Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Keeping north and south together

By request, and based on a lot of discussion in the last thread, let's talk about what parents can do to keep the north and south APP working together.

The core issue is that, with all the splits, we are getting close to having separate APP programs in Seattle for the north and for the south. The south/central APP would do Thurgood Marshall -> Washington -> Garfield. The north currently can do Lincoln -> Hamilton -> Ingraham (though capacity is an issue there, many come to Washington or Garfield at at the transitions, and north APP will probably have to move out of at least two of those schools -- and may even split NE and NW for elementary -- in the near future). We are heading down a path where parents and students in the north APP could never see students in the south APP and visa-versa. They almost would be separate programs in everything but name. Is that a good thing?

Other issues mentioned include the math curriculum differences (especially the different textbooks used at Thurgood Marshall this year compare to the older ones at Lincoln, but also the lack of algebra for 6th graders at Hamilton and the lack of AP classes at Ingraham). Lack of cooperation between the north and south PTAs has come up multiple times. And inequity in PTA funds (which tend to be much greater in the north) has been mentioned in previous threads.

The first question might be, what do parents want? Should APP be the north and south separate? Should it even be each school on its own? Do you want APP to be a city-wide program, region-specific program, or school-specific program?

The second question might be, what can APP parents do? Are there things we, as parents, can ask our PTAs to do? Can we work for specific things that might help? To take one example, parents could work for funding for teacher training city-wide across all schools, for math training or instruction on gifted education, that gets teachers in the north and south working together and sharing knowledge? In general, what can we do that might help?


Limes said...

I'm the parent of two APP kids, and I don't care if the program is split or not. I think APP parents are being a bit more than ridiculous and need to chill out.

Anonymous said...

With each split and move the program becomes less defined and begins to differ site by site. Kind of like Spectrum. It's not the same program we toured. It's not the same program we experienced before the split. While it is serving more and more students, it is serving some students less and less.

A defined year by year curriculum, which was promised as part of the split, has never fully materialized. The cohort of students needing further acceleration gets split into smaller and smaller groups, making it less likely they will be able to have a class for them. Algebra for 6th graders comes to mind...

Death by a thousand cuts.

NESeattleMom said...

Yes, I agree that a city-wide curriculum with collaboration between sites would prevent the watering down or disintegration that has happened to Spectrum.

Charlie Mas said...

The District is definitely sending signals, through the BEX IV planning meetings and documents, that they intend to split APP in the northend.

Elementary APP could be placed in two or three sites (Wilson, Thornton Creek, and possibly also Olympic Hills) and middle school APP could be in two or three sites as well (Pacific plus Eckstein and/or Hamilton).

The aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum that was promised concurrent with the splits has never appeared despite the dire warning in the APP review and well-documented commitments.

APP is already site-based and it will continue to evolve differently at each site. It will soon be no more uniform than Spectrum. This is the direction that the District wants to go, though they may never say as much out loud.

You can confront your School Board directors about it, but none of them give a damn about APP.

Until the APP community stands together, makes demands, and boycotts tests, the District will continue to roll over them.

You don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.

Anonymous said...

As a long time APP parent I’ll second Charlie’s comments. He’s spot on. Our family has had front row seats to the dismantling of a strong, cohesive program that is lapsing into leaderless fractured amalgamation of satellite communities inside various school buildings. The APP AC, while well meaning, has sat idle while Bob Vaughn escapes without accountability for failing to put forth a well crafted curriculum, pushes faulty testing and then endorses further splitting. Principals have systematically targeted and pushed out the most seasoned and beloved gifted ed teachers, with the apparent backing of PTA insiders. And what do you do when our PTA leadership is more interested in unicycles than quality math curriculum or counselors?

For new APP families, please pay attention and get engaged. Start talking and band together. Demand more. Email the school board and our new Superintendent, ask tough question to PTA, central admin and school leadership. And then take action. A good way to start is to opt your kids out of the all the standardized testing. It’s not valuable and the data will only get used to juice the rankings of the future schools where our kids will serve as temporary guests.

If we don’t speak as one voice and aspire for excellence NOW, then it will be next to impossible to rebuild the program. Charlie is right, we’ll get rolled over by remaining silent. Which is exactly what the District is counting on.

--Veteran APP Parent

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how opting out of testing would further your cause. If you have personal beliefs against too much standardized testing in general, then perhaps it's justified. Opting out to get the district's attention seems spiteful and unlikely to have much effect (I doubt enough parents will opt out their kids to even make a difference).

AL/APP is low on the district's list of priorities. It has been for a long time. Until there is a forceful advocate for APP and all of Advanced Learning - within district administration - then advocating for AL is a sysiphean task.

That said, I'd say energy is best spent on pushing for a more defined curriculum for APP and for training of new APP teachers (in gifted ed specifically), because further splits seems likely, and because these are the issues that seem to have created problems since the split.


Anonymous said...

In response to "realist:" the districts only interest in APP students ultimately appears to be in having their test score fix up failing schools (ex: Thurgood Marshall and Ingraham.) So the purpose of opting out en mass is possibly the only way to get the attention of those who see APP students as numbers to be push around on a spreadsheet.

Agreed that asking for a defined curriculum and teacher training is great in concept, but parents and teachers have been asking for those things for more than a decade and they still are not happening.

I didn't used to feel as strongly as Charlie, but I have come around to believing that his extreme measures might be the only way.

You are spot on when you say, "...these are the issues that seem to have created problems since the split." It is all these problems and more that will multiply with each and every subsequent split.

Remember APP students round out spreadsheets and building counts to many SPS employees. They are only ever seen as special needs students by our constant reminder. We are at a point where only hurting the achievement numbers of the administrators will get noticed. It really is the only point of negotiation.

Opt Out Fan

Charlie Mas said...

If you don't have something they want, and if you don't have the ability to withhold it, then you don't have a negotiation.

That's been the problem so far. The District does whatever it wants to the advanced learning community and the community just takes it. The community doesn't fight back.

Boycotting tests might not be your ideal choice, but it WILL get the District's attention in a way that nothing else can. And, let's face it, it's all you got.

Or do you think you have some other chips to bargain with?

The last thing this District wants is a well-coordinated test boycott by advanced learners. They haven't had to face that prospect for years because the advanced learning community has been complacent.

There is absolutely no negative consequence to a MPE boycott. It will not hurt your children or have consequences for your school. It costs you nothing but could potentially help you negotiate with the District. Without it, you remain a doormat.

Anonymous said...

Charlie can you give us newbies some more info re the tests that you are suggesting opt-out, and the consequences (or lack of)? Would it be the MAP, MPS, or both? Are these scores on student's permanenet record and could they be looked at when applying to, eg, a private MS or HS? Thanks for the info. I imagine it would be difficult to reach all AL parents and coordinate a boycott effectively, what would be the method for spearheading that? This blog only reaches a few interested parents, i think.....Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I heard third-hand a notion that a single missing MAP score, even from 1st grade, could prevent a child from taking advanced placement classes in 6th grade. I was thinking it may have been a game of telephone about the MAP scores driving algebra placement, but however it arose, it is hard to convince people that opting out won't affect their kids. Especially in a population that has basically self-selected according to those very same test scores!
I could be convinced to opt out though!
--1st gr mom

Anonymous said...

Several families opted out of testing at HIMS during the last couple of years and got push back from admin because the previous principal was using our kids' test scores to burnish his own reputation. The simple fact that we saw push back tells us that a boycott would get some attention. Even a handful of families doing it made them pretty nervous. We've got what they want, but our kids are not valued for who they are or what their presence brings (music, higher math opportunities for all...)

Anonymous said...

Elementary APP could be placed in two or three sites (Wilson, Thornton Creek, and possibly also Olympic Hills) and middle school APP could be in two or three sites as well (Pacific plus Eckstein and/or Hamilton).

I think people need to read this very carefully and think about the real consequences if something close to this happens (and I do think it's on the agenda of some district administrators).

At this point APP would essentially be what Spectrum was prior to its recent systematic dismantling. If APP is a program for gifted kids that exists in a half-dozen buildings around the city, it's no longer APP, it's a "Spectrum+" program.

The only difference between this scenario and 5 years ago is that the APP kids will have been distributed back to the neighborhood Spectrum programs!

If we allow this to happen, it will be the fulfillment of a 6-7 year plan to dismantle APP. Think about it, the end result when compared with APP of just 4 years ago is that APP was removed from existence and sprinkled back into each region of the city. It's just happening in phases, so people are less likely to notice.

- another (tired) veteran

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Charlie that the ONLY means the APP community has to exert ANY influence on district administration is through (the threat of) a widespread testing boycott.

Many of us have lived through destructive changes over many years, and the only things that actually effect change are:

1) broad and extended bad media coverage (very difficult to force this to happen, it's organic)
2) organized (and credible) threat of test boycott

Thanks in part to the "value-add" mentality in education these days, the district needs bright kids' test scores. They use our kids to distribute scores and they use the scores to justify the bogus changes they make.

I'm 100% on board with a boycott, if such a thing gains any steam. It's not very helpful to boycott the MAP, since it's merely a district-mandated test. The power lies in the MSP/HSPE tests, which are done by the state. Results on the MSP are how the individual schools and districts are "graded".

This is not the first time this has been discussed, but efforts have fizzled in the past. Is there any real interest in making it happen?

If so, here are some key points:

1) The "demands" must be kept
- simple and limited in scope
- easily measurable
- feasible to do in a relatively short amount of time (i.e. fixing all APP problems is unreasonable)

2) Timing must be such that the district fulfills its promises before such a boycott does or does not occur. They cannot just make promises about something in the future, as we have seen year after year after year that promises mean nothing in the eyes of the district.

3) There must be substantial buy-in from parents, and they need to stick to their guns in spite of what could be serious pushback from the district.

Examples of feasible demands:
- There must be a (single, no-split) home for APP north specified in the BEX IV plans (this is one that could also be pushed via threat of a NO vote on BEX IV).
- New math textbooks (district-wide?) by next year. Yes, this would be a promise, but if funding was spelled out and it was not for some far-in-the-future year, maybe.

It would be great if at least part of the push was for populations outside of APP, but that gets tricky.


- another (tired) veteran

Anonymous said...

A MSP boycott for the purposes of pushing for new math materials would seem to have the greatest impact. If you're someone who's supplementing at home because of the poor materials, then the MSP score is not a good measure of the school's effectiveness and opting out can be justified. I'm guessing there's a good overlap of those in APP and those fed up with the math curriculum. It's kind of a two-fer. There may be more parental buy in if the boycott were to improve math across the district, not just in APP.

MAP is another discussion. Scores are used in teacher evaluations, but they are also being [mis]used in AL placement and 6th grade Algebra placement. Opting out could mess with placement for some 5th grade students, or for those applying for AL.

Anonymous said...

Elementary APP could be placed in two or three sites (Wilson, Thornton Creek, and possibly also Olympic Hills) and middle school APP could be in two or three sites as well (Pacific plus Eckstein and/or Hamilton).

Wouldn't this only be possible if Eckstein boundaries were redrawn, Eckstein were split, and a new middle school created? The draft BEX has JM as an interim middle school site. Eckstein is bursting at the seams, just like Hamilton, but a good number of APP students at Hamilton are from the Eckstein region. There isn't room at Eckstein for APP students to return, unless Eckstein boundaries are redrawn.

apparent said...

On June 24, 2011, opening his Seattle Schools blog thread “Pull the Trigger” identifying ten necessary Seattle School District actions, Charlie wisely wrote:

“Pull the Trigger
“The District is dragging out a number of decisions that should have been made already. In most cases they should just make the decision because they have only a single viable option. There's no decision to be made.

“1. Re-open John Marshall as an elementary option school and the site of north-end elementary APP.
“They need to bring north-end APP up north and there is no other building that will hold the 500 students in the program. John Marshall would allow space for the APP students and a small general education program as well. That would help to relieve some of the overcrowding in the northeast. Enrollment in the general education program should be by choice only. That would bring a lot of advantages. It would give preference to APP siblings and keep families together. It would allow the District to cap the enrollment of the gen ed program so they aren't guaranteeing enrollment to two different groups. It would evade any need to alter the attendance area boundaries. If the option program were a language immersion program or a Montessori program it would make access to these programs more equitable. The school can meet at Lincoln until the John Marshall building is ready for them.”

Posted by Charlie Mas, June 24, 2011 (Seattle Schools Community Forum thread “Pull the Trigger”)

Anonymous said...

There is also a discussion about why the site - right near the freeway - is not appropriate for an elementary population. All of Charlie's reasoning seems sound, except for the fact that the health effects data hasn't been taken into account. JM will most likely be used as an interim site only.

apparent said...

But the JM site is further from the freeway than both TOPS (K-8)in Eastlake and John Stanford Elementary in Wallingford, both considered appropriate for elementary populations . . . .

Anonymous said...

EPA School Siting Guidelines

Scroll to "High traffic roads and highways" under "Feature/land use" heading.

Recommended Protocol for Evaluating the Location of Sensitive Land Uses Adjacent to Freeways

From the report:

The Land Use Handbook recommends that sensitive land uses be sited no closer than 500 feet from a freeway or major roadway, a buffer area that was developed to protect sensitive receptors from exposure to diesel PM, which was based on traffic related studies that showed a 70 percent drop in PM concentrations at a distance of 500 feet from the roadway. Presumably, acute and chronic risks as well as lifetime cancer risk due to diesel PM exposure are lowered proportionately.

apparent said...

TOPS and John Stanford Elementary?

Anonymous said...

Here's my layman's understanding:

There is a difference between an existing building, which is grandfathered in, vs a newly reopened building. Lowell, for example, would need to do seismic and sprinkler upgrades and who knows what else if it were closed for several years and then reopened. Since it is open and operating as a school (like TOPS and John Stanford), it can defer upgrades necessary to meet newer codes. Reopening JM for school occupancy, after it hasn't been used as a district school for years, will require review.

The EPA school siting guidelines (and they are guidelines, which differ from enforceable rules) are meant for siting of new schools, though there are some mitigation suggestions for existing schools situated in less than ideal sites.

apparent said...

Don't follow. Although TOPS and John Stanford Elementary, both closer to the freeway, are onsidered "appropriate" for children, John Marshall should not be? Although John Marshall is already committed to school use, beginning after renovations in 2013? Although all the signs, based on the latest SPS BEX IV spreadsheets and public meetings are that District staffers now plan to split north Seattle elementary APP between Wilson-Pacific and another undisclosed building? All while 760-seat John Marshall on Ravenna Boulevard near Green Lake is instead dedicated to "interim" school populations, (likely including some portion of Hamilton APP while in transit to their new Wilson-Pacific Middle School) . . .

Anonymous said...

Read the original thread from March 29, 2012, in which you asked the same questions.

apparent said...

And am still awaiting a clear explanation . . . all the while north Seattle elementary APP remains homeless and without any future location identified on the published BEX IV scenarios . . .

Anonymous said...

If the explanations given in the March thread were not clear, then I'm not sure any explanation would suffice. Someone (with more knowledge than I) explained it quite clearly, I thought. There was even an offer to provide documentation of correspondence. Perhaps you should take the person up on their offer.

apparent said...

In the March thread, NO health effects based explanation was offered why we should refuse to consider vacant and renovated 760-seat John Marshall for APP north, while we send our children to TOPS K-8 and JSIS Elementary, both closer to the freeway than JM. If you have such documentation, would love to see it posted here.

Bob Morris said...

Divide and conquer. At WMS APP teachers are almost all teaching general ed classes as well. This makes it much harder to attract high quality teachers given the difference in skill sets required to teach the two groups. Some of the recent hires suggest this is the case.
I wonder if the appropriate response to the continued vivisection of this program isn't a lawsuit. At what point have they failed to live up to their responsibility to provide gifted education?