Friday, December 30, 2016

January '17 Open Thread

Note: I've reverted back to default blogger comments.

Welcome to the new year. I hope everyone had a good break. There are a lot of district wide forces that may affect HCC this year. Chief on my mind is the impending levy cliff. In the meantime here's a few things I've been watching.:

  • The Cascadia split vote is coming up soon.
  • The feeder patterns for REMS are about to be finalized. I haven't written much on this subject. But an unfortunate situation has been setup where its likely the 8th grade cohort will be mostly just HCC students. Given the numbers at Hamilton and its need for relief and the numbers at Whitman where anyone can opt to go back there during open enrollment there's no great solution. There's also likely to be little to any money to mitigate low enrollment classes given the overarching budget situation. This could come to play in extra curricular offerings, language options, advanced math etc.
  • The ongoing honors for all English/History classes at Garfield and the blended Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall.
  • The roll out of HCC at Madison Middle School and coming West Seattle pathway changes.
  • Middle School Math. This year only Hamilton Middle School offered the AMC 8 test and registered for Math Counts. When you look at the overall stats for the area as expected Odle Middle School and Lakeside Middle School stand out. In theory the pool of talent here is much deeper than the results we're getting. Anyone who's interested in the situation at JAMS please email me. This is the one MS I'm probably going to work most directly at affecting.

Quote for thought from  Prof. Wayne Au:
There are at least three things I would like folks to consider here:

1. None of the tests are objective, unbiased measurements. They never have been in the 100 or so years that standardized testing has existed in the U
nited States. On the whole, our standardized tests have always reflected race and class-based inequalities. Even the very concept of IQ was originally constructed around these kind of inequalities and in those same origins was deeply rooted in the burgeoning eugenics movement. Now, of course everyone will argue, "But those are the old tests. It isn't the same now." The answer is yes and no. Different tests, but, again on the whole, the tests we have now actually reproduce the same race and class based inequalities as they did 100 years ago. I would argue that testing everyone will not equalize selection and will ultimately continue to reinforce the existing inequalities.

2. I also think it is important for folks to take the time to understand all of the factors that go into "educational achievement." It may be simply the case that kid A is considered for HCC and does well on a test over kid B simply because kid B might have been exposed to lead, or not had access to good health care, or lacks stable housing and food, etc., etc. Now these problems may feel too big to take up, BUT, if you are going to say, "Well we can't fix that, but we can make sure kid A gets access to a 'high' track, HCC program with special resources to meet their needs," then I think we have a problem of promoting a system of differentiation that ultimately privileges one group of kids over another based on factors that are socially and economically determined. I raise this because, no matter how one feels about tracking/HCC (for or against), empirically speaking it has perpetuated race and class inequalities, hand in hand with the testing. So if you're going to be an advocate for tracking, then you better be a fierce advocate for a whole bunch of other things that other kids need too, because if it all becomes just about your kid and your kid alone, then you buying into a system that is perpetuating inequality writ large.

3. I would also caution folks to assume that teaching, learning, and knowledge do not contribute to the lack of kids of color in HCC. Teaching, learning, and knowledge are strongly connected to culture, race, and/or class (or gender, for that matter). No set of knowledge or curriculum is neutral in terms of ideology or culture. What we choose to teach or not to teach are choices based on constructed norms. The same goes for how we teach. It is all imbued with different norms of communication and presentation of materials, as well as norms for interacting with kids. Since there are so few low income kids and kids of color (particularly Black and Brown kids of color) in HCC, then we cannot empirically say that the curriculum and instruction are not part of the problem. Indeed, folks should talk to the kids of color who've left HCC to see what they say. One issue in the educational literature on tracking is that the few kids of color in "high" track classes feel alienated from their mostly white peers and they have, in some cases, felt alienated from Eurocentric curriculum (mostly in humanities and social sciences, where those things are more easily felt).

I've hesitated to weigh in on the threads here because I feel like a lot of the conversations have been largely off-the-cuff, based a lot on individual experiences and without much attention to the equity issues that are well known in the areas in the research literature. I've posted here because the tone of the OP seemed open, and I thought it was a good space to challenge some of the assumptions that were laid out."

Slide deck for Carol Burris's talk on detracking at Garfield:


Anonymous said...

Thank you for returning to the old commenting format.

I'd add IBX at IHS to your list. Rumor has it they are moving to an "Honors for All" English for 9th, and making IBX opt in for current 9th graders and beyond. They have not addressed the limited science options for HCC students (a non-AP physics is the only option) for those delaying the diploma until 11th grade.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments from Dr. Au. I have some follow-up questions and thoughts.

RE: #1,
Dr. Au says "our standardized tests have always reflected race and class-based inequalities"--the old tests did, and the new tests "reproduce the same race and class based inequalities." He also argues that "testing everyone will not equalize selection and will ultimately continue to reinforce the existing inequalities."

Are there tests that more accurately identify giftedness in ways not impacted by race and class? Could Dr. Au design a cognitive abilities test that would not reproduce the same race and class based inequalities? Or does he think that the existence of race and class based inequalities means that test results will always show disparities, because the inputs (e.g., early childhood education, family environment, parent education, health and nutrition, harmful exposures, etc.) are less optimal, allowing for less optimal growth and development?

RE: #2,
He says "no matter how one feels about tracking/HCC (for or against), empirically speaking it has perpetuated race and class inequalities, hand in hand with the testing." Where are the empirical data that HCC has perpetuated inequalities? Students who test into HCC start out way ahead of other students, yet end up not all that far ahead in the end, with access to the same classes as everyone else in high school, for the most part. AL department data, too, show that HCC students don't do any better than HC-eligible students who opt to stay at their neighborhood schools. HCC students may perform better overall than non-HC students, but that may not have anything to do with tracking. Highly capable students are likely to out-perform students of more average ability regardless. Further, eliminating HCC would not mean the end of race and class inequalities in Seattle schools.

I DO agree with his larger point, though. He seems to acknowledge that socioeconomic factors can influence child brain development and that as a result cognitive giftedness may be less prevalent in low SES children--something many others are not willing to acknowledge--then he takes it a step further and seems to suggest that while there may be a case for tracking, there also needs to be intensive work done to ensure that those socioeconomic factors that negatively impact brain development are reduced/eliminated. I think this is the right approach--to acknowledge that there often ARE tangible differences in ability that may in fact warrant different services, but to not ignore the fact that SES has a huge impact on these differences and work HARD to mitigate its impact. In other words, not all children have equal cognitive abilities (it's a bell curve), but the goal is equity in developing them. We need many more educational supports and wraparound services for students and families who don't have access to the same opportunities. We do not, however, need to remove opportunities or reduce educational options for those who are already high achieving.

RE: #3,
Why is this an HCC issue? The curriculum isn't any different, so this would seem to be a general SPS issue. If we need more culturally competent curricula and teaching methods, that would seem to be a district-wide issue. But then again, since very few schools seem to use the approved curricula, shouldn't we expect that schools with high percentages of kids of color are able to do a better job of providing instruction that isn't alienating, and thus are producing better results? If that's not what we see, why not?


Anonymous said...

I am also interested in his thoughts, since he is teaching a whole generation of teachers. I find it disappointing that he does not question his own assumptions. If some kids score better on tests than others due to outside factors, why are those outside factors not what cause them to do better in the end rather than HCC? Correlation is not causation. If outside factors like lead exposure have affected what curricula students are ready for, why is it vice instead of virtue to give them what they actually need instead of giving them the same thing on a wish that the bad thing had not happened? Why would more advanced classes be "better," instead of just different? There is plenty of evidence that kids on the margins (just barely qualified vs just missed the cutoff for gifted programs) do about the same, maybe a little better in gen ed in some cases. But kids at the top end do much better in self contained classes and worse in gen ed classes. I don't think these programs, at least in Seattle, are "better" for everyone. They are better for some kids, but that is because those kids have unusual educational needs.


A.Samuelsen said...

The Garfield High School PTSA would like to invite everyone to the Quincy Jones Performance Center on our campus on January 11, from 6:30-8pm, to hear from educator Carol Burris. She will discuss the practice of detracking, and there will be a panel to share about their experiences afterward, comprised of teachers and students, including Prof. Wayne Au. It is free and we welcome all. The Seattle Education Association, Center for Race and Equity and the Social Equality Educators are co-sponsoring the event. Mark your calendars and come on out! Should be a lively evening.
(Benjamin, if you contact me I will send you a flyer/more info, if you'd like to post--thx.)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what's on the agenda for tonight's HCC advisory meeting at JAMS?

Rick H. said...

"Well we can't fix that, but we can make sure kid A gets access to a 'high' track, HCC program with special resources to meet their needs," then I think we have a problem of promoting a system of differentiation that ultimately privileges one group of kids over another based on factors that are socially and economically determined."

This statement is problematic and only makes sense if Dr. Au considers gifted education to be only a privilege, something "higher" and awarded only for success or socioeconomic status, as opposed to a need, something justifiably and reasonably provided to kids who are wired differently and require a different education, no matter their socioeconomic status or race/ethnicity.

As anyone who has rudimentary familiarity with giftedness should know, people with high IQ generally also have other traits such as overexcitabilities, asynchrony, etc., not to mention that being 2E is perfectly common. It is not helpful to be dismissive of the needs of Child A because the needs of Child B are not being met. The needs of both children must be met, and Child A's are not more or less important or more or less worthy simply because she has a high IQ (and likely numerous other gifted traits). Holding Child A back because Child B hasn't caught up doesn't help Child A in the least (and likely doesn't help Child B particularly, either). This idea that high IQ, asynchronous development, overexcitabilities, etc., are a "privilege" doesn't make sense to me; as with any mixture of inborn characteristics, there are major upsides AND major downsides.

B. Stephens said...

1. None of the tests are objective, unbiased measurements.
Bias in a test is not the same thing as saying all children are identical in terms of their learning needs. Different children (and adults) very clearly have differing levels of ability and experience in different fields. They pick things up at different speeds. Some have an easier or harder time at one thing or another. I taught a foreign language for years and I can assure you that some humans have an easier time learning a second language than others. That is not a value judgment of the people involved, but it is a fact. My brother is better at math than I am. I am still awfully darn good at math, but it does not change the fact that my brother is better. Not my other brother. He's worse at math but much better at art. And so very photogenic. These things are true whether or not we take a test of any kind. They are true whether anyone notices these differences between us. People can run different speeds (I'm not the fasted). People compete at different levels. This is true of all humanity everywhere. For strengths and weaknesses that affect learning, it makes sense to have some mechanism for determining which school class a person should take. You don't want native speakers of French in a beginning French class. It's a disaster for everyone. You don't want someone who lived in France for 6 months in a beginning French class either. You test them and place them in a level that will be a comfortable stretch for them. Hard enough to learn something and challenge them, easy enough that they won't stomp out in a huff of frustration. This is common sense. And no matter what test you use, there is always a subjective component to assessing which language class someone should place into. But not THAT subjective. And when humans are involved there is pretty much universally and inherently some bias involved. But that does not mean that all humans are ready for French 4. Or French 2. Or French 6. Humans vary. And the idea that somehow being in French 6 is THE BEST is nuts. It's best if that's the comfortable level for you. If you need French 1, being in French 6 would be inappropriate and not best practice by any means.

2. To think of HCC as "tracking" is wrong. HCC does not perpetuate race and class inequalities, it reflects them. As do many other aspects of our society and programs in our schools. If you got rid of HCC it would not solve the race and class inequalities in Seattle, in Washington or in the U.S. HCC accounts for about 3,000 out of the school district's 53,000 kids. A small program for 3,000 kids is pretty inconsequential in the big picture of Seattle public schools. Even if we assume that testing and identification for HCC is biased, and we admit 3,000 more kids from among underidentified demographics in HCC, that does nothing to help any inequities that the other 47,000 Seattle public school students might face. And I am confident that those other 47,000 kids are experience some inequities. And I'm betting that the hypothetical 3,000 newly admitted HCC students won't all find the program to be a good fit that will have a positive effect on their lives and their schooling.

3. HCC kids are using the same curriculum that everyone else is using, just two years earlier, so if the curriculum is a problem in terms of ideology or culture or constructed norms or Eurocentrism, those problems have nothing to do with HCC. If SPS has chosen less than ideal curricular materials they do not become better or worse by showing them to kids two years earlier or later. A Eurocentrist text in 6th grade is no worse than that same text in 8th grade. Right? I don't see how HCC has anything to do with this point. In fact, it seems to suggest that professor Au may not be clear on what HCC is.

Laurie Clark Klavins said...

Next Monday, January 9th, 7pm at Lincoln High School library (home of Cascadia Elementary), the 2e parent support group will be hosting Wyeth Jessee (SPS Chief of Student Support Services) and Teresa Swanson (SPS Special Education Supervisor for the NW region). This will be an open discussion about the needs of twice exceptional students and how we might go about meeting them in Seattle Public Schools. If your child is dealing with dual exceptionality I encourage you to come; we'd like to give district staff a sense of the size of our population and scope of our issues. Please join us and make your voice heard!

Anonymous said...

I have an HCC kid at WMS, and am trying to decide whether to send him to Garfield. I always thought this would be a no-brainer, but I've heard enough questionable things about Garfield, both academically and socially, that I'm feeling very conflicted.

The other option is our local high school with a fair reputation but possibly better leadership and better social situation. I'm interested in thoughts from others with experience and knowledge about this choice.


SPS parent

Anonymous said...

Which high school are you considering as an alternative?

Anonymous said...

January 9th, 7pm at Lincoln High School library (home of Cascadia Elementary), the 2e parent support group will be hosting Wyeth Jessee (SPS Chief of Student Support Services) and Teresa Swanson (SPS Special Education Supervisor for the NW region). This will be an open discussion about the needs of twice exceptional students and how we might go about meeting them in Seattle Public Schools.

open ears

Anonymous said...

do you think we should discuss jill geary's revelation that she thinks hcc suffers from institutional racism. or does that claim sit well with you. i am personally appalled. folks like charlie seem to agree with it though.

no caps

Pm said...

No caps, could you please use caps and correct punctuation? Your posts are so hard to read.

Benjamin Leis said...

I added the slide deck from last night's talk by Carol Burris.

NE Dad said...

I've reviewed the comments from the Carol Burris "panel". What's interesting is that everyone on the panel seemed to have the same opinion that tracking is bad. I didn't see any counterpoint, just groupthink.

I do agree there are issues and improvements to be made. But I also see a lot of false statements and exaggerations being made on both sides of the issues.

Anonymous said...

Here's what Garfield teacher Mary Powers had to say: Mary: The improvement at Garfield so far has been deeper than academic. It is helping to overcome separation by race and move toward a more unified student body, "One Garfield." Different groups are getting to know each other and overcoming stereotypes. Students realize intelligence is not fixed, and that they have equally important gifts. They experience others of different backgrounds and learn to value diversity.

Notice that she mentions no academic improvement. How many parents send their kids to high school with the paramount goal of overcoming separation by race? Not me. My kids go to high school to prepare for college.

Burris claims that high achieving students aren't harmed at her former school because they're still passing IB exams (score of 4) and the state tests required for graduation. This low barrier is not proof that students are engaged and challenged.

Burris noted that if the Social Equity Educators want to expand detracting across the district they'll need string support from teachers, principals and the school board. Powers noted that Ted Howard is supportive of their efforts for this year..

The most amusing part of the evening was when a parent whose child attends Wedgwood (2 black students and 7 FRL students per grade) explained that she believes that white parents of accelerated kids don't support detracking because they don't recognize the great benefits their kids would receive from a diverse classroom.

Another parent of a kindergartener asked why the parents of her child's classmates would choose to have their kids tested for HCC at such a young age. (Hint: maybe the gen ed classroom isn't working for their kids.) Apparently she's not able to imagine anyone having an experience that's different from hers.

There was also a nice moment when Wayne Au mocked the racist parent on the Soup for Teachers Facebook page who try to explain why their kids really need something different.

Over all, I was not impressed. I'll note that very few Garfield parents or teachers (and no administrators or counselors) were in attendance. I don't see this spreading any further.

Anonymous said...

For those not familiar with IB scores, they're out of a total of 7 (AP has a top score of 5). Four is a pretty low bar (perhaps the equivalent of a C?) and is unlikely to get a student college placement or credit, unlike a 4 on an AP exam. The IB score also includes a classroom based assignment that's factored in - maybe 20% of the total score. When working toward the IB diploma, I believe a 4 is the bare minimum score for each subject.

As far as thinking the "honors for all" push won't spread any further, seems part of a loosely planned continuum of changes. Spectrum was eliminated, as was acceleration in middle school HCC LA/SS, and now it seems they are moving toward changes in HS. IBX is no longer the HCC default and the current 9th grade cohort must opt in to the IBX pathway (with criteria yet to be determined).

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's clear from Ms. Burris' presentation and the comments of the panelists and parents in attendance that very few people understand--or even wish to consider--the very different needs of highly capable students. I hope someone sues the district at some point, as that's typically the only way to get their attention and have admin try to reign in principals and teachers intent upon denying appropriate services.

Anonymous said...

Who paid Carol Burris to travel to Seattle?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have heard such distinctly different reports about Honors for All at GHS than what teacher Mary Powers is quoted as saying. I know 3 students in 9th at GHS, so small sample size. They are very disappointed in their classes and don't think they seem like honors or are at least not as rigorous as middle school. These students have noticed that a couple of kids in their classes seem illiterate and are more likely to sleep through their honors for all class. These students ARE developing stereotypes and their parents are working to unpack them and challenge that what they see is about a few kids and can't be generalized, etc. They reported that students were asked how it's going and white HCC students wouldn't be forthcoming with administrators about what isn't going well for fear of being perceived as racist. Maybe honors for all is better than what these students are experiencing, but it is hard to trust that teachers have enough training in differentiating and that teachers and staff are actually facilitating hard discussions about race and equity.

Anonymous said...

Why would you hope teachers and staff are facilitating discussions about race and equity? I hope they are deepening their students's academic reading and writing skills. That's what Mary Powers is paid to do.

If conversations about race and equity are happening at Garfield, they should be taking place outside the classroom.

Anonymous said...

A lot of this talk about race is whitewashing Asian and Indian students. Asian kids are typically "over-represented" in GAT programs. (i.e. 2013 Wall St Journal article:

Usually, when people talk racial dynamics and testing, they aren't talking all racial minority groups, they're speaking specifically of African American children and sometimes (depending on the political tide) Hispanic children. We either need to get specific about which racial groups we're talking about or we need to stop talking about "racial bias."

Addressing SES inequities makes better sense, because that is where the real divide lies--across all groups. And it would add to the conversation to talk about cultural values; because that is one of the reasons Asians are typically over-represented.

Input from past HCC students who are underrepresented would be excellent. But input then needs to be put synthesized into a testable hypothesis--not just political or guilt inducing statements. That leads to knee-jerk policy overhauls that do more harm than good.


Anonymous said...

I caught the tail end of a report on KUOW this evening about a group proposing a requirement to have ethnic studies in SPS. I didn't catch any of the details.

Lynn said...

Yes - this is Jon Greenberg's blog entry on the plan.

Let's leave additions to the list of mandatory courses to the state board of education.

Anonymous said...

Having skimmed the provided link, it's unclear what an ethnic studies mandate would provide that can't be incorporated into the existing framework of standards. There is a long discussion of why they are making the proposal, but not discussion of exactly what the standards would provide. Many teachers already assign readings from a diverse list of authors and one of the guiding principles of the existing state learning standards for social studies is "incorporate multiple perspectives and cultural awareness." Perhaps they will provide more detailed info as part of their proposal.

Anonymous said...

@ Frustrated "Addressing SES inequities makes better sense, because that is where the real divide lies--across all groups. And it would add to the conversation to talk about cultural values; because that is one of the reasons Asians are typically over-represented. "

Agree that it makes better sense. I sometimes think Seattle does not truly understand diversity and inequity beyond issues of race. Here is an interesting article regarding IQ differences including when controlling for parental occupation , history of low income groups (now considered) white and achievement.

Anonymous said...

"Yes - this is Jon Greenberg's blog entry on the plan."

And why only add ethnic studies. Jon Greenberg's argument also applies to women. Don't girls learn about white male anglo saxon history? Why shouldn't all take a women's studies course as well exploring women's contributions from diverse ethnic, racial, gender groups? Also, his argument about history does not apply to all ethnic groups in the US now considered white. We are not all of white anglo saxon heritage. We have a variety of ethnic groups considered white (maybe who once were not) who have different histories in the US. High school history classes should incorporate diverse histories.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that little history was taught the year he was an 8th grade teacher at HIMS. Trail of Tears? Civil War?? Reconstruction? Chinese Exclusion Act? Not taught. Majors events in our history that would have provided a framework for understanding - 19th century being the primary focus - just weren't covered. They critiqued Disney cartoons, discussed media bias, and watched downer videos about the objectification of women. While there may be a kernel of good intentions with the ethnic studies initiative, I have little faith in the implementation. Possibly because we have not found that classes are covering the base level expectations.

Anonymous said...

My son is currently a 7th grader in HCC at Hamilton, and we live in Magnolia. Does anyone know if Hamilton will continue to host HCC next year with the opening of Eagle Staff? And what middle school Queen Anne and Magnolia HCC kids will attend? I can't find that info on the district site.

Lynn said...

Yes. Your child will continue in HCC at HIMS. You'll be able to see this if you log into the source.