Thursday, January 22, 2015

More loss of Spectrum for blended classrooms

Looks like McClure Middle School is dropping Spectrum and honors classes. From a letter to parents:
Next year the McClure Language Arts Department will be joining the rest of our departments at McClure and mirroring the advanced learning policies within our feeder schools. We are establishing a "blended" or "clustered" model in which all of our students who have been Spectrum-identified and our General Education students will be blended into the same Language Arts classrooms. There will no longer be separate Spectrum and General Education classes.

There are many reasons behind this modification, not the least of which is our commitment to the concept of growth mindset - the researched-validated principle that we can teach students that their success in school is not stagnantly based on their past but, with grit and perseverance (and a supportive, intentional school environment) all of our students can and will grow. We have looked at testing, classroom performance and discipline data and found that the array of skills, behaviors and challenges in both of these "tracks" are similar. All of our Language Arts teachers are currently teaching (or have taught in the recent past) both sets of students and our curriculum for both Spectrum and General Education courses have already been aligned. Finally, our teachers are spending this school year and this summer to collaboratively develop differentiated lessons, assessments, projects and activities to support and challenge all of our learners.
As the letter says, they are mirroring the broader trend in Seattle Public Schools of eliminating separate classrooms for advanced learning (and especially Spectrum). What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Oh Lord, not the awful Carol Dweck stuff to justify "blending."

No, I don't believe my kid started reading just after their 4th birthday because they had a "growth mindset." How did these people make it through college when they seem to be unable of critical thinking.

I am sure we are not the only family applying to public school again. This NPR/KUOW liberal Seattle family just can't take it anymore.


Anonymous said...

What feeder schools currently go to McClure, and is it true that none of them have self-contained Spectrum any more?

I guess this will push even more families toward HCC at Hamilton for middle school now? Or maybe not. I wonder how McClure families feel about this?

Anonymous said... a loss for words.

Anonymous said...

It really seems like they've taken the opposite approach to what Dweck's research suggests. The whole idea behind using growth mindsets with children is to help them persevere and learn through failure.

Well, to do have them "fail" safely, you have to push them and have them work hard. By putting advanced kids back into general ed classes, you've now made things "easier" for them!

They are "less" likely to fail and have to work hard now. And, they will observe the other kids who are struggling with material that they find easy, and they will conclude that they are smart, that being smart is inherent, and that it doesn't take much work to succeed. It's the exact *opposite* of what Dweck's research recommends for advanced learners.

Seriously? They must be kidding.

-not impressed

Anonymous said...

Last year there were only 12 HCC-eligible students enrolled in Spectrum at McClure. (Enrollment data here.)

I expect parents who chose to enroll their children in self-contained Spectrum classes will not be happy with this.

Anonymous said...

not impressed,

They're not doing this to help the advanced learners. This change (as always) is being made to benefit the teachers and gen ed students.

Anonymous said...

No, I get that. This isn't about helping advanced learners. It's probably about making it easier to create the master schedules, getting rid of labels, and perhaps, perhaps they really even do think it will benefit kids who are struggling (although I would disagree that with assumption)

But for sure, it has *nothing* to do with implementing Dweck's research as intended! They are just taking the latest "craze" and buzz words and trying to make it sound like what they are doing is evidence-based.

-not impressed

Anonymous said...

@not impressed,

I'm with you. I've studied Dweck's research for years now and you're right on that this policy change is directly counter to what her research prescribes.

McClure has probably convinced themselves that this is the right thing, but they clearly don't get the difficulty of grit development in advanced kids.

As parents, we have to figure out how to help our kids get that grit, without burning them out while they are still in middle school. Tricky, and don't expect help from SPS.

at least it's free

Anonymous said...

The McClure principal who wrote that letter was an avowed critic of APP. She was the Assistant Principal at Hamilton 2 years ago, when I encountered her. She said she was just tired of APP parents who wanted something special for their kids, at the expense of the whole school. I was advocating for my kid (6th grade at time, the last year before they let them take Algebra) to take Algebra. I got an earful. I was glad when she moved on. She has a laudable egalitarian goal, and is particularly supportive of Special Ed, but she has NO time for APP/HCC or any other "elitist" program. She wants blended everything for all students.

Anonymous said...

I don't think labels work at McClure. They have and will no doubt continue to group intentionally and wisely and advanced learners will get as much as any other group.

Whitman did the same last year(?), yet they just instituted honors
at Ballard in LA against the wishes of the dept. head, according to the Talisman. So, maybe it's just kicking the honors can down the road until HS.

As far as rigor, McClure is a pretty demanding in a high school prep way. Getting the kids used to tough assignments and studying and researching, but at the same time not strangling the joy of life out of them. I've been super happy and I think there is a solid and experienced core of staff there.

I don't see the principal as antagonistic, she just doesn't always see the child behind the overbearing parent.

Anonymous said...

I have young kids. How likely is this to happen at Eckstein?

Anonymous said...

What bothers me the most is the very underhanded way the district appears to be going about “eliminating” Spectrum. At one time, Spectrum was defined to mean, “Self-Contained” classrooms one year head, as opposed to ALO which meant a “blended” model. But as far as I’m concerned redefining a program so all of the “must have requirements” become “optional may have requirements” at the discretion of the current school leadership is eliminating it in all but name, and that’s what has happened to Spectrum. As far as I know, the board didn't make a decision to eliminate Spectrum. As far as I know, the Advanced Learning Advisory Committee didn't recommend eliminating it. But it’s pretty clear that’s where the district is going. Simply assign a new principal that you know doesn't support it, and it’s out. It may be expedient, but for me it creates a total lack of trust in the administration, regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea.

Anonymous said...

The following is the definition of the Spectrum Program in 2004 per the district’s website. Compare that with what’s written on the districts website today, which is virtually nothing.

“Spectrum’s primary goal: Uses a self-contained delivery model to provide a differentiated, accelerated, and rigorous standards-based curriculum that presents learning at a pace, depth, and intensity that meets students’ intellectual needs and motivation levels. A secondary goal is to foster the development of communication, thinking, and learning skills, as well as social skills.

Whom does the program serve? Serves students who are mildly/moderately gifted (90+ percentile range in cognitive ability and reading and math achievement, with a threshold of the 87th percentile). These students are able to work at an accelerated learning pace, to work toward standards (benchmarks) that are above their grade level, and with a curriculum that is at an advanced level of complexity and depth.

Problem that Spectrum solves: Spectrum students present different learning styles, learning pace, and curricular needs that require daily and systematic modification to a general education curriculum and classroom experience to achieve educational benefit.”

Anonymous said...

I am Uncle from above, and I obviously meant that we were applying to private schools for next year (shouldn't type while mad), and I know we aren't the only ones. I can't take it anymore, and I cry "uncle."

Eckstein has to lose stand-alone spectrum soon. The district can't say that "blended" is the best model and still allow some schools to do the "bad" stand-alone. It is only a matter of time.

That the district lies and says this is for the kids, when really it's to make scheduling easier, is ridiculous. I guess they think we're all dumb.


Anonymous said...

I find this change to be inherently discriminatory (and I'm from the "dominant" class). Rather than engaging in the necessary work of raising up more students to Advanced Learning, eliminating the program minimizes that pesky inequality data. My 7 year old son is 90%+ but still in the gen ed classroom. He is wiggly and inattentive. His teacher won't intervene in meaningful ways and interprets my advocacy as "one of those parents." In the mean time, he (sadly, sorry other parents!) contributes to classroom chaos. We are at one of the "better" schools and I would call it a poor excuse for an education. A more faithful interpretation of Dweck would be to offer free summer school (or Saturday classes geared specifically to AdvLearn qualification) so that any student/family with the grit and perseverance to work hard can, and will, access Spectrum/HCC.


Anonymous said...

Didn't JAMS "cluster" Spectrum students in the HCC/APP LA/SS classes because there were not enough students for self-contained Spectrum classes? So what's the answer when there is limited classroom space and budgets won't allow for more teachers? It seems capacity management will continue to have an impact on program delivery models, no matter the stated or spurious reasons for changes.

Anonymous said...

JAMS doesn't have an APP program. It has a good program but it ain't APP. The APP offerings in fact are barely at the old Spectrum level. The students seem happy though and the principal and most of the teachers are solid. The students certainly are learning just no longer accelerated.

What's left for tough high school prep in SPS middle school? From what I have been able to discern, some classes in Hamilton. Maybe some classes at McCure as per this thread? TOPS - but it isn't even listed as a Spectrum let alone APP school so that's a different ball of wax. And that seems to be it unless you go private. And even private doesn't necessarily mean advanced in most cases. We looked.


Anonymous said...

Greg, you didn't post the part of the principal's letter about math, which I think is also a concern. They don't want to advance kids in math who have aptitude measured by test scores but not all of the skills needed--totally agree, btw--but they are determining math class by what class the student just completed, not by what the student knows (via a readiness or skills test). Some kids will be lost and others bored, just as before. If a kid has advanced via independent study, the school should offer the kid a chance to prove they have the skills in place to advance. I know of too many kids at McClure that are bored in math class. If a kid completed a class but doesn't have the foundation, they need some way to get that in place.

Meanwhile, the school had a group of kids ready for Geometry and didn't have a good way to teach them. They dropped that bombshell on parents late, left them to navigate the system alone, then, right before school started offered a "solution", which has not worked. So they'll do it differently next year. But what about those kids? Does anyone know what's happening with them? Are they finishing the year with the poor solution or has the principal stepped in to fix the last 60% of the year? That will tell you if she really is biased against the HCC kids and their parents.

HCC curious

Anonymous said...

The district used to have a solution for Spectrum capacity management per its old website (before it was removed):

"Because of student numbers, some Spectrum classrooms are composed of District-identified students and students who are teacher identified as being able to benefit from the rigor and acceleration of the Spectrum curriculum."

But instead of advocacy from Advanced Learning I heard first hand last year the Advanced Learning supervisor offhandedly say during an AL Advisory Committee meeting that "Spectrum Students can hardly be considered gifted...." Not surprisingly, Spectrum was pointedly not discussed in the committees year-end recommendations.

Given that type of leadership, what's happening at McClure should hardly be a surprise.

Anonymous said...

The [JAMS] APP offerings in fact are barely at the old Spectrum level. This has been our experience based on my assumptions of what Spectrum offers and based on a comparison what our older child learned just a few years back.

The students seem happy though and the principal and most of the teachers are solid. Our child is most definitely not happy. We have had only positive interactions with the principal, and the teachers are kind and liked by my child, but the content, pace, and assignments of the HCC specific classes (mostly LA/SS) are not at the level of challenge you'd expect for APP, nor are they covering material with any breadth. There are many new teachers with no gifted ed experience or background. Electives are the highlight of my child's day, so YMMV.

I also read the McClure math placement info, and yes, it seems there is great resistance to acceleration. On one hand, they state math is separate from AL status, so your child should be served at the appropriate math level even if they don't qualify for APP or Spectrum based on verbal scores; on the other hand, they seem resistant to offering the appropriate level math if you are not at a school with APP.

Anonymous said...

What's left for tough high school prep in SPS middle school? From what I have been able to discern, some classes in Hamilton...

Hamilton, really? Which classes??? We must have missed them.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that my first child graduated TOPS significantly accelerated in science, LA and SS. Two-year's worth in pragmatic terms. It isn't perfect. There was not a chance for indepth language, and their music program is small. Also, they did not have accelerated math classes and I fought that, but they are limited in staffing because they are a small middle school. I resolved it by talking directly to the teacher and private acceleration happened within the larger general education class. We made it work. From the people I know with kids still there, I think my experience is still representative of the current situation. I imagine that at the neighborhood middle schools challenge can also happen, but IMHO it comes down to each school's staff: Is their philosophy to "teach high" and have the lower tier academic students stretch, or do they "teach low" and provide some additional challenge to the gifted kids? I have no faith whatsoever in SPS APP and Spectrum. Look for a school staff that "teaches high". That's the best bet for students who qualify for but more importantly need classroom challenge.

Ditto if you look at private schools.


Anonymous said...

To Anon at 10:06 am - As a point of clarification, there is no Advanced Learning Advisory Committee. You're likely referring to the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee. (The purpose and scope of the Committee are limited to Highly Capable students.) It would only be appropriate for the Committee to address Spectrum as it affects HC students.

Anonymous said...

Not having a child in MS yet I can never determine how seriously to take the complaints about rigor. Can you give more examples of what you consider watered down or not rigorous enough?

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 11:29 am –

I've mixed up the name of the committee and appreciate your clarification. I meant to say, “The Advanced Learning Task Force of 2013-14" and mistakenly called in the “Advanced Learning Advisory Committee”. The Advanced Learning Task Force met for “over 50 hours” in 2013-2014, but only addressed APP/HCC and not Spectrum or ALO. To me the task force name implied that it should have dealt with Spectrum and ALO. By comparison, the 2011-2012 Task Force did appear to address Spectrum and ALO.

For 2014-15 there is only “Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee”, listed on the Advanced Learning Departments Web Page. And I agree, “It would only be appropriate for the [Highly Capable Services Advisory] Committee to address Spectrum as it affects HC students.” And I think it makes sense to have a focused committee.

What I find is inappropriate is that there appear to be no “task forces” or “advisory committees” for Spectrum and ALO, while those programs serve even more students than HCC. From a district standpoint, they simply no longer appear to be part of the conversation. And I believe that’s intentional.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you for this healthy and interesting discussion. I would like to hear more about APP at JAMS if possible. Even if the content of the APP LA/SS classes are not as rigorous as one would hope, isn't there some benefit to having a class full of APP/Spectrum kids? Also, can anyone speak to what is happening at Eckstein with Spectrum? Does it even exist in a meaningful way, or are Eckstein's LA/SS classes already blended? Also, as to private schools, I have to agree with an earlier poster that I did not see academic rigor in any private schools I toured, with the exception of Lakeside. At SAAS and U Prep, kids can't even accelerate in math, so 6th grade kids are all doing 6th grade math (which is all repetition for kids coming from a Spectrum or APP elementary program). What is one to do?


Anonymous said...

LA/SS assignments have included drawing pictures and writing acrostics. There has been limited academic writing and there is no history text.

Whereas past classes may have learned about Greek philosophers and their ideas, the current class watched a TED talk on mindset.

Whereas past classes may have read a Shakespeare play or excerpts of period literature (Dante, poems about chivalry, etc.) when studying history, the current class read Funny in Farsi.

Whereas past classes may have had quizzes or tests on history content, the current class has had no exams. The number of graded assignments could probably be counted on one hand.

Anonymous said...

McClure has some good teachers who do the best they can. Not sure what rigorous HS prep means unless it's referencing 8th grade algebra for all. From experience and hearing from parents and students at McClure, it has been a mixed experience. It's not that difficult to get an "A" and little HW. Some people might want more challenges while others are happy because kids have more downtime and less stress.

QA and Magnolia schools are its feeder schools. These feeder schools are traditionally very strong schools with high test scores. Given that McClure already has an accomplished group to work with, the MSP and EOC tests should reflect this trend. Looking at these standardized tests also depends if people regard these tests as the ceiling or the floor. This may account for the polarity of opinions about this school. Parents are trying very hard to build up this neighborhood school and build up its reputation to keep more local parents from sending kids elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

My son's experience (7th grade) has been different at JAMS than the experience that Anon at 2:44 describes. (The LA/SS TED talk about mindset--in the seventh grade at least--was part of a larger conversation about the book, Flowers for Algernon. No acrostic poems. The SS curriculum focuses on world cultures, as expected). The class has written many papers -- persuasive essays, reviews, analytical essays. My kid is happy to be there because the teacher is dynamic, and he seems to be doing some good thinking. He gets lots of feedback on his writing. Science is the other part of the APP program. It is standard, ninth grade physical science. Not a lot of hands-on work. My kid calls it "boring." But is it "advanced?" It's ninth grade science, so yes. I'd love for it to be more active, but it's accelerated as promised. The cohort is important for my son, so I'm glad we're there.

Anonymous said...

i don't think McClure is diminishing rigor, quite the opposite. It's just getting rid of labels. Self-contained Spectrum classrooms have been gone since the NSAP. Just as at Whitman, test-in honors is gone.
At Ballard, honors classes returned this year after being removed many years ago. Now they are opt-in, not test-in. The LA dept. disagreed with any honors, but the principal is indicating supports will be available for kids who need them and wish to do honors.
I'd also guess this action at McClure is a shot over the bow of HCP parents thinking of coming to McClure. There will be no self-contained.

Anonymous said...

If this thread is going back to McClure and its treatment of the HC students currently attending, I would like to chime in on the conversation.

LA, despite the "honors" or Spectrum tag, has been well blended since the NSAP, but there is always a grouping of HC students in classrooms who work together some of the time, but they also work with all the kids.

In 8th grade there is also the autism inclusion program that kicks in integrating students into the gened environment, these students are also in classes with HC students and they too work on projects together. This inclusion model is the definition of the autism program at McClure.

IA's are in these inclusion classrooms for support, and in a way, students get extra attention for the teacher when there are 3 or 4 IA's in a classroom. Teachers will have students team up in different configurations, but HC students are grouped regularly.

Math is getting stronger and last year all 8th graders were supposed to be in Algebra, first year for that. I don't know how they all did, but the goal is clearly to have most students fully prepared for geometry. McClure snagged an excellent Algebra teacher from Salmon Bay{PhD in math!)

There is clearly grouping in math. Strong students, regardless of designation, are put together and there is a strong support network for struggling students. Remedial math is required in lieu of an elective if the student is having trouble.

The students who are beyond Algebra I are in the library doing an on-line course and have very little support. Last year geometry students sat in with an Algebra I class and that was not so great either, so according to the principal, next year they will have a class and a teacher for the geometry students and any Algebra II students. How they they plan on filling that classroom is unclear, although there are a significant number of 7th graders in Algebra I this year. As far as Algebra II, that has been problematic having those students, there are only three or four, working without support. They could technically be ready for calculus next year, but without a human teacher this year, I don't know.

They do have a pretty stellar staff IMO, teaching values as well as academic content. A fair number of veterans from the pre-NSAP, and pretty socially conscious. An awesome SpEd staff, all the staff from custodians to the AP to office to security, run a safe and respectful school. The music program is a growing very fast as well and PE and sports are superb. With the medically fragile program on site, a mellow, calm vibe(for a MS).

Anonymous said...

I don't think McClure is a great fit for all HC families and with Ballard as your choice for high school(or IBX at Ingraham although your child will want Ballard after McClure), the question of college opportunity looms. I see Ballard getting better each year. Heard of two Ivy league freshpeople from last year's class, so there's something there and to be fair, I haven't heard a complaint from any parents who have kids there. If a student takes the hardest classes offered, tests well on the SAT, has some extra-curriculars,I don't see a problem with getting into a top university.

The bottom line is student contentment. I would see Hamilton as a better place for kids who need less distraction, more peer support, a more competitive learning environment and a more directed environment in general. McClure is going to drive some HC students up the wall and it just doesn't have much of an HC presence. The distinctions will be visible to kids in the class, of course, but the labels will be gone and staff will place students, which some parents don't like. I find the HC students confident yet humble and it seems staff wants to keep it that way. In other words, not a lot of horn-tooting about being bright, but about trying hard and getting along well with others.

It's a big decision and I would take the tours at Hamilton and McClure, maybe even at Ballard, and talk to as many people as possible.

HC and Spectrum students do get consideration and teachers are demanding work commensurate with ability, it's a big enough school to do grouping around factors beyond discipline and the intellectual level of classes is surprisingly high.

a happy McClure parent

Anonymous said...

I have an HCC kid at McClure. If you're trying to make that call, our experience is that they have pretty good teachers all in all, with only a couple of exceptions. I've been happy with what my kid has learned and with the energy level of the teachers, who keep it interesting. I don't think this policy change amounts to much as only LA is "spectrum" and the quality of that class doesn't seem different from the others which are "blended".

You'll want to keep an eye on writing--I think the teachers grade for MS but if your kid is capable of doing HS work you might want to help them learn more. They don't do much with classic fiction literary analysis; I've seen that on private school tours but don't know what other publics do. Math is ok...I've heard good things about some teachers and not about others. Another thing to watch given the curriculum, but not different from other SPS options.

It's just middle school; I wouldn't get too exercised about it other than math, which can really impact a kid's options if they don't get the foundation. If you want to cultivate perseverance and grit in a HCC kid, you might need to do it outside of school through music or sports or an on-line course. You just need to find something they really have to work at and where they aren't the best in the room at it, and help them learn to enjoy the challenge.

Talk to others about the social scene. My kid just doesn't pay attention to that so I don't have a good handle on it. I've heard others say its pretty cliquey but I can't confirm. We like the Orchestra teacher but the school inexplicably put the beginning and advanced class together so there are kids who've never read a note in their lives and don't want to in the same class with kids who last year were proud to be playing high school level music, which has been a mess IMHO although the teacher does a great job with the hand he was dealt. If music is important to your kid, HIMS would be the better choice.

McClure Mom

Anonymous said...

Totally agree on the orchestra logistics, but the problem is not enough string players to give each level their own slot in the schedule.
That should be remedied if more students take orchestra next year, it's all numbers based. The instrumental music director is working to drum up more players from the feeders so hopefully this is the last year of combining the two.
Also agree there really shouldn't be a noticeable change as classes seem blended already.
The "grit" talk I remember hearing last year at curriculum night and I really like the idea of high expectations and rewarding effort, not inate ability. With the standards based grading, teachers will give a student a bad mark for not putting out real effort, yet raise it up to 3.5 or even 4 with some additional work. Also, no matter how well a student does in terms of qualitative aspects of an assignment, if the rubric is not followed and the above standard portion not fully adhered to, no way will they get a 4.
Like previous said, it's middle school, the kids are having a last respite to work through puberty and growing up etc. before high school and the stakes really getting real.
More HC students would be nice and I wouldn't let the name change influence anyone considering McClure. It's got decent academics and the trajectory is for more rigor not less. Parents on QA like staying on the hill and will want their kids challenged, but like parent said, the principal is making sure everyone understands rigor won't come in a self-contained classroom.

Spectrum parent

Shannon said...

For those considering JAMS for MS. I want to add that not everyone feels the same way as prior posters. I have an 8th grader at JAMS. He is studying conic sections in Algebra 2. His LA and SS classes may not have the rigor some other expect but they have been reading appropriately advanced texts (Zinns History of the US, works by Greek philosophers in the original form, philosophy) and more importantly they have given rise to in-depth and passionate discussions about right and wrong and world events which engages critical thinking. Essays are written (not as long as I expected) but with argument and research. I was very impressed with my son's synopsis of a speech by Mandela. Granted, I do no know what APP used to be for 8th grade, but I am not that driven by pure acceleration in content but rather by classes which engage my son as a student without boredom and with the opportunity of depth. We are seeing that in most classes. The cohort is worthwhile from my perspective.

Anonymous said...

It's fascinating to read the many opinions and experience @McClure. It'll be interesting to see how well things work out. I expect test scores will improve, especially for groups whose scores remain stubbornly below SPS average. There really isn't any excuse this school on QA with its supportive community shouldn't be as desirable as Eckstein or do as well as Mercer.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic. Grit. If people have to talk about kids developing it,that's a pretty good clue about what a good place people and their kids are in. Grit is a great concept and characteristic to have, but competence needs to go hand in hand when you are talking about academics and work.

Grit doesn't come into the conversation as a lesson which needs to be acquired with some of the highschooler I've worked with. It's kinda refreshing. Their whole life is learning how to navigate some of the crappy stuff life hands them, often daily. What we strategize about more importantly is to be good at something and doing well does matter because they have little if any cushion to fall back on. Effort is great, but for these kids, the world wants result and doesn't hand out many passes or opportunities.

-different rules

Anonymous said...

Whittier is moving to a new math placement model. PowerPoint and faq on their website.
It's new to me.

Benjamin Leis said...

The phrasing of the McClure letter raises my hackles. But stepping a back a bit if the honors classes were really no different from the gen-ed ones then I suppose its not a radical change. That does raise a few questions for me.

1. Were there really no differences in the 2 levels?

2. Is this happening at the other middle schools?

3. And most difficult to answer were the courses of equivalent difficulty between say Eckstein Spectrum, Washington MS and McClure Honors?

Anonymous said...

Something about the focus on "grit" and "mindset" bothers me - perhaps it seems too simplistic a solution, or it takes the focus away from actually teaching something, or it places the burden of failure on the student (not enough grit, or poor mindset)?

A commenter from an EdWeek article, "Kiss My Grit," has this to say:

I feel that words like "grit" and "optimism" are better described as "willing to work like crazy because you were told to" and "you had better do as I say unquestioningly with a smile on your face."

When educators talk about "grit," what do they really mean? My child was turned off by the discussion of mindset as presented in class - it came off as dismissive of ability and acquired knowledge. Sometimes things are hard simply because they require knowledge that hasn't been imparted. And what if school really doesn't require much effort?

Anonymous said...

This criticism of Tough's "Grit" theory speaks to some of the shortcomings:

Anonymous said...

Kids have been grouped, are being grouped and will continue to be grouped. The key is every student has an equal chance to fulfill their potential.
Labels can impede that journey towards full potential, for both the "honors" labeled students and the non-labeled.

Anonymous said...

Spectrum parent said something that caught my eye:

The "grit" talk I remember hearing last year at curriculum night and I really like the idea of high expectations and rewarding effort, not inate ability. With the standards based grading, teachers will give a student a bad mark for not putting out real effort, yet raise it up to 3.5 or even 4 with some additional work.

My impression was that standards-based grading does just the opposite: you're graded on how well you perform in relation to some rubric that lays out what's required for each performance level (e.g., meeting standard, exceeding, approaching). If your minimal effort work is good enough to meet or exceed the standard--as if often the case with bright kids--you never have to do any real work. How does that build grit? It seems instead to send a message that you can just skate by...

I have a kid who always aced the diagnostic tests at the outset of each unit. With effective standards-based grading, he should have then been able to move on to something else, testing out of that unit, no? Instead it just meant sitting through a bunch of review, then essentially repeating those same tests later on. Unless learning to suffer boredom is what people mean by developing grit, I'm not sure I see how our schools plan to do this...

Anonymous said...

@ Anon at 3:15, every student does not have an equal chance to fulfill their potential. They should, yes. But they don't.

I have no problem with getting rid of the labels, so long as the differentiation in challenge and rigor associated with the labels doesn't also go away. If kids were assigned to classes and schools based on their ability and unique learning needs, and then received appropriate instruction, with all the schools and levels identified only by a random shape, I'd be all for it--because all kids would be able to work to their potential. But the idea that they all have the same potential and so we don't need honors classes, or that everyone needs honors classes, is just a feel-good approach that flies in the face of reality. Some kids really are more academically gifted and advanced than others, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

What do you do when the teacher takes over a month to return graded assignments, then gives only a few days for students to rework something? Who would want to revisit an assignment after so much time? Having clearly defined expectations at the outset, and teaching what's needed to do the work successfully the first time, is much more helpful to my child than endless redos.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 4:27, I'm going to guess you're referring to middle school? That has been our experience all along, sorry to say...

Ada said...

Are there any self-contained spectrum classrooms in Seattle?

Thanks -- tried searching all the google for this information and can't find it.

Anonymous said...

Lafayette Elementary still has self-contained classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Ada, what is your reference area and what grade is your child in?

Ada said...

Thanks for the response. We are currently in Wedgwood, but are likely moving (reference area unclear). My child is in kindergarten, and hasn't done her Cogat testing yet.

Lynn said...


I saw in your post on the other schools blog that you think it's possible she'll qualify for HCC. The CogAT isn't always an appropriate test for young children. If her math and reading scores are at the 95th percentile, but the CogAT score is lower than you'd anticipate, I'd pay for a private IQ test.

Is she's HCC-eligible, you can choose to enroll her in the program anytime through September 30th. That gives you the flexibility to choose a home without being concerned about school choice.

You're not guaranteed a Spectrum seat anywhere.

Lafayette does have self-contained classrooms and if you are in the school's attendance area for first grade you would likely get a spot there. Fairmount Park has combined HCC/Spectrum classrooms but I think it'll be difficult to access Spectrum there in the future. There are kids in FP gen ed classrooms who didn't get into Spectrum this year.

I'm not sure but I think Whittier still has self-contained Spectrum classrooms. That may be the only remaining location.

Anonymous said...

I have one child at Hamilton in the HCC program and my second is Spectrum and heading to middle school in the fall. We live in the McClure area but I would like her to go to Hamilton where she can participate in Spectrum, a higher level of math (her strength), foreign language in 6th grade, etc. etc. Does anyone have thoughts on the likelihood that she will be admitted to Hamilton under the sibling tiebreaker? I know the school is crowded and am worried she will be shut out. Thanks!
~mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Here's part of the problem with Spectrum: the bar is so low.

At K, to qualify, NO achievement is necessary, just a 90th percentile for CogAT. BUT while 90th percentile might sound good, it really is nothing special: out of 9 kids, one of them would be at or above the 90th percentile.

And, when you go to first grade, you only need to be 87th percentile to qualify for Spectrum. The 87th percentile has a frequency of 1 in 7. That's right, 1 in 7 kids is Spectrum.

1 out of 7.

In an elementary class room of 28, that means 4 kids will be Spectrum, statistically speaking. In every class room, in every grade, in every school. That is not very rare. Is a program necessary for 1 out of every 7 kids?

Again, it is absolutely NOT the sheer NUMBER of Spectrum qualified students, it is their inherent statistical frequency. If the bar was set to 1 in 20 (about 95th percentile), and it turned out that 40% of a school qualified, great. So be it. But, when the bar is set to expect that 14% of every classroom, every school is by definition Spectrum, the program starts to lack a tightly defined niche to identify for services.

Plus with kindergarteners, there is NO threshold for achievement, meaning, it will be all over the map, what a Spectrum kid can actually do. So then, what is Spectrum, really?

Of course, you could have someone who is at the 95th percentile (that would be 1 out of 19 kids, so, statistically, there would be another 'Spectrum' kid in a class to give an intellectual peer, if intellectual peers are defined as being between the 87th and 98th percentiles of cognition).

Maybe if the Spectrum criteria was reexamined so that it applied to a less frequent type of learner, say, children who only occur 1 in 20, then, there would be less friction and more sense in the conversations about how Spectrum should be delivered consistently throughout SPS.

(To be HCC, the minimum is 1 student in every 44 in BOTH cognition and achievement, but, that is a minimum, which disguises the fact that some of those students are as rare as 1 in 1,800 or 1 in 500, hence the need for acceleration of 2 years+)

Don't shoot the messenger. I am not anti-advanced learning, it is just that it truly needs to mean something or else it will become pretty murky pretty fast and then the whole program will be put at risk for being eliminated. A bit of the baby with the bathwater phenomenon: kids who are just 1 in 20 won't get served because the program will go away.

Advanced learning is important. Supporting ALL children's potential for greatness is what education is suppose to do. In Seattle, it seems like that equity is thought to mean the same, which is too bad, because a lot of ineffective strategies which don't deliver results but do deliver the 'we feel good about ourselves' get trumpeted.

food for thought

Anonymous said...

Before spectrum was dismantled and APP exploded, some spectrum programs were good enough to keep kids at local elementary schools without moving them into APP. Then it got too popular with wait list and branded with elitism. About the same time MAP was introduced, things changed and there was this emphasis on pacing fidelity among the classrooms at our elementary school--for a while. Then the clustering talk made its round. Now it's a mixed bag. Some teachers do it together while others go at it alone within the classroom. Of course, differentiation has always been there. So that's not news, just to the parents we were told. What goes on in the classroom is very teacher, principal, or school culture dependent and changes as people come and go. There's a walk to math. Sort of. It's pretty much whatever. Lately it's about teaching kids emotional and social intelligence as well. Honestly, I don't know how teachers do it. Churn and overstuffed schools are about the only things which you can count on which is good in a way as it builds resilience and teaches your kids flexibility and patience. Surely you can use that in the college essay application.

Anonymous said...

Mom of 3-

The likelihood of your child getting into HIMS as an out of area kid is virtually nil. Spectrum kids have no access to HIMS from out of area because all MS schools have Spectrum (whatever that means anymore). HIMS is a crowded school.

I am not familiar with the HIMS Spectrum program (my kid is HCC), but I wouldn't count on it staying the same anyway because there will be a new principal next year.


Anonymous said...

Students can do well at schools like McClure as long as parents can afford to pay for on line classes like EPGY and be on good terms with the staff and administrators to arrange for independent study or some kind of partial homeschooling schedule. For other children whose parents cannot afford to pay nor have the time or ability to manouver around SPS unpredictable and Byzantine process, theses students will get what they get. They may get lucky and find some good teachers here or there who will take an interest in them. They might find a principal who is willing to mentor. That happend to one student I tutored and the principal arranged for these kids to take some classes at the nearby HS.

I understand relying on chance for learning opportunity seems an anathema given all these learning pathways SPS spent so much money administering. But that's what you get when you have programs and process which are unclear, poorly supported, and unevenly administered.

Our roulette experience with getting reading support for dyslexia while navigating AL shows it really is up to the parents to create a plan to help your child learn. You may get a helpful staff here and there, but once you change teacher or school, you start all over again. We can afford to pay for extra tutoring and are able to take time off work to jump through various hoops. But the ugly truth to this talk about access and equity is, you find it if you can pay for it and make the right connection.

Sick of whimsy

Anonymous said...

@ food for thought: riiiiiiiggggggghhhht. we shouldn't have spectrum because too many kids meet the threshold. we should keep advanced learning restricted to the anomalies. in fact, we should narrow down HCC even more so that just the most gifted (as determined by 2 highly controversial for their appropriateness let alone their complete analysis of giftedness) tests.

you should probably investigate private schools. public schools have a mission to serve all. if one in ten kids need a more challenging pace the goal there is to provide it not deny it.

you wonder why staff and other families get annoyed by a segment of HCC parents? ponder.


Anonymous said...

If we don't keep Spectrum, where do the kids go who have great cognitive skills and high performance in one academic area, but lower performance in another.

Our 2nd grader got 99 on the CoGAT, and WSPII at 99.9% and FSIQ of 141). His MAP reading is always at 99 percentile - for the grade above. But, he can't get into HCC/APP because his reading scores are lower.

Spectrum would be great for these kids. They have high cognitive ability, and strong performance in one area. Without Spectrum, these kids have few options.