Apparently, parents of 8th and 9th graders in Seattle Public Schools’ Accelerated Progress Program (APP) received a letter this week from Dr. Robert Vaughan in the Advanced Learning office, notifying them of the possibility that some of their kids would no longer be allowed to attend Garfield High School, where their program has been housed for the past 30 years.

This comes just one year after the school district evicted half the APP kids from the elementary and middle school locations where they had also been for many years, moving half the kids out to new locations to co-house with other schools.

Claiming it wanted to create “access” to more families and “equity” by attracting more minority students to the program by making the program closer to some neighborhoods, and promising “equity” between the split programs, in January 2009 the school board voted to approve Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s “Capacity Management Plan” which  split Lowell Elementary APP and sent half three miles south to Thurgood Marshall Elementary. The board also voted to bisect the APP community at Washington Middle School and sent half north to Hamilton International Middle School — the only APP location north of the ship canal.

In Vaughan’s  letter, an option is presented in which an APP-International Baccalaureate program would be offered at Ingraham High School in the far north end of town. Ingraham already has an IB program but is currently under-enrolled, so it has space. But this proposal seems to indicate that some APP kids would be allowed to remain at Garfield, one of the strongest college-prep high schools in the district, while the others would be sent to start up something quite different. Another ‘option’ being offered is to simply send APP kids to their local high schools, essentially disbursing the program into nonexistence.

The district’s credibility problem

APP parents remain angry about the way the elementary and middle schools were splintered and  the inequity that has resulted, and have no trust in the district to keep its promises to this community of 1,300 or so students.

The two splits it has already done to the APP community have not been successful. Middle school APP is not academically equitable between the two locations, and the elementary schools are not equal in size and growth (Lowell’s APP community is about a third bigger than Thurgood Marshall’s; Thurgood reportedly has only 12 APP first graders this year). Some advanced math classes have been eliminated from middle school as a result of the smaller cohort at each location post-split.

A bit of APP/IPP History & the Irony of the Success of Garfield High School

According to SPS history, the school district first located the highly capable program (called IPP at that time) at Garfield High School about 30 years ago. At that time,  Garfield was under-enrolled. Now it has become possibly the most desirable and rigorous high school in the district with a diverse urban population, extensive AP course offerings and a nationally recognized, award-winning jazz band program. The district has also spent a great deal of money on the facilities.

This year, as a result of redrawing the attendance boundaries as part of the New Student Assignment Plan, Garfield is seriously overcrowded. Although, this is not the first time the school has been over-enrolled.Both this year and in 2003, Garfield enrollment tipped 1,700.  So why now should APP be kicked out? And why is that a solution?

Since last spring, parents noted that Garfield’s new  attendance boundaries were too broad and would result in overcrowding. It’s hard to understand why the APP kids should be penalized for this avoidable mistake made by the district.

And it is ironic that the district’s apparent solution to this successful school is to kick out some or all the kids in the program it first brought there to boost the school.

What parents can do about it

Attend the APP community meeting at Ingraham High School auditorium (1810 N.135 Street) on Weds. Nov. 17, 6:30- 8 p.m., learn more about the IB proposal and share concerns/frustrations with Dr. Bob Vaughan.


Attend the Seattle School Board meeting (same night,  almost same time) on Weds. Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. and testify before the board about  your concerns. Sign up to speak by calling Pamela Oakes at (206) 252-0040 on Monday morning Nov. 15. Each speaker will have only three minutes to address the board and superintendent, so prepared notes or speech is a good idea. There is no exchange between the board and public speakers allowed, so don’t expect a response. But your testimony will become part of the public record, will be viewable live on Channel 26 and archived on the Seattle Channel web site.

Heads up: The controversial proposal to bring un-credentialed Teach for America, Inc. recruits to Seattle will be on the agenda that night, so grab your speaking slot Monday morning before they fill up (there are 20) and be ready for a lively meeting that might attract the media.

Contact the school board directors and go to their community meetings:

Clearly the future of high school APP concerns more than just the 8th and 9th APP grade families.

Letter from Bob Vaughan to some members of the APP community:

“I am writing to you because your son or daughter is in the Accelerated Progress Program(APP) in 8th or 9th grade, and we have important, time sensitive information to consider. This fall Garfield High School is over capacity, and this has important implications for APP participants. On November 3, the School Board was briefed about the extent of the over-crowding and the likelihood that things will worsen unless changes are made. The Board plans to make a decision to resolve this issue in January. With an enrollment of 1788, there are 156 more students at Garfield than its functional capacity. APP enrollment in grades 9-12 has increased from 375 in 2005, to 455 today, and it could be 544 next fall. There are also large classes in the pipline at elementary and middle schools. Although many factors contribute to Garfield’s overcrowding problem, APP will likely be a part of the solution. APP-related solutions that wre presented to the Board include creating additional APP pathway in 2011-2012:
1.For new 9th graders, based on residence, to another school
2. For 9th and upper grade level students, based on residence, to another school
3. For 9th and some 10th graders, based on choice, to a new program at another school
A new APP pathway based on residence(solutions 1&2) means redirecting students who live in one area of the city to a different high school with sufficient space and the availability of appropriately accelerated classes for these students. The pathway could affect only new 9th graders next fall, or it could be applied to upper grade students, as well.
A new program based on choice (solution 3) means establishing an alternative advanced option at a different high school. Offering a new challenging and attractive program would allow APP students to divide themselves by choice and thereby help create a new option for academically highly gifted students while preserving a strong yet manageably-sized program at Garfield. The new program being strongly considered is to off APP students the choice to enroll in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Ingraham High School at an accelerated pace.
Five years age, Bellevue School District developed a high school option for their highly gifted students. At the Gifted High School Program (GHSP) at Interlake High School, gifted students take core academic classes together and electives with other students. In 10th grade, they begin the two-year IB Diploma program that all other students typically begin in 11th grade. Earning the IB Diploma requires completion of six college-leve courses and exams, as well as a 4000 work essay. In 12th grade, GHSP students take two college courses at Interlake as well as electives, and complete an internship with a partnering business or institution.
In 2010, GHSP sent its first seniors off to many selective colleges. Interlake HS is now producing more National Merit Scholars than Garfield. GHSP has sparked a level of rigor at Interlake that has led to a higher standard of academic excellence than a neighboring Bellevue and Newport High Schools, schools recently recognized by Newsweek as among the top high schools in the US. Along the way, GHSP students have woven their way into all aspects of student life at Interlake.
Ingraham High School started its IB program seven years ago and now graduates 30 diploma candidates annually. Approximately half of their 11th and 12th grade students are enrolled in one or more IB courses. Their faculty has the training, interest, and expertise to accommodate many more. Additionally, their IB Diploma candidates have a strong record of gaining admission and scholarships to top local and national universities and being leaders in a wide variety of co-curricular activities. Recently, I joined a leadership team from Ingraham and leaders from the APP Advisory Committee on a visit to Interlake. We interviewed their principal, IB coordinator, gifted parent liaison, and a number of seniors in the GHSP. We also visited classrooms and have reviewed their student achievement data. There can be a little doubt that a similar program offered at Ingraham could become an exciting alternative to APP at Garfield.
Offering choice would allow interested students to continue to attend Garfield and also provide an opportunity for students intrigued by the challenge of the IB program to attend Ingraham. The proposal to offer students a choice, however, critically depends on a sufficient number of students interested and willing to make a commitment.
This letter is an invitation to all 8th and 9th grade students and their parents to work with the Advanced Learning Office to explore your interest and input in the development of an IB option for highly gifted high school students similar to Bellevue’s GHSP at Interlake. A new program is best developed by those who are excited by the prospect. In the absence of interest, APP pathways to different high schools sites may simply be based on where students live when the School Board make assignment plan changes in January.
To learn more about the possibilities of a new program at Ingraham, please come to an APP community forum to be held from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the auditorium at the Ingraham High School, 1810 N135 ST, on Wednesday, November 17. We will discuss the option more fully, answer your questions, and work to summarize your interests and concerns as we move forward.” 

— sue p.