Wednesday, January 24, 2018

SB 6508 Proposed changes to the identification requirements in the State HiCap program

We need your help to pass this bill.
A landmark bill, SB 6508, was introduced in the WA State Senate yesterday, mandating equitable HiCap identification practices in all school districts.  This is big, big, BIG news! 

We need a MOUNTAIN of advocates across the state to band together to have any chance of getting this bill passed in this short 60-day legislative session.

Want to learn more about the bill and the process from here? Need sample text to copy/paste? Scroll down to the bottom of this email.

Call to Action!  
We need EVERYONE to do 3 things RIGHT NOW:
1. Submit a "support" comment on the bill via this SUPER EASY link:
2. Send an email to the Senate Education Committee Members asking them to schedule a hearing and pass the bill out of committee. Send an email to the following addresses:
3. Sign up to help with testifying in Olympia, attending Gifted Ed Day on Feb 8, reaching out to legislators, or other ongoing support activities:

I want to know more. What's happening?
 The Coalition for Gifted Education, WAETAG, NWGCA, and NAGC teamed up this fall to write a bill about mandating equitable identification practices. Experts from UW, Whitworth, and others weighed in as well. 

The bill has been introduced in the Senate as SB 5608 by Senator Christine Rolfes (Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee) and Senator Ann Rivers. A companion bill will be introduced shortly in the House, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Vick and others.

Some highlights of the bill:
  • Mandatory universal screening at or before 2nd grade, and again at or before 6th grade
  • All screening and testing happens during the school day (no Saturdays)
  • Use instruments in the native language of the student when possible, or use nonverbal instruments
  • Don't use subjective measures like report card grades and teacher comments to screen kids out from consideration
  • Use local norms, but never allow local norms to be more restrictive than national norms
  • 3 hours of professional development per biennium for administrators, principals, and members of the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (which make HiCap placement decisions)
You can see the full bill text and other info here

We expect the Senate bill hearing to be next week, the week of Jan 29. The first challenge is making sure the Senate Education Committee actually schedules the hearing, and then, that they pass the bill out of committee to get voted on by the whole Senate on the Senate floor.

The House hearing will likely be a bit later, early/mid Feb. Similarly, it will need to be heard by the House Education Committee, then voted on the House floor. We are particularly looking for people in Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos' district (37), as she is the chair of the House Education Committee and in large part decides whether a hearing is even scheduled. If you are in her distrct, PLEASE answer our survey.

Having many people attend the hearings is important. We only need about 15-20 people to speak, but will ask all in the room who are there to support this issue to stand so that the committee members can see the volume of support. Seeing all your faces - and your kids faces - is huge.

Even if you can't attend in person, submitting written testimony on the bill is also extremely valuable.

Once hearing dates are announced, we will let you know. We should know in the next couple days.

If you can help, be sure to answer our survey

I'm happy to write a comment or email, but I don't know what to say...

Here are things you can copy/paste into your message. Mix & match, edit, and add your own story or your own personal touches - or just keep it short and sweet, a sentence is enough:
  • I strongly support this bill.
  • Dear Senate Education Committee Members, Please schedule a hearing and move this important bill out of committee.
  • This is an urgent issue in my community.
  • The gross inequities in our highly capable programs must be fixed ASAP.
  • This is a big issue in my school district, and this bill will make a big improvement.
  • Districts need to up their game and actually screen all students for highly capable needs. It's so easy for these kids to blend in, but ultimately they won't get their needs met and eventually they disengage from school, underachieve, or worse.
  • De facto segregation in our state's highly capable program is unacceptable. This bill will go a long way to answering that need. 
  • Bravo! This bill is exactly what we need.
  • It's about time! Thank you WA Senate for answering the needs of the community.
You do not have to write lengthy comments, though of course those are welcome.  
IF YOU DO WRITE SPECIFIC COMMENTS, PLEASE STAY FOCUSED ON THE NEED FOR BETTER, MORE EQUITABLE IDENTIFICATION PRACTICES (such as universal screening and screening during the school day, not Saturdays), and the need to proactively identify HiCap kids in historially underserved groups such as low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners, Homeless students, and students with disabilities (2e).  
Please do not write about HiCap program funding, curriculum, or service models (which are much more controversial topics that distract from this bill.) 
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Benjamin Leis said...

Universal screening is generally acknowledged to be superior to opt-in referals. So I'm pleased to see this proposal. My only criticism is that there was no funding attached to this mandate. My suggestion would be for those commenting on the bill to ask that money be added to pay for the newly required testing.

Anonymous said...

Also includes:

- screening of new students w/in 90 days of enrollment
- 3 hours training per biennium for teachers who have at least 1 HC student in their classroom
-collection and public reporting of universal screening scores by subgroup

"Highly capable selection decisions must be based on consideration of criteria benchmarked on local norms, but local norms may not be used as a more restrictive criteria than national norms at the same percentile"

How, exactly will "local" norms be determined? By school? By District? By region? It's not defined. There does not seem to be any additional state funding associated with this bill.

Anonymous said...

I still don't see how this is likely to have a big impact on the racial disparities with SPS's HC identification or services. Please help me out.

We already do universal screening to some extent (e.g., MAP or MSP tests) as the first round, and that hasn't id'd more from underrepresented groups. They tried the universal screening in 2nd grade in one region, and as I recall, while it id'd additional kids, it didn't really change the proportions that much (i.e., it id'd more previously missed white/Asian kids). Screening everyone, and more frequently (twice in elementary school), isn't that different than the annual state testing they do now, where the district then sends parents a letter that says "your kid scored high and might qualify as highly capable based on this screener, do you want to have them tested further?" The proposal is only significantly different if the type of test they would use for screening would be very different than the achievement based test they currently use for screening, and I don't see anything in the proposed legislation that requires such a change.

While the use of local norms could potentially have a big impact on racial disparities in qualification, that's all depended on how the use of local norms is implemented. There's nothing in the proposed law that says it has to include norms specific to certain races or incomes or schools or anything. We could choose to use district norms, which would likely be more restrictive than national norms--but since the proposed law prohibits the use of norms more restrictive than national norms, we'd probably need to relax those to match the national norms. Which means we'd be back where we started.

I'm also skeptical that three hours of PD is going to make much difference. We all know how "effective" PD often is, and three hours isn't a lot of time. And given the political climate re: HC services, I don't see it making much of a dent.

Then there's the whole funding issue... All that extra funding, all that extra PD.

Am I wrong here? Is there something in this proposed law that is likely to make a big difference?


Anonymous said...

If unfunded, this may have the unintended effect of leaving districts without the dollars to deliver HC programming for those identified. The sponsors of the bill are from Bainbridge, Redmond, and South Seattle - it's not clear how this would impact smaller districts.

Anonymous said...

SPS’s current system leaves no money for HC programming - it’s all spent on testing.

Anonymous said...


NNE Mom said...

If the bill passes, students who don't show high MAP/SBAC scores won't necessarily be disqualified. According to the proposed bill:

A crucial aspect of existing law has been widely misinterpreted, concerning "multiple objective criteria" for highly capable identification. The original intent of "multiple objective criteria" was to provide multiple possible avenues for identification, not to require that a student score highly on every measure before he or she qualifies for highly capable services. This misunderstanding turns multiple measures into multiple hurdles that disproportionately limit identification of low-income and other historically underrepresented students, who may have variable scores despite high cognitive potential.

Thus the new law would not hunt exclusively for high-achieving highly capable students, but for "students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experience, or environments". It would then help these students better live up to their potential by (hopefully) matching them with an academic environment where they are encouraged to learn and develop instead of punishing them for being different.

This will likely cause their SBAC scores and graduation rates to rise, and their chances of ending up in jail to decrease. Although those aren't the explicit goal. Healthy, well adjusted members of society is the goal.

There may still be disparities in the identified students after this is implemented, but in districts where things like this are done there is a vast improvement over what Seattle has been doing. This bill would greatly improve the chances of lower income students and non-native speakers of English and would decouple the idea of high achievement from the idea of being highly capable which would greatly improve the chances of underrepresented students (with potential to for high achievement) getting in from schools that tend to have student populations with lackluster achievement scores. It will look for their potential and not proof they've already achieved the achievement. It will help.

Anonymous said...

It seems like if you took a child with high cognitive scores and put them in a classroom with accelerated academics with a similar peer group, you would almost certainly see gains in achievement scores because they would be exposed to more material and encouraged to think more critically, rather than coasting by on 'easy' material.

Also, I don't see how our 'local' norms could be anything but more restrictive than national norms, given the unrepresentative population in Seattle.

It seems like the best chance for equity would be to have a pull-out program in every school for either high-achieving or highly-capable students. This would expand access and also allow children who are gifted in one area (math and not reading, for example) to still be able to access material at their level. Ideally, this sort of program would be somewhat dynamic throughout the school year so students who 'caught up' could move ahead when they were ready.


Anonymous said...

You mean like ALO?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the fake promise of MTSS to me.

Anonymous said...

No, not like ALO. Like bring back flexible learning groups/Walk-to-Math in every school.


K.T. said...

ALO was flexible reading groups and walk-to-math. They used to be available everywhere. And teachers could just decide that it was an appropriate placement for a child. They didn't need to test into ALOs. There was also Spectrum but that often involved changing schools since there are relatively few Spectrum schools.