Thursday, September 4, 2014

Open thread

What's on your mind?

187 comments :

Charlie Mas said...

This comment appeared on the Save Seattle Schools blog from StringCheese:

"I have a friend who is a new Garfield parent and he was telling me that school staff basically stated that actually complying with field trip procedures would effectively mean no overnight field trips could happen – ever."

Can anyone confirm this? Is this what Garfield staff are saying?

Anonymous said...

APP (or HCC) LA/SS curriculum for this year? So far my child has watched TED talks and written about an article on Carol Dweck's mindset. It's like they are discussing what should be information for parents and educators on intelligence and giftedness...anyone else have discussions with their kids on what's going on in class these first few days? It feels...off.

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of the videos:

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms

There are several segments that give me pause, and the ADHD discussion has a drawing with a drooling child that's been medicated with Ritalin. Then there's the putting down of school on the first week of school...

Anonymous said...

what school?

Anonymous said...

Two questions:
LA/SS - not only which school, but which grade?
Math - my son brought home his Discovering Algebra textbook. He is a 6th grader at JAMS. What do I need to know about this text/method? I know there's a lot of negative opinion about it but am wanting to know more facts vs heresay, so to speak and what I/we/he might be up against with regards to this text and method.

Thanks!
kp

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest getting a normal algebra text as a reference for home - you can get one used on Amazon for a reasonable price. Your child can learn the straightforward rules of algebra and get additional practice with more challenging problems. The Discovering text leaves out some skills, plus it's short on practice. It's very wordy...a more traditional text will just get to the point, and show some example problems. It also seems heavily reliant on a graphing calculator, which you shouldn't really need for basic algebra.

I'd recommend any of the following:

Prentice Hall Algebra 1

Foerster Algebra 1

Brown and Dolciani Algebra 1

Anonymous said...

Middle school students are generally not the intended audience for TED talks. Do they have the filters or the background knowledge to discern what is fact and what is simply one person's opinion or musings on the subject? Overall, the video portrays public education in a pretty negative light. It's not exactly going to get students fired up about school and excited to learn - it would have just the opposite effect on my child. I'm not sure what the teacher was intending.

The irony is it discusses how children are "living in the most intensely stimulating period," with computers, TVs, iphones, etc., and the teacher is showing a video for a lesson. Argh. Then the "boring stuff" at school shows math on the board. Argh again! Then it correlates growth of ADHD with standardized testing. What? Is correlation causation?? What is this video rally trying to say? I could go on...

For the love of _, APP needs a coherent, vetted curriculum.

Anonymous said...

Again, which school, what grade? Otherwise you paint the whole program with a broad brush.

open ears

Anonymous said...

7th grade.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon at 8:31am.

Which school is this?

Anonymous said...

JAMS.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anything wrong in principle with discussing Dweck's research on mindsets in middle school.

If this is an APP class at JAMS (assuming based on this thread), half the kids may have been exposed to some of the concepts already because all the Lincoln teachers read the book a few years ago and used some of the lingo with students. It also fits in with the some of the concepts of RULER, the social/emotional learning program Lincoln launched 2 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the question is whether these discussions belong in a LA/SS class. It seems more like Second-Step or whatever kids used to do in homeroom. It's kind of self-help pop psychology.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't be HIMS anyway since teachers there are not supposed to show anything longer than about a five minute clip without two weeks' pre-approval by admin.

open ears

Anonymous said...

It's not self-help pop psychology. It's research on learning and the brain. Nothing wrong with a little more awareness and metacognition, as long as we get some good meaty LA/SS content pretty soon.

open ears

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, an Amazon search on Carol Dweck's Mindset will show "#1 Best Seller in Popular Applied Psychology."

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the Lincoln administration plans to re-brand (T shirts, website etc.) to get rid of "APP" now that it's replaced by "HCC"? Do we need to wait to be officially renamed by the district?

Anonymous said...

Don't know about the official communications but t-shirts only say Lincoln Elementary on them. We just refer to ourselves as that without the APP @ .

Anonymous said...

A new "chart" showed up on our child's Source page this week....what does it mean and exactly how are they going to use it?

It notes: "Attendance by Program: Advanced Learning AHG"?

It showed up underneath his grades.

??



Anonymous said...

@ ??, I was told it's just an identifier for program participation. I don't know whether they'll be using it beyond that.

Does your child's designation actually read as you wrote, or is it the same as my kid's, which reads "AdvLearning - AHG Eligible"? If different, is this elementary, MS or HS?

Anyone else out there with an APP-eligible kid who is not participating, or a Spectrum-eligible kid instead? How are these represented in your kids' records? There have apparently been quite a few problems with the new database system this year...

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed to learn yet another Lincoln teacher will be leaving. Inside sources indicate the morale is very low for some teachers while other teachers, whom the administration favors, is satisfactory or high. What is interesting is the trend of teachers who have left Lincoln are the more experienced teachers. Does anyone have accurate information about what really is going on at that school?

Anonymous said...

who is leaving?

Anonymous said...

Appears the name of the teacher isn't public knowledge yet. This teacher has been an integral part of the school and is leaving for another school just as school is getting started. How often do changes like this happen at this point in the school year? On another note, what is a "House Administrator?"

Anonymous said...

I asked last year about any HCC-specific training that my student's (new) teacher received. I was told there was math training on providing extensions for gifted learners, but no school-wide introduction to gifted ed teaching. I'm hoping that with a new description of service delivery models, that can be considered on the top of priority there. Other states require a gifted ed endorsement; if WA doesn't, there should be substantial professional development on it.

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry. Posted that in the wrong thread (above).

Anonymous said...

Related to 7th grade LA/SS - has your 7th grader done any history yet? So far our child's class is only LA. The entire LA/SS block has been LA.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln's truly wonderful, gifted Music PCP teacher has quit. She is a wonderful, vibrant, joyful, caring, smart woman. And I wish her all the best. She will be missed.

Saddly, I could smell this one coming, though, especially after our great PE teacher jammed out in the very last minute in August :-(

These teachers really mattered to my kids. They knew my kids. In the constant churn of teachers throughout the last 5 years, a great PCP teacher really can make such a huge difference. It provided continuity. It was one way to not feel so lost. It was one way to feel known. Now gone. Yes, no doubt more brand-new-to-teaching teachers will be brought in as replacements as they always are, and they will be nice too, and dedicated and hardworking, but, it's not the same. It's really not the same at all.

Lots of commenters will no doubt rush in and defend how everything is so great, etc, and I'm happy for them that that is their experience, but the place (despite the best efforts of caring educators), has a real factory farm vibe. It's there. I won't give examples (but I could give plenty), but it is definetly there. Maybe it's just me, but then, if it is, why have so MANY teachers left? The social stress on kids of the constant churn is there. Especially for the more sensitive, quirky kids, it is stressful only ever having 1 or 2 kids that you know in your new class year after year. It really is really hard on some kids, year after year. It just is. And so for all the talk about how important social-emotional learning is, it is not actually practised. The kids don't really get support to form friendship bonds. The natural extroverts will buzz along happily, but, the shyer kids...

I wish her much success in her new job, but I am very sad for our community. It is a loss. Forgive me, but it is making me blue. But hey, for the sake of my kids, I will put on my game face in public, of course. But it still sucks.

Meg said...

I'm hoping to get some verification on something a WMS student told me.

In a conversation, the student noted that it was a relief that classes haven't really gotten underway, because students haven't had to deal with a staggering amount of homework yet.

I asked why classes haven't really started - waiting for extra teachers (student reported class sizes of at least 35 and upwards in classes)? No, the student said: administration told teachers the week before school that they needed to conform to the new Highly Capable standards, and so the teachers are frantically rejiggering their lesson plans for the year.

This sparks A TON of questions... because there isn't a curriculum for APP/HC/whatever, is there? WMS is certainly overcrowded, but it sounds as if classes are even more crowded than last year, despite the school having a very similar number of students.

Can anyone verify/expand on the WMS situation?

Anonymous said...

I'm sick about it. This seems all too familiar to other teachers who have left suddenly...I can count 5 off the top of my head. This one is rough because she meant *so much* to my kids. As a mentor, as a leader, as an intelligent, former APP-kid woman of color. She has been the heart and soul of that school for years.

I feel as if the final remnant has fallen. And my kids' hearts will be broken. Just shattered. She's been one of the only places that's really been "home" for them amidst a million other changes. I can't get over how wrong this feels...something's not right here. Not just in denial, but this is a huge red flag for me. Where are all the seasoned teachers? Where are all the pillars? They are all vanishing.

Anonymous said...

When they say new Highly Capable standards, maybe they mean the newly defined LA/SS sequence, which is simply the grade level OSPI scope and sequence. Only a half a year of world history in 7th (instead of a full year), then WA State history for a semester, and US History for 8th grade. The standards are pretty general, so it's not clear how it will be implemented for APP.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Stone is now leaving APP @ Lincoln too? Why are so many teachers leaving?

Class of 2015 said...

To Anonymous "Sick about it"

Yes, "the final remnant has fallen" is what it feels like. I consider her the most valuable hub around which the program turned. She provided far more than music instruction, and I wonder how the people who SHOULD have realized that didn't. Ms. Stone's commitment to the children - not just to them as students but as full-fledged developing human beings - went to the core of who she is. So the fact that it was time to move on despite her obvious love and commitment, gives one pause.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this, but it seems like we got to the end of a process at Lincoln that started I think with Mrs Roth's retirement years ago. At that time when the "old timer" parents warned the younger parents what is coming, nobody believed us. I am really sad to see that we were right. At that time I believe we could have done something together about the upcoming change, now it is too late.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "end of process?" Also, I would agree there has been an exodus under the current administrator. Is this a coincidence?

Anonymous said...

IMHO "End of the process" meant that the principal started to get rid of the older, experienced, seasoned APP teachers originated from Lowell after the split, whose description was very similar to Ms Stone's description in the 8 46PM comment. If there is more teacher from that period from Lowell, then I should correct it: we are nearly at the end of the process with Ms Stone's unfortunate departure.
Also, I don't believe in "coincidence".

Anonymous said...

The witch hunt has to stop. There is no way anyone can categorically say that the only variable responsible for these departures is the administrator. Building a new school, in a high school, that was supposed to be temporary. Going through multiple math curricula, dealing with school growth no other school can compare to at 100+/year for the last three years; teaching now 700 kids in Art, Music, and PE and for the first two, you are the only teacher.

Isn't it possible any one of those other variables also had an impact? And, oh, I forgot about the overbearing parents and in large numbers. No matter how in the right we are to complain about lunch time, reces time, class work (not challenging enough, not in depth enough, not the right kind of homework, etc...), not enough play space, not enough PCP time,...it wears thin on these teachers who are already overworked, underpaid or underappreciated with tremendous expectations of them just from the government and school district, let alone parents. Doesn't anyone think that maybe parents are also part of the problem? Too many things at play here and it doesn't factor in the teacher's own individual desires and ambitions. So maybe, just maybe, the teachers actually left for a better opportunity, something more interesting, something closer to home with a shorter commute, or a job that they can succeed at because instead of 700 kids, it's under 500. And, maybe, just maybe, the teachers who retired, really should be retired because their time is over and they were no longer being effective (my child had one right before she retired and she may have been great at some point but not that year). So stop the witch hunt. Of course there will be teachers who clash with an administrator and teachers who have good relationships with the principal want to work with the principal even in rough times. In this case though, teaching 700 kids a day is too much for any one teacher.

I was anti-split for various reasons. However, with our size, we need to get split up. It'll suck to lose teachers and knowledge and all that but a 700 + school and growing is going to push out the good teachers anyway.

No baggage

Anonymous said...

Don't you think it is a sign that something is very wrong with the district when the accelerated progress program school is THE LARGEST in the city, if not state. And not even all of the kids who could go to Lincoln do so. I mean, it is great for Seattle that we have such a large number of bright/highly capable/academically strong/whatever you want to call them, kids, but it seems like an indicator that something is wrong with the system when we end up with a school this size. Lincoln is like a monster just getting bigger and bigger (and that is not a good thing given all of the constraints we operate under). 6 x 4th grade classes, 6x 5th grade classes -meanwhile take a look at the somewhere like Wedgwood - 4x4th grade and 3x 5th grade or Bryant- they only have 3 classes in each of 4th and 5th grade (and 1 split I believe). Why is that - probably a whole class full from each school have been channelled off to Lincoln over a couple of years. Why can't these schools keep a cohort of advanced learners let them work ahead. Seems like faith in public education in Seattle is sinking and Lincoln is like the Ark.
I just hope it is worth if for my kiddo - having a whole new class of kids each year with no old friends carried over …..thats tough having to start all over again forging friendships. 3 different math curricula in as many years ….. I worry about the gaps because they don't all have the same scope and sequence. High rate of teacher turnover and increasingly 'new' workforce ….what does that mean? Do they have adequate safety plans to cater for 700 kids? Do SPS and the admin and teachers at Lincoln know what they are doing as far as 'gifted' education goes? ….. I'm not sure the benefit of having to do strictly benchmark 2 subjects 2 years ahead….. why not just go quicker and deeper.
Maybe it is time to split Lincoln into 2 smaller cohorts at different sites …..it's not like there is a pool of particularly experienced teachers to fight over now anyway and it would probably be more appropriately sized for elementary aged kids BUT where could they even go anyway, there is no room at the Inn.
I have growing reservations about Lincoln, but private school is not an option and neighborhood school would mean repeating material and what would we gain by going back when we felt we needed to leave it in the first place…….so where else would we go????

Worrier

Anonymous said...

Its funny how 3 short years ago we were all vehemently opposed to a split and now we're, like, split us please, and hurry! I agree with this sentiment but the trouble is, there are not 2 schools where 350ish students could be up and moved to, especially not in the north end.

Anonymous said...

Worrier - Word on the street from inside sources made their departure was the new administrators created a hostile and divisive work environment. Teachers were pitted against one another. There are no long-term systems in place, teachers needed to deal with chaos caused by poor planning AND communication by the administrators, over and over again with no resolve. Teachers were forced, threatened, and harassed to standardize all practices to the Standards so as to ensure the new teachers were not "left to the wolves." Experienced teachers were told not to mentor newer teachers - unless you were a returning favorite - and if they did, they'd experience the consequences. All of this while new teachers, often times beginning teachers, kept their heads low and noses out of the problems. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the issues under the current administration. Cue Titanic theme song.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Titanic speaks the truth

Anonymous said...

I asked why classes haven't really started - waiting for extra teachers (student reported class sizes of at least 35 and upwards in classes)? No, the student said: administration told teachers the week before school that they needed to conform to the new Highly Capable standards, and so the teachers are frantically rejiggering their lesson plans for the year.

This sounds like a plausible explanation. I think our child's class is still waiting for texts as well. My child looked at the new, unused history texts on the shelf and said they were written on a 3rd grade level and they defined simple words like "decline." Well, that was my child's perspective.

It's not comforting to hear there really isn't much of a coherent plan or some assemblance of a curriculum. I guess it's no different from some of last year's classes...I hope we get more information on curriculum night.


@JAMS

Anonymous said...

Worrier raises good points above. I frequently also find myself wondering why Lincoln is so big. Why can't good neighborhood schools like Bryant, Laurelhurst, etc. do more with their ALO programs and hence keep more APP eligible kids in the neighborhood schools? Things like walk-to math and reading options would be simple steps in that direction.

Right now, the flood of students heading to Lincoln shows something is wrong with what our neighborhood schools are doing. Lincoln cannot keep growing by leaps and bounds. Instead, neighborhood schools should step up to the plate and offer more robust ALO programs.

--neighborhood

Anonymous said...

neighborhood, we would gladly come back to our neighborhood school. they made it very clear that they did not care about teaching our kids. I agree with you that something is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Its' really hard to know who/what to believe. We have anonymous posters saying Lincoln is like the Titanic and the current admin is all to blame for staff morale and attrition and making all sorts of claims about more experienced teachers being warned NOT to mentor new ones and forced 'standardization'. Yet others defend the status quo and cite plausible reasons for staff turnover. Anyone can come on here and say anything and one person with an issue against someone can make it sound really dire when it fact it is not.
I don't know that that is what is happening here - but then again, I don't know that it isn't. I could tell you that reliable sources told me that the Lincoln administrators performed a ritual sacrifice of puppy in the auditorium before school started today and how would you know… how would you check on the veracity of that? I could post again anonymously and say =yes, I heard that too!" ……. Of course that sounds too crazy to be plausible (and is not true to the best of my knowledge) but don't we have to take everything we read here with a grain of salt.
I read this blog voraciously because I really want to know what is happening and sometimes we get a hint of something that is about to transpire and that is great but it's so hard to know what is fact and what is opinion and what is just trolling,
As a working parent I don't have a lot of contact and opportunity for chitchatting with other parents at the school gate but I want to be informed and abreast of issues going down at school so I rely on this for info. How else can I get a 'reliable' heads up?

Anonymous said...

-Working parent
I hear your concern. It is really hard to find any reliable information from the past years of SPS Staff on the internet.
To help you with the facts:
The APP teacher's list from the year of 2010-11 (last year at Lowell):
Grade 1 - Ms Anna Birinyi, Ms. Emily Betts
Grade 2 - Ms. Althea Chow, Ms. Tamra Hauge, Ms. Katherine Botsis, Ms. Mindy Woodbury
Grade 3 - Mr. Dustin Wood, Ms. Kristen Anderson, Ms. Cheryl Adams, Ms. Allison Fenzl
Grade 4 - Ms. Candace Jacobsen, Mr. Joe Drummond, Mr. Bob Schilperoort
Grade 5 - Mrs Theresa Roth, Mr, Dan Sakaue, Ms. Margaret Saunders

Art: Janine Pierce
Counselor: Karen Harmon
Library: Nancy Sears
Music: Melyssa Stone, Elizabeth Knighton
PE: Toni Bader



ParentAnon said...

Working parent,
My feeling is that while this isn't the Titanic with the rats fleeing, Ms Stone's departure should be thought of like a canary in the coal mine. I feel like this is the first I'm aware of where a teacher is choosing to go to another Seattle school.

The other major departures this summer felt different: leaving teaching for a different career, moving abroad, moving outside of a reasonable commute range were all cited as reasons for teachers not returning, and I like to remember the teachers are actual people with their own lives, and spouses, and needs. But to have someone leave so abruptly and move to another school in the district feels different.

Anyway, I'm around the school for the chitchat, and I still don't feel like I know what's going on. I am a younger grade parent, so maybe I'm just too green still.

Anonymous said...

Working parent (as I seem to be referred to) here again. Thanks for your insight ParentAnon. I'm not sure what point the other anon poster is trying to make. Yes - not many of the teachers are the same as back in the "good old days" that the old-timers reminisce about, but what am I supposed to read into that - some were old and retired, some had legit reasons to leave maybe, maybe some were 'moved along' for the right reasons??
I rarely post and here I am posting twice in a day but I do wish more folks would share any facts/ opinions/insights about what is going on. Like I said I miss the school pick up and drop off chatter and anyways, schools always seem to have a handful of moms (usually) who are "in the know" and the rest of us are the last to know what is going on. (God it sounds like high school cliques doesn't it) So please share if you have some real insight into what is at play (not so much if you've just got an axe to grind and nothing much else).

The poster now known as Working Parent

Anonymous said...

Let's do some old school math. (no jokes about math curriculum or common core here) 17/22 = 77.2% turnover in less than 5 years. This for a school with a highly desirable student and parent community? Heard of divide and conquer? Also, dysfunctional families don't talk. Oh yes, factor in administrative turnover? NONE. What further evidence do you need? Glad the children are not aware and the new parents are kept in the dark too. Here is the perfect example people being of pitted against one another. Think what you believe is true. This is one I'm certain the truth will never be told.

Anonymous said...

News from JAMS: Many kids are getting brand new schedules next Monday. Apparently the school needs to close one or more sections of 6th grade APP classes so that they can open up more 7th/8th classes for kids who have transferred to the school in the past 15 days. (Apparently the classes for 7th/8th gen ed are overcrowded due to the influx of these transfer students.) Does anyone know more about which 6th grade APP class(es) will be closed?

JAMS Mom

Anonymous said...

Dear Old Timer, Your calculation is incorrect as you have not considered and included the staff members who have come and gone since 2010 - 2011.

And to those who TRULY believe the reasons the teachers gave are actually truth (consider the conditions and consider the source), there in lies your problem. Those teachers care about the children and parents to tell the truth. They also have careers they need to preserve. I believe those teachers said what they needed to to get away from the hostile environment. Don't be an ostrich.

Anonymous said...

So if these stories about a dysfunctional tyrannical regimen at Lincoln driving out the good, experienced teachers are truly representative of the situation, what does that mean for the students and is there anything families can do about it. Do we just have to accept it is what it is and hope the kids don't suffer?
Does this sort of thing go on at other schools?
Is it truly all the fault of the administration or does the size of the school and pressures on APP (from the district), lack of support, uncertainty etc) play a part? Are the kids (or parents) more difficult to deal with?
I personally don't think all the innuendo and stuff is very healthy.

Anonymous said...

Any feedback from students on how JAMS is going, in general? My child says they will just be getting lockers this week (they've been carrying backpacks from class to class at this point), and yes, schedules are still in flux.

School message:

During the next few days, we will be adjusting many schedules. While never ideal to change schedules, it is important that our most struggling students are NOT in the largest classes at JAMS.

Over the past 15 days, over 30 7th and 8th grade students have transferred to JAMS from option schools, coupled with a slight reduction in the number of 6th grade APP students anticipated. This has put a great deal of pressure on our MTSS model of reading and math support and has resulted in 7th and 8th grade class sizes of 37 in some areas.

To that end, we are collapsing classes that are smaller than ideal from a budget point of view and are opening sections of 8th grade general education science and social studies. As we do so, we are balancing classes.

Monday: 6th Grade APP Honors Class closed, students informed and given new schedules

Tuesday: Other 6th grade Honors Classes balanced

Wednesday: New 8th grade social studies and new 7/8 grade science opens

Thursday: Balance of 7 & 8 grade classes


Is anyone else reading it as an indication some APP class sizes may be on the high side?

Anonymous said...

It's also worth pointing out WHO the reasoning comes from. Since we've been there, we haven't seen the teachers doing the announcing, just admins. Which I can understand from a leadership standpoint, but also recognize it means it's spun at will. I agree, for a teacher to leave for TWO schools rather than one? That's not a trade-up. Something would have to really be worth leaving, and I don't think numbers is enough. That's manageable with support.

Anonymous said...

Well ALL of the pcp teachers have turned over in the past 12 months at Lincoln - one parents were happy with, the other two are losses to the community.

Anonymous said...

7:36, I feel like I don't really know one way or the other how hostile it is overall, but to your specific point about admin- we are also at a school with at or about 100% positivity on climate surveys; the teachers love the administration and feel perfectly supported. Admin always, always announces departures there. Departures looks and sound exactly like they do here. I think that is just the standard way to do it, whether you are being frog marched out, or riding out blissfully after a long and satisfying career. They are not as frequent- a fact which certainly gives me pause- but the school is smaller, and the faculty is also mid career instead of so skewed young. So many of these latest losses are just what we all do in our 20's or early 30's- try some interesting things, and move around.

But I don't know. Going to two schools- yes, yikes.

Anon, yes, I do read that as trying to make app classes larger, and classes for struggling students smaller. It sounds like things have changed- a smaller number of 6th grade students, and more gen ed upper grade students, so it may be just rebalancing to what they expected.

Anonymous said...

I think it is disingenuous to complain about the high staff turnover when some of those staff have been 'moved on' as result (at least in part) of vigorous parent campaigning. One of the Pcp teachers for instance. (One of the others had a young child and may have quite legitimately desired a shorter commute). Obviously some of the teachers who have left have been well - regarded but don't assume it is always a great loss or reflecting badly on admin when a teacher leaves. Some teachers leave as result of parent/admin pressure (often times parents put pressure on admin to do something- so don't make it out that its all in admin) and often quite rightly so. Others leave because, no matter whether the school is good and the admin is ok - they find something that suits them better - and we all do that in our careers. I'm not saying that there are no problems at Lincoln but just to look at the big picture - sometimes admins have to make hard choices and it is not always the wrong thing to do

Anonymous said...

How many coincidences and convenient stories do we get before we have to be a little less naive and more realistic about an obvious trend? I don't think any of us are that unaware.

Anonymous said...

From: Former Teacher Who May or May Not Be Mr. Wheeler

For fun I thought I would look at the APP blog and...oh my.

First, my apologies for contributing to the turnover this year. Leaving the school was a VERY hard decision, but the career opportunity I took seemed too good to pass up.

I can only speak to my experience, but I will tell you the reason it was hard to leave the school was it was a great place to work. The teachers at Lincoln are fantastic! I learned a ton from my innovative, hard working colleagues. They really care about the students and trying to do what's best for advanced learners. It was one of the most positive, collaborative work environments I have been in. The school is huge now, but there is an overwhelming amount of awesome teachers at Lincoln.

If I personally had a kid who had the option to go to Lincoln APP, I would absolutely send them there. I can't think of a more ringing endorsement for the teachers, staff, and administrators at the school. Teaching a school full of advanced learners is hard business, but the people at Lincoln are constantly finding the best ways to move forward and nurture and challenge the students.

It was also hard to leave because Lincoln has the most ridiculously supportive and kind parents ever! I loved being a part of the community and felt spoiled with all the volunteer help and positive feedback (and donuts). I can't imagine a nicer group of parents to work with than I have had over the last three years. It was a blast working on the PTA board as well.

Some of the comments on here make the school sound like the Hunger Games. Teacher vs teacher? Keeping your head down to survive? Everyone out for themselves? Well, that all sounds exciting but that was not my experience.

So, if you were a parent with a student at Lincoln over the last few years: Thank you! You guys rocked. I'll miss you guys.

-Mr. Wheeler

Anonymous said...

Schedules are still getting adjusted in schools all over Seattle as the actual enrollment at each school settles in, and teachers are brought in/redeployed. JAMS is not unique. Given that the school had to open on the fly, just now getting lockers is not that surprising either. The children will not be scarred for life.

The reality of MTSS is that the most and often best resources will not be going to those who aren't struggling. That's the reality of APP in Seattle. The district won't be pushing for best teachers to take those positions. They want them to take on classes of struggling and at-risk students.

Want the best teachers? Find a gen ed school with a creative staff. In this city, it's a better choice. As posted elsewhere, what are JAMS APP 6th graders getting that they couldn't get in their local or option middle schools? Their cohort. That's it. Not only is that not much, it is arguably not beneficial.

That doesn't mean 6th grade APP at JAMS will be bad. It will be fine. But anyone wanting extraordinary challenge or special programming really needs to reset expectations.

Realist

Anonymous said...

Can tell you why a large group of us have left those great neighborhood schools. It's prepping for HS and the pathway choices that open up. Hedging our bets especially with all the churn. Important when planning for colleges. It's easier when more of the neighborhood children move as you get subsets of local kids in a big school. Nice until they make new friends.

As for the staff turnover, it does seem high, but then that was our one of the complaints about our last elementary. I don't know how unusual this is because it's looking at just at APP @ Lincoln which has only been around for few years. We didn't have a blog to talk it out at our old school either.

Anonymous said...

What is the "expected" turnover rate for a school that was relocated and is now in an interim building, with inadequate play space, cafeteria, etc, that is also growing by about 100 kids per year?

For fun, I looked at the directory from our old neighborhood school. Of the 21 teachers that were there in 2010, 12 of them remain on staff today. So that's 42% turnover at a relatively "stable" school that has grown by about 3 classrooms since then and didn't have to pack up its classrooms and move across town.

Should that school start worrying about hostile environments and principals hounding teachers out? Should they be seeing the "trends" and posting anonymous complaints about their administration? I don't know. Honestly, I don't. I think Lincoln has been forced into unprecedented territory, with the long-term cross-town interim placement. Who knows what normal attrition should look like under these conditions.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Teacher that rhymes with Peeler,

We were only lucky enough to visit with you on a tour of the school, but your obvious talent and enthusiasm was inspiring! We're new APP parents and so far, we love our teacher and the school. You have no idea how happy I was to read this.

So thanks from the parents of the kids down the line :) And good luck in all your future endeavors!

New mom

Anonymous said...

The only way to have guaranteed acceleration in math and science is through the APP program, and by accelerating in middle school there are more options for high school classes. SPS's current program is based mostly on acceleration. That's the reality.

Middle school LA/SS used to offer much more challenge, but hoping for a teacher at your neighborhood school to provide the appropriate challenge is as much of a *shoot as the current APP program. The content is just as important as the teacher.

I'm confused why you think parents shouldn't expect more for 6th grade. Isn't that the whole point of the program? To provide additional challenge? I'd wager that's why most parents choose APP - the promise of additional challenge.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:27 - but we're not GETTING additional challenge. Like other posters say, we're getting the cohort and that's it, unless you count math acceleration, which is literally almost nothing. With middle school math placement, comprehensive middle schools offer match acceleration too.

Ingraham IBX gets us -- a screwed up senior year. Garfield placement us - a bigger variety of AP choices than some other high schools - but it is clear that SPS is moving to bump up AP offerings in all high schools - and an AP-heavy schedule is not the end all be all to college admission anyhow.

I agree that at the elementary and middle level the most talented teachers aren't headed to APP for the most part. The APP middle school content is NOT more in depth nor more rigorous than in many traditional/optional schools.

We are getting almost nothing from SPS by way of APP. Seriously, almost nothing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Wheeler! It is reassuring to have an inside voice speaking so highly of Lincoln. Though you are missed here, we all wish you well in your new endeavors.

Working parent

Anonymous said...

I must be missing something. Why would anyone assume APP would draw the most talented teachers? Why not SPED students or gen ed getting the best? Teacher talent is spread throughout the whole of SPS. Reality is what you get will be a mix of talent and range in any one school, program, or student population. None of which remains static.

One benefit of being a teacher in a large school district is mobility. I don't think it's all that surprising given the flux in SPS to see staff and students moving about.





Anonymous said...

Clearly our family is having a very different experience at Lincoln that some families. And I disagree that those who are unhappy don’t bring it to light. This blog makes it easy to be anonymous and crabby. This school is not perfect, no school is, so don’t heap so many expectations on it but instead can I suggest that you work to make a difference. Maybe you are already and you are still not happy with Lincoln; then maybe you have other decisions to make as a family.
Our second kid is @ Lincoln, having left a nice neighborhood school that simply could not offer the right level of challenge-it was a hard decision. But, our child is being challenged and accelerated at Lincoln. But, we are not focused on acceleration only. APP (or now HCC) misconception is that its acceleration only. But my child learns differently, wants to go deeper on topics and is working at an accelerated pace today. It’s working for us and for our child! We have a great teacher this year and our child is also meeting new kids that think like she does. And, we still have all the other opportunities to be with the other cohort of kids from the other school because of neighborhood, community and sports. Our other child aged out of Lincoln and I will also say that the experience for that child was exactly what we had hoped it would be. That child is off to the next thing now and it’s not perfect, but Lincoln provided a good foundation for growth.
There must be a parallel school universe because all of this hand-waving and negativity about Lincoln is not something I am seeing. Nor do I see an admin conspiracy driving folks out. What I see is a bunch of really dedicated and hard working staff. And an admin team that is committed to making the experience great for all kids who attend-while being constrained with budget blowback, a “temporary” long term location, curriculum issues and virtually no support from a Home Office, and in all honestly, needier parents than I have seen at other schools. And why is that? It’s perhaps the down side of us having to advocate so strongly for our kids as we’ve had to do historically. But for new parents reading this blog, most folks really work together. It’s a different experience than I had at the neighborhood school which sometimes bordered on snippy high school popularity behavior. New parents, jump in. That cluster of parents outside waiting for their kids-they are looking for new friends too!
And, shout out to "teacher who may or may not be Mr Wheeler"! You and your teaching partner ROCKED for my oldest. You will be missed but I understand the career opportunity you were offered and it makes perfect sense to me. As for this other turnover, some may or may not be due to the fact that teaching this many kids is probably not for everyone. And others have left for personal reasons that are legit….like health, a different career path, having a baby and moving, etc. But I don’t see some crazy agenda and conspiracy in the halls, in the office, in the classroom. I don’t think I am blissfully unaware either. I’m there enough to get the vibe.
I am also not spending time comparing what APP Lowell was compared to HCC Lincoln today. Historical knowledge is important until it keeps you from seeing the good in today and working for change. I’m invested. I want this school/program/and every child to succeed. And I want the district to do the right thing for all kids in this district so I’m staying positive and involved.
-Positive Not Blind

ben said...

Not to discount the issues other have reported in middle school LA/SS but the 6th grade algebra option certainly doesn't exist in every middle school and I'm skeptical of the quality and availability of even 1 year acceleration across all the
middle schools. The inability to form sufficient groupings for a class is a significant logistical problem especially in the last year when you can't fold students in with a higher grade.

Although that also begs the question of how well math is being taught at the elementary level since essentially a large proportion of the cohort is doing 7th grade twice even accounting for those who transfer in at the MS level.

Anonymous said...

Ben - not sure where you're getting that the cohort does 7th grade math twice. After Lincoln, most go into 8th grade math. Those going into Algebra are essentially skipping 8th grade though the math teacher last year tried to squeeze as much 8th grade math concurrently with the 7th grade material for those who demonstrated they were most likely to go to Algebra.

Anonymous said...

And, I think even those transferring in MS for APP are placing in 8th grade math or Algebra since it has nothing to do with where you went to school but the district matrix.

Lincoln JAMS mom

Anonymous said...

Maybe an old timer can correct me, but I thought there used to be a 6HH class that was an intentional blend of 7th and 8th grade math. 5th grade APP did not completely cover the 7th grade CMP books, so some was carried over into 6th grade (for the APP cohort). With the district declaring math placement separate from APP, I think this has been lost. 8th grade standards have a lot of overlap with Algebra 1, so skipping from 6th grade math (Spectrum level in 5th grade) to 8th grade math (APP level in 6th grade) means some 7th grade concepts may be skipped - ratios and proportions, etc. You also have different schools using different texts for middle school level math. Some 5th grades use CMP, but TM and Lincoln use something different, yes?

For those that took the algebra readiness test (and didn't just rely on MAP and MSP scores), did you find it was a good indicator of readiness?

How will placement be done without MAP? Is the mClass Beacon assessment being administered above grade level? For LA, our child's APP class took the grade level assessment. I'm still scratching my head on that one.

Anonymous said...

The Titanic hit the iceberg with Mrs. Roth's "retirement." Furthermore, just because one teacher weighed doesn't make him credible.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the old timers that weigh in here are just living in the past. Why should their posts count for more than a non-anonymous recently departed teacher (if it was genuine, of course)?
Things change.
People change.
For better or worse.
Perhaps those of you pining for the old days at Lowell - which were 5 years ago now - should move on, get over it.
There are 4 years worth of new families here who are happy enough with the 'new' Lincoln - whether or not it is better or worse than the old Lowell that you experienced. Sure - it's not perfect but was Lowell? Sure - maybe we don't know what we're missing but there is no going back to those days so we'll make the most of what we've got.
What is the point in complaining about the current climate or what was lost? Spreading rumors on blogs and making other parents worried - what does that achieve?
Why not do all you can to support the new young teachers that are now at Lincoln (you know, the ones that are supposedly "keeping their heads down and noses out of trouble" ). After all, one of them could be the 'Mrs Roth' for the next generation of APP kids.

glass 1/2 full

Anonymous said...

That's probably the worst analogy to use, if you knew what happened to Mrs. Roth. And there in lies the problem.

Here's the truth: yes, new is great. Change is wonderful. I think it's necessary for growth. Some teachers have experienced great support there. Parents, even those in the know, might have sensed this. Some know more, but choose to only state the good stuff. For various reasons. The issue here is what is happening to the teachers who aren't. Their stories are so much the same, it's almost predictable. Those who have been around long enough are noticing, and each time get more and more discouraged and more concerned about some destructive practices that are going unaddressed. Does it call for a witch hunt? No. But it DOES call for some hard conversations about teacher retention (particularly seasoned teachers/teachers of color), demanding more accountability from administration and problem solving. Because the teachers we are losing are ones that we can't afford to lose. You will always hear the same story when a teacher leaves because it's true. Nobody's trolling around every time stating the same thing again and again. You will always hear stories of satisfaction from parents who want to present APP in a good light. Because there are good parts. Wonderful parts. Parts that are so dazzling that they minimize the ones who experience the negativity in the shadows. They will always keep a good face, because they value your students more than they value themselves, and because their career demands professionalism and silence in order to stay employed long-term. Saw this first hand when our kid's teacher left abruptly. That's why you won't hear from them directly. You'll always have the few trying to drown out the people who have seen this one time too many. And then eventually, (hopefully) enough people will realize the same conversation keeps happening, that's it's not deja vu and start asking the right questions of the right people. Until then, the same conversation will keep happening. But there's a clockwork trend: teacher decides to leave, they go silent, notice is given (usually not by teacher), somehow blame is put on teacher for one reason or another (inadequate, too old, not conforming, etc), questions are asked, questions are silenced, no answers are given, teacher remains voiceless until leaving, positive spins are given and focus is taken away from the issue, life moves on. But may we not lose our memory.

Love this school, and my kids have, but it comes with some serious baggage that is discouraging. Will I still support the school? Yes. Because we believe in gifted education, and will always hope for things to improve, even when it looks like they're not. Life will always move on, but this parent has had enough of the PR moves.

-GoodStrategy

Anonymous said...

@ good strategy

What questions should parents be asking, of what people?
To a relative outsider your comments, along with others are all rather opaque, alluding to unjust practices of some sort but what exactly. If I knew exactly why teachers were unhappy and leaving then I could form an opinion- though it might not necessary be the same as yours.
For instance I might not necessarily have a problem with staff being held to certain standards, or being told to do things a certain way - depending on whether it seems reasonable to me or is considered reasonable by many other teachers. Like in any job- sometimes folks have to conform to management expectations (for better or worse) and sometimes they don't like it. In my field we don't just get to do things our way if that differs from the protocols established - it doesn't matter how experienced or good at doing it 'our way' - we're expected to follow the institutional protocol.
I don't know if this sort of thing is affecting teacher retention at Lincoln - reading between the lines in previous posts about 'standardization' it could be. But it's all very hush-hush. I don't necessarily think in such a large school that some degree of standardization between grade level classes and vertical alignment is a bad thing. I can see that some teachers who have their way of doing things might not like it - but does that make it wrong for the school?
Realistically how can we assess whether teacher retention is a real issue here (more so than comparable schools in the district), identifying the real reasons for it, and addressing them?
What questions should we ask and to whom?

working parent

Anonymous said...

First time contributor...

@Good Strategy - Of everything said here, your contribution is plausible. Your explanation aligns with my family's experience. Thank you for saying what you did. My child has since "graduated" from Lincoln and though I know first hand. Though I wanted to do something, I was asked to not get involved (by my child's beloved teacher who I encountered in tears just after the administration was done with their most recent "session to set things straight." This teacher has long since left the school. Seems like confidences have been shared with others (wish I knew who you are) and the stories are now surfacing - there really is no such thing as secrets. Yes, being positive and future minded is essential - for the sake of the children (which is understandable).

Sincerely,
Silent in Seattle

Anonymous said...

So what did happen to mrs Roth

Anonymous said...

There has been some discussion around PE waivers at JAMS and how they are only granting waivers for students in both world language and music. At HIMS, PE waivers were granted for participation in directed athletics. Period. Students could take a full year of both world language and other electives (or TA), and then get a PE waiver.

JAMS has created a different policy that, frankly, seems to give preference to those in music. This policy seems to be a result of limited elective offerings at JAMS.

I suggest parents educate themselves about the WA state code. HIMS used to have a waiver policy inconsistent with code, but it was brought to the school's attention, and with the help of a Board member (thank you, Sherry Carr), was revised to 60 hrs. They used to require 90 hrs of documented activity rather than the 60 hrs (an avg of 100 min per wk) required by the state.

RCW 28A.230.040 Physical education in grades one through eight


WAC 392-410-135 Physical education


SPS PE waiver

I think the argument is that the PE waiver is being denied selectively, for the convenience of the school. The scheduling is constrained for those wanting a PE waiver, yet not in music. It's worth a discussion with the administration, and a Board member if necessary.

Anonymous said...

I don't think things are so cut and dried re: HIMS PE waivers. We had a PE waiver denied, despite outside athletics that greatly exceeded the requirement. My kid was partly homeschooled though, so the registrar determined there was technically time available in the student's schedule to include PE. It wasn't a big deal to us so my child just did the PE, but we fought it the next year and got the waiver. Maybe it's all just on a case by case basis.

HIMSmom

Lynn said...

A student's opportunities at school shouldn't be constrained based upon their address.

These policies should be consistent across the district:

Uniforms vs no uniforms
Minutes of recess per day in K-5
Walk to math vs grade-level placement
PE waiver requirements
Honors classes - opt-in vs teacher permission
Honors classes vs extra work in gen ed classes
Self-contained APP vs APP blended with Spectrum
Math placement
9th grade science - physical science vs biology
AP classes - stand alone AP vs AP option within the class

McLure randomly assigns students to "exploratory" classes if they don't take Spanish (the only language offered) and music. At least they're honest enough not to call them electives.

Lynn said...

*McClure

Anonymous said...

If you were part-time homeschooling and had already filed a Declaration of Intent, couldn't you have stated you were homeschooling for PE as well, and eliminate the need for PE waiver?

Anonymous said...

Gad, what's with the all confidential opaque references. I doubt this is helping the teachers being named here. If they are working, they probably don't want their boss or colleagues to read about some unresolved conflict simmering away or that they are showing up with a lot of baggage. People don't like unnecessary drama in the workplace and you sure don't want to be the person with the rep that draws it in.

Some parents have developed close relationships with some staff and shared confidential info. But many didn't have that privilege and frankly if you did, it's important to separate the personal from the professional. Otherwise it's sticky wicket as reflected in this messy thread we're having. If you feel fellow parents aren't getting it and are ostriches for it, then you need to ask why? Bringing up personnel concerns in an anonymous blog is not effective. Even if you have the right of it, it comes off manipulative and well frankly, to be taken with caution. Finally, what's the point of all this? Are you looking for vindication or justice for the teacher? I'm just not clear, but I don't think this is the best method to get there.




Anonymous said...

I get pretty tired of these anonymous posts about how much worse things are at Lincoln than they were at Lowell (cue the Titanic). Many of them seem to be written by people who don't have kids who are at Lincoln.

I have a 4th grader at Lincoln. He LOVES his classroom teachers (he has two - one for language arts/social studies and one for math/science). One teacher is new to Lincoln this year and one has several years experience.

Staff turnover happens everywhere for many reasons. It happens at my workplace. It happened at the neighborhood school my child previously attended (his kindergarten teacher was a brand new teacher; his first grade teacher was new to the school; both were great).

Yes, I wish Lincoln wasn't quite so big; I wish it had better support from the District; I wish the buses ran on time; I wish the outdoor play areas were better. But my kid has made some great friends and loves his teachers this year. The interactions I've had with Rina have been very positive.

Catherine

Anonymous said...

My kid was at Lincoln for 2 years and we ended up truly regretting our decision to send him there. If I could go back in time we would have kept him at our neighborhood school and paid for a math tutor so he could get what he needed in math. Our neighborhood school will only do one year ahead in math. That is my plan for my two younger kids. They will not be going to Lincoln. So many families think if their kids qualify they have to send them (they will miss out on a great opportuntity, etc) but I truly believe my kid's time there did more harm than good.
-Don't drink the Kool Aid

Anonymous said...

From what I'm reading, it seems Mrs. Stone's circumstances of leaving the school might be similar to Mrs. Roth's and Mrs. J's departures. What's in common appears to be all the teachers students and parents appreciated, adored, and respected. Accurate?

Anonymous said...

@don't drink the kool-aid

In what way did your kid suffer, e.g:
bad fit for child socially?
lack of playground/outdoor space at recess?
not what you expected academically (was the curriculum not as good as in gen ed?)
problem with specific teachers or quality of teaching?
problem with admin (how did that affect kid directly?)
prob with getting special needs services?
discipline issues(disproportionate/innappropriate)?

Do you think the problem/problems are ongoing and generalized (i.e likely to also adversely affect any of your subsequent kids too or more due to it being a bad fit for one specific kid?). Was there any attempts made to improve the situation and what was the outcome?
I am genuinely interested because I find it a bit much saying that Lincoln in general "did more more harm than good". Certain aspects of it - sure, I can see there could be potential for issues in various areas (same as at any school).

Anonymous said...

Will someone please just come out and tell us all what exactly are the mysterious circumstances surrounding the departures of Mrs Roth, Mrs Jacobsen, and now, supposedly Ms Stone. All this innuendo drives me mad. If you know so much about it that you are posting here about the (air quotes) "circumstances" then why don't you just come out an tell us what they are. You are anonymous after all. Put up or shut up as they say.

Anonymous said...

My kid was in Ms. J's class last year. He really liked her but she had some genuine health issues that led to her retirement. I really wish these anonymous insinuations about the possible causes for teachers of leaving would end. It just seems like there are a couple anonymous people who like to stir the pot. I don't think this gossip and innuendo is particularly constructive or helpful.

Catherine

Anonymous said...

Kool-aid - we have two kids who both qualified for APP in elementary school. We kept our oldest kid at our neighborhood school and waited to transfer her to APP in middle school. That worked out really well for our oldest kid.

For our second child, we switched him to APP in elementary school and it's been a god-send. He went to the same neighborhood school as his older sibling (which we all loved) but it just wasn't a good fit for him.

My point here is that there's never a one-size fits all solution that works for all kids. Just because Lincoln works for some kids doesn't mean it will work for others. And just because it didn't work for your kid, doesn't mean it won't work for others.

Catherine

Anonymous said...

We have had experience with 2 of the 3 teachers mentioned (Stone, Roth, and J). I don't think one could categorically say that all adored, respected, and/or loved them. I don't doubt that their hearts were in the right places but no love lost that they're gone from this parent. As a working parent, I don't have a lot of time to get overly chummy with the teachers and as long as my child is happy and learning, I try to stay out of the school drama. Of course those who love and know these teachers really well will be most affected and more likely to side with the teacher's point of view. It's hard to say what is the truth when people's feelings are involved. Just because a teacher tells you their side of the story doesn't make it the whole truth. That's just their truth. If someone is going to discount the voice of a teacher (Mr. Wheeler via his post), who had nothing but positive things to say about Lincoln, then you have to question the veracity of any teacher that has negative things to say as well. Maybe they have an ax to grind.

Moving on

Anonymous said...

Sad to see how the previously unspoken viewpoint is bullied into silence (yet again) here. Now that she's gone, watch how the "circumstances" and "PR rhetoric" of Mrs. Stone's departure is handled. Like I've been told, true to form, this is a toxic blog with (some) toxic self-serving people. Signed, AFRAID AND ANONYMOUS

Anonymous said...

For F's sake just tell us WHAT ARE THE CIRCUMSTANCES ? (yes, I am shouting). What is the rhetoric? I'm not hearing anything? No one is trying to silence anyone but if you don't provide any detail or evidence to support your conspiracy theories why should anyone believe you ??

Anonymous said...

the only toxic stuff I see on this blog are the anonymous allegations of mysterious and disturbing "circumstances" behind teachers departures
If you know something what happened - be open about it

Anonymous said...

@Afraid and Anonymous. No one is trying to silence anyone or shut down a dialog about this. People are just presenting their opinions and experiences at Lincoln. Just because some are favorable doesn't mean the unfavorable views are being silenced. It just means people see things differently and have different experiences. I'm pretty agnostic about the place and it gets me worried when people allude to issues behind the teacher turnover. They imply any number of things but no one comes out and says anything explicit and frankly, it does jibe with what I, and an number of other posters see and experience. You would probably say we have just been sucked in by the spin or rhetoric I suppose. But, BTW what spin are you referring to? All that I've seen are generic and nicely worded announcements of teacher departures just the same as every principal at every school makes when someone leaves. That is how announcements are made everywhere I've ever worked (not is education system) regardless of the quality of the employee and reason they are leaving. It's called diplomacy.
Frankly, I do wonder at the motives of the person/people who post about these 'circumstances which must not be named" (they are always obliquely referred to it reminds me of Voldemort) and how readily they dismiss the positive comments made by Mr Wheeler who's opinions and experiences are equally, if not more, valid than these anonymous naysayers. Who is doing the name calling @ Afraid? You say I'm a " bully" "toxic" and "self-serving" for comment on my experiences and impression of the school, which are just as valid and genuine as yours. If you feel like folks are piling in with positive comments about Lincoln and that is somehow shutting you down, well - I guess people will call it like they see it. I don't want to silence you -in fact I'd encourage you to speak up if you genuinely want to raise awareness about issues that bother you at Lincoln. But come out and say what they are and how its affecting folks instead of just making innuendo.

nontoxic

Anonymous said...

oops! in above comment I meant to say "it doesn't jibe with what I've seen"

Anonymous said...

RE: the recent changes in middle school humanities...

Is there anyone who has been involved in these changes and decisions who can please clarify for me how covering OSPI grade-level SS content, and working toward CCSS grade-level LA and SS standards, represents the most appropriate approach to serving highly capable kids? It's just not making sense to me...

I know that we've gotten to a point where APP is primarily about the cohort (because it feels like that's all that's left), but I still have a hard time believing that decision after decision is further lowering the bar for these kids. How can the "new and improved" AL website say "the curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, requiring students to perform significantly above grade level" when they are implementing new changes to ensure they are covering at-grade-level topics and at-grade-level standards? This just doesn't make sense to me.

Is there anyone involved in these efforts who is able to enlighten us at to the thinking behind these changes??? I'm optimistic about my child's current teachers, but at the policy level it seems that things are headed in the wrong direction...

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

HIMSmom,

Keep asking those questions because they are right on! The reworking of LA/SS was done not in the interest of these learners, but for the convenience of principals who can now place any teacher in any class, because they are all covering the same topics anyway, right? And who cares if you only get a rushed overview of content because you can't take AP World in 9th anymore anyway. Remember how the parents were going nuts to get something standardized because of the bizarre content and approach at HIMS 6th and 8th and in the face of a new program at JAMS? Well, here you go. The handpicked people on the committee to construct the new scope and sequence all had very few years working with APP.

open ears

Anonymous said...

Who are these mystery curriculum developers? I've directly asked and have not been given any names. Bizarre, yes? Standard curriculum adoptions have a known list of participants and allow for parent review. Why so secret? Do parents need to file a FOIA request?

My child is put off by TED talks and wants to get on with learning something. Over 2 full weeks of school and still no history/social studies coverage to speak of.

MS parent

Anonymous said...

It's not the CC that's the problem. You can certainly take what's expected in the CC social studies grade based standards and expanded that to college level study (even graduate level) if these students and teachers are capable of it. I don't have a problem covering these topics again in HS and college. Each level takes you deeper using more primary sources and gaining depth with student's maturity and perspectives.

Pull out ideas and historical context which shapes our

Constitutional framers mindset. What influences them? Perspectives of the Brits and French? What was going in the world and Europe that shapes US history at that time? Whose voices are missing and why? These are the stuff academics today still dissect and argue over. It's brilliant and heady stuff.

We as a family and often with friends have great arguments over dinner. I find middle schoolers are more apt to hang out with adults discussing topics if I treat what they say with equal respect.

Anonymous said...

Word is that because of the shift to a new MS scope and sequence, this year's 7th grade will repeat a lot of 6th grade topics, on top of losing coverage of what was traditionally covered in 7th grade APP. I understand they will cover China, Africa, and the Middle Ages. Did they consider a transition year for those caught in the middle of the change? This seems like such horrible planning. Did Advanced Learning really okay this?

frustrated

Anonymous said...

It's not CCSS grade based social studies standards holding back kids and teachers. You can add so much depth to the 8th grade class while meeting standards.

Take the question what influence and motivate the creators of the Constitution? Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, deism? Examine the historical perspectives of GB and France at that time. What was going in the world and Europe that influenced what was happening in the colonies? Context matters. Whose voices were left out and excluded from the social contract and why? And so on. You can turn this topic alone into a graduate seminar.

And I don't mind the kids covering these topics again in HS and college. Keep on layering the complexity as students mature and gain perspective. Knowledge you can build on, not just regurgitated back on AP
exams!

I don't doubt the teachers are in a tizzy trying to sort through new state assessment tests along with CC Standards and district alignment.


Anonymous said...

@frustrated. Consider yourself doublefrustrated. TOPS, which isn't an APP school, covers that information except for Middle Ages in 6th grade. What exact value are we getting?

'why'd we switch?'

Anonymous said...

@frustrated et al -
To standardize curriculum means some kids will skip items that they would have gotten, in order to level out. Others will have to repeat. It is unfortunate, but reality. We've all been asking for a standardized APP curriculum for years, haven't we? Perhaps this is progress even though imperfect.

TOPS probably covers things differently because it is an alternative school, not a standard middle school. But as I've seen written elsewhere, it does make one think about how strong APP middle school really is - and I guess that's the point of many of the blog's ongoing discussions.

Anonymous said...

They will have to incorporate WA State history into 8th grade, so it's an accommodation for those in transition. The same should be done for 7th graders.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind repeats. I expect some topics to be covered again in HS and even college. Take 8th grade SS standards examining what ideas and forces influenced the creators of the Constitution. What a great opportunity to introduce writings of Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire or ideas like the social contract and deism. It's a great opportunity to reinforce facts, important events, and adding info like what was going on in GB & France at the time or in the Americas. Add depth by asking whose voices were left out in the constitution and why? This is the stuff that academics devote whole semester on.

Don't be surprised to see repeats in HS and college. By adding layers of complexity as students gain maturity and understanding is how kids learn and acquire knowledge. Learning is more than just regurging facts for an AP exam.

And don't wait for teachers to cover topics. I find discussions among friends and family to be a great jumping point to get teens talking. Many have strong opinions and often like to engage in such a discussion. A bit of a milestone when these kids find their opinions are taken seriously by the adults (especially when adults are willing to debate them).

Anonymous said...

There's a difference between covering a topic in middle school, high school and again in college and covering it in both sixth and seventh grades. Do you think teachers who covered these topics for sixth graders last year are going to come up with a whole new curriculum for them in seventh grade?

Anonymous said...

Take 8th grade SS standards examining what ideas and forces influenced the creators of the Constitution. What a great opportunity to introduce writings of Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire

Oh the irony. I think the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment used to be part of the middle school APP curriculum, but no more.

The WA State standards suggest covering US history in elementary school (5th grade, development of US to 1791), middle school (8th grade, 1776-1900) and then in high school (11th grade, 1890 to present), but the focus is on different time periods. It's a thoughtful progression, with time between to cover the progression of world history, unlike the direct repeat that seems planned for those in the midst of the transition.

Anonymous said...

The standards don't limit teaching Hobbes or social contract to middle schoolers. Teachers can incorporate reading selections and projects to introduce these thinkers and their ideas. The overlap of materials as schools/programs (including HCC) make the transition to cover new standards is just that.

Anonymous said...

What a great opportunity to introduce writings of Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire or ideas like the social contract and deism. It's a great opportunity to reinforce facts, important events, and adding info like what was going on in GB & France at the time or in the Americas. Add depth by asking whose voices were left out in the constitution and why?

This is so, so far from how 8th graders covered US history last year. They made posters of the Bill of Rights. I don't think they discussed Hamilton or Madison, let alone Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, etc.

Not knowing what will actually get covered, or who is doing the planning, it's difficult to feel optimistic about the latest change to the scope and sequence.

Anonymous said...

Well sure, good teachers can always go above and beyond, but how reasonable is it to expect that? The intent of the new middle school APP LA/SS scope and sequence, however, is to provide more consistency across the three APP schools--so that suggests there may be less willingness to go above and beyond what's in the guidelines moving forward. And the way the new scope and sequence is being fleshed out, it focuses on the basics, including grade-level skills and competencies. On paper, at least, the APP scope and sequence looks like what I would expect the gen ed version to look like as well. The extent to which there is differentiation between gen ed, Spectrum and APP level classes then becomes an issue of individual teachers' approaches.

As for "overalap of materials", what materials? Part of the problem is the lack of these for APP. And a focus on ensuring equity of access to materials across all the APP middle schools--and even across programs (HCC vs. other) within a school-- seems like it will make it less likely for individual teachers to enhance instruction with materials only they have.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

My child is pretty tired of being told, "you'll just have to read that on your own, because it's not going to get taught."

Defining the curriculum is about establishing the baseline. It's what teachers have to do at a minimum. The minimum has now been defined as the grade level scope and sequence. Sure, teachers in theory could cover a lot of ground with the grade level standards as a starting point, but they could also teach their own agenda. Last year's 8th grade is a good example. The class didn't even cover the stated scope and sequence.

At JAMS, the rise and fall of Rome is being covered in a few day's time, and now students are expected to write a DBQ on it. Seriously?

The work of more clearly defining the APP curriculum is long overdue, so it is good that they are moving forward with it, but it's just to frustrating to see how it's all playing out.

Anonymous said...

I can understand some of the frustrations regarding wanting things to be the same across 3 HCC MS programs. Certainly curriculum alignment will help. However, you aren't going to get uniformity. Not by any stretch. Why?Teaching is a humanistic endeavor. It's very individualistic as are the learners who make up the classes. What that means is you are going to get some outstanding classes because of amazing teachers and hopefully crops of enthused learners (who yes, will do the extra reading assignment because they are self motivated and willing to engage-- I would say that is the most important quality and responsibility of a successful learner).

For some reason people are really stuck on the sameness as if by that measure makes things fair and better. Short of cloning individuals, you will be perpetually disappointed.

Anonymous said...

You're right, we can't clone teachers. Algebra taught by one teacher may be more comprehensive and challenging than that taught by another teacher, but in the end, they will hopefully have covered the same baseline content. The difference is that you can still accelerate in math and science, even if the class itself is less challenging than you'd hoped. There's at least some hope of extra challenge simply because you've accelerated.

enthused learners (who yes, will do the extra reading assignment because they are self motivated and willing to engage-- I would say that is the most important quality and responsibility of a successful learner).

Yes...but the program exists so students can engage at school.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone expects that curriculum alignment means you'll get the same learning experience across sites, or even within schools. But shouldn't the basic bar set by the curriculum at least be appropriate to the level of instruction or learning desired? I'm much less concerned with things being the same across the three MS sites than it am about things being at an appropriate level, and with instruction geared toward the unique learning needs of HC learners, at each site. The district is the one pushing alignment, but we need to make sure what they're aligning us TO makes sense.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

My student is coming home with no homework in LA/SS in 8th grade for the 3rd week. At Curriculum Night the teachers told us that students will usually get 20 mins HW/subject/night. Is it only with my student?
Another HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

@Another HIMS mom: Sounds like an enlightened staff. Homework does not equal quality education. In fact, it often perpetuates students' socio-economic divides. There is much discussion around this topic in national education circles. Instead of complaining, consider commending staff. Enjoy the extra family time.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break, @10:30. It's not like there are vast socioeconomic divides among the APP kids of Wallingford to the point that some can do homework and some can't. There is just no rigor at 8th grade APP LA/SS and a principal who discourages HW at HIMS in general. Have you not been seeing two years worth of the parents complaining about this, and about the teachers' failure to teach actual content? And then the lack of grit and work ethic is evident when they show up at IBx to the point that Ingraham had to alter the 9th grade history to make up for it.

Enlightened teachers my @$$.

open ears

Anonymous said...

That is exactly my fear, that my student won't be ready for the IBx work at IHS next year. And that is why I would like to hear from fellow 8th grade parents, is it only my student (who can do HW at no time at school maybe?) or is it actually the class.
Another HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

The lack of rigor at HIMS also affected incoming GHS students, as no freshman were allowed to access AP World History, even though WMS students were 100% prepared for that class.

It is an issue and makes no sense, because there are freshman accessing AP Calculus, AP Bio etc.

If they are prepared, they should be able to access the right curriculum.

-Former WMS'er

Anonymous said...

Homework does not equal quality education. In fact, it often perpetuates students' socio-economic divides.

Holy cow. Is this what teachers are getting taught? Who is spreading these ideas? As with many things, it's about balance. Too little homework in middle school will set some students up for difficulties in high school. Students need to learn time management and how to work independently. How do you learn "grit and perseverance" (admin's fav' buzzwords) if there are no opportunities to practice it? There's also the obvious reason for assigning HW - it can increase learning.

If 8th grade has not improved, don't wait for things to magically get better. Find a decent history text and cajole your kid into reading it - just 5 pages per night - and answer a few end of chapter questions. They will thank you later.

The American Promise: A Compact History by Roark, et al. 4th Ed. Vol. 1

...and this is why not assigning HW only perpetuates differences. Involved parents will still make sure their students learn. Why do you think Kumon does so well?

Anonymous said...

Homework does not equal quality education. In fact, it often perpetuates students' socio-economic divides.

Yes, that is exactly what many teachers are taught and if we parents step out of our APP Precious Snowflake Bubble you will find many experienced and effective teachers and administrators who agree. Bravo to any educator who puts the brakes on the regurgitation culture that AP has become.

Want your kid to learn grit? Spend that after school time having your student take on an activity with which he or she isn't comfortable, and stay with it to some level of mastery. It could be sports for a nonathletic kid. Public speaking for a shy kid. Volunteering for a self-involved kid. You get the picture. If a student needs extra help mastering an academic subject, then homework is great. If there is some ongoing in-depth class project, homework is appropriate. If it's just so much paperpushing that passes for education and does nothing more than prepare a student for a lifetime of bureaucracy and is used to show parents that - by gum! - there's a lot of learnin' happening at school, well then....bravo to the teacher and administrator who are putting a stop to the whole homework hamster wheel.

Anonymous said...

Back in the Stone Age when I went to school, homework was a mix of practice (maybe a few math problems), reading (for all subjects), some writing, and studying. Things that required quiet, independent work. It did not feel like a burden. It reinforced and supported what was done in class. I don't remember a bunch of busywork projects or meaningless assignments. Maybe part of the disconnect is what is considered homework.

Special Snowflake Bubble, nonathletic, shy, self-involved
Are these your ideas of APP students?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:14am - pick a name!!!

Way to raise the level of conversation with name calling. So helpful.

Just because a teacher assigns homework does not meet it's effective or worthwhile. My kid at HIMS has been assigned what can only be called busywork. I don't mind my child having a reasonable amount of homework assigned (maybe an hour a day in middle school), but I do mind busywork.

The classwork already isn't very rigorous (to put it mildly) and I don't want my child wasting their time. I would like my child to be assigned homework over several days so that they have to learn how to manage projects and their time. They are not getting that now AT ALL. I do worry about them suddenly getting the high school level of work.

-freezer

Anonymous said...

It is always interesting reading the critiques by other APP parents of the program. I have a question for the thoughtful parents on this blog about whether APP middle school would be beneficial for my student next year. As notorious 'planners' our family is trying to get this decision out of the way this fall.

Our specifics: We want to stay public for middle school but know our child will go to private high school, so access to Ingraham/Garfield is not important to us. Our current experience with grade school APP has been "acceptable." Not bad. Not amazing.

If middle school acceleration is not the point of APP, why would we choose the APP program for middle over a smaller option program such as Pathfinder/TOPS/Salmon Bay where the faculty might get to know our child better than at a big school? Our kids are sadly not musically inclined, so that is not a middle school consideration. We do want our female student's placement to be the same as our son's placement in 2 years.

Thank you for your comments. I hope it saves us legwork, or at least gives us a list of questions we haven't thought about to help us work through our choice.

Middle-Bound Mom

Anonymous said...

@ Middle-Bound, people choose the program for various reasons, but typically social and/or academic reasons. You didn't mention what it is about APP elementary that you find just "acceptable," so it's hard to know your priorities. But here's my two cents.

Since you've correctly recognized that academics is likely not a good reason for APP middle school--the promise is there, just not the execution--I'd say to look at the social aspect. Has APP elementary been a good fit for your kids socially? If so, that might be a reason to stay on that track--or you might have a neighborhood or option school that historically includes a lot of APP-qualified kids and might be a similarly good fit.

However, if APP hasn't provided the social benefits you'd hoped for, that's a reason to look deeper. Some APP kids relate well to non-APP kids and might be just as happy (or happier) in a neighborhood or option school. Others might not relate to APP kids, but might have an even harder time with non-APP kids, and for those APP may be the best bet, even if not ideal.

Back to the academics piece, I should also not that not only is the rigor not there in MS, I'd argue that the "gifted ed" approach is not there either. While there may be a few teachers who do "get" these kids and can work effectively with them, many others don't--and because principals also often don't get it, teachers that work well with APP students are often shifted to teach gen ed instead, with former gen ed teachers taking on APP. That, coupled with the absence of an appropriate APP MS humanities curriculum and the district's crappy middle school math curriculum, all boils down to middle school APP being essentially just a cohort. If your kid gets a lot of benefit from the cohort, APP middle school might make sense. If not, I'd look for some meaningful strengths in other school programs.

HIMSmom

PS - It's nice to keep kids at the same school, but one year of that may not be worth three years of a bad fit for one of those kids. If I had it to do over, I'd chose different middle schools for my kids--everyone would have been happier. :)

Anonymous said...

Middle-bound,

APP at Washington is still real APP. For nearly 30 years it was the only site in the city. People came from far North, QA Mag, WS, and South if that was what their child needed. Check it out. And yeah, it sucks that the well-prepared kids of Washington have to cool their heels at Garfield waiting for the unprepared but perfectly capable Hamilton students to catch up. TOPS is also well known for accommodating advanced learners. Check them out too, since you are hoping to find a school that fits two types of learners. You'll love the community. At Garfield, the TOPS kids and APP kids find each other and connect pretty quickly.

Former WMS parent

Anonymous said...

Former WMS Parent, so is WMS not making the same changes as the other sites? I thought the new LA/SS scope and sequence was to be implemented across the board...

Anonymous said...

At JAMS curriculum night, there was no time left for parent questions, but a teacher did state something to the effect of, "at JAMS we have decided to follow the new scope and sequence." I had wondered if that meant some APP schools weren't going to follow it...

Is there no one that is ultimately overseeing these changes? Is it still going to be each school on its own, so we have v1.0 at WMS, v2.0 at HIMS, and v3.0 at JAMS?

I guess another question is can they hold schools to an announced change in scope and sequence when there is no formal material or curriculum adoption? The can-not-be-named, unofficial working group doesn't have any authority, does it?

Anonymous said...

I have an HIMS APP kid and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that homework is deemphasized and that my kid does not have a lot of homework. I AM seeing rigor in the work he is doing in class and to me that is what matters. Yay, my kid can have a life outside of school, participate in sports after school every day, have an after school social life, AND get to bed at a reasonable hour!
-Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Honest question. How do you know there is rigor in the classroom? I'm not necessarily a fan of homework, but it's usually a good gauge of what is going on during the school day.

Since I'm not at school a lot to see what's happening in class, and my adolescent isn't very talkative about it, homework has usually been my best guide to what is being taught. If there was minimal or no homework, I wouldn't have much insight into the rigor or lack thereof of a given class.

We're not at HIMS, so I have no dog in this fight.

Just Curious

Anonymous said...

Just curious-
You are right, in that I can't be completely certain there is rigor unless I am in the classes everyday. I am basing my statement that there is rigor on the assignments/projects I have seen my kid working on or that he has brought home graded and what he tells me in regards to what takes place during class.
-Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear it, Am I Missing Something?!

Do you mind saying what grade your son is in, and if your perception of rigor is based on the current school year or prior years at HIMS?

Also, can you give any examples of the sort of rigorous assignments you've seen? There's often a lot of variation between teachers, so it's hard to know what kind of work is happening in other classes. It would be great to learn about what kind of things we might expect to see.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of little or no homework. When busy homework becomes the norm, there is no time to pursue other interests. Love the suggestion of challenging kids where they are not comfortable.

-No HW pls

Anonymous said...

To respond to the JAMS parent:
One thing that Washington has kept that makes all the difference is blocking LA and SS into a true humanities class at 6th and 7th grades - this is for all programs, not just APP. They do it because it is better for kids and for learning in an integrated way. Hamilton says they were "forced" to discontinue this because of scheduling issues. They could have tried to unblock 8th like WMS does and see if that helped their scheduling, but they just got rid of all of it. Washington also loops from 6th to 7th, which means teachers have the same kids for two years. So even if Washington uses the new scope and sequence for what grade the topics are being taught, it is a different, more immersive experience in the content, with teachers who have a better handle on kids' skills.

sidneyd

Anonymous said...

Sidney-

JAMS is doing the same as WMS. Blocked humanities for 6th and 7th and 'unbundled' for 8th. And talk about a school with scheduling issues (3 levels of language and 4 of music)...they were able to do it. Not sure what's up at HIMS.

Anonymous said...

@ sidneyd, do you know which grade-level standards WMS is teaching to? I heard APP teachers (not the district?) decided to focus on grade-level standards rather than a year or two higher.

Anonymous said...

For middle-bound mom, do you already know what private high schools you are considering and most interested in? Are they strictly high schools or do they also have a middle school?

I think that that information should also inform your decision: would a comprehensive MS or a smaller K-8 best prepare your child for 9th grade at the private schools you are considering? You could start touring those high schools this fall to get a better sense. Ask the admissions folks which kids come in best prepared from SPS and what you should be looking for in a MS to best align when it's time to apply.

If those high schools have a middle school, try to figure out what skills and content are taught to those kids and see if any SPS MS does anything similar so that your kids are as prepared as possible for the transition to 9th grade. The kids moving up internally from the MS program will hit 9th grade running. So how do you make sure your kid has the best chance to do the same?

Our former APP student is now in a private school that goes through 12th grade. There are a lot of benefits to starting there in middle school (one transition versus two, plus a lot of attention to time management, self advocacy, many more computer skills and programs to master relative to SPS, etc). I hadn't appreciated how much of a plus this would be when we were considering private school but I'm pretty happy we ended up somewhere that goes through 12th grade for many of the reasons I've listed.

One last thought. Several private schools reported a surge in applications this past year due to the SPS capacity crisis. I suspect that that is going to continue in the near-term and that that surge is going to hit high school applications very soon, depending on the solutions SPS puts out there, at least in the north end. The private schools couldn't accept all of the great kids who applied this year, so keep that in mind. If you know you want private for high school, maybe you want to consider if for middle too, at least for the 5-12 or 6-12 schools, not just to facilitate a smooth transition, but to avoid applying during a surge a few years from now.

Former APP

Anonymous said...

Our kid's 8th grade JAMS LA/SS teachers said they were being graded on 9 - 10 grade standards. So not sure the rumor is true.

Anonymous said...

Grade 9-10 CCSS were used to justify an 8th grade assignment that amounted to a one paragraph analysis of a Disney cartoon. There is not much text complexity in a Disney cartoon, so it's hard to say what grading on 9-10 standards means.

It's the APP social studies sequence that has been changed to align with the OSPI grade level scope and sequence.

Anonymous said...

"Our kid's 8th grade JAMS LA/SS teachers said they were being graded on 9 - 10 grade standards. So not sure the rumor is true."

Which rumor? That they're working on new APP-wide middle school guidelines that target grade-level standards, as I personally saw on a recent draft document shown to me by someone involved in the process? Or that JAMS is targeting 1-2 yrs ahead, based on the word of a teacher (who may or may not be involved in the process to develop the expanded scope and sequence doc)?

"It's the APP social studies sequence that has been changed to align with the OSPI grade level scope and sequence."

The draft doc I saw was very clearly both LA and SS.

I think there's a lot going on behind the scenes here, and it's time for some transparency. I suggest parents of current and soon-to-be middle school students start asking for some clarity on this from the AL office.

Anonymous said...

Would encourage students to consider Aviation HS if they have strong STEM interest. A child of a good friend just started there and is enjoying the challenges thus far. The student chose to stay in the local southend school through MS rather than attending WMS APP (mom didn't know anything about AL programs until i told her about it 3 years ago). The neighborhood school really nurtured these kids and made it possible for them to access Rainier HS for upper level classes. I would add these kids are very self-motivated and self-directed as a group, meaning it was up to them and their teachers to navigate the educational system. Some of this child's classmates ended up at Garfield and a few headed off to competitve private schools on scholarships.

Aviation gained a great deal of public attention recently which made the application process much more competitive! So be prepared.

Anonymous said...

More food for thought on LA:

http://www.rfwp.com/pages/michael-clay-thompson/videos/#three

Formal writing and explicit vocabulary instruction - are these being dropped for good? Our child's teacher told us there would be no formal vocabulary instruction this year, but only words in context, as "research shows"...

I'm more inclined to side with Michael Clay Thompson.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the thoughtful comments that I knew this blog would provide re: middle school options.

I want to tag on to someone who said that it is easier to get into some private 6-12 schools at middle v high school. Although for financial planning reasons we are sticking to public for middle, my research confirms that for places like SAAS, Northwest, Bush, Lakeside it is harder to place in HS than middle. I think families may be surprised by the lack of spots at non-parochial HS. (We are relatively certain that we will be able to gain admission to a challenging Catholic HS program, so we feel less worried than we would otherwise.)

I also very much agree that the SPS high school capacity issue is going to make private school admission even tougher by the time we hit HS.

My initial instinct that either TOPS or Hazel Wood would be the best fit for my kids at middle has been reinforced by the discussion before and after my post. My kids seem to like a "smaller" atmosphere, and honestly outside of music, I am not seeing any academic benefit of HC comprehensive middle schools for my kids. But of course, that is just my opinion for my family and other families will have other viewpoints.

I took the opportunity to be comprehensive in my answer as others took the time to be comprehensive in their thoughts.

Thank you.

Middle-Bound Mom

Anonymous said...

Mistype above. I meant Hazel Wolf. Did not mean to confuse anyone.

Middle-Bound Mom

Anonymous said...

Middle Bound, I would be fairly surprised if you could get a spot at either Hazel Wolf or Tops for 6th grade next year. They will be full with returning 5th graders, or siblings of kids entering at less full grades. I have a 5th grader, too- all the middle schools will be overtaxed with our enormous cohort, and Hazel Wolf in particular is many people's "escape" plan in the NE.

I would makes sure your alternatives are also acceptable. It's possible one of those could happen, but doubtful.

Anonymous said...

12:42 again- I would agree with you about tougher high school admission, except the last time this wave hit the schools, in kindergarten, private schools were ready. They were aware it was coming and had planned accordingly. Many of them expanded, and many new schools opened up. I would be surprised if this didn't happen again. There is a lot of money to be made, especially at the high school level, and I doubt the market will just turn away from that. History suggests it won't.

Anonymous said...

As far as joining a K-8 at middle school, there is usually a swap at 6th...some families want bigger and some families want smaller. Different K-8s have different enrollments, but I'm thinking 6-10 spaces might be available at smaller schools like Hazel Wolf and TOPS at 6th. A curious parent could call a school and ask how many spots and applicants there were this year. But yes, it can be tricky to get into a solid K-8 at 6th.

Some tips to increase odds. If you want K-8 make the move in 4th or 5th. There are even fewer spots available, but there are fewer people wanting in. It gives a student a year or two before middle school to make friends in a community where families probably already know each other well.

And if you live in an area that is a distance tiebreaker for admissions, choose that school. Better chance of getting in.

I read this blog to keep up on APP thinking but my advanced-learning-qualified student is thriving at a K-8 middle school. When I read about the overcrowding, lack of curriculum and lack of strong teachers at some of the official APP schools, I say to myself 'phew'. SPS is too dunderheaded to let parents know K-8 can be a good choice for kids who need something 'different'.

K-8 fan

Anonymous said...

1245PM, can you name some of the private elementry schools that opened or expanded in the last 5-10 years due to the population boom? My kid entered SPS as part of that wave, and I just don't remember hearing much about new and expanding private school options at that time.

And I'm skeptical that any of the private middle or high schools have the capacity to expand soon enough or large enough to be of much help for the current situation for the older grade SPS students. It took more than a year of planning to get JAMS open, and that was with a building already in existence. What would it take to open a brand new private middle or high school, especially if construction is needed? Who's going to make such an enormous financial commitment? And would other families really pay a premium in tuition for something untested/uncharted at the high school level? I could see some families starting some sort of co-op that might grow into a private highschool but that would take years, wouldn't it? (and they wouldn't be doing it to make money but instead to educate their own children)

You say that there is "lots of money" to be made, but again, I'm skeptical of the economics of it all. Can you flesh this out a bit more for us?

Former APP

Anonymous said...

Waldorf for one just opened a high school at Magnuson. Northwest expanded a bit. There's 2.

Anonymous said...

Billings Middle School also expanded. And for people looking for a partial or full boarding school experience there is Annie Wright in Tacoma. -- School-bound

Anonymous said...

I thought the original poster's claim was that private elementary programs opened or expanded in response to growing demand? Maybe I misread it.

But, the middle and highschool examples so far don't make much of a dent in capacity for a growing city either.

For example, the Waldorf highschool opened in 2008 and 90% of its currently enrolled 87 students rose up thru its elementary/middle program. So what is that, maybe 9 kids that were new to Waldorf education for highschool? They say they will take 15-17 new 9th graders next year. Doesn't look like much of a market response to an increasing demand for high school seats to me. Maybe they have plans to get even bigger in a few years?

Northwest just added a new gym/athletic building. Did that expand their enrollment capacity too? Or was this some other expansion in the last few years?

Anonymous said...

Recommend Lake Washington Girl MS, new and small. Holy Names Academy for HS (all girls). Both very competitive to get in and have good academic rep. Know one APP family with a daughter at LWGMS who has thrived despite (or because of) the small size. The other family has a daughter at Holy Names who made the National Honors Semi-Finalist list.

Lakeside expanded by only 2 seats per grade and draws from all around Puget Sound. Facility expansion faces similar crisis as public schools-- cost. It's expensive and increasing class size is a tough sell when parents are paying. However as the local
economy improves, may well see new schools and more competition all around our region. Capacity is a problem everywhere!

Anonymous said...

Kapka (3-5), villa, evergreen, asb (though that was just monster class sizes for a while). More on Capitol Hill, but I wouldn't remember classroom numbers from a school we decided not to attend 6 years ago, of course, any more than you would. Just that many of the schools we toured were expanding, in response to demographic trends. 9 new Waldorf students at the high school, but 87 who might have been public school students or homeschooled.

Heads of schools make several hundred thousand dollars a year, and you can open a private school in spaces not deemed fit for public school use (like magnuson). I have a relative who got a private k-8 off the ground in the Midwest in a year, and it am sure an experienced person could do the same or better here. It's faster without the headache of "public" money and accountability.

I assume the Waldorf school is the beginning of a market responses which will become more robust as the wave actually hits, in 3 years.

12:42

Anonymous said...

Recommend Lake Washington Girl MS, new and small. Holy Names Academy HS for girls. Both very competitive and have good academic rep. One APP family had a daughter at Lake Washington and their daughter thrives and loves it. The other girl at Holy Names was one of the National Honors Semi-finalists.

Facility expansion faces similar problem as public schools-- cost! Lakeside draws from the Puget Sound area and expanded by only 2 seats per grade and that was during the economic slump. Can't expand class size by much when you have paying parents. Capacity problem is everywhere, not just SPS and that does have a bearing on desirable public and private schools especially now as the economy improves. I wouldn't be surprised if some charter operator will try to take advantage of this need.

Anonymous said...

Lwms also just added a class a year or two ago, didn't they? 16 more girls?

12:42

Anonymous said...

New French Immersion elementary school in Phinney Ridge, too!

Anonymous said...

Which rumor? That they're working on new APP-wide middle school guidelines that target grade-level standards, as I personally saw on a recent draft document shown to me by someone involved in the process? Or that JAMS is targeting 1-2 yrs ahead, based on the word of a teacher (who may or may not be involved in the process to develop the expanded scope and sequence doc)?

Okay...so you ask us to request info from the AL office, yet you are privy to the draft info, but cannot share any more info? Kinda weird. When you say, "they're working on," who is they?

When the scope and sequence was reworked years ago under Bob V., the draft was handed out at an APP-AC meeting. There were no secrets. It was presented as a work in progress.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a copy of the draft info to copy and share, otherwise I would. That's why I suggested that parents ask for it. We need to know where things are headed.

There was a new scope and sequence presented last spring, for middle school APP SS. That was not a secret. There was very little detail presented, just a few shifts in time periods and general subjects covered when. A workgroup was supposed to work on a implementation plan.

There is a small group of teachers and principals (membership unclear) currently working on expanding that scope and sequence. You ask "who is they?", and that's a good question. I have asked, but can't get a list of who exactly is doing this work and what their roles are.

Best I can tell, work on an expanded, more detailed scope and sequence--to help guide implementation this fall--began last spring shortly after the APP MS SS scope and sequence was initially revised. The expanded version currently underway also includes LA, although I don't know if that scope and sequence is also changing, or if this is just an attempt to integrate the existing LA scope and sequence with the new SS version. Does anyone know if the LA scope and sequence has also changed or is in the process of changing?

The expanded LA/SS APP MS scope and sequence draft also indicates that the APP LA/SS will target grade-level standards--something that is likely of interest to many APP parents, as it doesn't fit with how the district often portrays the program (accelerated, two years ahead, etc.), nor is it consistent with what some APP teachers have apparently been telling parents, as recently as this curriculum night. It's all very unclear.

Yes, this is all very much a work in progress. However, it is also being implemented now, while still drafty in nature. The district's position is that they are testing things out this year. But shouldn't we have a right to know what exactly they are testing on our kids? Teachers are developing new instructional units to fit the new scope and sequence. It they are piloting it now, parents should be able to see it, no? And if a decision was made to focus on grade-level standards, shouldn't that information be shared with parents?

I obviously don't have all the answers, but I do have a lot of questions. The Board required the district to provide an LA/SS curriculum for middle school APP, something many of us greatly desire. This ongoing work seems to be laying the groundwork for that ultimate curriculum, and will go a long way toward shaping what we end up with. More parent engagement at this point in the process might be a very good thing.

Anonymous said...

What my current 7th grader is experiencing is very different from what our older child experienced in 7th grade. So far, there's been very little history, with a rushed coverage of the Fall of Rome. For LA, they read a short story as a class, but it seemed like the purpose was to just continue talking about "mindset." On a Standards Based Grading scale, my child is giving it between a "1" or "2" so far.

Anonymous said...

The first Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee Meeting of the 2014-15 school year will be held:

Tuesday, October 7, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Garfield High School Library

Our agenda includes the following:

I. Update from Advanced Learning (Stephen Martin)

II. Discussion of the Highly Capable Board Policy Draft (Stephen Martin)

III. Presentation and Q&A with Kathleen Vasquez, Program Manager, Language Arts and Social Studies Ms. Vasquez will talk about the changes to the scope and sequence for LA/SS at the Middle School level. If you have any questions for Ms. Vasquez, please send them to Jeanne Thompson jeanne_thompson@hotmail.com by October 6. That will help us make sure that Ms. Vaquez covers the topics that you are most interested in learning more about.

IV. Advisory Committee Business for 2014-15

Also, please send any questions or concerns to your parent representatives prior to the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Let's ask her why the new middle school scope and sequence is pegged to standards at grade level when the elementary has been teaching the standards two years up. Did MS teachers on that committee not talk to elementary teachers?

Let's ask why there is no financial support for the implementation of the new scope and sequence that the teachers are required to teach? Does gen ed have to buy their own textbooks? No the school just supplies them. Yet APP teachers are told to ask the AL office if they need texts.

Let's ask why instead of verifying that HIMS 8th was actually teaching US History like WMS was, (they weren't, and the principal was deaf to parent concerns) Ms. Vasquez has let the disparity remain, to the point that WMS kids can't take AP World at 9th because HIMS kids showed themselves to be unprepared.

Let's ask why Garfield got rid of AP European History, and now can't figure out what history class to offer the seniors who took AP World as freshmen.

Let's ask why she took no interest in the IBx founder group getting what they need for a rigorous senior year.

open ears

WV says 420. What are they smokin' downtown?

Anonymous said...

open ears
Great questions, thank you. I would also add a few questions about the teachers: how are they prepared; what kind of PD do they receive so they could handle the HC population especially when they don't have a gifted ed certificate and / or never taught them the new curriculum before? Also, what kind of help could they receive from the AL Office (or from anyone else) if they face any problems along the way?
Another HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming this meeting on Oct 7th is open to the public, not just committee members????

- Surprisingly now torn about APP at MS...

Anonymous said...

Good questions. I'd also ask:

- How they are coordinating the middle school curriculum with high school pathways and expectations?

-What are the guiding principles being used in the curriculum development?

- Who is in the curriculum working group and how were they selected? Are there parent reps?

In a formal material adoption process they are supposed to "gather input from multiple stakeholders." Furthermore, "The purpose of the adoption committee is to provide subject matter expertise and to provide the perspectives of family members who have current and/or past students in the grades for which the adoption is being contemplated."

Anonymous said...

The APP-AC (now HC-AC) meetings have always been open to parents. Typically, the first part of the meetings are for school and parent reps to provide short updates, then there might be time for parents to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Textbooks seem so basic...I'd like to know the district and school policy on teachers plagiarizing material from the web. I don't know what to think when a text search of a class handout (non-attributed) shows up on some random, non-SPS teacher's site (today's handout is an example). Is this SOP in SPS?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2:39, that might be SOP here, hard to say. I recently had the same concern about a 6th grade social studies handout from HIMS. Which grade/class/school sparked your concern?

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

But then again, teachers probably aren't claiming that they wrote the content themselves. Lack of attribution is different than presenting the material as one's own.

Still, sources should be cited. Are students just supposed to believe whatever a teacher puts in front of them, without any clue as to the original source?

A vetted curriculum would sure be nice...

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

As part of 7th grade Physical Science (JAMS), our child's class has been getting weekly science readings with questions. The content, though perhaps interesting from a general science info kind of way (from Scholastic), has not been related to Physical Science topics. The questions look like CCSS test prep (nonfiction reading). Meanwhile, students do not have copies of the class textbook, so can't read from the text outside of class. At HIMS, students were given copies of the textbook to take home. What's up with that?

?

Anonymous said...

I think there might be some master SPS plan to let APP (or HCC now) implode on itself. No leadership, a mass of inexperienced teachers, no curriculum, lack of vision with bright parents, bright children, and passion...all mixed with chaos and a long systemic history of incompetence and corruption.

Anonymous said...

I am trying to make sense of APP LA/SS for middle school. We are told the SS topic sequence is now supposed to be aligned with the OSPI grade level guidelines, but my child is also being graded on above level LA standards. Mastering those standards is graded as a 3, or a B when translated to letter grades. So how does a student do "A" level work? By working above the already above grade level standards? Do they have to show work at a 11-12 grade output level??

It's so confusing. In math, students can be working above grade level, and doing the work and mastering the delivered content will mean an A.

In LA there is this disconnect between the standards, what is actually taught to achieve those standards, and what are age appropriate expectations from an executive functioning standpoint.

confused

Anonymous said...

According to info from last night's APP-AC meeting, they are supposed to be teaching to grade level CCSS for LA, but increasing the complexity of texts, materials, and assignments/discussions. So you should see grade level standards on assignment rubrics, not the 9-10 CCSS for 7th and 8th graders. In some ways this makes sense, as the skills are applicable to more complex material, plus you don't want to simply skip the 6-8 standards.

http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/

It's the complexity of texts that matters...yet there are no texts...so, how's that working?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, above poster, for the report out of the APP-AC meeting re: LA standards.

Was there also word on science, math and social studies standards for middle school APP? I took a look at the work my daughter's friend is doing at her alternative middle school. Frankly, it's more rigorous. Don't know if that's an isolated situation or not, but it would be helpful to at least understand if our kids are supposed to be diving deeper at grade level standards or moving faster at above-level standards in math, science, SS.

JAMS mom

Anonymous said...

@JAMS mom,

The new HCC middle school standards under development--but which were not shared at the APP AC meeting, for some reason--address both LA and social studies. The LA and SS pieces are very integrated. As the earlier poster noted, the plan is essentially to work on grade-level content and grade-level standards, with the key difference between HCC and non-HCC being the level of complexity of the work. They suggested this approach allows HCC kids to "go deeper" in each of the standards, although I'm not really sure what that means since with the way the standards are written, going deeper seems to be the same as moving to a higher grade level standard.

There was discussion of the importance of using more complex texts in HCC, but given the lack of funding for new books the presenter said it was pretty pointless for them to spend time on trying to develop a list of appropriate books. I guess it remains up to teachers to individually assess the appropriateness of books and see if they can track some copies down... (No wonder we haven't seen much required reading in middle school.)

There was also discussion of how to ensure the additional challenge needed, given the grade-level content and standards. This is where the presenter seemed most excited, although it all seemed pretty fuzzy to me. She referred to the Cognitive Rigor Index and said that while Gen Ed teachers would focus primarily on level 1 and level 2 activities (e.g., memorization), HCC teachers would focus on more complex level 3 and 4 approaches. While I appreciate the thinking behind this, I'm still not clear as to how these all lead to the same place... In other words, if they're all studying the same topics, with one group using more complex texts and doing more complex assignments, why is it that they all end up meeting the same standards? Or do HCC kids meet those standards earlier--in which case, are they essentially but unofficially working on higher level standards via the "go deeper on the standards" approach?

The biggest worry for me is that this all essentially still leaves things up to individual teachers to provide the appropriate differentiation to HC kids. The HCC LA/SS scope and sequence--whenever it is released--may ultimately include a clear focus on level 3 and 4 activities, and perhaps some recommendations for appropriately complex reading materials. However, the presenter was clear that the scope and sequence is just a guideline, and HCC teachers don't have to follow it anyway. Hopefully it will provide a good foundation for challenging work, and hopefully teachers will follow it. But no promises. There was some mention of common assessments, but I didn't get the details--does anyone else know if these are supposed to be common assessments across the MS HCC sites, to ensure that kids are learning the same things, or common assessments within sites (and even across programs/services, e.g., HCC and Spectrum)?

Re: math, since it isn't part of MS HCC/APP, I don't think there's a different approach for HCC kids. If your school groups by grade and not just level, though, advanced classes will likely end up being more geared toward HC kids (e.g.., a 6th grade Alg I class will likely include more math-gifted kids than an 8th grade Alg I class, so is likely to move faster and/or go deeper.)

Re: science, I haven't heard of any changes, nor does there seem to be an HCC-specific curriculum or approach other than acceleration. The kids move through the district's regular science kits at a somewhat faster pace, so end up covering much of the material earlier. There doesn't seem to be an effort to go any deeper, though, and I know my child felt the curriculum and instruction were much too basic. I imagine they assume that HCC science teachers will similarly incorporate more level 3 and level 4 type activities/assignments into their instruction, but I don't know if there's anything in place to really support that type of differentiation.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

The SPS program manager for Literacy/Social Studies presented on the LA/SS scope and sequence. She focused on the literacy standards, but did not discuss the social studies component. She said a committee is working on a framework, but there are no defined texts (and based on other comments it may be some time before a text adoption, if ever). Additionally, she made it clear that the scope and sequence was a "recommendation." From what was discussed, it sounds as though this year's students are no better off than last year's in terms of having some kind of defined curriculum. Expect lots of piecemeal, random photocopied handouts, unless your student is at the original APP site where they still have texts.

There were many parents with questions around the LA/SS, but there was not time to have them all answered.

According to the head of AL, there has been a curriculum specialist hired for 6-12 (starting this week?) and the K-5 position is still open.

Science was not discussed, but as of now, 7th graders are supposed to be doing what is 9th grade Physical Science, and 8th graders take Biology. 6th graders do a combination of the middle school science kits, though anecdotally, our child's class did not cover all of the units. As with math, it's mostly acceleration through the grade level standards, not "diving deeper."

SPS has stated that math is ability based, and not part of HCC. There is a typical pathway for HCC students, but you do not need to be qualified for APP/HCC to access higher level math classes. Math is simply accelerated. The Algebra and Geometry classes use the same texts as the high schools. There is no differentiation for highly capable students unless the teacher chooses to supplement.

-another attendee

Anonymous said...

@ HIMS mom - Thank you so much for that detailed answer. I understand the expectations so much better from you than from anything I've gotten from APP or from JAMS.

At least now I have realistic expectations of what to expect. Which, I have to conclude, much to my disappointment, is "not much". Honestly, why do we even have an APP middle school program? My student's now committed to the school so we'll stay put, but the fact that I'm seeing more challenging, interesting work coming from a non-APP school makes me sad for my kid and for the future of APP in general. Really, what's the point of all the testing and twisted up enrollment patterns to get, essentially, no classroom benefit in middle school.

JAMS Mom

Anonymous said...

One note on the what was said during the presentation - the LA/SS program manager said there hasn't been a middle school adoption for LA since [some date], but the high school LA adoption did include classroom reading materials for middle school APP. To my knowledge, they were never purchased. A sampling of books on the list of 40 or so:

Animal Farm
The Book Thief
Bronze Bow
Eagle of the Ninth
Fahrenheit 451
Harmonic Feedback
Henry V
Gulliver's Travels
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Sachs
The Merchant of Venice
Night
The Odyssey
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Tipping Point

-another attendee

Anonymous said...

@ Another Attendee...Your comment was posted when I was thanking HIMS Mom. Thank you also for your details from the meeting. It backs up my impression that APP at JAMS at least is a lot of marketing and not much substance. I'm sorry, but it just makes me very disillusioned.

JAMS Mom

Anonymous said...

@ JAMS mom,

You're welcome. And I think we have similar takes on this.

Unfortunately it's not just middle school that's of unclear benefit academically. (Socially, though the MS cohort is very important for many HCC kids.) Unless your kids goes into the IBX program--which has it's own share of issues--HC services in high school don't really amount to much. You get access to the APP pathway schools that you might not have otherwise been able to access, but once you get there it's just the same old AP classes that anyone else can take. The pathway schools might offer a few more AP options, but nothing specific to HC kids. Kids coming from HCC middle schools are able to skip ahead in science since they've already taken Phys Sci and Bio, but there aren't any APP-specific classes, so the pacing and depth in regular sciences courses is gen ed level. I've been told that since Garfield teachers see so many former APP kids they know how to challenge HC kids, but I don't know to what extent this is really the case. My hunch is that kids and parents craving more rigor in middle school will find that to be the case in much of high school as well, but many others are satisfied that AP classes--and all the many HS extracurricular opportunities--provide sufficient challenge in high school.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

The district is now asking for comment on the policy and procedures for APP/HC. I just saw it when I went to the site to see if I could find a way to get some rigor into the JAMS program.

The policy/procedure keeps a self contained program in place, but besides that there is nothing prescriptive around academics. Says classes can move faster and/or deeper. Which is to say - any single teacher can do anything he/she wants. Or - as seems to be the case - nothing at all, as long as a good game can be talked if anyone asks.

It's just more marketing mush as far as I can see.

JAMS Mom

Anonymous said...

As the district reworks policies, they write Superintendent Procedures to accompany those policies. They tried to keep the AL policy brief and will include more detail in the Superintendent Procedure. The policy is the only piece that gets put forth to the Board, however. Superintendent Procedures don't need Board approval.

See Policy Adoption under "Methods of Governance" on the School Board policies link.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:41: The procedure is posted for comment, along with the policy. The district is asking for comment on both. The procedure is more detailed than the policy. It talks about testing. Not much about the actual programs in schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the self-contained is being strictly kept...for middle school the language says it is "self-contained in most core subjects."

I'm pretty sure Spectrum qualified students are being placed in APP LA/SS classes at JAMS.

The language for Spectrum says "classes are either self-contained or students are grouped within classrooms that have multiple Highly Capable and/or advanced learners, depending on location."

I'm not saying this is either good or bad, but I wouldn't consider it self-contained.

Anonymous said...

Feedback is due before end of day Monday. don't believe that 2 working days over a long weekend allows for anything remotely resembling community feedback. I think this community should push back hard to staff, board, superintendent. We've waited too long for so little. Also, at first glance, the devil is in the details and right now I see nothing compelling and too many gaps.
Susan

Anonymous said...

This is heresy to HCC. But my child is fine with non HCC kids in the class. Some of these kids are stellar writers and prolific readers. I really think focus should be on curriculum content, less about cohort make up.

Matt Nichols said...

Could someone direct me to a high school thread?

My daughter is in 8th grade at a Waldorf school, highly capable in the humanities and the visual arts. She has 8 years of slow paced Japanese. She is a good student, but not advanced in math. We missed the Oct 2 deadline for applying to the APP program. My understanding is that it doesn't matter..once she is in high school she can take any honors class she wants. Am I right?

We live in south Seattle...would it be impossible to get into Ingraham?