Friday, June 10, 2016

Spectrum is Dead

I have been reading the minutes of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee's April 4 meeting. In the discussion of the quarterly report on Equitable Access there is a discussion of the change from self-contained to clustered Spectrum at Whittier and Lafayette. The minutes are very clear:
Directors are concerned that we are taking a program that defined and provided services for particular students and putting them in general education classrooms. We have an obligation to provide clarity.
That's a fact. The Board Directors want the staff to articulate what constitutes Spectrum. Again, from the minutes:
Directors asked if schools have identified what services look like to families. Sherri explained that families have been informed.
I notice that Ms Heath did not share with the Directors the description of services provided to the families. What was the information provided to families? Was it "You're out of luck; Spectrum is dead."? The Directors must have pressed further:
Directors asked what resources are we giving teachers. This may be an equity issue. Shauna explained that MTSS, professional develop and have three curriculum specialist offering services to make the transitions.
From this we have, in plain language, the acknowledgement of what we have long suspected: Spectrum is dead, replaced by MTSS. The only problem, of course, is that Spectrum was something real, something that was actually happening, something concrete, something that people could point at and say: "There it is - that's Spectrum." MTSS, on the other hand, is not real, not happening, not concrete, and offers nothing that people can point to and say: "There it is - that's MTSS." There is literally zero evidence of any student getting advanced work as a result of MTSS.

The Advanced Learning policy, 2190, clearly requires services for Advanced Learners other than Highly Capable:
The District identifies and provides appropriate instructional programs and services for students who demonstrate high academic achievement, but who do not meet the definition of Highly Capable. Such students are identified as Advanced Learners.
Programs for Advanced Learners
Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities. Delivery mechanisms may include: differentiated instruction, groupings of Advanced Learning students to work together in subjects or on projects, self-contained classrooms, or accelerated pacing.
Does MTSS do this? Does MTSS provide content acceleration? Does it provide deeper learning opportunities? What evidence do we to support this presumption? None.

The policy also sets clear requirements for the superintendent's procedure:
The procedures will describe the programs and services available to students identified as Highly Capable as well as to those identified as Advanced Learners.
But when we look at the Superintendent's procedure, it only says this about the programs for Advanced Learners:
Spectrum is a program designed for students identified as "Advanced Learners," but Highly Capable students are welcome to join. Spectrum is for students who perform well above average for their grade level and may require more advanced work to remain engaged. Spectrum is offered at all middle schools and several elementary schools and classes are either self-contained or students are grouped within classrooms that have multiple Highly Capable and/or Advanced Learners, depending on location.
It does NOT meet the requirements of the policy because it does NOT describe the programs and and services. It says who is in the program and where the program is offered, but it does not describe them. Not at all.

This is a serious oversight. This is what is needed: a clear, enforceable description of Spectrum - however it is delivered.

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