I attended the Board work session on student assignment yesterday. There were lots of maps and data posted but I didn't get to look at them much. I'm assuming it's what is at the community meetings. All the directors were there except Bass and Stewart (it was being recorded for them). I thought there was much good discussion by the directors. There was one slight oddity which was that Director Soriano sat completely away from the other directors. I don't know why. The following is not a complete record but highlights as I took notes.
Raj and Carla both spoke. Here is what Carla said that they are looking to do/have occur in terms of the assignment program:
-equitable access to quality instruction
-access to programs and services
-curriculum alignment through solid feeders
-Quality teachers at every school
-strong leadership at each school
-increased resources and opportunities
-intentional location of programs
-structural change in assignment
She spoke about the Flight School program in the SE and its use of feeder schools along with incentives for teachers to stick with the program.
Tracy Libros from Student Assignment took the lead on explaining each level to the directors. She mentioned that she believes alternative schools are their own layer, they have varying "taxonomies" and that it is going to be a challenge to figure out how they will work within any new plan.
Reference areas would remain and you would "opt out" of your reference school; it would be your default school. Reference areas would be modified to align with student population in each area (unclear even though the question was asked whether it means kid population versus SPS population) and with building capacity. Accomodate all students in reference area who want school (accomodate those who can't because of grandfathering in a school in their cluster). Maximize walking access to schools. Clusters would give families fewer choices but in a smaller geographic area. Possible staggered school opening and closing times with transportation provided within cluster. Address varying needs around district with, for example, larger clusters in high poverty areas to enhance likelihood of school continuity even if a family moves.
Tracy said, through data analysis, that 80% of elementary students would not be affected by the changes proposed.
Sally Soriano asked about patterns of expansion and contraction as something to think about. Darlene Flynn said reference areas should not be redrawn in a manner that hurts any one school (she gave MLK as an example). Michael deBell and Darlene disagreed about looking at the capture rate at any given school.
Comprehensive Middle Schools
Tracy Libros put forth:
Base attendance would be developed to:
-align with student population in area and with building capacity
-accomodate all students in base middle school if they want to attend that school. Students would start with a base assignment to middle school consistent with elementary cluster.
-maximize walking access
This offers the opportunity for a "cohert" of 5th graders to stay together.
Families could still exercise school choice for another comprehensive or alternative middle school.
Allow for efficient transportation of students who live beyond walking distance.
Cheryl Chow set forth on K-8s which lead to quite the interesting discussion. Cheryl basically said she challenges K-8s to show data on their effectiveness (she said her biasis towards comprehensive). Mark Green, COO, said that at the middle school summit there was some surprise that K-8s did not meet or exceed (in most cases) their demographic and it was an interesting discovery. Brita asked if there were an equitable distribution of K-8s ( they are spread out; every region has at least one but there are, by my count 7 alternatives and 3 traditional with Broadview-Thompson being a new one). Cheryl asked again about the purpose of K-8s and Darlene challenged her on it saying her own kids went to Summit and it worked well for them. Michael stepped in and said that they need data on locations, are they part of alternatives (because K-8 is considered "non-traditional") and why some are all-city and some are regional.
Carla put forth what she had said to the CAC. Both are good choices to have but parents at K-8s have to recognize the limitations which are a mostly static (and smaller) group of kids and fewer academic/arts/sports offerings and for comprehensive, a larger school to support the offerings. There was discussion about why people pick K-8 with classroom behavior, smaller school and safety being issues for people picking K-8. It was questioned whether people want (or pick) K-8 because of their concerns over the state of current comprehensive middle schools.
Michael weighed in with asking about intentionality of some K-8s (I believe he may have been referencing AAA and/or New School) and talked about diversity. Cheryl asked him to define it and he said he considers socio-economic also part of diversity and that we have pockets of it city-wide. Darlene immediately jumped in and told him that the census clearly shows we are a segregated city and that we may just have "incidential diversity".
Comprehensive High Schools
From Tracy Libros: Assignment predictability is just as important but continuity in feeder patterns is lessened as students seek to explore interests and opportunitites at other schools.
1-no change from current all city choice with tiebreakers
2-all city but process 1st choices first, etc.
3-Geographically-defined designated school (guaranteed if 1st choice, remaining seats are Open Choice)
4-Geographically-defined designated school (guaranteed if 1st choice, percentage of seats provided for Open Choice)
Use of tiebreakers could be used in various ways.
Lots of discussion here. This was the least clear to me in terms of what the directors would agree on. Carla talked about if you created a new magnet high school (like performing arts), you could still have an all-city draw school (or maybe auditions as well). Darlene jumped on this saying no, then neighborhood kids can't get in. Carla said she was talking about a new high school and in the long-term. Brita spoke about the need for equity in offerings like AP. Both Raj and Carla said that they know that Rainier Beach High School needs a lot of help and resources and investment right now. Brita said that some schools did make improvements and have turned around but Darlene said none were in the SE. Michael said he was at Rainier Beach that day and saw a chem lab with no equipment and a great performing arts hall in a school with 1 drama class. He said that the savings realized on redoing the assignment plan should be driven to schools like that. Brita said that Ingraham had not been popular but with rebuilds (the library and labs and athletic fields) and the IB program, it had really come back.
There was also a sheet (which I am distressed to see is not posted on the Assignment Plan page) called High School Assignment Options that gives numbers of 3 different high school groupings (Group 1, for example, is Ballard, Hale, Ingraham and Roosevelt) and breaks out capacity versus students. According to the district's calculations, Group 1 has 52 more seats than students, Group 2 (Cleveland, Franklin, Garfield and RB) have 43 fewer and Group 3 (Chief Sealth and West Seattle) have 288 more seats. (This leaves out, of course, Summit, Nova and Center School, Interagency, etc. which are alternative/non-traditional.) But, in each group, it further breaks it out to find "total seats available for open choice) including in this APP students and students attending other schools and programs. This is somewhat confusing to me so maybe I can ask it be posted so everyone can get a look.
As I said, elementary would, according to staff, not look all that different than it does now. There would be feeder patterns into the middle schools. I believe the Board will keep the sibling tiebreaker. Their biggest challenges (which our great minds should start parsing out) are alternatives (their transportation costs are huge so maybe they need to be regional which, of course, will impact their enrollments and really upset people who want access to TOPS or John Stanford) and high school. The other thing in the mix is the Board wanting diversity but yet calling for feeder patterns. I agree with Darlene; in this city that's going to be incidental diversity because of our housing patterns.
The biggest issue is high school. This plan would dramatically change the face of many high schools because of where people live. If you go with "remaining open seats for Open Choice", you will eliminate Ballard and Roosevelt for anyone not in that area because they would not have any open seats (they have the largest numbers, I believe, for in-area students at their schools) . Darlene would not support any plan that shuts out choice that is not backed up with a specific and real plan to help the struggling high schools. And that means, show me the money first. (Again, my impression based on Darlene's lengthy talking points yesterday.)
If you go with "percentage of seats provided for Open Choice" (Michael de Bell's choice), it will be a challenge to determine the percentage. Is it different from school to school depending on popularity? Is the Board ready to battle the enraged parents that don't get their closest school? What happens to the jazz bands at Roosevelt and Garfield? I'd have to check but I'd be willing to bet that many of the kids at Washington's music program that feed into Garfield's don't necessarily come from that region. What about people shut out of the only biotech program, namely Ballard? I know it wouldn't be fun or easy but maybe they can do a lottery for the open seats but reserve some at Garfield and Roosevelt for auditions for the jazz bands and a special lottery for those students seeking the IB/biotech programs (which are unlikely to get developed elsewhere anytime soon). It seems wrong to have programs that high school students cannot access because of where they live, programs that could help a student get into college.