Schools get needed checkup
The Seattle School District has wisely checked itself into the hospital for tests. In her first year, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson...
Seattle Times staff columnist
The Seattle School District has wisely checked itself into the hospital for tests.
In her first year, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is conducting a round of examinations before she does serious surgery on the system. A group of specialists handed in their report on the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) Tuesday.
The patient knew where the major pains lay, of course, but sometimes you need a doctor (in this case three Ph.D.s) to give you a thorough diagnosis and a prescription.
The evaluators visited classes, examined documents and interviewed a range of people, including teachers, students and parents.
One focal point was how the gifted programs are perceived.
White students are a minority in the district but are the overwhelming majority in the Accelerated Progress Program.
Some people see the program as elitist and exclusionary. That's not good for the programs or the district.
Public schools have to serve a broad spectrum of students, but there is no excuse for not offering all of them an education tailored to their needs and abilities.
Some students need accelerated programs, but the district has done a poor job of identifying all such students.
Students take a test to determine whether they qualify. Sounds simple, but it involves deadlines, forms, possible appeals — and trying to get the necessary information about all this from the district. One parent said, "It was a very confusing process, even for me, and I am a pretty savvy parent ... ."
Some families don't have the time or know-how to get through barriers.
The report said the district needs to update its selection process, paying particular attention to identifying students who might be missed.
The report also recommended a K-2 "talent development" program for low-income schools.
The study noted that the current administration has begun making changes, and that teachers who had been wary of students who didn't fit their profile are finding them capable of doing the work.
Last year, I wrote about an experiment at McClure Middle School in which math teachers combined gifted students and students who hadn't been identified as gifted but were doing well in the subject.
They put all the children in the same classes and discovered most who hadn't been identified as gifted could keep up with, or sometimes even outperform, the gifted kids. All the students did better than they had before they were together in one class.
In that column, I said the principal ended the experiment after a year.
There is some mixing of students this year, but the goal has to be for the entire district to see the potential in each student.
The districtwide study found that even students in the gifted programs weren't always getting what they needed because of one-size-fits-all assumptions.
Change is overdue. The district needs this checkup and should quickly take its medicine.
Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or email@example.com.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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