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.]


Anonymous said...

Isn't this what those Equity in HCC people have been asking for at board meetings? It is hardly left field, but surprising there was no vetting or engagement.

Poor Form

seattleDude said...

Do you know the percentage of current HCC students who qualified via private testing? I had heard it was around 25%, but that was third-hand.

Parent of 2 said...

We appealed the reading score to get our second child into HCC. The MAP and SBAC actually both test ELA, not just "Reading". So the private test we had done was completely different because it was purely reading, which is all that was required and which was specifically listed as an acceptable test by advanced learning.

What's interesting is that at Cascadia, only the "reading" is graded at 2 years advanced, not the writing. So the district ELA test actually does not directly align with the actual testing requirement or the curriculum.

Our child has done great in HCC, but wouldn't have qualified using the new rules. But then she is white middle class. Perhaps that's the real problem. There are ways the appeals process discriminates, and the cheapest district fix is it simply make appeals more difficult.

Anonymous said...

From SPS: "This does represent a higher threshold than for the initial eligibility process because the student has been given the benefit of individually administered assessments."

Aren't the tests SPS uses more likely to be inaccurate, particularly for those with very hiigh scores? They are not designed to accurately distinguish someone at the 94th percentile vs 95th vs 98th. There's too much error at that level, too few test questions at that level to accurately differentiate.

Anonymous said...

If that is their reasoning for raising the threshold, then any student administered the test individually would need to meet the higher threshold, even if it were administered by the district. Is that truly the intention? Doubtful. And frankly, is that a valid reason for raising the threshold?

The objective of testing, whether administered privately or by the district, is to identify students who need services. When the threshold is 98/95 for CogAT/Achievement, how is it that those scoring just above that threshold are now NOT in need of services?

Anonymous said...

From SPS: "This does represent a higher threshold than for the initial eligibility process because the student has been given the benefit of individually administered assessments."
Make no mistake- this is what SPS is actually saying "This does represent a higher threshold than for the initial eligibility process because the student has been given the benefit of being raised by a family that can afford to pay for individually administered assessments"
Yes - is is likely true that being raised in a more affluent educated household makes it more likely that children will perform better academically. So they are essentially raising the bar to for some kids to access a service on the basis on their socioeconomic status, not because they are any less qualified/deserving of the service.
If this was not the true intention then the higher threshold of 99% would apply to any individually administered appeals test, not just those paid for by the parents. Is this the case?

But equlty

Anonymous said...

Handicapper General approach.

Mixed race parent who felt compelled to leave a comment said...

I think this is a brilliant idea and think it would have been great if this policy had been implemented years ago.

Why shouldn't the program be difficult to get into? It's supposed to serve a very specific student population -- the highly capable. Let's raise that threshold to better serve the kids for whom the program was intended.

And yes, equity. I'm not going to engage in an argument here, but I will leave this: the entitlement seeping out of some of these comments is quite ugly.

Anonymous said...

It's helpful to get out of the Seattle bubble and compare policies of other districts. Issaquah, for example, does not allow private testing as part of appeals, BUT they screen all K students for further testing and test all 2nd graders using a full battery of CogAT/ITBS/SOI tests. Parents need to opt out rather than opt in. They test all new students and Issaquah identified 9.4% of 2nd graders in 2016. Qualification scores are in the 95-98%ile range, depending on program level and test (no 99%ile requirements).

Anonymous said...

(Correction: they test all new students nominated)

Anonymous said...

Where is the entitlement?? Nobody here is saying the program shouldn't be more difficult to get into - sure it could be changed to 99th percentile across the board for everyone. Sure look at what other districts do - it might very well be valid to have no appeals with any private testing if a better battery of IQ/achievement tests were done by the district (ie not the SBAC which is not designed for that purpose). But those comments are beside the point right now because currently the district has no plans to overhaul it's identification process in term of the tests offered or the thresholds required on them, and does is still allowing appeals.
So how do you justify different eligibility thresholds for individualized testing? Are the threshold really going to differ depending on whether the family is paying (ie affluent enough to afford it) for individualized testing vs the district arranging it (FRL). Does SPS believe individual testing provides a less accurate accurate assessment of the kids IQ and achievement so therefore the threshold need to be higher? Or does SPS think individual testing gives an unfair advantage to those who are able to afford it? Is it unfair because individual tests themselves are inherently advantageous or unfair because not everyone can afford to do it? Is this what equity means in SPS. I'm all for increasing participation by traditionally underrepresented groups and it very important to make sure these kids are not being missed by the identification process - but why increase the threshold for others? It is like they are trying to even out any socioeconomic imbalance by making it harder for more affluent socioeconomic groups to get in. By that approach why not address the perceived lack of racial diversity by making the eligibility criteria higher for white kids too.

but equity

Anonymous said...

Appeals come from mostly two distinct situations where either the kid 'just missed the cutoff' or 'bombed' the cogat. I think the district knows the type of applications it is seeing and doesn't intend to be serving these two situations with appeals. Thorough explanations of the cogat tests to all kids (with better proctoring and available practice questions for each section explained to all kids) would help with the latter and the former is a bummer of a situation with the lack of a continuum of services available for spectrum kids. In any case 2E kids should continue to be served by private testing and appeals for sure.

Been around

3rd option said...

There's another distinct situation when appeals are used. If a family is confused by what's going on with a child at school and starts the quest for answers. When parents sense that a child is underperforming or might be struggling with a disability of some kind, or both, or just isn't thriving at school the way other kids are, psychological testing is a logical step. Schools take this step and it makes sense that families might also pursue this same approach.

Psychologists offer a sliding scale for fees. Sometimes insurance covers testing. Sometimes testing is done by the school. It is not wrong or shameful of families to want to find out what is going on with their child.

Sometimes when children see a psychologist the outcome is that the child has a very high IQ and nothing else obviously "wrong" with them. And the problems the child is having at school are likely coming from a poor fit with the pacing or the curriculum or the level or access to advanced learning opportunities in the classroom or some such thing. Possibly a need for acceleration. And so the family refers the child for AL testing. But the family already has achievement scores from the incessant bouts of achievement testing schools do. And then the CogAT results come in surprisingly low given that the family already knows from valid, licensed, practicing psychologist that their child does meet the required criteria and so appeals. Low CogAT scores can come from something as simple as a kid with a headache or a kid who has to use the bathroom but is too embarrassed to ask an unknown tester where it is. But since the family already has the psychologist's results, boom.

Anonymous said...

I really couldn't give a flying you-know-what about what other district's appeals criteria are. Are they doing the best job of identifying and serving all kids who need HC services? Until you can answer that, I don't care. What concerns me is SPS doing its best job to find all the HC students they should be identifying, including those from racial groups that are underrepresented, low-income students, ELLs, and yes, those with learning disabilities. Tightening the appeals criteria in a bizarre way (so that it doesn't align with the basic eligibility criteria) accomplishes NONE of these. The ONLY thing it is likely to do is exclude more children who are truly, and legitimately just as HC as those who qualify via the initial route.

@ mixed race parent who wants to make ugly comments then not engage, that was some serious spewing. "Why shouldn't the program be difficult to get into? It's supposed to serve a very specific student population -- the highly capable. Let's raise that threshold to better serve the kids for whom the program was intended." So the current demographics are just fine with you? Better to keep out most minorities (except for Asians!), and good for SPS for making it harder for 2e kids, too? Nice. I assume your "equity" reference was sarcasm?


kimberly said...

My issue with the appeal definition change is not the change itself, but how it's communicated. What problem are they trying to solve? Feels like they're uncomfortable that too with the number of kids that get into HCC on appeal, and it's creating an equity imbalance? I'm reaching here, but only because they don't state upfront to what they are trying to accomplish.

I don't love the feeling (issue? rumor?) that well off kids are getting in on appeal, where we still struggle to identify the HCC population for more diverse students. Personally, my experience was that they identified them (when testing all SE 2nd graders years ago) but were unwilling to budge on the achievement scores.

On the other side, I do see that the achievement tests they've used as gatekeepers (MAP, SBAC) were not intended to identify a gifted population. Forcing a 99+% score on all of these seems extreme.

Anonymous said...

There are problems with both - the change and the communication. They are wrongly using private testing as a proxy for family income and then potentially denying services to students whose families are perceived as having a higher income. Seems pretty twisted to me.

Anonymous said...

I think this is more of an issue of restricting the number of HCC kids than an equity issue. It will likely have the effect of pushing more middle/upper class kids out of the public school system into private schools, where they may have a better chance at getting a sufficiently challenging curriculum.


Anonymous said...

Question here from a parent new to the SPS process. Like other parents we know, we already spent the very substantial money to have our kids tested to see where they're at ahead of time. (We were warned to do this due to some issues in prior years receiving the notice letters in sufficient time to retest before the appeal process closes.) We were were dismayed to see the sudden change of policy, which would have the effect of excluding kids who meet HCC's goals if they don't test well on a particular date in a particular setting (a setting that's a particular challenge for kids who are shy or introverted).

How would you object to the change? Some parents were suggesting writing letters or emails to the school board, to advanced learning, and to the advisory committee. Any other suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:11a:

Other suggestions:
1. SPS Civil Rights Compliance Officer
3. Lawyer

The lawyer may be the most expedient route.

No Exclusion

A Cascadia Mom said...

The appeals process is rumored to have brought in between 25%-45% of the 2017 HCC acceptances, and shifted the demographics to Caucasian (according to the Racial Equity Taskforce Members). This seems extreme and goes well beyond the intended service of the HCC Appeals process.

Anonymous said...

No. The appeals process does not change the racial makeup of HCC. This information was included in a Friday Memo last year.

They Lie

Anonymous said...

The district created a PowerPoint related to appeals data that was discussed either here or on SSS (last year or early 2017) - it included some appeals data and related graphics. If someone finds the link or remembers the meeting date, could you please post it here?

Appeal Stats said...

Here is 2015-16 advanced learning appeals info from the district (just for highly capable?):

For 2015-16 there were 479 total appeals for highcap eligibility. 236 of them were successful.
There is demographic data breaking those down:
< 10 appeals from students who identified themselves as Native American, African American or Pacific Islander
15 appeals from Hispanic students, less than 10 of those successful
45 appeals from Asian students, 18 of those successful
63 appeals from multi-racial students, 34 of those successful
325 appeals from White students, 167 of those successful

Bizarrely there is NO information on appeals for AL (Spectrum) eligibility.

There were 4936 referrals that year for advanced learning testing. These are broken out by region, elem. vs. middle school, and ethnicity in the document at the link above.
Northwest 1223
NE Region 1164
Central Region 1131
SW Region 616
SE Region 492
Non-SPS 307

Anonymous said...

The numbers tell us that in 2015-16, 1) of 4936 students referred, 5% of them qualified for HC through appeals, and 2) 50% of HC appeals were successful (which does not necessarily mean 50% of HC students got in on appeal). We don't know whether or not they used private testing as part of their appeals, or how many of the 4916 met Spectrum or HC cutoffs with district testing.

Anonymous said...

Have they ever published the number of students that qualified for HCC during the testing cycle? I tried to derive the number of students added by looking at the enrollment trends, but that isn’t a true representation of students qualified (some don’t choose to attend the HCC school, some current students may go private or move, etc.)

Also not surprising that there is no appeal data for Spectrum. That program exists in name only, there's nothing there to appeal for.


Anonymous said...

Found this thread after I had my parent/teacher conference Thanksgiving week. I was disappointed to find out that my son's HCC teacher is having to find additional ways to keep him challenged and that she spends more of her time helping kids who are struggling. In math, most of the first two months of curriculum was remedial (it had to be to get kids who have just joined HCC up to speed) which was a waste of his time and a missed opportunity.

I know that there are many reasons that parents appeal, but it's tough to swallow when your child still isn't challenged and its because there are so many kids in the program at different levels and capabilities. But the idea that so many appeals lead to so many additional kids (and that SO many of them are approved!) is disheartening.

Some of the numbers above are a little misleading (but thank you for linking to that document!). If 4936 students were referred, that doesn't necessarily mean that they actually tested, and if there were 479 appeals, that means at WORST, 10% of eligible kids appealed. More likely, once you remove those who don't test, and those who pass, I'm guessing that you're talking about an appeal rate of at least 20% (and likely higher) of kids who test and don't pass. Given that, I think the use of the word "entitlement" above is pretty strong, but not far off base. That's a lot of parents who think that their kids "should be" in HCC.

Looking at the district annual enrollment report:

There were more kids identified in a single year as eligible for testing than are in the entire program. That means that most kids SHOULDN'T get in. The math simply doesn't work. The fact that there are this many appeals and that so many are approved, is contributing to the program attendance doubling in the past 5 years.

I'm fully on board with the need to get kids the services that they need to get to their potential. Yes, test every kid in kindergarten. Yes, make parents opt-out. For every kid that gets through on appeal, there is another who isn't even tested. But you have to keep the acceptance bar high. You can't water down these services to include more kids at the expense of the ones who are accepted.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, test every kid in kindergarten." I spoke to a gifted researcher at UW who said this was not what they should be doing. IQ is too unstable at this age. My own kid tested twice, once in 1st, then again 5th grade. I believe the district gives them a longer test when older, but am not certain. 1st grade missed cutoff by 2 points. 5th grade tested 99%. 99% not even 98. That could be the difference between spectrum identified and HC in this district.

Anonymous said...

Yes, then your child should be in spectrum in elementary school and in HCC in middle school.

Anonymous said...

There was no spectrum at my child's school at the time, and neighboring school was full, so we had no choice but to stay with the regular program. Kid was not challenged at all, outlier completely. Middle school entered HC & thrived in much more appropriate environment. However, my point is that the gifted UW researcher stated that IQ is unstable at a very young age and stabilizes when older. Stated "SPS should not be testing them in kindergarten, too young". I was responding to the poster who stated to test all in kindergarten. I think that is not a good idea, they would miss kids. Test them a bit later when it is more accurate. I am not an expert but as kids have growth spurts at different rates, kind of seems like their IQ also provides a snapshot, but can vary. Environment also likely impacts IQ and maybe a kid ends up needing HC later but district tested them in K and misses it.

Anonymous said...

State law requires an opportunity to identify as highly capable in each year from K-12.

Anonymous said...

"State law requires an opportunity to identify as highly capable in each year from K-12".
That's fine, but if SPS is going to test all kids or all F& R lunch kids, according to the UW researcher Robinson's center, universal testing should be older than K. The kids identified younger in K are much more likely to have inaccurate results according to the researcher. It seems intuitive that this would be the case as well as kids grow at different rates and in conjunction with environmental inputs. Example, not all kids come into K reading, but some kids really take off academically once in school. I suspect this would especially be the case for kids from low socio. Test them all in 2nd and again in 5th.

Anonymous said...

(for context: my son is mixed race minority and in middle class)

I'm late in chiming in but I noticed this post as I'm helping another parent with the appeals this year. I read this new rule on the appeal policy and wonder how that would affect students with undiagnosed disabilities:

Two years ago, my son qualified for Spectrum but knowing him, having a quieter setting would help - we private tested with the Cogat and scores were high enough for HC. We also broke the bank and had private reading done. His reading was short by 1% but the appeal was approved and he got in. I'm thankful because it would have been tough with this new appeal process.

So fast forward two years later, and his inattention and handwriting problems have been showing up more and more each year. He is now being tested to see if he is Twice Exceptional and eligible for 504 disability. His teacher has said she no doubts believes he belongs in the HC program but he does struggle. He's passing his grades but it seems his disability may be affecting him, especially in reading and writing.

That being said, it would be tough for Twice Exceptional students to get in on appeals if the parent does not know of the disability or as in our case, slow to show up. Even my husband's dyslexia went undiagnosed until high school - he has a high IQ but was accused of cheating on his tests because he kept replacing wrong numbers when writing out his math tests. My son could have stayed in Spectrum or general ed until later when the disability showed up more prominently but he was already acting out in kindergarten and Spectrum due to boredom. He's much more stimulated and better behaved in HC. And for the parents that would think I just wanted my child in the program for my own personal desire, we did consult with the student support team and the teacher, and bringing him down to Spectrum or general ed was not the solution at this time.

I believe the way they structured the appeal makes some sense for equity reasons and fully agree it should help those who do not have financial means to privately test, but there's some situations where a child may not seem eligible but should have the chance. For the person who says the standard should be 99% on all makes me a bit upset because there are children that should be in the program but may not score as high. Also, the friend I am helping is planning to appeal because she cannot afford the testing and her son’s reading score came in just shy of the 95%. Her son had been bullied at his prior school and difficulties with his home life (divorce, homelessness) which could have easily affected his reading score, but his Cogat (and math) shows extremely high intelligence. I am hoping the appeal process takes these situations into account.