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New Service Model Advanced Learning

Summary: This year, we’ve been working on developing a new model for Advanced Learning to identify students in a more equitable way.

Advanced Learning Services: A New Service Delivery Model

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is changing the way it provides Advanced Learning services to ensure the brilliance of every student is honored and supported.  

This year, we’ve been working on developing our new model, identifying students in a more equitable way, and creating a pilot program that will help us refine our services over time. 

About the new Advanced Learning model 

Our new Advanced Learning service delivery model will be phased in over the next six years. It is focused on ensuring access to services for every student, particularly those who are furthest from educational justice. 

The new model offers three tiers of service for students depending on individual needs, delivered in a way that honors individual cultures and backgrounds.  

  • Tier 1: All students have access to services that build on their talents and strengths. 
  • Tier 2: Deeper level of learning about topics or subjects based on student interests and needs. 
  • Tier 3: Individualized plan for students with complex needs.   

Read more about and view an illustration of the tiered system.

K-2 pilot program

Next school year, participating elementary schools will test an Advanced Learning K-2 pilot program, focusing on one or more of reading/writing, math, and enrichment clusters. Learn about enrichment clusters at Thurgood Marshall.

Each school will be provided with reading/writing, English language arts, and math lessons within the existing curriculum that offer more in-depth opportunities to expand knowledge.  

This type of “differentiated instruction” will be offered to Advanced Learners, Highly Capable students, and any student who demonstrates a need for deeper learning. Differentiated instruction is when students are provided with instruction tailored to their specific abilities. 

Beginning in October 2022, kindergarten through second grade teachers will begin the pilot program in reading/writing. Also in the fall, schools that are piloting enrichment clusters will begin that work. The math pilot will begin in January 2023. 

Enrichment clusters develop the strengths and talents in every student. They are made up of students who share an interest, topic, or subject.  

Each cluster group works together weekly for six to eight weeks within their classroom or across grade levels. The groups are organized by teachers, staff, and families. Enrichment clusters are designed to help students develop and apply their thinking skills, including creative problem solving, negotiation, and communication. These clusters will enable groups of children to explore shared interest areas while being provided with instruction that supports their individual abilities.  

Participating Pilot Program Schools 

  • Hawthorne 
  • Lafayette 
  • Loyal Heights 
  • Thurgood Marshall 
  • North Beach 

Additional schools may join the pilot project during the summer. 

Advanced Learning for non-pilot schools 

Advanced Learners and Highly Capable students in neighborhood schools will receive instruction and opportunities that reflect their needs and abilities.  

This typically means that schools will focus on activities that deepen and expand student knowledge instead of skipping ahead. This might include some project-based learning, small groups, independent projects or other activities based on student interest. These opportunities will be offered to every student who demonstrates a need for deeper level learning.  

Which services and how they are delivered are decided by each school. We encourage families to contact their school directly with questions about the specific services offered. 

Advanced Learning in middle schools 

Advanced Learners and Highly Capable students will receive services in blended classrooms that provide varying levels of instruction to meet student needs; this will include clustering of students in small groups within the classroom.  

  • English language arts, science, and social studies will combine grade-level content with opportunities for deeper learning, enrichment, complex thinking, and application for every student who needs advanced work.
  • In math, students will take the next course in the sequence, with an opportunity to accelerate through a 7/8 compressed course. With one year of acceleration, students can reach the most advanced level of math coursework, AP Calculus.
  • Training for teachers in this new approach is already underway and will be expanded over time. 

Advanced Learning in high schools 

There is no change to current high school programs and courses, which include: 

  • Advanced Placement (AP) 
  • College in the High School 
  • Running Start 
  • Honors 
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) 
  • Clubs and competition opportunities at each high school 

Why Advanced Learning is changing 

Historically, students in Advanced Learning have been identified by IQ or aptitude tests that favored mostly white families. This has led to wide racial disparities in the makeup of our Advanced Learning program. 

To address this inequity, SPS has changed how we identify Advanced Learners and Highly Capable students. We will offer new types of instruction that will be flexible enough so that teachers can provide advanced lessons where appropriate and grade-level support in other areas.  

The program is not going away, it’s getting better. This year, we expanded to include students who are eligible for Advanced Learner services in either math, reading, or both. This has increased the number of students who will experience differentiated instruction in their classrooms this year and beyond. 

It will be more inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive. In particular, students who have been historically excluded will now have the same opportunities for services as every other student and get the support and enrichment they need to grow. 

More information about Advanced Learning services can be found on the Advanced Learning webpage.

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