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?


Ken said...

Why isn't there a more concerted effort to have better ALO at all schools. I bet there are kids at every school capable of doing math 2-3 years above level, but not reading (and vice-versa). It doesn't seem cost prohibitive to do this type of structuring. It seems there just needs to be desire. SPS seems to want to take the most cookie cutter approach possible. Is there more backstory to this?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin--- Was there anything else Tipton mentioned about seeking/working on finding the additional capacity for next year?

Benjamin Leis said...

No that was all the details I heard. I strongly suspect that means HIMS will end up having to make things work within the building next year.

Anonymous said...

This school is designed for 850, correct? They have near 1100 this year and 1200 projected for next year. At the OCT PTSA meeting, Tipton's comment to a few parents regarding the enrollment projection for next week was "we absolutely cannot fit that many kids next year". "We cannot have that". He also said he had the money to hire but had absolutely no place for additional teachers or classrooms. So I would suspect he will still be trying to find a solution. Classes are already 32-36. If they don't fit, they don't fit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the options are. I'm glad I've been telling my son that we'll know where he goes to middle school around July each year before he starts a new year.

Exhausted by the BS said...

There is no concerted effort to have ALO at all schools because there is no special OSPI mandate to serve this population. OSPI demands that districts serve "highly capable" children, which they define thus:

Our district defines highly capable as those children qualifying for the HCC (formerly APP) program, which is why all of its (meager) efforts seem to be directed solely toward HCC. This alignment is responsible for the program's name change. In the absence of a mandate to serve other advanced learners the district more or less leaves such decisions to sites, and as advanced learning is a political hot potato many sites choose not to allocate their resources to it. No one is driving the advanced learning train; there is no centralized parent/community movement to serve these kids, and until there is, I think we'll continue to see spectrum/ALO programs quietly erode in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Now that I am hearing more references to HCC services being legally guaranteed at ALO schools, and as Spectrum dies its slow death, I wonder if there is any way HCC parents who stay in their neighborhood schools can be more effective advocates for better ALO services for Spectrum AND HCC. HCC and Spectrum parents could work together to get walk-to-math in every ALO school, for example, by taking advantage of the guarantee for HCC services.

Exhausted by the BS said...

Anonymous at 11:24--I think that would be a good start, but it will take organization and a critical mass of motivated parents to make that happen. (I banged my head against that wall for years, on my own, with no support from the school. I have finally given up and moved to the cohort with my younger child.)

I suspect it would have to be appealed to through the lens of serving the HCS kids not in the cohort, since there is no legal requirement that advanced learners be specially served--and I would hate to see that backfire and create more special HC silos at each school while the needs of the other advanced learners are jettisoned. There would have to be real commitment between HC and AL families to work together for the long haul... It would also take figuring out and emphasizing what the consequences are for the district should it be found to be not meeting the needs of those students. At the moment it feels like the mandate is either not widely understood by schools, or has no teeth...

Anonymous said...

The district does not seem to grasp the unintended consequences of divesting in ALO. The end result is that (some) parents of bright students who could do well in an ALO program make every attempt to flee to HCC/APP so that their kid can obtain more advanced education. Our family is an example of this. I am sure my kid would do fine in ALO, but we are faced with placement in Whitman which, as I understand it, has an anti-ALO principal. Gutting ALO is driving the (expensive) expansion of the HCC cohort.

ALO Yes!

Anonymous said...

Um, all that enthusiasm, and what I actually mean is *spectrum*,and the gutting of the spectrum program.

So, Spectrum Yes!

as well as

ALO Yes!

Anonymous said...

I am wondering which schools do a good job at ALO? I've heard that Coe does. I'm wondering about others? Which schools retain the most of their HCC-qualified and Spectrum-qualified kids? I wonder if these stats are publicly available? It would help us to decide whether to join ALO or go to HCC (if my child is eligible-still waiting on the letter).

Anonymous said...

Which school is your reference school?

Anonymous said...

Let's be very clear, the district is only legally required to identify HCC students and to provide some set of undefined HCC services.

The law leaves it up to the district to define how it will identify HCC students and what services it provides. This means that Seattle schools can legally say, "we identify the students to the teachers, and the teachers then make best efforts given their available time and resources to differentiate." There is no legal requirement for walk-to-math for HCC.

I've had this conversation with OSPI and the rep made it clear the district is not required to provide any specific set of services.

I actually heard in an HCC Advisory meeting once the advanced learning office say that the "Spectrum kids are not gifted". I feel that the Advanced Leaning office just sees Spectrum identification as a byproduct of HCC testing and that they've been told by their bosses that it's otherwise out of their scope.

So if you want something in your neighborhood school, perhaps its best to advocate at your school with the principal / PTA or up the food chain with the school board.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not a child may be 'gifted' (and there are many, many ways to define that) a Spectrum-identified child is capable of learning at a much faster pace and in more depth than what is taught in GenEd. Maybe a majority of kids in some schools fall in this category, in which case they should speed up/deepen the instruction as a whole and provide pull-out support to the few that aren't able to go at the accelerated pace. Providing a GenEd curriculum to a Spectrum kid is squandering potential, whether or not that kid is truly 'gifted.'

-not a label fan

Ken said...

Wow, I'm disappointed someone from the AL office would say, "Spectrum kids are not gifted". Being qualified or not for a specific PROGRAM doesn't mean you are gifted or not. As "not a label fan" noted there are many ways to measure 'giftedness'.

But even if you stay within the limited realm of Cogat and MAP testing, a simple thought experiment shows how absurd this statement is. Imagine you have a student that scored 99% on CogAt. But scores a mere 93% on reading. But has a 99.9% on math. An actual math prodigy. This student would not quality for the HCC PROGRAM, but would qualify for the Spectrum PROGRAM. But I think most people would consider him gifted at math. And in many cases would probably need more advanced math than even taught at HCC programs.

I'm disappointed to hear someone from the AL office say that -- but based on what I'm seeing from SPS thus far, I'm not surprised.

Anonymous said...

Hate to break it to this thread's readers, but staff says the same thing about HCC students as the previous posters noted about Spectrum-identified kids: not gifted. Bright, yes, but able to be served in a standard classroom. In staff's minds maybe a handful of extreme outlier students each year should be in a self-contained program. This isn't a past pronouncement. It is current. No, sorry, I can't give more detail, but yes, sorry, this was not a passing comment by a sole person in Curriculum and Instruction. I'd go so far as to say it's the prevalent attitude.

It explains a lot as to why there is seemingly a lack of resources and systems in the department as well as a lack of coherent cross-district HCC classroom best practices.

Don't shoot the messenger

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what surrounding districts use as criteria cut-off for being identified hi-cap?


Ken said...

Don't shoot the messenger, I agree that most students COULD be served in a cookie-cutter classroom. But they shouldn't be. I coach basketball and I could teach every player the exact same skills. I could do that and get away with it -- I'd probably get zero complaints. But I wouldn't be getting the best out of them. I stretch my players as far as I possibly can. And I constantly get parents coming to me later saying, "wow, I had no idea my kid was capable of what their doing now!" The level of pride the kids have in what they accomplish is amazing. It's cliché, but it really makes it worthwhile. Why should they have to settle for "what I could get away with"?

Unfortunately our educators (or administrators) in Seattle apparently have no such expectations of our kids. If I didn't have to actually work, I'd to homeschool.

Anonymous said...

Don't even bother with the messenger. Copied from the Seattle Schools Community Blog:

State law say there must be access to acceleration and enhanced instruction for HC. It doesn't say that some HC kids aren't really HC because they don't measure up to your definition of "outlier."

HCC is serving kids in the 98th to 99.99th percentile of the entire state. From 98 to 99.99 is a huge jump. Crazy big. That doesn't mean we shouldn't serve the 98ers. Because not a chance Gen Ed is going to be right for those kids. All of them are outliers. The 99.99 percenters are outliers among outliers. (And I heartily agree that we could do better serving the extreme cases.)

What is advanced? To the parent of a 99.99 percenter, a mere 98 percenter may not seem all that advanced. Those parents may complain about a watered down program on a blog. Let me make something perfectly clear: it is not students watering down the program. It is curriculum imposed by the district. Students did not suddenly decide 6th grade ELA was too hard and that they should go repeat what they'd already covered in 4th. The district made that choice.

Next, almost 9% of the district is identified as HC. 9% of the district at 98% and above seems mathematically impossible. Because how can they be 98th if they are really 91st? It's a percentile across the state. Seattle is a very highly-educated city. It makes sense that we would have a higher percentage of 98th and above here. All of those many 98 and above kids in HCC did not cheat their way in. I wish that tired assumption would go away.

Lastly, Cascadia fills from the north end, which is less diverse than other parts of the city. While a very low percentage identifies as black, 26% identifies as Asian, Hispanic and mixed race. Those numbers aren't surprising when you look at the makeup of Seattle as a whole. And FWIW, my kids have met friends in the program who moved to Seattle from 15 different countries. That certainly counts as cultural diversity, if not racial. That said, it's just not true that underrepresented groups are excluded. No one is excluded. HCC is open to all who qualify. I really would like more racial diversity in the program. Rather than complain about how disgraceful it is, I'd like to see more creative solutions for identifying people who don't seek out testing, and enticing them to move into the program.


3/4/16, 8:49 PM

Anonymous said...

As noted in a comment on the SSS blog, Lafayette principal stated that the AL office says that there will be no self-contained Spectrum classes in the district starting this fall:


Lynn said...

Thanks 2HC. I read your comment and was inspired to look into the numbers for the north end in some detail. Here's what I posted on the SSS blog:

Here is some more data on the area served by Cascadia. I looked at the reading MSP scores of sixth grade students enrolled in Eckstein, Hamilton, McClure and Whitman in 2013-14.

The students who scored Level 4 (exceeds standards) at those schools were identified as:

.18% American Indian
8.42% Asian and Pacific Islander
1.75% Black
5.96% Hispanic/Latino of any race
75.79% White
7.89% Two or more races

Enrollment at Cascadia was:

0 American Indian
12.5% Asian and Pacific Islander
.3% Black
2.2% Hispanic/Latino of any race
75.3% White
9.7% Two or more races

The advanced learning office looked at reducing the required achievement scores for all students for HCC and Spectrum identification. This would have increased the percentage of advanced learners who were white. I don't recall hearing that they've ever considered reducing the required achievement scores based on economic factors or racial identification. They do say that they are now considering socioeconomic status and English Language Learner status in the selection process.

After I posted that, I thought about my child's Fairmount Park classroom. I would guess the students are

21% Asian
8% Black
8% Hispanic
63% White

37% girls
63% boys

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lynn! I always appreciate the data and resources you share here. I got my numbers from the latest school report SPS posted. They are very much in sync with the MSP scores you posted.


WedgwoodMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WedgwoodMom said...

My daughter qualified for APP in first grade but we did not move her from Wedgwood and she has been in Spectrum Math. Next year she will be in 6th grade and we are considering JAMS. Eckstein is close to our house and I have heard has good academics. I am worried that at Eckstein she will not have as strong a cohort but many APP qualified kids will be going there. I would appreciate any feedback folks have to offer on the two schools and how to choose. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What does your child want to do? My child wishes we had chosen Eckstein over the HCC pathway so there would have been three school years without a move. 20/20 hindsight. Who knows what changes are in store for your child's cohort. We can't comment on the academics at Eckstein, but our child found HIMS somewhat more challenging than JAMS. Anecdotally, our child was happier at HIMS. You should also factor in high school plans, and think about what level of math and science your child needs. Algebra in 8th grade (typical Spectrum pathway) will still allow for Calculus in 12th. If your child needs a more accelerated math pathway, there would be a larger cohort at JAMS, plus JAMS would allow for taking Biology in 8th. It means being able to take Chemistry in 9th (at least at Roosevelt).

Wedgwood Mom said...

Thank you so much for your response. My daughter is very strong in Language Arts and is interested in Drama. She does just fine one year ahead in math but I really don't anticipate a particular focus on Math or Science. Having said that, she does seem to have an aptitude for tech. I don't think it is likely that she would be moved from JAMS but it is highly likely that some of the friends she might make there would. I am concerned that the HCC is so uneven and not planned out well by SPS that I don't really know if there is a great benefit in the long run when she gets to high school. Roosevelt is our reference school but I suspect that Ingraham and possibly the IBX would be a great fit for her.

Anonymous said...

From our child's experience, both 7th and 8th grade HCC LA/SS at JAMS have been especially weak. It's been discussed on previous threads ad nauseam, but I'd agree with the recent comment that it's just less - less reading, less writing, and less content (and that is comparing the work load and content to that of an older sibling who went through the program years ago). They seem to believe in no HW, which for students supposedly heading off to especially demanding classes in high school seems totally backward. We toughed it out because we wanted our child to have Garfield as an option, but it turns out our child will be going elsewhere. If you are thinking of Ingraham IBX as a high school option, it assumes a student has had Biology and Geometry and will start 9th grade in Chemistry and Algebra 2. That may be different with the option for HCC students to start IB on the typical timeframe of 11th grade, but it's something to think about when making choices.

alo local? said...

Our neighborhood school dropped the opportunity to do work beyond grade level in Walk To Math in the last couple years. This meant my second grade student was in the "early finishers" walk to math group, and got to play games when she finished the day's math work. She is much happier and more engaged with the math at Cascadia this year, although we miss walking to school (not loving the hour long bus ride to school) and the close community at our local school. My understanding was our local school made this program change mostly because of logistical challenges. Once the advanced students reached 5th grade - if they were doing 6th or 7th grade math - they had no one to teach them. There have been frequent math curriculum changes in the last 5 years, which may be part of why they no longer felt like they could cope. Obviously other schools have worked it out though. I think any "ALO" school should offer the chance to work beyond grade level in math (or else how are they ALO? and how is it fair to ask each teacher to make up their own program for advanced learners when they are first accountable for everyone meeting the basic standards?). Stronger programs in local schools to accommodate kids who need more challenging math (especially) would help keep more HCC kids at their neighborhood schools.

Anonymous said...

So, I keep reading that JAMS HCC LA is "especially weak." While I can't say I've been blown out of the water by the HCC LA, I am a professor in the Humanities (LA and History are my fields), my child is exceptionally language-strong, and I have not found particular complaint w/ LA. Do I believe my child is being challenged? Not particularly. But I am not particularly sure my child will be challenged in this area until they reach the university level.

So... this professor wants to know: what would parents *want* to see in middle school HCC LA? I am curious.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

Something that has been lost in HCC LA/SS is the integration of LA and history. When LA was made a separate class from social studies, the reading and writing in LA lost the connection to the historical period being studied. An integrated curriculum would benefit both HCC and non-HCC classes, but with Common Core "alignment," the LA seems rather random. If you look at the Washington State social studies standards, there are many opportunities to incorporate LA readings that would sync with the time periods being studied. It's a missed opportunity. In depth writing assignments or investigations in both LA and history have been few and far between. In 7th grade, my child wrote maybe two LA essays the entire year, one of which was done as an alternative assignment on request (over a drawing oriented project). A poetry project consisted of compiling a book of poems (what is this, 5th grade?). Shouldn't students being learning how to analyze a poem - its imagery, rhyme, meaning, etc.? Middle school APP LA used to read at least one full length Shakespeare play. Is that happening in any classes anymore?

When others tell me LA has been fine for their child, I have to wonder if we are talking about very different classes taught by very different teachers. Middle school LA/SS should be preparing students to hit the ground running come 9th grade. I am not seeing the level of work I'd expect for a seamless transition to advanced high school work.

-one perspective

Anonymous said...

@one perspective, 11:50 AM—

Ok, thanks for the explanation. As a prof in my field, I do think that LA should be separate from SS / History / whatever—these are totally different fields, especially so early on. My child has been doing a reasonable amount of writing in their "World History" course (is that SS?), as well as LA. I did find the rubric for the WH course a bit stifling (please, enough with the 5 paragraph essay), but when I contacted the teacher, they responded immediately and—in my estimation—perfectly: it was meant as a way of offering structure, and kids who had moved past that need should write as they will. I find the 5-paragraph paper an absolute nightmare (kids come to college still thinking that is how one should write), but it may be that even some HCC kids need that as a scaffold upon which to begin to structure more complex arguments and essays.

My child is in 6th grade—no compiling books of poems or other nonsense. In terms of analyzing works, I do know that my child has had such assignments (and because my child is who they are, this meant way overdoing all of it, reaching for parallels and meanings that were beyond anything the teacher had in mind). My child has been given assignments for which they produced 9 or 10 page bibliographies of scholarly articles and books. Papers with footnotes. As well as some literary analysis (which is good, but generally requires a bit more maturity to be done really well).

I am not sure I would recommend middle schoolers reading Shakespeare or the "classics" (Aeneid, Odyssey) unless they have a *really* good teacher—an expert in literature—leading them.

I do suspect that there are many very different ways HCC is doing LA. But I am pretty ... critical as a professor, and I admit I have not found my child's HCC LA especially wanting.

Then again—my child began to get interested in Shakespeare in 4th grade or so. Has studied a couple of other languages and alphabets. And they have a LA / History professor as a parent. Reads copiously, and at an adult level both fiction and non. So it is fair to say that most of their LA experience may not be coming strictly from HCC. I admit that I'd have been floored by a "compile a book of poems" even had my child received that as a 3rd or 4th grader, and cannot imagine it is being given for a middle school HCC LA assignment.

Anyway, thank you for explaining.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert in language arts, but I'd like my kid to read things that his teacher has chosen to grow his experience and understanding. I'd like him to learn how discuss the books, short stories, essays and poems he reads with his classmates and write thoughtful analysis of them regularly. I'd like him to learn to revise his writing and hone his arguments. I'd like his teacher to demonstrate how to do close critical reading of texts and also cultivate a community of readers who share their pleasure reads.

I'd be happy with a few pages of writing due once a month, particularly if the assignment was clear and kids got feedback on their writing so they could learn to improve and there was strong in-class discussion. However, I understand that grading 150 papers essentially takes all of teachers' prep time for several weeks if they do nothing but grade, so they must choose between donating their time to finish grading, not assigning work or not preparing for class. One teacher (not at JAMS) solved this problem by simply playing movies for a week to get grading done during class time... so I should be careful what I wish for.

--Ideal world...

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:01 PM

"However, I understand that grading 150 papers essentially takes all of teachers' prep time for several weeks if they do nothing but grade, so they must choose between donating their time to finish grading, not assigning work or not preparing for class."

—I can assure you that this is the case.

And thank you. It is good for me to remember that not all kids, even HCC, are doing all of this at home already. My child has begun (at least) several pretty nifty short stories. We discuss literature and language all the time. They is more into language and reading than many his age (even HCC, it seems), so they have this interaction mainly with the adults around them.

I can say without a doubt that a few pages once a month from ~150 students is impossible to grade well. If we say one can thoughtfully grade, and comment on, a 3 page paper in about 15 minutes (and that depends entirely on the quality of the paper, of course), then ~150 papers would take approximately 37.5 hours of straight grading (with no bathroom breaks, eating—yes most of us have to eat while we grade, but it slows us down on account of chewing—etc.). Assuming you are working your standard 9 hour days, let's say you can spend about 3 hours on grading. It would take you about 12 days of such work—about two weeks—to get through these papers. I can also tell you that (1) it's not realistic to grade a paper in 15 minutes if you want to do a good job of it and give feedback, and (2) you can't really hit an average of 4 papers an hour, so (3) it's probably more like 45 hours total and that (4) if you don't do anything else.

The options for a teacher in such a situation are clear, and so I needn't go over them here.

I suppose that what I would want from LA in school at this level is the students being given the space to develop a wide and rich love of a variety of genres of literature as well as a deep understanding of, and respect for, the richness of language. I'm not much of a fan of the emphasis on non-fiction—that should be peripheral to an early LA curriculum—and certainly kids should not be expected to write "reports" on non-fiction sources without first being taught how to research and cite properly, from actual books they actually found in an actual library. I know that my child can and does do this, but this is one thing I have not seen required at JAMS, and it's troubling. "Find a good source on the internet" is the worst advice ever given a student.

Anonymous said...

I write and analyze in my professional life quite a bit, and primarily my problems are the lack of writing, lack of analysis (I am as sick of the personal narrative as the 5 paragraph essay), lack of editing process, and low expectations on the rubrics. It may be that my child has a particularly "easy" teacher. Thre has certainly been nothing that would require or even allow a 9 page bibliography(though there was in WH- which has been excellent, and allllmost makes up for easy LA.) The Socratic seminar was great. I understand there will be more.

But I believe any bright, motivated child should be able by mid-late high school to produce a 10-15 page work of basic scholarly analysis, and so should be working on 2-3 page ones in middle school. The only analysis my child has done is a sentence at a time in an online chat. I also think they need to be reading novels (classic ones to give them context for later study- I don't even mean Shakespeare. Huck Finn, stuff like that) as a class, not just short stories. More sustained, in depth work. They should be doing skill building work, not "exploring, trying to get you interested" work, which seems appropriate in elementary. The teacher has said they are trying to get all of them to just like reading- which I find inappropriately basic for an honors middle school LA class.

My child is *not* especially strong in LA, and admits the class is very easy but doesn't mind. I am very concerned about my next child, who is very strong in LA, and that this one, who is not naturally inclined to seek out LA learning opportunities, is just not ever really going to get it.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, I think that grading estimate is right for more advanced work, but what they should be working on- transitions, coherence, ordering- that does not take 15 minutes per paper(I have also graded papers). My kid spends at least a day a week silent reading,so the teacher has some time. I don't think it's laziness. I think they just don't think the kids can/should do more.


Anonymous said...

@NewJAMSparent 1:50

I would expect middle schoolers in HCC to be long past transitions, coherence, and ordering.

We may grade differently. As someone who teaches writing, I grade for such. 15 minutes for a 3 page paper is about right, in my experience. Yes, this is college level, but I read and grade for a living, for several decades now, and I think 15 for a 3 page paper is frankly a low estimate. Much faster than that, and you aren't engaging with the content of the material. Language Arts is just that—an art—and cannot be reduced to transitions, coherence, and ordering. Those are just the stuff of simple writing, and certainly what a child should have learned in elementary school. My child wasn't even in HCC in elem (private school), but more than learned this well by 4th grade, I'd say.

Interesting. Clearly there are many different ways this is being taught. It is interesting for me to hear what parents think should be covered, since it is so different from what a college LA / History prof. would see as ideal.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

@NewJAMSparent 1:37

"Thre has certainly been nothing that would require or even allow a 9 page bibliography("

—Whoops! I meant ~5 page paper with a 9 or 10 item bibliography. And that's about right.

"and so should be working on 2-3 page ones in middle school. The only analysis my child has done is a sentence at a time in an online chat. I also think they need to be reading novels (classic ones to give them context for later study- I don't even mean Shakespeare. Huck Finn, stuff like that) as a class, not just short stories. More sustained, in depth work. They should be doing skill building work, not "exploring, trying to get you interested" work, which seems appropriate in elementary. "

—Ok, so we just have a different sort of view of writing (and reading) here. And I admit that mine is colored by the students I see at the college level. Scholarly analysis (do you mean of a text?) cannot be done well—if at all—in a 2 to 3 page paper. This is certainly not the case if the analysis is to be of even a short story, much less a novel.

I am not particularly interested in them reading substantive novels as a class so much as I am in them learning to love reading and literature. Short stories may be short, but they are often incredibly complex and difficult to analyze. In terms of longer works, what this LA / Hist prof would like to see would be students developing their own tastes, be they Shakespeare or Bradbury or Twain or Adams or what have you. But, as above, classics are only as good as the teacher leading them. A teacher who does not her or himself love and understand literature is not going to be very good convincing students to.

... I don't know what you mean about online chat. Only that that's not the basis for anything. I assume it was a school project. Weird.

I certainly want students to continue to explore literature and figure out what interests them in middle school (not Elem—my son was reading Orwell in 4th grade, but I doubt most kids are really reading much classic lit in those years). And in high school. And in college. And forever. My child did a lot of that "let's all read the same book" thing in Elem. I think middle school LA should be not about building skills but about literature. The skills should have been long in place.

In terms of actual research skills, those ... well, they should be starting, but starting by talking about what research actually means. This I do see as something of a weakness at JAMS HCC, but I'm glad my child has me there to offer the occasional corrective.

In general, in short, I am very happy with JAMS. And in general, with HCC there. It is interesting to me to see such a variety in what parents think is appropriate (for LA, History, Math, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I mean coherence of argument, not just coherence in terms of general readability. I don't think the HCC students are by and large past this- at least not from the work they put up in the halls in 5th grade. But at least at Lincoln they were mostly capably reading things like Orwell in 4th grade(Bradbury and Wilde were particularly popular in that friend group) and understanding them well, including my kid, who I do not consider especially strong in LA. I do think in 3 pages you can explain a motif in a work and how the author uses it. Beginning, but a start, and not something they have been taught to date. What does the green light mean, etc. I use the word work instead of text because I often see good teachers use paintings(or songs) to start this kind of analysis- it's just argument building. And I have graded enough papers and worked with enough writers(high school- graduate/professional level) to stick by my lower estimate of middle school paper grading time, which only matters because we are multiplying it by 150. I do hope you spend more time on college papers, which should require more engagement. In middle school I don't care as much if they are making a dumb argument. I just want to see that they can make it.

I like short stories but still firmly believe they *also* need to engage in an academic setting with longer works. It sounds like we have different goals and expectations for our kids. I'm also pretty sure at this point we have different teachers.


Anonymous said...

Also the idea the teacher had was to get them to like reading, period- not to like different genres or try more literature. Captain Underpants. Be willing to do the actual act of reading. I think they need to be assumed to be beyond this at this point. And at least for every child I know, they are.


Anonymous said...


"I do think in 3 pages you can explain a motif in a work and how the author uses it."

—Ok; this will just be where, as a LA prof., I'll differ with your opinion.

I certainly agree that most kids can read Orwell and Adams and such in 4th—but in my experience teachers don't assign it, and so I don't know how many actually do.

"In middle school I don't care as much if they are making a dumb argument. I just want to see that they can make it. "

—Ok; again, we have strong pedagogical differences of opinion here. That's fine. I don't tolerate dumb arguments at any level, and frankly middle school kids, HCC or not (but certainly HCC) should be *well* past the basics here. That so many aren't is rather telling in re what we are seeing at the college level.

" It sounds like we have different goals and expectations for our kids. "

—Yep. My child is hugely math and science oriented, but is enormously language strong. And as a prof., I am sure I have expectations for him that are unlike those other parents may have, and I long ago realized that trying to compare him to others doesn't work terribly well. Your explanations of what a not very LA strong HCC child needs have helped a bit. Thank you for that.

I do hope you know how very little college kids read these days. And I mean including the very highly intelligent ones. Not in my field, but in some of the STEM fields, the students are barely literate. So, you know, I can't help but write from that perspective, as well.

Sounds like you are getting what you want from JAMS, however, and though my child is not especially challenged (or perhaps better to say: challenged at home in these areas), they are reasonably happy.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

Local Prof, what you describe for your 6th grader is well beyond anything my child has been assigned in 7th and 8th grade at JAMS.

Thank you to everyone for your responses.

-one perspective

Benjamin Leis said...

Note: please use aliases if you're posting anonymously or better yet use an authenticated identity. This last exchange is a good example of how it becomes hard i to follow without them.

On the subject of the essays. Thinking about to my own K-12 experiences.
The 2-3 page example above sounds a lot like the generic AP Test 5 paragraph format. Is that what you meant @NewJAMSParent? For me that was a skill I learned about 10th grade and Middle School which was 7-8 for my district LA followed a classic literature survey format which was mostly discussion based with only a couple of papers over the whole year.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible you find your child especially LA strong because they have not been around a strong LA cohort in the past? I have got to tell you nothing you've described- reading and understanding classics in 4th grade, including Shakespeare, being beyond a 5 paragraph essay structure and using 9-10 items as a bibliography- seems especially unusual within this cohort. Dead on average, actually. Which is why I think the program should be more. They can all do more. Maybe you are not being specific about your child, which I respect, but I am guessing you are underestimating the ability of the other kids. Possibly because of the relatively low difficulty level of the work you are seeing.

What I teach and work with is writing, specifically, not LA in general. But when I work with 25 year old grad students out of very good English lit departments, I find many- most!- of them still need help with transitions, coherence, and ordering. That is lifelong work, if you are going to be writing in your professional life.

I expect younger people to make many dumb arguments, because they don't have as much lived experience.

Signing off for the day now,

Anonymous said...


"Is it possible you find your child especially LA strong because they have not been around a strong LA cohort in the past? I have got to tell you nothing you've described- reading and understanding classics in 4th grade, including Shakespeare, being beyond a 5 paragraph essay structure and using 9-10 items as a bibliography- seems especially unusual within this cohort. "

No, that's not terribly likely. My child reads a few foreign languages reasonably. Started reading at about a year old, and started adult level books in 2nd grade. I don't really wish to give too many details here, because (1) this wasn't about my child and (2) I long ago found it better not to talk about my child publicly.

I do realize that almost all HCC kids read a few languages and alphabets, began reading adult level at 2nd grade, etc. I know this. I just also know that I don't really get far talking about it, so I don't.

My question, as a prof. of college level stuff around here, was what people have found disappointing. And I admit that, eh, as a prof., the descriptions suggest to me that at least some parents maybe don't entirely see what we see at the college level. That's fine, too! If you feel your child still needs work on the mechanics, then that absolutely should be dealt with at the middle school level. And if your child kind of has those under her belt, then let's hope the HCC teachers can let her move on.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

You are probably typing on your phone as I have been all day, and so with autocorrect I can't quite understand your third paragraph, in conjunction with your second. It's not likely they were with strong kids before? Or it's not likely they are? So far you have still just described my child(reading development ages, and languages, actually), who I do not consider unusually strong in LA. Not so far out of the norm that they couldn't be taught at their level at school, which is the important part. I really don't want to press you to provide details, and I am not asking for more.

I asked about whether you might inaccurately be assessing the cohort's ability because at several points in my children's educational careers, we have been told by teachers they are just "too far advanced" to be taught with whatever peer group, gen ed or HCC. And that is usually bunk(sometimes I am pretty sure they are exactly average when I am being told this), though it is something that probably often works on HCC parents. Then they stop advocating for more rigor. I want us to keep advocating for it, for all of them. They can all handle it.

But of course if you think what I consider is rigor is a bad idea, I doubt you'd be thrilled to see it! Don't worry, I usually get a no anyhow.


Anonymous said...

Local Prof, what exactly is it you're seeing at the college level? My understanding was that incoming students had pretty poor writing, research and analysis skills. Doesn't that argue for better LA instruction in elementary and secondary ed? Or is the bar so low in college now that you're saying it doesn't matter?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 6:22 PM—

It's difficult to describe what we are seeing at the college level, but it's troubling.

The writing, mechanically speaking, can vary from excellent to deeply troubling. Most students, it is true, don't know how to research, or cite, or do footnotes, or create a bibliography on their own. Those who do stand out.

But beyond that—and this is my deeper concern—we see, especially in 'STEM' students, a huge problem with developing and expressing more complex arguments. This issue is entirely separate from mechanics. These are students who clearly don't read much (much less any fiction) and don't know how to deal with it. This is why although I absolutely want strong LA instruction, I don't think the "just get them to do the mechanics / 3 pages a month" plan is a good one for HCC students.

Ok, as an educator, this is what I'd like to see (for all kids, scaled up for HCC):

Elem: teaching mechanics for writing papers, and a love of literature. Knowing the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and an appreciation for such.

Middle School: assume the mechanics are there (this may not be an assumption that could be made for the general population, but now I'm focusing on HCC), and work on exploring literature and language and appreciating it as such. Begin to teach the rudiments of proper research and citation (which is different from mechanics). No lengthy research papers required, but rather I'd assign research projects such as producing bibliographies, summarizing articles, etc. We might call this "research mechanics," which are different from "writing mechanics." At the same time, introduction to the formal studies of rhetoric and basic logic, which are foundations for any sort of writing or communication.

High School: assume mechanics and an appreciation for literature are in place, and then move to actual research techniques as well as more serious literary analysis (which of course includes research—research is not limited to non-fiction pieces).

Some students come in with this, and the soar. Some very bright students, including those coming from HCC, often do not, and they can flounder in certain classes.

So I agree that HCC could do with better LA instruction, but I don't think it's quite what I've heard described here. However, what I've heard described here has been very instructive. Not that I can do anything about it—I don't teach in SPS—but it's been instructive. I'd like to see parents push for an LA curriculum in HCC (and everywhere else) that more effectively helps students meet the challenges of college-level writing.

Local Prof.

Anonymous said...

Random question -- when do the school assignments come out? Is it this month?

Anonymous said...

Ben, can you please open a thread on classroom differentiation?



Benjamin Leis said...

@KMOM - I'll put it on the backlog list for next week. If you're curious my normal procedure is to try to open no more than one thread a day and 2 a week unless events force my hand. That seems to work best for not burying a topic too quickly. Please feel free to email with any other suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Twice exceptional meeting Mon 3-14 - from Laurie Klavins

At our upcoming 2e meeting (scheduled for Monday March 14th at the Lincoln HS library in Wallingford, 7-9pm), we are pleased to be able to host Julie George, M.Ed, BCBA. Ms George is a local therapist who works with children with high functioning autism on areas such as social skills, executive functioning, and emotion regulation. She also provides training to school districts on similar topics. She will be speaking about serving twice exceptional children with autism in schools, including common issues faced by such students and the ways that parents can best advocate for their children. Come with questions!


Lynn said...

There is an Advanced Learning Update in the current Friday Memo:

The following items were included in the attachments:

AL Task Force Report

Advanced Learning Survey

Anonymous said...

This part is new to me, and my kid is at a Title I school:

Now administers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) Screening Form to
ALL second-graders at Title 1 schools and schools with high populations
of English Language Learner students instead of relying on a referral from
someone else (parent, teacher, etc.) to initiate the eligibility testing process.

Anonymous said...

From Save Seattle Schools: Proposed changes in the SP 2190, Highly Capable and Advanced Learning

Changes to appeals, pathways, etc.

good fit

GF mom said...

Lots of interesting discussion here on lack of rigor in the writing instruction. My daughter is a sophomore at Garfield and feels the need to amp up her writing skills via a summer program. We are waitlisted for one at UW, if anyone else has a good suggestion for a summer writing program (that addresses the kinds of skills noted above - not so much about creative writing but more about research, analysis, essays, etc), I would really appreciate it!
-GF mom

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Exhausted, for clearly summarizing the situation above (Mar. 4, 12:04p).

Our child is at the beginning of their journey, K, and will move to HCC next year. I'm trying to understand how to best become an effective advocate for all advanced learners.

1. Doesn't the HCS Parent Advisory Committee serve as a centralized parent community?
2. If so, has the Parent Committee focused on making changes at the OSPI or district level?

My own personal experience is that my child, despite extreme outlier MAP scores, receives infrequent, minimal differentiation at an ALO school.

- Considering