Tuesday, January 5, 2016

1/5 HCS Advisory Committee meeting

There are a few things the advisory committee meetings accomplish. The most important of those is the exchange of information especially the direct report from Stephen Martin about what the AL office has been up to for the preceding month, The committee can then provide direct feedback from the parent perspective to the staff (which is totally nonbinding) and ask further questions.

So it was disappointing tonight that Stephen Martin had to cancel at the last minute due to some unfortunate circumstances. I had planned to ask some clarifying questions about the test process which I couldn't do. As a result,  I'll be waiting to hear from everyone if the K-2 followup appointments to finish the CogAt testing happen tomorrow.  My read of the recent status mail and the office's pattern of mass emailing on Wed. nights is that it's reasonably likely.

However, on the flip side Paula Montgomery, the principal of JAMS attended the meeting and gave a long and interesting talk on the current state of the middle school.  Some of the points she mentioned:

  • Enrollment is rising rapidly. It will go from 850 to 930 students next year and all the grades will most likely be over 300 students. This will require the final mass hiring of new teachers over the summer.  Interestingly. Spectrum enrollment continues to be very small 20-30 students per grade.  While they are still evaluating the model, the blended classes provide the best option for scheduling these students.
  • She was very proud of the quality of last year's new hires. They averaged 10+ years of experience.
  • Math is a special focus at the school.
  • Scheduling at JAMS revolves around Math classes.
  • Math Classes are grouped by grade and subject. There are no mixed grade classes.
  • For those coming in from neighborhood elementary schools but HCC qualified, the preferred pathway is to do Math 7 and then skip Math 8 and go directly to Algebra. 
  • This is also the main use of Professional development in the building. A consultant from the UW comes 2 days a month and conducts studio model classes and coaches individual teachers.
  • Beyond HCC/Spectrum, they try to identify via Amplify tests students who are above level and place them in the most challenging classes.
  • Potentially (this is not firm yet) there will be screening tests for incoming sixth graders this spring to further aid in Math placement. The focus here is on the gen-ed population.
  • So far they find the unblocked LA/SS are working well. When asked for details, Paula mentioned it made hitting the writing standards more precise.
  • JAMS has been piloting the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. 

Overall, I was impressed with the presentation. I'd love to hear from other parent's particularly on the subject of Science and how its playing out from your perspective. Also I'll put another plug in here for the http://discussapp.blogspot.com/p/middle-school-curriculum-project.html.  If you're interested, please add objective details on the Winter curriculum.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what's happening with the process to select a principal for Robert Eaglestaff middle school? I heard that the principal for JAMS was selected 18 - 24 months in advance of the school opening and that this was very helpful. Are there parents from Hamilton or Lincoln that are tracking this? Also, at one point, the plan was to shift some or all of the HCC students from Hamilton to Eaglestaff when it opens Sept 2017 - anyone know if this is still the case?


Anonymous said...

Our child is in 8th grade Biology and though the teacher is very capable, I am disappointed that the class doesn't cover more content. The assigned text is extremely wordy and light on content - I was even more surprised to find out that it's the adopted text for SPS. It leaves out so many concepts and so much terminology. It puts the burden on the teacher to find the extra content (or find another text) in order to teach to a higher level. When they say they are teaching a "high school level" biology course, it makes one wonder what is meant by that. Is it a class that an honors student would take in high school, or the most basic class that could still be called biology? Now I understand why private high schools suggest taking biology again in high school even if it was taken in middle school.

Anonymous said...

It's irritating that AL sent out that informative email, with not a word about how the additional K-2 tests are going to be scheduled. This question must be on the minds of a large fraction of the AL applicants. "Mid-January" is not that helpful when families will be facing a several-hour endeavor on a Saturday.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the detailed notes from the meeting. I'd be interested to know if the UW consultant is from the math or education department (there's a big difference). How do they assess the success of the split LA/SS classes? While there's an obvious benefit to scheduling, and split classes can help focus content and standards, the current classes seem quite unfocused compared to the previous LA/SS block with the old APP curriculum. We're still wondering when some history content will be taught and they're about half way through the year.


Anonymous said...

Thanks BL, much appreciated overview.

I am not a fan of the changes that JAMS has implemented and I think that is one of the biggest lies that came from the splits that the programs would maintain their integrity. It has blown back to WMS because HIMS was unwilling to keep pace so now less acceleration feeding into GHS. Ugh.

I am tired of decisions being made to the benefit of others (enrollment staff, other buildings Principals and AL) like appeals and class schedules that have diminished the HCC program.

There is no there there anymore.

app dad

Anonymous said...

I have found the math to be great, and I also have found the new science standards to be good. At the beginning of the year our teacher showed us what was different about the new standards, and it is an improvement- more hands on, more tied together.

I only have a 6th grader, so I don't know what blocked classes helped, but so far the language arts is so easy that I have no idea why you would need to do something to make hitting the targets easier. They do very little writing, and it is gen ed mid elementary level sophisticated. What they were doing in 5th grade at Lincoln was much more complex. I hear in 8th grade they mostly just read books. For 6th grade I feel like JAMS HCC is an excellent if you have a math/science oriented kid(I am disappointed to hear that 8th grade bio is struggling), and the 6th grade world history teachers are also good(and I think they are learning a lot about geography), though I am not sure that is as true in the upper grades. But if you have a writer, you should consider a lot of supplementation. They won't move forward there.

Newbie Jams

Anonymous said...

7th grade ELA at JAMS has had a ton of great writing assignments, although that was our experience in 6th grade too with the blocked classes. Not sure what is happening in SS, no homework comes home. Lots of good stuff happening, but the new tech teacher isn't a bright spot compared to say the PE teachers.

Second Year JAMS

Anonymous said...

But if you have a writer, you should consider a lot of supplementation. They won't move forward there.

Any feedback on how to supplement for writing would be appreciated. You can supplement history with additional reading, or supplement math by getting an additional text and working more complex problems, but how do you supplement writing?

Anonymous said...

Robinson or Hugo house classes, or I think writing on other topics would help. There seems to be a lot of writing in world history, which helps a little. Here is the 6th grade LA course overview:

❖ 1st Quarter - Identity Through Culture
➢ Essential Question: How do we become who we are in the context of our culture?
➔ Major Product: Personal Narrative (one revised based on feedback; one written on-demand)
❖ 2nd Quarter - Courage
➢ Essential Question: How do someone’s actions reveal and determine who they are?
➔ Major Product: Comparative Literary Essay, focusing on two heroic narratives
❖ 3rd Quarter - Equity & Fairness
➢ Essential Question: How have people struggled to define what is fair?
➔ Major Product: Argument Essay on a real-world issue of justice, equity, or fairness
❖ 4th Quarter - Perspective
➢ Essential Questions: How do characters’ perspectives shape the telling of a story? How do readers make
meaning from multiple perspectives?
➔ Major Product: Engaging informational presentation on a chosen topic

Sorry about the formatting. It's one written project per quarter. Good topics, but not remotely enough, IMO, unless they somehow worked through lots of drafts together (they don't) or had smaller projects (they don't) and they spend a huge amount of time in class just reading whatever they want. We heard that this was a big shift from last year, and I am curious how it compares to people's experience last year.

Newbie Jams

Anonymous said...

APP Dad, could you write a bit more about how "HIMS was unwilling to keep pace so now less acceleration feeding into GHS"? Would like more info about this. Thanks!

Another APP Dad

Anonymous said...

Nobody heard anything about K-2 testing today? We didn't.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone hear anything about k-2?

-Didn't either

Anonymous said...

Nothing here.

-what a mess

Anonymous said...

@ Another APP Dad,

He's probably referring to the fact that HIMS wouldn't use the original APP curriculum from WMS, and instead provided a much weaker curriculum. Not any sort of consistent curriculum, just whatever teachers felt like doing. There's never been a lot of teacher or admin support for HCC/APP at HIMS, and commitment to appropriate types of instruction and level of challenge are lacking.

Re: GHS, they changed it a couple years ago so that HCC students didn't skip ahead to AP World History, but instead have to take the same prerequisite course as others first. This was because incoming HIMS HCC students weren't sufficiently prepared for the AP class. Sad.

Quality control?

Anonymous said...

To add to the above, with the latest split to JAMS, T&L changed the HCC LA/SS curriculum to align with grade level state standards. Not so long ago, APP middle school LA/SS covered world history in 6th and 7th (from ancient Greece and Rome to the Enlightenment?) and US/WA State history in 8th, with another semester of world history that allowed APP students to take AP World History in 9th grade at GHS. Much of the original APP curriculum was teacher created and was lost as the program grew and split and new teachers did whatever they felt like doing, as QC says. One of the 6th grade teachers at JAMS is from WMS, so the spirit of the APP curriculum may remain in that particular class.

-not APP Dad

Ken said...

We are also waiting on the K-2 second round of CogAt update. Although I must admit I'm not fond of 2 hours more of testing for kids this age. It ends up being an endurance test!

One question I did have for the board -- as our private school didn't do achievement testing, does anyone know what achievement test the district will administer to the K-2 kids who score high enough on CogAt? It's unclear if it is IBTS, MAP, or something else.

Much thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

AL also has not updated their voice mail since October. It still says they will be emailing confirmations to families "next week" which is confusing.

still wondering about Saturday

Anonymous said...

I agree that Math is strong at JAMS.
I have an 8th grader who finds Biology challenging and have heard that students who had to retake Biology with the current teacher found Biology in high school much easier. My kid reports a lot of hands on experiments, the only complaint is disruptive classmates. I particularly like the emphasis the teacher puts not only on the subject but also on fostering good learning habits.

-Chilled HCC Mama

Anonymous said...

Quality Control & not APP dad,

I have a 6th grade student at HIMS. I am wondering what has happened (or not) when parents address their concerns about HCC LA/SS to school and district administration? Are all students coming from all HCC middle schools (including WMS) no longer able to take AP World History without a pre-req? How do you know this change was due to HIMS students being "unprepared" as compared to the past?

HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

Quality Control & not APP dad,

Update to my post. I understand people may still have their own opinions. However, I wanted to share that district staff told me changes to HCC LA/SS curriculum was driven by change to common core, not by an HCC split and.or teachers doing their own thing. District staff person also mentioned simply accelerating LA/SS curriculum is often not the best way to meet the needs of gifted learners. The current goal for HCC LA/SS is to challenge HCC students to go deeper into 6th grade curriculum and accelerate standards and expectations two years. The district has also been working with HCC middle school teachers across schools to unify HCC LA/SS curriculum. I was told that they still have more work to do but they have made significant progress. My inquiries (district & school level) have resulted in learning that HCC Science & Math at HIMS is accelerated in both content and standards. Work was done beginning 6 years ago to align 7th & 8th grade science curriculum with AP science classes. They are working on aligning 6th grade science between HCC program schools. HCC 6th Science currently combines and covers 6th-8th middle school science content and standards. This may be an unpopular comment here, but I have also spoken to former HCC HIMS parents who said HIMS was great and whose kids are doing well in AP classes at Garfield.
HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

The previous APP curriculum could have incorporated Common Core standards, so I'm somewhat skeptical of the claim that changes were driven primarily by CCSS. Common Core for LA is mostly a set of skills that can be adapted to any curriculum. CCSS are not curriculum!

The APP LA/SS curriculum was both accelerated and compacted - they simply covered more material. They read more. They wrote more. Some veteran APP teachers tried to maintain some level of challenge, and some newer teachers carried on some level of challenge, but others "did their own thing," as APP dad said. I don't doubt some students had a good experience at HIMS, but with all the changes over the past few years, what hasn't changed post split is that the APP/HCC LA/SS is all over the place and depends largely on the teacher.

Being in an HCC class is no guarantee that the class will be appropriately challenging. They have spent my child's entire middle school experience "working" on a new curriculum. As for "more depth" in the grade level curriculum, we haven't yet experienced it. The classes have actually gotten less challenging with each passing year (less reading, less writing, less content). 6th grade was the high point.


Anonymous said...

HIMS Mom (are you the long-time "HIMS Mom" who as posted? I am assuming not.) -

I believe the change to AP World History came four years ago (I think for current 10th graders). The parents said they were told the change was made because HIMS students were not as strong as WMS students and it wasn't fair to allow some APP kids to take it and not others.

The change could have been made for an entirely different reason, but this was the belief of the parents. I think we all know too well that the district tells the parents nothing and really don't like us very much. Nature abhors a vacuum, so if we are not told a reason, one will be found.

HIMS has never been as strong a school as WMS and the district didn't require it to be, even though they told the parents the schools would be aligned and the kids would have the same experience. Never happened.

-been around

Anonymous said...

Correct, @ been around. "HIMS Mom" above is not long-time poster "HIMSmom." This HCC parent no longer shares the optimism of the above poster. I've seen a lot of school and district level lip service re: HCC and rigor and "deeper" and such, but not much of it has ever really manifested in the classroom. When classes are strong, it's usually due to an individual teacher--and often in spite of the school or district's efforts, not because of them.

But I hope everything works out for current families. Everyone has different needs, and while the program may be weaker than it could/should be if it were really tailored to the needs and abilities of these kids, it just might be perfect for some.


Benjamin Leis said...

Quick editorial note: I strongly encourage posters especially long time ones to setup an authenticated identity with either google+, or open-id (wordpress).

There are a few advantages:
1. You can avoid confusion like above.
2. Authenticated comments can be deleted by the person who wrote them.
3. In the comment summaries on the top page, your name or alias shows up.

Also I just wanted to affirm that my vision for this blog and the comments is that there is always room for different opinions. I hope no one self-censors themselves because they worry an opinion is going to be unpopular.

Anonymous said...

Long time poster old HIMSmom,

I understand you feel frustrated with your experience at HIMS and district. I do not want to discount your experience or that problems exist. However, my own experience thus far (& we are new to HIMS) was that there are individual people at the district level who worked very hard answering my many HCC program questions. I may begin to feel the same as you as time goes on. However I did want to share that people I spoke with to-date demonstrated to me they are committed to HCC. They sent me lots of information, long involved emails, and were very detailed in their explanations. There were also teachers who worked very hard to answer my HCC program questions as well. But I understand the frustration of working within and sending your kid to school in a large bureaucracy. I understand SPS has many issues. Class size and capacity issues are a huge one, as well as funding. I also feel that Seattle Public schools is far too big a district. I also feel that there are ALWAYS differences between individual teachers. There are rock star teachers and duds no matter the program or school.
-another HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

New HIMS Mom-

Word to the wise: Providing answers is NOT the same as providing an appropriate education.

Are you new to APP/HCC? We came from Lowell/Lincoln and only stayed at HIMS HCC for one year because of the poor quality of the program. The difference between elementary and MS was large, due to lack of curriculum at HIMS and due to lack of rigor and teacher quality (some great and some sub-standard).

Anecdotally, we can all provide comments about good and bad about HIMS. Unfortunately, my circle has been less than pleased with HCC at HIMS. These kids are now split between Garfield and IHS, and the kids are much happier. These are smart kids, and three years of less than stellar education will not likely make them unable to deal with HS. The facts are that AP World History was pulled from 9th graders at GHS because of the lack of knowledge/ability from many kids coming from HIMS. That's sad.

-been around

Anonymous said...

I should clarify my comment above because I don't want to leave the wrong impression. It is not lack of ability in all things that was noticed in HIMS kids, it was specifically that the kids had less writing ability and that they were not taught the prerequisite history (lack of consistent curriculum). Writing ability is something that does not improve without a lot of practice and the kids did not get it at HIMS.

-Been Around

Anonymous said...

@ New HIMS Mom and/or Another HIMSmom (if not the same),

Been Around is right--it's one thing to talk the talk, another to walk the walk. Many of us have seen a lot of talk over the years, but not a lot of walk. I'm glad you were able to get answers that satisfied you, and I hope you see actions that match. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new day for HC services, right?

I'm curious about a few things in your comments, though, since some of the info is puzzling. For example, you said district staff mentioned "simply accelerating LA/SS curriculum is often not the best way to meet the needs of gifted learners. The current goal for HCC LA/SS is to challenge HCC students to go deeper into 6th grade curriculum and accelerate standards and expectations two years."

Sounds good on the surface, right? I think most HCC parents would agree that their kids need more than "simple acceleration." Isn't it ironic, then, that when it comes to science, simple acceleration IS the name of the game? The kids do the same science kits, use the same science texts, and follow similar pacing to what's done in non-HCC classes. In other words, they get essentially the same gen ed science classes, just 1-2 years earlier. The classes are not specially tailored to the learning needs of HCC students. District staff told you they started working 6 years ago to align 7th & 8th grade science curriculum with AP science classes? Seriously? There is no way those classes are AP level. Basic HS level, at best.

Then there's LA/SS. What exactly does it mean to "accelerate standards and expectations two years" when Kathleen Vasquez, at a meeting on the new HCC LA/SS middle school scope and sequence, specifically said they will target grade-level standards, not higher? If they were really accelerating standards and expectations two years, wouldn't you expect HCC students to be ready for more advanced classes than their non-HCC peers when they started high school? I think the "two years" language has been removed from the SPS website and from their descriptions of the program, so I'm surprised to hear that someone told you that.

Similarly, what does it mean to "go deeper into 6th grade curriculum--and do they have any clue as to whether or not teachers do it? For that matter, what exactly IS the 6th grade LA/SS curriculum? Are they suggesting that there finally IS an official curriculum for middle school LA/SS, since there hasn't been one? I know they recently adopted a new SS textbook, but I don't think teachers have it or are using it yet. And as far as I know, there's nothing for LA (which maybe explains why we had to purchase our own books this year?).

And district or school level staff said Math at HIMS is accelerated in both content and standards? Are they suggesting that a math class at HIMS--and math is not part of HCC--is somehow different from the same level math class at a non-HCC school? If so, how? Or does this statement simply reflect that if a student takes Alg 1 in 7th grade it's "accelerated in content" because it's earlier than the typical schedule, and "accelerated in standards" because the standards are specific to the course, which is usually taught later?


Anonymous said...


While the AL office and other district staff often provide answers, they are also very clear that they have little in the way of authority to ensure things are implemented as described. While they'd like teachers to go deeper, they can't make them. While they'd like HCC schools to use their suggested lesson guides, they can't make them. And so on. Most of what district staff say needs to be interpreted in this context. The schools are in charge.

So what do the schools do and say to demonstrate their commitment? You mentioned that HIMS teachers answered a lot of your questions. Were these HIMS HCC program-level answers, or did they reflect the individual approaches of the teachers? There are some good and passionate HCC teachers, true--but most of their success seems to be despite the district, not because of it. While HIMS has a large HCC community, there's not a lot of visible support for HCC there. Ever look for info about HCC academics on the website? Sorry, only gen ed. Ever try to contact the HIMS staff representative to the district's highly capable services advisory committee? Sorry, HIMS is the only HCC site without a staff rep. Curious about the HCC middle school SS alignment process underway? Sorry, ask another school. HIMS is apparently the only school not participating in that process. Wonder how your student's LA or SS class differs from Spectrum and gen ed level classes? Sorry, teachers can't tell you--so how do they know their classes are more advanced, if they are using the same scope and sequence, the same standards, and the same texts (when available)?

Nobody is saying HCC should have smaller class sizes or more funding or better teachers. That's just silly. But answers to simple questions like how HCC middle school is different--how it reflects the unique abilities and learning needs of HC students--should not be so hard to come by. If you were able to get detailed answers to some of these questions--from district staff and/or HIMS admin or teachers--I would LOVE to see them. Please do us all a favor and post them here. Maybe things really are changing, and there are finally some meaningful answers to be had. I look forward to learning more about what you were able to discover.


Anonymous said...

To add to HIMSmom's comments:

* Teacher assignments are not always about what's the best fit for teachers or students. Some teachers simply do not have a grasp on what "appropriate education" means for HC classrooms.

* Teachers also have some level of academic freedom, which can be great for those that have put together strong lessons and resources over the years, but downright awful for some others. The newly developed HCC LA/SS curriculum has been given "guideline" status - teachers don't have to follow the curriculum. Do we even know if it's worth following?

* Classrooms don't have access to appropriate texts, unless they have built up a library of their own over the years, because they are expected to use the grade level texts. Have you seen the "high school" Biology text? What's a teacher to do when they are given "Discovering Algebra," or other grade level materials, and told to "go into more depth?" They need different, more advanced texts for some classes.

* While "simply accelerating LA/SS curriculum" may not be the best way of meeting the needs of gifted learners, that doesn't mean you do away with any and all acceleration. When we enrolled our children in APP, the idea of "developmentally appropriate" acceleration was stressed. Acceleration was a given, but they also compacted curriculum and chose challenging texts that were generally age appropriate.

Anonymous said...


I am sorry, but there is no way I could post all the answers to my questions on this blog. I sent about 15 emails and have about 15 long detailed responses from district personnel including the HCC LA/SS curriculum specialist, science manager, plus my daughter's math, science, LA/SS teachers & the HIMS science chair. I also had phone conversations with the district science manager, there is no HCC science curriculum specialist. My goal was to learn more about the HCC middle school program, because it seemed that each subject is being implemented differently. My email on this blog was only intended to share the fact that my own experience has been that all involved got back to me promptly and with very detailed involved responses. They spent alot of time responding to my emails. I did not leave the conversation feeling like those mentioned above are just ignoring parental concerns. However, I also have additional questions that were not answered yet. For one, why is participation voluntary to align LA/SS curriculum between schools? Still waiting on an answer to that one. I have also noticed issues, but I only have a 6th grader, can't speak to other grades.For example my 6th grader is not getting teacher feedback on writing this year in LA. However, she is definitely reading challenging texts (the innovators, missing microbes, ishmael etc.) in her classes. My point was not that there are not issues, but the staff on the ground I spoke with responded and addressed issues I raised.
-another HIMS mom

Anonymous said...


In addition, I want to add that thus far (6th grade) our experience has been that our daughter is overall having a mostly good experience at HIMS. Capacity and class size at HIMS is an issue that negatively affects all the kids at the school. A couple of my daughter classes area a few over the 32 student capacity (35 kids!). My understanding is that the principal has funds to hire additional teachers, but has no classroom space. He told me was having discussion to possibly move HIMS kids to Lincoln next year if enrollment goes even higher. My response was "but Cascadia is full right now". His reply was this could happen if Licton Springs moved out. He also mentioned would be kids from each program, no one program targeted.
I would also like to pint people to the post on the middle school curriculum link on this blog from another parent (-good at HIMS) at HIMS whose child is having a good experience. In other conversations with HIMS parents and former HIMS parents, To chide along with other posters, I am finding that parental opinion really varies depending upon the teachers their kids have at HIMS. I also know of a parent with one child at HIMS and another they moved to private. One child was doing well, the other child had difficulties relating to the particular cohort and size of HIMS.
-another HIMS mom.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone get an email today about further testing for their kinder? (Assuming emails are still sent by the Wednesday before....) Is the 16th still being used as a further testing day? The website still says mid January.

Benjamin Leis said...

@another HIMS mom - if you'd be willing to forward your email responses to m. I'd be very interested to take a look at them.

Some random points.

1. HIMS has gone through several principal transitions now in only a few years. Each principal in theory brings a new philosophy.So opinions about the experience under say Chris Carter could be much less relevant by now. On the same line, I haven't heard much yet about what Tipton Blish's priorities are etc. I've thought about opening a thread about the new principal and parent's impressions. But I'm not sure how general the interest would be so please email or post if that sounds interesting.

2. Perhaps I've missed a piece of planning but when I last checked Licton Springs K-8 was moving directly to the Wilson Pacific site when it was done. If that's still the case, Eagle Staff MS should open at the same time relieving pressure on HIMS anyway. It seems unlikely that there would need to be an annex after that point.

Anonymous said...

HIMS needs capacity relief for next year.

Lynn said...

Licton Springs won't be moved to yet another temporary site for a single year to make space for a HIMS annex. It would be super though to know what the capacity management team is planning.

Rising 6th said...


I have to disagree since many rumors started on these blogs turn out to be true. If HIMS is breaking in 2016-2017 and Lincoln is the only option, SPS will not keep Licton Springs at Lincoln. I, too, would love to know the plan for HIMS next year. We deserve to know what we're facing before open enrollment.

Too bad SPS didn't listen to FACMAC.

Anonymous said...

Scott Pinkham would never let Licton Springs be moved for just a year like that. SPS in this case is really just the board, and Licton Springs basically has a dedicated board member. It's more likely they would pull the HCC cohort out a year early, maybe share the John Marshall building (no idea how much of it Loyal Heights is taking up), or just have them stay super crammed for one more year. I really don't think SPS will know what they are going to do until they get some enrollment numbers- after open enrollment.

It is too bad they didn't listen to FACMAC. A lot of these problems would have gone away if they had.


Anonymous said...

In response to "Been Around" I received this response from the Garfield history dept chair:
No, any differences between the Hamilton and WMS programs were not a part of our decision making and to be honest never discussed. The issue was driven by several factors in order below.

1) The curriculum change that was made seven or eight years ago that had the HCC students taking the foundations portion of the AP-WH curriculum, was eliminated. That was the whole justification for the acceleration. Without that specific class and its curriculum, the HCC students need to take that course as Freshmen here.

2) We are certified by the College Board to teach a specific curriculum. That comes via their audit system where they look at the scope and sequence we teach. They do this by approving a specific course syllabus. With no Foundations class, we would be out of compliance with the College Board.

3) The move had our students out of alignment. While taking AP-WH as freshmen they were in general Freshmen Lit. Then as sophomores in AP-US History, they were taking World Lit To highlight that challenge, our AP-WH classes are just covering WW I right now and in the World Lit class the students are reading “All Quiet on the Western Front”. In my AP-US class we just covered the Progressive Era and will quickly be in the Harlem Renaissance. Our AP-LA juniors are now in the Progressive era and will quickly be reading Langston Hughes poetry. It is a great synthesis that was not there under the old model.

4) The old, old model which is now the new model worked. For almost 30 years the model was students in the APP-HCC track to come into Garfield and take WH-H as freshmen, then AP-European History. The district then changed the curriculum at the MS to add the Foundations class, jettisoned the European course here and added AP-WH. The system we now have, the original one for 30 years worked great and there really was no good reason to change it.

5) Finally, our AP World History teachers had concerns per the maturity level of the students in the class. While many of the HCC kids are brilliant and hard workers, they are still 14-15 year old kids who need some maturing. I saw that same challenge when I had sophomores in my AP-US class which traditionally has 16-17 year olds and not 15-16 year olds.

Feel free to share. Sorry this sort of middle school gossip is happening with adults and curriculum. Now concerned the same is happening with folks between Ingraham and Garfield. One more reminder how hard it is to quash a rumor mill. All these kids are getting a great education and best of all its free. I’m passionate and adamant that the education and life experiences they are learning is far better than one could receive at our top local private schools.

Take care

Richard Truax

Garfield High School

Social Studies Department Chair



Anonymous said...

I am not feeling real sorry for the district and how hard it is for them "to quash a rumor mill." If the district provided parents with timely and truthful reasons about why decisions are being made, we might believe them.

Instead of timely and truthful, the district tells self-serving reasons about why changes are being made instead of engaging parents and students (if they are old enough) in the decisions. See the new "scope and sequence" math crap the district is pulling now.

I was around when the 9th-grade history changes were made. They WERE NOT explained to the parents in this way at the time. I am sure Mr Truax means well, but he works for a crappy district and he sadly must deal with the repercussions of that.

The district has a lot of work to do if it wants to create goodwill from the parents.

-another long-timer

Anonymous said...

I'm curious re: the basis for Mr. Truax's statement that the current system (AKA the old, old system) "worked well." For whom, and evaluated how? English and history align better, and it is probably eadiet for Garfield to administer if everyone has access to the same classes. But does this system best meet the needs of HCC students? Isn't that the real question?

Mr. Truax's comments suggest that the middle school HCC curriculum is not sufficient to allow HCC students to start in a more advanced class in high school. He also suggests that the middle school HCC students are also not mature enough to handle a more advanced class their freshman year. If these statements are true, isn't this a colossal failure on the part of our HCC middle schools? If students in the top 2% in terms of cognitive abilities can't be sufficiently prepared to enter even a single year ahead in SS (or Englush, as well), how well are we really serving these kids in middle school?

HCC students have remarkable capacities to learn quickly and deeply, yet SPS seems determined to decelerate their learning more and more. If HCC high schoolers enter attention the same position as any other freshman, why even bother to have HCC LA or SS in middle school? How can we justify separate classes if they aren't any more advanced?

Anonymous said...

HCC students have remarkable capacities to learn quickly and deeply, yet SPS seems determined to decelerate their learning more and more. If HCC high schoolers enter attention the same position as any other freshman, why even bother to have HCC LA or SS in middle school? How can we justify separate classes if they aren't any more advanced?

You sometimes have to wonder if that's the intention - to eliminate the separate classes. If they don't do more advanced work, they will not advance much. 8th grade HCC at JAMS is using Zinn's "Young People's History of the US" as their primary history text. Without going into the limitations of the text itself, it's written at maybe a 4th-5th grade reading level. I'm not sure they will even crack open the newly adopted MS history texts. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure they will even crack open the newly adopted MS history texts. Sad.

During the adoption, the new middle school history texts were reviewed by a team of HCC social studies teachers from all three middle schools. All of the proposed choices were found to be inadequate for HCC learners.

Anonymous said...

So they are using Zinn's Young People's History instead?? It is hardly adequate and would be unlikely to be approved for anything other than supplementary material.

SusanH said...

Just to illustrate the differences between classrooms, Mr. Schmidt's 8th grade US History class at Washington uses a variety of textbooks, from the classroom's collection. They do read Zinn's People's History (but the adult version! Not the kids' version!). Plus several other texts, which the students can check out to read. There's a hard core writing assignment each week, and lots of thoughtful discussion. It's my son's favorite class, and I feel high school will be easy after this. It's crazy that this great class exists despite SPS, not because of it. HCC classrooms should have an aligned curriculum.

Anonymous said...

The difference is like day and night...I would be concerned about the program at Madison, given the way it is being taught at JAMS. An aligned curriculum suggests having the same core texts and level of assignments for HCC classrooms, which is not happening. Programs at other schools don't have the same resources as WMS, with texts that they've used year after year, or teachers with years of experience teaching APP/HCC. Also, it's my understanding that JAMS doesn't have HCC self-contained classes - Spectrum and HCC students are blended in LA and SS classes. This should not change the level of challenge, as I think students generally rise to the challenge, but it seems the expectations have been lowered substantially. The problem with advocating for an aligned curriculum is that it may be aligned to something lesser than what WMS currently offers.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the previous poster (Feb 1, 2016 at 12:32) at all. I am thinking that there is some unhealthy parental competition going on in this blog. I think there are also some parents who simply want to feel that there child is receiving a better education at WMS. I heard the same sort of "competition" is going on right now between Ingraham & Garfield. I have spoken to parents of kids at JAMS, HIMS & WMS and there have been kids who have had great and not so great experiences at all three schools. I urge parents to talk with a variety of HCC parents, contact HCC & SPS curriculum experts, administrators and teachers themselves and not be influenced by few negative comments or listen to false rumors.

Anonymous said...


WedgwoodMom said...

Not sure if this should be a new post. My daughter has been at Wedgwood for all of her Elementary years even though she qualified for HCC at the end of Kindergarten. We chose not to move her largely because of the unpredictability of the movement of students in HCC. She is having her best year yet in 5th grade. We have the choice next year of sending her to Eckstein or HCC at Jams. I am perplexed as to what to do. I have heard that there is adequate challenge at Eckstein and wonder if the HCC program at JAMS is diluted as some say, if there would not be much difference between sending her there or Eckstein. She has a sibling at Hazel Wolf so that is an option but my belief is that she would be better challenged at Eckstein or JAMS. Any feedback you can offer would be much appreciated.