Thursday, November 30, 2017

Latest Board Agenda

The agenda for the November 29th board meeting contains some more updates on the High School Boundaries.

There are four alternatives listed now (although the 5 pathway option is still preferred) showing some evidence of the pushback from parents.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Second HCS Advisory Committee email re:boundaries

Dear HCC community,

Last month the HCS AC sent an email to the District and Board of Directors regarding the high school boundaries as part of the Student Assignment Plan for the 2019-20 school year. The District then shared its proposal to create five pathway schools for the Highly Capable Students.

In response, following discussion at our November 7th HCS AC meeting and subsequent feedback, we revised our statement and sent it to the Superintendent and the Directors today in advance of any Board discussion (please see below). Final votes by the Board continue to be slated for January 2018 with implementation in Fall 2019.

We strongly encourage the HC community to participate in the Boundary Meetings and provide immediate feedback to the District regarding any potential changes to the HC pathways. Emails can be sent to - and

To: Superintendent Nyland and Directors
From: Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee
Date: November 15, 2017
Re: Proposed Highly Capable High School Pathways/Student Assignment Plan for 2019-20
Dear Superintendent Nyland and Directors Blanford, Burke, Geary, Harris, Pinkham, Patu, and Peters,
In light of the recent District proposal regarding highly capable pathways for high school and the upcoming Board vote on the Student Assignment Plan, the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee (HCS AC) would like to voice its concerns and support for aspects of the proposed increase of the number of pathway schools to five. In particular, we:

  • Understand the rationale for the selection of Ballard and Roosevelt as HC pathways schools;

  • Are concerned about the selection of Lincoln attendance area students being assigned to Garfield as their pathway school;

  • Recommend that Garfield remain the only pathway school for the Central, Southeast and Southwest in 2019;

  • Suggest that the District first build up the AP and rigorous course offerings at Franklin and West Seattle first, then revisit the idea of making those schools HC pathway sites; and

  • Urge the District to grandfather current high school students and eighth graders into their current high school or pathway.

The HCS AC is comprised of teachers and parents at the elementary, middle and high school levels whose collective experience with highly capable students in our District spans several decades. We have reviewed the numbers of HC students in each of the proposed pathways (see attached) and considered the equity issues that currently and could potentially exist. Please consider our recommendations on the District proposals, rooted in the following analysis and supporting rationale.

Proposal for North End
  • Support: The redirection of Northeast and Northwest area HC students to north-end high schools alone would dramatically reduce the number of HC students at Garfield, easing Garfield’s capacity issue and providing an equitable experience closer to home for north-end students. Selecting Ballard and Roosevelt as pathway schools makes sense and aligns with trends: Many HC eligible students already choose their neighborhood school over Garfield (129 at Ballard, 155 at Roosevelt). Pathway changes diverting north-end HC students from Garfield would add about 300 HC students to both Ballard and Roosevelt, creating cohorts of 400-500 HC students at each. This would allow for effective delivery of counseling, meet their social emotional needs, and provide robust AP and elective offerings beyond the already-robust selection of courses (16 and 18 respectively) at both high schools.

  • Concern: We struggle with directing Lincoln-area students to Garfield for two reasons: commute challenges and prioritizing services closer to home. 1) The trip to the Central District is much more difficult than the trip to Ballard, particularly taking public transportation (Metro) in our city’s geography. In fact, this drives many families from Wallingford, Magnolia and Queen Anne to choose Ballard or Roosevelt over Garfield. 2) Lincoln-area families should have a north-end HC option. Under the current plan, if area HC students choose not to attend Garfield, they would be limited to a neighborhood school (Lincoln) which lacks access to the higher-level HC math and science classes they need, because Lincoln is a roll-up school with limited grades and associated classes in its first years of operation.

Proposal for Central, Southeast and Southwest
  • Concern: We strongly stand by our recommendation that Garfield remain the single HC pathway school for students in the Central, South and Southwest areas and not split for several reasons: resulting disparity in number of students, as well as impacts to course offerings, cohort size, and finances.

    • The splits would create a significant imbalance between the north and the south. Garfield has 428 HC students total, very similar to the potential number of HC students at Ballard or Roosevelt. Here is the current breakdown: 184 students from the Garfield area, 95 from Franklin, 41 from Rainier Beach, 32 from Chief Sealth, and 76 from West Seattle, totaling 428 students. The proposed splits would distribute HC students as such: Garfield, 184, Franklin, 146, and West Seattle, 145. This creates significantly smaller HC cohorts at these three high schools than at the two high schools in the north end, where Garfield, Franklin and West Seattle would have HC populations of 15% or less, compared to north-end HC populations of 30%.

    • No guarantee of course offering parity at Franklin and West Seattle. Currently, Franklin offers 10 AP classes and West Seattle offers 12. These schools would need to significantly increase their offerings before 2019 to align with Garfield, Ballard and Roosevelt. Despite District assurances--and we do support increased advanced learning options at all high schools--limited District resources and fewer Advanced Learners at Franklin and West Seattle would not be sufficient to drive a master schedule for these courses. West Seattle parents have voiced these concerns, and Franklin faces problematic programming of repetitious Physical Science and Biology courses in 9th grade when HC students would already have taken those classes in 7th and 8th grades. This raises many questions about whether the District could guarantee that HC students at Franklin and West Seattle have the same (or similar) offerings as students at Ballard, Roosevelt and at Garfield now, as well as what the process would be to address the scenario if parity did not come to fruition:

      • Would honors LA and SS options be offered in 9th grade as now at Garfield? Would Franklin require HC students to repeat Science as at Nathan Hale? Would Franklin adopt a new model, and would it be desired? What would the reduced number of HC students at Garfield mean for their ability to sustain current advanced learning offerings?

    • West Seattle parents have expressed a variety of opinions about a local high school pathway. Some support a HC pathway closer to home, while others are concerned that the smaller cohort size would make it challenging to expand the number of AP offerings at West Seattle High School.

    • Significant demographic changes could affect financing of Garfield activities. Currently 42% of Garfield are HC students and 38% of the school are Free-Reduced Lunch (FRL); this proposal would reduce the Garfield HC population to about 10%. For better or worse, the number of affluent students would drop significantly, thus affecting PTSA fundraising and music, drama and science fundraising that happens at Garfield. Whether the Garfield community regards these as positive changes is something that should be factored into the equation as well.
Another important consideration is the issue of underrepresentation in the Highly Capable Cohort. For decades, the District and this Committee have wrestled with the highly problematic fact that the Highly Capable Cohort does not reflect the demographic makeup of our district either racially or socio-economically. We believe that the place to address these problems is with testing and identification and with talent development for those students who show potential but do not yet have the achievement piece. Finding solutions at the pre-K and elementary levels is expected to bring results over time. It is important that we serve the needs of every child, including the highly capable cohort. Splintering current HC south-end students into three high schools would not solve the disproportionality problem.

For these reasons, we strongly urge the District to pause with the idea of splitting the HC students up among five high schools. The two schools in the North--Ballard and Roosevelt--already offer an array of AP courses along with robust arts programs, and the addition of more HC students at these schools would have negative impacts only if there is not capacity to accommodate them. Conversely, splitting HC students in the south across three high schools raises many questions and concerns about implementation and equity while only creating a fraction more capacity at Garfield (244 seats).

We strongly support the increase in AP offerings at Franklin and West Seattle. The District should commit the resources and work with those schools to create those opportunities first, then, in two more years (2019) look at whether the split of SE and SW HC students to those schools in 2020 makes sense. Changes of this magnitude to the HC model should be part of a larger plan for these students. We should not be looking at High School separately from the program as a whole.

Finally, we would like to reiterate our request for grandfathering of HC students at any of their current schools. Changes at the high-school level have significant implications for college entrance and any student or family who has committed to a particular high school should be allowed to continue down that road until graduation.

Thank you for your consideration.


Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee

Monday, November 13, 2017

High School Pathway Demographics

By request, this is a thread to discuss demographic and enrollment issues with the proposed High School Pathways. I'll try to collect data here as well.

Data from the recent HCS AC email:  This is not at all consistent with the previous district data below.  The only explanation for the count change was a huge shift in the 9th grade cohort and inaccuracies in prev. counts.

That's visible in the P223 reports for Roosevelt (up 70+ in 9th) but less so in Garfield/Ballard (both up 25+ in 9th) .

Current Cohort Data

9th 46
10th 33
11th 28
12th 22

9th: 73
10th: 31
11th: 27
12th: 22

9th 101
10th 120
11th 86
12th 83

9th: 211
10th: 149
11th:  156
12th: 136

Overall HC cohorts from 2016-2017.  Note: the huge jump in the now 9th grade cohort.

See:  for more interesting numbers.

Updated district data: Note discrepancies with the earlier chart.

Data from the board retreat this year:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sudden Change in Appeals Policy

Without any outreach, announcement, and in the middle of the identification process the AL office has changed its appeal process.  Unlike previously, any private test scores will need to be 3 standards of deviation about average i.e. 99th percentile as compared to 95th percentile from the district administered test.

"It is important to note that a successful appeal for HC eligibility will need to include supporting evidence that the student qualifies as “Most Highly Capable” or “Highly Gifted”.  Those qualifications usually indicate that the student’s scores are 3 standard deviations above the norm on standardized intelligence and achievement tests. This does represent a higher threshold than for the initial eligibility process because the student has been given the benefit of individually administered assessments. Students who meet the published cognitive and achievement test threshold scores are not guaranteed a successful appeal.  All documents submitted for the appeal will be considered in conjunction with all other academic performance data, including, but not limited to: recent achievement assessments, classroom performance, and teacher input.
Appeals decisions are final; there are no appeals of appeals. Also please note that if your student is deemed ineligible, you may refer the student again for retesting the next year."

This is all governed by the existing procedure:  which has not been modified since last year.

While procedure changes don't require board approval, I'd argue this change is badly done on a process front. Any changes should occur before the testing season occurs and be vetted in public. We already went through this last year, when the office attempted to change rules midstream and was forced to back down.

[Thanks to several readers for bringing this to my attention.]

Friday, November 3, 2017

November '17 Open Thread


The pathway plan made it out of the operations committee yesterday. If I read the timeline correctly, there are now a few weeks before the real vote (assuming this is considered part of the transitional plan). So now is the time to contact Director's with your concerns.  

Interesting Math Story

"A New Zealand maths exam for high school students has been criticised as “impossible” with even the brightest students left despondent and in tears at the difficulty of the questions."
I had fun looking at it and maybe others would appreciate showing it to their geometry students.


Here's a deeper dive from JoLynn Berge at the district on the HCC budget:

"1. How much HCS money is expected this year, compared to previous years? 
$1.1m in FY17-18 (which includes the increased funding from the 2017 legislative session of about $600k); prior year was $524k.

2. What is the state HCS money being used for, exactly? (Parents hear it goes to buses and testing, and nothing else!) 
Here is an object summary for program 74 – HC for the 17-18 budget:
0 Debit Transfer 3,100
2 Cert. Salaries 546,549
3 Class. Salaries 228,515
4 Staff Benefits 272,002
5 Supplies/Materials 166,525
7 Purchased Services 55,000
8 Travel 10,200
9 Capital Outlay -
Total 1,281,891
Most of the expenses within our Advanced Learning department surround testing students for eligibility as Advanced Learners or Highly Capable (e.g. materials, proctors, contracts for grading, etc.) and supporting professional development for teachers on accelerated or differentiated curriculum (e.g. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers).

3. Does the SPS master budget show HCS line items (personnel, curriculum development, transportation, etc.)? I recognize that the Advanced Learning office is responsible for more than HCS, and so I’d guess that some salaries and expenses accrue to more than one purpose.

Yes, the budget book on page 44 shows revenues (without the increased state revenue which came out too late for us to include in this) and budgeted expenditures are shown on page 54. We will still be subsidizing the program out of our M&O levy, but to a smaller amount in 17-18.

In the Buildings

Finally how are things going on the ground? On that topic, I thought I'd share a picture of my personal triumph for the season: the first Math Club Bulletin Board at Jane Addams.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

HCC Pathway decisions in the latest board materials

This is from a draft of the agenda and so may change but there are a couple of  decisions here that  I think are concerning :

  • Franklin as a pathway for the SE.
  • The lack of capacity impact analysis.
Note: yesterday I assumed this was also up somewhere in the Board Agenda. I have not found it there  yet so that's another reason to treat this as a draft like I originally wrote. In any case I would be surprised if this is the end state.