Seattle – Advanced Learning

Seattle Public Schools staff made a presentation to the Board about Advanced Learning and HCC (Highly Capable Cohort) (available here, it’s best to copy and paste it into your browser):
It’s actually fairly bold, in my opinion, and importantly talks about segregation and white flight as being key factors in the creation of these programs decades ago as well as now. I understand the District and the Board are already receiving a lot of push back about this presentation. And while there are still questions to be answered, I think it is definitely in the right direction. So, read the presentation and write to your Board member (find them here) so they also hear from those of us who find the segregated status quo unacceptable. A few additional notes in case you are interested in this topic:
(1) The proposal would educate most highly capable-identified students in their neighborhood school.
(2) Many people in this district do not put their kids in the HCC program even when they qualify. I’ve talked to a number who are quite satisfied with their neighborhood school.
(3) The staff proposal also attempts to address the inequities in how students are identified (testing), including using school based recommendations from the people who work most closely with the students.
(4) State law currently requires that School Districts identify “highly capable” students. It does not require districts to segregate them in separate buildings or programs. In fact, many districts around the state do not segregate those who are identified as “highly capable”.
(5) These changes would not take effect for 6 years (no students would be removed from their current programs).
(6) The Advanced Learning Task Force convened by the Superintendent has not yet made its recommendations, and it isn’t known what their recommendations may be.
When discussing gifted and talented programs, I’ve found people want to talk about the outliers as a way to justify systemic inequity (losing the forest for the pedagogical trees). E.g.: “But what about the 1st grader who reads at the 8th grade level?” I think this is disingenuous and the focus needs to be kept wide – it is a program that facilitates segregation, racial hierarchy and resource hoarding. Therefore the Board and District should be bold.
Also relevant is Azure Savage’s new book You Failed Us: Students of Color Talk Seattle Schools. Read more about their story (they were in the HCC program) in this Crosscut article. Order the book, here.
For an excellent critique of New York’s gifted and talented program, and those programs in general, read David Kirkland’s piece.