Friday, January 2, 2015

APP, this blog, and 2015

I thought we might want to start a discussion about what we'd like this blog to do in 2015.

Andrew Siegel started this blog in 2009 to provide an independent forum for parents to talk about the Lowell APP split. Since then, it's been used to talk about the many other changes that have happened to APP over the last six years, the biggest of which were multiple splits mostly along a north/south divide, but also including changes to Spectrum, overcrowding and capacity issues, further splits in the north and out to West Seattle, the lack of promised curriculum and consistency between schools, changes to textbooks, loss of experienced teachers, and name changes.

I think it's a good time to talk about what we'd like out of this blog for 2015. I think that this, the Seattle Schools Community Blog, and the HCC-AC are the only city-wide venues for discussion of APP/HCC, not just at a specific school, not just in the north or south, but across the entire city. And, so, I thought we'd want this blog to stay as a discussion forum for APP/HCC issues city-wide, mostly unmoderated, and mostly focused on common issues and some effort at holding together the broader community of APP/HCC across all the splits and changes over the years.

Are there are other things we want for this blog? What else might be helpful to APP/HCC parents in Seattle Public Schools?


Anonymous said...

We need to continue to think of ourselves as one program at several sites. We need to stay connected. This blog is one of the only places that happens. There are also alumni families who comment here and give their perspectives. We've been through so much in the past several years, from Ms. Shadow's and Mr. Isgur's two classes to programs at 8 sites. We need work to maintain cohesion, strive for connected curricula (I know, wishful thinking) and teachers who can meet across sites.

open ears

Anonymous said...

I am torn. I think it is wishful thinking to think of ourselves as one program. What would be the common thread, besides the testing portion? This blog was critical during the split and post-split days - now I think we would be better served by school by school blogs. Issues aren't the same. The "program" is nonexistent. The promised curriculum never materialized, and bigger issues took precedence down at the district office. They really sunk our ship. I would have FB pages by school for communication, and maybe turn this blog into one about gifted education in general, but then someone would have to post relevant news. I think there are too few still here to have robust discussions. It's the same few voices here - the days of hundreds of comments are over. I am sorry to be so pessimistic. I just think APP is gone, and the last remnants aren't enough to support a blog. Thank you Greg for maintaining this long.
-Old Timer

app dad said...

Well during the splits and after battling against the name call non believers of APP at the SPS I asked several times to pump some energy into this blog for folks to discuss relevant HCC issues. Right now I would say my perspective hasn't changed. I could list off 3 dozen items that through this and SPS blog in conjunction with the AC that were resolved to high satisfaction. Yeah they keep moving the bar on math and JA is in some ways the same mess that Hamilton was (is?) after the split but we need to continue to apply pressure. I think the AL TF came out with some sound recommendations with the most important calling for cross school coordination. Also, there is more need not less as HC students are entitled to reasonable services at their school. So yeah change has happened and have kids in all three levels I have seen all of those changes and anticipate more in the future.

Anonymous said...

While I share some of Old Timer's pessimism, I think app dad and open ears are correct about a continued need for communication across sites. For good or bad, this blog allows for more daylighting of issues than Facebook.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah they keep moving the bar on math and JA is in some ways the same mess that Hamilton was (is?) after the split but we need to continue to apply pressure."


Anonymous said...

This blog is one of the best helps in trying figure out what sort of discrepancies there are between HCC at the various sites--which, theoretically, can help provide leverage for strengthening things at the weaker schools.

My personal wish would be for an organized and active advocacy group of HCC families, willing to get out there and push for a program that is responsive to the needs of those it is supposed to serve. The problem is that NO groups in SPS seem to be well-served, so advocating for your own particular group of students looks selfish. It's ok when groups like SpEd do it, but because people think our students are already spoiled or elitist or whatever (even if in reality they are awkward, unhappy, uninspired and struggling), it's perceived negatively when you advocate for HCC. You end up doing it on an individual basis instead, and the impact is minimized.

Anonymous said...

When do you advocate, and when do you just hunker down and realize you need to support your own child's learning at home (as parents have done with math and part-time homeschooling)?

The district is now putting resources into some kind of curriculum, but the efforts underway have left me less than hopeful. I don't see curriculum changes headed in the right direction, nor do I see appropriate materials being purchased any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Our family has been in APP for eight years, and we had just one trouble-free year before it started its long, slow decline.

The district does not care about ANY student in the district, let alone those in HCC. Until the culture of the district HQ changes (the parents are not the enemy and they are not all ignorant), nothing will change for any kid, anywhere. Even the majority of the school board now seems to think the parents are the enemy. That's sad.

MS parents are likely not coming to this site much because they are all too busy working on applications for the scarce private school seats.

Anonymous said...


I have to agree completely with everything you stated. We have had personal experience in being bullied and lied* to by the principal of our HCC middle school, the school board, the central district administration and no less than Michael Tolley himself (I have saved extensive email records of these interactions should they ever be useful for a lawsuit).

The only thing that keeps us in the public schools is the professionalism and dedication of many of the great teachers we have encountered.

It seems to me that parents, students and teachers are the biggest enemies of central HQ (in descending order).

*I don't use the word "lied" lightly.

Anonymous said...

i agree with 10:11 AM and 11;01
way too much busy homework in MS. i find myself supporting my child's learning at home which leaves little time for anything else. homework should be more manageable. I'm not happy with this program, its old and tired and the quality is not there anymore.

Anonymous said...

For those that are supplementing at home, would you share what materials you have found useful? Outside of math, we are wanting to fill in gaps from the weaknesses in the HCC middle school LA/SS classes - vocabulary study, writing (analytical, academic writing, not fiction or personal narrative), and more comprehensive coverage of history content.

I'm trying not to be bitter about the need to supplement, but it seems crazy that an advanced program is not providing much beyond the chance to take math and science classes a few years earlier.

Does it get better in high school?

tired and discouraged

Anonymous said...

@ tired and discouraged, I'd say it depends on who you talk to (and of course, your own child's needs).

At most high schools classes are open (not HCC-specific), so they have a wider variety of students (and abilities) in them. If your student has a passion for learning and has been feeling like the class/teacher/curriculum is keeping him/her down in some way, that's not likely to be any better in your intro, all-access HS classes. AP courses, on the other hand, seem to provide sufficient challenge for many, so there's that to look forward to in later years.

Some kids, however, seem to find that even the intro level HS courses are fine. Perhaps those are kids who were more satisfied with APP middle school, or those who are more engaged in extracurriculars or who have particularly good teachers. Hard to say.

Kids in the IBX program that I've talked with seem to really like it, and seem to be well-challenged. The senior year is a big problem though, and how well it is resolved is TBD.

Overall, unfortunately, I feel like kids who find the program inadequate in middle school are likely to find the same in HS. Many--probably most--HCC families find the programs to be perfectly acceptable, and that's great. But HCC does not do a good job of meeting the needs of the most highly academically gifted, and parents are usually left trying to pick up the pieces. If your kid is doing a lot of independent learning in middle school, you may need to help fight for higher placements in high school--and they may run out of options early, necessitating complicated schedules that include some college coursework as well.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is very discouraging to me. My younger daughter (still in preschool) is clearly gifted and I always assumed that APP/HCC would be a good path for her. Now I am re-thinking that idea. I've applied for her to go to a private school for pre-K next year (one of the commonly cited schools for HC children). At first I considered the application a lark but now I think we will follow through if she is accepted and we get enough financial aid. Definitely can't afford the price tag, though we can afford to pay something.

- Mother to gifted 3 year old

Anonymous said...

maybe we should open a new thread to discuss the HCC middle school curriculum. how is it effecting your child? is it too much homework, are you having to supplement, what materials are you using?
I know for my kid the homework is not difficult, its just that its too much and it consumes a lot of my kids time. I would have liked that my kid new how to type, and learn how to use some of the software apps that would help with their homework.

Anonymous said...

I'd like a thread to discuss math and the lack of MS curriculum for HCC/APP (which could just be extended to address lack of real curriculum and lack of rigor for any of APP...).

Anonymous said...

I recently discovered that IB has a middle school program. I wonder if there's value in evaluating it as an option for HCC MS?

I imagine that it's designed to dovetail with IB at the high school level, so it seems like it could be a great synergy, plus it would help the district finally provide some sort of coherent, vetted curriculum for these kids.

Yes, there are costs associated with IB, which raises concerns. See the discussion about this happening now at the other schools blog. But that alone isn't reason to not think about it. I'd like to learn more. Anyone else?

-IB curious

Anonymous said...

@ IB Curious, in theory I like the idea of adding the IB Middle Years program. However, funding and sustainability are most definitely concerns. Additionally, MYP isn't really designed for academically gifted kids--they say it can work for all kinds of kids, but the fact is it would take some additional work to create the differentiation needed. Alignment with the IBX program (which is HCC) might require some acceleration in the MYP as well. To me, the MYP is a more natural fit with the "international' middle schools than the HCC middle schools. That, in itself, would create some additional challenges, as HIMS is both int'l and HCC, whereas the other MS HCC sites are not int'l schools. Implementing at one site only would make alignment impossible (as opposed to just absent, like now).


Anonymous said...

I would re-think your reasons for sending your kids to private elementary. Both our kids went to APP programs at Seattle public schools until they moved to Lakeside for middle school. They were better prepared for Lakeside middle school than the majority of their private school peers. Specifically, they entered ahead of their peers in math (entering at 5th & 6th grades). Lakeside's feeder private schools likely include those schools you are looking at. We had a great APP elementary school experience at SPS. I don't think my kids' peers who went to private elementaries got any more rigor.
-- former APP parent

Anonymous said...

to 7:32pm
did both your kids attend lakeside highschool as well?
how did they like it? was there a lot of homework . im thinking about applying for middle school.
APP middle school parent

Anonymous said...

Lakeside admits quite a number of students from both private and public school systems - Bellevue, Mercer, Issaquah, Open Window, Evergreen, SCDS, Bertschi are but a few examples. We didn't find APP students to be particularly outstanding as a group academically. Other public school districts have AL program just like SPS. Some of the private schools focus on "gifted" learning and screen their students accordingly.

So be careful thinking Lakeside is going to be a cakewalk just because your children are APP students. They will be well challenged by their peers. MS math ends with the equivalence of algebra 1 or 2 (depending on what level math you take). 9th graders usually take algebra 2 or geometry (with some geometry honors students finding they had to beef up on algebra 2 with academic coach because they missed some concepts). What this means is algebra and geometry curricula are not equal across the different districts and private schools.

HW depending on the parents and kids you speak with will come up as not enough or too much. It waxes and wanes depending on teachers, trends, and grade (7th grade being the cruncher for MS). The school stresses time management, organization, self advocacy, and learning how to study.

HS at Lakeside is for kids who are willing to put up with the heavy academic load which means HW. You will also find sports and extracurricular activties compete for time after school. It's a good fit if your child is willing to work hard and take advantage of the coursework, art/music and sport programs offered. But if your child needs to be pushed a lot, this might not be the best place. The kids are a pretty motivated bunch. Not cutthroat, but competitive.

Anonymous said...

We didn't find APP students to be particularly outstanding as a group academically.

I'm not sure how you assess that, but it wouldn't surprise me given the slow decline of APP in SPS.

Math, which is considered separate from APP come middle school, is largely acceleration. Classes by and large use the district texts. They provide limited challenge and cover fewer topics than would be expected for what should be an honors level class. If you are lucky, the teacher might supplement with worksheets for extra practice.

The LA/SS sequence has been gutted and the coverage of content has been scaled way back. WMS may still have history texts, but HIMS and JAMS are left with whatever the school or teacher can scrounge together. HIMS was able to get discarded World History texts from Ballard and JAMS has nothing but random photocopies. LA is recycled Readers and Writers Workshop units - how many times has your child written a personal essay or an "all about me" poem?

In the name of providing teachers academic freedom, the district provides nothing. There won't even be a text adoption with the new HCC LA/SS guidelines being developed.


Anonymous said...

Tired, sorry it's not intended to diss APP students or the program. Worded poorly. Just meant that Lakeside takes the top end so kids coming in are very strong academically to begin with. You'll have individual students who are way ahead in certain areas and a few uber ones who excel in all subjects, sports, and music/art to boot. But couldn't say with confidence APP students are more advanced than their other classmates given the calibre of the whole student body. Some students appeared to be behind in math for example because they didn't take algebra in 6th grade, but that's just exposure to the subject. Once they are exposed, they have the opportunity to tackle with more depth and have no problem keeping up or moving quickly ahead. Kids who have the ability and are motivated to learn will pick up what they missed. I think that's what the school is looking for in applicants, especially in the lower grades. They have the learning lab with tutors and subject teachers to help kids catch up. For some students, Lakeside isn't enough and these kids move onto UW early entrance program.

FWIW, I think ours public schools are still good value and the graduates are off to excellent universities and colleges. Private schools like Lakeside is so expensive that sending a kid there comes at great cost. For our family, we can't afford private colleges because we are spending the money now. It's a choice we made as a family because the kids love it and we wanted strong foundation they can build on. If you are comparing list of universities these graduates (minus the billionaire kids) end up going, it's going to be similar to grads from Ingraham, Roosevelt, Garfield, Etc.

Greg Linden said...

So far, I think what I'm hearing is that a couple people would like APP/HCC to shift to be every school for itself, no effort at coordination across schools. But most people want some kind of city-wide consistency, advocacy, and organization to APP and advanced learning in general. And this blog, probably to a small extent, provides information and discussion that is at least somewhat useful for city-wide consistency, advocacy, and organization. Is that basically right?

If so, that sounds like steady as she goes, just keep doing what we're doing here?

zb said...

Yes, I still like this blog and it still provides me information every time I visit. I think advocacy is complicated, with the balance between attending to the interests of your own child and the community but I appreciate the opportunity to share and hear everyone's experiences.