Friday, December 5, 2014

Checking in on math instruction

By request, a thread for parents to talk about math instruction, especially at the elementary level. How are your kids doing in math? How is the pacing? Are some classes having trouble with the curriculum, either finding it inappropriate for the age, awkward, or that too many students are behind while others are ready to keep going? Thoughts on what parents can do to improve the math instruction?

Open thread

Winter break is coming up fast. What's on your mind?

Friday, November 28, 2014

More splits coming?

In an open thread, parents highlighted a section of an update to the District's Growth Boundaries Plan:
"Highly Capable Services students within the Washington pathway continue to grow, limiting the space at Washington Middle School for non-Highly Capable Services students coming from feeder schools. Again, staff are reviewing Highly Capable Services student enrollment data, as the location for Highly Capable Services could potentially be moved from being housed solely at Washington to a combination of Washington/Meany/Madison or otherwise."
And others said:
Washington is doing a fine job educating APP kids... better break it up.
Any bets on how many weeks it'll be before we see that same sentence repeated, but with Garfield and other high schools instead?
The writing is on the wall for high school. The new AL policy says that all high schools will be equipped to handle HC kids. It's just a matter of time before the automatic assignment to Garfield ends and the options will be neighborhood school or opt in to IBX at Ingraham, Rainier Beach, and possibly Sealth, depending on address ... I don't see any other way to solve the capacity problems that are coming.
Doesn't sound good. Please discuss further here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

The miserable state of facilities

By request, a new thread to talk about facilities. The request was to talk about facility issues at Lincoln, but let's broaden this to talk about facility issues at all HCC (APP) locations.

For reference, the "2014 Facilities Condition & Educational Adequacy Assessment" might be helpful. In it, I noticed that Lincoln and Washington Middle School have quite a lot of issues, though some of the other locations are in fairly good condition. While this thread is specifically to discuss HCC location building issues, the miserable state of facilities is a broad problem at many locations throughout the district, in part aggravated by years of delayed maintenance and poor capacity planning, so a broader solution like a bond measure and then investment in ongoing maintenance may be necessary to get beyond twiddles.

Purpose of HCC (APP)

There's a discussion in some of the recent threads about what the purpose of HCC (APP) is. Who is it for? What services should be offered? How big should the program be? Who is not being served that should? Are their children in the program now that might be better served by something else?

To start off the discussion, it might be useful to quote WAC 392-170-035
Highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. Outstanding abilities are seen within students' general intellectual aptitudes, specific academic abilities, and/or creative productivities within a specific domain. These students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes
and WAC 392-170-036
Students who are highly capable may possess, but are not limited to, these learning characteristics: (1) Capacity to learn with unusual depth of understanding, to retain what has been learned, and to transfer learning to new situations; (2) Capacity and willingness to deal with increasing levels of abstraction and complexity earlier than their chronological peers; (3) Creative ability to make unusual connections among ideas and concepts; (4) Ability to learn quickly in their area(s) of intellectual strength; and (5) Capacity for intense concentration and/or focus.
This topic seems to come up a fair amount and doesn't seem to get a lot of traction each time, but let's open a new thread on it anyway since there seems to be a lot of interest. Please be aware that, every time we try to talk about this, trolls inevitably say that we should destroy HCC entirely and toss out personal attacks at all the parents and children in HCC, so brace yourself, be polite anyway, and try to have a thick skin.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HCS-AC on challenges to HCC

The Highly Capable Service Advisory Committee (HCS-AC, formerly APP AC) sent out an e-mail with links to its report to the superintendent and suggestions on improving HCC (APP). I thought I'd highlight a piece of them in this post so we all can discuss them here:
The two biggest challenges that face the Accelerated Progress Program today are: 1) the explosive growth in the number of students at SPS and 2) the lack of diversity in the program, which we believe is rooted in pervasive socio-economic inequity rather than explicit racial bias. As APP has expanded to new sites, we support efforts to standardize scope, sequence, curriculum, and teaching materials across sites, and caution against losing the rich, individualized pedagogy that has made APP so effective. We also believe that rigor should be available for all students in all schools so that APP is seen as an intervention rather than the hoarding of a scarce resource.
Your thoughts?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Drafts of new Advanced Learning policies

By request, a thread to discuss the drafts of Policy No. 2190 and Superintendent Procedure 2190SP for Advanced Learning.

Apparently, you have only three days, just this weekend, to submit comments, which must be sent "by the afternoon of October 13". To submit a comment, e-mail " and be sure to include POLICY – in all caps – in the subject line."

There is already a discussion on this over at Seattle Schools Community Forum so, to avoid too much duplication, maybe the discussion here could focus on examples of feedback you are sending in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Open thread

It's definitely autumn in Seattle. And I guess I should start using HCC instead of APP now. What's on your mind?

First few weeks of school

Let's start a discussion between parents specifically about lingering issues after the first few weeks of school. Something that's not getting fixed? Or something you are wondering about? Chat with other HCC (APP) parents about it here to see if you can find out more.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ingraham IB and Garfield

By request, a thread to discuss high school options for APP. Of specific concern was that the IB program at Ingraham is completed by APP students at the end of their junior year, leaving their senior year open, but without all the advanced classes they need for their senior year (such as no good full year of English option for APP seniors). But let's also open this to broader discussions of the APP options for high school any issues people are finding with them.

Open thread

What's on your mind?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Start of school

Let's open a new thread for everyone to discuss issues around the start of school. Usually this is dominated by discussion of transportation and issues with the buses, but feel free to bring up that and anything else that other parents might want to discuss as we all ramp back up into the new school year.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Open thread

It's now August and apparently monsoon season in Seattle. What's on your mind?

ALTF recommendations

Melissa Westbrook over at the Seattle Schools Community Forum has a post, "Advanced Learning Task Forces' Recommendations", that lists all the recommendations to come out of that task force.

To avoid duplicating discussion, please comment on the recommendations over there. But let's open a thread here to do something different. Let's say you could recommend just one change to advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools. Something in the recommendations or something you think is missing, either is fine. What would that one change be?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Open thread

Almost July, and here's a new open thread. What's on your mind?

Summer learning resources

By request, a thread to talk about resources for summer learning.

Hamilton APP issues

By request, a thread to talk about issues specific to Hamilton APP.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Open thread

Juneuary, ugh. But school is almost out! Let's have an open thread to talk about summer plans, the next school year, and anything else that is on your mind.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

District priorities and APP

At a school board retreat on June 7, SPS execs presented the district priorities to the Board. Here is a new thread to discuss them, especially how they might impact APP.

Update: Let's expand this to also include the 2014-2015 budget and what that means for APP.

APP and Math in Focus

New thread to talk about the vote authoritizing a new elementary math textbook, Math in Focus, and what it means for APP.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Notes from the Advanced Learning Task Force

A parent points to a document titled "Advanced Learning Task Force individual combined recommendations May 15, 2014".

In my quick read, these are notes on what people on the Advanced Learning task force are recommending. From the notes, it appears the first two people (Barber and Jenkins) are recommending completely changing APP. Their part of the document states that APP, ALO, and Spectrum end in 2015-15 for 6th grade (pp 8). The following years more grades are eliminated until APP is no longer offered in 2017 in middle school, no longer offered in 2018 in high school, and no longer offered in elementary, middle, and high school in 2019. In its place would be a new HiCap program with both shared and self contained classes and different entry criteria with no appeals process.

Most of the other people appear to be recommending much more modest changes, some very few changes at all. But these notes out of the ALTF may come as a surprise to many -- they did to me at least -- as it appears at least some on the committee are advocating completely replacing APP with a different program.

Please discuss.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Open thread

Summer is almost here! What's on your mind?

APP and the achievement gap

This from another thread seems controversial, worth highlighting, and worth discussing further. Excerpts:
What does seem apparent is SPS is hell-bent on closing the achievement gap by taking away opportunities for advanced learners.
There is an active effort to keep the top kids in line with the pack in gen ed. Shauna Heath's recently reported pronouncement that Spectrum is one year ahead, no more no less, and APP is two years ahead, no more, no less, is another chilling illustration of this practice. Michael Tolley's recent "realignment" of APP middle school LA/SS scope and sequence with gen ed is another one. I could go on and on, and the parents here could give many more examples of the way their kids were actively held down in gen ed, and even in AL, but the political climate in this district is indeed against too much academic achievement.
I don't think people would say they want kids to do poorly, but I do think they would say 1) high achiever's higher test scores are evidence that we are giving too many resources to them and should focus more on the bottom half (I disagree and think those high test scores are generally in spite of the district, who owes them much more in terms of learning opportunities. Not more resources, but the ability to move ahead if ready) and 2)it is more important that children be in the same place when they move to the next grade than that they learn something new. I find that statement actually odious, because I believe we should not treat children like completely fungible blocks, and should be able to meet children where they are, but there you go.
Please discuss further here.

Update: Charlie Mas started a related thread over on the Seattle Schools Community Blog, "Troubling Talk", in which he writes, "Most troubling were the number of people who think the solution is to discontinue honors classes ... Ending service for students working beyond grade level will not help students working below grade level."

Friday, May 2, 2014

APP enrollment for 2014-15

In an open thread, Lynn pointed to the "APP post open enrollment" numbers.

As other parents mentioned, the big surprise probably is the percentage of all middle school students that are in APP (9.7%), which leaves people wondering why that is and what that might mean for high school. Please discuss that and other thoughts on the numbers here in this thread.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Open thread

Going to be 82F and sunny in Seattle! Beautiful May weather. This is an open thread, talk about anything you like!

The bright side

The discussions here, and news in general, can often focus on the negative, what's wrong and how it might be able to be fixed. That is good and useful, but sometimes it is important to talk about what is going well too.

Let's do a thread with some stories about what is going well in APP. Was your child miserable at their previous public or private school but bloomed in APP? Maybe your kid was bored and doing poorly before APP, but is doing great now? Do you love what's happening in music, math, language arts, or the comradery and community in your school? Tell other parents about it here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

Declining challenge of APP

In an open thread, some parents were talking about their perception that APP has been weakening over the last several years. Some excerpts:
If APP kids start out ahead of their peers (i.e., they test in the upper percentiles on MAP achievement tests), and if they learn more quickly and require fewer repetitions to master new material (one of the reasons for programs like this in the first place), then why does the gap between APP kids and non-APP kids shrink rather than grow--such that they all end up in essentially the same position come high school entrance? Is it that SPS just doesn't do a good job of tapping into their potential, and providing opportunities for more advanced coursework? Is it that the curriculum is worse for APP than non-APP? Is it that they are learning the same material, but just in much more depth (which we really haven't seen...)? Or are they just wasting time, doing more busy work? Or something else?


It's because the district doesn't want to/isn't required to offer appropriate classes in high school. I think Bellevue has the right idea with their high school program for highly capable students.


If SPS actually planned and implemented an appropriate curriculum, according to the goals and description on SPS's website, would we be having this conversation? What's concerning is things seem headed in the direction of further lowering the ceiling for APP students, rather than raising it. The newly announced scope and sequence has chipped away coverage of world history and now they may not even have the option of AP World History in 9th grade. It really does make you wonder what's the next thing to go.


The AL Dept has no say, and is not watching, how the APP program is being run, or not run. The lack of oversight is why Spectrum has all but disappeared. APP has been being chipped away at for years, and it seems more is happening now. The AL dept is very clear that they only have time to do testing and appeals, nothing more. Bob Vaughan was also very clear that he had no authority when leading AL, and I doubt an interim head has more authority. Those who do have authority over the program, clearly don't like it. I hate to say it, but I see the high school track ending very soon. The more they take away, the easier it is to say high school APP is not needed. It already is not an actual program in high school. I see the district eliminating the high school track and saying needs will be met all at high schools in various ways.
This sounds important, so I'm moving it to its own thread for more discussion. What do you think about this?

Monday, April 21, 2014

New principals at Washington and Thurgood Marshall

Superintendent Jose Banda announced new principals at Washington Middle School and Thurgood Marshall Elementary:
Ms. Follmer comes to Washington Middle School from the International School of Monagus in Maturin, Venezuela, where she has been Assistant Head since 2011. She has a strong vision and a commitment to a healthy school culture and will be a great fit for the Washington Middle School community.

Prior to moving to Venezuela, Ms. Follmer was the Director of the Albright School of Education at City University of Seattle from 2007 to 2011. She also served as a Superintendent Intern for the Highline School District during the 2009–10 school year. Previously, Ms. Follmer has held leadership roles with Evergreen Public Schools, University Place School District, the Kent School District, and the Renton and Federal Way school districts, and she taught English and Reading in Sumner.

Ms. Follmer earned a Master’s of Education from the University of Washington and a Bachelor’s from Pacific Lutheran University. She holds a Superintendent Credential and a P–12 Administrator Credential.

The hiring committee was particularly impressed Ms. Follmer’s understanding of social/emotional development and her focus on technology and its use in educational settings.


I am pleased to announce the appointment of Katie May as [Thurgood Marshall Elementary] Principal for the 2014–15 school year.

Most recently, Ms. May spent three years as Principal at the Seattle Hebrew Academy, a PreK– 8 school. She has a strong social justice focus and believes in building relationships. She will be a great fit for Thurgood Marshall.

Prior to her role as Principal, Ms. May spent eight years at Seattle Hebrew Academy, serving as Director of Student Services and as Head Counselor. Previously, she was the school counselor at Valhalla Elementary in Federal Way.

Ms. May earned a Master of Educational Psychology degree at the University of Washington, specializing in school counseling. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Georgia. Ms. May holds a Washington State Administrative Professional Certificate and an Administrative Credential from Seattle Pacific University. She has attended programs on Improving Schools and on New and Aspiring Leaders at Harvard University.

The hiring committee was particularly impressed with the creative programs Ms. May implemented in her previous school experience, her history of collaboration, and her understanding of diversity in education.
Please discuss.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

Latest at Jane Addams Middle School

By request: "A new thread about JAMS, new teacher hiring there, status of music program, etc? Things are starting to happen at JAMS and I would love to see some discussion about it."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Options outside of APP

By request, a thread to talk about good local options for APP kids near Seattle aside from Seattle Public Schools APP. Starting it off, an extended excerpt from one parent:
Interlake HS in Bellevue houses the district's gifted high school program. The entrance criteria are tighter are more selective than Seattle, but if you qualify and there's space available they take non-residents. It's a smaller program, and from conversations with the director it sounds like it's more accommodating. I asked what they do if a student is more advanced than what they offer in a certain class, and the response was that "we need to figure out how to offer what they need." Can you imagine hearing SPS say that? Their program seems to be a more rigorous combo of the Ingraham and Garfield options, with more Higher Level IB classes offered, and more advanced AP options as well.

Lakeside has the most advanced math of any of the public or private schools we checked out, offering as far as multivariable calculus. We also really liked the small classes that involved a lot of discussion, and the very engaged students. We got the sense that students could really push themselves (and each other), and that for a student who enjoyed a competitive, academic atmosphere it looked like a good fit. There seemed to be some willingness to advance students beyond the typical pathway if they were assessed as ready, as well as a (somewhat more vague) willingness to help figure out solutions for students who might need instruction beyond their highest level class in a subject.

For a much less traditional option, Stanford has an online high school (accredited, diploma-granting). The core courses look pretty interesting, and there's access to some university-level courses (primarily in math and science). We've found Stanford's EPGY courses to be very rigorous. The online HS includes some in-person summer sessions (e.g., science labs), so there's a bit of in-person interaction to complement the online group sessions. Looks like schedules could be very wacky (classes are peppered throughout the day/eve), and this is obviously best for self-directed learners who don't need/want a lot of personal interaction.

Another atypical option, UW's Robinson Center has a couple different programs for those who want to start college early--typically after 10th grade (UW Academy) or 8th grade (Transition School). The RC provides some good supports to help kids navigate the jump, and for those extremely academic kids who haven't been able to find a good peer group elsewhere, this may be the place. Programs are small and draw from the whole region, so it's not easy to get in.
Please discuss these options and add other good options in the comments.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Open thread

Discuss what you like!

Eligibility and appeals

There's still quite a bit of interest in talking about eligibility letters and appeals, so let's open a new thread for parents to consolidate the discussion about that. Please ask questions you might have of other parents and, if you can help someone out with their question, please chime in with an answer.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Open thread

Starting to feel like spring! Discuss what you like!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What a gifted program should look like

By request, a thread to discuss what a "true gifted program" should look like and how that differs from APP.

Starting this off, one parent wrote:
A true gifted program would look nothing like APP in its current form.

Parents fight for the crumbs of APP. I wish they'd fight for the delicious frosted cake of a true gifted program. A cake that would better-serve more students than APP ever will.
Agree? Disagree? What should APP look like? What would a true gifted program look like? And, realistically, what changes can happen and how?

Update: By request, the comments in this thread are unmoderated and the discussion wide ranging. Wade into the comments at your own risk and expect off-topic rants and anonymized personal attacks. Keep your shields up and, despite what you see others doing, please try your best to keep it civil.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

Should you go to APP?

Parents are getting eligibility letters now. Let's open a Q&A about whether APP is a good idea for your situation.

There's been a lot of discussion in the previous open thread on this already. Concerns seemed to be stability of APP in Seattle, whether it is worth moving to the Eastside or elsewhere, whether private schools are better, the extent to weight the preferences of the child (especially very young children), and how worth it is to keep siblings together when one might be in APP and one might not. Let's keep the discussion going here.

Appeals for APP eligibility

By request, a thread to discuss appeals for entry into APP. Let's make this a broad discussion, so let's cover whether it's a good idea to appeal as well as Q&A about the appeals process.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

APP and Spectrum to become MTSS?

Over on the Seattle Schools Community Forum, Charlie Mas writes:
I think I know where Seattle Schools are going with Advanced Learning. They intend to fold them into MTSS, Multi-Tier Systems of Support.

If the Tier I curriculum proves insufficiently challenging for a student then that student will be switched to a Tier II advanced curriculum ... If the Tier II curriculum proves insufficiently challenging for a student then that student will be referred for testing for Tier III. If found in need of Tier III, the student will be assigned to the school in that service area that provides the Tier III advanced service.

This is a new system, but to student families it will look like ALOs in every school and APP all over the District like Spectrum - one elementary program in each middle school service area and one in every middle and high school.

There won't be annual testing using the CoGAT like we have now. Instead, there will be continuous testing - as MTSS calls for frequent assessments. Access will not be determined by cognitive ability but by achievement - that is, a need for greater challenge than the Tier I or Tier II curriculum.

This shift will mean some big changes ... All of the state Highly Capable Grant money, now spent on testing, will instead be spent in ... Tier II and Tier III ... Students will ... be identified by their performance on regular assessments. Students will be able to move in - or out - of Tier II and Tier III advanced curricula at any time ... Schools won't have finite capacity for Tier II ... Every student who needs it should get it.
Please discuss.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Open thread

Discuss what you like!

Principal moved from Thurgood Marshall to West Seattle

Superintendent Banda just moved Julie Breidenbach from Principal of Thurgood Marshall over to Fairmount Park. Thoughts on what that means for Thurgood Marshall, West Seattle, and APP?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Q&A on Garfield and Ingraham

By request, a separate thread to talk about high school, especially parents of 8th graders asking questions, current high school parents answering.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Q&A for new APP parents

By request, a thread for Q&A. Parents considering APP for their children, please post questions in the comments. Existing APP parents, please help the other parents by answering any questions you can.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Another open thread

A new year, a new open thread. How's 2014 treating you, APP parents? Talk about whatever you like!