Friday, September 21, 2012

Open thread

A lot of new topics on this blog lately. What else is on your mind?

Update: This thread appears to have mostly turned into a discussion of the APP AC. Let's go ahead and make it about that. I'll open a new open thread for other topics.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Where do we even figure out who is on it? Our teacher and parent reps from last year are gone, and I did not find an updated contact list anywhere...


Anonymous said...

Is it only me who has a bad feeling about the APP AC? That it is gone?
Just because they had 5 (out of the 6) open parent rep position in June and since then nobody heard about them. Did they fill the positions? If not, are they going to fill them soon?
No sign of REAL activity

HIMS Parent said...

Anybody seeing EOC results on the Source? I only see MSP.

suep. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suep. said...

re: The APP AC, yes it is odd. But they've recently had a change in leadership, so maybe that has something to do with it. Btw, even though I haven't always agreed with the AC's approach to APP advocacy these past years, for the record, I did appreciate the fact that Stephanie B. put a lot of time and effort into it over the years.

Anonymous said...

Let us please be nice to the APP AC so they aren't inclined to dry up and blow away. It is a tough gig and they get so bashed by (wild guess here) people who don't even attend the meetings.

As a community we were soooo lucky to have Stephanie keeping track of the issues and working within the confines of the district. We owe her a huge thanks!

Very much looking forward to the APP AC picking back up this year, but that might not happen if people are wielding clubs...

Anonymous said...

Where are these alleged clubs? People are only asking where the APP AC is.

I am on the APP AC list serve, and I have only seen one email so far. We are a month into school and we don't even know if there are any upcoming meetings or not.

Yes, I have been to meetings.


Anonymous said...

APP AC gets thrown under the bus all the time, here and elsewhere. Sure it would be great to know when the meetings are.

Just pointing out that those that serve on the APP AC are massively underappreciated. My comment is not limited to this thread, rather years of observation.

Anonymous said...

I think the APP AC did many good things around the edges, but they had a fundamental misunderstanding of what they should be doing. The APP AC saw their role as representing the district to APP parents, not parents to the district. Especially during all the splits, parents realized that the APP AC primarily tried to placate parents, not represent them, and grew increasingly unhappy with the APP AC. That is not massively unappreciating the APP AC, it is a disagreement about what the APP AC should be doing. I think most APP parents think it would be fantastic to have a group representing and advocating for APP parents and children. The APP AC was not that, but maybe it should have been.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that the main problem with the APP AC has been a complete lack of understanding about what they are supposed to do and who they represent. It's hard to tell whether this misunderstanding is on the side of the APP AC or the parents.

The APP AC hosted the meeting at Lowell before the first split and the APP AC appeared to be just another mouth piece for Vaughan. They had this woman speak (JF) and Stephanie B talked about how wonderful she was and how she'd been working on improving the APP program "forever." JF basically told the upset parents in the room to sit down and shut up. I think the APP AC really suffered from this and they have never recovered in many people's eyes. I have read the emails and attended some meeting since, but I stopped believing that they were on our side.

I hope the APP AC, if it sill exists, will re-define itself under new leadership. APP could really use a group to help parents through this multi-year rough time.

-hope for change

Anonymous said...

The APP AC is comprised of volunteer APP parents. I am sure the committee would love to have other parents take over these incredibly time consuming positions that appear to be largely thankless. I have also been a little surprised at the naivete reflected in the criticism of the committee. Does anyone really think that a group of volunteers culled from APP parents would have any real power in the face of the previous administration and the current economy?

But please sign up if you think you can do better!

Anonymous said...

@ hope for change

I agree 100% with your comments, as well as those of some other posters. I at one time assumed that the APP AC served to advocate first and foremost for students and families. I respect their service, but their alignment with Vaughn and central admin severely undercut their position and take away any leverage. I'd like to see them serve as a catalyst for positive changes rather than do the bidding of district (as was the case during the Lowell split).

Yes, I too would hope they could reconstitute with new leadership and with a laser focus on what is best for APP, regardless of district shenanigans. But I'm not optimistic. The "new" leadership has been around for a few years and was their during the split debacle. And I know of at least one parent who volunteered to serve in an open seat but was declined because this parent was active on the blogs. So what we have is a brain trust that doesn't like new members who come to the table with opinions. Not a great recipe for thoughtful advocacy.

--Better Math No Unicycles

Anonymous said...

The next APP Advisory Committee meeting will be

Tuesday, October 2nd
Hamilton International Middle School Library

Please email any concerns you'd like discussed to your school rep.

Future meetings will be rotated between the six schools with APP. Future meeting schedules could be subject to change. A confirmation email will be sent before each meeting:

6-Nov-2012: Garfield High School
4-Dec-2012: Ingraham High School
8-Jan-2013: Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
5-Feb-2013: Washington Middle School
5-Mar-2013: Garfield High School
2-Apr-2013: APP at Lincoln
7-May-2013: Hamilton International Middle School
4-Jun-2013: Ingraham High School


APP Advisory Committee Members 2012-2013
Parent Members:
Chair, Bruce Baker-Harvey
Diversity Representative, Hazel Bhang Barnett
At-large Representative, Stephanie Bower
Communications Representative, Robert Njegovan
APP at Lincoln Parent Representative, Malinda Bailey
Thurgood Marshall Elementary Parent Rep, Jeanne Thompson
Washington Middle School Parent Rep, Shannon Wheeler
Hamilton International Middle School Parent Representative, Sue Hauck
Garfield High School Parent Rep (acting), Bruce Baker-Harvey
Ingraham High School Parent Representative, Elise Hillyer
Staff Members:
APP at Lincoln Staff Representative, OPEN
Thurgood Marshall Staff Co-Representative, Jennifer Cowan
Thurgood Marshall Staff Co-Representative, Kimber Kierstadd
Washington Staff Representative, Christopher Robertson
Hamilton Staff Representative, OPEN
Garfield Staff Representative, Ken Courtney
Ingraham Staff Co-Representative, Dean Ferguson
Ingraham Staff Co-Representative, Guy Thomas

Anonymous said...

thank you for the meeting info and I, for one, really appreciate the work you do in effectively bridging the gap between APP families and the district-I think those that are critical are the ones who don't understand how valuable it is to have regular contact with Bob V-he is an advocate for us but also realistic about what is and is not possible-just as the APP AC was during the extremely difficult time prior to the splits

dw said...

It's interesting that there has been this much grousing about the APP-AC this past year. Previously, it has always felt like the group was almost sacrosanct.

What people need to understand is that this is NOT an elected group that exists to represent parents and bargain on behalf of, or even act as a liaison to the district. This group was made up of appointees, and each slot that has been filled over the years has been selected by the group, with great control by its leadership.

For most of the past 10+ years, the group has been managed (literally or virtually) by 2 people, Jane Fellner and Stephanie Bower. When you see them, please thank them for the amazing and unbelievable amount of time they have invested over the years. I don't think most people have a clue of the amount of time and effort it takes to run this group.

That said, the "personality" of these two leaders, and therefore the group, has been relatively non-confrontational. They may disagree with this assessment, but I think most people outside the core would agree. Perhaps this is in fact the best model to work with district staff, but perhaps it's not. We haven't seen it work any differently, so there's really no way to know. I've heard that people have volunteered for positions and been passed over because they were considered to be too confrontational. I have not verified this directly, but it would not surprise me in the slightest.

hope for change said: JF basically told the upset parents in the room to sit down and shut up. I think the APP AC really suffered from this and they have never recovered in many people's eyes. I have read the emails and attended some meeting since, but I stopped believing that they were on our side.

Yes, this was shocking at the time, and felt like our trust was violated. I believe their thinking at the time was: be careful, if you fight this split too hard the district will push to kill APP instead and disperse the kids back to their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, these were mostly quiet discussions on the side, not clearly communicated to the APP population at large. If this was indeed the case, I believe it should have been stated very clearly to the parent body that this is what the district had in mind, so everyone could have responded in an appropriate manner.

More importantly than revisiting the past, right now we have new leadership in SPS. No more MGJ. Is it time for a new advisory group charter? Do we, as the general parent body, want to continue with an appointed (good ol' boys and girls club) group? Or do we want more of a representative body that might be more confrontational. One that functions more like union leadership does -- to help bargain knowledgeably on behalf of the parents at large.

I don't know that this would necessarily or always be a good thing. But I do think APP families should understand what this group is, and if it's not what we want then we can advocate for something else. But even in that case, there's no guarantee that our desires will be fulfilled. Even if every single APP family wanted a change like this, the group is facilitated by the district and they could just decide to give us the finger. Isn't that what they've been doing most of the time anyway?

Even if no changes to the APP-AC happen, I think this is a good conversation to have.

Anonymous said...

Well there's spectrum on paper though it isn't really spectrum in action. Is the future for APP the same? Regardless of what leadership style we select, non-confrontational and nice folks or more assertive, striaght shooters, I think the district isn't that interested in keeping APP. It just doesn't have the energy to deal with dismantling it outright right now. We are living on borrowed time. It would have been better in hindsight to have included spectrum kids and families so we could build a more broad based coalition. Sigh.

Also it doesn't help for APP parents to be clamoring about potential air quality issue when schools like Arbor Heights are literally falling down and has mold issue. Yes, yes, I know APP has had to put up with a lot. But at least the North APP program was given a building. Arbor Heights and schools like them weren't allowed to move temporarily or otherwise. Think SBOC (world school) still looking for a home and many others who have ben shuffled back and forth.


Anonymous said...

DW -- At our school, we have had to cajole nice, willing parents and teachers to give up their evenings to be APP AC reps. Their names are then forwarded to the APP ACfor approval. I am not aware that there are others waiting in the wings, dying to be on the APP AC. I don't see our reps as being part of some old boy network. This year our co-teacher reps were both new to APP last year. They bring fresh enthusiasm to our school and to the APP program, and we are lucky to have them volunteer their time. Last year our parent rep was a relatively new APP parent who was approached by the PTA because she had energy and enthusiasm for her new school. She was interested in spectrum, ALO and APP. Our new rep agreed to be the APP AC rep after impressing the PTA with her strong communication skills and thoughtful approach to complicated issues. She has children at two APP schools, so could lend a degree of perspective. The PTA felt she would be a good representative of the many voices and opinions found at our school. The new diversity rep is also new to the APP communiity. Given that much of the APP AC is new, it's members are all volunteers, and their role is advisory only, I would ask that you cut them a break and let them meet.
-- Nan Robertson, (Thurgood Marshall parent and PTA board member)

Anonymous said...

Also it doesn't help for APP parents to be clamoring about potential air quality issue when schools like Arbor Heights are literally falling down and has mold issue.

Being concerned about adverse health effects of one building doesn't mean you're dismissing those of another. That's the kind of shut up and put up attitude that others are talking about.

Anonymous said...

You're right. But is smart? Prioritize what you really want and then look around and see what is realistically possible. Keep in mind the landscape you are playing in.


Anonymous said...

Not trying to be snarky here, but can anyone speak to what specifically the APP-AC has accomplished over the years? Anything tangible? I really, truly have no idea. I'm not disputing the value o f a group of "advocates" getting together to discuss the program and problems/good things therein, just wondering if there have been any real action as a result of their advocacy.
- NW parent

Anonymous said...

Re.: Hard to recruit volunteers for the APP AC
A friend of mine volunteered for one of the open APP AC parent rep positions this year and was declined with no explanation. Now, after reading this blog, I am thinking about the possible reasons:
- she is not part of the old boy network (true)
- she is too confrontational (maybe true)
- she wanted to represent our school APP parent and student body (true, stated in her letter of intent)
- was willing to give up her evening family time plus many hours from daily work (true)
- active on blogs (I don't think so)
- there were many other volunteers (possible but who knows, the decision process is not transparent)
Not a TM parent

dw said...

Nan, it seems the good ol' boys and girls comment caught way more of your attention than the meat of the comment. My bad, please go back and re-read it again, pretending it wasn't there.

It's not about the lack of effort by the group in general. Note that I said we should be thanking these people. Even the leadership. Particularly the leadership. But that doesn't mean another way wouldn't be better.

The point is, we've had a particular style of leadership that has dominated the group for well over a decade. That leadership has indeed rejected a number of applicants based on the impressions that those people might be too confrontational. See the 12:13 post for a likely example just this year. There are a lot of parents interested in these positions (this is by far the most active, involved parent body in the district!), but many are not interested in being muted when it comes time to take action. Some apply and are rejected, but many more do not apply at all.

The APP-AC doesn't always even represent the attitudes and interest of the APP families it represents. The best recent example is the potential of a north APP split. This was overwhelmingly rejected last year by a huge majority of the potentially affected families, yet the APP-AC write-up was a relatively "balanced" paper pointing out the benefits and drawbacks. It was frustrating to many families.

Also, the APP Split meeting that Hope For Change wrote about here earlier was dreadful. Jane Fellner basically told an audience of more than 400 APP parents packed in the cafeteria that they didn't really know what was good for them. Suck it up, it could be worse. That was a huge turn-off for many parents, and I think the APP-AC lost a ton of goodwill and credibility very quickly. I'm not sure it's recovered.

Note that I have never said I would push for a confrontational, aggressive committee, but I am saying that it would be good to openly discuss the role and capabilities of the group in general. Perhaps it turns out that most families want the committee to be more assertive. If that turns out to be the case, then what?

I am quite interested to see the look-and-feel of the committee this year, with a change in leadership. Trying to be optimistic.

dw said...

NW Parent,

The APP-AC has indeed had some "accomplishments" over the years. I would suggest that the IBX program at Ingraham was nurtured by Bob Vaughan and the committee, and it looks like it will be a Good Thing.

Unfortunately, it feels like much of what the committee does year after year is attempt to put out fires and mitigate damage. Trying to preserve the integrity of the program in the face of many detractors and antagonists around the district and city at large.

Even the IBX program was a response to overcrowding at Garfield and the likely alternative "solution" which would have been a N/S geographic split of high school.

So perhaps the accomplishments are not so obvious, but some may have allowed us to stay afloat rather than disappear entirely. Sad, huh?

Anonymous said...

dw and NW parent
I would also add the big step in math, that 6th graders can take Algebra 1 starting this year. This is a HUGE step and even though we can not say one single advocate for this step (because there were many for many years), but I feel that the APP AC had a part in this decision.

Anonymous said...

DW -- It looks like you might be conflating and confusing the APP AC and the ALPTF. Admittedly there was a great deal of overlap of people between the committee and the task force, but they were supposed to have different missions. For one, the ALPTF was tasked to address issues for all of advanced learning, including ALO and Spectrum. It was also tasked to plan for future APP delivery models assuming growth of the program, both north and South. That this devolved into a discussion solely about north end elementary APP doesn't mean the whole APP population isn't affected city-wide by the district's decision about how it will deliver advanced learning programs in the future. I believe the recommendation and vote you take particular objection to is the recommendation made by the ALPTF. Yet it seems your criticisms are directed at the APP AC instead. Maybe some of the anecdotes you mention are about the selection process for the ALPTF.


Anonymous said...


algebra 1 being offered for 6th graders is NOT new no matter how often Vaughan says it is. Prior to the split four years ago, there were several kids every year allowed to take Alg 1 in 6th grade.

What's new is AL using a non algebra readiness test in order to determine who gets in and who doesn't. All 5th graders used to be given an algebra readiness test in the spring of 5th grade and those who passed were allowed into Alg 1 the following year.

Using the MAP test and excluding teacher input is both a misuse of the MAP test and is disrespectful towards the teachers.

The decision was poor, and if I were in the APPAC I wouldn't want any "credit" for it.

Anonymous said...

OK, Anon at 9 48 pm, you seem to know more than I do, can you please tell us what was the APP AC's ANY accomplishment in the last couple of years?

Anonymous said...

The ability to take algebra 1 in 6th grade is new for us post-split families who were not given the option before. I think this was true at both washington and hims last year. My 6th grader last year was given a regular "math 8" assignment despite excellent math grades and a 5th grade map score well above 150. There was no spring math placement assessment, just an automatic assignment to math 8. I'm not aware that an option to take algebra was given to any of those kids. So, map may not be the best measure, but at least they are making it an option again. Whoever helped facilitate that change I wish my kid had that option to have her map score used, and I would be thankful to them for getting the class available again.

Middle school parent

Anonymous said...

Lots of people and groups said lots of things when we had an ugly cluster of meetings in advance of the split, inevitably the split happened, and perhaps with better outcomes than it would have if APP families had splintered into so many voices with each smaller goup lost sight of the greater good of APP.

That is the charter of the APP AC plain and simple, personalities aside, they keep an open avenue of communication with the district. If the ACC AP functioned any less diplomatically, the district would just shut the door.

What other parent group considers messages and requests through the filter of the WHOLE APP program? None that I know of. Just by nature of weighing impact across the program, some smaller groups will always be unhappy with the final outcomes.

Last year very strong single issue or single school groups asked the APP AC to be their mouth piece. In all cases, the APP AC stood strong and considered ALL angles. That is appropriate, as many less vocal groups and individuals would have been left in the dust if the APP AC didn't present balanced recommendations.

It is encouraging that there are so many posts here about how much input parents want to have in the APP AC, the next step is to show up for the meetings, which are often very sparsely attended...

Showing Up

dw said...

ALPTF is not APP AC said: It looks like you might be conflating and confusing the APP AC and the ALPTF. ... I believe the recommendation and vote you take particular objection to is the recommendation made by the ALPTF. Yet it seems your criticisms are directed at the APP AC instead. Maybe some of the anecdotes you mention are about the selection process for the ALPTF.

Well, you made me go back and look it up, since there was indeed a lot of overlap between the groups, but I was right.

Look at the APP AC mailing list, messages #62-64, in particular #63.

As an extension of the Advanced Learning Programs Task Force work, the APP AC has developed a list of pros and cons for current options being discussed for the north end APP elementary cohort, and maybe beyond.

This was an unfortunate example of highly biased work product. Most people will be able to easily look over the lists and see it, but I'm not going to get into a detailed point-by-point rundown. It's worth noting, though, that the committee was not of one mind with this document, but at the end of the day the leadership has the final say on what gets published. That's something everyone should take note of and remember.

dw said...


As far as I know, the APP AC had nothing to do with the changes in 6th grade math this year. It's mostly the result of a change in management downtown last year. In fact, I seem to remember that the APP AC was actually against letting the 6th graders move ahead, but I'd have to do some digging to get the facts on that.

But as 9:48 anonymous (pick a name!) said, What's new is AL using a non algebra readiness test in order to determine who gets in and who doesn't.

The situation is a mess. MAP is a terrible tool to use for this purpose. This needs to get fixed asap.

NW Parent and parent,

Something the APP AC does that's really great is they distribute program-related information on a regular basis via their HUGE mailing list. Not sure if that fits your definition of "accomplishment", but this is a valuable service that I'm quite thankful for. Yes, we can get information here and at the SSS blog, but the info that the APP AC publishes is (usually) accurate and well-vetted (the above example notwithstanding).

hschinske said... may be relevant here.

Helen Schinske

dw said...

Great thread Helen.

Folks, if you want some good historical conversation about the APP AC, particularly around the time of the split, go read through that (very long) thread.

The APP AC is what it is, and it provides a meaningful service. That said, (and this has been brought up before), perhaps we need a separate "advocacy" group. One that is created and managed by parents without the same types of privileges and constraints as the APP AC. A group like this could respond more meaningfully as far as truly representing the families when things get really bad. They could organize surveys, or even protests or boycotts, if desired. Things the APP AC really cannot do, given their position in the system.

A group like this could also include Spectrum families. The needs and agenda would certainly diverge at times (and could even conflict), but could potentially bring far greater numbers. Hard to know the best approach with that.

There really would just need to be a small handful of organizers, a place to meet and a mailing list. Thoughts?

ibx said...

APP AC was instrumental in creating the IBX pathway, and I appreciate them for it.

While I disagree philosopically that accelerated IBX should only be open to APP (I know a number of qualified kids who would have done very well, and by the time of high school think we should embrace anyone with passion for the work, let them keep up as able), I will say I was very impressed by Ingraham's Curriculum Night. What a finely-honed bunch of teachers working as hard as they can to provide rigor!

Ingraham IBX

Anonymous said...

Actually, IBX has the advantage (over GHS APP) of allowing new students in at 9th grade. The only catch is that they have to have scored over 95% on both the math and reading MAP tests in the spring of 7th grade. If so, they are allowed to take the cognitive test. Once again, MAP being used for something it's not designed for.

I'm also under the impression that the HIMS and WMS APP students are not required to reach those scores to be admitted to IBX. I expect almost all of them do, but it doesn't seem fair to apply that metric differently for different kids (and they could always go to GHS if they didn't get an IBX seat.)

IBX Watcher

Anonymous said...

How was the first APP AC meeting tonight?