Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spectrum Updates

The year long review process initiated by the Advanced Learning department is moving along. Spectrum is a bit out out of this forum's focus but since I expect the review to turn to HCC this is worth examining.

Review Phase 1
Program Review
Literature Review

On the positive side, the parent response sections reflect real frustrations with the program and the authors were up front about the issues.

On the less positive side, there's a lot of distrust of  any sort of grouping on the principals side and general belief that a single classroom meets everyone's needs. This includes dislike of practices like walk-to math.


There's obviously a huge gap between these two positions.

The conclusions are disappointing in the sense that they are mostly stay the course:

I'd argue that this is what both the central staff and most principals claim is already happening on the ground especially with programs like ALO.  There is no  analysis on what changes would need to be taken to make a difference for students.  Realistically, the way the AL department is setup it doesn't even have a mechanism for implementing any of these. Site based management means any such change is up to the 90+ principals in each building.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the info. The presentation suggests a move away from any sort of grouping and instead they will rely solely on differentiation, PBL, and so called "deeper learning." Even walk-to-math grouping was discouraged.

John D. said...

Here's a nice rundown on how ability grouping and tracking aren't the same thing. And how ability grouping can efficiently and effectively provide Spectrum students with an appropriate level of challenge, positive social and emotional gains, and a peer group within GE classrooms:

Here's a discussion of how to set up a schoolwide cluster grouping model. At a bare minimum, this should be done for advanced learners in all schools that are not using some other kind of effective grouping for advanced learners.

It took my child's ALO school about 6 months into the school year before they implemented something like this. And even then the students only broke into the groups once a week (?!!!?!!)

Anonymous said...

We had a great experience with walk-to-math inclusive Spectrum. This was a year or so before the district under MGJ began these policies designed to dismantle ability grouping. We have also found that giving the principals discretion over the AL programs and classroom access led to vastly unequal AL implementation at different schools. The responses posted here (thanks for that) show that principals hired by the district are rebelling against what seem to be good educational practices. This rebellion seems to fly in the face of families and state law. If those entrusted to implement programs refuse to do so then what is to be done?


Anonymous said...

For better or worse, Spectrum is not required by state law. Its integrity depends on the schools and there really isn't any enforcement you can appeal to.

Anonymous said...

As in no grouping whatsoever - the program review mentions HC as well and does not seem limited to Spectrum. It reads more as a road map for all AL services.

Anonymous said...

Agree with previous poster. I think for the HCC community to assume that this is a Spectrum-focused review and set of proposals is a big mistake. Part of the confusion is the use of the term "advanced learning"--we assume that to mean Spectrum, for which eligible students are called "advanced learners." But the DEPARTMENT responsible for HCC and HC services is the "Advanced Learning" dept...and this is an evaluation of "advanced learning." Clearly HCC is mentioned throughout the document, and any distinctions between "advanced learners" and HC students will likely be lost on many reading this report--including some staff and board members. While the review clearly states the weight of evidence in support of acceleration (subject and/or grade) for HC students, and the comments from teachers clearly convey the major challenges to providing sufficient differentiation to HC students in regular classrooms, the final recommendations seem to ignore all that and push for blended classrooms. Is that supposed to be a "Spectrum"-specific recommendation, or an Advanced Learning department-wide rec? Hard to say. But it's likely to be interpreted, or spun, to be the latter, if that's what fits the direction staff already want to go...as seems to be the case.

AL Grouping? said...

"Ability grouping" or "cluster grouping" do not require advanced learners to be placed in a separate classroom. These are forms of grouping that allow schools to better meet the needs of advanced learners when they are being taught in gen ed classrooms. But this is NOT the system SPS is using. Our ALO school spreads all the gifted kids out between the different classrooms, which maximizes the range teachers have to teach and minimizes the amount the advanced learners actually learn. If SPS is going to keep advanced learners in gen ed classrooms, they should consider cheap, effective, flexible ability grouping or schoolwide cluster grouping.

The schoolwide cluster grouping idea works this way:
A principal or gifted program coordinator monitors the clustering to ensure that consistent curriculum compacting and differentiation are taking place, and when class placements are made, students are sorted into the following five groups:
1. Gifted
2. High Achieving
3. Average
4. Below Average
5. Significantly Below Grade Level

Then, you group the students in the classrooms this way:
Classroom A: 6 gifted students, 0 high achieving students, 12 average students, 12 below average students, 0 far below average students
Classroom B: 0 gifted students, 6 high achieving students, 12 average students, 6 below average students, 6 far below average students
Classroom C: 0 gifted students, 6 high achieving students, 12 average students, 6 below average students, 6 far below average students

This allows all the teachers to have a slightly narrower range, which decreases the amount of differentiating they have to do. And because they're happening in the classrooms, it makes it very easy for the groupings to be flexible. So if an average student becomes a high achieving student, they can just join the high achieving grouping. This allows high achieving students to emerge as new academic leaders in their own classes.

Not recommending this for HC students, who do need acceleration, but the district could use this for students in non-HC programs.

Anonymous said...

I am a proponent of accelerated curriculum available for everyone who wants to participate (again, HCC could be a separate thing). In the Eastside and Mercer Island, it appears that the average 'regular' classroom teaches at a much higher level than the neighborhood Seattle school, no testing required. There's no reason to have the pace in elementary school be set as slow as it is, where children are basically reiterating on the same math for years. Not sure of an easy solution, but maybe we should allow parents to 'opt-out' of a more rigorous academic school (by going to option school with different models, like Thornton Creek or Salmon Bay) rather than having an 'opt-in' system. Then there could be some pull-out sections for kids who are struggling, since the district is already incentivized to help those students and is not incentivized to help students already performing well. I think you'd end up with better test scores for everyone and a more interesting academic life for the students.

Our experience with Spectrum was dismal so we left for private school. Teacher would not allow my six-year-old Spectrum student to walk-to-math because she said that he 'was not asking to do harder math.' Apparently, Spectrum at this school was only for self-advocating students. From supplementing at home, same child has been rocketing ahead in math with the Beast Academy books. Turns out as a six-year-old he just didn't want to do additional repetitive addition worksheets. However, kids like this (high IQ--he's in the 98th percentile range, but not necessarily highly motivated to do busy week) rise to the challenge when given the opportunity.