Thursday, April 26, 2007

Michael deBell's Preliminary Assignment Thoughts

This document was posted at Roosevelt's Bulletin area. I briefly read through it and haven't had time to contemplate it yet so I'm not offering any opinions. He does touch on a number of issues and I give him credit for taking a stand and putting it out there.

I would stress, as I suspect Michael would, this is early work. As Brita Butler-Wall has posted, this work is being done now by the staff and the Board. Michael mentioned to me at a superintendent interview forum that public discussion is likely to be scheduled for fall.


Anonymous said...

I like Mr. deBell very much, but where did he learn to write? This is incredibly turgid, abstract and real tough to follow.

Roy Smith said...

This document doesn't address the concerns brought up previously on this blog that some programs (possibly for example, Roosevelt's music program, or International Baccalaureate) are exceptional enough that they should be all city draws, even if the system mostly becomes a neighborhood assignment system.

Having a few open seats assigned by lottery does not adequately address this issue, because students who merely want the popular high school with little intention of participating in unique programs would be competing against students that want a particular high school because it offers a program that is not offered at other high schools.

Beth Bakeman said...

I'm speaking with Michael DeBell at the moment. The document that Mel linked to was very much a preliminary, unfinished document.

I'm asking Michael to write up a short piece on this topic with his views. Hopefully will appear later today or tomorrow.

Deidre said...

Roy, we don't effectively have choice anyway. How can a student in South or West Seattle or any other part of the city get into Roosevelt when neighborhood kids who live more than 1.81 miles from the building can't? The current system is ridiculous. Choice only exists if you are trying to get into an under-enrolled (generally under performing) school, or to an alternative school that uses the lottery system for all city draw. Otherwise choice is bogus. If you don't live in the immediate neighborhood you have no chance of getting into high achieving schools like Montlake, McGilvra, Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Eckstein, Roosevelt. So where's the "choice"???

I LOVE Michael DeBell's proposal. It makes so much sense on all fronts.

1)Neighborhood families have predictability with acces to their neighborhood schools.
2)New families coming into the district have a guaranteed spot in a neighborhood school. Our neighbor moved to NE Seattle from out of state this past November, and of course couldn't get her kid into Eckstein mid year. She had to send her child to Denny in West Seattle, and since the district does not provide transportation for out of cluster traditional schools, she had to drive him both ways every day (she was on the road two hours a day and had to cut back to P/T work to accomodate). Isn't that outrageous?
3)The Supt is responsible for monitoring under enrolled and under performing schools and has to come up with a plan to improve them. He/she is held accountable for their success, and annual monitoring. If after improvement attempts fail the school will either be closed or consolidated.
4)Dollars saved on busing go to extra resources for under performing schools. (This will help close the achievement gap without lowering the bar at high performing schools)

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Deidre. She echoed my thoughts exactly.

I hate that I am already concerned about High School when my kids are in preschool/elementary due to the current system. I would love to know that I was guaranteed a certain school in my geographic area. I could watch that school, advocate for improvements if I wasn't happy with the school, and know to apply to private school or move if it wasn't the ideal choice.

I would also know that people in public schools with kids my older child's age may actually move into our neighborhood because they wouldn't be scared off due to not being able to send their child to the school 2 blocks away.

I'm a planner and I need predictability - especially with my children's education.

Roy Smith said...

Deidre -

No argument from me on the lack of school choice under the current system, and yes, this proposal is generally an improvement. That being said, I still think that a mechanism needs to be put in place for giving students a realistic opportunity to participate in specialized programs if they have the interest and aptitude, regardless of whether or not that specific program is available in their neighborhood high school. For instance, if a student is highly talented musically, it is unreasonable to tell them that they can't go to Roosevelt and participate in the music program because they don't live in the right neighborhood. Yes, I understand that this happens under the current system. I am proposing that the new system should fix this problem as well as fixing the predictability and complexity problems, and I think both goals can be achieved simultaneously.

Deidre said...

Roy, I agree with your concept but I don't know how it would realistically work with a popular program like Roosevelt (400 kid waitlist)? Each seat that was given to a lottery assignment, would take away a seat from a neighborhood family. How could you have predictibility, and lottery at an over enrolled school, at the same time. Many families buy into the Bryant/Ravenna neighborhood just so their kids can go to Eckstein and Roosevelt. Many want the band program, the drama program and/or the AP classes that Roosevelt offers. If they don't get in we loose them. They are not going to send their kid across town or settle for a school that does not meet their needs. They go private.

My suggestion is to figure out what a community wants and needs, and then give it to them. If Roosevelt has a 400 kid waitlist and Hale and Ingraham have no wailtlist, we need to look at why this occured. The community is saying that they want something that Roosevelt is offering. Perhaps a strong band program, strong drama program, AP classes, yellow bus service, a seizmically stable building???

In Shoreline, if one High school offers a competetive band, then the other one does too. If one middle school offers foreign language then the other one does too. They don't have the huge disparity between schools, and I like that.

Roy Smith said...

I agree that music and drama programs and AP classes should be available at any of the traditional high schools, so they are probably poor examples of what should constitute reasons to get into a specific school. Better examples are the biotechnology program at Ballard, International Baccalaureate, or foreign language immersion programs, which are programs that are either very difficult to replicate and/or may not have a big enough constituency to warrant having one in every high school.

The way to solve this is to have enough seats at the school to serve the geographical neighborhood AND to serve the specialized program(s). That is nothing more than intelligent planning.

Dorothy said...

"5. The District must annually examine capacity and demand at all schools. Any site that is below 50% of planning capacity will be examined by the Superintendent who will report to the Board, and develop a plan to improve or consolidate the school. In areas which have insufficient seats for demand, the Superintendent will present a plan to the board for increasing capacity."

What does "presenting a plan" have to do with anything? How many plans get presented that end up in fistfights but nothing else? How are you going to do this in a timely fashion? The cynical me say that this is what the district has been trying to do with closures and consolidations for the last couple years now and the result is one big mess and almost nothing has actually been accomplished except increased acrimony. Give this one point more than lip service, go beyond presenting plans to actually implementing something and the district would be a thousand percent better.

Anonymous said...


I agree with many of the points you have made, but I don’t think it is fair to compare Seattle to Shoreline. Shoreline has only 2 high schools. It is much easier to control the quality and programming of these schools. In addition, Shoreline does not have the vast disparity of socioeconomic status between schools. Although the west side schools are, in general, slightly more affluent, the differences are nothing compared to Seattle.

Look at some examples (taken from the Seattle Times School Guide):
Shorewood HS (West Shoreline): 13 % FRE
Shorecrest HS (East Shoreline): 16% FRE
Roosevelt HS (North Seattle): 21% FRE
Rainier Beach High School (South Seattle): 60% FRE

I think Seattle needs to take its cue more from large school districts and create magnet schools for specific disciplines. And this means trying to create competitive programs at schools that are currently considered less desirable. I keep thinking about Rainier Beach. This school could have a performing arts program that students all over Seattle fight to get into. It could be the “Fame” school in Seattle. And that doesn’t have to be at the cost of academics. Academics could thrive in this school because kids are working hard to get and stay in the school.


Deidre said...

Roy, perhaps the very specialized programs like biotechnology should be placed in under entolled high schools, and not in over enrolled high schools with huge waitlists. If that were to occur then perhaps the lottery system could and should be utilized. The specialized programs would (may) draw families to under enrolled schools, and allow plenty of access to the program. It could be a win win situation. The problem is when you have the strongest drama program and band program in the most over enrolled, popular high school in the city. A high school that can not even accomodate families that live within a 2 mile radius. There is just no extra room.

Anonymous said...

But, you have to think about the future. What happens if the under enrolled school now becomes popular with the infusion of the new programs, and they experience the same problems that Roosevelt experiences. Do you back track? Move the special program? Oh, logistics.

Deidre said...

I'm not saying that Seattle should be just like Shoreline. We have different demographics. What I'm saying is that Shoreline offers consistency. What you get at one school you will get at another. It should't matter if you have two schools or 50 schools, and as for Seattle's higher number of low income students, that should have no impact on the programs that the district provides. The district should fund the programs, not the families.

Anonymous said...

So Dorothy, what should be done about under performing, under enrolled schools?? Since the district has failed in the past to monitor them and make them accountable, should we just continue that trent? Just give up, and let them keep on under serving the most vulnerable students in the district?

Or, should we finally move toward accountability like Mr. DeBell says, and close/consolidate them?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael makes some good points and addressed issues that have rarely seen the light of day in senior leadership. One is marketshare. It does matter because every student we lose costs us money. I will never understand the staff attitude of "oh well, it's always been that way."

Two, he says, somewhat vaguely, that the district has a disparity in program placement. That's an understatement! Between the NE having multiple alternatives to the SW having just one, this district has allowed speciality programs to just pop up anywhere without considering long-term ramifications or placement.

Three, the all-time worst decision in this district was closing Queen Anne High and now I find out they closed it with 880 students! We have several high schools with considerably less than that and yet they are nowhere near to consideration to be closed. Couple that with the incredible loss of the land AND not getting a good deal on the sale AND parents in Queen Anne and Magnolia having no neighborhood high school? It pains me to think about it.

Four, he doesn't mention alternatives which are a big part of the assignment plan. TOPS and John Stanford are very popular and yet they operate under different assignment plans. TOPS is an all-city draw (even though it is a neighborhood school - they finally set aside a few seats for neighborhood kids but it was a long time coming)and John Stanford is a neighborhood school with an all-city draw. Very confusing. Alternatives have such strong parent support and yet, if one of them is your closest neighborhood school but you want a traditional model, you are forced to travel further away.

So to his plan. After serving on the CAC, I see a real need to pull back on transportation because it is just killing this district. So I would support the pullback on elementary choice to 3-4 schools in your region. Middle school, as we have discussed, seems to be a real problem because of the perception that there are only a few good middle schools.

I'm with Roy; I would rather see some seats set aside for an audition/application process at some schools (Roosevelt, Garfield, Ballard, Ingraham/Sealth -if their IB programs get too popular). I think a lottery is not fair for kids who are not interested in the speciality programs. Every high school can add/beef up their AP/Honors offerings and the district should hear, loud and clear, how much arts mean to parents to the point where parents want to see solid programs in every high school.

But there is, as has been pointed out, a problem in set aside seats (whether for a lottery so kids have access to speciality programs or for people who just moved here); it may shut out neighborhood kids. Michael doesn't give a number for how many set aside seats there would be for newcomers but can you imagine knowing that there are a couple of seats per grade level at your neighborhood school left empty in case someone moves to that neighborhood? And would "newcomer" mean anyone new to the neighborhood or specifically someone who comes from out of Seattle?

Lots to consider but maybe talking it out might help us and the Board find solutions.

classof75 said...

What happens if the under enrolled school now becomes popular with the infusion of the new programs, and they experience the same problems that Roosevelt experiences.

I think they anticipated that with the addition of the IB program Ingraham would become much more popular.
Some schools, even though they have IB or TAF, take time to generate the reputation in the community to attract families.

I expect Ingraham will eventually, but it is logistically, difficult to get to- and also in the neighborhood of several popular private high schools.

I am very disappointed that more isn't done to attract students to Rainier Beach. Nice building- a diverse neighborhood that still has lots of kids. But because of the small size, the school can't offer the supports or classes that a larger school could.
Its really a shame that the effort( & $$$) that has been put into facility improvements like the Paul Robeson arts center can't be more fully utilized, by the school community

This not only discourages potential students from attending, it affects current students.

Dorothy said...

"Or, should we finally move toward accountability like Mr. DeBell says, and close/consolidate them?"

Note that Mr DeBell doesn't say to close or consolidate any school or increase capacity anywhere, he just says to develop or present a plan. Then what? That's my frustration. We've BTDT in the presenting a plan department for the past several years, how about actually following through with a plan? Where's the follow through? His proposal is not credible unless we get beyond the presenting a plan and actually achieving change.

I don't believe in "moving toward accountability." You either are holding folks accountable or you are not. Currently we are not. What in this proposal leads you to believe that schools, teachers, administrators will be held accountable? What's new in his mandate to present plans?

Charlie Mas said...

I think that Mr. DeBell's plan is more medicine than the system needs.

All of this effort to accomodate students moving into Seattle from out of town! How many are they?

All of this reduction in choice to save on transportation is unnecessary. The District doesn't need to restrict choice, just transportation. Right now the District provides yellow bus transportation for ANY student in Southeast Seattle who enrolls at Hamilton, McClure, or Meany. Why are we bussing children out of their region when their region schools are underenrolled?

We don't need all of Mr. DeBell's plan. We could solve most of the problems with just one part of it:

5. The District must annually examine capacity and demand at all schools. Any site that is below 50% of planning capacity will be examined by the Superintendent who will report to the Board, and develop [AND IMPLEMENT] a plan to improve or consolidate the school. In areas which have insufficient seats for demand, the Superintendent will present a plan to the board for increasing capacity.

If they would do this, then they would become responsive to the needs of the community. If the community wants more of what Roosevelt offers and less of what Hale offers, then the District will intervene and make Hale more like Roosevelt. That's the way that choice was supposed to work (read John Stanford's book), but the District leadership lacked the courage and the political will to intervene. They have been FAR too deferential to principals, and FAR too reluctant to demand any sort of accountability.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie.

Director DeBell's plan creates a continual need for redrawing maps based on neighborhood need. This would result in public outcry every couple of years and resulting loss of market share when maps move and neighborhood assignment changes to less desireable school. That is a lot of time and energy into a negative process.

We should be putting our time, energy, and public meeting input into creating better schools not creating more complex enrollment and transportation plans.

Roy Smith said...

Charlie's idea is probably pretty good, except that one of the things that parents are now demanding is predictability out of the school assignment system. This demand for predictability stems from the fact that few parents trust the district with regards to much of anything. Parents are going to have a hard time buying into any school choice system that doesn't deliver predictability (predictable in this case defined as "knowing well ahead of time with reasonable certainty where my child will have the opportunity to go to school") until (or if) the school district delivers on its promises of being more responsive to the community and raising standards at all schools.

The response to this argument from the district of course, will be "trust us to raise performance at all schools and to increase capacity where necessary, and a school choice system not based primarily on neighborhood schools will meet your needs". But nobody trusts the district.

The only way I can see for the district to reestablish its credibility with parents will be to start with simple things that parents actually will believe that the district will deliver - for instance, a school choice system that guarantees access to neighborhood schools - and work up from there. In the perfect world of theory, this is certainly not an optimal solution; however, given the realities of lack of trust throughout the district, it may be the only solution that can actually deliver any positive results at all.

Roy Smith said...

Director DeBell's plan creates a continual need for redrawing maps based on neighborhood need. This would result in public outcry every couple of years and resulting loss of market share when maps move and neighborhood assignment changes to less desireable school. That is a lot of time and energy into a negative process.

This is only true if we insist on not maintaining some spare capacity in the system. In my opinion, spending a little bit of money to maintain an extra 15-20% of school capacity to accomodate demographic fluctuations is nowhere near as expensive as continual loss of market share for all of the reasons people like to talk about in this blog.

Cutting capacity to the bone in order to save on costs is a classic example of spending a dollar to save a dime.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, this is an excellent question

"Right now the District provides yellow bus transportation for ANY student in Southeast Seattle who enrolls at Hamilton, McClure, or Meany. Why are we bussing children out of their region when their region schools are underenrolled?"

Does anyone know the answer? Why does the district do this? And, why can't a kid from N.E. Seattle get a bus to Whitman if they don't get in to Eckstein?

The only reason that I could think would justify this, is that the district acknowledges that the schools in SE Seattle are sub-par, and offer these students higher performing schools. If this is the case and the district chooses to bus the kids away from these schools instead of improving the schools that is just outrageous. Perhaps, though, it is not this, perhaps it is an effort to encourage racial diversity in the schools? Anybody else know?

Charlie Mas said...

I will tell you that the extension of yellow bus transportation to middle school students living in Southeast Seattle to Hamilton, McClure and Meany is NOT for desegregation purposes.

We know that's not the case because the offer is open to students of any ethnicity (not just those who are integration positive) and because the offer includes Meany as well as Hamilton and McClure.

Is it because the District acknowledges the limited academic opportunties at Mercer and Aki Kurose? I don't know. Let's ask them.

Let's ask them if it isn't cheaper and more effective to end the offer of these bus rides and re-invest the savings into the schools.

If it is cheaper to bus the students than to improve the schools in this case, then wouldn't it also be cheaper in other cases? Wouldn't that counter Mr. DeBell's entire argument that we should cut the buses and invest the savings in the schools?

How hard is it to improve a school? How did Maple do it? How did Van Asselt do it? Why can't the AAA seem to do it except when Anitra Pinchback had a fourth grade class?

Does it take money, or something else?

I don't think it's money because Van Asselt didn't get extra money. Maple didn't get extra money. Anitra Pinchback didn't get extra money.

I don't think it is cultural competency. Could we ever have more cultural competency than we have at the AAA? And yet that school's test scores remain so low that the school is threatened by state takeover.

I don't think it's a curriculum that focuses exclusively on the three R's without art, music, world languages or recess. That hasn't worked for Madrona.

Maybe this should be a whole separate post and discussion, but the question keeps getting asked:

How do we make every school a good school?

And if every school were a good school, would every family choose their neighborhood school?

And if every family chose their neighborhood school, would the neighborhood school have the capacity to enroll them all? Not at Montlake. Not at Roosevelt. Not at McGilvra. Not at Ballard.

Under Mr. DeBell's plan after the reference areas are shrunk to include only the students who will fit into the buildings there will be large numbers of families who are not within ANY reference area. What predictability will his plan offer them? Will he offer them first chance in the lottery? Or, will Capitol Hill families be told that they have a guaranteed seat at T T Minor - well, that's not a positive change because they already do.

Where will be the guaranteed middle school seat for Laurelhurst families? Will it be at Meany or Hamilton? Laurelhurst families already have those seats secured because those schools are underenrolled. It doesn't please them now, why does he presume that it will please them in the next enrollment season?

So what will it mean to Magnolia families when they are told "Congratulations! You have predictability! We guarantee that your child will have a seat at Cleveland." Is this the predictability they crave? I don't think so, because they already have that and they are not satisfied.

Does he think that these families will suddenly identify those schools as their neighborhood schools and become devoted to them? Does he buy into the myth that these families can come in and re-make the school as they want it to be? When has that EVER happened? It that what happened at Madrona?

The District has poorly allocated their resources. The District has gone too far down the transformation road to suddenly return to all-things-to-all-students neighborhood schools. The culture of open choice is too deeply embedded to be removed. All of these forces are working against the return to neighborhood schools. It can't happen. Trying to force this round peg into that square hole will result is massive losses. It will be the best thing that happened to private schools in Seattle since mandatory bussing.

Anonymous said...

Anybody able to analyze how this would affect, say, advanced learning?

We couldn't send our child to an elementary in our neighborhood cluster because of a lack of a program to serve his needs.

We are having to send our child to a middle school outside our reference area because of a lack of a program to serve his needs.

Would this sort of plan theoretically require schools to have some consistency so that these types of needs would be served at ALL schools?

Anonymous said...

In reference to Charlies question

"How do we make every school a good school"?

I personally don't think it's money (though money definately helps), I don't think it's sticking to the three R's without recess or art, and I definately don't think it is the lack of ability of the population (lower income, african american families in most cases).

I think it comes down to leadership and motivation. I think the most under performing schools wind up with the most under performing leaders and staff( in most cases, I know there are exceptions). Couple this with these schools getting more than their share of families that do not have the resources or desire to advocate for their children. It is a recipe for disaster. I think the under performing schools NEED very strong leadership that can motivate their staff and community to achieve!!! Leaders who will monitor and hold accountable teachers who do not do their job well, and support and strengthen the ones that do. I think this leadership has to start with the Supt., move to the principal, and end with each and every teacher.

Let me give you just one example of an under performing school with weak/poor leadership. Six years ago when we were looking for an elementary school, we went to look at Leschi, our reference school. They did not offer parent tours at that time, though Stevens, Montlake, TOPS and McGilvra did. In fact the principal was put off that I even asked if they had a tour scheduled. He told me that I could just come walk around and observe if I felt I needed to. When I checked in at the office, I was given an odd look and told to go ahead and look around. No signing in, no visitors badge (that made me feel very secure). What I witnessed walking around was so appalling that we ultimately decided to choose private school. One classroom had an obese teacher who could barely walk. From the chair she sat in she yelled out (in a very intimidating manner) commands at kids and belittled them. When she saw us peeking in she got up and slammed the door in our face, and gave us a dirty look. There were a few writing projects on display in hall, but reading them was heartbreaking. The children wrote of divorce, poverty, neglect. They wrote in what I would consider ebonics, with very poor grammar and no corrections on their papers. During recess children seemed unruly, with a lot of cursing, and bullying (not physical) more of the put down type of behavior. Though the school is in a fairly affluent neighborhood, there were very few middle class families that chose this school, including us. The school is in a great location and in a wonderful, newer, brick building. With strong leadership, Leschi could be a gem. But it fell into the hands of a principal who thought it absurd that a parent would want a tour. A principal who very obviously did not welcome our family. We are a bi-racial family and wanted a diverse school, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to send our child to Leschi.

Anonymous said...

Charlie writes

"And if every family chose their neighborhood school, would the neighborhood school have the capacity to enroll them all? Not at Montlake. Not at Roosevelt. Not at McGilvra. Not at Ballard."

Do we know for sure that there would not be capacity at these schools? I live in the NE and can only speak for Roosevelt. If Hale (just 2 miles away) had a strong, competetive program, there would be plenty of capacity for HS students here. The problem is, Hale isn't competetive and that leaves Roosevelt with the huge waitlist. Capacity is here. We just need to make sure that all of our schools are desirable.

Charlie Mas said...

You know, when people say that you have to live within 1.8 miles of Roosevelt to get in, that sounds like a tiny area, but it isn't really. Except at Sand Point and Laurelhurst it should be big enough a radius to include all families for whom Roosevelt is the closest high school.

Check for yourself. I used Google Maps and it appears to me that Hale is about 2.6 miles from Roosevelt. Also using Google Maps I reckon it is about 2.5 miles from Roosevelt to Ballard.

If we used a two mile radius as our starting point, shortened it to half-way between schools when it got within two miles of another high school and lengthened it to include neighborhoods without another high school on the other side, we would get boundary lines drawn so that Roosevelt's reference area would be bound on the west by Stone Way, on the North by 85th, on the east by the Lake and on the south by the Ship Canal, I'm pretty confident that with those boundaries the school would not be overcrowded.

As for Hale and Ingraham, it appears that a two mile radius (with appropriate adjustments) would work pretty well for them too. They are about 3 miles apart.

There would be some no man's land between the two mile circles around Ballard and Ingraham - they are over four miles apart. All of Magnolia, all of Queen Anne, and the north part of Capitol Hill would be in no man's land too.

Two mile circles around the high schools would work for almost everyone else.

So I take back what I said about no man's land around Roosevelt. Of course, it would still apply to Ballard, to Montlake, and to McGilvra.

Moreover, I don't think people will be happy with certainty if they aren't happy about their guaranteed assignment. I believe this because they have it now and they aren't happy with it now.

If all you want is predictability, then choose TT Minor as your elementary school, Meany as your middle school, and Cleveland as your high school. I guarantee you'll get in. If people really wanted certainty or predictability they would be choosing these schools - but they aren't. So clearly they want something more than they want predictability.

They want an appropriate academic opportunity for their child. They determine their school choice based on knowledge of their child, their child's learning style, their child's academic needs, and the culture and programs at the school of their choice. I don't see how it will improve academic achievement to supplant that wisdom with the District's wisdom based on a knowledge of zip codes.

Perhaps this isn't really all that tough a problem. Perhaps the District just needs some high school capacity in Queen Anne or Magnolia - perhaps at Old Hay or the old Magnolia building - and some elementary capacity in Capitol Hill - which they could get if they moved elementary APP out of Lowell.

I think putting Summit K-12 and APP 4-8 at Lincoln and APP 1-3 at McDonald would be a big help. After Hamilton, they won't need Lincoln as an interim site if they have Jane Addams (or Hale if they rebuild Hale on the Jane Addams site) to use as an interim site in the north end. Lincoln would be a better location for both Summit and APP.

Anonymous said...

Charlie says....."Moreover, I don't think people will be happy with certainty if they aren't happy about their guaranteed assignment. I believe this because they have it now and they aren't happy with it now."

You are right certainty will not make families happy if they don't like their guaranteed choice. empowers them to make decisions based on the facts. They will then be free to choose private, give up their large home in S. Seattle and buy a little bungalow in Bryant, move to the burbs, choose alternative school, home school, test into the APP program (if warranted), etc.

I, as a parent, am very frustrated with the unknown. It is difficult to make a decision using the current choice model because you can not predict the outcome. Will I get into my neighborhood school? Will I get into the alternative school I want? Will they have seats in Spectrum for my child at our neighborhood school? Will I get into my out of cluster school choice?

The big problem is you don't get the answer until it is too late. Once you get your assignment you're stuck. This forces families to have back up plans, and that's not healthy when the back up plans are usually a private school. If we continue with choice, I would just ask for some type of predictibility. I'm no demographer, and this may be impossible, but if we could know at the time of application if we could or could not get in to the school of our choice, that would help tremendously. I know in Shoreline (no choice), you just go to the school office and ask if they have space for you. The school is in control, and you get a yes or a no immediately. I like that.

Anonymous said...

Here's my example of how a lack of predictibility failed our family. My child tested into APP/Washington, but I live in N. Seattle and didn't want to bus my kid to the Central area, even for this great program. I figured that Eckstein (our closest middle school) was fabulous and offered Spectrum, so my child would do very well with this option. Not only didn't we get into Eckstein's Spectrum program, we didn't get into Eckstein at all. We were assigned to Hamilton with no Spectrum. Had I known this in advance, I would have surely chosen the APP option at Washington. But of course now it's to late. We're stuck for a whole year, and then we will have to transition for my childfor 7th grade. It's just not right.

Charlie Mas said...

I work with lack of predictability every day, so maybe I'm not as sensitive to it as many people are.

I have observed, however, that when faced with uncertainty, people tend to presume the worst, no matter how unlikely it may be. Whatever the worst possible sitation, no matter how obscure, that's the conclusion they jump to. If I'm late coming home from work my wife begins to believe that I'm bleeding to death in the street after a traffic accident. This has never happened, has never come close to happening, and yet it is what she presumes when I'm late.

Also, because my children are in APP I have a whole different set of uncertainties than a lot of other people. My children's schools are decided by a capricious Program Placement process rather than the student assignment process.

The way to deal with uncertainty is to have contingency plans and then to stop worrying about things that are outside your control.

So, if your first choice is Eckstein-Spectrum, put that down as a first choice. But, since it isn't guaranteed, put down a second choice. That second choice might be Hamilton-Spectrum. That's always been undersubscribed, so you probably won't need a third choice. If you wanted, however, you could put Washington-APP as a third choice. That's guaranteed.

As it stands, Hamilton's Spectrum program isn't full of district-identified Spectrum students. They fill out the class with high performing students from the general education population. So talk to the folks there and they will put your child into the Spectrum class. No big deal. Or talk to someone at the District and see if they can't add your child to Washington APP.

People are generally willing to help you if you ask for their help. If you assume they won't help and you don't ask, you won't get the help you need. They're really very kind people who want to do what's best for students. If the first person says no, then ask someone else. Keep asking until you find someone who will say yes.

Anonymous said...

so if you qualify for APP ... you're not guaranteed a seat unless you choose it during regular enrollment? that family doesn't automatically have the right to change its mind and say "yes, we do want our guaranteed seat, thanks" ... just curious!

Charlie Mas said...

Great question!

Oddly, no. Eligible students are NOT guaranteed a seat in APP if they don't submit an on-time enrollment for it.

People are often tripped up by the enrollment rules, as was the person who posted their tale of woe and regret above.

But the fault does not lie with the families - the District doesn't explain things for people and often misinforms them.

Sure, the family should have listed a second choice, but they should have heard that from the District before they submitted their choice form, not from me afterwards.

Let's remember that on-time enrollment is just that. It implies the possibility of late enrollment. If there is space available in any of the programs they want, the family may yet be able to get in. This includes both Washington APP and Hamilton Spectrum. They need to ASK.

This is another popular misconception: that once made the assignments are carved in stone. They change a lot, all the time.