Saturday, March 31, 2007

Longer School Day

The NY Times had an interesting article about a longer school day at different school districts throughout the country. From the article, it sounds like a largely East coast idea. The main problem is not, as you might think, pushback from parents (although there is some) but the cost. It simply costs districts more. Some districts are toying with the idea of just schools with failing test scores (but can you imagine how the kids at those schools would feel if they knew they had a longer school day because of their scores and other kids got out earlier?).

I wouldn't mind a longer school day for elementary/middle school but my preference would be that either remedial classes for those who needed it and/or homework help (for all) and/or enrichment (for all). I think many parents would be grateful to know their child came home from school with their homework done and the child had a music/drama/art enrichment class.

A couple of days later, the letter below was printed:

"When are they going to wake up and get it right? They can make the school day 24 hours if they like, and nothing will substantially change.

I taught elementary school for 30 years and noticed that as the school day progresses only one thing basically happens to kids: they get tired!

If you really want to improve public education, rather than increasing the length of the school day, it would be better to decrease class size. Teachers would then have more of a chance to administer individual instruction during class time, to all children. There wouldn’t be many chances to tune out, and more work of real value would be accomplished.

Children need time to be children. They’re not going to get it in a nine-hour school day.

Those who hate school will only hate it more. Most of the other children will be burned out by the time they reach high school. And when will there be time to do homework?

Kathleen Crisci"

I think she has a point. Parents would be much happier (indeed, this is the number one reason I hear from private school parents as to why they want their child in private school) if they knew their child's class size was 17-20. Even with I-728, I haven't seen a lot of class sizes go down. I'm not sure any of us have ever understood how it passed, with its stated goal, and yet, we still have larger class sizes. A smaller class size benefits BOTH teacher and student.

So, longer school day or smaller class size? Which would help more? Or, is there still a better goal out there?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with the letter 100%. We chose the school we are at because of small class size (our daughter's class is 21) and I recognize the difference it makes in the individual attention, number of assessments that get done, etc. I would be first in line to look to private school if the class size significantly jumped due to politics, capacity issues, or whatever other reason.

Anonymous said...

I too am puzzled at I728. I would like to know where and how it has helped reduce class size. Is anybody accountable?? My sons third grade class this year is the largest class he has ever been in. Thirty students. The classroom is so tight, adults have to walk sideways to navigate around the room. The school tells us that the district "over booked" them. The teacher, who is well seasoned, and top notch, is pulling her hair out. She says it is impossible to give these children what they need. My vote would definately be for smaller class size, opposed to a longer day. My son is overspent, and over stimulated after a six hour day stuffed in a small room with 30 kids!!! I would adamantly oppose a longer day.

eric b said...

You can find out how much money a school gets due to I-728 by going to http://www.seattleschools.org/area/finance/budget/bluebook/08/index.htm and selecting the school you want to look at. In the bottom left is a box which includes the amount of I-728 funds your school receives. How the school chooses to spend that money is somewhat up to them, within the limits of the law. You might not be seeing the results in a specific classroom because the school chose to spend it on a different grade level or area. Of course the schools are required to report how they are spending that money, but I was not able to find these reports on the OSPI website. Does anyone know where they are?
One other point. There is an inherent logistical difficulty with "reducing class size." Imagine a full school with 3 classrooms of each grade level and 30 students in each class. Now they want to reduce class sizes to 25 (and have the money to do so). This means that instead of serving 90 students per grade level they will opnly be able to serve 75. What happens to the 15 students that are "reduced"? There is not likely a classroom for 4 classes at each grade level, and even if there were, the school could not afford 4 classes of 22-23. So what can they do?
An easy answer is to reduce just kindergarden class sizes. But then the school doesn't filter enough students up to the higher grade levels, enrolments drop, and the school gets its budget slashed.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's nothing stopping a school from funding two teachers per class for a couple of grade levels. You may not have the rooms for more classes with smaller class sizes but I'm not sure why at least an extra TA couldn't be funded.

Anonymous said...

It makes me so frustrated to hear all of the barriers as to why Seatte Schools can not reduce class size. Many of our schools have excess capacity, so reducing class size should not be that big of a difficulty for the majority of them. And, for the areas of the city, such as NE Seattle, where there is a shortage of seats, perhaps it's finally time to address the issue, and begin to think about adding new buildings or adding on to existing buildings. Thats one of the reasons NE Seattle looses so many families to private school (50%). Large class size, coupled with the fact that families can't count on getting their child into their own neighborhood schools. That would run the most dedicated families away. It's time to fix the "logistical difficulties". The rest of the nation is able to do it. Even some of the poorest states in the nation beat us when it comes to class size. Why a city like Seattle, with our resources, and a median family income of $70,000 can't do it is puzzling?? Until we can make our programs more appealing, we will continue to loose market share, and we will continue to loose state funding. And the children that remain will continue to be uder served.

Anonymous said...

Oh boo hoo hoo! Poor SPS and it's market share.

This is the myth that really needs to be exploded! "If SPS could only get those easy to educate, rich, smart, white people back, we would stop losing our state funding... and the schools would be great."

Actually, we have a weighted student formula. That means the smart, rich kids bring in a lot less money than the poor disabled ones. Look at any school's blue books. It's basically $3,000/child that makes it down to the school level for the so-called easy to educate child. Big deal. (The state's BEA is around $4,000... and about $1,000 gets eaten by the central office, transportation, etc.) So, they may cost less, but they bring in less... and they aren't free to educate either. While it might not be great for a lot of reasons, if every child that wasn't poor or disabled left the public schools... it would save the taxpayers a ton of money. It's ridiculous to see all the posting lamenting private school attendance. If that's what people want... fine, save us the $3,000. And certainly forget about the ridiculous "marketing campaign" idea. Another waste of money for no reason at all. We will still have the hard-to-educate students.

The cost of most of the decent private schools with reduced class size is around $15,000... and then there's the various giving that's required. Sure, you're always going to get more for $15,000+ than for $3,000. The public school could do it for less since they operate on economies of scale... but Washington voters would need to vote for significant tax increases to devote to this... and so far, that isn't forthcoming.

The English Teacher said...

I'm concerned about the absenteeism I'm seeing in some classes. I realize that there are various reasons why student don't, or can't, come to classes on a regular basis. There's an obvious correlation between achievement and attendance. Of course, a number of factors contribute to the achievement gap, but I don't see how extending the school day will help chronically absent students.

I have a question I hope someone can help me with. Where do I find statistics on high school attendance in Seattle high schools? I can find the stats on K-8 unexcused absences on the OSPI web site, but I can't find them for high schools. Anyone know where I can find the data for making school-by-school comparisons?

Anonymous said...

Anonmous, let me make sure that I understand your argument. We should be happy that easy to educate white students who bring in far less dollars choose private school. They are actually doing us all a favor. Did I understand that right? Why is it that if you want to see middle/upper class students served, it is conceived that you want to take away from the underachieving or low income students? Why can't ALL students be served? Don't all tax payers deserve an adequate public education for their children? Do we want a district that compromises only families who can not afford private? I have not lived in Seattle that long, this mentality is completely shocking to me.

Anonymous said...

I know education is a passionate issue, but can we be adult and communicate our ideas without using insulting or belittling comments like "Oh boo hoo hoo." Isn't this site meant to share ideas? Sometimes we don't agree, but we can respect each others rights and opionions.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like anonymous who wrote boo hoo hoo, would do great as a Walmart executive.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm a little confused on Boohoo's points. Some clarification would help.

However, the kids who cost more to educate are more the issue than kids who aren't. That said, it is the job and the duty of the state to educate every child. Unlike charters and private schools, public school takes all comers. That is how it should be.

We DO need to get marketshare back because, as Boohoo points out, districts operate on economies of scale for a lot of students. Those so-called "easy to educate" students help provide a base of money to educate all. Beyond that, you may also be getting parents who are willing to be involved in their child's education which would probably translate into donations and volunteer time.

Having schools running at capacity means closing fewer schools (and all the heartache that involves). If we had more marketshare, it would probably mean that many students would have to go to their neighborhood school (because the popular schools couldn't handle the influx) and because of the increase in parents expectations, those schools would likely improve and have smaller class sizes because of the spreading out of students. Outcome; more schools that people are satisfied with.

Sure, I'm stating the best outcome but private school parents tend to be pro-active types who would come in and expect more and be willing to work hard to make it happen.

Saying we don't need to increase our marketshare is not a big picture view. If this Board (or any Board) had a dual plan of working hard to bring remedial students up AND reaching out to private school parents, this district would be a lot better off.

Anonymous said...

Keep class sizes small for schools that can't handle the volume. I've been in schools that can't handle over 20 in a room and it's bad all around. Some schools have rooms designed to combine two classes with two teachers. Schools that can handle a larger class should be able to do so. Those who can't, shouldn't.

I'm not sure how I feel about a longer day. My kids are spent after attending school from 8:30 am to 3 pm, and that's with breaks and lunch.

I also think it's time to give schools the option of having a longer school year. My kids would love to go to school year around, with small breaks during the summer months. They're bored at home and we can't afford a lot of day camps or sleep away camps. We don't go "abroad" or have a farm, so what's the point? For teachers who have summer commitments, I think it would be great if schools could employ part-time teachers, interns or specialists during "summer school" to keep contracts in place, or at least give teachers the option of whether or not they want a longer year. WenG

Anonymous said...

Boo Hoo:

If you could look at Seattle Schools records regarding lawsuits brought for denial of student services under the ADA, you'd learn that SPS has a habit of denying services to students with disabilities.

I don't think the poor or disabled student is the cash cow you assume them to be.

As for market share, I do agree that with its present culture intact, marketing money would be wasted. Frankly, if SPS paid for a marketing campaign, I'm sure they'd hear complaints from parents who are already donating money to their kid's class and teachers. Money for things like supplies, not the evil "frill" some parents find questionable.

Parents are smart. They talk to other parents. Just reading the archives here can give a new parent a fair warning of the pros and cons of Seattle. In the era of the President as Serial Liar, I think SPS would have to pay for a lot of lip-gloss to cover up this passive/aggressive institution they've defended for so many years. WenG

Anonymous said...

Final comment on market share:

The term offends me.

It offends me because I truly consider public education a right for all citizens. Issues of race and class are never going to completely disappear. SPS can’t be expected, nor should it try, to spend time, money and years of study to claim they will “tackle” this issue. While they’re fiddling around with promises of equity that go nowhere, they’re not just losing the wealthy or highly-educated families, they’re losing the poor and educated, the poor and under educated. They’re losing a lot of kids they’re supposed to help.

Before I moved to Seattle, I never lived in a city full of as many empty schools as I see here. My first neighborhood felt haunted. Where were the kids? Then my neighbors filled me in. And yes, the planned to send their child to private school even before she was born and they’re not racist.

The idea of market share tells me the person thinking about it has the welfare of kids and teachers very low on their list of priorities. SPS needs to take a stand and promise to serve all students. Do that and you don't need to resort of insulting dodges like "we need rich parents" or "we must serve the neediest before all others."

A united front would be the best way to tell the legislature "Fund us." Start by saying no to board members in conflict and superintendent's who can't a read a spread sheet.

The only lawsuits I want to see flying are the ones coming from districts who have their act together, who are ready to demand the funding they need to live up to their mandates.

WenG

Deidre said...

I'm not talking marketing campaign here, you're right those dollars would directly take away from students (at least in the short term). But hey, what about improving Seattle Schools so that they are naturally attract to middle and upper class families???? Yeah, I said it. Seattle needs the support of these families too!!! There are reasons (like horribly large class sizes, and lack of access to ones own neighborhood school) that make Seattle Schools attactive only to the families who just can't afford to get their children out. As long as we continue to accept what SPS flings at us, we will continue to be a district filled with a majority of under achieving, low income kids. It has nothing to do with a marketing campaign, it has to do with a district that is performing unsatisfactorily. A district with a majority of their schools under performing. A district who graduates an 8th grade class at Madrona with only one student who passed all three categories of the WASL. We don't need a campaign, we need improvement, that will speak for itself.
Deidre

Anonymous said...

Deidre: I agree with you. What I was trying to say is that learning isn't a goal limited to one economic class or color. I haven't found a family anywhere who puts learning and achievement as a low priority. This isn't what I heard from you, but it's something I've heard quite often since the first closures were proposed three years ago.

If a school is throwing one group of students aside in order to focus on another, that school is broken.

I think part of the problem we're seeing now is that Seattle is making a second transition, the one that comes after the end of busing era. What was also supposed to follow the ideas that John Stanford set in motion; the idea of returning to the neighborhood school model among them. Nice on paper, but we still haven't done the work or locked down the moneies to make it happen. WenG

deidre said...

WenG, you say that learning isn't a goal limited to one economic class or color, however, by Seattle schools continuing to perform unsatisfactoriy, they have driven away a majority of one of those economic classes that you refer to. The middle and upper class. Low income families stay because they do not have the financial means to jump ship, not because they are happy and satisfied. As you say, and I agree "I haven't found a family anywhere who puts learning and achievement as a low priority". I believe the majority of families across the districts racial and socio economic stratas are dissatisfied, but only the middle and upper class have the means to leave. This leaves the district unbalanced. A healthy district needs balance. We need these families. That said, it is my belief that no amount of marketing will work at this point. I think improvement is the only thing that can work now. When middle and upper income families go to their mailbox and talk to a neighbor satisfied with SPS maybe they will take a second look at the district. When they see test scores across the district steadily improving, maybe they will take a second look. If I-728 funds actually worked and class size reduced, maybe they would take a second look. If Seattle middle and high school students received their very own ibook laptop like Shorline students do, maybe they would take a second look. Until some major improvements happen we've lost the middle and upper class, and thats sad. These families should not be thrown away. The mentality, let them go to private school who needs them anyway, stinks. BTW, I know several lower middle class families who are so dissatisfied they are willing to sacrifice a lot to put their children in private school, others move to the burbs. All families that choose private are not priviledged, but most are passionate about their child receiving the best education that they can.
Deidre

eric b said...

This is going back to an earlier part of the thread - the question of where the I-728 moneys go. A person at OSPI showed me that you can get the information at
http://www.k12.wa.us/safs/I728Reports.asp
Seattle's CCCDD number is 17001 (you type it into the yellow box. While this won't answer all questions, it is at least a start.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the "boohoo" comment, I forgot I was in Seattle where such rude language is considered belittling. I like the Walmart reference though.

Indeed, we have elected to budget "Walmart" rates for our education. Washington’s basic education allocation (BEA) for garden variety kids is around $4,000. Around $3,000 makes it into your principal’s mailbox. That’s it. And there are no cash cows anywhere. This white flight to more expensive educations is a nationwide trend. Boston school district is now 75% minority. Where are Boston’s white students? It seems to me that all this complaining about the district, the superintendent, etc, is misplaced. WE have elected to shop at Walmart for our public education.

To use Charlie’s analogy of parents going grocery shopping: About 70% pick up the $3,000 education for free at the Walmart. Good deal, but mileage will vary. Some others go to Lakeside and pay $30,000 after all the expenses are considered (giving, trips, computers, etc). Lakeside’s website even has a pointer to places you can get “student loans” for K8. This can’t be a great value proposition but still highly desirable and a great experience. Some others go over to the Bush store and pick up their education for around $20,000. Clearly, it isn’t completely the same product as at the Walmart.

Everyone has their own reason for making these expensive choices. Some want lower class sizes. Some want specific programs. But let’s not underestimate the number wanting a “good peer group” for their children. Ever hear of that? I have. That is: ‘No pesky minorities unless they’ve been hand-picked and well screened by our admissions committee, no behaviors we’re not used to, and nobody who isn’t already a child genius like my kid, definitely not ever a disability…. unless, of course, we decide to do some charity.”

SPS should focus all it’s resources on providing a great education for everyone who walks in the door. People can choose as they will. THAT is the big picture. Yes, we need smaller class size in many schools. Yes, we need access to local schools, and more. Certainly we need effective differentiated instruction at all levels. SPS shouldn’t drive anyone off or go on goose chases looking for racism in summer vacation. But, we don’t need some special catering to an already privileged and mostly well served minority. SPS shouldn’t try to “attract anyone back” who has their own personal reason for opting out. We don’t need Waldorf. We already have more than adequate economies of scale. No number of volunteers, auctions or bake sales is going to turn $3,000 into $30,000. And we’ve already taken the hit of closing schools. The fact that some people make private arrangments isn't really "free money walking out the door" as Melissa implies, they too cost money.

Anonymous said...

In response to Boo Hoo Hoo,
Why compare Seattle Schools to Boston? Boston is one of the most challenged school districts lying in a city full of racial tension, and highly competetive, ivy league colleges. Why not comapare Seattle Schools to Houston, Denver, Albuquerque, Boise? Why not compare us to our neighbor districts, Shoreline, Bellevue, Northshore?

But you're right people have a right to choose what they want for their children, and people with the means will more often than not opt out of a public system that is underfunded and under performing. A district that can't keep a Superintendant around more than a couple of years (or most Principals for that matter), mismanages the budget, and has to close schools. A district whose classes are filled with 30-31 students, and a district who frowns on the elitist APP and Spectrum program.

IE A district custom made for the have nots.

Yes, people will choose as they will, but I don't think it is to run away from people of color, behavior issues or disabilities. I think they choose private so often in Seattle, because, this district is grossly failing.

Anonymous said...

If this district is so grossly failing, why am I so happy our neighborhood elementary school. Why am I surrounded by other parents at the school who can easily afford private school, but choose to send their child to public school, the school they can walk to and share in community.

I think the district has serious issues. I personally think that one of their biggest struggles is a struggle all over the nation - the achievement gap. The problem with that issue is in trying to fix the problem they are alienating the families with students who are higher achievers - bad approach.

The other big issue is funding.

My children's school has been able to avoid big issues so far because it is not in Madrona's circumstance. One of the things that is not as great about my child's school is it is not as diverse, racially and economically, but that may be why it has avoided some of the problems (fundraising, school has high test scores, so district lets it be).

This may be for the Madrona post, but if you are going to take a ton of kids who are struggling and thus take away recess, restrict arts during classtime, etc. etc., you are never going to serve the other neighborhood kids who aren't struggling academically without dividing the school. This issue among many others needs to be figured out - especially in the
South end where there is such a diverse economic situation among the residents.

Anonymous said...

The post above describes a very happy community. An affluent community, in one of the few schools in Seattle that performs well, and is funded adequately. I can narrow those schools down to about 10 or so in the district and bet that the poster is at one of them (Wedgewood, View Ridge, Bryant, Laurelhurst, John Stanford Intl, North Beach, Mcgilvra, Montlake, Stevens, or Tops). If the poster lived in the Central Area, South Seattle or South East Seattle, and wasn't one of the lucky lottery winners that got into TOPS, and their child had to attend a poor, grossly under performing school like TT minor, Rainier View, Thurgood Marshall or Leschi, my guess is they would be at private school too. Look, all I am saying is think about the big picture when you think about the district. I live in NE Seattle, and my child attends one of the "affluent neighborhood schools" and we are very happy too. In fact, couldn't be happier. But, as I mentioned above we are one of about 10 schools in the district that meet this criteria. The rest are horrid, depressing, institutions.

Charlie Mas said...

BooHoo (I hope you're okay with this psuedonym) is saying very clearly that the small amount of money provided to a school building for a student without factors, the basic WSF allocation, isn't enough for even a student without factors. I not ready to accept that idea, but I would like to explore it. Is $3,019 all the school will get for the student? Is it enough? Does the school actually lose money on students without factors?

BooHoo also suggested, rather, uncharitably, that a signficant number of families choose private schools to provide their children with "a good peer group". BooHoo then defined a good peer group, rather uncharitably as "No pesky minorities unless they've been hand-picked and well screened by our admissions committee, no behaviors we're not used to, and nobody who isn't already a child genius like my kid, definitely not ever a disability unless, of course, we decide to do some charity."

I will certainly acknowledge my concerns about peer group, but I'm not trying to protect my children from other races - I want to reduce my children's exposure to the peer pressure to underachieve. You can interpret that as you like, but I don't see it as race-based or economically-based and certainly not as ability/disability-based.

There is always, of course, the possibility that I'm living in a thin bubble of denial and self-delusion about this.

Another anonymous wrote "If this district is so grossly failing, why am I so happy our neighborhood elementary school."

Ideally, a school should be able to address the diverse needs of all of its students.

Ideally, a school should be able to provide each students with lessons at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills. They can do it through small learning groups, through parallel curriculum, or through any of a number of other methods for differentiating instruction.

Ideally, schools should be able to accomodate the learning styles of each of its students.

Ideally, a school should be able to make every child and every child's family feel welcome. This only requires good interpersonal and social skills - nothing extraordinary.

There are a number of schools in Seattle who come close to these ideals. They are mostly, but not exclusively, in predominantly White, affluent neighborhoods. Class size plays a huge role in realizing these ideals. That means money. It can also mean volunteers, which, in turn, means money. In a healthy system, the school fosters volunteerism, which leads to higher quality and more positive feelings, which in turn lead to more volunteerism in an upward spiral.

The fact is that most student families in Seattle ARE pretty satisfied with their public school. The fact is that the work done in our public schools is, for the most part, very good. Our schools are staffed, for the most part, by hardworking, dedicated professionals.

If they were honest, a number of schools would tell some folks "Sorry, we're not really set up to address your child's specific academic needs. We will do our best, but there are other schools that would be a better match." Some schools are honest that way and I think it serves them well. I think it is easier for them to be honest about this when they have a waitlist.

The District is much more likely to expect schools to be able to serve any and every student even when we all know that is neither true nor even particularly desirable. The District is much more likely to proclaim it as true even when all of the evidence is to the contrary. The District has real mastery of the "official truth".

In contrast to the work done in the schools, most of the work that comes from the District's headquarters is pretty weak. Fortunately, few of us are ever really impacted by headquarters decisions. Unless your child is in a program with central control, you don't suffer often from District decisions.

The problems come when something isn't quite right at the school. That's when the District's real dysfunction shows. The headquarters fails in their oversight role from start to finish. They don't respond promptly to trouble. When they finally do respond, they usually do the wrong thing.

When there is a conflict, the headquarters almost always presumes that the problem is in the students or the community, never the school or the staff. Even when the school is truly messed up, the District will continue to blame the community. Sometimes they blame families who DON'T have children in the school. "If only you would send your child to the school, the school would change and become the sort of school you want."

The dysfunction is in the headquarters, so if your school is running well and quietly, and flying under the headquarters' radar, then you have a chance at having a good school that works for the students, families, and staff who are there. Your school, operating autonomously without much oversight from the District or direction from the District or interference from the District works almost like a Charter school. In that case, you have to wonder what good is the District.

If your school isn't working well, and the District's involvement is just making everything worse, you also have to wonder what good is the District.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. North Beach, TOPS, Mcgilvra, and View Ridge, (and a few others) have all informed parents who are either minority or facing disability issues that their children would better served elsewhere during enrollment. All off the record of course. In other words, "Choose something else please!!!". That is the double edged sword of "choice". The school can choose not to serve you, esp minorities and those with disabilities. When it happens the other way around... such as Madrona, it's NEWS. Funny that the posters on this forum would list these specific schools as great. I guess it depends on who you are!

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't think what Charlie or the anonymous poster meant with your child would be best served elsewhere even vaguely pointed to minority or disabled children. I think he speaks to the culture and philosophy of a school. For instance AS1 has you take a tour (On the record, and official) before you can apply for their program. This is to make sure that you buy into their alternative curriculum and philosophies, not to screen out people of color. My child goes to Bryant a predominantly white school, which was names by the above poster. Let me tell you that we are constantly talking about ways to make the school more diverse, racially and socio-economically. The school is trying so hard to attract a diverse student body, but is in an area of the city that is predominantly upper middle class, white. I am so tired of hearing about how white folks do not want african americans around. It is unfair, and below the belt. I am white. My child goes to a white school. I can tell you with 100% honesty and accuracy, that a conversation such as you suggest has never ever come up.

Anonymous said...

It is unrealistic to suggest that every school is going to meet every childs needs. It would be nice, but so would tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Schools reflect their communities. I am convinced that Madrona's focus on the basics reflects exactly what their community has requested. I'm sure that Bryant's super achieving math club, competetive with private schools, reflects exactly what that community has requested. Look, thats why we have choice. That's why we have programs with specific philosophies and focuses. That's why we have alternative schools, and APP programs, and international immersion programs. They all meet different needs. It is your responsibility as a parent to choose the right school, the right fit for your child. And, if anybody told me "off the record" that my child wouldn't be best served in a school that I thought they would be best served in, i would disregard it, and if it were an official I might seek a lawyer. I feel honored to live in a system that (despite Michael Debell) offers choice. Choice is empowering. Choice gives you a voice. Choice gives you options.

Anonymous said...

I would love to know specifically whom, at North Beach, TOPS, Mcgilvra, View Ridge, (and a few others), unoffically, told parents with minority and disabled children that they would be better served elsewhere? Who was it specifically? Was it someone at the enrollment center? Was it various representatives from each of these schools, perhaps a conspiracy??? Who???? I have heard this argument before, but nobody ever mentions exactly whom it is.

Anonymous said...

"I never heard it, therefore it didn't happen. I'm 100% sure." Is that listening to someone else's experience? "Just go sue them." Is that realistic? If a principal tells you they aren't going to serve your child, (and they did tell me that) I believe them. I have less choice.

Anonymous said...

Would you please share in what context a principal told you that your childs needs would not be met at their school. Was in context to your race, socio-economic status, a disability, other??? And please, so that nobody assumes that you misinterpreted what the principal said, would you mind quoting him/her. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

When we narrow down our options, we all have less choice. When I went to AS1 and found that the program would not suit our family, I had less choice. When I went to John Rogers and found the program to be much to structured for my child, I had less choice. Now, when I spoke to the principal at John Rogers and questioned her about how super structured I perceived the school to be, and I spoke with her about what type of situation would be best for my child, she told me that the school may not fit my needs. I was very thankful that she was forthcoming, and thankful that I had the information and could make an informed choice. She did not chose for me, she merely gave me information. No reason to be suspicious. No biggotry. No alterior motives. The school just did not fit my childs needs. Now my choice is even more limited. So you see, we all have this issue. Every school does not work for every child. I am interested to see the response to the post above, in regard to what context you were told that the school would not serve your child well.

Anonymous said...

kay, so Michael deBell said today in a PI op-ed (at least I think so) that we might be better off with less choice so that people would go to (at least)regional schools and support their area and, hopefully, create better schools by virture of being in their area and being better able to access their school easily.

Do you have faith you and like-minded parents could resusitate a neighborhood school not of your choosing? Is that the answer?

It is problematic because on the one hand, we don't want cookie cutter schools. On the other hand, many people have expressed the desire to duplicate successful schools. TOPs is mentioned. I personally believe it is not a hugely successful academic school (good but not great) but parents there seem to love it. What should be duplicated? Would you support a change in the enrollment system if the district said, "We will make sure that a successful model of school is duplicated in every area of the city." Meaning, have community meetings to identify what people would like and say okay, then another TOPS for the south end or another John Stanford for the NW. Would that make people stay put?

See, the reason the district is pushing a pullback (not ending totally, I don't think that's in the cards) on choice is that the transportation costs are killing us. And it will make the looming shortfall harder. They have to push a pullback. Instead of drawing a line in the sand, would it make more sense to say, okay, we'll support your plan but we want something (in writing with a plan signed off by both the Board and Superintendent)in return?

Melissa Westbrook
(my password isn't working so I had to sign in as Anonymous)

Anonymous said...

Tough question, Melissa. I think it depends on whether your family reflects the demographics of your neighborhood. It also depends on the existing quality of your neighborhood schools. Perhaps, you are middle class, and white. You may not mind being forced to attend, hih achieving View Ridge with its class size of 19. However what if you were African American?? Perhaps you don't want your child to be one of 4 or 5 african american students in the school.

I get the high transportation costs, and I understand the need to cut back, however, I think limiting choice will drive so many families away from the district that it will ultimately cost much more than the current transportation costs.

I hate the idea of going in and "changing" or "taking over" a school. I think that schools will change as neighborhoods do, but it has to happen naturally, and reflect the demographics of the neighborhood. It takes time, and time is something that our children just can't spare. We attended a neighborhood alternative school for several years, and eventually became disatisfied. We didn't want to disrupt our child by changing schools so we decided to make our voices heard, and work with the principal and teachers on issues that we were unhappy with. Since many of the things we were disatisfied with were part of the culture of the school it was like we were swimming up stream. It became uncomfortable. We were trying to change the culture and philosophy of the school and we eventually realized that this was not only fruitless but unfair. Our son is now at Bryant (not our neighborhood school) and is thriving. Thank heavens for choice!!

Deidre

Alex said...

I think replicating schools in unrealistic. It sounds great, but I think what makes a school succesful is not its philosophy, building, academics, etc. I think it is the parent community that digs in and makes a school a community, and a success. I don't think you can buy that. IE, if you modeled a school like TOPS and put it in SE Seattle, where parents don't want an alt. school will it be successful?? If you picked up Mcgilvra and moved it to Rainier Beach, and filled it with the children that live in Rainier Beach, will it be McGilvra?? I think good schools are schools that are well funded, and have a strong focus, whatever that may be. The New School does it privately, Wedgewood does it with PTA money. Both are well funded, both reflect their neighborhoods needs, and both are highly succesful. It's all about the $$$$ baby.

Anonymous said...

When we lived in the Central area about 5 years ago. Most of our neighbors were lower income, African American families. Most of their children went to Leschi as it was the reference school. Despite horribly low test scores, a lack of all arts, and the school being severely under enrolled, all of the parents we knew loved the school. They felt that their childrens needs were being met, and they were very satisfied. They felt that having their children in a school that was predominantly African American was comforting, and that it was "their" community. We had one neighbor who had heard that Stevens was a better school, and was somehow snagged a coveted kindergarten spot for her son. I distinctly remember a conversation with her, where she was shocked see her child "painting" in class. She said that she could paint with her child after school, during the school day she expects a school to focus on reading, writing and math. The basics. She was also alarmed at them "wasting time" teaching spanish". So there you have it. A school reflects its community. The school gives exactly what the parents demand and expect. Nothing more, nothing less.

Maureen said...

TOPS has been mentioned several times in this thread. My kids go to TOPS. It’s great for us, but it doesn’t work for all families. Some posts say we should be a model. Some say we’re over-rated. Some posts say we’re elitist and exclusionary.

We’re a community. The four hundred families there face many of the challenges that the District as a whole faces. We have a chunk of over-involved white folks (me), we have a chunk of under-involved black folks. We have a chunk of over-involved black folks and of under-involved white folks. Then we have all the same mix of Asians and Hispanics and so on. Like I said: we’re a community. The one advantage we have is that we chose to be there. Whether we ran toward something or away from something, we all chose to be there. I think that makes a huge difference.

I think that the transportation cost the District faces is a small price to pay for choice. Without choice the District cannot allow programs like TOPS or John Stanford or Montlake or the New School or Madrona to exist. Without choice, every school must be all things to all families and therefore not good enough for any family.

Maureen

Anonymous said...

So Charlie, you want protection from "underachievers"... but not from minorities. Sounds like you are just a lot more comfortable with the notion of "underachiever" than with the implication of protection from "blacks". Thank god for underachieving whites. It gives you a little escape hatch in your ideology. Yes, you live in a bubble. But at least you're willing to consider that possibility, which is already a big step.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me say it again. Apparently I wasn't clear enough.

It's not underachievers that I don't want my children exposed to - it is peer pressure to underachieve.

First of all, not all low-performing students aren't trying hard. Many of them are. Second, not all high performing students are trying hard.

It isn't the level of their performance, it is the level of their effort that I am sensitive to.

And, so far as that goes, I don't even mind if they don't try hard, so long as they don't proselytize for slacking.

Anonymous said...

ARgh! I am so tired of people reading racism into everything. It is so frustrating. Why can't anyone say anything without it being misconstured and twisted into racism. I am not in denial, I know racism exists. I have multi-racial children (african american/caucasian) but please, please, please reserve the accusations for when they are truly appropriate. Otherwise we get the boy who cried wolf syndrom, and nobody pays any attention when real issues of racism arise.

Anonymous said...

Everyone who has an average or over achieving child wants their child protected from the slacker/under achiever mentatlity. Why wouldn't they. Perhaps the poster who equates under achiever with African American is racist, I don't think what Charlie suggested in any way had to do with race. Would you want your child to attend a school where the majority of students had a meth problem??? 80% of meth users are white. Are you a racist?? Do you hate white people since meth is a white drug??? Or are you being a good parent and want to shelter your children from a destructive drug??? Think about it