Friday, March 18, 2016

2016 Testing Results Thread Part 4

This is the 4th part to this thread continuing the discussion on the test results for this year. 

Thread Part 1

Thread Part 2

Thread Part 3

Update: Test Scores on The Source

"Eligibility decisions are being made daily. When the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee makes a decision regarding a student’s eligibility, test scores are posted in The Source. Families who have not yet received a decision letter can access their student’s scores on The Source."

I found the new AL page on the left hand side under the Library and Schoology options. It only seems to show the status i.e. HCC/Spectrum and not CogAT scores.

As of 3/28 CogAT scores are now there for at least kids who took the full test.

I'm hoping this will be the final installment in this year's testing saga. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Differentiation Discussion

There was an ask to setup a dedicated thread to talk about differentiation.  Currently the trend in the district is towards in classroom differentiation rather than self contained classrooms for advanced learners. This is most clearly visible in the reworkings of Spectrum. but it also is occurring at the Middle School level as well.  If you look through the official advanced learning policy the phrase "appropriate differentiation, flexible grouping and/or acceleration" often shows up.

Here's some articles I've looked at recently discussing the issue:

"The biggest reason differentiation doesn't work, and never will, is the way students are deployed in most of our nation's classrooms. Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for each of them. That is a recipe for academic disaster if ever I saw one. Such an admixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one."

"Differentiation is a term that is widely used in educational circles these days. There has been a noticeable increase in recent years in staff development offerings on differentiation strategies; schools’ goals and missions often use this concept in their statements; a great variety of educational literature addresses this topic. Yet, effective differentiation for the gifted student remains elusive and in too many cases, nonexistent. This article will explore some of the reasons for the current status of differentiation and offer some solutions as well."
"IN THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTING STANDARDS-BASED reform, it is important to remember that the charge to provide all students with challenging mathematics and science requires consideration of high ability students. Today’s heterogeneous classrooms will include students who have advanced abilities and talents. It is essential that the needs of these gifted students not be overlooked or neglected as teachers strive to help others reach high standards

Key Components of Mathematics Curriculum for the Gifted 
■ Content with greater depth and higher levels of complexity 
■ A discovery approach that encourages students to explore concepts 
■ Focus on solving complex, open-ended problems
■ Opportunities for interdisciplinary connections (Johnson, 1993)

Key Components of Science Curriculum for the Gifted
■ Significant and deep content 
■ Emphasis on understanding concepts rather than memorizing facts 
■ An inquiry approach with students as active investigators 
■ Opportunities for interdisciplinary connections 
■ Investigating real problems and situations 
■ Guiding students toward scientific habits of mind (Van Tassel-Baska, 1994)" 

A quick skim of any of the comments here shows a lot of skepticism about the effectiveness of differentiation. On the other hand those parents who are satisfied with how things are going don't often speak up on the blog.


So with that introduction:
  • How is differentiation actually working for your student?  (Please include which school you're at)
  • What do you think would improve the implementation?
  • Is this the right strategy for the district to pursue? 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Choosing a Middle School

We've done a High School and Elementary School Thread. By request of a parent, this is a thread for Middle School for those still struggling to make a decision.

We are trying to decide where to send our daughter for Middle School . She qualified for HCC in Kindergarten but we have kept her at Wedgwood. We live walking distance to Eckstein and many of her friends will go there. However, two of her closest friends will be at JAMS and the teachers seem to be universally great there. I have not heard the same of Eckstein. She may do music but that is not certain. She is very into reading, writing and drama.
Any advice for the parent from those who know either or both of the schools? Feel free to add any other MS questions here as well.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hamilton Capacity Issues 2016-2017

We were already discussing  Hamilton on the the thread. As indicated there the principal Tipton Blish was still looking for ways to deal with next year. Events have moved forward and the following update was in the most recent HIMS newsletter.

Update on Hamilton Capacity Planning for 2016-2017
As previously discussed in our newsletter, Hamilton will be pushing to upwards of 1,200 kids this fall. Although it’s not much consolation in the near-term, the numbers will decrease the following year with the opening of Robert Eagle Staff Middle School.
To handle the overload, Seattle Public Schools is looking at two options:
Putting portables on the outside playtop. 
Adding a Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) to one of the North Seattle middle schools, like Whitman, as a precursor to the opening of Eagle Staff. Seattle Public Schools has stated that this option is unlikely given the expense of setting up an HCC cohort

Update for Hamilton Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) Students
For the 2017-18 school year, Seattle Public Schools has indicated that HCC students who live in the Robert Eagle Staff and Whitman service areas will move to Robert Eagle Staff when it opens in the fall of 2017. Grandfathering for students may be possible subject to space availability at the middle schools they are attending, however, there will probably be no room at Hamilton.

District Info on Capacity:

110% rule on page 6:

City Permitting Status:

This does seem to confirm the final occupancy inspection never was finished.  Following up with the city I've been told.

  • The record shows a gymnasium with an allowable occupant load of 1149, a commons/dining hall of 957 and a fitness center or 56. These are the only areas which carry a limit.
I still have a followup question to see if there are any other fire safety related limits.  Interestingly I seem to have triggered an inquiry in the planning department. The inspector said he would be contacting the district and would email back any more info.

Cohort Size

According to  district estimates this year's 5th grade cohort is approximately 189 students at Cascadia. The 6th grade cohort is ~325 at HIMS and JAMS together. That shows how the cohort roughly doubles in size going into middle school as HC students join from neighborhood schools.  A rough estimate for the number of REMS 6th graders for next year would be in the 180 student ballpark.

Monday, March 7, 2016

2016 Testing Results Thread Part 3

Due to the large number of comments and to make it easier on mobile readers, I'm starting a 3rd part to this thread to continue the discussion on the test results for this year. 

Thread Part 1

Thread Part 2

Update: One parent  reports 3/10 that "AL office replied: "We mailed over 2,000 eligibility decision letters yesterday afternoon and continue to make eligibility decisions."

Results seem to be going out finally. So I expect we'll move into the appeal process soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

5/2 HCS Advisory Meeting

This week's meeting occurred at Hamilton Middle School and the principal Tipton Blish attended and gave a talk.  I arrived a few minutes early and was able to ask him about the annex discussion which has gone on all year. As I mentioned in the open thread, he indicated there was no update on any Annex possibilities for next year and that  Lincoln did not have space so it was not very likely to be used.  Since there really isn't anything obvious besides Lincoln near by that means its likely that the building will have to work one more year until Eagle Staff M.S. opens. He also indicated that he is still working on the issue so that does leave the window open for late changes.

During the formal talk Tip indicated that 2/3's of the students at HIMS are advanced learners either in Spectrum or HCC. From his perspective the teachers are doing an amazing job. After the split in a year, he expects that the program will stay at the building and in the north end roughly even groups of HCC students will go to all 3 middle schools (JAMS, HIMS REMS).  He also has no part in the feeder patterns and offered no updates on how the split is going to work out.

One nice part of having him there is that it was mentioned in the intro that the LA/SS alignment meetings were going on with participation from all middle schools except Hamilton.  That was news to Tip and he indicated he would follow up on it. So we'll see if something develops here. He then took a series of questions:

  • On Spectrum vs. HCC he feels the differences are mostly seen in skills i.e. more complex writing and higher expectations while the content can be similar.  In a followup he stressed that Middle School was also more about building skills versus specific content and that he expected differentiation to occur in each room.
  • He directly called out the narrative from Garfield parents that HIMS students are less prepared than WMS ones "I think its false"
  • Currently the district is projecting 1176 students next year.  That up about 80 students.
  • There was a secondary discussion about capacity where the fire code was brought up. Basically, the assertion is that the fire safety limits are way beyond the buildings current students and the fire department will not prevent overcrowding. 
  • There was also an interesting question about Spectrum Science which is not currently offered. The science teachers present mentioned that HCC science is 2 years ahead rather than advanced so there is no concept of honors science to do currently.
At the very end there was a quick update from the Ingraham representative. I asked a few questions here. They have decided to go with a honors physics option  for 10th grade rather than an AP one. One question which I asked but this was probably the wrong audience was whether there had been any though about how the Lincoln H.S. rollout would affect IB students. Hopefully, students will not be assigned out of their program but this is an issue to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March Open Thread

We're almost out of the testing season.  Hopefully the final updates will be arriving for everyone shortly.  Please keep discussing them on the test results thread and thanks again for all the updates everyone has given. I'm also hoping many of you will keep reading and commenting afterwards (although under less stress).

Part of the slight delay for this thread was that I attended HCS advisory meeting last night at HIMS and will with any luck put up a longer posting soon. There were no representatives from the AL office present so I unfortunately have no news from there. The most interesting point I took away from the meeting occurred while chatting with Tipton Blish.  I asked about an annex for next year at Hamilton.  His response was that while he had and continued to pursue any options that it looked very unlikely at Lincoln due to the lack of the space.

Also on other fronts, there was the recent Madison Middle School HCC startup outreach meeting. If anyone has any further impressions of what occurred I'm sure everyone would be interested to hear about it.

There's a thread on the Save Seattle Schools blog about the current HCC testing season:
I generally think its good to express your opinion and more individual letters would make a more powerful statement. That said, a group letter on the testing process if people would be willing to sign their full name might also serve a purpose. I could see setting something up on

What's on your minds?