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.


Anonymous said...

change is coming but it is mostly more of the same... more splits more confusion and more disparity. oh well we tried but with such a complex issue and 50k kids the queen marie just isn't going to turn on a dime. the funny one is looks like they are going with tf2 to get through what they couldn't through tf1 even though most recommendations affect spectrum eligible kids the most.

-tons of work to be done.

Anonymous said...

Sound like the AL programs, ALO, spectrum, and APP, are being replaced with hi cap cluster and hi cap self contained (SAIL).

The new labels:
highly capable- 90% CogAT+90% achievement.
most highly capable- 98%CogAt + 98 achievement.

Interesting for MS SAIL, the document said the committee used North Shore and Bellevue school districts as models and for HS SAIL, it based it off Bellevue Interlake HS IB gifted program.

Anonymous said...

The first 8 1/2 pages of that document are the recommendations of a high school student. I don't think you'll see those particular changes.

Anonymous said...

Trying to get at what about the appeal process is the problem. Is it solely about equity ($$), or are the individual IQ tests considered untrustworthy? Don't the private schools for the gifted use private IQ tests as their only means of testing? Why are results considered reliable for SCDS but tantamount to buying your way in for SPS?

Anonymous said...

Not to sound dense, but why the focus on changing the name??? Do people really think 'most highly capable' sounds LESS obnoxious? I'll agree we have a PR problem, but sounds like this will just make people resent us even more. "My child is JUST as capable... blah blahblah."

Anonymous said...

The first plan is so detailed, roll up timetables etc, who wrote it?
It seems like a compeprehensi plan that will allow kids to finish who are in APP which is good. It doesn't explicitly state it but a reduced self contained population looks probable after th
e roll up is done as well as real mandated service for capable kids at every school. I like capable over gifted. For one, it's not a gift, it's really a condition like blue eyes or big ears, and capable describes what these kids are: able to do
harder work. No more than that.

Anonymous said...

You realize that Barbar and Jenkins are high school students, right?

Greg Linden said...

Of course no one knows who Barber and Jenkins are. Are we supposed to? Is there any public document anywhere that says that? The closest appears to be this, but it only says affiliation, not whether the person is PTA, parent, teacher, staff, or, as some anonymous commenter just claimed is possible, a student.

Use anonymous comments to be snide about what people not on the task force should know all you want, but this is a document published out of the SPS Advanced Learning Task Force where the first recommendation is to eliminate APP entirely. If the intent was that this document somehow shouldn't be taken seriously, perhaps there could have been some indication of that. It's a quite serious thing for the ALTF to publish a document where the lead recommendation is for eliminating APP. If that's an error, perhaps the ALTF should fix it?

I think it is fair to be surprised. I, and I suspect most APP parents, really didn't expect the ALTF to have anyone on it advocating for eliminating APP in the next couple years.

Lynn said...

I did point that out in the comment on May 25fh at 7:48.

I agree that it was irresponsible to post those recommendations online - as the discussions at task force meetings aren't headed in that direction. There is a meeting this coming Thursday - open to the public though only task force members can speak.

Anonymous said...

The document is a compilation of individual recommendations, but only from a few of the task force members, and not in any consistent format. The bulk of the comments, which happen to be shown first, and with great detail, are from a high school student (in coordination with another high school student?). It's easy to misread the document as a detailed draft of recommendations, but it's still unclear what the task force will recommend on the whole. There are many more members on the task force for whom comments are not included in the linked document.

Task Force 2 members are listed here. It lists APP affiliation, but doesn't specify whether the person is a student, teacher, or parent.

Task Force recommendations are supposed to be finalized on May 29, yes?

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the first scenario, did a lot of work. It replaces APP it doesn't just eliminate it.The problems and solutions for single subject, appeals, local school service, roll up, locations- it's all there. It seems that more kids who need services would get them.
Many of the other suggestions after the first one are very different and many seek to keep the status quo. Why it is available now and who are these writers?

Anonymous said...

Barbar is a junior at IBx who is a long-time member of the APP AC. Jenkins is also an IBx junior. They are of the class that has been split twice and have had direct experience with the challenges of replicating the program. You may agree or disagree with their ideas, but don't blow them off because they are kids.

open ears

Anonymous said...

Name change - IPP was first but for some juveniles that was just easy prey but it was branching out from the decades of work from the UW (Robinson's) that every child should be taught to their limit (maybe "especially the bright ones" as that was their focus but certainly isn't mine so... can't say). APP doesn't fit with WAC what does that matter you ask especially when it comes to special ed delivery... Not sure but today we are seeing acceleration is not across the board. I long for a day when elementary school 98% kids are taught in buildings like Lowell where no one was one of 10 but one of 100 or even 1 of 1,000. Where all were accepted.

Anonymous said...

The Task Force has been directed to address APP specifically, as that is what SPS considers highly capable. Some of the suggestions are interesting, especially the idea of HC and MHC, as it kind of rolls many Spectrum qualified students into the HC designation.

I hope the Task Force addresses curriculum in a more defined policy. Saying "curriculum will be based on Common Core State Standards" doesn't mean much unless they address content and materials. You can't really compact ELA CCSS and teacher sourced material has been an issue in some classrooms. Many members address the issue of needing a consistent curriculum across sites. Also, as another member suggested, the onus should not be on the teacher to create materials. There does seem to be conflict in that some teachers want lots of freedom to develop their own curriculum, while some teachers have not been strong in this area. It leads to lots of inconsistencies for students.

Capping math levels seems odd, as that is one area where curriculum is pretty specific and it can be compacted for very advanced learners. If courses were offered at an honors level in middle school, as opposed to simply delivering the same district curriculum earlier, then limiting to two year acceleration may still serve many students...but I just don't see that happening on a consistent basis. Algebra (and Geometry) with the Discovering text is not an honors level class. A teacher would have to supplement quite a bit, or use a different text.

rambling thoughts

Anonymous said...

Anon at 12:10, I don't know what that means. APP doesn't fit with which WAC?

I don't see how it would be possible from a capacity standpoint to end APP in its current form right now or to keep more kids out. The district can't simultaneously use APP as a capacity management tool and dismantle APP.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone surprised that it's the high schoolers who appear to have done the most work, given it the most thought, and come up with an actual, thorough plan of action? They haven't been worn down by adult (experience, cynicism?) yet.


Anonymous said...

The comments from the current Lincoln teacher made my heart sing. She wrote that despite its size, Lincoln is "one is one of the most community-minded, “at home” feeling schools I have ever taught in." I agree whole-heartedly, but this view doesn't seem to get out into the public sphere. It's a great community, it really is.

I also love her comments on identification, excerpted here:

"I think the whole idea of important here. These kids need advocates in EVERY building in SPS. It is a program to serve a population with needs as important as others in the district.

I notice that APP/HC programs are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the SPS newsletters that go out to families. It’s like we don’t exist. Lincoln isn’t considered a school, which is truly a joke, with a population of 700 students. I think more acknowledgment, but more importantly, celebration, of the students and their work would get families more engaged and interested in the process.

I feel like every time someone makes a comment about elitism or racism, we hang our heads. My job is to advocate for my students. My students are not elitist or racist. They are kids who have special needs that deserve to be met..."

Please read her entire comment. It's a fresh and much needed perspective on how we should be serving these kids in SPS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to note, there is significant confusion out in the general parent population and the public with the name APP.

It is so close to AP and people consistently mix them up and even think they are the same thing.

I have said - for many years - that giving APP a new name might help perceptions (given this confusion).

Anonymous said...

So true. The students suffer the actions of the "adults". Whether the program is poorly managed and/or conceived, it exists for students who have special needs. The district is spending a lot of time on APP now and it appears a policy will be forthcoming. These kids deserve a school to be proud of like anyone.
Elite and racist, if anyone is to blame, it the district. They have had years to get poor kids in and ELL and minority. There are many schemes in AL depts across the US that provide affirmative action into gifted programs. Why didn't downtown a Adopt a plan like that? Why didn't the district mandate at least year ahead work for any kid in math or reading at every school?
The program is huge and racially skewed but it is designed that way and we've never heard why. Why have we used best practice for years?
Had to rant

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the first reccomendation related to the mentioned "elimination of APP" has caused so much confusion because of the way it was portrayed in this blog post. Those of you who read the reccomendation carefully should see that the new delivery model (SAIL) would serve all existing APP-qualified children and new students at the 98/98 level. The other reccomendations may not specifically mention changing the name of APP (a sure thing to happen at this point), in general they all align with these reccomendations at the elementary and middle school level.

The triple accleration in middle school mathematics seems to be replaced with more in-depth courses designed to teach highly capable and other qualified students. Plus the reccomendations in general would provide a massive quality improvement for current and future Spectrum/HiCap students.

The areas where the first reccomendation differs include the elimination of appeals (mentioned in several other reccomendations)and the services to APP/SAIL high school students.

I look forward to the outcome of a task force who has seemingly got their act together.

Other HIMS mom

Charlie Mas said...

As usual, the District has created a committee that gets together and tells us what we already know. The recommendations are the same ones that people have been making to the District for twelve years. Is the current leadership listening any more than the previous leadership?

A few of the recommendations are things that the District promised they would do but have refused to do. The current adminstration hasn't shown any interest in keeping those promises so far.

I didn't see people talking about the need for a policy, but it was evident in almost everything they wrote. What I did see was a deep need for the District to step up and take control of the programs, dictate staffing, delivery model, professional development, and curriculum, and then to closely monitor quality and efficacy.

Charlie Mas said...

It is critical to note that when the members of the task force write about "cluster grouping", they usually mean clustering all of the eligible students together in one class. This is different from the "cluster grouping" for Spectrum practiced at some elementary schools in which they spread the eligible students across all of the classes.

Anonymous said...

Isn't spreading the students out the opposite of cluster grouping?

Anonymous said...


Yes. But, ask the former principal of Wedgwood.

Clustering for Kindergarten (self-containment for elementary and for certain blocks of middle) means grouping ALL 'APP' highly capable students in a single classroom in each school so that they have intellectual peers and the teacher has a group do s/he can do direct instruction at a just right level for small group instruction to ensure these kindergarteners are having their learning needs met. It is not perfect, but given that K is the entering year, and disruption should be minized, this is a strategy for that one year that might work.

Anonymous said...

@ May 28 8:57 - Do you realize that the district is leaning toward doing away w/ APP self contained in K-2?

Anonymous said...

They're not necessarily leaning away from it. Nancy Hertzog certainly recommends it. APP parents (and most staff) do not.

Hertzog has an image of ideal early elementary classrooms focused on student-directed learning, where every child's needs are met. The needs of highly capable children would be met through parent involvement and after-school and summer enrichment. Does anyone believe that the district is going to retrain teachers in student-led learning techniques, lower classroom sizes so that individual children are taught at the appropriate level, and provide parent training and after school and summer enrichment programs? I don't.

If we end self-contained classrooms for grades K-2, it won't be based on the task force's recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Due to the capacity crisis, it is not possible - just NOT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE to lower the class size in K-2. They could put 2 teachers into the class rooms, but they can't go down to 20 kid classes. So that's not a realistic choice, but T&L / Tolley/ Heath don't appear to live in the real world where they have to understand the capacity crisis. They just make decisions (like put half of APP into Olympic Hills? Remember that debacle they tried?) without regard to real numbers on the ground.

Watch this stuff VERY carefully. If you've left your neighborhood school for APP, you know differentiations is a pipe dream with a highly advanced learner - it's not possible on a consistent basis - so don't let that go back.

Fight tooth and nail the "everyone gets an ALO" MTSS whatever - it will mean your kid learns nothing and will be expected to be a peer mentor instead of learning new stuff.

And when discussing the racial makeup of APP - PLEASE for the love of math, which most of us can do, COMPARE APPLES TO APPLES. Look at the race of all school age children in Seattle (not THAT far off APP), not the race % of kids in SPS - the 20% or whatever that go to private school are hugely white, skewing the kids in SPS. APP is close to the actual % of kids in SEattle, just not kids in SPS.

Anonymous said...

Cluster grouping does not mean an all APP class.

Anonymous said...

Of course not. Did anyone say otherwise?

Anonymous said...

I'd add that when comparing apples to apples, Lincoln be compared to the demographics it pulls from, the north end of Seattle, vs. TM which pulls more from central/south. Can't compare Lincoln to all of SPS.


pm said...

RE: Lincoln demographics

I am a long-time APP parent and I cringe when I see a description of Lincoln as being reflective of the demographics of Seattle. According to the city of Seattle (, Seattle is 70.1% white, 13.6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 8.4% African American, 5.3% Hispanic/Latino, 4.5% bi or multiracial, 1% Native American. Lincoln is ( 73.7% white, 13.7% Asian/Pacific Islander and only 3.1% Hispanic/Latino and 0.2% African American. In addition, only 0.8% of the school has eligibility for free/reduced price lunch. I think that these numbers indicate that the program has some work to do to reflect the ethnic and economic diversity of Seattle and especially the diversity of the public school system.

Carrie said...

PM, Lincoln is more diverse than the 3 neighborhood schools around my home in NW Seattle. You need to compare apples to apples. We are talking north-end Seattle. The stats you post are for the entire city. It would be more telling to see the breakdown when APP was an all-city draw. I am sure it was still really bad, but that would be the comparison to your numbers. Not Lincoln.

Here's an example using Loyal Heights.

Caucasian 88.65%
African American 0.65%
Asian 3.72%
American Indian 2.09%
Native Hawaiian 0.15%
Mixed race 2.84%
Other race 1.89%

Anonymous said...

Carrie, Speaking as someone who opts OUT of Loyal Heights because of those very statistics, I wouldn't necessarily choose them as the best example of a public school in the north end... Not only is LH very white, I don't see them reaching out to -keep- the minority families they have; many leave after a year or two for nearby schools with a better mix. (Which may be perpetuating the problem, but still doesn't make them a great example...)

Anonymous said...

For example, compare LH to Adams, just blocks away...

American Indian or Alaskan Native - 1%
Asian or Pacific Islander - 5.6%
Black - 7.8%
Hispanic - 13%
White - 66.9%

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's because Adams is the ELL school for the area. That increases their minority population.

Carrie said...

Anonymous, let me know what north end neighborhood would be acceptable data. The numbers would be the same. FYI, I posted neighborhood demographics from the last census NOT the school's demographics.

Anonymous said...

laurelhurst or view ridge

just saying

pm said...

Laurelhurst: 10.3% FRL, 77.6% white, 8.3% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4.1% Hispanic/Latino, 0.7% African American, 0.2% Native American/Alaskan Native

View Ridge: 6.8% FRL, 70.1% white, 12.9% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4.8% Hispanic/Latino, 1.3% African American, 0.3% Native American/Alaska Native

pm said...

...and Loyal Heights is also 6.7% FRL.

Anonymous said...

I find the actual number of FRL students at schools to be more illustrative of the lack of economic diversity in APP.

APP at Lincoln - 4 FRL out of 525
Loyal Heights - 29 FRL out of 432
Laurelhurst - 43 FRL out of 417
Adams - 117 FRL out of 481
Viewridge - 42 FRL out of 614
Whittier - 67 FRL out of 466

Food and housing insecurity certainly affects a child's ability to be ready to learn at school. These kids are behind before they begin. Schools cannot solve these larger societal problems, but it does seem like the rich just keep getting richer.

Anonymous said...

Also whenever folks talk about the demographics of North Seattle they seem to conveniently forget about Northgate, Olympic Hills, John Rogers, Sand Point, Broadview-Thompson, B.F. Day etc. There are significant pockets of diversity even on the north side of town. No school I've looked at has anywhere near an FRL rate of .8%. That's an order of magnitude lower than even schools in wealthy neighborhoods let alone the entire quadrants.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of Seattle's adult population of former gifted children do you think is living in poverty? Isn't that the question?

Anonymous said...

How about if we required lower MAP scores for AL qualification in FRL students? Same cognitive cut-offs, but lower achievement bar given the greater challenges they face. That avoids making it about race, while still providing greater benefit to those groups underrepresented in AL programs.


Lynn said...

Sounds fine to me. I think there shouldn't be an achievement requirement for any student.

There are those who feel that services should only be provided to students who are significantly advanced compared to the general ed curriculum - that these students require an intervention. I believe that's Stephan Martin's take on it. Don't know how that viewpoint is reconciled with the concern about socio-economic and racial underrepresentation in the program.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Lynn. There shouldn't be an achievement requirement for any student. That is by far the best way to move toward equity in AL. For twice exceptional kids as well as kids of poverty.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who posted the original apples to apples comment.

It was about Race, not FRL % - b/c that's a different, although related - issue.

And it looks like the numbers kind of bear out what I said, in some ways. APP at Lincoln is not an outlier - and is in fact LESS white than some other schools with high performance and low FRL.

And frankly re FRL: We all know that threshold is ridiculously low. The district should use a 3X FRL number.

There are a lot of Lincoln families who are renters, not owners (b/c they have serious educational debt even into their forties for all those advanced degrees, or they've opted to rent and have one parent stay home to raise kids the way they want, or they're in low-paying creative jobs in journalism, design, etc).

Not FRL does not equate to rich. We all know that.

So if people are going to toss around the socio-economic status of Lincoln, they really should find more data. I bet the socio-economic status of Lincoln, like the race, is far more diverse than a few neighborhood schools I could name ... but "FRL" is such an absurdly low threshold, that it's hard to pierce deeply into who's trying to get by on 37K or 42 K with a family in this city, struggling, but not FRL....

Lynn said...

A family of four making $43,568 a year qualifies for reduced price school meals. Here's the chart for the current school year.

Anonymous said...

But apples to apples' point is that a family making $45K is not on the FRL radar at all. We were that family at Lowell, and by no means were we the only ones. Twenty year old car, clothes from VV, stay at home mom. APP does not equal wealthy.


Anonymous said...

Nice chart link - thank you.

So 3X the federal poverty line and 2X the free lunch are about the same 60K range for a family of 4 - and both are completely invisible to "the FRL count" at schools (and higher than the 42K I mentioned as a struggling family).

It's nice to know that FRL is higher than the poverty level (b/c that number is obscenely low and disturbing; at least the Dept of Agriculture or whoever promulgates the FRL chart has the ability to go higher administratively).

But yes, the point I was making earlier when I missed the numbers by a couple thousand was that relying on one data set - above/below FRL - is an overly simplified way to describe a population that is not under it.

Yes, a lot can be deduced about a community with a large number of students below the threshold. Opportunities, ability of parents to participate, ability to fund-raise - statistically speaking, much can be generated and be unfortunately pretty accurate.

However, the opposite can NOT be deduced with as much certainty about a community that does not have a large number below. That could be a wealthy community, a mixed wealthy and solid middle class community, or a blue collar working class community whose members are getting by but driving one car and renting, or all of the above.

I know all those types of people at Lincoln, and lots of people that I have no idea what their financial circumstances are. The range of the not-officially-poor is probably as broad at Lincoln as it is at any other school, perhaps broader than at some.

Anonymous said...

PART 2 (character limits):

In the big picture, more poor students MUST be identified and convinced that the APP community is a good fit - this is a smaller local version of a problem that bedevils lots of highly selective colleges.

How to convince people who qualify for a program (or college) that going farther from "home" with people who might on the surface seem very different is actually a safe choice, not the risk it may seem to be? That it won't backfire? That the short term challenge of getting there - whether it's five miles to Wallingford every day or across the country to Cambridge - is worth the long-term gains?

The writer John Scalzi has a lot of musings on the topic of poverty and decision fatigue and how decisions that seem to make perfect sense and be relatively easy to middle class people (ie, "enroll in APP b/c my kid loves math and isn't getting enough math close to home") are debilitating and almost impossible to make when every single event in daily life is a trade off of choices for the poor ("toilet paper or milk because I can't buy both, only one - so which?" ... "Don't have reliable car so can we change schools where we won't know anyone if we need help?") ... Decision fatigue often means the big long term decisions get avoided/delayed until they can't be made b/c opportunity goes away.

APP needs to outreach much harder and work around decision fatigue, which means revising the enrollment system. Frankly, even though I'm an incredibly process-oriented person, if I were SPS I'd waive all APP deadlines for anyone who qualifies for FRL or ELL - think about how many deadlines there are in APP process, and how hard they are for all of us with time, resources, computers, English skills, motivation, inside knowledge with one kid or friend already in APP, etc.

It doesn't surprise me that if one piece of that pie is missing, whether it's lack of knowing someone in the program who will say "it's okay, you can do it", lack of car to get all the way to JSCEE with papers or lack of computer at home to check deadlines, enrolling for APP is almost impossible.

Poverty is a barrier b/c of the process even for those kids who are identified as eligible. We can do better.

I'd love to see the FRL percent at APP go up to 10% (not a cap, a goal!). That would mean we as a community were finding kids and helping them come. The school seems "free" to many of us, but change is not free to those in poverty - change always has a price, uncertainty has a price, and the price is often the network that is vital to not becoming even poorer/falling off the grid - so if we want to recruit more FRL students, we need to (1) find them and (2) restructure everything - tours, orientation, mentoring, first week welcomes/transportation assistance, a year-long parent mentoring program, etc - in a way that welcomes people who don't know the shortcuts or the "way" the educated middle-class does things. Because even the people at APP who don't have a lot of income often have a high level of education and know "the way."

Deep musings. Sorry. But it's a vital discussion. For years I've wanted to have small separate tours NOT on big tour days, basically one on one, for FRL/non-English speaking parents, with door to door district van transpo if needed, and with the kid being allowed to attend a half day of class to try it out. Also a parent mentor for the parents of those kids - someone who can explain why/how to navigate the scholarships for instrumental music rental, etc.

I'd love to see APP just do this on their own. The district's not going to do it - they'd prefer to dismantle the program. So we should preemptively do it.

Lynn said...

The first step is to figure out why highly capable students from underrepresented populations aren't enrolled in APP. Are they not being nominated for testing? Are their parents not agreeing to the testing? Are they not choosing APP after they qualify? Each problem has a different solution.

I think ideally entrance would be based on cognitive scores only (at least in the early elementary years) - and that children with learning disabilities should never be disqualified on the basis of achievement scores in their area of disability.

Anonymous said...

Read the 2007 program review. Same discussions. Same issues.

2007 Evaluation Report APP

Here's a quote about curriculum:

"The teachers expressed frustration that the decision was made, without teacher input, to order math materials two grades ahead without the regard for the need to differentiate for the differing levels of reading and mathematics skills of newly identified students. 'They seem to think gifted education is just grade skipping.'"

Lynn said...

Given the discussions going on about the possibility of schools being allowed to request waivers to use enVision instead of Math in Focus, I am wondering if math curriculum choice should be a district-wide decision for APP elementary students. Is that a part of the consistency we want to see?

If a waiver is available, Fairmount Park is likely to use enVision. Thurgood Marshall already uses it. Should they be allowed to continue with it - and who should decide that's what is best for the school? What is Lincoln using this year? What will they use next year?

Yes - I am full of questions this morning.