Monday, October 1, 2012

APP at Lincoln for next five years?

According to a couple parents, Superintendent Banda sent out a letter indicating that APP elementary in the north will be staying at Lincoln for the next five years.

From one of the parents, quoting from the letter from Banda:
Specifically regarding the APP program, I want to provide the following updates:

-APP students will remain at Lincoln for the next five school years, including this year.
-If BEX IV is approved, staff recommend moving the current north end APP elementary students to a new Wilson-Pacific building (tentatively scheduled to open for the 2017-18 school year).
-Beyond the 2017-18 school year, in addition to Wilson-Pacific we might consider additional locations for APP if enrollment continues to increase or if recommendations to provide additional regional programs are made. That’s why it is important that we build flexibility into our BEX IV plan.
-I have also asked the capital planning staff to review options at the interim site to address concerns with the play area and lunchroom facilities.
Another parent read this and said:
We got a letter on Friday from Jose Banda saying:
1. Lincoln is it for the next five years
2. IF BEXIV passes, a single school at Wilson-Pacific is the plan, beginning 2017-18. Regional options are possible later.

1. the debate between the ALL APP Academy and regional schools is over.
2. there is no sibling co-attendance option for North.
3. No kindergarten at APP North.
4. We're talking 900-1000 students in a single elementary school at current course and speed.

Give credit for decisiveness, but this is a pretty profound decision with no process, and there are many, many unanswered questions.
Full text of the letter doesn't appear to be available easily but, if anyone finds it, please post it in the comments.

Update: The full letter. (thanks, SNAPP PTA!)

Update: Charlie Mas posts about this too over on Save Seattle Schools.


Anonymous said...

The letter is archived on the SNAPP PTA web site:


Anonymous said...

Better link (and fixed the spelling of Superintendent Banda's name):

Anonymous said...

Regarding this:

4. We're talking 900-1000 students in a single elementary school at current course and speed.

I don't think the APP program growth rates from the past two years is something that will continue in the future. There is theoretically a finite number of people who qualify for this program, and a number of qualified kids who are happy at their neighborhood schools and won't go to APP. I expect some growth due to the fact that there is now some certainty about the next few years from the district ( least I hope so), but nothing like the 100 new kids we had this year. Bigger, yes, but not 900 kids.

- Hooray for a somewhat-declarative letter from SPS

Anonymous said...

Wilson Pacific max is 650. They are also going to build another new school at Thornton Creek with also a max of 650. From what I read they are leaving it open to splitting APP again if needed when the new schools are ready. My prediction is that by that time we will have NW APP at Wilson Pacific and NE APP at Thornton Creek.

Anonymous said...

Two brand new schools for north elementary APP? Wow. That is quite a prediction. An abundance of riches for one program in a district that struggles with equity for all students.

Lori said...

I hope most people don't view this as "a profound decision with no process" as Greg quoted in the original post.

The process of finding us a permanent home started pretty much as soon as we got kicked out of Lowell! Parents advocated tirelessly all of last year, people volunteered for FACMAC and the ALTF to better understand the options and chart the course for the future, parents sent many emails, attended all sorts of meetings, and did whatever we had to to be heard. It feels more to me like we are *finally* making some progress after 2 long summers and 1 full school year begging for answers.

Anonymous said...

APP parents did not ask for a new building. We just ask for any place we can call home. How is it equitable that North APP gets pushed around and not have a real home or a name for another 4 years?

Anonymous said...

There is currently a petition being circulated about keeping the open space at Thornton Creek - it's used for soccer and little league baseball. Should the district move forward with their plans, it doesn't sound like the new school would be very welcome by the neighborhood.

dw said...

4. We're talking 900-1000 students in a single elementary school at current course and speed.

Sigh. This kind of nonsense is getting so tiresome.

I was going to paste links to a couple comments on the Young, Gifted and Neglected post, but might as well just copy them right here:


APP Parent said: By the time WP is built, APP elementary north will likely be over 600 kids.

I just can't let this comment go uncontested.

What on earth makes you say this? Why not 700? Or 800? At this rate by 2020 there will be at least 1,000 kids in north elementary APP alone! That should support at least 4-5 programs in the north end alone, and another 2-3 in the south!

Oh wait, that's what Spectrum was supposed to look like. :-(

APP growth is dependent on 4 things:
1) entry criteria (many changes over the years)
2) proximity/logistics (changed once, 3 years ago)
3) alternatives (being systematically killed around the city)
4) overall population/SPS growth

The only one of these that is NOT within the control of the district administration is #4. The first 3 items can be tweaked by the district at any time to slow down the ridiculous growth in this program.

It wasn't that many years ago that the entire population of APP elementary across the city was 375-400 kids. It didn't serve every last eligible child, but it served the vast majority and did a darn good job of it.


dw said...


do the math says: Absent a crystal ball, the best measure of projected APP growth in the next 5 years is looking at growth rates over the last five years, and looking at the size of 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade classes compared to earlier years

I suggest re-reading the post above. We're all perfectly capable of doing the math, but the math is worthless without understanding the underlying reasons and mechanisms for the changes.

Assuming future growth based on past growth is like betting on the stock market to rocket upward next year just because it did this year. I hope you don't do that!

Bottom line: There is not an infinite supply of highly gifted kids in Seattle!

Frankly, there are already way more kids enrolled in APP than would have been identified as highly gifted just a few years ago. Unless you think the trend of categorizing more and more kids as highly gifted will increase, that aspect of the "growth" must end.

The biggest worry is that the district continues to kill off Spectrum. That could lead to continued frustration and even more parents pushing their kids into APP when a strong Spectrum program would suit them well and keep them closer to home.

The only aspect of APP growth that isn't manageable by the district is #4, the overall growth in SPS population. We have a new Superintendent, and I don't think there's any way to predict, yet, what kind of AL policies he will put forth. However, roll-up of the existing grades 1-3 is a potential problem that needs to be looked at carefully. It could (should) be a temporary bulge, but it will indeed move up through the system for several years.

Anonymous said...

Question for you,
What alternative programs can keep down the growth of APP and how are they being killed? Im assuming you refer to spectrum and ALO, but what is actually happening with those two programs? I believe Whittier self-contained Spectrum is being continued. I don't even know that for sure however and I don't know if they have wait lists and are putting Spectrum or APP kids in gened. I'm curious what is happening in elementary schools regarding differentiation and walk-to classes. Anybody have firsthand knowledge from their school.

NW parent

NESeattleMom said...

Hi NW parent, Spectrum is at the whim of the principal. Wedgwood started phasing out a long-standing Spectrum self-contained model and started phasing in having some number of Spectrum kids in each class beginning with certain grades. The principal stopped it for the moment this year I think in order to reassess.
NE Seattle Mom

dw said...

NW Parent,

The most egregious examples were at Wedgwood and Lawton, where they are disbanding self-contained Spectrum (not long ago, self-contained was the definition of Spectrum) and just mixing the kids up and hoping they can provide some kind of meaningful differentiation. Eckstein was thwarted when they tried to do something similar a few years back, but they gave it a good effort.

The general lack of support around the district, and especially the uncertainty about Spectrum, (let alone ALO), leads families to look for other options. What stands out as an option right now for kids who are working ahead of grade level? Since everything else at least appears to be dying, either of neglect, ignorance or outright hostility, APP is pretty much the only game in town.

So a lot of kids who could have easily been served in a regional Spectrum program are now making the push to gain entry into APP. Many of them don't really need the specialized services that APP used to provide, but because the program is at least still alive and kicking (and much easier access now), that's where they'll end up. I don't bear any ill will toward these parents, they're just trying to do what's best for their kids; it's the system that's broken and drives them to do this.

But the story has a sad ending, because as more and more families opt into APP and it grows and splits into several buildings around the city, eventually it's only APP in name, and not reality. The current trajectory is for APP to become what Spectrum was a few years ago, with the APP kids sprinkled in for good measure. At that point APP will have truly dissolved into nothing.

dw said...

More directly to your question, and to fill in on what NESeattleMom said, at Wedgwood the plan was to phase out self-contained Spectrum classrooms year-by-year, starting with grades K and 1, moving up each year.

However, it was NOT done using SCGM (cluster grouping), but instead the principal (and I believe some staff) decided to mix the Spectrum kids equally in each classroom. This is, of course, the exact opposite of best practice!

This took place for a couple years, over the angry complaints of many parents, and many families just left. I'm not sure of the current status this year; if the principal has paused to assess (NESeattleMom, are you sure? Can anyone fill in some details on this?) that would potentially be good.

Anonymous said...

Some of what dw says rings true for our family - had Spectrum been stronger we may not have opted for APP. We agree that APP has changed over the years and is not serving or engaging the outliers as well. If your child is working beyond the current base APP level there are few school options. There is so much energy being put into managing the program growth that the actual program is suffering for it.

NESeattleMom said...

Hi dw, We are no longer at Wedgwood so I am hearing things info may not be totally current regarding this years Spectrum developments at Wedgwood.

Anonymous said...

I hear a lot of suggestions that APP has been weakened in recent years by admitting students who would not have qualified before. I knew there was an effort to increase identification of eligible kids, but can someone please clarify how the basic eligibility criteria have changed, if in fact that is the case?


Anonymous said...

Yes, what is now commonly called "growth" in APP is a direct result of a loosening of the entry requirements about 7 years ago (pre-Bob Vaughn.) This was done expressly for the purpose of increasing diversity in the APP population. The actual result is that the population swelled but remained constant in ethnic makeup.

This change dramatically impacted exactly the highly gifted students the program was designed to serve, those way out on the gifted spectrum, and this what leads many to refer to the program being watered down.


TechyMom said...

Just a reminder...
Today is the deadline for turning in Advanced Learning applications for students who want to test for Spectrum or APP placement for next year.

dw said...

Yes, what is now commonly called "growth" in APP is a direct result of a loosening of the entry requirements about 7 years ago (pre-Bob Vaughn.) This was done expressly for the purpose of increasing diversity in the APP population. The actual result is that the population swelled but remained constant in ethnic makeup.

I'll add a bit more:

There have been more changes than a single one 7 years ago, some of which have morphed and/or come and gone (98->95, non-verbal, 2 out of 3, probably several tweaks that we don't know about). And some have been on Bob Vaughan's watch (use of MAP, for example, which is terrible because of its unreliability when looking at a single test score).

The push a few years back for more racial diversity in APP did grow the population quite a bit, but the results weren't neutral. IIRC, it actually reduced the diversity, adding more white and asians proportionally than blacks and hispanics. The racial diversity component of APP is complex, nuanced and challenging. Trying to solve it by changing the entry criteria falls into the "All we have is a hammer, so everything looks like a nail" mentality.

Mercermom said...

If you wanted a smaller APP, you could also follow the lead of Portland and Shoreline (as I understand) and disallow any private appeals. On the other hand, you could ask whether achievement tests are a valid way to identify highly capable students, as that presumably rewards upper-income families who have been able to support achievement. While my APP experience is from the last five years, it's hard for me to believe it has been meaningfully weakened. Yes, there are always outliers who are way beyond their peers; but it is impossible that slightly changing the entry criteria has radically altered the population, given the margin of error that already exists on these test.

Rabbit said...

Private appeals testing gets even more kids in who both need some accommodation or are at the stratosphere level and kids who have parents who will see that they perform well. Let's face it, you don't need to be genius to do two years above standard curriculum. It may take tutoring by parents, but easy 30% of the kids in Seattle could accelerate 2 years. SPS has to get more rigorous work down to each and every elementary. Parents want it, that's what the big APP cohort is all about. These parents are not eletists and don't enjoy driving and losing touch with local kids. They do it because they feel strongly that education really matters and they cannot let the best public education for their kids go unused.

West Seattle Mom said...

Can I ask why someone would want a smaller APP? Would you support increasing admission requirements - even if it meant children already in the program would be retested in fifth and eighth grades? What if your children were at risk of losing their seat?

My own child has qualifying test scores - but attends a private school and we missed the opportunity to test into the program in the 7th grade. Given our personal experience of being excluded by the district's policies, it is painful to realize other parents (who know firsthand that highly gifted kids have special educational needs) support excluding others in the same situation.

I think it's easy to suggest tightening admission requirements after you're in. From the outside, I am all for changing the requirements - but allowing any student to test at any time.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it an issue of who APP is supposed to serve? If the focus is on highly academically gifted, the population should be fairly small, with instruction designed to meet the needs of this group that often has unique learning styles and would greatly benefit from a cohort of like thinkers. If it's just about providing access to higher level work--2 years beyond grade level--that's a different story, and there's likely a larger group of kids who could benefit. Then it becomes more of an overall district rigor issue though, doesn't it? I'm sure there are many kids who could be working at higher levels. If , as someone suggested, 30% could be working at APP levels, then APP is likely failing that smaller group of highly gifted kids, no?

Unclear on the goal here,

dw said...

MercerMom said: but it is impossible that slightly changing the entry criteria has radically altered the population, given the margin of error that already exists on these test.

Sorry, but you're quite wrong on this.

1) Yes, there is more margin of error than one would hope for, but because of the changes to the entry criteria (especially use of MAP), that has only gotten worse. When scores bounce both far above and far below a particular mark, the surface thinking is that it will make an equal amount of errors both on the plus side and the minus side. However, because kids test repeatedly, year after year, most of them will qualify in subsequent years after their scores recover or get a favorable bounce. That's the problem with a test like MAP that's not particularly reliable at a single point in time.

Let's illustrate visually, because it's more fun. Imagine you've got 100 kids and you want to select all of them above a certain height. But they're on a huge trampoline randomly bouncing up and down. So you pick an instant in time, take a photo of all the kids, then scoop out all those kids who are above a certain threshold height. Some kids are short and will never bounce high enough to hit the mark, others are very tall and will be above it most of the time, but many of them will bounce high enough to be included sometime and not other times. The higher the bounces (more deviation from "real" height at a given time), the more difficult it will be to get an accurate measure. But because you're going to take another photo next year of the same kids (plus more), then a big chunk of the ones who are at least able to jump high enough will make it into the photo, along with a bunch more that wouldn't make it if there was no bouncing involved.

Because the kids retest year after year, a test that bounces around doesn't equally favor/disfavor, instead it's like a ratchet. One single test equally favors/disfavors, but over time it ratchets in more and more kids; most kids who truly should be in the program do get in, but many more do as well.

2) Does this really change things? Absolutely. Pull up a normal distribution chart (here's a handy link: Standard Deviation Diagram )

Note the indicator for 2.1%, which is roughly where the suggested cut for highly gifted lies. If you bump down to, say 95-96%, you get to the 2-sigma line. I'm not going to do the math, but you can just look at it and see that the area under the curve between 2-sigma and the top 2 percent is much greater than the area above the top 2 percent.

What does that mean? It means that when standards are lowered, the majority of the kids will be those clustered BELOW the top 2 percent. From a practical perspective, if half the kids in your class are operating at a tight range of similar level (95-98) and the other half cover a hugely disparate range (again, look at the chart), guess how the class is going to be taught. I don't necessarily blame the teachers for this, they need to meet the needs of the kids in their classroom, and the classrooms are far more clustered around the lower end now than they were 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think some parents look at APP as a private school experience for their kids. They have to jump through lots of hoops, except the financial one, and their kids get rigorous work. The majority of kids in north APP do not require a special learning environment, I'm guessing, but they can do two grades above and their parents want them to do so. They aren't going to even get one grade above in most elementaries, again I'm guessing. I think the schools that have self-contained Spectrum or vigorous walk to programs will keep those kids who just need more rigor, but it's got to be math and read/write both. I would prefer a solid walk to plan as it gets more kids included, those who are single subject gifted and the high achievers who don't test into an AL program.
Can elementaries handle this burden? I think its going to happen if parents will demand that their kids get the academics at their nieborhood school. APP,is not going to morph into an alternate universe of self-contained satellites throughout the north end with parents essentially buying a place, like one gets a marijuana card. It just won't wash in Seattle. And sure lots of kids pass the district test for entrance but a,half hour of extra tutoring a day by a parent will get most any kid in at least Spectrum. If parents lare willing to pay the price to go APP that's great, but pushing for local rigor is an option that some will choose and, in my opinion, is what the district wants. Only with sready parent pressure will it happen. I think staff have different feelings about walk tods in elementary and those that support it need the strong backing of parents. So if you don't have walkto or want reading as well as math, make a little noise. Put the public in public schools.

Anonymous said...

@ Whisper, please give it a rest with the whole "APP parents are buying spots for their kids" bit. If you look at the eligibility criteria, variability in scores, and the fact that you can retest every year, of course there will be more kids qualifying that some thing think is legitimate. Until to have credible evidence of widespread fraud in the program, please do us all a favor and just let it go... Are you denying that there are a bunch of smart kids in Seattle? I just don't get it.

Also, while I suppose it's always possible that "some parents look at APP as a private school experience for their kids" as you suggest, it would sure have to be a pretty unimpressive private school! You know, one where you don't actually have a school building; where parents have to also give a lot of their time to make the school function, run fundraisers, etc.; where the math curriculum is awful and you don't have tuition payments as leverage for change; etc. To be honest, I have a hard time imagining that parents of APP kids could feel any other way than they are in a very public school setting and bureaucracy.

Not a fellow APP hater

Whisper said...

The points are,
APP will not become a group of schools full of kids who are just smart , it will return to serving the small number of very high abilitynst udents who cannot function well in a mainstream school.

Push for more rigorous classes in elementary and middle school

Walk tos in elementary work much better than clustering within a classroom, considering class size in Seattle.

Walk tos need parent support and even pressure.

Teachers need to explain how they feel about multiple walk tos

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem like there is a universally agreed standard of what the cutoff for "highly capable" should be. As someone whose child only tested once, pre-MAP, and who would have made the cutoff at the earlier entrance requirements, I don't see how my child's advanced learning experience has been meaningfully diminished by having the larger cohort, including kids who are in because the cutoffs were lowered. I'm especially happy about that if it allows some kids who test as highly capable in single subjects; but I think the criteria is still woefully inadequate in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Agreed I think the MAP and the achievement should be the least variable (achieving students really aren't an issue right? :-} )Based on what i have read/heard it is the highly gifted kids that suffer with the repetitive drill and kill work in gen ed classes and all the kids who would have made it there wasn't the dreaded EDM lowering their math scores...

That said drill and kill still lives in APP especially the higher elementary grades.

Disclosure: We have many kids in APP some before MAP some after; 1 privately tested for reading ( 2e child )who barely made it but all were well beyond the 2 sd for cognitive ability.

APP dad

Anonymous said...

I think it's time for a wholesale change 6th-12th grade in APP. Not sure how I feel about elementary, so addressing only the ages that kids can be expected to take charge of their own learning and roll up their sleeves: 6th - 12th grade.

The purpose of APP is to deliver educational services to those who can work at 2 yrs above grade level. It is not to serve only (the minute number of) children who are out-of-this-world bright.

In this iteration APP would be entirely opt-in. Let's get rid of the testing budget altogether and allow any 6th-12th grader who desires to work 2 yrs beyond grade level to do so. Yes, there will be a transitional period for new entrants and some people will not be able to keep up. Most children who commit to the elbow grease can do this 2-yr beyond work. Let's reward effort not sanctify a certain (very rare) type of intelligence as the only type deserving of this level of advanced rigor. Current brain research in fact demonstrates that rigorous curriculum actually raises IQ in the early teen years. For the bright but unmotivated: MS and high school options should include alternative pathways that appeal to multiple types of learners-- not just geared toward a certain type of tested intelligence. Let's put the focus on the programs and not the IQ-- let's have rigor at all levels, and particularly at a very high level for those that can keep pace.

BTW some might say that there is no APP at HS: not the case. IBX at Ingraham is open only to APP, and is very rigorous (which should be open to any student willing to do the work). At Garfield only APP students can take advantage of certain pathways and get pre-requisites knocked out so they can access the highest level courses.

This is not fair when many, many students could do this level of work. If many more students sign up for high-level work, then the solution is easy: create many more high-level classes.

I should also say that I think rigor should be upped for all students, and there are ways of doing so which I don't address here. This post is particular to the APP program.

Time to Change

Anonymous said...

The APP program (formerly IPP) was indeed started for those working more than 2 years ahead of age peers.

As the outgrowth of consultation and collaboration between the Child Development Research Group and the Seattle School District, a public school individual progress program (IPP) had also been established to serve students performing four or more grade levels in advance of their age mates. Faced with the future prospect of graduates from the IPP who would still be in their early teens, Robinson devised a program to enable highly gifted youngsters to enter the university as qualified regular students.

It has since evolved into a program that serves those two years ahead, with little differentiation for those working 4 years ahead.

The Optimal Match

The Uncommonly Bright Child

Anonymous said...

I agree that the APP program has morphed into a larger "catch-all" program in recent years and as a result has altered the level at which the curriculum is being delivered. More from the angle of the projects/discussions losing some depth (most likely due to the growth in population, two separate locations for the program at each level and the loss of many historical APP teachers) than the curriculum delivery actual changing.

For my children, it still offers them what they need to continue to be engaged; however, I can see how there is a small percentage of the APP students at the upper level (likely max of 10-20 per grade) that may not be getting what they used to be getting from the program.

There are examples of programs in other districts where these kids (top 1% of the 1%) are pulled into very small programs (look at PEGS in St. Louis) and work in classes of 8-10 kids, very independently, at their own pace. The requirement for entrance for PEGS (Program for Exceptionally Gifted) is 140+ IQ + additional observation and testing. The vast majority of the APP kids in Seattle would not test into this program.

Its not likely that the APP program will revert to serving only those kids anytime in the near future - not only due to available budgets but also due to the fact that SPS is a district that most likely would refuse to implement a broader program for the kids that fall between the 130-140 IQ range.

So - we all have to work with what we have - because it truly is better than what some districts offer and it continues to serve a large majority of the kids in the program fairly well. Definitely can use some improvements, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not the right solution in my view.

-APP Parent to two

Anonymous said...

Oh please, stop with blaming the APP explosion to lowering the standard to let in more minorities. This assumption makes it that much harder for kids of color to learn or be accepted. IT just doesn't wash even from the get go and doesn't make any sense as schools with high FRL and non whites (aka southend schools) had no REAL advanced learning programs for kids until very recently. Even if you have a smart kid from birth, you have to nurture that ability, just like athletic or musical ones. If you can't get that from the local school or at home because your parents aren't college grads and don't have the means to supplement at home, it stagnates. There's no pipeline from these schools to feed into APP so you don't have to worry.

But hey, keep repeating and it becomes true, right?

tired of the blame

Lori said...

The purpose of APP is to deliver educational services to those who can work at 2 yrs above grade level. It is not to serve only (the minute number of) children who are out-of-this-world bright.

I don't think that that *should* be the purpose of APP, to simply offer work 2 years above grade level.

The purpose of APP should be to meet the academic and social needs of high-ability/gifted children who learn in a different way than their age peers. One of the key differences between this group and their age peers is pacing; high-ability kids can master material in very few repetitions and can therefore move through a curriculum more quickly. That's why it's called the accelerated progress program. They don't start with 3rd grade material in 1st grade, but they do move thru the materials more quickly, covering more than 1 grade level of material in an academic year. With time, they end up "working 2 years" ahead.

The need for a quicker pace is why grade-skipping alone is not always effective for some high-ability kids: even though the material offers more challenge, the pace is still too slow. A 4th grader sent to 6th grade math in their neighborhood school might still become bored because they master the material relatively quickly.

I have no doubts at all that a lot of bright kids (using terminology from Dr. Brulles who visited Seattle last year to discuss her cluster-grouping model) can indeed handle material that is above grade level. According to Dr. Brulles, bright kids work hard and learn with ease, but they may need 6-8 repetitions to master material, whereas gifted kids need only 1-2 repetitions. If a bright kid enters Kindergarten ready for 1st grade material, they should have access to it!

But at the end of the day, the issue still comes down to pacing. Do you ask the gifted child to go at a slower pace and risk having them tune out simply because you want to keep them in a local school? Or do you put that kid in an environment with peers who also learn at a rapid pace?

Do you put the bright kid into that accelerated environment and risk that they fail to master the material because the pace is too quick? Or do you give that child appropriate challenge at the right pace that teaches to mastery?

I think that these differences in pacing were what lead to our current system that has APP as well as local Spectrum and ALO options. Rather than dismantling APP, we should all be fighting to improve Spectrum and ALO and making sure that all kids, regardless of school or program, are being challenged right at the edge of their abilities and at an appropriate pace, breadth, and depth.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't have to be either or - the district can serve those working working 2 years ahead, while also working to serve those outside of the narrowly defined APP curriculum. It's possible, but it doesn't seem that there's interest on part of the district.

Anonymous said...

I've worked with refugees and low income families to find schooling, healthcare, housing, and employment. I see folks with all sort of impediments, the least of it is their intelligence. I've tutored kids who speaks 2 or 3 different languages. Some of these kids speak colloquial English with American accent, but lack good English grammar and extensive vocab. It's not because they are not smart enough, but lack the exposure and correction at school and home. These kids are not obvious candidates for cognitive testing unless you are around these kids and get to know them and their families.

By their requests, I've helped these families fill out applications to private and parochial schools because these schools actively seek out these kids in these communities where words of mouth rule. Some of these kids are accepted because despite their uneven ISEE scores (high in math, but so-so in verbal) and school record. The schools took them and help them beef up their skills because these kids are exceptionally bright and are able to learn and make corrections very quickly. If you had the opportunity to follow up with some of these kids and read their writing, look at how they fare at local university, cheer them on at chess tournament and science fair, you wouldn't know based on their standardized tests or their work at 3rd or 5th grade, they would be where they are today.

And if you were to judge these kids at a glance, you would conclude wrongly that they aren't "APP material". My experience is of course anecdotal. That's life, but I don't believe in compounding life's unfairness by repeating stereotypes. I often wonder how many APP kids who come from better schools and position of greater advantage would fare if their fortunes were reversed.

The advantage of widening your horizon is you get to see the unexpected or at least the unexpected in your daily world and there's value in that.


Maureen said...

I really like dw's explanation. It makes it pretty obvious that some kids get in on appeal because their parents can get them more turns on the trampoline. That isn't exactly buying a space and it doesn't involve crooked psychologists, but it means that families with more resources are more likely to be over represented in APP.

I know a kid who tested in (via SPS testing) in 2nd grade, didn't quite make the APP math cognitive cut in 5th grade and wasn't eligible to test for IBX in 8th grade because their MAP math scores didn't quite make the cut. Either getting off the trampoline in 2nd grade, or buying a few more bounces later probably would have got them a spot. It was the same bright, brilliant in some ways, kid in every one of those years. The kid landed among a bunch of bright kids and demanding teachers and has done fine.

The purpose of APP is to deliver educational services to those who can work at 2 yrs above grade level. It is not to serve only (the minute number of) children who are out-of-this-world bright.

I disagree with this, and in fact don't think the entrance criteria really sort for this. There are loads of bright kids in SPS who could work two grades ahead of standard curriculum who can't test in and there are probably some who can test in but get no joy from working two grades ahead--they want depth not acceleration. Spectrum should be about acceleration and APP should be for the kids who learn differently. I expect there are ways to test or at least screen for this that SPS doesn't try to attempt.

hschinske said...

The whole "one year ahead," "two years ahead" thing is just a dumb rule of thumb. It is NOT supposed to be a straitjacket. The main advantage of APP (or any gifted program) is supposed to be that advanced curriculum is offered in a DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE WAY -- so that you're not holding kids back intellectually just because most of them don't have the executive function skills and so forth to handle going into a higher grade directly.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

hey: "tired of the blame" NO ONE is trying to block kids of color from APP, or even blame anyone for the fact that in an effort to make the program more inclusive, the qualifications were changed.

The problem is the results-the program got bigger but not more diverse-that is a nonjudgemental fact. We are talking data not color on this point.

I have seen the numbers and graphs with my own two eyes, while the changes were made years ago, and then when the results were discussed.

Since adjusting the entry level didn't have the intended outcome, how about changing it back?


Anonymous said...

in response to "tired"

I'm sure you are right that there are tons of kids of color who have the intellect for APP and my not have all the cultural elements that some white kids arrive at school with.

What is problematic in your proposition is your reference to those kids needing help in getting up to speed. Color aside, where does that leave the kids who are all ready to go? Should they just wait around, or fall into the all to often trap that APP qualified kids do, they can "help/coach/tudor" rather than learn what they are ready to?

What makes me tired is the constant beating on the families of kids who have IQs in the 150+ range. The messages are pervasive that our kids don't deserve to have services that are appropriate for them.

I think we can all agree that bi-lingual kids need approriate services, special-ed kids need appropriate services, kids who don't have food to eat at home need special services, kids who are crazy good at basketball deserve a chance to join a team, and kids who have off the chart IQS need an appropriate services too.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure being a parent of a child with an IQ of 150+ comes with a lot of challenges. You really have to look beyond traditional public and even private schooling for these exceptionally gifted kids. I don't doubt as a parent you have to cobble resources outside APP to get your child's learning needs met. I don't envy you for that.

I wrote because like your child, these kids don't fit easily into our increasingly standardized testing and one size fits all system. I think APP is going through such struggle because it has become more and more the "catch all" for advanced learning (even though my point is, it doesn't really catch all).


Anonymous said...

Oldtimer, the issue isn't about lowering the bar for entry, but how accurate is our testing for students who are not English fluent (as it takes 4-10 years to develop cognitive academic language fluency). How accurate is it for even native born, but who may be dyslexic or LD? MAP testing is ability testing and is verbally heavy even in the math component. Using MAP as a gatekeeper will not catch these kids. CogAT has a nonverbal component, but how accurate is it vs. NNAT?


Anonymous said...

Isn't the most recent version (7) supposed to be better for non-native speakers? I think the district is still using v5.

Anonymous said...



Time to open up APP to any child who wants to work on advanced, challenging work at an accelerated pace. Lots of kids can do this work, can keep up-- and should be permitted to.

Also tired

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg Linden said...

From the moderator:

Looks like it is time to intervene here. I deleted the comment above, which was anonymous and filled with ad hominem attacks. This blog allows anonymous comments to ease discussion, but please don't use anonymity as a shield for lobbing personal attacks.

This thread has gotten pretty badly off track from its original goal of discussing the plan to keep APP elementary in the north at Lincoln for 3-5 years and whether that is a good thing.

But there seem to be some people interested in discussing the entry criteria for APP, how it could be changed, and what the goals should be on any change? Should I start a new thread on that topic?

Anonymous said...

I really want to say "yes" Greg about a new thread as you suggest, but there is such a broad based misunderstanding about what APP is designed to do, I'm not sure it is worth trying to fight against parents who think it is something that would or should work for all.

Maybe a thread for parents who want to talk about creating a new program that accomodates students who want to work above grade level but aren't encombered with the intellectual problems that APP students are. Just an idea :)

hschinske said...

oldtimer wrote: Yes, what is now commonly called "growth" in APP is a direct result of a loosening of the entry requirements about 7 years ago (pre-Bob Vaughn.)

Not true -- the cutoff was at 95th for achievement years before that. The district used to mask the cutoffs by only ever reporting the percentiles for those admitted, which jumped around a little from year to year, but were typically 97th or 98th.

There have been a lot of changes in which achievement tests are used, but the kid still has to have gotten 95th percentile on something. (For a while, of course, it was the WASL, which didn't have meaningful percentile scores at all, but that's another whole rant.) See the thread at for more discussion of this issue. It was also discussed more recently at

Presumably in the IPP days there were more stringent requirements, but that's a looooong time back now.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

Oh, and incidentally, Bob Vaughan was the head of Highly Capable Services (as it was then called) before for many years -- he was kicked out and then called back after a while. Overall, as far as I know, he's the longest-running head.

Helen Schinske

Greg Linden said...

Okay, I've created a new thread, "What is APP for and who should be in it", for that discussion. Please move all comments on that topic over there.

Let's get this thread back on discussion of having elementary APP at Lincoln for at least the next few years.

apparent said...

Superintendent Banda’s two recent letters announce the District’s current plan which is to split north Seattle elementary APP into two locations beginning as early as school year 2018-19. The earlier of these two recent letters, addressed to APP parents, is very carefully written so that casual readers gain an opposite impression, making them more likely to approve the pending BEX IV levy.

In his September 28, 2012 letter, Superintendent Banda assures us that he knows our unstable history and that “a permanent location” for “[]our students” is “important,” yet in the next breath he adds that the BEX IV plan must include “flexibility” so as to achieve “equity to programs” throughout SPS, including “access” to advanced learning programs. Superintendent Banda then provides the following “updates” specific to the APP program: Assuming passage of BEX IV, SPS staff are recommending moving “the current” north end APP elementary students to the new Wilson-Pacific Elementary building from 2017.

But wait! Just one year later, from 2018, even without any APP student increase, Superintendent Banda says that in addition to Wilson-Pacific “if recommendations to provide additional regional programs are made,” then “we might consider additional locations for APP . . . .” (Superintendent Banda adds that this would also happen “if enrollment continues to increase.”) And then presuming these “additional locations,” Superintendent Banda explains “[t]hat’s why it is important that we build flexibility into our BEX IV plan.” Before concluding, he then refers to finalizing a new school board policy on “Equitable Access to Programs and Services,” informed by “staff” and “other community input” among various sources.

In his later October 9, 2012 open letter to all Seattle families announcing a BEX IV levy projects “update” on all buildings planned, Superintendent Banda never once mentions elementary APP. Describing the planned new 500/650-seat Wilson-Pacific Elementary in northwest Seattle, he says “Replace building with a new elementary and a new middle school for additional capacity by 2017,” without identifying any likely student occupants or whether that elementary location will be shared. Earlier BEX IV spreadsheet scenarios mentioned “Wilson Elementary–APP” in an interim location until the new building opens, but conspicuously all such building identifiers have since been deleted. Superintendent Banda is equally coy about the likely student occupants of the planned new Thornton Creek Elementary school in northeast Seattle, “[t]o meet growing capacity, add K-5 school on Thornton Creek site by 2016.”

Superintendent Banda explains that these and other projects are being chosen under four criteria including “maximizing flexibility for programs” as well as safety, capacity, and building condition. He later repeats this “Capacity flexibility” mantra, including building larger core facilities to provide for expansion, but also “including academic program placement . . . close to where families live.” Recalling his earlier letter to APP parents, this means splitting north end elementary into unspecified “additional regional programs” beyond Wilson-Pacific (perhaps Thornton Creek, any others?) if “recommendations” are made to increase (geographic) “access to advanced learning programs,” including APP.

continued . . .

apparent said...

. . . continued

Similarly, Question 21 on the BEX IV webpage answers the frequently asked question “What’s the plan for APP . . .?” with this response: “The current BEX IV proposal develops sufficient capacity to house anticipated enrollment growth in all areas of SPS. APP is a subset of the total enrollment, and there will be sufficient new seats to house APP at permanent location(s).”

It is evident from all these carefully worded sentences that unless Superintendent Banda changes current SPS plans, the north seattle elementary APP cohort will enjoy a 1-year sojourn together at Wilson-Pacific before it is split soon afterwards into two (or more) smaller “additional regional programs,” just like Spectrum. For those parents above who complain about a lack of academic rigor in APPatLincoln, rather than blaming elementary classmates who continue to qualify based on unchanged standards (98+/95+/95+) that have in fact all been in place for many, many years: Would it not be much more plausible simply to acknowledge that the central and school administration at Lincoln have yet to recreate the strong APP learning culture at Lowell (and now TM), while they busily “plan” for yet another split as early as 2018.

So why does the parent quoted by Greg to open this thread claim “1. the debate between the ALL APP Academy and regional schools is over.” Perhaps, but most certainly not because Superintendent Banda currently plans to keep north end elementary APP all together in a new Wilson-Pacific building.

Anonymous said...

I was at the district talk at Hamilton this week. When Mr. Banda spoke, he said it was "unfair" that siblings didn't get to go to the same school as APP. Clearly, he was referring to elementary APP, and that 'sibling' thing was only for available since the Maria Goodloe Johnson years when cohousing was implemented after she spilt it to Thurgood Marshall and ushered in the New Student Assignment plan (which ironically KILLED the sibling guarantee -- how's that for irony?). Well, cohousing lasted all of three years at Lowell, and I wonder how many "non-APP" APP siblings are at Thurgood Marshall. Yes, he was talking multi splits reading between the lines. So you bet, he clearly has it on his 'to do' list. Can I prove it? No. But, the was my read of his comments. Yes, they want the BEX vote, because kids needs buildings. So, where does that leave an ed voter who can't get a letter from the Super clearly stating the school's status is a school, and thereby fixing Lowell's mess and the District's own stated promise to make the schools schools? Not sure. Send the letter out, and I'll vote my usual pro-levy yes. But, be silent, or deny school status, and the pro-levy vote goes silent too.

--do I look stupid?

Lori said...

Here's a quote from the West Seattle blog's reporting on the recent community meeting with Superintendent Banda:

"Overall, in terms of equity, he said, having programs like international schools and STEM and APP, is making sure everyone has access to them, that they are not just in certain areas. “How do you distribute them across the district?”

Board members are also now stating their preference for having APP sites in all 5 major geographic regions of the city (NE, NW, central, SE, SW) so I think the writing is on the wall.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Anonymous said...

There is a recent post on the Seattle Schools Community Forum about APP@Lincoln and Lowell still being one school on paper. Apparently this is keeping Lowell from receiving Title I funding. Is anything being done at Lincoln to advocate for the separation?

Lori said...

oh, and thanks to the commenter called do I look stupid for the report from the HIMS meeting.

I'd like to point out that while it may seem "unfair" to someone new to the district to separate APP kids from their siblings, it must be poined out that every APP child is there because their parents made a choice. They choose to put their APP child into what they believed would be a more appropriate educational environment, even though that generally meant for some families that they'd have kids at 2 (or more) schools.

I have not heard fellow APP parents with kids at two school lamenting their choice. In fact, I've spoken to several who made their choice based on what was best for each individual child, not what was easiest logistically for the family.

And, I think it's worth pointing out too that the district had no qualms intentionally separating siblings during the NSAP transition. Neighborhood kids had priority over siblings at the overcrowded schools, and parents who desperately wanted their kids in the same school could only hope that waiting lists would move.

So changing the system to keep families together who intentionally put their kids in different schools makes no sense, particularly when families who wanted to be at one school were intentionally divided up!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure those were his exact words in reference to his definition of equity - I thought he said access to advanced learning programs, not specifically APP, but my notes are incomplete. The rest of what I caught was "What is equity?...groups of students being left behind...[more of an] opportunity gap."

I left not knowing what the intentions were for APP, but did get a feeling of more splits in the future. It's hard to know what's in store since the head of Teaching and Learning has yet to be hired. You don't know what biases they will bring that will shape advanced learning in the next few years, for better or worse. Will he hire someone that supports gifted programming? That's the big question for me.

If you look at Shoreline, they have smaller cohorts of gifted classes, but they also have a curriculum that's designed for split grade level classrooms (which would inevitably happen with smaller cohorts). Since Advanced Learning has yet to define a year-by-year curriculum for the existing program, it's difficult to see one being developed in time for more splits and possible split grade level classrooms.

What's whacky about the international schools, like JSIS, is that you have a neighborhood school with boundaries that should really be an option school. There is not equal access for JSIS because it's a neighborhood school with boundaries. APP does not limit access. If you qualify, you have a spot. Even with Spectrum, you're not guaranteed a spot. So when there's discussion about "equity," it should look at how all of advanced learning is structured and accessed, not just APP.

If you're asking what you can do, perhaps write Banda about what you wish to see in the next head of Teaching and Learning. Hopefully it's someone who meets students needs across the spectrum - they will provide meaningful supports for those not up to grade level, they will strengthen the district curriculum for everyone (better math as a start), and they will support programming for those working above grade level.

NESeattleMom said...

Our family is in its 9th year in APP. I know many families with one child in APP and one child in their neighborhood school or some other Seattle Public School that is well-matched for their other child's learning style, personality or needs. Never has one of them complained that they "wished" their other child could be in the same building as their APP sibling. They still had their neighborhood school attachments and they were making new connections within the APP community.

NESeattleMom said...

As far as Superindentent Banda saying it is not "fair" for the families to not have their non-APP and APP children in the same school, "fair" is a totally loaded word. It is not "fair" that there is a big achievement gap due to poverty, family history, etc. To solve that problem it has start in the birth to 5 y.o. period.

dw said...

NESeattleMom said: Our family is in its 9th year in APP. I know many families with one child in APP and one child in their neighborhood school or some other Seattle Public School that is well-matched for their other child's learning style, personality or needs. Never has one of them complained that they "wished" their other child could be in the same building as their APP sibling. They still had their neighborhood school attachments and they were making new connections within the APP community.

This is important info to get out to your school board directors at their community meetings. It's also VERY important for everyone reading here to let Superintendent Banda know this personally. So try to talk with him at the various meetings he's having around the district or send him an email. It's things like this that will get our program split again if they're left uncorrected.