related services). Is the district usually on time with the AL letters?
Hatty

Shannon said...

Thoughts on the Advanced Learning Survey? I thought it was well done :)

I do think they should have listed something like "Enriched curriculum, depth and project based learning" as a possible reason to choose the program. Not just acceleration and rigor.

Shannon

Greg Linden said...

Thanks, Shannon, that's a good idea for a new thread. I created a new post to discuss the survey. Follow up comments, please use that other thread so we can get a good discussion going over there.

Anonymous said...

To avoid burdening the AL office with a phone call they've probably received the likes of many times over, I'll ask here: are the test results letters expected to be mailed out on time despite the snow days? If not, what is the ETA?

- New to this

Anonymous said...

anyone hear back from AL on APP entrance yet? We should have by now, no...



L@L dad

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't winter MAP scores be posted by now as well?

Alys

Anonymous said...

I emailed the AL learning office about when MAP scores would be posted on The Source. They said:
"Scores should post on the Source either the end of next week [that's this week now] or early the week of Feb. 6."

Anonymous said...

The AL website has been updated to reflect that results were mailed yesterday.

- New to this

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find that update on the AL website. Where did you see it? Thanks

Anonymous said...

On the Appeals page, the text has changed to: "Deadline: Eligibility letters with test scores and eligibility results were mailed on January 31, 2012. The appeals deadline is February 24 (or February 13 for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and who are providing documents in support of assistance with additional appeals assessments)."

spsmom said...

MAP scores are posted

Anonymous said...

My K student's scores aren't visible (this would be his first data point since he didn't take the fall tests).

Alys

Anonymous said...

Alys, maybe keep trying. Although it took me several tries, I was able to access my child's Winter scores, which were her first data point as well.

- New to this

Anonymous said...

From the SPS homepage:
"Due to the high volume of users on the Source today (Feb. 1, 2012), the server was overwhelmed and you may experience difficulty accessing your students' MAP scores. This issue is temporary and we are working to fix it. We apologize for any inconvenience."

Anonymous said...

Scores are up now. Not sure the percents are correct. Look like the were rounded up to the next percentile which in the past they were rounded down. Oh well..

L@L dad

Anonymous said...

L@L dad, how can you tell they are rounding up or down? I hadn't thought about the rounding of scores, to be honest.

~Parent~

Anonymous said...

It is the perecentile related to the RIT score that they have "rounded" so when you have a score between two percentiles they round up.

Also, we got our letter today from AL so check the mail.

L@L dad

Anonymous said...

Thanks L@L Dad.

~Parent~