Welcome to the Advocacy page for Cascadia PTA. On this page you can find current information, background references, and any calls to action. You can also skip down to current action or historical advocacy notes.
Theory of Advocacy
PTA is one of the largest national advocacy organizations. The goal of PTA advocacy intends to be a powerful voice for all children; a relevant resources for parents; and a strong advocate for public education. The Cascadia PTA intends to adhere to those values.
In the 2020 school year proposed advocacy topics include Covid19 solutions, public school funding, and district accountability regarding reports of inappropriate staff actions. In addition, the Cascadia PTA recognizes that our school is in a unique position to provide education and advocacy surrounding HiCap education, and will keep an eye on that topic. This year the PTA Advocacy director is Megan Hazen, always available at email@example.com.
Currently in Advocacy
The Cascadia advocacy team has added a page about the state of HiCap in Seattle. Please read and consider responding.
In early November PTA representatives met with local state legislators to discuss the upcoming legislative actions. While there will be potentially dramatic funding challenges in the next two years our representatives feel strongly that progress in serving Washington’s students is still possible and necessary. We will be sharing some specific issues on which our members can take meaningful action. These include managing lead in school drinking water, transportation, and special education funding.
What is HCC?
The Highly Capable Cohort is a state-mandated program that includes students who are “cognitively atypical.” This atypicality is characterized by strong verbal, logical, and abstract thinking abilities, often coupled with asynchronous development in other areas. Asynchronicity can present as high academic capacity with a lag in social-emotional development; as high skills in some academic areas (math, reading, science) alongside either more typical or otherwise less advanced skills in other academic areas; and other times as high academic ability in addition to one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria — a situation which is referred to as “twice exceptional” or 2E.
These students are found in all cultures, and in all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Why is Seattle HCC enrollment not reflective of the district’s diversity?
SPS Advanced Learning programs currently do not reflect the cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity of our city because SPS has not adopted modern best practices, which are already in use by other school districts, to identify students in diverse populations.
The Cascadia Elementary PTA advocates for these recommendations by the Advanced Learning Task Force for screening:
Seattle’s Advanced Learning Task Force (ALTF) was commissioned by SPS to carefully research factors leading to inequity in hi-cap programming and to suggest solutions to the problem of disproportionate representation.
- Opt-out (not opt-in) evaluation. All students should be assessed in their current school during regular school hours.
- Factors beyond test scores: Factors outside of solely academic achievement or cognitive scores should be allowed to identify students who may otherwise have been missed. (Per WAC 392-170-055, “There is no single prescribed method for identification of students among the most highly capable.”)
- Accessible communications: All families should be made aware of the program offerings in an accessible manner.
- Training: Teachers should be trained to recognize cognitive atypicality in underrepresented populations.
- Develop potential in underrepresented communities: Programs should be developed to support students from historically underrepresented communities who show potential for high achievement.
By expanding the identification process in every school, SPS can extend the vital HCC program to the full set of students who need it across all socioeconomic, neighborhood, cultural and racial lines. These measures, among others, will allow more children across underrepresented groups to benefit from advanced learning services, including both in-school services in neighborhood schools and the HCC program, based on individual and family needs.
Be sure to subscribe to our emails. Advocacy updates will be included in the Dragon Digest and calls to action may be sent separately as needed.
If you want to maintain Cascadia and the Advanced Learning program, please get involved. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, fill out this volunteer form, or reach out directly to your School Board Director. Determine your director on this map. Find contact information for each director here.
Our advocacy director can be reached at email@example.com.
Recent advocacy notes
On October 24th the Washington State PTA convened its annual Legislative Assembly. At this conference more than 250 delegates from around the state gathered to discuss and adopt the legislative priorities for the coming year. Cascadia PTA’s Advocacy and Inclusion chairs attended the conference in order to weigh in, and learn more about state and national advocacy opportunities.
At the conference 8 Issues were adopted – this means 8 issues were chosen as legislative focal points for lobbyists in Olympia. These issues included adding nurses and counselors to schools, requesting more state funding, closing the digital divide, supporting students with disabilities, ending gun-violence, preparing for safe schools, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Additionally, an issue calling for equity in HiCap identification was approved as one of the eight focal areas. As a delegation we supported all the adopted issues, but were disappointed that the HiCap issue was not promoted to one of the top five legislative items.
WSPTA also adopted a number of resolutions. Adopting a resolution means that the office stance of the WSPTA on that issue is defined, and that, further, local member units, such as Cascadia PTA, agree to formally support that stance. Nine resolutions were adopted including supporting cultural access programs, advocating for better nutrition and lunch management, asking for equal access to recess, emphasizing social-emotional learning, encouraging restorative justice approaches to discipline, dismantling racism, improving access to and outcomes from special education, supporting k-12 career and technical education, and mitigating the effects of climate change.
You can read more about all the issues and resolutions here.
Seattle Public Schools has convened the Highly Capable and Racial Equity Services Advisory Committee. This group is tasked with supporting the development and implementation of updated advanced learning practices. Consider attending and taking notes at one of the upcoming monthly meetings.
The Washington Coalition for Gifted Education is an advocacy organization that works to promote HiCap education in Washington state. They focus on working with key state decision makers by lobbying in Olympia, supporting the state Gifted Education day, and sharing legislative information to local organizations (such as the Cascadia PTA). Currently WCGE is working to build funds and support for the coming legislative year. Please consider donating or joining the coalition with this form.
Seattle public schools is currently taking referrals for Advanced Learning evaluations. Referrals can be made by parents using the Source through December 7, 2020. Please consider reaching out to other parents encouraging them to refer their students; sharing this information in another community space can help make parents aware of the opportunity. Some parents will not have previously heard about this program or considered their child for it, and will benefit from learning more about how HiCap can help students (see below). Other parents will benefit from information about the referral process. It is important to know that being identified as HiCap eligible does not require a student to enroll in a cohort program, but can help the district provide robust services and better understand their population.
In August the PTA hosted an evening discussion about advocacy. Slides from this talk are here.
Currently advocacy is focused on requesting federal support for additional funding to support returning to school during the pandemic. The national motion is here.
In this time of remote learning access to technology and broadband internet service is essential for participation. The Equity in Education Coalition has launched a campaign to obtain state funding for broadband services, hardware, and digital literacy programs. Please consider signing the request letter here.