Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HCS-AC on challenges to HCC

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


Anonymous said...

Yes, those are challenges, but I disagree that they are the biggest. Personally, I think you have to start with the basics. If you can't easily define the program, that's a huge problem. There's no fidelity of implementation because there's no clear "program" to implement. You also need to know what "it" is in order to evaluate whether it's working. Right now, SPS defines the program in terms of the who, not the what.

The HCS-AC may have been hinting at this with their challenge #1 being growth, but they way they couched it--and coupled it with lack of diversity--makes it seem more about capacity and access. As I always say, before we worry so much about expansion and replication, we need clarity as to what exactly it is we are trying to expand and replicate. I think that's the biggest challenge right now--and once we understand what the program is and has to offer, it will be easier to conduct outreach and engage populations that haven't participated as much in the past. Right now it's more about "the cohort", which makes it less appealing to those who don't fit the current cohort's demographics. It it's instead about the program (or "services"), with clarity as to how these services effectively address the needs of these kids and provide clear benefits to them, diverse populations will have more reason to participate.


Anonymous said...

I agree with HIMSMom. I would put curriculum, coherency between buildings and other things first. I believe the Advanced Learning department spent a lot of effort in the past couple of years to broaden outreach to qualified kids and their parents everywhere. Perhaps this effort was ineffective or there are other reasons why there isn't a more diverse APP student population. But it's hard to attract everyone if you don't have a clear plan for the program.

- APP Dad

Anonymous said...

The humanities block, which gave some substance to the "what," is virtually unrecognizable from when my child went through the program just a few years ago (and it was morphing into something less defined and less rigorous even then). The new alignment has eliminated content and what's being developed seems very nebulous, plus it will be put forth as a "guideline" with no directive to actually follow it.

Anecdotally, my child's humanities block has done no literature related to the time period being studied. None. I thought the point of a blocked class was to integrate LA and SS. On top of that, there is apparently no money for common texts.

When asked about this year's students - new scope and sequence and no curriculum alignment - the district LA/SS rep just said, that's an interesting question....

Anonymous said...

I think @HIMSmom and @APPdad identify some key questions. But what I always wonder about SPS and APP/HCC is: which students is SPS looking for, and why? We know which student qualifies when they take the tests,etc. But why does SPS choose those tests, set those thresholds, etc? After SPS pays for testing, there never seems to be any funding for curriculum development or really, anything else for the program.


ben said...

@Tami Alot of the reason why things are the way they are is that SPS is fulfilling the letter of the law w.r.t. HCC services. Without the WAC requirements I'm sure there would be even further questioning of the need for the current to model to exist given equity concerns. The rest of why things are the way they are is mostly driven by onsite individual teachers and general inertia.

Anonymous said...

I see HCC as three very distinct programs: (1) Elementary; (2) Middle School; (3) High School. My perception is that the biggest issues are with Middle School program for the following reasons.

First, because the Elementary Program is stand-alone, teachers and staff are hired into an HCC specific building. So at the very least, everyone in the building has the interests of the HCC students as their top priority, staff can’t be re-assigned to non- HCC classes, and there is a dedicated PTA.

Second, for the High School Program, the curriculum is largely defined by the Advanced Placement classes, college admissions requirements, and in some cases by the International Baccalaureate Program. So it’s hard to mess up too much and is somewhat self-correcting over time.

That leaves the Middle School Program, which doesn't benefit from a nationally defined curriculum like high school AP and doesn't have the advantage of dedicated teachers, building leadership, and PTA. Instead we have building leadership interests that are not aligned with HCC interests. That impacts hiring priorities, teacher assignments, and curriculum decisions. As a long-term fix, I think the HCC community should push for an HCC principal and leadership team at each middle school with responsibility for hiring, assigning, and firing HCC teachers. Two “schools” sharing one facility is certainly not unprecedented.

Maybe someone can share why this wouldn't work?

Anonymous said...

The elementary program is only stand-alone at Lincoln, and that was a capacity issue, not by design. Other elementary HCC sites are integrated. The benefits that Lincoln sees from this arrangement are not shared across other sites.

In high school, do we know the AP curriculum works well for HC kids? The AP pathway is open to all kids, so it's certainly not tailored to the needs of HC kids specifically. It may work well for some, but since SPS has never really evaluated how well it meets the needs of HC students we don't know. I know it didn't meet the needs of my kid, with the delays in when you can start AP classes (not as a freshman), the limited access to some classes (luck of the draw), and the problem with what to do after you've maxed out on offerings in a particular subject. AP classes can be challenging, sure, but are they really the preferred strategy to meet the needs of the top few percent of kids?

Re: middle school, I have a hard time seeing much political support for an HCC school within (or aside) another school. It would be seen as inequitable. Tough sell.

While I understand your sense that there are three distinct programs by grade level, my feeling is that there ought to be a SINGLE program that responds to the specific needs of kids at each grade level. You have to start with what the kids need--what makes them different, how do their learning needs differ from their non-HCC peers, why can't the gen ed classroom work? The curriculum, delivery model, teacher training, eligibility, etc. may differ somewhat at each grade level, but the starting point needs to be based on what the kids need. Neither SPS policy nor SPS procedures on HC kids/services express any clarity as to WHY we need HC services (aside from the reqt to provide them)--and if you don't know why you're providing a service, it's not very likely that you're going to provide one that meets the needs of those you're serving.

Anonymous said...

"Rigor should be available to all students in all schools."

Is this the HSC-AC, asking SPS to do what they'd probably love to do anyway, send the HCC students back to neighborhood schools and call it a "service" (offered to individuals) rather than a "program" (offered to a cohort)? If HCC is having trouble meeting its academic goals with dedicated teachers in designated classrooms, I can just imagine how well the "distributed" model would work.

Upset said...

A huge challenge for me is not being able to tell my kid what middle school and high school he'll attend! Could be 3 schools in 3 years for middle, could be split shifts or who knows what for high school.

And, yes, I realize this isn't an APP issue, but it seems to impact APP disproportionately. I don't have first hand knowledge, but it appears SPED kids have it 100 times worse. That's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

FYI, a new draft of the policy and procedures were posted to the SPS Advanced learning page this afternoon. Check them out.

Anonymous said...

I think in the future more and more HCC parents can expect their kids to be denied placement and appropriately rigorous classes due to capacity issues.

The math placement policy at SPS already states that all district parents can petition for appropriate math placement if there is room. While it is great that there is an avenue for all parents (not just HCC) to advocate for appropriate math placement, the bottom line is that the district can pull the capacity card to deny kids academic services at any time. My understanding is that in previous years using capacity as a means to deny academic services is against state law. Yet, here it is codified in the policy:

This leads me to think that the district is busily aligning the advanced learning policies toward an ill defined model that allows the district to place more emphasis on organizing capacity to avoid hiring teachers than on the academic services that students need. This model also allows individual principals to set policy and placement standards in whatever way suits them, leading to a lack of coherence between schools. Lack of curriculum coherence and class availability is a key problem when HCC is split between schools. At one school all HCC students may be placed appropriate to their skills while at another HCC school cohorts of students are denied placement based on capacity. This happens right now, of course, but the district is working toward codifying the practice rather than developing sufficient staff to equalize services.

As the number of students enrolled in the SPS continues to swell, I think parents throughout the district and in HCC are going to have to be diligent about forcing the district to provide advanced learning services in a fair and equitable manner. And that means to eliminate capacity loopholes in the policies, and (of course) to clarify the curriculum to be offered as Advanced learning (this is a harder job so I suggest working on placement and access to existing classes).

The new draft of the AL policies indicates that • "Inconsistencies in rigor and pace across/between locations" will be handled by "An Advanced Learning Liaison" which "will be established at each school to help launch and coordinate scheduled time for teachers across Advanced Learning sites".

How will this "Advanced Learning Liaison" handle simple lack of classroom space in AL courses for HCC students? Will they be able to override the principal and demand capacity for HCC students? The HCC policy states that all students who test in will be given space in the HCC program. However, the big loophole which many of you new parents will face is that your HCC student will not be given a seat in an accelerated class. I guarantee that many of you HCC parents will come up against this problem.


Anonymous said...

I think the potential lack of access was codified years ago when math was no longer designated a core APP class, but separate from APP. This may provide access to higher level math for some students that don't qualify or enroll for APP/HCC, yet it may also place a ceiling on math advancement for HCC students. By leaving it up to the principal, it leads to the situation where HCC services vary by location.

Clarifying the curriculum with meaningful alignment between sites should be high on the list of priorities. It has gotten worse with each passing year and with each split. It's getting to the point where school is getting in the way of learning for some subjects. My child feels like they are busy doing nothing in LA/SS.

I'd be interested in knowing what level classes @SpeakingFromExperience is discussing. Middle school math? High school math? AP World History? Other subjects?


Anonymous said...

Reading the new policy, AL qualification has changed for middle school. A student needs only a reading achievement score of 87% in order to qualify for the AL program (Spectrum and ALO), plus 87% cognitive scores in two areas, but not a math achievement score.

Also, Spectrum and HCC classes may be blended in middle school, as per the latest draft policy. "Spectrum is offered at all middle schools...and classes are either self-contained or students are grouped within classrooms that have multiple highly capable and/or advanced learners, depending on location."

Additionally, it states the HCC (highly capable program cohort) program ends upon completion of 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

New draft, same problems.

"The following procedures shall be employed to refer, evaluate, and select students to participate in the program."

- Note that it says nothing about how to actually SERVE these kids.

"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."

-"The curriculum"? It sounds so nice when you refer to it like this. But to what extent does "the curriculum" really exist?
-Also, if it requires performance significantly above grade level, why are they designing the new LA/SS middle school HCC scope and sequence to target grade-level standards?

"For Grades 9-12, HCC students may choose to attend an accelerated AP pathway at Garfield or an accelerated IB pathway at Ingraham."

-Accelerated AP pathway at GHS? Not so much anymore. How exactly is the GHS AP pathway accelerated?

"Individual student education plans for Highly Capable students are reviewed annually as part of a school’s parent/teacher conference at elementary and middle schools."

-This is just untrue. Hamilton doesn't have conferences. Do other APP middle schools??? And in all my years of APP, we've never had an individual student education plan. Anyone else? I call BS on this. Then again, maybe I'll just wait until these policies are finalized and demand an individualized plan for my student.

So tired.

Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why Seattle is surprised at the lack of diversity in APP. Cognitive testing is definitely something that can be prepped and many highly educated, middle/upper income people do just that (even if unintentionally) as part of quality interactions with their kids, toys/experiences and preschool. Lower income/less educated parents (and I would argue preschools that are required to show results like Head Start and likely the coming "universal" preschool too) tend to focus on specific academic skills like letters and numbers and miss the actual depth of understanding/building block skills. Even kids who are equally as bright cognitively may just need extra time to shine on the screening process. And the way Seattle sets it up, means they are quite likely to miss out entirely.

Anonymous said...

When our son tested in the 99th percentile a grade up on the MAP math test, but only 92 percentile on the Cogat, I wanted to understand why. So I bought a sample Cogat tests on Amazon and discovered that the number puzzles and math analogies that are on the Cogat are not taught in the standard math books. Knowing this I helped our son understand how to do them and the next year he scored in the 99th percentile on the Cogat Math (and also 5 grades up on the MAP algebra section).

There is no district rule against prepping a child for the Cogat, and even if it made sense to have such a rule it would be very difficult to enforce; I can’t image the district telling parents that they can’t teach their kids how to solve number puzzles or verbal analogies at home and if the parents did how the district would ever prove it.

If the district is concerned about access they should teach kids what they’re going to be tested on either in the classroom or in an after school program, or at the very least send sample materials home or provide them in the library or somehow make them available.

Just knowing what’s on the Cogat doesn't make it easy to do well on it. But offering free after school prep classes at disadvantaged schools for those that want to take them would help level the playing field. The belief that the contents of the Cogat are somehow secret in the Internet age is very naive and absolutely dis-serves the already disadvantaged.

Another Dad

Anonymous said...

Descriptions of the CogAT subsections are included on the Seattle Schools Advanced Learning website under testing. It's hardly a secret.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Another dad for sharing these valuable tidbits. I'm not sure if teachers know what's on these tests. At least the one I asked didn't describe anything like what you just did. We'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by the fact that more people haven't commented on this thread. Prepping for the CogAT actually invalidates the test. The point of the test is to see if your child can solve the problems WITHOUT previous exposure to those types of problems. A 99th percentile on the map doesn't automatically mean that your child has a high IQ. Whether the CogAT is the best way to measure IQ is a separate debate. Many feel that it overlooks certain subtypes of gifted kids.

Anonymous said...

The APP program is bursting at the seams, but this isn't because of an increasing amount of child geniuses.

Part of the increase in the program is people learning how to get their kids to pass the test (like the parent who taught their kid the CoGat) or getting them privately tested. The private testing piece is something that is hard to navigate and I'm sure prevents some people from getting tested. I'm sure some people don't even know about it.

I think any kid that is placed in the APP program at a young enough age will rise to the occasion and learn what they are taught (provided there is no learning disability). It really is an unfair program to provide a small subset of kids with better teachers and greater depth in their classes while the rest don't get the same.

This model should change to self selecting advanced courses that allow everyone access. If you move kids along more quickly and give them more depth to their learning, they get a head start and they stay ahead through each grade.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty shocked to read about people teaching their kids how to take the test. I guess I should not be, but yes, the point of it is to see how fast your child can solve new problems.

However, I do not think it is true that "any" child will do well and that app provides greater depth than neighborhood schools. Accelerated for sure, but not deeper. For that you can try the project based option schools around, or private schools, which are where the real problems with privilege in this city are.

It is my experience that several kids leave every year because the work is too hard, especially at the younger grades and at middle school. And allowing just advanced classes that people opt in to(especially at the elementary level) will only increase the diversity issues- who do you think will try to access these classes? Privileged parents. At least this way there is an attempt at a fair adjudication of ability in the form of testing. Obviously it is not without bias, but declaring the whole system bankrupt because some people game it is like saying we have to get rid of welfare because some people game that system.

Anonymous said...

"better teachers" "greater depth"???

Clearly @10.14 commenter does not have a kid in APP.

We get teachers from the same SPS pool as every other school. No special qualifications. As with any school, there are strong teachers and weak ones, ones that are highly regarded and ones that are less so. There is nothing "better" about them. And in fact a frequent complaint has been regarding turnover, and the high number of very new teachers (at Lincoln anyway).

As far as depth, I don't really see it though to me that would define part of what an APP-type program should be. What we get in Seattle apparently is doing curriculum that is 2 grades ahead in reading and math, and supposedly going a bit deeper that the standard grade level in science but it's hard to objectify. I don't see any evidence of depth and in fact I worry that in an effort to 'jump' to the 2 yr ahead curriculum some material is skimmed over (i.e less depth).
The whole issue of what HCC should entail in terms of content, curriculum pacing, depth etc is where real work needs to be done to define, standardize between sites, and monitor outcomes for.

It seems like it's all about entry criteria (which are actually pretty typical types of tests/thresholds for gifted programs if you look at other school districts) but then no one gives any thought to what is actually provided.

Anonymous said...

"It really is an unfair program to provide a small subset of kids with better teachers and greater depth in their classes while the rest don't get the same."

Better teachers? Says who???

And greater depth? That's debatable. Maybe some schools are better, but we certainly haven't seen much depth in HIMS APP classes over the past several years.

"This model should change to self selecting advanced courses that allow everyone access. If you move kids along more quickly and give them more depth to their learning, they get a head start and they stay ahead through each grade."

The problem is that gifted children learn DIFFERENTLY from others, so what works for them doesn't work for others. For example, gifted kids don't need nearly as many repetitions to learn material--so what are you going to do in these "opt-in, advanced classes"--move at a pace appropriate to the gifted kids, and let the others struggle? Or move at a pace that allows everyone to keep up, even if the gifted kids are bored stiff and also get shortchanged on some of the depth, due to time constraints imposed by extra repetition?

HCC/APP as it currently exists already doesn't work well for many gifted kids--especially those who are at the ends of the tail. Making it opt-in would only exacerbate the problem. I'd much rather see the program shrink--with much tighter entry criteria--so that it finally works for those who really CAN'T be effectively served elsewhere. Many of the kids currently in the program COULD be served well at their neighborhood schools, if these schools started providing the level of challenge and rigor they should be.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Lots of unfounded assumptions. More students testing in because parents prep them? Better teachers (almost laughable given some of our past experiences)? Greater depth? Still waiting for that. It's mostly acceleration.

If you have read the latest draft AL policy, you'd see that middle school APP classes may be blended with Spectrum, so Spectrum qualified students at middle schools with APP may potentially access APP classes (dependent on principal's choice of grouping).

It seems like it's all about entry criteria (which are actually pretty typical types of tests/thresholds for gifted programs if you look at other school districts) but then no one gives any thought to what is actually provided. That pretty much sums it up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to essentially duplicate Anon at 11:30's post--it hadn't shown up for me until after I posted.

And I agree 100%--there needs to be a focus on the what, not just the who. HCC is a service, not a club.


Anonymous said...

One parent commented that prepping for the Cogat invalidates the results. Related to Seattle Public Schools, I totally disagree. Some schools have a rule against prepping and will disqualify students that are caught doing so, but not SPS. The contents of some tests are highly secret because the set of questions is fairly limited, but not the Cogat. And in fact in the case of SPS, if you are motivated to prepare and do well on the Cogat and the MAP test, the chances are you will do just fine in the Spectrum or HCC programs, which is the goal of the tests and programs in the first place.

Sure, in a perfect world the Cogat might be given blind to everyone, but that's not the reality of SPS.

I happened to have called and asked the Advanced Learning Office a few years back about which version of the Cogat they used, and the asked me why I wanted to know. I told them I wanted my child to understand how to answer the questions on the test and that I couldn't afford private testing or private schools and that I wanted them to have a fair shot, and they told me which version was used.

Another Dad

Lynn said...

David Lohman (author of the CogAT) on ability tests, the internet and practice tests.

Anonymous said...

The draft procedure states the cohort ends at 8th grade. Does this mean SPS is planning to end HCC (formerly APP)students' choice of enrolling in either Garfield or Ingraham IBX?

8th grade parent

Anonymous said...

WAC says K-12 so there will be more not less in the way of support at GHS.

Anonymous said...

The current and future size of the middle school APP/HCC cohorts will overwhelm the 9th grades at Ingraham and Garfield. The popularity of the cohort is going to lead to its demise, or at least diaspora. It is not reasonable to expect that 3 exploding middle school APP/HCC cohorts will be able to fit into 2 high schools. They will need to come up with a plan to either expand the cohort to another high school or two, or serve all kids in all high schools. HIMS mom states clearly that many kids in the APP/HCC cohort would do just fine in any school with more rigor. Which every school should have.

Anonymous said...

An advantage is an advantage. It's great if you have a child who had exposure to 10,000 words and Suzuki music lessons by the time s/he is 3. A child with good prenatal care, a well furnished nursery, with a family awaiting its arrival with fanfare and love will start already at great advantage. How do you weigh that advantage?

CogAT isn't an IQ test. It's an imperfect proxy. You can't give this test to most kids I worked with overseas as a measure of their intelligence. Measure of intelligence couldn't be done by filling in bubbles. Not because it's too foreign a concept, but it's a different world with a different value on what are desirable traits. Work with these children and watch a child measuring out grains and cooking oil with ancient weights and scale while quickly making mental calculation on how much to charge a customer who is hoping to get more for less from 6 yo child who can't read or write, but is intelligent and quick with words and logic to fight back effort to barter her down. I've watched many intelligent children who showed inventiveness and creativity by making graceful mobile toy trucks from discarded bottle caps and wire. By age 8, some of these children have moved on to repair small engine with cannibilize parts. Many speak 2-3 dialects or languages already. This doesn't make them extraordinary. It makes them a valuable contributing member of a family. CogAT could never measure their intelligence or ability. Survival and living well is a far better measure.

It's an extreme example, but for me this attempt to measure IQ or even ability is a luxury and imperfect. I have to laugh inwardly at this obsession. I know this is serious stuff and sure in this culture it's a game we partake. But everyday, I remind my family, play it we must, but live it, never.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the CogAT misses kids who would thrive in the program, but that doesn't justify cheating by prepping.

Anonymous said...

Far better to focus on why the test misses kids than worry about preppers and private test takers. The test measures reasoning and problem solving skills, not IQ. Perhaps they are missing kids because these kids don't do well taking standardized test. Because these kids are anxious, are such outliers that they will try to out think the test. Perhaps these kids have executive function issues. Perhaps these kids were sick, just came off another set of standardized testing and just don't care, didn't get a good night's rest because their parents keep telling them not to worry or were fighting or weren't around and did poorly. If kids keep taking this test over and over for whatever reasons, they will get more familiar. Is that prepping too?

This cognitive test has been revised many times over the years because of flaws. It continues to have issues, but is used because it's cheap and standardized. Think about it. A standardized test taken from which people will label kids gifted from that point in time through school. Or calling them cheaters. This is crazy.

Anonymous said...

You can spend a long time debating the merits of different tests, but the question still remains: What does the program offer once students enroll? What's the point of anguishing over the tests used if the program isn't focused on offering appropriate services?

When my middle school student gets what amount to elementary level art projects instead of meaningful writing assignments, I have to wonder how they consider this a gifted program. I agree with others that defining the "what" needs to be high on the list of priorities for AL.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
WAC says K-12 so there will be more not less in the way of support at GHS.

November 10, 2014 at 7:22 PM"

Anon above can you please provide your source for this belief?

I completely disagree with your statement. The WA State Law is vague and a school like GHS doesn't even need to exist in order to meet its weak requirements. If anything, I see the district using the HS capacity issues as a reason to dismantle the pathway. The district will claim they did not see the surge coming and that emergency changes are needed, so no more HS pathway.


Anonymous said...

I think whether or not studying for the Cogat is viewed as “cheating” or is “applauded” goes to the heart of who the Advanced Learning program is for and what type of curriculum it should have.

Those people that believe Advanced Learning should only be for those kids born with some superior innate cognitive ability will consider it cheating. Those people that believe that Advanced Learning should be for any child that has the demonstrated “capability” to succeed and continues to do so will applaud. Those that think its cheating will expect a program specially designed to coddle little Einsteins and Mozarts. Those that applaud will expect a program that is accelerated and demands more.

What do you propose we say to the sixth grade student who has taken the Cogat five times over the years and never scored better than a 97 who then chooses to study and finally scores a 98? “Sorry, but you've been disqualified because you've seen the test too many times and also cheated.”

I would encourage any parent that feels their child would be served by Advanced Learning to support their kids and not to feel ashamed to do so, you’re not alone. And I would encourage any parent that believes in equity to support free practices activities and classes for critical thinking and test-wiseness across the district, but specifically prioritized for lower income schools first.

One series of books I would recommend for parents that want to help their kids is called “Building Thinking Skills” from the Critical Thinking Company. You can take a look at the Math-n-Stuff Store in Northeast Seattle

Another Dad

Anonymous said...

@ Another Dad,

While I see where you're coming from, and wholeheartedly support parents in their efforts to obtain what they feel is the most appropriate education for their child, your comment comes off as obnoxious.

"Those people that believe Advanced Learning should only be for those kids born with some superior innate cognitive ability..."

"...a program specially designed to coddle little Einsteins and Mozarts."

Nice. I take it you feel that all people have the same capability, and that there really aren't any meaningful differences in cognitive abilities, learning styles, etc.? The old "all kids have equal potential" argument (which seems to apply only to academics, but not things like music, sports, physical traits, etc.)? The whole POINT of requiring services for highly academically gifted children is that they need something DIFFERENT in order to thrive.

So yes, the program IS supposed to be for those kids who have some superior--meaning higher, not better--innate cognitive ability. That's why special services are required--because these kids think and learn differently. And it follows, then, that the program should be "specially designed" for them--not to coddle them, as you so tellingly put it, but to meet their needs. Otherwise there's no point in requiring a program.

But I get it. Given all the problems with gen ed and the lack of rigor and inability to differentiate in our neighborhood schools, it makes sense that people will do whatever they can to get their potentially high achieving kids into HCC. And the way SPS has designed the program, that's fine--and I'd go so far as to argue that the current program is a better fit for high achieving kids than for highly gifted kids. It no longer really serves the kids it's supposed to serve.

Anonymous said...

For any STEM oriented 8th graders, with an interest in engineering, aerospace or aviation, Raisbeck Aviation High School is having an info night tonight and December 4. Our son is a very happy 9th grader there after coming from APP. The rigor and challenge is outstanding. It's a great public option. There are more than a few APP kids from HIMS and WMS.
-Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

Those highly gifted students are challenging to educate because by MS and HS, many need college level coursework (behind the introductory classes). They truly need IEPs. The one I know personally started in the nascent SPS gifted program, transferred to a private school, and by 9th grade went to UW EEP. From that student's experience at UW, there were others similar students coming from Bellevue and Issaquah and school districts without a G&T program.

Anonymous said...

The profoundly gifted students like the ones that go on to the early entrance program at UW are few and far between. I believe they only enroll about 16 kids from across the country. Should SPS have an inhouse program to accommodate that profound and rarely seen giftedness? Especially when SPS pays the tuition at UW EEP? There are more kids who are able to enter UW after 10th grade, which serves a different population. And then there are the APP kids who are just pretty darn smart (most of them, not profoundly gifted) who enjoy the whole high school experience, the academics, the sports, leadership, clubs, etc, and find themselves admitted to elite colleges across the country.

Anonymous said...

The original IPP program was designed with those students in mind - the outliers among the outliers. I'd say there are many under challenged students in the current program who simply need true honors level high school work in middle school, but the program as it currently stands (HIMS and JAMS) falls short.

A student can take high school level math, but is it taught an honors level? They can take Physical Science in 7th grade, yet they are covering only a small portion of the text. The LA class can state it's covering high school CCSS, but then assignments morph into art projects.

What happened to the "what" of APP?

Anonymous said...

There are many under challenged kids in every classroom in SPS. APP does not have any less rigor than any other classroom. The bar should be raised for all kids.

If APP/HCC were to go back to the original intent of IPP, the number of kids in the cohort would be drastically reduced because it would be serving a different need - outliers. Then it could offer, maybe, appropriate challenge to the profoundly gifted. But the thousand plus kids populating APP middle school today are certainly not needing to access college level work in 6th grade. A few, yes, the majority, absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, SPS does not pay the UW tuition for kids who go into the Early Entrance Program. Families are on the hook. Academy kids pay the regular UW tuition rate, Transition School kids pay more.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who went to the EEP at UW several years ago, and the per pupil funding from SPS followed the 9th grader. Did not cover the entire tuition.

Anonymous said...

If the per-pupil funding follows the student, it's not money SPS should have anyway, right? If a student goes to private, SPS shouldn't get it, so it's not like SPS is "paying tuition" for these kids. They are leaving SPS.

The state may subsidize the EEP program somewhat, just like it does the UW in general. Parents still pay a lot of money--about 5k more than regular UW tuition.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we have EEP programs at Seattle's community colleges? Seems like that could fill the need for profoundly gifted middle schoolers at a much more reasonable price.

Anonymous said...

Washington State law defines "highly capable" as “students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels." I read that to include students who study to improve their critical thinking and academic skills and therefore do better on program entrance exams. I do not read that to mean "superior… innate cognitive ability."

The author of the Cogat advocates helping disadvantaged students better prepare for the test. I do not believe he is advocating cheating on his own exam. I believe the district should follow his recommendation.

Seattle is a world class city, with an internationally ranked university, and many leading companies like Boeing and Amazon. We should expect that the number of students scoring in the top 2 percent using national norms to be higher than in other places. The Common Core curriculum is designed for the average student nationally. If the kids are that far ahead, the state says they need special services and I agree. Anyone that works hard, and meets the requirements, should be welcome.

I went to middling public schools in this state without gifted programs or AP classes. I attended top 5 universities for undergraduate and graduate school. Sure its only a sample of one. Even so I feel the style and curriculum of my public school classes were fine, but that they needed to move faster, provide more depth, and expect more from the students. I believe that those who argue otherwise are chasing corner cases that are generally not feasible in public schools.

I understand that thinking about HCC in this way is a mind shift for some people. I apologize if I come across as obnoxious. But the world is not the same place it was ten or twenty years ago and I believe we need to update our thinking.

Another Dad

Anonymous said...

@ J,

I would guess that there aren't so many profoundly gifted middle schoolers in Seattle that we need a bunch of programs at multiple sites. Plus, these are young kids who still need a lot of support--it's not as easy as just turning them loose on a community college campus. They would need a cohort model. The Robinson Center already has a nice, established program. They have specially trained teachers and advisors, an established curriculum, decades of experience, and documented success. Community college classes don't always go far enough, either--in depth, rigor, or levels available. Plus, these kids would still be young when it came time to transfer to UW or wherever, and they'd need a whole new program to help them adjust and socially connect there. As a parent, I'm not sure the financial savings would be worth the other costs.

I suspect, however, that the primary need is not for more programming specifically designed for exceptionally or profoundly gifted children, but rather better programming for those considered highly academically gifted. I think it's a given that the current SPS programs don't--can't?--serve exceptionally or profoundly gifted children very well, but the question is whether they can and do serve most highly gifted children well. There are many parents who do not think so, and as SPS rarely evaluates the program, it's hard to know for sure. (Although the last evaluation wasn't promising...)


Anonymous said...

Another Dad,

The WAC also defines the learning learning characteristics that HC children possess:

(1) Capacity to learn with unusual depth of understanding, to retain what has been learned, and to transfer learning to new situations;
(2) Capacity and willingness to deal with increasing levels of abstraction and complexity earlier than their chronological peers;
(3) Creative ability to make unusual connections among ideas and concepts;
(4) Ability to learn quickly in their area(s) of intellectual strength; and
(5) Capacity for intense concentration and/or focus.

Not all “students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels" meet those criteria. So who do you design the program for? Or if highly gifted kids don't have different needs, why bother with a program in the first place?

Half Full

Anonymous said...

Another Dad, do you believe that some kids, traditionally referred to as "gifted," learn at an accelerated pace and need fewer repetitions of material to gain mastery? If so, then you can see how it might be problematic to mix kids who learn with just 1-2 repetitions with kids who are hard working but still need 3-4 or 5-6 repetitions to gain mastery. The problem is how to draw that line and identify children who absorb new material quickly, with little repetition or practice, versus those who are high achievers but who still need a more traditional class pace.

That's what I thought APP was always supposed to be, an *accelerated* program to meet the needs of kids who can progress through material much faster than the norm. When my kid started at Lowell, they moved through math rapidly, covering 1.5-2 grades of material in a year. That doesn't seem to be true any more. I hear that now it's just working 2 grade levels ahead.

The pacing mismatch is another reason why some experts prefer a program like APP to grade skipping for gifted kids. The gifted kid might do okay at first with a grade skip, but over time, the pacing issue becomes more prominent, and the gifted kid not only catches up but outpaces the older classmates and is eventually ready to move faster than everyone else. Yes, it can work for some kids, but other options, like an accelerated program that keeps kids with age peers, is supposed to avoid the pacing mismatch problem.

Finally, there is some research that suggests that kids who barely make the cutoff for a gifted program do NOT benefit from being in the gifted program when compared to similar kids who stayed in traditional ed. Those researchers theorized that the loss of class rank that came with being at the lower end of the gifted program versus the higher end in the traditional classroom negatively affected those kids' self-esteem and achievement. So maybe "pushing" kids into G&T programs isn't really a great idea. I don't know. The whole field of gifted ed could benefit from a lot more serious research into what works and who it works for.

-not a prepper

Anonymous said...

When I think of the profoundly gifted, I think of Gabriel See. He's in a different range than the student who went to EEP.

I think there are limits what regular K-12 program can offer the higher gifted students. Even Fairfax's highly acclaimed magnet Thomas Jefferson HS has limits to the high level of classes students can take (and their offerings are pretty impressive). Fairfax County school district has nearly185,000 students and TJHSST accepts applications from nearby school districts as well just to put a perspective on what it would take to have a magnet school like this. It means every Puget Sound area school districts would have to pool resources to create a STEM magnet HS like this. There would be a competitive application process to get in.

This is the course guide your STEM kid can drool over.

Anonymous said...

I should also say there is a cottage industry of yes, you guessed it, prepping to get into TJHSST. There are dedicated blogs where parents really need a stiff G &T or Xanax before venturing in. For all the nuttiness that goes on here, we are really wimps!

Anonymous said...

off topic but I'm curious and concerned about this post I'm reposting from the Save Seattle Schools blog…. I'm interested to know if anyone knows if this is true or not. The recent Thursday Note from Lincoln listed all the other programs at Lincoln and Interagency was not one of them……. also the construction issues???

Yes, Lincoln is an interagency this year, that is merely part of the construction noise and dust and solvent odor the kids are subjected to as parts of Lincoln are getting rehabbed. Crews wonder in and out. Port-a-potties are one the asphalt.

Basically, to raze the Wilson Pacific buildings, all the things that were there, save the Cascade children, got pushed into Lincoln, along with Ballard's SpEd program and Hale's SpEd program. No thoughtful program placement or school placement process at all.

People come and go in that site. Construction workers take the playground play stuff the PTA bought (to try and make up for the fact there is no playground) and use it as construction barriers. Really. I am not making this up. Nice. Major development is happening right across the street, roads are closed, traffic in the morning is 'cumbersome'. The Lincoln kids don't get access to a gym in proportional to their numbers (instead, 112 kids get the gym 50% of the time, and 700 get 50% of the gym, rather than splitting it 85/15 to make it fair for all kids), so, Lincoln kids have to double up during their infrequent PE classes -- 2 classes at the same time in one gym. 5th graders -- all 30 of them in a class -- get a measly TWO tables to eat at for their lunch. Two tables, that is the same number 1st graders get -- only there are fewer in a first grade class and their bodies are considerably smaller. The building adminstration does what it can, they are NOT the problem. It is JSCEE. Jon Halfaker? Doesn't care. He was asked about the risk assessment for mixing high schoolers with elementary aged children at Lincoln, and he was unresponsive (think, "talk to the hand" and you get the picture). The Lincoln kids will be there til Sept 2017. Before anyone says, "boo hoo, they are APP kids, let them eat cake", remember, this could be the same callous disregard the district will show to your community too one day. At the end of the day, these are just little kids. That's all. Little kids breathing in glue for the floors that got laid down, hearing the constant pining in their classrooms from the cement trucks and cranes. Some class rooms are less impacted than others. That is about as good as it gets.

Maybe Schmitz Park could go the port-a-potty route too? KIDDING!

As for breaking apart West Seattle Kids by using EC Hughes, the District already thought of this, secretly of course, but didn't get the money to upgrade Hughes.

Facilities ?Planning?

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shannon said...

Greg, Please can the post about facilities at Lincoln be a separate thread? I just wrote to board members in support of the PTA letter about facilities at Lincoln. My son is in 2nd grade. I am not thrilled to learn we are co-housed with inter-agency program(s). My son was one of those yelled at to run from "a man with a knife". We all know the story by now, but for him that was a terrifying experience. Regarding school foot traffic - I enter the school weekly as a volunteer (with my pink badge) but nobody looks twice if I walk right in. The office has no line-of-sight to the entrance. I can never find parking to stop by and at 3.40pm all the workers' from nearby construction start moving their trucks parked outside the school (legally, in street parking) and things free up.

On the topic of Cogat testing. I don't care what Another Dad chooses to think but I do not believe the intent of test designers was that the Cogat is something we prep for. I fundamentally disagree that his kid is better suited to APP because s/he is diligent and has a parent who actively supports their academics.

That sounds like a hard worker and an organized kid.

The ability to figure out how to solve a problem is as much the problem as being able to repeat the task. Figuring out is gaining understanding.

I could go on a bit but this is a well argued point. PErhaps the "new APP" is actually for the diligent parents and kids and not for those who goof off with bad handwriting and sloppy addition while designing robots in their spare time and learning hindi for fun.

Anonymous said...

@ Shannon. Did you not get the memo? Perhaps the "new APP" is actually for the diligent parents and kids

That is exactly what the New APP is for. Smart(ish) kids who 'follow the rules' in class and have parents who support them academically so they can get a checkmark in their weekly planner for turning in their neat and tidy work.

There is no place in SPS HCC for the brainy dreamers and doers or any kid who can't churn out evidence-based rote essay questions. HCC only supports kids who move smoothly, but slightly faster, through The System.

I've got 2 kids who both cognitively qualify for APP. The rule follower, who barely made the cut, thrives. He'll be making a good living in law or etc. someday and I'll rightly be proud of him. My other kid who might change the world someday? The kid who was described as brilliant at the same time the teacher was counseling him out of HCC? He needs a system that actually encourages and supports divergent learning styles and alternative assessments. If he ever has a chance to make a speech about where his passion for learning was nurtured, he most certainly will not be giving a nod to SPS HCC.

Anonymous said...

A new thread about Lincoln facilities would be great. Maybe someone could copy or link to the letter that PTA sent to board outlining the ways the school is being unfairly treated (I can't from this computer). It almost makes me feel like they don't want to do the stuff at Lincoln because our kids are just the spoilt elite kids and don't deserve anything more (like normal school stuff that every other school takes for granted).
Also. Does anyone know for a fact whether on of the Interagency sites (the school for teenagers who have been involved in drugs/crime etc) is at Lincoln. I keep reading that is is on blogs but don't know what to believe. The newsletter a few weeks ago (after the lockdown) listed the programs at Lincoln but did not mention Interagency. What is going on - where does the idea that it is there come from and is it's presence being hidden from the Lincoln community because some of us might express discomfort with the idea of teenagers who have been involved in drug/gangs/crime etc on campus with elementary kids. (Though Interagency is a good and necessary program to help these kids turn their life around I must admit to a bit of concern about supervision etc if on the same campus).

Anonymous said...

I think rule followers will thrive at any school. Thats what school is all about really - listen in class, do the work, put in best effort, follow the rules etc etc. I see plenty of kids at Lincoln who are not like that though - who are daydreamy or distracted or boisterous or disruptive. These kids don't really necessarily fit well at any school in the sense of schools as we know them. I'm not sure how the "old APP" vs the "new APP" would accommodate them either? Maybe let them follow their passions more but there is still curriculum to be covered…..still a classroom of kids to reach, all with differing levels of intellect, motivation, frustration-tolerance, attention span, and interests. There can never be a perfect match for every kid. School (whatever school it is - APP or not) always has to cater to the broad spectrum of kids it contains and usually only does it well for those in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Nope, disagree that rule followers will thrive at any school. Our kid only thrived and followed rules in APP. Our experience in the neighborhood school was one in which the kid refused to participate, wouldn't do homework because it was insultingly easy, and grew more irritable and withdrawn over time. Moving to APP at an early age fixed all of that. Happier, more compliant kid thanks to more appropriate challenges and opportunity to learn new things most days.


Anonymous said...

Yes, we need a thread on facilities (don't miss the comments about it on the Open Thread below this one) which should also include what programs are sited at Lincoln.

Rule following kids are sometimes quiet kids with social anxiety, BTW. HCC or APP can help them open up a bit. But caution to not think rule followers are just well organized kids while free thinkers who have messy writing and build robots are the ones who really need APP.

Anonymous said...

The following was provided at an open house for APP at Lowell (5+ years ago).

Not every child with a qualifying score is a good match with APP. In general, successful APP students have many, but not all of these characteristics:

-Reads avidly and widely
-Spontaneously makes relevant connections
-Conceptualizes without lots of concrete examples
-Is highly verbal and elaborates ideas
-Has a sense of humor
-Sees multiple sides to an issue
-Is an expert on a subject
-Is interested in learning for learning's sake and is always "in the learning mode"
-Enjoys intellectual challenges and solving problems
-Earnestly and seriously invents own way of solving problems which draws upon knowledge and classroom information
-Is original without being silly
-Anticipates next lesson or step
-Has task commitment and a desire to finish
-Takes pleasure in going the extra mile on projects
-Is willing to work hard

...Once here we do expect children to do their homework and turn it in on time, to complete all assignments, to work a little extra in areas of weakness, to memorize their math facts even if it's boring.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - because a lot of those are great learning behaviors and highly desirable but not necessarily indicative of "giftedness" Many very high IQ kids are slackers, they are necessarily that interested in school work. And certainly not necessarily interested in working hard and going the extra mile on projects (I know from experience with mine).
So it sounds a lot more like they are aiming for the smart, but not necessarily the off-the -charts high IQ kids, who are also hardworking, diligent, motivated (i.e the ones some people on here are saying don't belong in APP).
I guess that is why the CoGat is combined with the achievement tests.

Anonymous said...

Once again CogAT is not an IQ test. It actually test for things which kids LEARN (as in can be taught) such as thinking and problem solving skills.

Below is a article that defines giftedness per IQ tests. Defines for you levels of giftedness from gifted to profoundly gifted with the qualifying numbers.

As far as behavior attributes to gifted, they run the gamut and all those things that are listed in anon @6:12 post can be found in non gifted groups too. Same with rule following or not, high achievement or not. Emotional lability ditto.

Reading early does not = giftedness. Asynchronous development is quite common among gifted learners
( what this means is you have got quite a few gifted students stuck in gen Ed because they have amazing problem solving skills-- mathematical, non linear thinkers, BUT atrocious spellers and disorganized writers, some with undiagnosed ADHD/ executive function issues, and dyslexia). Why, because CogAT isn't an IQ test. And MAP makes no allowance.

Anonymous said...

On that basis then (coGat not being proper IQ test) then only the privately tested kids (who do have formal individually assessed IQ tests) really have the credentials. Oh, but wait a minute - lots of folks hate the idea of private testing and the perceived advantage it gives.
The reason the COgat is used, I believe is that it can be given as a group test and is widely accepted as an standardized Intelligence test (maybe not the best, but it IS a type of IQ test). ALL IQ tests measure the same types of reasoning, ability to see patterns etc though the individual ones are more comprehensive. All can (to some extent) be prepped but it is never recommended

Lynn said...

More from Hoagies' Gifted on group intelligence tests like the CogAT:

Consider the difference between group and individual tests. In a group test, the questions are written and fixed, and designed for the average person to answer. This might be no problem for an average student, or even a moderately gifted student, but the gifted student sometimes reads more into the questions than intended. For example, let's say the test asked which one of these did not belong, and offered three fruits and a vegetable. Most students would pick the vegetable. But say that 3 of the 4 names of the items, including the vegetable, were 6 letters long, and one of the fruits had a 5 letter name. Then which one should the gifted child pick? To further complicate the situation, 3 of the 4 are grown in sub-tropical climates outside the U.S., while one fruit grows in the cold northwest. Now which should the gifted child pick as the "odd one out?" While this isn't a real test question, it is not unusual for gifted kids to struggle with the seemingly simple questions on a group intelligence test, because they see so many more options and details than the average child. And on that group test, when the child gives an "unusual" answer, the tester is not there to prompt, "Why did you choose that?" or "Which one do you think the average student would select?"

Consider also the difference in distractions in a group situation. The student next to you finishes first, and you aren't even on the last page yet - you panic. Or you've finished the whole test before the rest of the class. Or the proctor is walking around, or turning pages, or snoring. There's a class on the playground outside the window... or a plane... or a beautiful spring day. The scratching of the other kids' pencils is loud and distracting. And while it is true that all the kids taking the test are exposed to the same distractions, consider... The nature of the gifted child is that she takes in knowledge at a faster rate than her peers. But it is not just knowledge - she takes in everything faster, deeper, with more feeling. Even her senses deliver data to her brain faster - hearing, touch, sight. Those classroom distractions are more distracting to her than they are to her classmates.

For all these reasons, group tests tend to underestimate the gifted, more than the average child.

Anonymous said...

Lynn - your comment reminded me of our son, when he was entering kindergarten. There was an assessment test done prior to entry (not Seattle) and one of the questions was:

"What do you do if you want to go into a dark room?"

My son answered "Turn off the light" - which to him was obvious because based on the wording of the question, in order to make sure you entered a dark room you would turn the light off.

The "correct" answer was "Turn on the light", because I guess they figured what five-year old actually wanted to go into a room that was dark. Just one example of the many questions that he answered differently.

His kindergarten teacher met with me a few weeks after school started, relieved that he wasn't behind because based on the scoring of the entry test, he was classified as lower than standard.

She said his questions in kindergarten math ("What is the biggest number?" - when he wanted her to explain the meaning of infinity etc. actually put him on a different scale and he likely wouldn't be learning anything until at least 3rd grade when he could enter the G&T program. His early questions re: the wider world etc. were constant.

He is in high school now, and APP has served his needs as far as letting him accelerate so he is learning some new things and the conversations/discussions with kids who think like him has enriched his school experience beyond the academics, which has been a godsend.

He is not in the top % of APP however - he is likely smack in the middle - so he has been fairly happy even considering the limitations of the program.

Anonymous said...

Unless I've overlooked a post somewhere, as far as I can tell at this point no one from Advanced Learning has chimed in to say whether or not studying for the Cogat is acceptable or is cheating. What happens if the test administrator asks a child if they've studied for the Cogat and they respond, “yes, absolutely?”

In retrospect its particularly concerning that when I called a couple years back and asked what version of the test the district was using, they asked me intrusive questions about why I wanted to know and only after I said that I was too poor to send my kids to private school or to have them privately tested did they reluctantly tell me.

Over ten percent of the students at some schools are qualifying for HCC by the fifth grade. Does Advanced Learning believe this is because (a) some schools in the district are far superior to other schools or (b) the students from those schools have “superior innate cognitive ability?”

Why isn't Advanced Learning providing guidance to all parents, but particularly those from disadvantaged schools? What has been the outreach to non-native parents and has it been ADA compliant?

I think at this point the easiest way to answer the question is to simply ask: “Will you disqualify our son from the HCC program if we as parents outside of school teach him how to solve number puzzles, number analogies, verbal analogies, verbal classification problems, and other types of cognitive problems that may directly overlap with the types of questions on the Cogat?”

I plan to copy the letter to the Superintendent and the Washington State Attorney General because if the district is discouraging parents from disadvantaged schools to help their kids prepare while knowingly allowing other parents from wealthier schools who seem to know better to help their kids, then it would seem to me that it’s discriminatory.

If anyone else has similar concerns, I would encourage you to also write Advanced Learning.

Another Dad

Anonymous said...

Should we not allow our youngsters to do puzzles or read maps because it might improve their special relations scores? Should we not instruct in basic logic, use large vocabularies in the home? Is that cheating? How about the practice of preschools teaching the concepts of like and different, how about attributes and opposites? certainly it would give a child a leg up with verbal analogies? Do you remember the old Sesame Street bit... "One of these things is not like the other"... Clearly cheating! We should tell parents not to allow their children to watch Sesame Street, or listen to public radio before IQ testing. That could help even the playing field. Of course parents should not be allowed to teach their own children, only the state should be allowed to shape the minds of our young.

This is silly, a parent is ultimately responsible for the education of their children, our city seems very reluctant to help.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I am following your reasoning. Are you saying that normal enrichment increases IQ, therefore it's OK to prep for the CogAT even though it invalidates the results of the test?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am saying that normal enrichment boosts scores on the CogAt, which is a critical thinking test with derived IQ scores. Yes, I am saying many of us do "test prep" without even thinking about it. Theoretically IQ is immutable throughout life except by brain damage. In reality, you can improve verbal and visual processing with practice to a certain extent. Yes, we should help our little ones to think clearly, with mental exercise, just as we would help them to be strong and fit with physical exercise.

And we should help disadvantaged kids to think clearly and logically with analogy and classification practice, and reasoning exercises, because it will help them on the tests and will help them in life.