Friday, May 8, 2015

How's the blended model?

By request, a thread to discuss how the new blended model (blending APP with Spectrum or gen ed) at Fairmount Park is going. Parents happy with it?

59 comments :

3inSPS said...

I thought it was HCC/Spectrum blend, no?

Anonymous said...

We have blended HCC and Spectrum at JAMS, it's going great! Teachers report that the spectrum kids are not performing more poorly than the hcc kids and they are often surprised when they look to see who is who.

Greg Linden said...

3inSPS, oops, sorry, I don't know the details (this was by request) and can't seem to find them either (the Fairmount Park website doesn't seem to say as far as I can tell). Sounds like it might be with Spectrum or both? I'll update the original post to correct it, thanks.

Anonymous said...

That is not the model. That was temporary to accommodate 2 start up schools because of jagged and uncertain enrollment numbers.

There is no equity if a student's level of service, service that is mandated by the State, is randomly dependent on his/her address.

A middle school single-domain service makes sense. That would be consistent for all. And, in terms of how it is going, that is subjective and since the curriculum has been gutted at middle school, it is not clear that one could really answer that question. Instead of Homer classics and Guns, Germs and Steel, kids now read Diary of a Whimpy Kid. I'm not making this up. That is how bad middle school has gotten. And with new teachers, who don't know any different, and no 'village elders', how could they know? Rigor and challenge is gone. And by rigor, I do not mean heavy homework, I mean deeply complex texts. And many of them. APP kids are voracious readers, most can happily finish a 250 page book in a couple of days, each week.

It started at HIMS, where building administration wanted to 'align' LA/SS, not by ensuring it was lock-step with WMS, but by independently saying they wanted their APP kids to study what their peers were learning, even though APP kids were being scaffolded up to take Workd History AP at Garfeild and their peers were not.

Then, because HIMS kids and WMS kids were so different, Garfeild took away that AP course.

So there are very disgruntled kids but they are savy enough to not say anything do as to not rub their communities the wrong way: they are not looking to create friction in their school, their home-away-from-home.


But this is probably moot, because it is unclear if Spectrum will survive. WMS has done away with it for this September. McClure has also done away with it. For a non-mandated service like Spectrum to survive, and even flourish, parents will have to advocate. Spectrum is a really important part of the offerings in SPS, and leaving it hanging out in the wind, subject to the whims of principals is not a good way to support equity.


Remembers when

Anonymous said...

HCC is the new Spectrum in middle school--Maybe a little more challenging than GenEd, but not much. But by no means is it gifted ed.

Anonymous said...

We have blended HCC and Spectrum at JAMS, it's going great!

According to whom? Perhaps they are not perceived as performing more poorly because the level of challenge is so low. My child has never been more miserable and frustrated with school. Homework? What homework? My child goes along to get along, however, and saves the rants for home. I agree with the last two posts on HCC in middle school.

Benjamin Leis said...

Sometimes I wish folks would keep logs of the books/topics/homework in all the middle schools. The topic of rigor comes up continually across threads and its usually very hard to determine what's really going on.

Anonymous said...

I will also say I don't think the JAMS program is going great. There are a few cheerleader parents who are wonderful and determined to make this work, and say their kid is having a great experience, but it is by no means great for all. Teachers and staff are great - but the curriculum isn't there. For the kids who really needed HCC/APP, it isn't there. It's just a regular decent school, indistinguishable rigor-wise from Eckstein, Whitman or any other SPS middle school. Sad that the district really abandoned any real advanced program.

-a parent

Anonymous said...

Are parents providing this feedback, good or bad, to AL?

Anonymous said...

Diary of a Wimpy Kid in LA for HCC? Not at HIMS. My 6th grade HCC student may not be "exceptionally" gifted, but being allowed to choose reading from a list that includes 1984, Farenheit 451 and Watership Down is exciting to him. Sorry. I know the program has flaws but with the lengthy threads on this blog from parents working to get kids IN to HCC (testing, appeals, etc), the lack of positive discourse about the program baffles me. And frankly, I find it a little disingenuous. If we're going to improve the program, don't we need to start by being honest that the things that might be working? At least for many?
HIMSmomx2

Anonymous said...

AL has gotten this type of feedback re: HIMS for years, but it doesn't do any good. The AL office appears to be powerless to do much of anything that doesn't concern testing and identification. AL doesn't have any oversight powers to make schools or principals do anything, so with no curriculum it's anything goes.

Anonymous said...

Interesting about Watership Down for 6th grade at HIMS. My now 6th grade student read that in 4th grade at Lincoln. I'm pretty sure the entire class read it that year. You'd think they might coordinate between sites on books to cover. Then again, I guess a lot of students are new to HCC in 6th grade so maybe it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Well, the reading of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was part of a student selected book unit at HIMS. A JAMS class read from a book selection that included I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) spread out over 3 weeks. 3 long weeks. Assignments included drawing pictures. There is no consistency. That's great that some families are experiencing some pockets of challenge, but they seem to be the exception.

...back to the original topic, I think there is concern about creating additional HCC pathways (or blended classes) when there is not a minimum level of challenge defined for the program. It becomes very teacher dependent, which leads to the wide variation from class to class. JAMS has one APP experienced teacher in 6th grade. Beyond that, there are many new to APP/HCC teachers.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that the curriculum can be teacher dependent and that consistency is needed. I guess we have been lucky for both of our kids and I would have been p---ed if any of the Wimpy Kid books were included in a sixth grade HCC reading list. I'm not disagreeing with the push for change, I just think it's relevant to occasionally mention that there are good things happening as a starting point.

How do we do this? How do we involve the successful teachers in the creation of a single curriculum and bring them into the discussion?

To anon at 11:10, the teacher provided a list of books that included those mentioned, correctly anticipating that most of the kids had already read at least one from the list. Students were then divided into groups and were assigned the book that was new to everyone in that group.

Anonymous said...

Reading challenging books is great, but it would be nice for solid discussion and analysis to accompany that. Just reading adult-level books alone, or in small groups, doesn't add result in a lot of learning (although I suppose it can help expose the kids to mature topics, for better or worse). Book groups at HIMS typically mean a couple kids in a class read the same book, then they meet to discuss it. From what I've heard, the discussion portion does not seem to be particularly rich, but that's what you'd expect, even in HCC, since the kids don't have the life experience to really discuss many of the books at a deep level.

Anonymous said...

The original topic was the blended model at Fairmount Park.. Does anyone have an opinion on how it's going?

Anonymous said...

My 6th grader at JAMS is doing fine. But I think the level of challenge is much lower than five years ago when my 11th grader had Ms. Shadow for LA/SS. Then we used an out of print textbook and had homework frequently. Now we have a very nice teacher who is teaching very good skills, but I think the challenge is lower. There is no textbook. There is no homework. I know homework is outmoded. I just feel the challenge is down. I don't know if anyone else has this same opinion.
JAMS mom

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to Fairmount Park. Are there any West Seattle parents on this blog? JAMS is also blending, as far as I know. I think the difference between Spectrum and HCC is insignificant using the current process of qualification.
JAMS mom

Anonymous said...

It seems that more differentiation within classrooms also more grouping within each school's cohort is occurring. The range of ability in the cohort is expanding as the cohort expands.

So, the teachers are going to tend yo teach to their slower students.

Really top IQ students are getting differentiated instruction and some of the best at that may not teaching HCC.

I can say my student in HC is not in the cohort and has all "blended" classes. They are grouped within grade level, further clustered with other compatible kids, and the differentiation is very effective.
Contact with teachers can really help, if you feel your child needs more work. I've found it easy to convey the message to teachers that the work could be harder or to ask them to grade my child harder, (this is middle school).
For example, when the book can be picked by the student for a report and the assigned genre is not the preferred one of my child,I'll recommend a few and the book will be so obscure and dated that it will be obvious to the teacher that I found the book and read it and am helping and feel this is a good book for my kid. I've found teachers are quite happy to challenge and grade harder students like mine with just minimal cooperation from parents, in fact, I think they like minimal.

Unless the HCC model changes and it becomes very small, the range of abilities will continue to grow and we'll see more grouping and differentiation within the cohort itself.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:25, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying--your post seems to contradict itself. On one hand you say there's more differentiation, but then you turn around and say teachers teach to the slower group. Huh?

You also said that top IQ students ARE getting differentiated students. How do you know? Do you know these students' IQ? And where exactly are they getting this differentiation? It certainly hasn't been what I've observed, as I find the outliers to be among the most poorly served of all HC students.

Finally, your closing statement that as the range in abilities within HCC grows we'll continue to see more differentiation seems pretty optimistic, and not altogether supported by past experience. Properly differentiated instructed for HC kids is not the norm now, and it will only become more of a challenge to provide this as the range of abilities expands.

Anonymous said...

JAMS blended HCC - Spectrum = nice vibe and low standards for all. I have the opportunity to compare ELA at JAMS v Capitol Hill. Washington's program is stronger in materials and expectations. Maybe its the history there. Maybe its the teachers. Whatever it is, it's a better representation of what JAMS might be but isn't. I do think blended gifted ed can work fine but you've got to have staff on board and trained to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the low standards at JAMS on Spectrum. Spectrum at Eckstein was more rigorous than HCC at JAMS.

Anonymous said...

So who is ultimately responsible and has the power and interest to actually change it for the better (meaning, where do parents spend their energy directing concerns)? The principal? AL?

Anonymous said...

Power? Principals, not AL office. Interest? Maybe nobody (aside from parents, who lack the power).

I heard both the JAMS and Hamilton principals were heavily involved in the recent efforts to align middle school HCC with Gen Ed. Neither principal seems to have much interest in promoting a truly challenging HCC program at their site. I don't know that either really believes in gifted ed. Honors or advanced work, sure. But not specially designed "gifted" ed. IMHO, I think they fall into the "minimal differentiation should be good enough" camp. There didn't seem to be much interest in learning from and trying to replicate what worked (works?) at Washington.

But even if they did care, principals' power is somewhat limited. There isn't an HCC curriculum for their teachers, and even if there were, both principals and district officials have admitted they can't make teachers use them. They are guidelines. Principal support would be more along the lines of assigning pro-HCC teachers to teach HCC classes, and providing support and encouragement for teachers to really challenge their students significantly above what their grade-level peers are doing. But then somebody at the school might think that's unfair, so it's not politically likely to happen.

Best bet for where parents should spend their energy? I'm sad to say it, but after many years of fighting and advocacy I think the best thing you can do is look out for your own child. If school isn't meeting his/her needs, figure out what sort of supplementation you can provide that will. I don't see any system-wide improvements any time soon. (Unless, of course, someone decides to sue. I think the district would have a hard time proving to OSPI that it is providing the rigorous curriculum they say they are...)

Anonymous said...

To above, AL does not have much power but does not mean you shouldn't voice concerns in writing so they cannot be hidden to Stephen in AL. Would recommend similar email so its official to the principal, her boss the executive director and her boss the head of teaching and learning. If no help, send another and cc the supe. It's sad to have to play political chain mail card but a lot of times it's the only way to get movement on a concern.

Agree that JAMS is a nice place and I think the principal is fine, so that's a good starting point. But also agree the AL offering needs a lot of improvement. Woefully lacking in challenge. Woefully. Like subpar.

Anonymous said...

The emails up and down the chain of command haven't worked thus far, and I don't expect that to change. Admin and staff are well aware of my concerns--but parent dissatisfaction doesn't seem to be high on their list of priorities.

But by all means, others should write in with their concerns as well. It likely won't hurt, and it might feel good to vent.

Anonymous said...

My opinion: It must have been a nightmare to get JAMS up and functioning reasonably well this year. I doubt HCC and Spectrum classroom practices were on the top 10 priorities. That's sad for our student, but I guess I understand.

But with a year under our belts, I'm wondering if working with our principal in a respectful manner might bring about some positive upgrades in expectations in the AL program. I have to say we haven't been impressed with the sixth grade program. Few projects. Easy reading. No homework. I can't point to strong enrichment initiatives.

We are hoping for better in seventh, now that the school is in full swing!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever successfully worked with a principal to increase the challenge offered in APP? I think you either have a principal who supports it - or you don't.

Anonymous said...

I'll point out that Ms. Montgomery also has an elementary daughter in APP so she ought to be receptive if approached well. Is there any kind of feedback night for AL parents or pre-existing mechanism that could be used to suggest changes? This seems like the kind of feedback that also works best when coming from a group of parents rather than single ones.

Anonymous said...

that's interesting about Ms. Montgomery's daughter. I heard Mr. Wyncoop at Ballard say he has a son in HCC. He instituted honors classes at Ballard this year over the objections of his LA chair. The honors option, as they have at Hale and other schools wasn't cutting it, apparently.

It's nice to have principals and other staff with HC kids. They do understand what is needed.

Shannon said...

Hi,
My kid is in 8th Grade HCC and gets As and a few Bs. I asked him about his classes. He feels engaged and challenged. I asked for examples (his words).

Algebra 2: The book is a mess and the teacher doesn't really teach everything we need to know. Some units are easy but conic sections and this section on modelling trigonomic functions is hard. She really doesn't explain and we have some math geeks in the class who know everything and many of us just have to catch up ourselves. She tells us that she will test us on whats in the book not what she teachers but the book is awful. [we are helping out]

Language Arts: We are studying "Ready Player One" a dystopian novel about a world in recession and energy crisis. We work in small groups - reading. At intervals during the reading we stop and discuss characteristics of dystopia and the nature of dehumanization. The discussion is pretty interesting and we have a framework on dystopian society which we are exploring through the book.

In Social Studies we are studying the relationship between Native Americans and the early settlers and Lewis and Clark. We are studying multiple perspectives on relationship and conflict. Last Friday we were scheduled to discuss an aspect of the conflict but we got into a debate on the questions of when a person has a moral imperative to act in the interest of helping another person. There was an example of seeing a person drowning - what do you do? Mr Bond (?) decided to focus on this question and we debated this instead. This is the third or so time we've had these big debates on philosophy - which I find really interesting.
-----
Anyway, you can argue its not what it was or what HCC could be but each of us has to figure out what is good for our kid / family. We're not going to go Private and I think JAMS HCC has been okay. I can't say we've seen many Spectrum kids though :)

Anonymous said...

I have a JAMS 8th grader, and his classes are not blended. Maybe the previous posters have sixth graders, and something different is going on there. I heard that there were few Spectrum-identified students at JAMS because none of the feeder elementary schools have Spectrum programs.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of disturbed by the smiley face after the comment that we haven't seen many spectrum kids in 8th grade at JAMS. Unsettling. Really.

Anonymous said...

That description of US history has me pretty concerned. State standards for US history:

The recommended context for developing this understanding is U.S. history and government, 1776 to 1900. Students explore the ideas, issues, and events from the framing of the Constitution up through Reconstruction and industrialization. After reviewing the founding of the United States, particularly the Constitution, students explore the development of politics, society, culture, and economy in the United States to deepen conceptual understandings in civics, geography, and economics. In particular, studying the causes and consequences of the Civil War helps them to comprehend more profoundly the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a culturally diverse democracy.

Suggested units (8th grade):

1. US- Fighting for Independence and Framing the Constitution (1776-1815)
2. US- Slavery, Expansion, Removal, and Reform (1801-1850)
3. US- Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
4. US- Development and Struggles in the West, Immigration, Industrialization, and Urbanization
(1870-Present)
5. US- Looking Forward

Recommended CBAs: Constitutional Issues, Checks and Balances


http://www.k12.wa.us/socialstudies/Outlines/UnitOutlinesEighthGrade.pdf

Are you saying the class is only in the Unit 2 timeframe (Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804)? Have they covered the Civil War, Reconstruction, Immigration, and Industrialization? The Constitution? What else have they done this year?

Anonymous said...

A few B's? That's scary. Middle school A's are pretty low-hanging and if you start off high school with a B or two, you'll never get into an elite college, not even UW.

Anonymous said...



You don't need to have a 4 point to get into the UW. That said "not even the UW".... is dismissive. UW ranks in the top 50 schools nationally including privates. All B's will get you into WSU - without consideration of SAT scores.

Anonymous said...

UW is at 73 in Forbes' list and a fine school, maybe not "elite", but very good. I don't know about GPA requirements at UW,but a 4.0 with lots of honors, AP and/or college classes, plus solid extracurriculars is just the starting point for the top 50.

I'm surprised that B's and low SAT scores will get a student into WSU. My impression was WSU was the no. 2 public school in WA and then WWU, CWU and EWU and Evergreen.
It seems every year the competition gets more intense.

Anonymous said...

I think the grade comment might have been facetious, but you know what bothers my kids about middle school and grades? Group projects and group grades. Group projects have brought their grades down. It's frustrating when your grade is not a reflection of the work you've done. My kids also know it's high school grades that matter.

I appreciate the snapshot of what's going on in 8th grade, but it leaves me wondering where is the oversight? The Algebra class sounds frustrating, the LA reading selection makes me question what's guiding the literature choices, and history discussions based on whims of the class make me wonder if they are covering the basics.

Anonymous said...

My child's 8th grade US History class (HCC) last year did NOT cover the basics. They moved very slowly, and covered only a portion of the time period expected. There isn't much oversight.

Anonymous said...

Glad the eighth grade student is enjoying school. That is important. That said, the subject matter as described is inadequate. Not only does it not seem to be of APP caliber, it is not meeting standard. Further, there are schools elsewhere in the Seattle district covering the LA topics as described equally completely and at younger middle school grade bands -7th and 6th. As suspected, Seattle is advertising but not providing a highly capable student program at JAMS. Or for what we've seen at HIMS. In short, it remains either Washington or a couple of the alternative schools if a family wants assurance of a rigorous experience for talented students. I do not say this to be divisive. I say it to have parents reading this blog to expect more for their schools and for their students. Students who are going to be shocked when they hit high school and learn they are not only not ahead but in fact behind in some cases because the level of study rigor is lagging in middle school.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments about middle school curriculum, but in our experience the content in high school isn't challenging either. My kids are having fun but most of their classes have moved too slowly or been geared to the slowest learners in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear a description of similar 8th classes at HIMS, Washington or Madison or any of the alternative schools mentioned by an above commentator. I admit to being disheartened by what is outlined above. Math, not being part of HCC or Spectrum is not pertinent to the rest of the classroom curriculum discussion.

Mom

Anonymous said...

I have a kid in a blended APP/Spectrum class at Fairmont Park this year. It is going well. The instructor is great and sends home summaries of the learning goals for each group for math each week. The rest of the subjects are taught together. I don't know how much the instructor guides reading choices, but some mechanics of English are being taught to prepare for essay and science writing. I have noticed that the ramp up to grade level math has been more gradual than what we experienced last year at Thurgood. I don't know if this is because the teacher is instructing 2 different levels of math each period or because of her focus on filling holes that all students have in foundational knowledge. The kids do seem to be doing the APP level stuff, but it is covered quickly at the end of the info. from the two years before that some may have missed. My child says that he can tell that the children who don't have the arithmetic memorized well seem to have a much harder time, so I recommend that memorization to any incoming students for next year. When deciding to put my child in APP I would have preferred to place my kid in Spectrum at least for 1 year to ramp up, but spots were so limited, it did not seem plausible. Some kids now may benefit from a grade advancement at this point, not my kid, but other quick learners. Walk to or grade advancement is a good thing for some APP kids, unless of course the goal is 4.s and Ivies, rather than appropriate learning and challenge.

As I recall Julie set up the school as an Arts magnet school to have more discretion in hiring and curriculum so perhaps that is why the teachers seem to be APP friendly and top notch.
Anon

Anonymous said...

I also think the goal is to have unblended classes. As soon as enrollment allows. Unfortunately this will likely mean fewer and fewer Spectrum spots.
Anon

Anonymous said...

A few comments -

Math is still an important part of HCC, and most students in the 2 year (and 3 year) advanced tracks are in HCC. It is not considered an HCC specific class so as to allow for single subject acceleration, but the math pathway for HCC is pretty well defined. Math classes should be appropriate for accelerated learners, meaning they should be delivered as honors level classes, not an easy class delivered a few years early. The 8th grade Algebra 2 does not sound is if it's on par with the honors Algebra 2 my older child is taking in high school.

Fairmount Park has a principal with years of experience working with AL/HCC/APP and some teachers that came from TM. JAMS has no experience with HCC (with the exception of maybe one teacher), which could explain a good deal of the disparities.

Anonymous said...

Math classes should be appropriate for accelerated learners, meaning they should be delivered as honors level classes, not an easy class delivered a few years early.

Yes, they should. But they aren't. In SPS middle school, they just deliver a couple things early. You can take the same math ahead of schedule, and you can take science ahead of schedule--using the same basic, boring science kits. The classes are not tailored to the needs or abilities of HCC students. In fact, by most accounts the 8th grade Biology class isn't even to the high school level--meaning non-HCC kids who take it 2 years level get a more rigorous course than HCC kids.

According to SPS, the HCC "curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity." Maybe this truly is an "and" in elementary school, but for middle school it's definitely the "or." You can get acceleration in math and science, but these come w/o advanced complexity. And since there's no acceleration in LA or SS any more, I guess they'd have to argue it's increased complexity? I'm not sure how exactly SPS could back that up, since there isn't a curriculum and I don't think you could find a single administrator, principal or teacher in the district who could clearly lay out the difference between middle school HCC LA and SS curricula and those of gen ed. But it sounds good on the website and in the Highly Capable grant application, right?

Also, I disagree that the problem is that JAMS doesn't have enough teachers with HCC experience. HIMS, after all, provides a similarly unchallenging experience. It's a systemic problem. HCC is not well-defined as a program or service, only as a cohort.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, should have been:

"...meaning non-HCC kids who take it 2 years later get a more rigorous course than HCC kids."

Anonymous said...

@3:16 And that is the dirty secret of HCC at the middle school level IMHO. Maybe the cohort is more advanced in their understanding than the general ed classrooms, but the materials, curriculum and level of learning manages to be less than what gen ed kids are offered, even if it comes later in their school career.

There is something very wrong with the HCC program at the middle school level.

Anonymous said...

My son is in 8th grade at JAMS, after HIMS for 6th-7th. I've sensed more support for HCC at JAMS,with no rumors of hostility to it that I heard at HIMS. The principal, Paula Montgomery had full latitude to hire teachers for the first year (with no district placements) and she made a point of hiring only 4th-12th certified teachers, rather than having any K-8 certified teachers. Her plan is to have all teachers able to and actually teaching both HCC and general ed, probably to stave off equity issues.
I think the weakness in the HCC at JAMS is that many of the teachers aren't familiar with HCC students and are trying to just teach 2 years ahead, which isn't enough for many of our kids. Also, the whole school is brand new, so the teachers are new to working with each other
However, I think Paula is very receptive to parental input especially if a group of parents came together with constructive comments and suggestions. When you do it, make sure to acknowledge (or at least be aware) that she has some widely diverse populations to educate and she wants to make the school the best for all of them.
JAMS is 40% FRL, high number of recent immigrants, top two languages are Spanish and Somali, high percent of SPED, etc.
Momof2

Anonymous said...

@ Momof2,

Curious to hear the basis for your statement that JAMS HCC teachers are "trying to just teach 2 years ahead." From what I understand there isn't really a curriculum that supports that level of acceleration, and even HCC teachers are supposed to be targeting grade level standards. Were you just thinking in terms of the old "APP is 2 years ahead" description, or have you seen/heard something that leads you believe this is actually the case?

Anonymous said...

Reminder, APP@Lincoln's Ice Cream Social Open House is TONIGHT! All families welcomed, new and returning. Come play and celebrate!

Dragons 4ever

Anonymous said...

So, I believe that Principal Montgomery is not hostile to HCC. But I also believe there is no HCC at JAMS beyond a cohort of kids. So where is the disconnect? The kids are not accelerated 2 years or even 1 year from what I can tell. Nor does there seem to be a provision for more challenging materials within the at-grade-level classes. English, Social Studies, Science. None of it. Not at grade 6 7 or 8 from what I have seen. I leave out math like the other poster because of the separate math placement policy.

What gives?

Anonymous said...

This thread should probably be retitled, "Where's the APP in HCC?"

Anon@10:13 sums it up. What the heck is going on with academics at JAMS?

Anonymous said...

It's not just JAMS, y'all. As you may know, JAMS and HIMS worked closely on some of the HCC scope and sequence alignment as JAMS was ramping up--so it's no surprise that the absence of rigor seen at HIMS has been duplicated at JAMS. When you don't have an official APP/HCC curriculum and materials, or any oversight by the AL office, and when there isn't support for the whole idea of gifted ed, this is what you get. Not much.

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear blended at Fairmount Park, the original point of this thread, is going well. One would have expected that from Julie B. as that was the reason she moved over - to start another solid advanced learning program. However, she will soon retire and that leaves few if any fully knowledgeable AL principals within the whole of SPS.

No idea why HIMS and JAMS and Washington families don't insist on better. Maybe it's the 3-year thing? Maybe families are less involved in middle school? It's got to be something, because the level of challenge and creativity is unacceptable IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:03, what exactly would you propose families do to "insist on better"? Talk to the teachers? Check. The principals? Check. The AL office? Check. Other district departmental staff? Check. Board members? Check. Attend APP Advisory Committee meetings? Check.

At this point the only things I can think of that seem like they have any potential to make an impact are to (a) stage an HCC-wide testing walk-out next SBAC season, or (b) try to sue the district for not providing appropriate HC services as required by law. I don't know that we could get a high refusal rate, especially since the district has a habit of retroactively using these tests as gatekeepers.

A walkout would take a lot of coordination and parent education to make it happen, but could work. I worry, though, that many HCC parents, if they see HCC as a little better than Gen Ed, they're fine with it. There's also a bit of "not wanting to rock the boat" that happens when you're in a program that doesn't seem to have much support.

The compliance issue might be a tricky one, but merits consideration. The district manages to say enough of the right things in its annual grant application and report to OSPI, but many of us know there's not a lot of substance behind those words. I think the district would have a hard time documenting that the curriculum is presented at an advanced complexity as claimed. I don't think anyone at any of the middle schools knows what is taught in each of the core HCC classes and could explain how the material and/or expectations differ from those of gen ed. If I'm correct in this, the "service" then consists entirely of segregation by cognitive ability and achievement. Please understand that I vehemently disagree with those anti-HCC folks who like to say that such segregation is the intent--the #1 goal of any HCC parent is to find an educational program that meets their child's unique learning needs. But the way the district has let this program go, and the lack of support and oversight they have provided, have resulted in a program that isn't really a program--it's just a grouping and capacity management process. If the only thing left is the cohort, it IS segregation. Yes, academically gifted kids will get along better with other academically gifted kids, but if there aren't also curricula and instructional practices tailored to the unique learning needs of these kids--the whole point of the legislation--then it's wrong and I can't support it.

Am I off base here? Can anyone convince me I shouldn't follow up with a formal complaint to the state? Or maybe everything is fine at the elementary school level, and it's only MS that's a problem?

Anonymous said...

No idea why HIMS and JAMS and Washington families don't insist on better.

Been there. Done that. Here's the conversation -

Parent: My kid is not being appropriately challenged. I'm not sure grade level standards are even being covered.
Teacher: We don't have books and AL isn't clear on what we should teach.
Principal: There's no curriculum and teachers have academic freedom.
AL: We don't have authority over schools.
Teaching and Learning: We're developing curriculum, but teachers don't have to follow it

....it kind of goes nowhere, and based on what we've experienced this year, maybe the HCC curriculum being developed isn't worth following. The problems seem the greatest at the middle school level.

Anonymous said...

@4:11 you are right on.

We too have had these conversations with the teachers, the principals, the school board, the district math coach and Mr. Tolley. It played out exactly as you have described it!

Anonymous said...

I have a kid at Whitman Middle School and there are teachers there who will retire in a couple of years that have great curriculums. Also new ideas like readers and writers workshop and such. I wish the teachers would join forces and adopt all that is great about the experienced teachers curriculums and the new to create an awesome challenging curriculum for classes. The curriculum is there it just needs to be consistent across all classrooms in a grade level. They need to get the teachers together to agree on a common curriculum and then provide that to every kid.