Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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?

101 comments:

Anonymous said...

New SPS middle school APP motto?

"Your kids may start middle school significantly ahead of their peers, but give us three years and we can ensure that they won't be any more qualified for rigorous high school work than their peers."

Well, I guess that's one way to reduce the achievement gap.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11 10AM
I was thinking about the same.
My summary would be: after an extensive testing/identification process, by the end of the middle school, the APP students academically reach the HS gen ed students' level.
Way to SPS! (sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant:
Way to go SPS! (sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything in this article. Here's the question though. How do we change this? I can't just pick up my family and move to Bellevue but seriously, how does the APP community get SPS leadership to take this issue seriously?

Anonymous said...

As an old-timer, I hate to say it, but the program has seriously declined. When my oldest started 10 year ago, it was really something. The energy at Lowell was incredible and the curriculum was leaps and bounds ahead of our local school. Washington was tough, and Garfield was terrific. I still think GHS is great, but I agree everything else has slipped, and I see no reason why a bright 8th grader who wasn't in APP wouldn't be at the same level for high school. In my opinion, through friends at WMS, I think the WMS experience is far more rigorous than ours was at HIMS. The side by side comparison of work and texts and coursework isn't close. I have no answer - sadly, my suggestion would be to leave. It isn't really a AHG program anymore - however, it's still more interesting at the elementary school level due to the cohort. After that, I'd look for private or another district.
-Been Around

Anonymous said...

The Middle School teachers are HORRIBLE! The splitting of the cohort has allowed non-highly gifted students into the program. The school district has just torn apart the program. Just as predicted. Only those families that can afford Lakeside are truly getting a "gifted level education" for their highly-gifted students. The teachers that are trained in teaching gifted learners are gone. The teachers are now teaching to the "standard". It is just so sad!!

Anonymous said...

BTW - I WILL NOT have my student - who is ready for AP World History next year - sit around because Hamilton students are not ready for the class. That is just idiotic. Other students are not ready to take AP World History and they are just go into a different class than my kid. Why should the Hamilton kids lack of education hold back my student??!!

WMS 8th grade students going into Garfield should be able to take the class they are prepared to take regardless of other students.

Do not dumb our kids down!!

Anonymous said...

...but then the District would have to admit that HMS students are not prepared.

Anonymous said...

Parent of WMS 8th grader, are they allowing WMS students into the AP history class, or did your course selection forms likewise have that option crossed out? Curious to know if they're making a cross-school or school-specific policy here... It will also help to know if WMS parents are similarly outraged, so we can join forces in fighting these changes.

HIMSmom

maureen said...

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?

Since this whole thread is based on this premise:

What evidence do we have that this is true?

Anonymous said...

Uh, please see the thread a few below about why APP isn't "all that" and in fact it isn't even a gifted program. Everything in that thread answers this thread.

APP offers very little. Very, very little. Except the listing on some future academic record that a child was bright enough to test in.

My kid is now at an SPS option school. No Spectrum. No APP. And doing work more rigorous than the APP program in 2 of the 3 core subjects (lit, math, science) due to the teachers. The core classwork is relatively challenging and the teachers are great at providing additional challenge for those kids who are willing and able to go deeper and faster.

As far as my family is concerned, Spectrum and APP are a load of marketing hooey.

? said...

Anon @11:11

At least in elementary, the work is geared to be 2 years ahead. I can't imagine that my kid would be more challenged at an option school where he/she would be working at grade level with enrichment on the side. However, I don't really know what goes on at your school and you may or may not know what goes on at mine.

Anonymous said...

Three kids through APP elementary and I would confirm that each kids' experience is more diluted than the preceding. I would absolutely disagree that my current elementary Lincoln student's learning material operates 2 years ahead. In the last several years, we have had only one elementary school teacher at Lowell/Lincoln who was teaching there more than 2 years.

Anonymous said...

If you are in APP to get some 'payoff' of skipped classes in high school, then you are missing the point of gifted education altogether.

Given that APP is barely accelerated and very spotty on depth/creativity of materials presentation, I stick with the point that Seattle APP is a load of marketing hooey.

Anonymous said...

@ marketing hooey, what exactly do you say is the point of APP? For my kid, it was to learn deeply, and to move quickly--because he can do both at the same time. So yes, that should also translate into skipped classes in HS. The "point" wasn't to skip them for the sake of skipping them, but to keep on learning--which means continue moving ahead.

But I do agree that current APP, at least at HIMS, is a load... Any acceleration and depth we've seen have been due to outside work.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

I totally believe that the declining challenge of APP is real...

However, is it possible that those with older kids don't realized the extent of the declining challenge in gened, at least in elementary? I think/hope there is still a big difference between elementary APP and gened.

If not, I feel really silly putting my child on a bus across town next year for a "load"...

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that there is just a declining challenge in general - in gen-ed as well as APP? I can see that my elementary APP kid is doing work 2 grade levels above at least in math (because that's what the math textbook says), but it is still too easy - and my kid is not profoundly gifted. I cannot imagine that gen-ed kids are being challenged if the work is two levels below that.

Anonymous said...

Our experience: There is some difference in elementary APP but less because of the materials (math is an exception- it is advanced) and more because a lot of the kids with socio-emotional challenges are not in the APP classroom. That is one reason parents and some students like APP and many administrators find it elitist, I think.

At the middle school level?...I think the "option" parent is right. Strong middle school programs at some of the K8 option schools are competitive with, if not better than, middle school APP. High school principals and teachers will tell you the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I think what we are seeing is more the downside of growth alongside the recession, NCLB/CC politics, standardized testing mania, and SSD lack of work in K-12 curriculum review and development. And I mean starting with gen ed. This is true for LAs, history, and science. Math curriculum really was text based. So if your kid get EDM, CMP, discovery, you are supplementing whether you are in APP or not.

There were those very few kids of course whose needs even APP in the good ol' days could not meet. They usually head off to university earlier or can access post secondary coursework while in HS. (Thank goodness for the Robinson Center!)

APP has gotten much bigger in number with abilities more spread out and managing that growth with consistency is difficult given the inconsistent power and interest of principals, and the constant turnover of personnel at the school and admin level.

No easy answer here, but at least you can get it off your chest.

old parent

Anonymous said...

A lot of highly gifted or profoundly gifted children have social-emotional challenges. I am a little disturbed by the suggestion that parents and students like APP better because they want to be in classes without students who have social-emotional challenges. I think that is likely a very small minority of parents.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Anon@10:16.

another anon

Anonymous said...

Here is a long article that looked at LUSD G&T and magnet school programs and student outcomes. The discussion which follows is quite interesting.

http://educationnext.org/poor-results-for-high-achievers/

From Davidson, about testing to measure and which tests may be more reliable AND valid. So is MAP good enough for MS? And kids do get fatigued by these standardized tests, especially ones who tend to be less linear thinking and more skeptical about this whole process.

http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10150.aspx

There is also the "MS plunge", an effect that argues for the K-8'model.

http://educationnext.org/the-middle-school-plunge/
http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2012/09/do-middle-schools-make-sense/

old parent

Anonymous said...

Again, look at the thread below on the difference between a gifted program and the not-even-accelerated SPS APP program. A gifted program addresses the needs of profoundly gifted kids with socio-emotional challenges. SPS APP most certainly does not. How many kids on the autism spectrum do you see in APP classes? How many kids with emotional-behavioral issues? How many homeless kids?

Oh, you see none or just a handful? That's because the current APP program isn't prepared to handle a significant number of kids that don't fit the "bright with noncomplicated profiles" that largely fill out the current program.

We can repeat the whole previous thread conversation here for newcomers, or not. But bottom line is that APP is not a gifted program, is barely an accelerated program, quite clearly discriminates against students with disabilities and is only marginally addressing kids with complicated socio-emotional needs.

Gifted education MUST have a place in SPS. Our kids need and deserve it. But APP as currently offered ain't it. It makes a lot of parents and kids happy. Great. But it simply cannot continue the way it is because it is mediocre at best and unlawful at worst.

Anonymous said...

@ Old Parent: That middle school research is exactly the reason we chose a K8 for our family. It is not perfect. We still need to supplement. But we watch SPS middle school APP very closely - year by year because situations do change - and we have always been sure that we made the right decision for our own student. The challenges offered mirror and in significant ways (for our student) surpass the APP track.

There is only one place that middle school APP clearly offers a superior experience: music. For families with musically inclined kids, I see the reasoning for HIMS, JAMS, Washington. For the rest? The comprehensive APP middle schools are fine, but they aren't great examples of G&T learning. At all. To watch parents fight and scrap for such mediocrity is perplexing and disheartening. Parents and kids think they're getting something special when they are not.

Lynn said...

There are limited seats available in K-8 schools though - and I believe the comprehensive middle schools are even less likely to offer what gifted kids need. At least in APP you have the cohort.

old parent - do you really think the ability levels in APP have spread out that much? I get the impression the curriculum is less challenging - but I don't think it's because the kids can't handle more. I've never heard an APP parent complaining that their child can't keep up - or that the program is too rigorous.

The curriculum at every level in SPS schools seems to be too easy for a large number of students. I think Shauna Heath believes Common Core standards will fix this. It might make general ed appropriate for more students, but the idea that grade-level common core standards will meet the needs of the kids currently in APP is nonsense.

I don't think the people who could fix this (Shauna Heath/Michael Tolley) are at all interested in doing it. We'll get whatever they decide to give us. Seattle could support several more private K-8s like Seattle Country Day and another Lakeside. Our plan is to go with APP for elementary, while saving for private middle and high school.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest part of the issue is that the curriculum is so dependent on the teacher, more so with LA/SS and less so with math and science. What oversight do they have? The reality is that APP is pretty low on the list of priorities.

The study discussed in the EducationNext article should be taken with a grain of salt. It compared those just making the cutoff for the G&T program with those that just missed the cut-off, then extrapolated those results to make conclusions about all gifted programs. Questionable. It's not even clear what the gifted program offers.

Anonymous said...

Gives meaning to the "Race to Nowhere."

Anonymous said...

The strategic thinking of SPS APP administrators: You don't like it? Feel free to leave.

Anonymous said...

Adding on to 11:41AM's point about that article/study. If anything, their results suggest the schools should NOT be "blending" APP and Spectrum together.

What they say they found is that the kids who just make the G&T cutoff end up with a relatively lower class rank compared to the higher-ability kids, and that appears to have negative consequences relative to staying in general ed.

I can't speak for Spectrum parents, but I've always thought that if I were one, I wouldn't really want my Spectrum kid who tested in at the, say, 90th percentile on CogAT, to be in classes with primarily APP kids for exactly those reasons. If the Spectrum kid needs a few more repetitions to gain mastery and is always ranking near the bottom of the class, is that really a good thing for that kid? The study didn't measure things like self-esteem and mindset, but I can't help but wonder.

I don't know what the answers are. I don't know what the "right" cutoff for self-contained classes is. But I do know that things are very likely to change a lot by next year. Just take a peak at Stephen Martin's recent presentation to the task force on 4/10. He suggests getting rid of the APP name because we have a chance to "re-brand" the program during this process. I've heard rumors, confirmed in the slides, that the appeals process is likely going to change too. And, I suspect the threshold for self-contained will be raised. Time will tell.

I'd like to be hopeful that the changes will be for the better but it isn't going to be fun between now and then. It would be great if some kids were in fact better served, including finally serving single-domain gifted kids, and the artistically gifted, etc. But some kids might end up worse off as multiple programs are placed in multiple sites around the city or they are made to stay at neighborhood schools, all of whom are likely to be asked to offer "ALOs" next year.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/advanced%20learning/___ALTF2.4.10.14.v2.pdf?sessionid=8d9da135b7fac29328d6b13b423ec3eb

--check it out

Anonymous said...

@11:41. Actually the researchers discussed the limitations of their study and what is unique about LAUSD (>500,000 students, >75% Hispanics and Asians) and does not make the generalization you say. I agree with you about taking all of this with a grain of salt.

Lynn, I think all of the above, especially with the demise of spectrum, class size of 30 in ES, growth-> splits, teacher/admin turnovers and combined that with the lack of interest in this district to review and evaluate its k-12 curricula for coherency, rigor & effectiveness. To me the curriculum fight was more than the discovery math texts or the lack of an APP curriculum. This starts with gen ed. When admin starts talking about curricula, it is often accompanied by state testing changes, STEM madness, or the CC push (which maybe all for naught and a terrible distraction). All this talk about eval and alignment, etc. sounds great, but does anyone actually sit down with classroom teachers to see if the alignment and pacing make sense, what works and doesn't, what is duplicated, useless, useful, can be made better....

A very good friend has 2 children at one of those flagship private schools. But even at the most elite school, all is not hunky dory. You might get a PhD teaching your kids math, but while the knowledge is there, conveying the material so kids can understand (pedagogy), classroom management and basic things like returning HW or tests back timely is a problem, pacing issues where the teacher appeared tone deaf with where the class should be because the teacher is more concerned about where s/he needs to be. Another word, you are still going to get teachers to avoid and teachers all the kids want.

That said, a small school with nimble admin & teaching staff like that are constantly reviewing and revising their curriculum. They spend a great deal of PD collaborating, tweaking, exchanging and innovating the things they do. At Lakeside for example, you will find core classes like MS math without formal texts. The staff makes one up or use different sources depending on the topic.

I think if you have kids in SSD HS right now, you are still in a good place. 3-4 years down the road with overfilled schools and classrooms and students fighting for space in certain classes, things will be worse. Hopefully, we'll get more HS on line by then and some real work on our curricula regardless what is trending in the edutopia.

old parent

Anonymous said...

@HIMS Mom at 5:09PM 4/23

are they allowing WMS students into the AP history class, or did your course selection forms likewise have that option crossed out?

WMS students' class selection forms have AP World History crossed out.

It will also help to know if WMS parents are similarly outraged, so we can join forces in fighting these changes.

This parent is not happy, but unsure what to do. My WMS students report that, today, their SS teacher relayed to the class that "the people who made the decision didn't think that all APP students were ready to take AP World History as freshmen." The teacher also said this decision came as a complete surprise to the staff.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow. Way to go HIMS. They unilaterally chose not to follow the same path as WMS, so now WMS students are getting punished along with HIMS students, despite putting in the hard work. Is that a fair characterization of the situation?

What is the general sentiment of students and staff? In the big scheme of things, is it a big deal? It would be one thing if teachers believed students were coming in unprepared, but secondhand reports of decisions being made without their input (and with no apparent stamp of approval from AL) are very concerning.

Anonymous said...

Two years ago, the WMS and the HIMS principal met with the Advanced Learning dept. to discuss the APP LA/SS sequence of coursework. The district told them what the new course sequence would be for APP middle school. Hamilton has followed this path for the last two years. I remember being informed of this district decision two years ago, thinking it was what WMS would be following too. I forget what the reasoning was for this change so maybe someone else who remembers can enlighten us on that. Washington's principal and/or staff chose to disregard the course sequence and continue on with the old sequence. I'm not saying that I prefer what my HIMS child experienced over what the WMS students experienced. I'm just very frustrated that both school admins weren't on the same page with this change and I blame both schools administrations. I'd blame Advanced Learning or the district that they didn't follow up with the schools when they required this change, but we all know they don't care what's happening on the ground level.

This is yet one more example of what happens when APP is split in to more and more pieces. No consistency from school to school, each school admin and teachers making it's own choices. West Seattle...be very, very wary of what you think you're going to get.

On a positive note, asa former Lowell parent we're really looking forward to re-joining some of our old Lowell friends at Garfield, and of course meeting many new friends too.

Northend Garfield-bound

Anonymous said...

Garfield-bound, so are you saying the district knew, two years ago, that APP students were not going to be--in fact, we're not intended to be--prepared for AP World History upon GHS arrival? If that's the case, why was that never communicated to families? Or why was the curriculum change not communicated then? And why is it changing AGAIN next year, if they made a new plan 2 yrs ago that HIMS is supposedly following? And I thought this is the first year of HIMS' new class, not second...

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you say this "change" happened two years ago...as the change to have 9th graders start taking US World also happened during that time.

The current junior class at Garfield was the first class to follow this sequence. The sophomores and freshman this year followed this sequence.

All classes prior to that went into Honors.

How could they be making the decision to allow, and the decision to not allow all at the same time?

We have a sophomore this year - and I attended several APP Advisory meetings throughout that timeframe. I think I would have remembered that?

Anonymous said...

The suggestion is that WMS' principal, now Executive Director of NW schools (HIMS included), allowed WMS to stick with the old sequence, while HIMS was following the direction of the district?

What doesn't make sense is that the 8th grade APP class at HIMS has been different over the years, so what sequence is "the" sequence?

Previous year:
1st semester - WA State history
2nd semester - World history from pre-history to 1300 CE (using Ways of the World and World Literature). The syllabus further states, "Students will be well versed in writing using the AP format essays by the end of the year."

This year:
1-3rd quarter - US history (only partially covered) No AP format essay preparation.
4th quarter - WA State history

And the newly announced scope an sequence:
7th grade - WA State and World History
8th grade - US History

confused

Anonymous said...

The first APP class at GHS that took AP World and Marine Bio in 9th grade was the class that will graduate this spring. There have only been four years of this acceleration, a very short time. As the parent of close but not APP students at GHS, World History 9H is not a challenge for most, and LA 9H not as rigorous as my kids' middle school options program. It would be great if the bar could be raised for all. BUT, there is so much going for GHS that hopefully we can work to fix the problem rather than abandon the school because AP World is not being offered to APP 9th graders. Prior to the acceleration, the sequence for social studies was World History 9H, AP Euro for 10th, AP US for 11th and AP Gov for 12th (for all that could handle the challenge). I far preferred that sequence to what either of the cohorts have now. AP Euro was one of the most rigorous courses at GHS.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering why its necessary for kids to take Honors World History in 9th and then AP World in 10th? What is the progression in other HS, it seems like even if they cant take AP World in 9th, should be able to move onto another area of History in 10th, as mentioned above there used to be AP Euro in 10th. Very new to how this works so appreciate all input, would it make sense for us to try to meet with the GHS counselor? They are probably getting a lot of calls since course selection is due Tues. (at HIMS). Current GHS parents, if yr kid was starting 9th gr this Fall, what would you ideally like to see them take in terms of LA/SS progression (based on whats now offered)? Will there be room to change class selection after course requests are handed in next wk? Thanks so much to GHS parents for taking the time to share yr experiences here!
-new HS mom

Greg Linden said...

Good article on the PBS KQED blog, "By Not Challenging Gifted Kids, What Do We Risk Losing?"

Anonymous said...

I have the same confusion as new HS mom. Why would anyone want to take World History Honors in 9th and then AP World History in 10th (unless you just really want to get those college credits for the class). Seems to me that even if you prefer AP WH, if you have to take H WH in 9th, it would be best to just take H WH in 9th and then something else in 10th. (But I don't really know anything -- don't have a HS kid YET -- just trying to understand why anyone would want to follow that sequence?)

-net yet a HS mom

Lynn said...

There really aren't choices to be made. Garfield offers one history class per grade, with two or three levels of difficulty. If your child takes Honors World History 1 and 2 as a freshman, they'll be offered either the one-semester Honors World 3 or a full year of AP World as a sophomore.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to that article, Greg. That bit about "dose" of advanced learning exposure was particularly interesting.

HIMSmom

Lynn said...

I emailed Shauna Heath to ask about the change to APP History in middle school and the effect that might have on course options at Garfield. She replied:

High schools offering advanced courses to in-coming ninth graders may or may not alter the course taking pattern for APP students. In the past, high schools have made these decisions at the building level.

If I had a child registering for freshman classes at Garfield next year, I would contact the head of the history department. I'd want to know why they are requiring World History as a prerequisite (when the College Board says the only prerequisite is the ability to read a college level text and to write grammatically correct sentences.) I would also ask how APP freshman have been doing on the AP World exam.

Anonymous said...

Unlike math or science at GHS, acceleration in Social Studies does not enhance the kids transcript at the end of the day. Coming in at higher levels of math and science allows students to take more advanced classes throughout their years, from the beginning. With AP World and AP US out of the way by the end of 10th grade, the only social studies class left to take at GHS is a one semester AP Gov class. They have had to add an extra semester long class for the APP kids to meet the state requirements of 6 semesters of social studies to graduate, but that class, while interesting, I'm sure, is not an AP class, or on par with AP Calc/BC or AP Chem or the other AP sciences classes that have been added to the course offerings the last few years. So there is room in the accelerated APP kids schedules for another class senior year, but often, due to budget and census, kids are not allowed to double up on science classes. The best solution would be for the acceleration to lead somewhere (not nowhere, as it is now), like AP Psychology, AP Euro, or whatever other AP or advanced social studies classes are out there. That would seem to be the point of acceleration from middle school, to develop a competitive transcript, in addition to advanced learning.

Lynn said...

I think the point of acceleration is to provide some degree of challenge in the classroom. But yes - AP Psychology would be a great elective.

Anonymous said...

My impression is that both Shauna Heath and Michael Tolley loathe providing accelerated opportunities. They appear to see offering "opportunities closer to the student's home address" as a way to kill all genuine accelerated opportunities without losing funding from the state.

-pardon me for not going by my name here.

Anonymous said...

I'll weigh in on the acceleration track re Garfield - having absolutely no actual information yet, of course!

I can see some benefits to knocking out the AP World early and having a bit of a kickback in the later years w/out an AP course, when a kid is deeper into college applications, in even harder levels of math and science, in leadership positions in activities, and perhaps trying to work part-time. Maybe a really interesting social studies or history course that isn't so hard is a nice brain break? Could ratchet back the 2+ hours of homework I hear HS kids have nightly and decrease burnout?

I don't know about the Garfield schedule specifically - we're not at that level in school yet. I can say from personal experience that the two high school English classes I still refer to almost 30 years later are Shakespeare and ... the lowest level English class my school offered, the only one that fit w/my senior year schedule b/c I went off-campus for college classes in the afternoon. That class was "Media Literacy" meant to teach students how to understand newspapers, media and advertisements. It was supposed to help the students who weren't college-bound become savvier about the media bombarding them. It was commonly thought of as a gut.

Yes, it was easy. And by FAR the most important English class I ever took - a whole semester dissecting exactly how media sells you stuff, differences between editorial/opinion and news in a paper, etc.

So while it makes sense to be annoyed that the AP World Hist class seems to have been ruled out for no apparent reason, I don't think it's always absolutely necessary -- for the same reason PE works really well for some kids -- to have every class every year be an AP class on the AP track. There are often surprising gems out there.

And my robot word is "average"!

Anonymous said...

I've said this before on this blog... AP is a racket. Most colleges and universities will only accept a few credits forcing families to pay for repeat classes in university anyway. More than just a couple AP classes is a waste of time and money.

AP Racket

Anonymous said...

AP may be a racket, but these high achieving kids are all vying for spots in top colleges/universities, which require top grades in the most challenging classes your school offers, plus top scores, leadership positions in clubs, school government, sports (not all three, of course, but some manage to do it), and any other passion outside of being a stellar student you can show them. Taking a throw away easy A class is not a great idea for these kids given the incredibly competitive nature of college admissions these days.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow. Absolutely take a 'throwaway' class (which will only be throwaway if that's how your student treats it.) Let your student learn something completely non-college-entrance driven in school. Imagine! Let your student use the extra time of a non-excessive homework load to invest in new hobby/passion or in volunteer work or a job. These things matter just as much to competitive colleges as notching one more AP class on the transcript belt. Your student will no doubt be more well rounded and quite possibly happier for not succumbing to parental college admissions anxiety.

Anonymous said...

- Holy cow
Just one question: why should we limit some student's joy of learning, excitement about a more rigorous class in HS? (AP or not AP).
Just because someone somewhere in SPS decided to change the course work in GHS after open enrollment?
Or because you (and some other parents) say so?
FYI: there are students who are ready for this (and other) AP class in 9th grade. Maybe because they were preparing themselves in all MS and they think they are ready to take it (they deserve it if that was their goal), maybe because they were totally bored out of their mind in MS and did enough of volunteering and extracurricular classes in the last 1-3 years, or maybe just because they want to be more challenged.
Why should the district limit these students in 9th grade?
Education and learning is NOT "one size fits all".

Anonymous said...

I'm so confused. On the one hand, there are rising 9th grade parents very upset about their 9th graders not taking AP World. On the other hand, there are parents saying, no worries, take it easy and be well rounded, it will all work out. The harsh reality is these kids need to both work really hard AND be well rounded to achieve what they have been accelerating for all these years - a prestigious college/university. Not too many of these kids (I would venture one to none) are headed to Evergreen. Which values an independent love of learning type of kid, I have heard.

Anonymous said...

I don't want my child vying for the honor of super high debt coming out of college no matter how prestigious. If my kid is going to put in the time doing college level work in 9th grade I want him getting credit for it. If you homeschool can you enroll your kid in community college? There have to be some better ways to get an education.

AP racket

ben said...

Back to the original topic, I'm still curious in what concrete ways folks think the curriculum is less rigorous? I.e. if you were going to advocate for a change in elementary what would be restored back to the teaching.

Anonymous said...

@ ben, I don't know about elementary, but in middle school APP I'd advocate for the following:

- Greater emphasis on critical thinking, analysis, etc.
- Near total ban on worksheets that have kids simply regurgitating information, coloring, etc.
- Adequate textbooks/resources, so kids spend less time mindlessly copying down information
- Fewer group projects, and restrictions on the extent to which group grades affect individual grades. Some group projects can be good for learning, but make kids accountable for their own performance.
- Significant increases in the amount of reading kids are expected to do, with serious class time devoted to deep discussions of the material.
- Significant increases in the amount of writing kids are expected to do, with regular multi-page papers and periodic 5-10 page essays, reports, etc.
- Reduced reliance on peer editing, and/or increased provision of editing support/guidance from teachers. Just because your peers don't have much in the way of feedback, it doesn't mean there's nothing to learn.
- Willingness and ability, on the part of teachers, to probe deeper than the basic curriculum. If kids ask questions or have comments on matters that are relevant but that go beyond the basic material, teachers should encourage and support that type of learning. Use the core curriculum as a ceiling, not a floor. They'll likely inspire more kids that way, too.
- Careful screening/selection/training of APP teachers. In middle school, some of these kids will be working at the high school or even college level. Teachers need to have a very thorough grasp of the subject they are teaching, so they are able to wing it when new ideas and extended discussions come up. (Someone mentioned earlier that some kids are smarter than their teachers. IQ-wise, that may often be the case, but teachers should have deep, up-to-date knowledge in their subject matter, much beyond what the students will actually be studying.)
- Efforts to curb grade inflation. From what I gather, it's pretty easy to get good grades. Things tend to come easy to these APP kids, but it would be great if they learned that hard work is important to getting top grades.
- Ensure vertical alignment between middle school and high school courses. Related, any high school level courses taken in middle school should be at least as rigorous as the high school version, but preferably MORE rigorous. For example, if kids are ready to take Biology one year early, they are probably also ready to learn it more deeply than the gen ed version others will take in a year.
- Develop a comprehensive secondary program that includes course progression grades 6-12.
- Curriculum. First, actually have one. Second, make sure it's good, and supports the ideas above.

Those area just a few quick thoughts, based on our MS experience.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

Everything that HIMSmom said.

Careful screening/selection/training of APP teachers
I will add that it's pretty bad when students feel the need to check information on their smartphones because they can't rely on the teacher's instruction.

Anonymous said...

HIMSmom you nailed it. Reading with in depth discussion of the material-both fiction and non fiction- has been sorely lacking in middle school APP for many many years. The same is true for writing and it is basic stuff. Students need to be taught by a teacher how to draft, redraft, proof, and edit their work. APP being sited in more middle schools provides an opportunity to create/adopt a coherent curriculum across 6-12. Will this happen? I doubt it and suspect that a mish mash of programs dubbed APP will exist. This runs counter to the equity piece so often cited as a reason to locate APP across the district. It is sad that parents should need to agitate for curriculum.

Old Timer APP

Anonymous said...

- to HIMSmom
Fantastic list, I second all your points. I would also like to see some addition (depth, problem solving, etc) in the MS APP math and science classes.

Just one question:
"Use the core curriculum as a ceiling, not a floor."
Didn't you mean the opposite:
Use the core curriculum as a floor, not a ceiling.
Why should we limit our students's learning in any way?
- No limit

Anonymous said...

Was there a curriculum before? Math may be more rigorous? I gather kids were ramped into the 2 year ahead thing before and my new APP kid was tossed in two years ahead of grade level with the catch up up to us as independent study. Reading is 2 years ahead with a few groups at different level within APP. Writing is writers workshop pretty much at grade level. Was there a more rigorous writing program before? Science and social science/history and the rest are advertised to be at grade level, but I would imagine a little more depth of understanding is likely possible. I would expect that a kid should finish elementary school should be able to set up a simple study, isolate variables, understand the difference between correlation and causality, and draw reasonable conclusions. They should have a basic introduction to the physical and natural sciences. They should be able to read and comprehend any fairly well written non-fiction work geared toward a General audience and ask appropriate questions of authors methods and conclusions. At the end of elementary kids should have a good working timeline of major world events and major US events ready to hang more detailed study and understanding on later.

By the end of middle school kids should be beginning to read studies and papers for professional and technical audiences. This will continue to develop through college as kids gain more knowledge and understanding in various areas of study. Kids should be writing simple essays in middle school with growing knowledge and research skills.

By the end of high school should be able to put together a basic research paper and write a few different styles of essay easily, and give a basic presentation in front of audiences. They should understand the statistical validity of studies and ask appropriate questIons of methods and findings as well as ask and theoretically design appropriate follow-up studies. At the end of High school kids should have a generalized working timeline of historic events along with multiple areas of more detailed knowledge. (AP level knowledge?) At the end of high school these kids should have some areas of interest for future study to guide college selection and study with the intention to add to the world's understanding of this field through creation or research as well as some insight into current knowledge deficits.

Was APP doing this in the past and not now? I'm not sure? I'm guessing the kids aren't allowed to take the AP world in 9th because they don't have a basic working timeline or the reading or writing level is not up to par or requisite study skills?

What was APP?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the kids aren't allowed to take the AP world in 9th because they don't have a basic working timeline or the reading or writing level is not up to par or requisite study skills?

These are the deficits we're seeing with the program as it's being implemented at HIMS. There is not intentional or adequate instruction in basic essay writing (argumentative writing that looks at both sides of an issue, or analysis of topics in depth), nor is there adequate coverage of history, World or US. Tests? Few and far between. I think the weakness is due in part to separating the LA content from the social studies. The 6th and 8th grade classes do not seem to be intentionally linking LA/SS content as in years past. 7th grade seems to be the exception.

Anonymous said...

@ No limit-- yes, floor vs. ceiling typo in my above list, absolutely. Apparently I was thinking about too many things at once--as I tend to do on this issue. My frustration with APP is driving me batty!

@ Anon at 12:12, I don't feel like LA and SS necessarily have to be linked to work well, whether or not one approach is working better than the other currently. Personally, I'd like to see LA classes focus more on great literature. The limited reading they've done in history-linked LA classes doesn't seem particularly inspiring.

I should note that we DID have one HIMS LA/SS teacher who required the kids to read, on their own, one book per month from a "books for college-bound students" type list. I applaud the effort, but it would have been much more valuable it all the kids were reading the same book so they could have discussed it. Most 6th-8th graders don't have a lot of life experience, and many of these books can be over their heads. They aren't likely to get a whole lot out of reading them if they miss a lot of the deeper meaning and references. I believe group discussion is key.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

Reading literature through the ages, in conjunction with social studies content rather than some totally random unrelated selections, can allow for the "deeper meaning and references" as well as a more coherent curriculum. For example, there is a substantial amount of American lit (novels, speeches, and poetry) that could be covered during the study of US History. Instead, they are studying what in 8th grade LA this year? Disney? Songs? It doesn't mean all LA has to be related to SS, but why else would they have been linked all these years? For comparison, some students in the 7th grade (non-APP) US history class are reading Uncle Tom's Cabin.

another old-timer

Anonymous said...

Here's an example of a song used in this year's 8th grade class as part of a poetry unit:

What I Be

Discuss.

Anonymous said...

About the poetry link above: Which school presented this in its coursework? It wasn't my kid's school. Did a student bring it into discussion, or was this a teacher-introduced lyric? By 8th grade everybody has had FLASH so it is not as though sex is a subject that has not been discussed in school HOWEVER if it were teacher-introduced it seems good form to send the standard "here is what we will be discussing in class and why and if you have concerns here is the procedure." Did this happen?

Beyond that, the content of the poem (minus the sexual references) are at about a 5th grade level, so if this is an example of "accelerated" or "enriched" coursework, which is the point of this thread, the earlier posts about APP having headed downhill - far downhill - are spot on.

My own experience: APP math is accelerated. Every other piece of coursework, and most of the discussion around it? ---- meh.

Anonymous said...

It seems apparent that a kid would need to read a variety of texts, especially non-fiction and be able to write a basic, well reasoned essay citing those texts appropriately in order to take the AP courses. If middle school English is not teaching these skills explicitly, then they are failing our middle school kids. Science, history, or social studies texts of undergrad college reading level, or high school reading level (since college standards have slipped also), should be used so our kids will be ready for AP courses in high school. If this is not happening at Middle school. Teachers and administration need to be held accountable.
What was APP?

Anonymous said...

Anon (please use a name) wrote: "My own experience: APP math is accelerated. Every other piece of coursework, and most of the discussion around it? ---- meh."

I am assuming you are an elementary parent? There is no such thing as "APP math" in MS or HS.

Our experience at HIMS was so poor that we left the district. Our child spent grades 1-5 in APP, and we found elementary a much stronger program. 5th grade was much more rigorous than 6th grade for our child. Elementary APP has changed drastically over the last few years, too. My kid's awesome 5th grade teacher is no longer there.

I said elsewhere that I strongly believe that the HS preference is going to be lost sooner rather than later. Garfield just can't handle the number of students. With the contempt that Heath and Tolley show for APP and the looming capacity crisis in HS, what's to stop them?

-pickle

Anonymous said...

Which school presented this in its coursework? It wasn't my kid's school.

"What I Be" was a teacher selected song and was played for students in an 8th grade class at HIMS.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately after Ms Shadow passed away, HIMS only got a few experienced APP LA/SS teachers (actually only one who came from WMS). Since there is no strict curriculum, strong textbook to follow, no alignment with WMS or even between most of the classes/grades, little experience among the teachers, only a few PD hours, there is
- no real surprise

Anonymous said...

Sorry, was there a problem with " What I Be"?

Don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my ignorance, I'm just learning about these programs. Am I to understand that one cannot sign up for AP World History - or any AP class - unless they've been in the APP program? This is insane to me, as I've come from a district where anyone was allowed to sign up for AP if their previous teachers felt they could handle the coursework and signed off on it. AP classes were comprised of both former gifted and honors students, typically, and in fact honors students were probably needed to fill out all these AP classes in every high school. Even I took AP classes back in the dark ages of my own high school years - five of them. Am I to understand you can't get into these AP classes on an individual basis?

-NewB

Anonymous said...

I Be Simplistic and Trite. I Be Fornicator. Neither are what we want to promote as writing examples for our children.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely a downward trajectory from 7th grade where they read parts of the Aeneid and Canterbury Tales.

Anonymous said...

Umm, yes. Chaucer. Take "the Miler's Tale":

Derk was the night as pich, or as the cole,
And at the window out she putte hir hole
And Absolon, him fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he was war of this. (628-32)

Those wicked Middle English cants. Oh yes, teacher had to closed the door to translate that to mod English.

be with the time

Anonymous said...

Sorry that be "Miller" and "to close".

being there

Anonymous said...

The teacher had the good sense to selectively cover a less bawdy Chaucer tale. I think that's the difference. A teacher needs to use professional judgment about what is appropriate - maturity wise and challenge wise - for a given group of kids.

Lynn said...

NewB,

Yes that would be insane. Students who are not identified as highly capable can take AP classes. Those identified students have been successfully taking AP World as freshman for several years and now Garfield has decided to require them to take a general ed world history course as a prerequisite for the AP class.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps. But then again it's context. I started asking this only after a recent conversation with my teen and friends. What they hear and say among each other tells me (whether it's old, middle, or modern English) they definitely don't use the word fornicator. They use something else. The words are out there and most kids are astute enough to know when to use them (bus rides, w/out parents) and not. (Then again, in this age group to say things in shocking ways is that age old foray into the daring and the forbidden. And if this is as far as it goes, as a parent, I can live with that compared to all the other skullduggery stuff they can get into.)

The other point is Chaucer freely use the cants of his time to highlight his points and have a good time. He is a funny, raunchy dude with a purpose. Virgil's wild love, passion, and violence again can be read in his Aeneid as a reflection of his time.

Can not the lyrics be used similarly? This is the question the kids asked me (paraphrasing their torrents here).

Why do adults feel so strongly we need to read the greatest lit, works that really are meant for adults or for people who understand more of life, of war, of hunger, of violation, of loss, of destruction, of love lost (though on that note, they were ducking a bit)?

Mind you these kids understand what is expected and the linear thinkers can take it on and spit out what is expected in their classroom analysis.

Still it's a good question. They can say all the right stuff. But does it really mean anything as the way the authors of those great works intended? And are we missing something by focusing only on that Oxford's list and not listen to the voices of today's gen? Perhaps by looking at both and looking beyond how things are being said, but the actual message, the passion, the emotion, the "Virgils" and "Chaucers" of the time are not so far apart.

I think there's room.

be...

Anonymous said...

Why do adults feel so strongly we need to read the greatest lit, works that really are meant for adults or for people who understand more of life, of war, of hunger, of violation, of loss, of destruction, of love lost

We're talking about a class for highly capable students, yes? The idea is to stretch their minds and expose them to the human experience through good literature.

If materials are not well selected, however, it affronts students, rather than providing material for thoughtful discussion. That's exactly why materials need to be carefully selected.

This isn't simply about contemporary vs classic. APP is supposed to be about offering an "advanced level of complexity and depth," while still being developmentally appropriate. Some material is too gritty or too simplistic - where's the happy medium?

-one of many anons

Greg Linden said...

There appear to be two things getting mixed here and I wonder if it might be useful to separate them?

At the elementary and middle school level, a lot of the discussion so far seems to be around the APP split (north/south) and consistency and quality problems from that, especially in the newer programs in the north, but generally across the entire district.

At the high school level, a lot of the discussion is around access to college advanced placement credit (AP) classes (as there never has been much of a distinct APP program at the high school level) and whether that access has recently been restricted for earlier grades or even for all students at the school in general.

Is that a fair summary of the two major areas of this discussion? And would it be helpful to separate those out (maybe into two separate threads)?

Anonymous said...

No. The changes that we are seeing in the middle school in the North, but not the south, seems to be keeping all kids from AP classes. It is unclear how far back into elementary the short comming in teaching rigor spreads. These issues should not be separated as they are not separate issues.
Anon Anon

Anonymous said...

@12:16, I am not really addressing advanced learning in particular as I think we can certainly challenge all learners here, including me. The ironic thing is in my work, the folks who have the most life's experience which are fodder for poets and angsty writers aren't your usual APP demographics. An observation these kids make themselves. They know what lucky ducks their lives are thus far.

Of course we should challenge kids, but they are being honest in challenging me. That's fair. It does get me thinking and they have a point. Shakespeare wasn't writing because he though he was going to be #1 on the Oxford's greatest list. He wrote to get his plays up on stage, for his audience and patrons, and for his living. He wasn't THE most celebrated writer among his contemporaries then. That came much, much later. So if our kids wants to challenge relevance and greatness because they find just as much meaning and beauty in compelling contemporary novels and rap/emo lyrics, I think Shakespeare would applaud. In order to defend their points, the kids had to read Shakespearian works and know enough of English history to do so. I take their critical thinking power over knowing what a pentameter is any day.

b



Anonymous said...

Today's poetry jaunt to discuss rhyme:

My speech releases fire from the beast within. 
I acknowledge it's a game; I justify my need to win.
You say there's no time to study, people look: 
if you got time to take a [poop], then you got time to read a book.

- Blue Scholars, “Southside Revival”

Anonymous said...

Reposting an update I recently had posted on the long open thread, as it's relevant to the discussion of decreased rigor, which school's to blame, etc.

--

I heard from Cindy Watters, and it sounds as if this MS APP social studies curriculum change was in the works for a while. This was apparently an effort to align the curriculum across the MS APP programs, although there was apparently no consideration given to how this would align--or not--with HS classes. If the idea was that everyone was switching to US History in 8th grade APP, it looks like it was only a matter of time before Garfield made this change re: AP World. And now the time is here.

With the opening of a new APP middle school, alignment efforts certainly do make sense, but only if done (a) by adopting a good, rigorous shared curriculum; (c) by ensuring that teachers are well-trained in the new curriculum before implementation this fall; and (c) with an eye toward the post-MS pathway. Since they already blew it on "c" let's hope they can get it right on "a" and "b." Any thoughts on how to ensure that? I'll be relaying my feedback to Ms. Watters, for one. I'm also hoping to get the APP AC to take up the matter, but they don't seem particularly focused on advocacy..."

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

A better slam poetry my kid found:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/25/what-kind-of-asian-are-you-slam-poem_n_5208102.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Anonymous said...

Are they studying slam poetry? As part of class? What the?

Anonymous said...

Right... So if the point is to teach them how to write a basic college essay... Then the directions would not be discuss, but write an essay defining beat poetry by form, content and context, use examples from these.....fill in the blank... Poets known to work in the genre. How do these ... Fill in the blank....authors define beat poetry in their writings or essays? How would you define the genre and why? Give examples of poetry that does and does not fit the definition to support your definition. Outline with clear organizational structure due Friday. 5 to 10 pages rough draft due next week. Final draft 1 week after. Here are some selected readings to get you started... Cite all sources APA format..... Something like that.... Not discuss this simple poem.
This is APP middle school. They need to learn to write a college essay for high school AP classes.

Anon. Anon.

Anonymous said...

Argument redux: how to make APP a better college prep tool. Did anyone inform the teachers?

Anonymous said...

Random thoughts of a devil's advocate nature:

So let's say acceleration is the goal. You get to high school, and acceleration means a few years ahead, so we're talking college courses.

You have the option of AP courses to replace gen ed courses - but as others have mentioned, those credits don't universally transfer, and most of the more elite colleges want you to learn "their" way of doing things anyway. So if you're not looking to accelerate in order to earn college credit, let's examine why you might otherwise want to accelerate.

To appeal to colleges? If we're talking about those same elite colleges, they're going to want much more than good test scores and a rigorous transcript - they look at extra-curriculars and the like as well. IF getting into a good college is the goal, the energy might be just as well spent learning to balance study with extra-curriculars and a social life, as even the best colleges are full of distractions.

For general enrichment? At what point is that no longer the school's responsibility? If you've got a love for programming, at some point you surpass even the information taught by AP Comp Sci, at which you... what? Either pursue options at home or go to college early. After all, the school system can't really hire professors who are even equipped to teach college-level courses in all the varied fields. If you're not socially or emotionally ready for college, see the above discussion about the advantages of developing well-roundedness. And pursuing independent study is also a skill that will serve you well later in life.

I guess the point I'm making is that at some point, many students will surpass the high school curriculum, no matter how rigorous is may be. The question we have to answer is, where is the line where that's a problem for the school system?

This also brings up the issue of acceleration vs broad vs deep. I find it fascinating that most commenters have said that more in-depth study should be reserved for those "top-percenters." While I've outlined several reasons why more in-depth study might be preferable to acceleration for those most advanced students, my instinct is that it also better serves those students who are in the top tenth percentile as well. To put it simply, not every advanced sixth grader is ready for algebra I, but they're all ready to explore pre-algebra concepts in further depth (and having a firmer, more intuitive grasp might serve them better later).

Acceleration is the simplest, most obvious way of saying "Look, we're providing services" but investing in a curriculum with added depth in grade-appropriate subjects will benefit all advanced learners, more easily allow it to be tailored to individuals, and better handle the issue of students who are transferring from private schools or out-of-district. To use another comparison, an eighth grader, an English major and a Lit professor can all read Othello and get something out of it.

Anonymous said...

Students in my high school gifted program (years ago) who were beyond the math offered by the school took math classes at the local campus of our state university. Does that happen here with UW (for any subjects)? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:35:

I'm going to call you Devil's Advocate. I agree with much of what you said.

The thing you missed is the cohort.

I have APP qualified kids who we never enrolled in APP because their needs have (generally) been met outside of APP. Many people here will tell you that that would have not happened for their kids. I can't judge.

Personally, I have never understood the attraction of "acceleration." Sure, if a kid is ready to move on, then they should be able to. But, as you point out, there are many levels on which to read Othello. (I'll admit that math could be different--but math is accelerated after 5th grade.)The thing APP enrollment seems to "buy" is the cohort to support and pull, or push, or at least not impede the operation of the qualified kid's mind and behavior.

Some kids need that. Some don't.

maureen

Anonymous said...

Devil's Advocate,

Much of what you say about acceleration is true--AP credits might not transfer, and colleges do want to see well-roundedness in addition to academics. But in our experience, the goal of acceleration isn't to get a jump on college, or to help get into college. It's something you missed completely on your list: to actually learn something!

Or perhaps you covered that, under the "general enrichment" category? Couching it that way certainly makes it sound like a bonus, and added benefit these students shouldn't just expect, right? And providing an example that's an elective helps make that case. But what if we're talking core classes? Say, for example, you've got a 6th grader in APP science. This highly gifted and always curious kid has already done a lot of reading on related topics, so finds the information presented in the course way too simplistic. So the kid--determined to actually learn something--does some extra reading at home. He/she goes back to school and tries to weave this new knowledge into the discussion, but gets shut down. "Sorry, that's beyond the scope of this class." Day after day after day, same story.

Facing that sort of frustration, your reaction would probably be like that of my kid: "Well, if everything new and interesting is beyond the scope of this class, bring on the next freaking class!" But oh no, we have to stay on track. Don't want to get ahead of ourselves. After all, if you're working at the right level now, there might not be anything for you in 6 years! Better to be bored for the next 3, 4, 5 years, so you have options that last year, right? I disagree. Let the kids skip the boring, basic classes and push themselves if they already know the material and can handle it. If they run out of classes later, they'll have to figure something out then. And while it may not be the school's responsibility to provide college level classes, I think it SHOULD be the district's responsibility to at least accommodate the needs of students in that boat. For example, if a student has learned all that the school can provide in a core subject area, the school should allow the student to do independent study--on campus and with access to a computer lab or whatever they need--for continuing on that academic pathway.

And as to your statement that "most commenters have said that more in-depth study should be reserved for those 'top-percenters,' I must have missed those comments. Folks may be advocating for more of it in some groups, but that doesn't mean they think others should be denied. Of course it would be great for all. But here's the thing: if you have slower learners, average learners and very quick learners, and they're all expected to cover generally the same topics throughout their K-12 education, those quick learners are going either need to move more quickly through the material (acceleration), cover the material more completely (depth), or some combination of the two. Or I suppose there's always a fourth option, which is to just suck it up and focus on non-academics, right?

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that investing in a curriculum with added depth in grade-appropriate subjects will benefit all--and I don't think any of those arguing for greater acceleration would argue AGAINST increased depth. I think it's just a reaction to the fact that the current curriculum (to the extent it exists) and instruction don't provide that depth, and there doesn't seem to be a great likelihood of that changing anytime soon. In the absence of a sufficiently rigorous curriculum, there's a push for acceleration. At least that way kids can keep learning something. But I'm all for a more rigorous curriculum. Imagine science classes that use math, even in middle school. Or geometry that actually includes proofs! Or LA classes that require a lot of writing and analysis... My kids would be thrilled.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

It's something you missed completely on your list: to actually learn something!...Imagine science classes that use math, even in middle school. Or geometry that actually includes proofs! Or LA classes that require a lot of writing and analysis... My kids would be thrilled.

Spot on.

Anonymous said...

We ran into that with the MS school non APP spawn. A teacher suggested enrolling her in UW Saturday classes for teens. It was a great dilution and the child just needed to find other kids who don't mind weird dives into asking what life is about. That was the topic by the way. Sometimes, schools can't do it all.

For the oldest spawn, writing is all about getting the assignment done however shoddy the work. When he can, my husband goes over the writing and makes suggestion to improve the work. A lot of it comes down to getting the kid to organize thoughts so it doesn't come out schizoid by learning how to introduce the topic, make transition, and conclude gracefully. It sounds easy, but writing is all about nuance and style and re-writing so I can see how a teacher grading 130 papers can't spend too much time on any one paper unless it's really bad.

And here's the thing, whether you are talking about APP or not, somehow you have to get all 130 individuals to read that one book. There is no way you are going to please all the students and their parents. But you hope to engage the students especially if the book is challenging. That means preparing them and finding ways to connect 130 kids to one book. This takes time. So when people talk about wanting more reading, more depth and challenges, they need to consider how practical are the demands. You can't just plunk down Brave New World or Pride and Prejudice and say read, discuss, analyse, and write a critique answering these questions.

I agree with what many here say about wanting more rigor and depth, but I temper my wants with what can be delivered practically. Perhaps we need to change LAs delivery in MS (7-8) like we do for math?

Anonymous said...

And here's the thing, whether you are talking about APP or not, somehow you have to get all 130 individuals to read that one book.

Like the Odyssey? Or Shakespeare? This is what's been done in the past, in middle school APP, so why is it suddenly not possible?

Anonymous said...

Yes, there might have to be some effort on the part of the teacher to provide any key background information and motivate the kids to read whatever books they assign, as well as some work in figuring out how to guide discussions of the book, and work on grading any papers assigned in response to said book. Isn't that kind of what middle school teachers signed up for? I'm not seeing why that's an obstacle.

Of course you don't just plunk them down with a book and say "read, discuss, analyze, and write a critique." You have to also teach, each step of the way. Unless I'm mistaken, that's the whole point!

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

What? The kids don't do proofs in geometry? Wouldn't one need to use math in science for conversions, measurements, and data analysis?

Anonymous said...

Imagine science classes that use math, even in middle school. Or geometry that actually includes proofs! Or LA classes that require a lot of writing and analysis...

My kids had all of that outside of APP (TOPS then either RHS or IHS pre IB.) Does APP really not offer any of that? Or are you saying you want proofs in 6th grade or something? (Actually, TOPS was better than RHS for analysis in LA -- but IHS is fine for that.) Don't APP kids just DO analysis when the opportunity offers (and then the teachers encourage it and refine their methods?) Or are you saying the teachers actively discourage it?

Are they actually teaching 9th grade level Physical Science with no math? Don't they do some Stoichiometry? That requires algebra. Or are you wanting Physics with calculus for 7th grade? It's so hard to know whether these criticisms are real or are hyperbole.

maureen

Anonymous said...

If your child took Geometry at IHS, then they most likely had proofs. Discovering Geometry texts, used at HIMS, leave formal proofs to the last chapter (if they even cover it), while the texts used at IHS are very proof based.

As far as writing and analysis, my child thinks they don't do much because the teacher doesn't want to grade papers. Perhaps there is some truth to that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, with geometry I believe it's a textbook issue--and in our experience, things at the "end" of the curriculum either get covered too quickly or not at all due to time constraints.

Re: analysis, yes, they can always just do it on their own, and when I think about it more, I guess they do actually do some--more of an "everyday" type of analysis, such as write a postcard to legislator or a letter to a corporation. But there hasn't been much in the way of literary analysis or writing anything longer than a couple pages. But then again, they don't read a whole lot, either.

All in all, I'd have expected them to come out of MS with significantly more experience. But maybe this is typical, comparable to 10th grade LA elsewhere?

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

But then again, they don't read a whole lot, either.

This is a large part of the problem. Students do not have history texts to bring home and read, even for WA State history, which is a state graduation requirement with a standard text used by districts throughout WA.

Postcards and letters do not allow for extended analysis (they are certainly easier to grade than extended essays). They could have done the same work in 5th grade. You should expect more.

Anonymous said...

As far as writing expectations, you can look at grade level writing exemplars from the CCSS:

CCSS Appendix C writing samples