Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Testing in and new parents

It's that time of year again when the district administers APP eligibility tests and new parents are considering whether to go into APP/HCC. As in most prior years, it sounds like there are issues with test eligibility letters arriving late or not at all.

Let's open a thread for new parents to ask questions about the tests, what APP is like, and anything else they have on their minds. Existing parents, if you could answer any questions you can in the comments, I'm sure the new parents would be grateful.

Update: Advanced Learning apparently said, "This year, we are processing more than 5,400 applications and are continuing to test students through the end of February. ... Additionally, testing results and eligibility letters will be sent by early March." Note that early March is after most school tour dates and when open enrollment ends, so this delay is likely to lead to other problems.


Anonymous said...

Are parents receiving eligibility letters already? We haven't heard a peep.

Also, it was strange this year. Our daughter's MAP scores were fairly low, and per their instructions should have precluded her receiving the cognitive test. However, they scheduled us and we took the test. Perhaps they're realizing that MAP scores aren't great indicators for Advanced Learning eligibility programs.

- Waiting

Anonymous said...

If your daughter is in kindergarten, MAP scores aren't considered and everyone is scheduled.

If you daughter is in a higher grade, maybe she has previous higher scores in her profile, and/or her teacher evaluation indicated the need for cognitive testing? Somewhere on the AL website it talks about this, and it no longer is written as though MAP scores are hard barriers to simply taking the Cogat. (But the scores will still be needed to actually qualify for the programs.)

No one will receive letters until February (hopefully.)

Anonymous said...

Has achievement testing for kindergarteners begun at any schools?

k mom

Lynn said...


From the advanced learning webpage: IMPORTANT NOTE: If both spring MAP scores are not at the 87th percentile or above (or you do not have spring MAP scores), but you believe your student is a strong candidate for Advanced Learning, please submit your application by October 2. We will advise you of your next steps. Subsequent achievement scores such as fall MAP data will be considered. (If your school has opted out of fall MAP testing, your Advanced Learning candidate will be provided an opportunity to take the fall MAP). The Teacher Rating Scale is also considered as an indicator of the need for cognitive testing.

OSPI has stated that a single test result should not disqualify a student. This gives the district the opportunity to claim that the student had two opportunities to take the MAP (Spring and Fall.)

I don't see the point of cognitive testing based on the Teacher Rating Scale if a student doesn't have qualifying math and/or reading scores.

Greg Linden said...

Sorry, I can see I might have been unclear with something I said in the top level post. When I said, "test eligibility letters arriving late or not at all", I'm referring to the Advanced Learning Testing Page where it says, "If the MAP scores are high enough, we will mail or email you a test-date appointment letter later in the fall. If you don't receive one by mid-December, contact the Advanced Learning Office at" (emphasis mine)

Some parents were talking about this in one of the open threads, and I thought, in general, new parents might be starting to have questions, so I wanted to open up a new thread for that.

Anonymous said...

My private schooled 5th grader had the COGAT in the fall. We haven't heard anything since. Isn't there supposed to be a second set of tests? Has anyone else been contacted about them yet?

Jo said...

Can anyone speak to rough class sizes this year in Hamilton? Under 30, Under 40, over 40..?

Anonymous said...

@ Jo, class sizes at HIMS have been fairly inconsistent, as there are a lot of different special programs and levels to work around in scheduling. In our experience over the years, elective and non-core classes often end up a bit small, with core classes generally full. My kids have ended up with non-core classes that have #s in the 20s (or even teens!), while LA, SS and science are more like 32-34. I think the register said they try to limit them to 32, but sometimes are forced to go a bit higher. There are probably exceptions to the "rule" though, such as perhaps music. I've also heard of large PE classes, although my kids, for whatever reason, have tended to end up with extremely small PE classes.

Anonymous said...

The usual class size this year in HIMS 7th and 8th grade is smaller than usual, since half of the population moved to JA. My 8th grader's biggest class is Algebra II with 38 students I think (but this is because there is only one class). All the others are in the 20-25 range.
6th grade is different though, I think...

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a lot of students taking Algebra 2, especially given the split to JAMS. Is this the first year of students officially taking Algebra 2 at HIMS (as opposed to working independently in the back of another class)?

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to understand the rationale of waiting until middle school to join APP. I understand why people might not move an eligible child in elementary, but then what's the point of doing it for middle school? It seems like just as much disruption to the child for a program that is significantly less well-defined and meaningful than the elementary program.

Anonymous said...

"Is this the first year of students officially taking Algebra 2 at HIMS (as opposed to working independently in the back of another class)?"

Yes, current 8th graders are the first HIMS cohort allowed to take Algebra I in 6th grade.

As for "working independently in the back of another class," that wasn't allowed. If you were too advanced in math, you were just out of luck. (And you still are, if you're beyond what's offered. If you do independent study, the school won't let you remain on campus during that period.)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the MS assessment above. Are you in the north? I think north and south people might answer the MS question differently. From my experience, families seem much happier with WA than they are with HIMS or JAMS.

We thought Lowell and Lincoln (can't speak to the present day) were mostly great and they offered more rigor than our neighborhood school. My child would have preferred more, especially in science, but it was accelerated enough to keep them mostly engaged.

HIMS, on the otherhand, was terrible. Our child had no challenges in ANY of their classes, and the science was even worse. We spent one year at HIMS and got out of there. Parents in the grades ahead of us told us things didn't get any better. Friends still there have found this to be true. I would not recommend leaving the local MS for HIMS unless the local MS is even worse. Don't expect challenges at HIMS.


Anonymous said...

@Anon at 12:11,

Families have many different reasons for waiting until middle school to switch to APP. These include things such as neighborhood school proximity and transportation challenges, unique programs at some elementary schools, sibling issues, elementary schools that do a good job with differentiation, the size of the local APP-qualified cohort, outside opportunities, etc. It's not always (or even often?) about simply avoiding disruption, as you suggest.

For us, we didn't move the kids because we wanted to continue with language immersion, which is really only available in non-APP elementary. About 1/4 of my child's elementary cohort was APP-eligible, so she had good exposure to other kids with similar interests and capabilities. (And yes, that's who she naturally made friends with--we didn't know of their APP status until middle school.) Additionally, even though the core instruction was not challenging enough and any attempts at differentiation weren't done well, at the elementary level it's easier for parents to pick up the slack and provide outside supplementation. A small price to pay for learning a new language, being able walk to school, and keeping your current friends.

When it comes to middle school, everyone is already transitioning. Better to pick the program that (at least in theory) most closely matches your child's academic level, and in which he/she is most likely to connect socially. It's arguably easier to switch at middle school than elementary, as the "two years ahead" approach doesn't really happen in middle school--so while a new APP third grader might have a hard time jumping ahead to 5th grade math, a new APP 6th grader shouldn't have any trouble adjusting to APP LA/SS.

Anonymous said...

Adding to my 12:35pm comment, I should clarify that the our local middle school and our APP-option middle school are one and the same. So my response was more about entering APP in middle school vs. going to the same school without joining APP. I'm not sure what we would have done had the choice been to stay at a different neighborhood school vs. commute to the APP school. If my child had a lot of good friends going to the local school, we might have chosen that over the seemingly elusive "rigor" of APP.

I should also note that I agree, somewhat, with what "gone" said about HIMS APP, but I don't think it's so black and white. One of my kids was bored stiff there and hated it. Socially APP was a better fit than non-APP, but still not good enough. Kid #2, however, is finding HIMS APP to be a little better fit, and is only mildly bored so far. Some parents say the level of challenge is right for their kids, and others say it's way too easy. It really depends on the kid.

Anonymous said...

That is a very specific case. (In language immersion with 1/4 of the cohort qualified for APP and all moving together.) But, I suspect we'd find that each family's case is that specific to them.

I do wonder whether families who joined APP at JAMS this year instead of going to Eckstein are happy with the rigor, especially families who had previous experience with Eckstein.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including that clarification because I was, as gone realized, asking about families who choose a different APP middle school from their neighborhood school just to join APP at middle school.

Anonymous said...

@Anon above:

"1/4 of my child's elementary cohort was APP-eligible,..."

That is simply not true.

It is amazing how many people go around and say that there are scads of fully APP-qualified students in elementary schools.

There simply are not.

The overwhelming majority of those who test in choose to opt-in.

Viewridge elementary has the highest # of APP qualified students: 33. That's out of it's 600+ students. That's about 5% of the total school. That is a far cry from 25%. And, that school had at that point some self-contained Spectrum, meaning, that APP-qualified students could attempt to get their needs met through that Spectrum vehicle. Bryant and West Woodland are the other schools that have managed to retain a large number of qualified APP students (28 and 21 respectively). But still, that is a low percentage (28/600 is about 5% approx.)

My child was also at a language immersion school. There were over 100 kindergarteners. 4 tested in, and, all 4 left to APP. Every family needs to make choices that work best for their family and child. Enough said.

Choice is a great thing. It allows flexibility. We are grateful APP/HCC exists. And, because it does, we do not think it is fair or appropriate to demand the teachers in regular ed give our snowflake math or reading or anything else that is at his/her level, when we could exit to a school geared for him/her. APP/HCC exists for a reason. (Honestly, APP/HCC is not great either, but, it is better than nothing, because at least there is the cohort, and the kids have intellectual peers.)

As for the 1/4 of cohort quote...
When figures get thrown around, stated without evidence, some causal readers may take them to be true. And they are not.

Of course, there are some students who may not test, and, it may be suspected that if they did test, they would qualify for APP/HCC. But really, 25% of a single school? No.

The 98th percentile together with the 95th percentiles for reading and math are high levels, simply put, it is statistically improbably that any elementary school has 25% of their total students in this mode (excepting, of course, HCC sites).


Anonymous said...

over first through third grade, about 15-20% of our child's class at Bryant has left. and there are another maybe 6 or 7% who are qualified.

but no way is there ever 1/4 of a qualified class just sitting in a neighborhood classroom. most identified kids go to Lincoln, for good reason.

Anonymous said...

of the kids that still remain in the 4th grade cohort some will choose APP middle.

Anonymous said...

Some people test and move at middle school in order to qualify for the golden ticket to Garfield (and now IBX) even though their neighborhood MS (e.g., Eckstein) would be fine for them.

ND, are you at JSIS? The impression I got from the commenter was that 25% of their kids' JSIS class ended up in APP at HIMS for 6th grade. That doesn't mean 25% of them tested in in kindergarten (or 1st-4th) and stayed at JSIS. It's not surprising to me that there would be a cohort at some K-5s with that high a level of (tested + untested) qualified kids. The percent of kids who are ENROLLED in APP is much higher than 2%. The math has been done before (closer to 10% for some grades) and that doesn't account for the kids who never test.


Anonymous said...

"...but no way is there ever 1/4 of a qualified class just sitting in a neighborhood classroom."

Really? Tell that to the 6 (out of an elementary class of 20) who just switched to for HCC middle school. (So actually 30%, sorry.) Most of these kids had tested in in prior years, but since they knew they weren't planning to switch schools they didn't necessarily test every year to maintain eligibility, so point-in-time qualification #s might not have perfectly reflected actual eligibility.

Yes, that's not a typical level of HCC-eligible, I know. But there are schools and grades where it does happen, and when it does it can influence families' decisions as to whether or not to switch schools. Which was the point under discussion.

Anonymous said...

I believe at Wedgwood many APP qualified students used to stay in the self-contained Spectrum classrooms, which is no longer an option. From our son’s kindergarten class (2 years ago) I know of four APP qualified kids, and all four are now at Lincoln (over 15% by second grade, and it will likely go up).

Anonymous said...

I just want to know what elementary school is lucky enough to have a class of 20!


Anonymous said...

Folks, usually if you're at an elementary where APP is a hot button issue because lots of kids qualify and leave, you know it! Let's not rehash it again here, unless its in the context of counseling people on whether or not to stay at their neighborhood school.

Anonymous said...

ClassSizeMatters, I doubt there are any SPS schools with typical class sizes of 20. However, on occasion you may get an individual class that small, based on how the #s and breakdowns shake out. Kids don't come in neat blocks of x kids of a particular grade and type.

For example, HIMS is crowded, but my kid has a PE class of only about a dozen kids. It'a a scheduling fluke (and not all positive, trust me!).

As another example, the HIMS Alg 2 class reportedly has 38 kids. There could just as easily have been 40-50 kids who needed that level, in which case they might have split it into two classes of 20-25.

Language immersion classes, too, can limit elementary flexibility. Spots in older grades are harder to fill since kids don't have the prerequisite language skills, so when attrition occurs it can leave some gaps that may or may not be easily dealt with by moving kids or combining classes. You can end up with some extra large and extra small classes as a result.

Numbers don't always work out as neatly as we'd like.

Anonymous said...

FYI - class sizes; at Lincoln, they are big, just like everywhere else in the NW elementary schools.

6 5th grade classes, and, they all have 30 or 31 kids in them, same as last year. It is funny, for some reason people think Lincoln has smaller class size, that is absolutely not true. If any, it has larger.

Class size limits are in the teachers' union contract, it sets a cap of 26 for K-3 and 28 kids for 4th & 5th grade --- but, the district can overstuff the classrooms if they give the teacher either a bit more money or some IA hours. I wish the cap was a hard cap. It is not fair to the kids. My kid had 30 kids in the K class, that's right: 30 5 year olds in 1 room for a whole day with one adult. That is nuts.

size varies

Glad We Switched said...

@ Anonymous January 15, 2015 at 12:56 PM -

I was, as gone realized, asking about families who choose a different APP middle school from their neighborhood school just to join APP at middle school.

That would be us and I am very thankful to all the many families we talked with about the transition to APP in middle school & definitely encourage you to do the same.

Entering 5th grade we could tell that both the social environment and level of academic challenge at the neighborhood schools (continued K8 or new middle) would not support our child's continued growth in the Spectrum program - already starting to 'shut down' in order to fit in with the peer group. I won't lie: the 6th APP grade transition was extremely challenging for everyone the first semester, smoothed out the 2nd semester, and 7th grade HCC has been amazing (where's that wood to knock on). The love of learning, self-confidence, and rising to meet firm but fair teacher expectations we're seeing from our child have honestly floored us and resemble nothing of our own (fairly miserable) middle school experiences.

Talk with those who have had both positive and negative experiences but make the choice for what factors you know will be right for your child to thrive, and all the best. This process is stressful!

Anonymous said...

McDonald's fundraising page is up right now and it says that the first graders there have a mean math score of 95% on the MAP test.

Anonymous said...

my 4th grade kid transferred into the SSD last semester and has taken the Cognazance Test. Assuming the score is up to par, what should the next test be for APP? Note we do NOT have a MAP score.

Anonymous said...

A "mean math score of 95% on MAP" doesn't make sense. Does McD perhaps mean the mean score is 95th percentile? That sounds surprisingly high--and the fact that they attribute it to the IAs in their fund drive is troubling, since those kids would have had very little time there yet to make that impact. I would think scores that high, if accurate, are more correlated with high levels of preparation prior to kindergarten.

And are MAP scores really available by school and by grade, so that people can figure out averages and do comparisons like this? If so, where can we find such data?


Anonymous said...

And are MAP scores really available by school and by grade, so that people can figure out averages and do comparisons like this? If so, where can we find such data?

How do you think they are evaluating teachers? I did see such comparisons posted years ago - mean MAP percentiles by school and grade for APP.

Was McDonald using something other than EDM last year?

Anonymous said...

Our principal shared our school's mean percentiles on MAP years ago but I haven't seen it published like the MSP scores.

McD was using Math in Focus before it was adopted, I believe.

Honestly I think it's indicative of privilege in immersion folk and the failings of the MAP for primary grades more than the benefit of IAs, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

Getting off topic, but looking at McDonald's links on academics you can view curriculum maps by subject and month for each grade level. They are somewhat general, but still more specific than what I've seen for APP classrooms. Why doesn't every school do this?

Anonymous said...

McDonald is probably ascribing the high math scores to the IAs because math and science are taught in the immersion language. Without the IAs fewer kids would do as well, especially in the younger classes that haven't had as much exposure to the foreign language. There's no English spoken at all in the immersion classes.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:12, that might actually argue against that. Students taught math in the immersion language are likely to struggle a bit in early grade MAP tests, as they haven't necessarily been taught the English translations of key math terms they've learned in Spanish.

It would be interesting to see how that super-high-scoring cohort of first graders did on their fall K MAP tests, if taken. My hunch is that they all started out pretty high. If they didn't, and the school showed unusual levels of growth compared to similar schools, that would be very good to know and share!


Anonymous said...

That seems like fuzzy math. The mean is 95%ile? That would have to be a very, very homogenous group.

Who needs APP, then.

Anonymous said...

I don't see an answer to K mom's question and I had the same question. Have any K students who already took the school-administered Cogat been pulled for achievement testing (meaning they scored 98 or higher on Cogat and thus need achievement scores)? Or is SPS still trying to complete the Cogat for all K applicants, so no pull outs for achievement tests yet? My K student took the Cogat but no achievement testing yet. That could be because her Cogat wasn't high enough to warrant achievement testing... Or could be that SPS is running behind.

--Curious K mom

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious. Results were always mailed on Feb 1st, except last year, which sounded like a nightmare. I assumed they'd be back on track this year as I thought last year's problem was attributed to an error with the scorer.

But, if K kids are still being tested on Jan 31, how long will it take to send those tests out to be scored? Then those kids will get achievement tests (if needed)-how long will that take? All this must happen before anyone gets results?

Anonymous said...

They've changed the language around test dates on the website. I'd say it's safe to assume they are running behind.

"Testing takes place from October through February. Families are notified by phone or email, typically shortly before the test date. If you have not been contacted about a test date, please be patient. The Advanced Learning Office will contact you."

Anonymous said...

Have sny private K kids gotten a Cogat date yet?

Anonymous said...

Advanced Learning sent out an email today:

"This year, we are processing more than 5,400 applications and are continuing to test students through the end of February. ... Additionally, testing results and eligibility letters will be sent by early March."

So, don't hold your breath waiting for those results.


Anonymous said...

Who did SPS send this email to? I have a child being tested and did not receive the email. Can you post the full email text?


Anonymous said...

"Have sny private K kids gotten a Cogat date yet?"

Some private school kids have had their cogat dates -- but I only know of 5th and 8th graders. The ones I know of had test dates in October, November, and January.

Don't know about Kindergartners.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about achievement testing for private school kids? I've heard a rumor that other tests (ERBs) can be substituted for the SPS achievement testing but haven't found any concrete information.

Anonymous said...

ERBs can be used as part of an appeal but CANNOT be used as a substitute for SPS' testing. If your child doesn't qualify for HCC based on Cogat testing, ERB scores can be sent in. This is from the SPS website:

"Results of additional assessments.

Qualifying fall or winter MAP scores when available may be used to support an appeal. There must be a documented math and reading score at or above the 87th percentile from MAP or other nationally normed achievement test."

The 87th percentile is for Spectrum, not HCC. HCC scores are higher.

Anonymous said...

"Private-school students who have ERB or other nationally normed achievement test scores no older than the previous March may submit those in lieu of SPS achievement testing. "

This what I meant --, not the ERB as a replacement for the CogAT, but for the achievement testing for out-of-district/private school kids, who have not taken the MAP. I would read that language to mean that ERB's taken since March 2014 can be used in lieu of the MAP threshold of 95%, presuming that the CogAt threshold is met, but I am wondering if anyone on the board has confirmation of this reading.

Anonymous said...

For next year (2015/16) AL, you would need March 2015 or later ERBs, at least that's how I read it. It actually depends on exactly what their meaning of "previous" is, but I take it as it's the current year because out of district kids are all tested in August.

The deadline for AL has already passed for in district Seattle private school kids.

Anonymous said...

"The deadline for AL has already passed for in district Seattle private school kids."

The deadline for signing up for testing passed as of October 2, 2014, but there have been CogAT testing dates as late as January, and, as far as I've heard, no achievement testing yet.

Given that Open Enrollment ends March 6, 2015 it would be odd if tests administered in March 2015 determined eligibility (i.e. useless, though potentially useful for people who move to Seattle over the summer), but, you never can tell with SPS.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I meant the sign up for AL testing for Seattle kids in order to get into AL for the upcoming school year.

The March 2015 and later test scores would be for kids who moved in Seattle after the deadline. Seattle district kids don't take the ERB, and can't appeal that late anyway.

People who move into Seattle after the Oct. dates do testing in August, and therefore can use later test scores for appeals.

Anonymous said...

According to a private school parent who did testing last year, ERB scores from March 2014 and later can be used to address the MAP achievement testing cutoffs. The student was able to use scores from October 2013, for eligibility for the 2014-2015 year.

Mind you I still feel like I'm reading tea leaves to understand the policies -- is there any way to get this kind of question answered by Seattle Public Schools?

Anonymous said...

PS: Seattle private school kids often take the ERB.

Anonymous said...

Here's the appeals info.

Kindergarten Mama said...

Does anyone know if any kindergarten students have been given the Woodcock-Johnson test yet for purposes of HCC eligibility? My son goes to Whittier and was given the CogAT last month but we've heard nothing since. The district won't give me any more info than "most families will hear about eligibility in early March." Just trying to figure out when we'll know if he scored high enough on the CogAT to warrant more testing for HCC eligibility. We had him private tested last year for another school and know he meets the IQ qualification for HCC but know that the CogAT is not always accurate for the younger students. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious here. My child took the cognitive test last fall and of course we're still waiting on the results. But what I'm curious about is, some of the other kids that tested with her were asked last month to take another test. My daughter says it was a MAP test. Why was my daughter not asked to take this additional test?

Anonymous said...

What grade is your daughter in? Does your school administer fall MAP?

Anonymous said...

Additional Test Question Response:

My daughter is in 5th grade. Her school does the fall MAP tests. I don't know those results yet either. But her spring reading was in the 93 percentile and math was 83 percentile.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure then. You should ask advanced learning. It would be smart of them to start using achievement tests for admissions of new APP sixth graders. Maybe that is it. So the assumption would be the students who took the test had qualifying cogat results.

Anonymous said...

I have a 5th grader who was tested for HCC and we are expecting him to be eligible. We will need to apply during open enrollment as if he is eligible, although we will not know results from the district testing. I was under the impression if we choose Hamilton (we live in NW) he would be able to enroll. I just read something about tiebreakers on their website, so seems like there is no guarantee for HCC or or nearest HCC site? Should I list other HCC program such as Jane Adams? Also, we know nothing about HCC & Jane Adams. Are people generally happy with Jane Adams HCC teachers etc?

Star Girl said...

For SPS kindergarten parents considering APP, only the CogAT is required. Your school will administer the MAP test to all students as mandated by the district, but this isn't a required component for APP eligibility *for kindergarten students.* It is in later years.

Note that the spring MAP testing is required by the district, but each school can choose whether or not to administer the fall and winter MAP tests. My daughter's school recently did the Winter test for kindergarteners but I know friends at other schools that did the fall test.

Star Girl said...

On the Capacity thread people were commenting that "requirements to qualify are at an all-time low." I know others have referred to past lowering of thresholds as well.

Can someone link to info or explain in what way the threshold has changed over time? It's my impression that the CogAT 98%+ is the same as ever for HCC but that it's something to do with the MAP score inclusion that's the issue. I'd love to understand more.

Anonymous said...

Star girl, kindergarten students DO need achievement scores for APP. Just not MAP. The district administers an achievement test to kindergarten students with high enough Cogat scores.

Achievement scores are not needed for Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Could use some advice from current and past families please?...
We have two kids. both scored well in CogAT (both scored 98 or 99 in 5 of 7 categories and mid 90s for other two categories.
In Math, one scored 97 and other 98
But in reading, one scored 90 and other 91.
Would you appeal? And is private testing the only way to do this?
In school, they receive highest marks (out of possible) each semester. Is there any form of preference for current SSD kids vs private? Any thoughts really appreciated!