Monday, February 11, 2008

Reading the Middle/High School Enrollment Guide

You never know what you'll find when you read information put out by the district. So I'm perusing the middle/high school enrollment guide. One plus is you see what the enrollments are at each school currently. For example, Eckstein is huge at 1213. Its closest competitor in size is Washington at 1038 followed by Whitman at 931 (and I know Whitman, several years back, was nearly Eckstein's size but gradually started pulling back). The sizes then drop to Madison at 895 down to Aki Kurose at 465.

All of the poorly performing schools have much longer descriptions than the high performing schools. I wonder if incoming parents read the guide and wonder why some have lengthy descriptions and others don't.

Then you get to K-8s. The largest K-8 is Broadview-Thompson at 671. Somehow, in my head, I was thinking a K-8, with a range of 9 grade levels, should be about 500-700. But only B-T, Salmon Bay (611) and TOPS (526) are over 500 (Blaine is 499). I was quite surprised to see how small African-American Academy is at 355 (in a 900-seat building), AS #1 (210), and ORCA at 336 (but it's their first year as a K-8). I was also surprised to see that Salmon Bay offers 4 languages (something no other middle or K-8 does) but there are some K-8s that offer no languages (AAA, Catherine Blaine, Madrona, and Orca).

Then we get to high schools and that's where some things just don't make sense. This is the first time I have seen a page with class offerings listed. So Ballard comes in first in AP with 16 classes (a surprise given Garfield is considered the AP school). However, I had heard from someone that they are trying to have all theseclasses but that they are not all offered yet. Garfield has 15 followed by Roosevelt with 11. But who's next? Rainier Beach with 10. Huh? I thought that's what the Southeast Initiative was partly about - bringing more rigor. Either Rainier Beach has it already or there's a misprint here. The schoosl with least are Ingraham and Sealth but that's because they have IB programs.

Every high school has band/jazz band and drama/theater. I wanted to put that in because there seemed to be some confusion if that is true. How big or active they are, there's the question.


Anonymous said...

The AP classes a Ballard are a bit confusing. My understanding is that not all of them are offered each semester, or in fact each year. So I think the count of 16 is high in that there are not 16 AP classes offered each and every semester

Anonymous said...

Melissa, the enrollment guides can be quite misleading. Salmon Bay does not offer 4 languages, it doesn't even offer 1 foreign language. They offer an "intro" to foreign language that a child can take as an elective for only one year. They explore a little bit from each of 4 languages so they have a better feel for which language they might want to take in HS. So, in other words Salmon Bay does not offer any foreign language program. It is quite misleading.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks,Anonymous. Eckstein does that as well to help kids decide what language they do eventually take.

Parents have to be detectives. It's sad.

Jane said...

They were very forthcoming about this at the Salmon Bay tour, in their defense.

Anonymous said...

I'm always made wary by schools that spent more space describing their bully-prevention and behavior modification programs than their academic programs.

Anonymous said...

Salmon Bay also claims they have a band. And, I guess, technically they do. It's a small group of 10-15 kids kids led by an unenthusiastic teacher. Parents, really do have to be detectives. If you read the brochure both Eckstein and Salmon Bay say they offer band. However, Eckstein offers so much more in the way of band, with many different options, an award winning band, two band teachers, one of which has won many awards and taken their band to state. You can't take anything for face value. Parents have to really roll up their sleeves and become detectives. It's even worse at High School. Argh.

Maureen said...

I'm shopping for a HS next year, but found this article to be interesting.


Michael Rice said...

Hello Melissa

The list of AP classes at Rainier Beach is what we plan on offering because of the SE Initiative. We are receiving money for next year so we can offer those classes. Remember this is the enrollment guide for 2008-2009, not what the school currently offers.

I hope this clears up the confusion.

Charlie Mas said...

Michael, Didn't Rainier Beach get Southeast Initiative money THIS year? Aren't those classes there THIS year? Did the money come too late for new classes to be added to schedule?

Any word yet on the accountability elements of the Southeast Initiative? The schools were supposed to have clear, quantified goals for three years and clear benchmarks for each year. These goals were supposed to be in place in September. The year is more than half gone and they still have not been set. What kind of accountability is that? What is the source of the delay?

Michael Rice said...

Hi Mr. Mas

We did get some money this year. It was to hire two teachers (LA/SS & Drama), but the money came too late to change the master schedule. We will be hiring additional teachers for next year with the idea being that we will be adding the AP classes then.

I'm not aware of any specific goals, other than increased enrollment and I don't know what we are shooting for. I would hope for about 750 or so, but I don't know.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm wondering how much longer the district is going to continue the AAA experiment. It isn't producing good results by any measure. The test scores are low, the enrollment is low. The leadership has been swapped around any number of times for any number of reasons.

There was some vaguely threatening talk from the Superintendent about this school at one time, but I haven't heard anything lately.

Will the District intervene with this struggling school? If not with this school, then how bad do things have to get?

I can't help thinking that some serious facilities and enrollement issues could be resolved if the New School would move into the AAA space and Southshore could be used as a middle school.

I also can't help wondering what the poor results from this school indicate about the efficacy of "culturally relevant" curricula.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Nathan Hale tour today, and I have to say that I was shocked at what I saw and heard. They don't believe in separating kids by ability level, so everyone regardless of capability are in the same classroom. Kids that are way behind, kids that are performing at grade level, and AP students. All in one room??? The kids that are interested in AP, take it as "extra" in the regular class. It was like pulling teeth to get this information. The tour focused on the social aspects of the school almost primarily. They talk a lot about clubs, the lack of clicks, their inclusive sports program, their late start, their alternative curriculum, etc., but mentioned almost nothing about their academic program. Nothing about rigor. I thought that odd, since this is the primary focus of a school. Their music program took a big hit when they lost their music teacher two years ago, but they say they are slowly building it back up. They lost their Auto cad and computer animation classes and have no plans to reinstate them. They are adding French, but are only making a two year commitment to the program?? All in all, I was not impressed. I think if you have a struggling student, or an average student they would do OK there. It's definitely not a school for a high achiever or a kid that needs higher level work. Doesn't Seattle have something more to offer???

Aron Knapp said...

Thanks all, for this great insight! I just need to quickly chime in about Salmon Bay's Band as it was previously characterized as a small band of about 10-15 students and an unenthusiastic teacher....

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My daughter is a graduating 8th grader. Her musical education started in the 5th grade at Salmon Bay. Yes, the band was perhaps a 20 person unit then, but the school was able to attract a young, relevant music teacher in Mark Oesterle. In the 4 subsequent years, the band has grown and thrived, there's a full jazz band separate from the concert band (my 12 year old was playing improvised jazz solos to a full lunch room - how cool is that!?!), and a huge Marimba program that is a family favorite. Mark composes unique pieces, introduces the kids to jazz and concert greats - and while may be a bit of an introvert - is certainly enthusiastic!

Salmon Bay's music program is only getting better under Mark's leadership and I expect it to be an enriching opportunity for your kids. Good luck choosing!