Friday, August 23, 2013

Open thread

School starts soon.  What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the schedule for determining the future middle school pathway(s) for north APP?


Anonymous said...

Community meetings on growth boundaries:

Sept 23 @Mercer
Sept 24 @Nathan Hale
Sept 25 @WSHS
Sept 30 @Meany
Oct 1 @Ballard

A timeline is linked at the bottom of the page.

Greg Linden said...

Melissa Westbrook posted this recently, let me put a copy of it here:

Both APP and Spectrum have advisory groups composed of parents and teachers. Contact the APP Advisory Committee through Chairman Bruce Baker-Harvey at
or Communications Representative Robert Njegovan at

Spectrum and ALO advisory groups are in the process of being re-formed. If you are interested in participating, please e-mail Advanced Learning consulting teacher Roger Daniels,, after Sept. 4.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about the lack of progress in replacing Bob Vaughn. I'm also dismayed at the sloppiness of the job description posted online. I wouldn't want to wrote for the person who wrote that.


Anonymous said...

Christine Helm will be the Assistant Principal at Thurgood Marshall this year.

Bruce B said...

Lynn- I agree, the job description for "Supervisor-Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs" ( is incredibly sloppy.

The worst thing is the unrelentingly abstruse jargon, but even if you accept that as inevitable, it's awful in so many more ways. It goes back and forth between 2 fonts. It has typos ("regulat"). It has inexplicable line breaks, spaces, and lack thereof. It is organized more randomly than my son's Lego collection. It's ridiculously redundant; it even repeats one sentence twice in a row (under "Years of Experience").

Whoever conceived, wrote, edited, or posted this embarrassment needs to repeat third grade. I would say kindergarten but I don't want to exaggerate; third grade would be about right.

Oh, and it's a failure in math as well as writing. The total times for the 9 job functions add up to only 85%, and only 50% directly contribute to learning, with the remaining 35% (items #5-9) focusing on data-gathering and the like. Perhaps the successful candidate is expected to spend the remaining 15% trying to figure out what his/her job actually is, because this document certainly doesn't say it.

Anonymous said...

And now I see my own typo above...

It was actually painful to read - took me several attempts to make it all the way through. Stephen Martin is listed as the Interim Supervisor of Highly Capable Services now.

Advanced Learning Staff Directory
Stephen B. Martin
Interim Supervisor,
Highly Capable Services
Phone: (206) 252-0130


Anonymous said...

Did your HIMS APP student get a summer reading assignment?

Mr. Schmitz, 8th grade Social Studies teacher, would like to remind his incoming APP students that they have only one week remaining to finish their summer reading assignment. The completed worksheets for each chapter of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel must be turned-in on the first day of school.

HIMS 8 said...

That assignment is for 8th grade APP students at Washington Middle School. He is a teacher there. We know someone there who has been reading it this summer. It's not for HIMS.

Anonymous said...

Why do LA/SS assignments and course materials continue to be quite different for HIMS and WMS APP?

Anonymous said...

The WMS APP students have read Guns, Germs and Steel for years. Doing it over the summer was new last year.

Reports were from our child that Hamilton watched the movie...not quite the same thing I wouldn't think.

-Former WMS Parent

Anonymous said...

HIMS policy doesn't allow summer HW.

Incoming APP 7th graders used to be asked to read the Odyssey, too. Now that's reserved for HS.

HIMS kids saw sections of the movie (no full movies at HIMS) and read a Jared Diamond article that distilled the Guns, Germs, Steel concept and wrote an essay responding.


Anonymous said...

Re-posting from SSS blog:

Here's a question,

If we are trying to improve access to Advanced Learning programs and get the word out to under-represented groups, why was the due date for the paperwork left off the wall calendar?

The district calendar is One of the few things sent to EVERY family. The due date for AL testing applications is usually the first week of October, and unless you are "in the know" it slips by until another year. This omission is a real equity issue! Teachers need to fill out forms for students that that they have only known a month and the deadline is not on the calendar.

This deadline was always on the calendar in the past until last year. I started to give Bob Vaughan a hard time about the omission but he told me that he had submitted the information to the calendar people on time just like always, but they had left it off and just shrugged when he confronted them. He was mad too. And now we are between AL directors, it's happened again!

This shows a real lack of commitment to diversity in AL by the district. HMM may gripe about heat maps, but you can't get your kid tested if the district doesn't tell you about the test! And don't count on a frazzled teacher in the first couple of weeks to know how to identify and nominate a kid he or she just met. Especially if job performance will be based on the class test scores.

open ears

WV says "apsient"

Anonymous said...

If the school's HW policy is limiting services, perhaps the policy needs to be changed. This is not the first HIMS "policy" that would need challenging.

WMS students read the book in its entirety, while at HIMS they watch snippets of a movie and read a summary of the book? WTF. Not the same educational experience. The video policy was put in place because of excessive video usage...I'd prefer more reading and less video watching.


Anonymous said...

To annoyed and Sidneyd:
I agree with both of you and would add only one more thing: there was no discussion in HIMS (at least in my student's class) about the summary of the Jared Diamond piece which made my student really annoyed since some of her classmates explained the meaning of the article exactly the opposite than her. But to be positive: at least the 8th graders did similar projects last year in both middle school (that didn't happen in the previous year in 7th grade).

Anonymous said...

Last year in 7th grade at HIMS, one classroom had the same texts as WMS and a teacher very familiar with WMS 7th grade curriculum and in regular communication with WMS teachers. The other class had a new-to-the-program teacher who covered the same concepts and time periods using different materials and on a slightly different schedule. They met after school once a week to share and plan but covered the material in different ways. Please also remember the loss of Ms. Shadow's mentorship last year which no one could have foreseen and please cut some slack. Wishing that class a fabulous and predictable 9th grade.


Anonymous said...

To SidneyD:
The situation you described in your previous post was only true for the second semester IMO. In the first semester 3 classes had different and random subs almost every week in LASS. Unfortunately these subs didn't even had the knowledge of the HIMS APP LASS curriculum, not even talking about the WMS's. The students in those classes involved really need your well wishes for the upcoming 9th grade both at GHS and IHS.

Anonymous said...

In the 2007 review of APP, a middle school administrator made this comment:

"Because the program is now housed in one place, the APP curriculum is entirely dependent on one teacher. When that teacher leaves, the curriculum leaves with them."

This is essentially what came to be, albeit not in a way anyone had anticipated. The APP LA/SS curriculum and materials are not clearly defined or consistent among classes.

Another comment from a high school student regarding middle school teachers:

[they] "teach whatever they want so we don't all come prepared in the same way. The teachers don't coordinate the curriculum. There is no set curriculum and some things we were taught have turned out to be wrong."

The recommendations state:

Specifically note that we are NOT advocating for a scripted curriculum for the APP, but are recommending that a common vision, outcome goals, and curriculum framework will be safeguards to ensure that all APP students are provided with equally rigorous curriculum....In the absence of guiding documents and tools, the issue of highly variable teachers will create exponentially larger issues for ensuring quality curriculum experiences for all APP students."

There's more, but you get the idea.

hschinske said...

Please also remember the loss of Ms. Shadow's mentorship last year which no one could have foreseen

How could anyone have foreseen anything else? I was frankly absolutely amazed that she lasted as long as she did. She was obviously ill for so long and it was heartrending to see how long she pushed herself to keep teaching.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

What's the big deal? Just get the books and have the kids read them. My kid read the Odyssey in 7th grade during her Greek myths phase. If you like Diamond unabridged, have at it. Add on some Stephen Jay Gould and Hawking on top and you'll wow them if you want to keep up with the joneses. Otherwise, I say encourage kids to read what they love and stop worrying what WMS or HIMS is doing.

Not worried

Anonymous said...

It's not about "keeping up" but keeping engaged. Reading the Odyssey as part of class and discussing it is much more interesting than watching some movie clips of it. We didn't choose APP so our child could primarily watch movie versions of great works of literature.

-not swayed

Anonymous said...

Short of homeschooling, you aren't in control of the curriculum. However, there's nothing stopping people from reading on their own. Why wait for reading assignment and classroom discussions? You can do it with your own kids or they can do it among themselves. Playing chauffeur, I stay mute and listen in and I'm always amazed with the kids' conversation about books, music, movies, people and exchanges of opinions. The conversations can get pretty intense and thoughtful....even over macklemore lyrics. Lots of parallels being made and opinion essay/critique expressed verbally. It might not be the Socratic cirlcle discussing "As I Lay Dying" (about killed all of us in 9th grade at the time), but their brains aren't idling either.

not worried

Anonymous said...

My child does read outside of school, but that's not the point. The discussion is about what happens in the classroom. No, parents aren't in control of the curriculum, but they can have a reasonable expectation about the quality and coverage of material in the classroom. For math and science, there are approved texts and corresponding state standards. For APP LA/SS, it's not as defined because the whole two-year ahead description would suggest covering high school material, yet the approved high school materials aren't supposed to be used in middle school (Romeo and Juliet, for example). APP then needs their own curriculum, yet what is it? As the original APP site, you'd think WMS' APP curriculum would be the APP curriculum, yes? What happens when APP splits yet again? What are new teachers to follow? It matters and parents should be concerned.

-not swayed

Anonymous said...

And without a clear sense as to even the basic curriculum framework in APP, it's hard for parents to know how to help their kids supplement/enrich their class work. If we were able to access the year's plan up front--and see, for example, that WMS students were reading book x but HIMS students were just reading and excerpt or watching part of a movie instead--we could then make a decision to support our child in reading the book and discussing it with them. In the absence of that info, however, parents are always a step behind, thinking "gee, if only we had thought to have them read x over break..." Trying to tack things on after the fact isn't nearly as effective--and it's a lot harder to get buy-in from busy kids, who have already moved on to the next topic.

Since the Board seems to be so big on the issue of "equity" these days, perhaps we need to start reframing the lack of a consistent APP curriculum as in equity. It sounds like there may be serious differences in the academic rigor of the two MS programs. Then again, how are parents really to judge, since it's all a mystery and anecdotes...?


Anonymous said...

Brag much?


Anonymous said...

It isn't a lot of work to research for recommended reading list by grade and AP lit courses. Google for them, look up best school districts C&I around the country, and check out ED Hirsch jr. You can grumble about the lack, but in the meantime, why wait?

Or is this the fear that somehow one school program may not be as strong as another? Or perhaps getting a weaker teacher within a school? I can see how you might feel better if you were assured everything is the same between the two schools and in all classes. Reading the same book, doing the same project. A peace of mind for those looking for all things equal. But learning is highly individualized and throw in human nature and some people will always be looking over the shoulder.

Education is lifelong and ebbs and flows all around us. I guess I take the long perspective.

not worried

Greg Linden said...

Moderator here. Please be civil. If you are anonymous, please think twice before posting anything that might be viewed as an insult (anonymity shouldn't be used to lob personal attacks on others). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

@ not worried,

Of course you can look of recommended reading lists by grade, but that's not really what we're talking about since APP LA/SS courses generally don't cover the classics or other college prep lit. Yes, that would be grade-appropriate enrichment, and it's great for summertime reading, but that reading doesn't complement and enrich what they are covering--or not--at school.

Your argument seems to be that the curriculum itself is irrelevant, because kids/parents can design it themselves via outside supplementation? Do you think it's silly to expect the basic APP curriculum at one school to be somewhat equivalent to that at another? Would you feel the same about Geometry class that used an actual textbook and had students do exercises in one school, while in another they just watched geometry-related videos? Are they really going to come away with the same depth of understanding and/or level of engagement?

You seem to be making this about some sort of parent-driven competitiveness or keeping up with the Joneses, but I'm not sure where that's coming from... For me, my concern is driven by my child's interest in a rigorous, academically challenging program. You know, reading and discussing things with peers and instructors, thinking deeply about them, then working to develop well-reasoned and well-written responses. Naturally there will be school-based differences in the quality of teachers and their delivery of the curriculum, and that's fine--but it seems wrong that the basic curriculum on which this instruction is based is not consistent. (Maybe if you could convince me that differences such as read the book vs. read the excerpt are based on teachers' careful assessment of the needs of their individual students, perhaps, but I sincerely doubt that's the case.) AP courses should have the same level of rigor regardless of school, so why not APP courses? Especially with further APP splits likely, the need for an APP curriculum seems clearer than ever.


Anonymous said...

Ach, my point is don't wait for things to happen or catch up. Be proactive. If your kids love to read and is interested in Diamond's type of book, that's a starting point. Find whatever and wherever your child's starting point is and work from there. Teachers may modify coursework for many reasons, particularly when there's no C&I.

As to the comparisons, there has been a fair bit from ES to HS. Within these threads, there were strong bits of which program at what school has the edge. It's not sports rivalry, but academic. It isn't a bad thing, but just as in sports, I try to keep it in perspective.

not worried

Anonymous said...

This is a great discussion on reading and language arts curriculum - however, to anon@8:59am who stated "For math and science, there are approved texts and corresponding state standards. "

You're kidding right?

SPS rejected the state suggested curriculum in math. The SPS approved curriculum is garbage. Some teachers effectively overcome this disadvantage and some do not and simply follow the assigned SPS tests - to our kid's detriment. Ironically, I have no complaints about APP language arts at HIMS despite the lack of coherence. We saw nice improvement in our 6th (now 7th) grader's writing at HIMS. Even with a teacher that many have complained about.

Math and science - not so. Its been a disaster and required significant proactive intervention a la "not worried".

-lets be proactive on math and science too