Sunday, January 14, 2007

Choosing a School: High Schools

If you have knowledge and insight about high schools, share them here with other parents.

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Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information.
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4 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

I firmly support choice for high school. No matter what happens in the enrollment plan, students and parents need to pick the high school that best fits them. Kids need to be engaged and interested to stay in school and achieve. The district has created each high school to be very different from each other and to try to slot students in them because of where they live in the city would be wrong. I do support Metro transportation, though, as yellow bus costs would be prohibitive with a choice plan.

Ingraham: has International Baccalaureate program which seems to be doing well. At this point, you only have to fill out an application to get in but it may get competitive if they get too many people wanting to get in. From the tour and a couple of times on the phone, I liked their principal but that's all I can base it on. Good supporter of his school. One of the last high schools not yet renovated but they did get their library redone and are the BEX III list to get their math area redone.

Ballard: used to have a bad reputation in the late '80s but had a turnaround when the building was rebuilt. Has a Biotech program that is very competitive and is very popular. Friends with kids there have mixed reviews on some of the teachers but like the neighborhood feel to the school.

Center School: was created to try to give Magnolia/Queen Anne parents an area high school (I don't think it was what those parents were asking for but that's what got created). It's a small high school at about 300 students. I think it is unlikely to grow larger given the space it is in at the Center House at Seattle Center. It has an arts focus and is considered a "non-traditional" school. They don't have any sports teams except for club sports like Ultimate Frisbee, etc. They also have a later start (I think they start somewhere between 8:30-9:00) because of their location and have no yellow bus service.

Nova- small alternative high school in the central area next to Garfield. Nova is, to me, a school that is an absolute must to have in any large district. Nova is for kids who need to be themselves, who think outside the box, the square pegs, the outsiders, the dreamers. Many students who do not feel comfortable at other high schools find acceptance at Nova. Nova students tend to do well on the SATs. When I was on the CAC, Nova students, teachers and alumni sent a huge number of e-mails in support of their school.

Garfield: one of the heavyweights of high schools in our district. It's currently undergoing renovation and students are at Lincoln. Garfield and Roosevelt go back and forth for size and who ends up being the best high school jazz band in the country (or near the best). Garfield has the most AP classes and many APP students end up here. I hear very mixed things about kids in high level classes and kids in regular ed and whether there is division among students. I know that there was a problem, as there was at other high schools, with students not being able to have a 6-period day. The Board voted to fund it but at the larger high schools there still continues to not be enough funds for all the students who want those classes.

Cleveland; has a couple of academies (had a few more a couple of years ago but they got whittled down). New building construction in progress.

Chief Sealth: getting processed to become another IB site. This will make IB more accessible to south end students. Will probably come on-line in the next year or two. On BEX III list (with nearby Denny Middle School) to be renovated (already has a renovated commons, 9th grade classrooms and science lab).

Rainier Beach: small high school. RBHS has been the source of great controversy because of accusations of neglect. It was odd that the district spent millions to built a beautiful performing arts hall and then did nothing to create a performing arts department (which could have be the magnet for RBHS). District considering what to do with extra space might allow Technology Access Foundation to create an academy within RBHS (although some staff/students oppose this move).

Franklin: has a great Mock Trial program which has earned national honors.

Roosevelt: my son is enrolled here. Beautiful new building, a school with long traditions for performing arts and academic rigor. Has its own foundation as well as an alumni club for alums who graduated more than 50 years ago (that's dedication). Does a team approach somewhat like Eckstein's which does allow teachers to know students better. Currently looking for a permanent principal after nearly 3 years of interim principals. Will have new principal for fall 2007 at the latest. Strong parent support. Large school at 1700 (was renovated for 1600 but sure enough, the district put in 1700). Great music program. Has a reputation for some alcohol/drug problems but that appears to be an off-campus situation. Has a great student exchange with students in South Africa and Ireland. Among the top WASL scores in the city.

Nathan Hale: my older son graduated from Hale last year. Popular high school with good WASL scores. Hale has undergone some changes as part of the Small Learning Communities program. Hale has recently cut back on its separate AP and Honors classes, choosing to try to meet those needs through its regular classes.Has a late start at 8:30 (changed from 8:45). Has award-winning C-89 FM radio station (great dance/club music) operating since the '70s. Mentorship program has mixed results, depends on the teacher. Good counselors (I recommend Jeff Jones) and, in my opinion, has a weak principal who does not have strong communication skills.

Anonymous said...

The four oldest High Schools (Garfield, Cleveland, and Franklin) also have active alumni clubs and foundations, not just Roosevelt. Google the Cleveland Memorial Forest to read about the Cleveland traditions. As to RB getting a great arts facility but not a department, the blame falls at the feet of the building leadership team. They make the hiring decisions, not the District centrally.

brown206 said...

Cleveland also has amazing technology options. You find technology integrated in classrooms, with 15-20 Smartboards (interactive white boards) in the building, in addition to the standard projector/document camera/presentation computer set-up. You also find technology well represented in program offerings, with classes like video production and a project-based introduction to engineering course. There are three "bookable" computer labs in the building, a Mac lab for video production, and a state-of-the-art lab for the engineering class. Most classrooms have 2-7 student computers as well, and teachers have had lots of professional development related to tech in the last several years.

snaffles said...

If you have a strong student, totally dedicated to education, Ingraham is a supportive school.

If a student needs encoragement to attend, pick a different school.

If a student is known to skip classes, Ingraham's vicinity and close shops offer many places to be entertained..including Northgate mall.

Picking Ingraham, means a dedicated student. There is no way to keep the students on campus.