Advanced learning

Advanced learning of the new service model

Summary: This year, we worked on a new advanced learning model to identify students more fairly.



Advanced Learning Services: A New Service Delivery Model

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is changing the way it provides advanced learning services to ensure that every student’s brilliance is honored and supported.

This year, we worked to develop our new model, identify students more fairly, and create 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 aims to ensure access to services for every student, especially those who are furthest from educational justice.

The new model offers three levels of service to students based on individual needs, delivered in a way that respects individual cultures and backgrounds.

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

Learn more and see an illustration of the tiered system.

K-2 pilot program

Next school year, participating elementary schools will test a pilot K-2 advanced learning program focused on one or more of the reading/writing, math, and enrichment clusters. Learn more about enrichment clusters at Thurgood Marshall.

Each school will receive reading/writing, English and math lessons as part of the existing curriculum which provide deeper opportunities to expand knowledge.

This type of “differentiated instruction” will be offered to advanced learners, highly able students, and any student who demonstrates a need for deeper learning. Differentiated instruction is when students receive instruction tailored to their specific abilities.

Starting in October 2022, K-2 teachers will begin the pilot reading/writing program. Also in the fall, schools piloting enrichment clusters will begin this work. The mathematical pilot will start in January 2023.

Enrichment clusters develop each student’s strengths and talents. They are made up of students who share an interest, subject or topic.

Each cluster group works together each week for six to eight weeks in their classroom or at all levels. 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 groups will allow groups of children to explore common areas of interest while receiving instruction that supports their individual abilities.

Schools participating in the pilot program

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

Other schools could join the pilot project during the summer.

Advanced learning for non-pilot schools

Advanced learners and highly able students in neighborhood schools will receive instruction and opportunities that reflect their needs and abilities.

This usually means that schools will focus on activities that deepen and broaden students’ knowledge instead of skipping it. This may include project-based learning, small groups, independent projects, or other activities based on student interest. These opportunities will be offered to each student who demonstrates a need for deeper level learning.

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

Advanced College Learning

Advanced and highly able students will be served in mixed classes that offer different levels of instruction to meet student needs; this will include grouping students into small groups within the class.

  • 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 lesson in the sequence, with the option to accelerate through a 7/8 compressed lesson. With one year of acceleration, students can achieve the most advanced level of math courses, AP Calculus.
  • Teacher training in this new approach is already underway and will be expanded over time.

Advanced learning in high schools

There are no changes to current high school programs and courses, which include:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • College to High School
  • Starting running
  • Honors
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Clubs and competitive opportunities at each high school

Why advanced learning is changing

Historically, advanced learning students were identified by IQ or aptitude tests that predominantly favored white families. This has led to great racial disparities in the makeup of our advanced learning program.

To address this inequity, SPS has changed the way we identify advanced students and highly able students. We will offer new types of teaching that will be flexible enough for teachers to provide advanced coursework where needed and grade-level support in other areas.

The program is not going away, it is improving. This year, we’ve expanded our offering to include students eligible for advanced learner services in math, reading, or both. This has increased the number of students who will benefit from 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 service opportunities as all other students and will get the support and enrichment they need to grow.

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