Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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.


Anonymous said...

Frankly I think Charlie is being irresponsible with his speculation.

Anonymous said...

To me this fancy re-named plan sounds like:

Tier I = ALO
Tier II = Inclusive Spectrum (not requiring testing)
Tier III = APP (requiring more frequent testing)

This does not seem as different as one would think. It will still have the problems that ALO has - no curriculum. Inclusive Spectrum will probably work well, as it did in our school until the district cynically removed it. APP (Tier III) will be a disaster as removal from the program will require a switch in schools with all the problems of "curriculum alignment" that that will entail.

I always hate it when existent programs are given new names giving the impression that the program is new. Let's keep the old names and improve the system rather than renaming it. I also suspect APP(Tier III) will fail to identify students across the district although hopefully Inclusive Spectrum (Tier II) would serve them.

Anyway, interesting thought problem Charlie.

Anonymous said...

I think he might be right. Spectrum has been dismantled, ALO has existed only at the whim of individual principals (no standards, no enforcement, no support from the District). APP survives because of the concentration of kids, very active parents, and committed teachers and staff (again, the District offers little support). The District is doing nothing to improve or stabilize what we've been calling "Advanced Learning".

So, MTSS provides a framework to try to meet the needs of advanced learning kids everywhere. It's a theoretical framework right now - it's more about identifying kids who need AL than actually figuring out how to deliver it (differentiation is not easy and we've never been successful at it in SPS, at least in my experience). At the very least, this system will be used to further dismantle APP and any other existing advanced learning program.

- Skeptic

Anonymous said...

I'll bite...what would happen to kids in elementary APP, like at Lincoln?

Anonymous said...

I think that one of the main reasons that Board members haven't tried to dismantle APP recently is that in the North end many of the elementary kids would be sent back to overcrowded schools (Laurelhurst, Bryant, etc.) with highly active parents who would be furious at another boundary change to accommodate all the returned students. (I'm not as familiar with South Seattle's APP cohort).
In middle school, it would be Eckstein, which has been very overcrowded. So having APP kids trek to another school (usually chosen because they have extra room at the time) has been advantageous to the District.
Unfortunately, this has meant our kids get shuffled around a lot in order to help out the capacity surges.

Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

I don't think Charlie is wildly speculating. When asked what evidence he had, he replied the following:

Blogger Charlie Mas said...
I have been told that this is the plan by Shauna Heath while Michael Tolley was in the room.

This is the plan, but they won't be able to implement it until maybe 2015-2016.

This scheme will comply with the WAC. But even if it did not, they can do what they like. There is no one who will enforce the law. Do you really think that the OSPI will make any real effort to evaluate programs?

2/5/14, 9:19 PM

Anonymous said...

Why even waste time and semantics with Tier I - it won't exist, similarly to ALO. Tier II will probably work well - like inclusive Spectrum which worked very well at our elementary school until the district capriciously removed it. Tier III/APP will be a disaster in that kids who fluctuate in and out via testing could be forced to switch schools multiple times. So, for stability (ha ha I know it is SPS), students will be forced out of APP to inclusive Spectrum. My feeling is this is just what the district secretly wants. Inclusive Spectrum across the district and nothing more.

While my APP kid would probably do fine in this scenario I suspect many will not. Which will force the district to change the playbook AGAIN to accommodate those kids. And the circle of rethinking will continue (and I am being generous with the term reTHINKing).

-sick of running in circles.

Anonymous said...

We are thinking of a move to APP for our kid who isn't performing because of boredom. Because of other behavioral issues he's been tested and (to our surprise) found to be in the top 0.5%. The APP program seems and feels like something he really needs. I have no idea how his needs would be met in this new system.

And, by the way, it's not all about him getting his needs met. A move will make life better for his current schoolmates who suffer because he is demanding as a result of his boredom.

Any suggestions?

hoping for a good outcome

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest trying to get a school tour at the APP school where you'd end up, and line up an opportunity to discuss with an experienced APP teacher, see how they think about and handle behavior issues, whether they've seen them resolve in various scenarios, etc. That seems more helpful than finding a parent who recognizes your situation, because really 'behavioral issues' covers a broad range, and it'll be hard to find someone in your boat exactly. But the teachers have seen it all, and the ones committed to APP do understand that one reason for APP is to meet the needs of bored-out-of-their-mind AHG students misplaced in gen-ed. So my advice is: call the APP school and try to line up an opportunity (appointment) to discuss privately, either in conjunction with a regularly scheduled tour or separate from that. Good luck!

Anonymous said...


Your situation sounds very similar to ours. Our son was very disruptive in his kindergarten class and often told us his teacher didn't teach him anything. He was very bored and was becoming the class clown. He has a lot of those 'intensities' attributed to gifted kids, so it wasn't just academics at issue. He really needed to be with other kids and teachers who would 'get' him.

Moving him to Lincoln this year for 1st grade has been a bit of a roller coaster. He didn't much like having to try. He was very used to being the best at everything without having to try. The first few months were pretty tough, with a lot of 'I hate school', but much less class disruption. I'm happy to say that the last couple of months have seen a real change in him. He has been doing really well with his schoolwork and takes pride in achieving. He has made a lot of new friends and seems well adjusted now. I'm very happy we made the switch to APP- I can't imagine him in a general ed classroom and I'm very happy this program exists-despite its instability.

Good luck with your decision.

Anonymous said...

Funny- I liked the idea of inclusive Spectrum, but it was dropped when my son began kindergarten. I think inclusive Spectrum is an important option. Inclusive Spectrum allows kids who wouldn't test into it the chance to utilize different teaching methods- kids who may have problems in language skills but are very tactile or physical may benefit, for example. That being said, my kid is now in 4th grade and enrolled in Spectrum at a different school. It has made a significant difference in his education to be in a group of like minded kids. But it is dead wrong to think that Spectrum or APP are simply MORE or BETTER or PRIVILEGED education options. What they are is meant to be *appropriate* for the kids who are enrolled. I am so disappointed by our districts cuts in busing next year. The letter I received says I am 'welcome' to keep him enrolled, but there will be no bus. That may prove to be a real problem for us next year. There is this infuriating notion that we are taking advantage of something. My son sat through 1st grade-BORED. Yes, teachers, I know you hate that, but too bad- he was bored. It was a terrible academic year. The differences in abilities was so vast. His teacher was not even aware that my son could read until the year was nearly over- when he was reading the entire Harry Potter series and bringing them to class to keep busy whenever heck broke loose (He taught himself to read at 3 years). I'm grateful he can self motivate and be bright, but he also needs an education. Lumping significantly advanced kids or even twice gifted kids in to standard classes is like punishing them for being who they are. BTW- I suspect that he and many of his classmates would be well off in APP, too. His test scores are that high. But I think did APP is overloaded- the opening of Lincoln suggests that this is the case. I chose not to test him for APP admission this year because I see no reason to uproot him in 5th grade. I resent the school district nudging that at us now. I spent so much time researching and educating myself on our options and yet the game changes so frequently. One school I toured had inclusive Spectrum. I was impressed with the school as a whole. I know someone whose kid is in that school & doing Spectrum. It's a good thing. But- What put me off was a comment from the principal about the program and his belief that smart kids need to learn to get along with everyone. The thud you heard was my head hitting the desk. It still flusters me. Is that the prevailing attitude? Even in Spectrum it becomes readily clear which teacher are prepared and educated for teaching advanced learners. Instead of dismantling a good program why not make it better and expandable?