Sunday, May 22, 2016

Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall and its Rippling Effects


If you've been following the proposed Social Studies changes in the Thurgood Marshall building you'll remember how at the last HCS Advisory committee meeting (See: http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2016/05/53-hcs-ac-meeting.html) the AL staff indicated it was explicitly against policy to blend the classrooms.  On the bright side, it looks like everyone is paying attention to the policy this time. On the other hand, the solution now has ramifications for HCC as a whole. I haven't seen the proposed changes yet but its not hard to see how this argument could be extended particularly in  the context of Middle School.



"Dear Thurgood Marshall Family: 
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about Social Studies at our school.  Why? Let me give you some background…
When I first came to Thurgood Marshall after being hired in April of 2014, I met individually with teachers to get a sense of what they thought was going well with our school and areas for improvement. What came from these meetings was the idea that Thurgood Marshall was more like three programs in a building than one school.  Each teacher mentioned that students in different programs had little opportunity to get to know each other or to interact across the school day. From this, the idea of “Building Bridges” was born – an effort born in the 14-15 school year to reach out and make connections between various student groups within the school and to help our various parent groups feel connected. We want everyone to feel that they have a place at Thurgood Marshall. 
In the spring of 2015, our school became one of nine school accepted to participate in the first District Race and Equity Team.  As we received training in this area, we begin to think more about the impact our school’s design on our students. Our three programs – PEACE Academy, General Education and Highly Capable Cohort - are all designed to serve the needs of three different groups of students, but could there be points of intersection between these groups? 
Teachers began to think about integration and how this might be beneficial for our students, both for social needs and to support their academics.  Fledgling efforts had been made in this area – “Friendship Days” for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms where students participated in literature-themed art projects in mixed classroom groups, multi-age classroom partnerings for Reading Buddies, and “Mix it Up Day” where students were encouraged to sit by someone new in the lunchroom. Teachers felt these projects were a success, but because they happened sporadically, we were not seeing relationships between students develop outside these projects.  One notable success story was happening in our Fifth grade.  Students from our 4 classes – 3 HCC groups and 1 General Ed group – were blended into groups with students from each of the 4 classes to study moral dilemmas each week. Students spent time thinking together about how they would solve problems they might face in middle school. And from here, we began to see relationships take root that carried over from the classroom to the playground. 
Where this stands now…
The district currently has a policy in place (Procedures 2190SP) about self-contained learning in HC classes that states: “Highly Capable Services are designed for students identified as Highly Capable to provide advanced curricula as well as support their social and emotional needs from identification through graduation. Highly Capable Services include a self-contained path called the Highly Capable Cohort, which provides a rigorous curriculum in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, requiring students to perform significantly above grade level. 
After discussion with Advanced Learning, the department of Curriculum and Instruction, and principals of elementary and middle school HC sites, a change to this policy has been proposed that will allow slightly more flexibility in the study of social studies and science.  This is something that the school board must consider and vote on before our school is able to move forward. While we have had some discussions as an Equity Team, a staff, and at PTA Parent Equity meetings about the possibility of integrating Social Studies, at this point, we are on hold until we hear back from the central office. 
Why Social Studies?
I would like to propose that we consider our goals for social studies education.  On our district social studies page, the following is excerpted from OSPI:
What is social studies education?
Social studies in Washington State contributes to developing responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society within an interdependent world. Social studies equips learners to make sound judgments and take appropriate actions that will contribute to sustainable development of human society and the physical environment.
Social studies comprises the study of relationships among people, and between people and the environment. Social studies recognizes the challenges and benefits of living in a diverse cultural and ideological society. The resulting interactions are contextualized in space and time and have social, political, economic, and geographical dimensions.
Based on appropriate investigations and reflections within social studies, students develop distinctive skills and a critical awareness of the human condition and emerging spatial patterns and the processes and events that shape them.
If we are undertaking the study of social studies to develop “responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society,” what better way to do this than to teach social studies to groups of students who look like the culturally diverse, democratic society we are preparing them to live in?  Our General Education and HC programs are aligned to the same standards. We believe that the unique experience each of our students bring to this study will actually enrich their learning and push all students to think more deeply.
  • In the spring of 2015, third grade teachers decided to blend their classes for a social studies unit on Pacific Northwest Indians.   The success of this experiment, encouraged us to think about trying this on a larger scale.
  • Social Studies is a smaller part of our core content.  At the elementary level, most classroom time is spent on reading, writing and math. The curriculum for reading, writing and math is advanced 1-2 years in our HC classrooms; social studies curriculum is the same across programs.
Questions/Concerns that have come up:
  • How will we make sure that students are being appropriately challenged at their level? This endeavor, like any classroom instruction, will be taught with an eye to differentiation to make sure that students are engaged and thinking deeply about the topic. Differentiation is already taking place in each of our three programs so that students are able to access the curriculum. The departments of Advanced Learning and Curriculum and Instruction have each offered their support in helping our teachers prepare for blended classes and to make sure that each student will be challenged. The professional development we plan to do around this will benefit our teachers in planning for their regular classrooms, too.

  • Is this change being initiated by the school or by the district?  The idea to teach social studies in a different way came from staff at Thurgood Marshall, to address the learning needs of the students at our unique school site.

  • Is this an effort to reduce services to HC students? Absolutely not! We care deeply about meeting the needs of all of our learners.  We want to be sure that students are appropriately challenged at their level. HC exists to serve the learning needs of students who need something beyond the typical classroom, just as we have special education resources for students who need more support to access the curriculum. On the contrary, we feel that teaching social studies in this way will actually provide our students with another level of challenge as they consider more diverse viewpoints.

  • Is this a permanent change? As a school leader, I do not think that I go into any new and innovative situation with the expectation that something is permanent.  Instead, I like to think that we are pushing our thinking and learning forward (as both adult and student learners!).  With any new initiative we take on, we try it knowing that we will make refinements and improvements as we go.  I understand that this question comes from a distrust of past district practice – when a group has felt the need to strongly advocate for their children, they are wary of losing any ground.  I understand this – and I can tell you that this effort is coming not from the district, but from grassroots efforts of Thurgood Marshall staff and parents involved with our equity work.
As with all of the work we do, this is a conversation I want us to engage in together.  Our School Board will meet to discuss a revised policy in early June.  Once we hear their thoughts, I will schedule a meeting so that we can talk together about our hopes and wishes around this topic.
If you want to dig in a little further, I have added some resources below you may find interesting.
Sincerely,
Katie May, Principal
Thurgood Marshall Elementary

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/does-integration-still-matter-in-public-schools/

https://tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/

The radio program “This American Life” did a two part series on the topic of segregated schools:
Part 1:
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with

Part 2:
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with"


58 comments :

Anonymous said...

So all of the justification is in support of integrated classes for social studies, but the proposal is for integrated social studies and science. I'm more concerned about the science education. Why is science being listed if TM is only wanting to integrate social studies?

SPS parent

Anonymous said...

I am a TM mom, and I am excited about the social studies part of this. My concern, like SPS parent, is that the discussion of including science means integrated learning will start to creep into other areas of the curriculum. The reason that we moved our child to TM is for the pace of the curriculum. This isn't to say that there aren't kids in gen ed who can keep up with this pace, but I want to make sure that the blending of classrooms, and the promise of differentiation (which we heard in our child's gen ed classroom, that never happened) don't lead to more of the same that we had at our previous school. From a social justice angle, I am thrilled that my child will be given the opportunity to make friends with kids outside of the hcc bubble. It is the reason we waited as long as we did to make the move to HCC. The diversity that we experienced at our previous school (racially, soceioeconomically, etc.) is a great mirror of the broader world that our child will engage in, and on that score, I applaud TM.

Anonymous said...

Why the sudden concern with by-the-books following of policy?

As stated in the letter, current policy is that "Highly Capable Services include a self-contained path called the Highly Capable Cohort, which provides a rigorous curriculum in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, requiring students to perform significantly above grade level." Yet the letter also says that while at TM "the curriculum for reading, writing and math is advanced 1-2 years in our HC classrooms; social studies curriculum is the same across programs." Since they already aren't following the second part of that policy statement, why not just go ahead and not follow the second?

The idea of changing policy to respond to individual school wishes to break it seems crazy to me. Why can't TM get some sort of "waiver" to implement a pilot program on SS integration, complete with clearly identified goals and measurable outcomes for determining whether this is success? It's great if they want to try this--but if it works, we need to have some sense as why. TM has unique demographics, and it's hard to see how something like this would work at other HCC sites. Which, of course, also supports the idea of not making policy change on the basis of one school's interests.

HF

Anonymous said...

The proposal sounds like the old Spectrum model. With this change, will more families choose to remain at their neighborhood school, supplement, and wait until middle school enroll in HCC services?

Anonymous said...

Wait until middle school for HCC? This policy change could have the same effect on HCC middle school, too. It's not an elementary-specific policy.

Anonymous said...

My high school in this state had a policy where “everyone takes the same social studies classes” for the exact same reasons as expressed by Principal May. My high school didn’t have HCC, but it did have calculus and honors classes etc. for other subjects. The contrast between history and other classes was stark; for two years of high school history I never had anything but multiple-choice questions. I still recall thinking how worthless it was. And it hurt when I got to college. That’s not to say it was worthless for everyone as I had friends in those classes that struggled, which was exactly why it was all multi-choice.

At TM it apparently started with history for fifth yet they’ve already extended their request to science and a general policy change. One year of blended social studies has morphed into a request to effectively change the policy for first through eighth for social studies and science. Talk about a slippery slope.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is there is ambiguity around what is accelerated in elementary HCC and what is not.

Math: 2 years ahead, in cohort
LA: 2 years ahead, in cohort
Science: grade level science kits supplemented with additional kits, in cohort
Social Studies: grade level with cohort

I have reservations about opening the door to district-wide integration of non-HCC students into HCC social studies, because the ONLY thing that makes it HCC (anywhere, not just at TM) is the cohort.

And my ears perked up at the mention of the phrase "and science" in the letter, because there is zero explanation for why that would be included in the policy change.

cohort

Anonymous said...

Ultimately if the program is only the cohort it will remain vulnerable and perhaps rightfully so to social justice concerns. After all by definition segregation was about maintaining separate but equal "cohorts". I don't think its actually quite that stark in the HCC buildings but self-contained classrooms need solid justification. There has to be something different going on i.e. a different curriculum to warrant their existence.

Anonymous said...

If the policy change extends to middle school, what acceleration remains? Will they continue an accelerated science pathway in middle school, or will that be changed as well, just as LA/SS was aligned to grade level? From what I understand, JAMS already groups Spectrum, school-identified, and HCC students in HCC science and LA/SS classes. At an HCC-AC meeting some time back, the JAMS principal discussed their plan to align science topics by grade level - earth science in 6th, physical science in 7th, biology in 8th - for all students.

Is there a long range vision for AL delivery, or are these changes being driven by individual schools and being changed to policy piecemeal after the fact?

Anonymous said...

I actually see this as a great opportunity to meet multiple goals and address long-standing issues:
- Why are HCC science and social studies taught at grade-level? Whose decision was this? Do we agree that this is still the best choice or should we push for it to also be 2 years ahead?

- What is the curriculum, scope and sequence for social studies and science?
Rather than agreeing to sign the blank check of differentiation, should we now request a WRITTEN scope and sequence for HCC and gen ed with clearly defined goals?

- A social studies classroom with a multiple of perspectives seems laudable. Will we measure the success of TM's initiative with BOTH SOCIAL and ACADEMIC outcomes based on defined and measurable goals? Pre and post class?

- NEM

Anonymous said...

"Is there a long range vision for AL delivery, or are these changes being driven by individual schools and being changed to policy piecemeal after the fact?"

Piecemeal.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of integration in general, the report above from This American Life is well-done and thought provoking. I went to Seattle Public Schools during the time of busing and desegregation and I appreciated the diversity I experienced. I was a poor white kid in North Seattle and my closest friends came from many different racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. I had friends who lived in mansions in Magnolia and friends living in tiny apartments with extended family. In 6th grade, my best friend's mom didn't speak English. I used to ride a metro bus for an hour with another friend to hang out at her house down the street from Franklin High School. We were exposed to a true multi-ethnic, multi-cultural mix and we grew up with a comprehension of Seattle as an entire city, not just one neighborhood. I mourn the loss of that perspective in our city today. Newcomers to Seattle just stay in their lane and haven't experienced the diversity this city has to offer. Neighborhood integration is viewed with distrust--either we are NIMBYs or we are gentrifying. School integration is opposed because of a fear that if we don't keep the ground we have we will be taken advantage of, or because it's unfair for any one group to have to go out of neighborhood for an education. And these are all valid concerns! I don't know what the solution is, but just that we have lost something here.

sad

Anonymous said...

I could see this happening at all schools down the road HF. Why not? As for measurable goals the only one that really matters is the feel good test. Trust me LA/SS blending are coming to a middle school near you. Leaving Science as the only truly APP class in MS. It is getting to the point there is no reason to leave your neighborhood school. Is it the expectation that they will be able to cover the same subject matter in the same depth in blended classes?


My HS kid had zero classes with their BFF in MS also in APP. So much for the cohort, too.

Turn out the lights.

Anonymous said...

Please share your thoughts regarding this HCC policy change request directly with the SPS Board.
They need to hear from people beyond district staff about the impact this will make on the program and the students.
They can be reached en masse at spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

Rising 8th

Anonymous said...

There were 544 HCC students ar Garfield this year. Given the wide variation in courses needed (9th grade HCC can come in anywhere from needing Geometry to Calculus) and the scheduling of music and language and a myriad of other factors, the fact that your one student did not have a class with their BFF hardly seems surprising. The cohort is not about the luxury of having a class with your BFF, but about having a critical mass to be able to offer calculus to 9th graders and create rigorous and engaging classes and activities/clubs for hard working and engaged students. And they make new friends!

Anonymous said...

The annoying thing about all this research that's been in the news lately re: desegregation, such as that This American Life story, is that when they talk about positive outcomes for "all" kids they never break out academically gifted kids. They point to data that show reductions in the achievement gap, increases in graduation rates, and so on, with apparently no negative effects on (typically) whites and Asians. But if you're looking at things like performing well on grade-level tests, or graduating, or not dropping out, just because those particular markers aren't showing decreases does not mean there aren't negative impacts. Those are low bars, and academically gifted kids are likely to continue to meet them--whether or not integration has a negative impact on their academics.

The Century Foundation report linked to in the Principal's letter, for example, talked a lot about the Hartford area magnet schools. They had positive outcomes for typically lower performing groups, and slightly better outcomes for whites/Asians, too. It all sounds so great. But guess what? They have a gifted program, too--even a separate school that you have to test into: the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy, grades 4-8, requires scores in top 15% citywide in math, reading and language. So why do the most academically gifted students need their own academy if the more integrated approach works so well for "all" students? It must be because some students actually need more academically--that it doesn't work so well for the outliers.

Out of curiosity, I checked the course catalog for one of the Hartford magnet middle schools. Guess how high math went for 8th grade? Algebra 1. At our HCC middle schools, there are a lot of students ready for Alg 1 in 6th grade, and even more in 7th grade. Algebra 1 in 8th grade is only about a year ahead, or some places it's even considered the grade-level class. So clearly, advanced students may have fewer opportunities (academically, at least) in these schools, even if they "do great" on basic grade-level measures of success.

It doesn't make sense to use grade-level outcomes to gauge the success of a program or intervention re: gifted learners, and the generalizations in the research don't necessarily apply to gifted students.

Anonymous said...

May 23, 2016 at 3:12 PM Anon - chose a name and...

MS = middle school so for three years they never shared a class. Same math level too and both in instrumental.

Turn out the lights

Anonymous said...

Turn out the lights -

This year's 7th grade cohort is 419, 8th grade is 324. Compared to this year's 11th grade cohort of 167. Your 7th grade middle school cohort is 2.5 times larger than the cohort leaving high school. Granted the middle school cohort is divided between 3 schools, but there are 120-140 7th graders at each school that create many sections of each class. Having that many curious and engaged kids in each middle school cohort is a gift, not a curse. More math, more high level discussion, better music, etc, due to bigger cohorts. I guess I don't understand the complaint about the lack of a cohort working for you when in fact the cohort is large and thriving and getting bigger every year.

Anonymous said...

Ah. No no-named Anon, my concern isn't really with that it is that when you mix in gen ed into science and LA/SS there is no cohort anymore. That is the sole topic of the thread right? Turn out the lights

Anonymous said...

The cohort thing gets divided up by MS anyway with different math, language, and elective pathways. Originally, I was thrilled with 6th grade Algebra, but it was more algebra lite version in hindsight. My kids and their friends see more of that splintering now in HS. Some of their friends from the cohort went back to neighborhood HS. Others to private ones. They've made new friends while still keeping up with the old ones. The days when it was one cohort group moving as a unit is long gone. TBH, my focus is on content more than cohort at this point. It's great to have the large number and with that, comes a wider range of abilities in the mix. By HS, cohort becomes more subject focus- STEM, music/arts, LA/SS, Running Start, clubs, etc. where you see groupings of kids with similar academic focus and interest regardless of their academic designation.

almost done

Anonymous said...

Back in the 70's, I was in the gifted program (5th-8th) in St. Louis. It drew from kids all over the city and was the first time I attended a school with African American kids. It was also the first time I had African American teachers. Wholesale busing and integration hit St. Louis my 8th grade year and decimated the gifted program. There was no gifted high school anymore for me to go to so my parents sent me to a private Catholic college prep high school. I had taken algebra my 8th grade year in the gifted program (it was the highest math offered) and went on to take geometry my freshman year in high school which allowed me to take Calculus my senior year.

Integration and busing, took me from an already integrated school to an all white private school because there was no more gifted program. It was chaos and a lot of my friends in the gifted program either went private or suffered through high school at the public school they were bussed to. There was no calculus to take senior year so they either repeated algebra freshman year or took no math their senior year. It was a complete mess.

HP

Anonymous said...

According to Policy 2190, "A self-contained cohort option is available in grades 1-8." AL has no authority over schools, and no one else seems to be enforcing the current policy - see middle school. Where is the "appropriate curriculum" they reference in the policy? Isn't the "appropriate curriculum" for "significantly advanced academic levels" what necessitated the program in the first place?

Anonymous said...

With Integration, comes white flight. I don't think integration destroyed gifted program or strong academics. That was done by the adults of the time. In fact affirmative action barely germinated before it was systematically snuffed. It's not surprising that today, almost 50 years later, we still have court ordered integration of school districts. And yes, separate still means unequal.

It tells me SS still has a long way to go, gifted or not.

sigh

Anonymous said...

@ sigh, do you have any evidence to support your belief that integration hasn't impacted gifted programming? I've been looking for research that specifically addresses the impact of desegregation efforts on gifted programs and outcomes for gifted students, but can't find it. All the articles that claim positive or no negative effects for white students tend to address basic outcomes like graduation rates and grade-level test scores--outcomes that are not good indicators of how well gifted students fare. I'm curious as to whether gifted kids are disproportionately impacted by such efforts, such as by loss of access to appropriate courses.

Critical Mass

Anonymous said...

I happened to get stuck in traffic on MLK yesterday due to dismissal time at Thurgood Marshall. The contrast in the 2 student groups that make up TM was stark. The neighborhood kids, crossing the streets and walking home, were African/African American, most of the girls dressed in hijab. The white students (there were many more of them, remember the proportion of HCC to gen ed at TM is 3:1) were being picked up in nice cars both in the parking lot and along MLK. If this student body is segregated all day long along color lines, what is the message these kids are getting (pretty obvious)? If the teachers and principal at TM find value in trying to get the kids to interact with each other in a meaningful way that will benefit both groups, and they have determined that social studies would be a valuable class to try out this effort, maybe the sky isn't falling, and maybe HCC will continue to be self-contained in elementary and MS. Just from my 10 minutes spent watching dismissal from TM I can see why teachers and the principal would want to try something to help bring down the barriers between the gen ed and HCC and build bridges between two separate communities. Couldn't it be that having a blended social studies class at TM is just an attempt to find a meaningful solution to stark segregation at this particular school and not a death wish for HCC?

Anonymous said...

Do you have evidence that integration destroyed gifted program? If so, please include fear, white flight, economic and racial segregation into the equation. People want evidence of integration, but made sure true integration rarely took place for long enough time. The minute the civil rights law were signed into effect, the battle to nullify them began. That's true with busing.

Is segregation the only way gifted education can be achieved? What sort of research will quantify that? How do you take measurement of that- social construct, impact of generational institutional racism and economic and social discrimination? With Long term study, control, random assignment, etc.? That's a lot of teasing out to do. If segregation of the good old days is what people want in gifted education, then it's clear my child would have no place in gifted education.


If we are we back to IQ, the bell curve, and eugenics? There are tons of research by sober minded academics for people who believe in that sort of thing to work with. Hundreds of years worth. Go for it. The thing is you can't take way the systemic brutality and oppression of what people did to other people because they were deemed less worthy, unintelligent, incapable of grace and humanity those ideas were generated under.

sigh

Anonymous said...

The letter indicates the changes are being proposed for both SS and science, in both ES and MS...so not just SS at TM. If it were just SS, and just in ES, then maybe it would be a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

All the kids at TM are going into feed into Washington Middle School and then to Garfield where are the discomfort with the racial imbalances are going to be ratcheted up several levels and the ratio of HCC:gened is not going to be 3:1 in those buildings.

Since the principal at WMS has already dissolved self-contained Spectrum classes for reasons very similar to what's being discussed in TM and the majority of the Spectrum population is going to end up in the new Meany Middle School when it opens its not hard to imagine that self-contained classes in Middle School for the South pathway are very much at risk if this policy change is enacted.

No one has claimed that the gen-ed classes at Thurgood Marshall are deficient which would be a serious equity issue and the racial imbalances in the program exist whether we see the kids side by side or not. If you believe that HCC is inherently just segregation the proposed changes are not going to be satisfactory. Nothing will be until its dissolved. If you believe the program exists for solid academic reasons, then you're going to have to figure out how to justify it despite these issues and/or how to attack the core problems preventing greater minority participation in HCC.

Anonymous said...

Word is that Garfield is also moving to blended 9th grade SS for next year.

Anonymous said...

From the letter - where we stand now -

After discussion with Advanced Learning, the department of Curriculum and Instruction, and principals of elementary and middle school HC sites, a change to this policy has been proposed that will allow slightly more flexibility in the study of social studies and science. This is something that the school board must consider and vote on before our school is able to move forward. While we have had some discussions as an Equity Team, a staff, and at PTA Parent Equity meetings about the possibility of integrating Social Studies, at this point, we are on hold until we hear back from the central office.

The proposed change to this policy will allow SLIGHTY more flexibility in the study of social studies and science. At this point they are on hold. From the teacher's perspective, if there were a handful of kids in gen ed, immigrants with non English speaking parents who had never heard of HCC, but the teacher saw these kids were bright and could handle more, would it really hurt HCC, except on a policy level, to have these students in social studies, even in middle school? Slightly more flexibility does not read to me like a wholesale dismantling of the program.

Anonymous said...

I wish we had a word besides segregation to describe what happens when we create self contained classrooms. Not because it is not segregation, but because segregation has come to mean only racial segregation, and we could use something separate from that. Self containment has problems with (racial) segregation, but yes, I believe self containment is the only option for a working highly capable program in our district, so we should work on related but not idential racial segregation problems. With what I have seen my kids do in HCC vs gen ed in the older grades, I don't think the classes could be easily blended, especially not in science, which ties in a lot with math ability. I do not currently think middle school LA is rigorous enough, and it is blended, but I have no idea if the blending is a problem. They could just teach a reasonably rigorous curriculun, and then we'd see, I guess, if it is appropriate to blend. It's not hard enought for most of the students in the class as it stands.

But my kids don't go to TM to elementary, and our HCC program was standalone. Why are we changing the policy for the entire district? Why don't we let TM try a pilot program? How do the HCC famlies feel about it? Do they trust staff?

Sigh, I was also part of a failed bussing experiment, which really harmed that particular district for a generation. You can blame white flight, and you'd be partly right, but it is also always true that you have to pull parents in, not force them. They will always leave if they feel their kids aren't getting a good education, so it has got to be up to policy makers to convince them their kids *are* getting a good education- not just that they should put up with less because they are gross otherwise. There are so many ways to do it, but you can't just bus. I think it is true that integration doesn't torpedo gifted programs, but it is also true that many, many, many adults can't see how to do the two things at once, and dissolving gifted programs are an awfully tempting way to "freebie" raise test scores immediately in other schools, and I also think it is true that outcomes for gifted students are not well tailored in most research. I can imagine many other integrative strategies for advanced learning (no achievement scores necessary from title one schools. Rainier scholars type program for south end elementary. A "points" system to gain entrance to the program, which double weights teacher recommendation for FRL kids.), which don't involve blending SS and science. I think it would be hard to maintain a high reading and writing level (if you believe that HCC students have greater readinga nd writing ability in elementary) in social studies- which is part of the goal of social studies- while blending it, and science would just plain be not as interesting for HCC kids who are more advanced in the math component. But if TM wants to try(at least for SS) and can get some parent buy in, I am in favor of allowing schools to try to innovate. So great. Go forth and innovate! But I am not in favor of just sweeping two core academic subjects out of the HCC program. That seems unwise.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is, the proposed policy change is NOT necessary in order for TM to try this blended approach.

1. Policy currently says that the social studies curriculum is to be presented at an accelerated pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, yet TM says its current social studies curriculum is the same across programs. If they have been ignoring part of the policy all along, why does the policy have to be changed for them to deviate in another way?
2. TM already tried this blending with 3rd grade social studies, despite the current policy that calls for self-containment. If they can disregard the policy for the sake of their initial trial, why can't they disregard it for a larger trial?
3. Other HCC schools have already moved to blended models to varying degrees, despite the existence of the policy.

Clearly, the current policy is not a barrier to doing whatever the heck an HCC school decides to do. So why is it necessary to change the policy? If there's evidence that blended programs work better for gifted kids and/or still meet their educational needs, that's one thing--and revisiting the policy would make sense if that were the case. But to just change policy because one school, with unique demographics, wants to try something else seems a very bad move...with ripple effects, indeed.

HF

Anonymous said...

Aack...because schools are ignoring policy already, we should let it continue? That's the rationale? And some students should be allowed to sidestep HCC requirements while others can't? And that's decided how? What a mess.

Clearly, the current policy is not a barrier to doing whatever the heck an HCC school decides to do. Isn't this the real issue?

Anonymous said...

HCC is not a "gifted" program. It does not call itself
that and doesn't pretend to be one. It doesn't identify
using gifted rubrics or educate in a gifted model. Some
HCC students are gifted but many are not. It is for
academically "highly capable" period.

--reality check

Anonymous said...

And it was as recently as October 2013 that the Lincoln and TM PTAs worked on, and an AL task force approved, a set of guiding principles for APP, which included:

Provide self-contained classrooms for all core academic instruction in elementary and middle school, including Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science for APP-qualified students working approximately 2 grade levels ahead of same age peers. APP level math should be offered.

I remember so many meetings, task forces, surveys, PTA events, etc to nail down these guiding principles, which are now apparently irrelevant...

-an historian

Anonymous said...

No one has claimed that the gen-ed classes at Thurgood Marshall are deficient which would be a serious equity issue and the racial imbalances in the program exist whether we see the kids side by side or not. If you believe that HCC is inherently just segregation the proposed changes are not going to be satisfactory. Nothing will be until its dissolved. If you believe the program exists for solid academic reasons, then you're going to have to figure out how to justify it despite these issues and/or how to attack the core problems preventing greater minority participation in HCC.

I agree. That is the issue right there.

Anonymous said...

State law requires yearly adequate progress reports and changes to the program based on those reports, which must be based on a reliable, valid testing source (task force recommendations from 2013 have no standing). State law requires a continuum of services model based on student needs (which isn't being met by an optional self-contained model or so-called AL services in neighborhood schools). State law requires demographics in HC programs to reflect students in the area (meaning district-wide demographics since the law also requires a continuum of services model, which would rebut the argument that the northend "program" reflects the area).

If you are worried about laws and policies so much, how about advocating the enforcement of state law?

--reality check

Anonymous said...

State law requires demographics in HC programs to reflect students in the area (meaning district-wide demographics since the law also requires a continuum of services model, which would rebut the argument that the northend "program" reflects the area).

Huh??? Your logic doesn't hold on this one.

Anonymous said...

If you want to read the state WAC for Highly Capable (as not all info above is correct):

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=392-170

Anonymous said...

Some day I am going to have a seminar on the difference between sped and advanced learning. What we have is fine for a non-sped continuum of services. The way the statute is written, city, not district, demographics are legal for comparison demographics. Let's shoot for better for moral reasons, but you are conflating federal, IDEA law and a state specific statute. Not the same.
-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I believe the fundamental issue is the perception that HCC is somehow for special kids. I think that message starts with the leadership of Advanced Learning and it leads to resentment because it magnifies the perception of exclusion.

As far as I’m concerned, HCC is for kids that know more than their similarly aged peers based on scores on standardized tests. If parents and kids want in, the district needs to make it absolutely clear what they need to do to raise their scores to qualify.

We have two kids in HCC. One originally didn’t qualify because of their reading scores. A year later after hard work and focus, it went up by 20 percent. Another didn’t equality because of their quant scores. A year later after hard work and focus, it went up by 15 percentiles. Both are doing just fine in HCC because we continue to support our kids and require of them above and beyond that required by the district.

Instead of placing the responsibly on the students and the parents and saying, “this is what you have to do…”, the district takes the responsibility upon itself. And the district is going to continue to fail because by definition the district can’t raise the level of every student to the 98th percentile as compared to every other student.

Does the principal, who’s dealing with a poorly planned collocation and a backwards mentality from Advanced Learning about who HCC is for have a right to be angry? Absolutely. But lowering the bar by getting rid of self-contained classes is a poor solution.

- wrongheaded

Benjamin Leis said...

@reality-check: The WAC/OSPI definitions for HCC are fairly broad and having looked into this before we generally as a district meet all of them or you have to be prepared to go to court to prove otherwise. This is the case for many issues discussed here beyond just this immediate one.

There is a requirement in state code for a yearly progress report for the HCC program that as far as I know the district is in compliance with. This is prepared each year by AL office and HCS advisory committee.

Just like there is no definition of what highly capable is exactly, or what curriculum should be used there is no definition of continuum of services so you'd probably need a complaint to OSPI or some kind of lawsuit at the least to start a process to prove the current model doesn't comply. As far as I know, no one has ever found in a legal sense that differentiation in class doesn't satisfy this definition for example which is what I assume the district would argue if pushed to that point. I'll note the district's model is also not radically different from most of the neighboring districts. Take that for what it's worth.

Nothing in the actual WAC code that I've found defining HCC says the demographics must match the area. There is explicit language about equitable access to testing, identification and appeals as well as notes that its subject to the states civil right codes against discrimination that apply to the school's in general. You'd probably again have to go through a process showing discrimination under these statutes with respect to the identification process. Btw: this is the one area we differ from companion districts in our allowing of private appeals. If you were following the testing process this year, you'll remember the AL dept. tried to phase that out this year and its likely they will reattempt to do so in the future.

Anonymous said...

@reality check (aka enough already or about time?)

This is what WAC 392-170, Special Service Program - Highly Capable, has to say:

As used in this chapter, highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments...These students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes according to chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW.

Anonymous said...

The "assurances" portion of the Highly Capable Annual Plan (a.k.a. our grant application) says this re: identification: "The district needs to consider students from various racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. Students identified for the HCP should reflect the demographics of the district."

The WAC itself, however, is not as specific. And much of what IS in the WAC is somewhat contradictory to the idea that highly capable demographics need to match overall district demographics. For example:

A district's referral procedure for students who are highly capable may include screening procedures to eliminate students who, based on clear, current evidence, do not qualify for eligibility under WAC 392-170-055.
So screening criteria and the establishment of qualification criteria are fine, even though we all know these may result in disproportionate enrollment.

Students nominated for selection as a highly capable student, unless eliminated through screening as provided in WAC 392-170-045, shall be assessed by qualified district personnel. Again, students may be eliminated from consideration based on screening criteria, and there's no indication that screening criteria need to be different for different subgroups.

Districts shall use multiple objective criteria for identification of students who are among the most highly capable.... Each school district's board of directors shall adopt a selection policy and school district shall establish written procedures for the selection of the most highly capable students.
Not the most highly capable in each subgroup, but the most highly capable based on the established procedures.

Setting different criteria for different subgroups, while it may make sense as a way to offset the disproportionate impact of socioeconomic factors, potential instrument bias, etc., and while it's potentially the only way to get those district-mirroring demographics, also seems to contradict some of the WAC language.

HF

Rick Burke said...

I appreciate the discussion and varied points on this thread. As chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Committee, I would like to share an informational update about the policy work mentioned in several of the above posts. Our 2016 committee work plan had a scheduled review/update of 2190SP (Superintendent Procedure) planned for the May meeting, but due to the backlog of other work items, it got bumped to a future C&I meeting, TBD, possibly June 13th or August 15 (there is no C&I meeting in July). The actual policy 2190 is not on the work plan at this time, but we do have some open time in the fall.

For non-policy-wonks, take note that 2190SP is NOT a board-approved document. This is controlled by the Supt and staff but will be considered by the C&I Committee in the interest of transparency to the board and public. Any changes to the actual Policy 2090 would need to be reviewed at C&I, be forwarded to the general board meeting for introduction, and approved as a subsequent board meeting.

-Rick

Charlie Mas said...

The problem here is largely visual. The kids in the general education program are primarily dark-skinned and the kids in HCC are primarily light-skinned. This visual contrast was created when the District decided to place HCC (then APP) at Thurgood Marshall despite a strong caution against doing exactly that by the experts from UVA who reviewed the program.

This is a manufactured problem that could be fixed by moving HCC to a site closer to where the HCC students live in a school with demographics that more closely match the cohort, just like Board policy requires and the experts recommended.

Charlie Mas said...

HCC families at Thurgood Marshall should insist on social studies taught to a different Standard, as required by the policy, and evidence of the promised differentiation. If the school enters into this experiment, they should only do so with clear benchmarks for success and a willingness to undo it if those benchmarks are not met. Among those benchmarks should be ample evidence of differentiation and a set of HCC social studies Standards.

Anonymous said...

The only schools south of the cut that match the HCC demographic (though not white enough) are Montlake and McGilvra, and they are very small schools. I don't think HCC families south of the cut want to travel north to be in a school that matches their demographics. This is not just a visual problem. It's a problem on many levels. I always think when this is brought up as a solution to "HCC demographic problem" that the underlying message is - just put us in a nearly all white school and no one will notice that we here, or that there is an unusual demographic makeup to our cohort. The world will not end if there is one gen ed kid for every three HCC kids in a social studies class.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 7:35pm, I'm curious. What survey did you take of HCC families about how far they are willing to bus their children? It wasn't that long ago that all of them in the city put their elementary-age kids on a bus to Lowell. A heat map of the homes of HCC students shows that the bulk of of them south of downtown live in the area close to Capitol Hill, so it would not be a long trip for a lot of them.

As for whether it is a visual problem or not, I will rely on the statements of the people involved, who say that it is.

Yes, there is concern about the under-representation of some groups in HCC, but that's not the problem that Thurgood Marshall is trying to fix, is it?

No, the world will not end if there are general education students in HCC classes - what an absurd suggestion! The very goofiness of that idea is undoubtedly why no ever said that would be the result. What people are saying, however, (and you would know this if you were listening honestly) is that the school district is not providing the type of academic opportunity that they committed to providing. And that instead of stepping up to their commitment, the district is contemplating stepping further away from it.

I'm curious about how and why you think it would serve the interests of a student to be placed in a class where the student is not prepared to succeed? What is to be gained, for example, from putting a third grader working at grade level in a fifth grade class?

The push to mix general education students and HC students in a single classroom strikes me as more of a political effort than a pedagogical effort. What academic goal is furthered by it?

If, as the school claims, they will be able to differentiate, then let them make this change contingent on providing evidence of that differentiation.

Ouch said...


Exactly Charlie not a huge determinant but for what gain exactly other than optics. The ALTF was all about this too. And that is why the proposed testing changes. Why should my kid's special needs not be met, because the District, the State and the vast majority of all experts (some of which SPS has paid thousands of dollars) say this idea is hogwash.

-Ouch

Anonymous said...

Mr Aprilia,

The evidence of successful differentiation is the 1000+ HC students who choose to not participate in the cohort delivery model. These 1000+ students have been tested with the full cooperation of their parents and are receiving satisfactory service while enjoying the benefits of more socially diverse classrooms.

I am not sure what to make of your literal interpretation of common idiomatic expressions.

Pixie

Anonymous said...

Pixie,

Please explain the evidence-based details you used to define "success" of the HCC students who didn't join the co-hort? Evidence that their parents of 1000+ students are happy and satisfied with their decision?

As far as I know, none exists. If it does, please link to your source.


I hope you're not referring to the district of state assessments, since they're grade-level and not an appropriate measuring stick for those in the program.

- Curious

Anonymous said...

We still haven't seen detailed results of SBAC testing (only one year's worth, remember) for HCC qualified students broken down by grade and school. Are HC qualified students who are not in the HC program disproportionately attending high achieving neighborhood schools? Are they concentrated at option schools? Are more HCC qualified students remaining in their neighborhood elementary, but moving for middle school? We don't know! The district surely has the detailed data, but only aggregated data has been released (it wasn't even broken down as elementary vs middle school). As released, I'm not sure what conclusions could be drawn from the data. The other confounding factor is inconsistent curriculum - whether in HC or not, the curriculum is all over the place, from school to school, and from classroom to classroom.

Anonymous said...

That data was useless, any conclusions drawn from that data is a stretch and as such anyone who uses that to strength their bias and argument are lost.

-Ouch

Anonymous said...

If the data is being used to compare cohorts and to support the proposed changes, what about 5th grade and 8th grade MSP science scores?

Anonymous said...

@ Pixie, you mistakenly assume that because someone tests into HCC yet doesn't opt into the cohort that it necessarily means they are receiving successful differentiation at their current school. You then take it a step further and also assume that if neighborhood-based differentiation is working for them, then it's evidence that it would work elsewhere.

Unfortunately, you're wrong on both counts.

People opt out of the cohort for many reasons, including non-academic ones. The neighborhood school is often closer and much more convenient. Maybe bussing won't work for a family. Maybe they want to keep siblings at the same school. The kid has great friends they really don't want to leave. The school offers something else the family really values, like environmental ed or language immersion. They are concerned about HCC splits, relocation, etc. They don't think their kid/family will fit in. And so on. Some families prioritize non-academic factors over an academically appropriate education and decide it's worth opting out of HCC even if it means their child won't receive the differentiation they should.

Parents also opt out of HCC for academic reasons, but even these cases aren't evidence that local differentiation is successful. For example, some parents opt out because the HCC doesn't have a reputation of being all that challenging academically, so what's the point of all the disruption? Some opt out because their student needs more advanced instruction than even HCC can provide, and they'll have to find alternate instruction anyway. Some opt out because they know they can provide enough supplementation at home to make up for the deficient education at school. You get the idea. But none of these suggest that the neighborhood school works as well as or better than HCC for these kids--it's just that parents have alternate strategies to address the shortcomings.

When it comes to HCC, selection bias is huge. Families who choose to move generally do so for different reasons than those who decide not to move. The fact that a certain number of HCC-qualified kids have opted out of the cohort is not evidence that the neighborhood school is successfully differentiating. It's simply an indicator that parents, for whatever reason, did not see the value in moving. The figure you cited also obscures the fact that many of these kids ultimately WILL move to HCC--often families try to stick it out at the neighborhood school but end up moving a year or several down the road, when they realize their efforts to get that supposed differentiation aren't working.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

One more thing: Many of the issues noted above also make it problematic to do simple test score comparisons between HCC students and those who are HCC-qualified but opt not to participate. Would you expect those in the cohort to score higher, because they had the benefit of the program? Would you expect those who stay at the neighborhood school to do better, because they may have been more "ahead" to start with and/or maybe had more tailored independent study and home-based supplementation? It's hard to say, which makes it difficult to interpret such test results in any meaningful way.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

There are so many factors to consider.

It is possible that the HCC program is simply not academically rigorous on the whole. Students could be coasting along not really learning much, and the grade level assessments might actually be an indication of a poorly implemented program.

The data is also based on a single year of SBAC testing (where's the comparable MSP data?). One year does not make a trend. The 2007 APP review did show similar differences in reading/ELA scores, so it is worth looking into similar data for prior years. You'd think they would look at the scores for at least the last three years. The current presentation of the data is just too limited to justify major programmatic changes.

I'm not sure how much supplementation varies for HC qualified students in the cohort vs not in the cohort. We have provided supplementation on an ongoing basis.