Monday, March 10, 2008

AP Post Generates Some Debate

So my post on the Roosevelt AP course for all sophomores generated some debate. I wanted to link the excellent debate on AP that was in the Washington Post that Dorothy had noted. (I haven't seen a real debate in forever so this was great just in and of itself but the questions raised - on both sides - were good.) Some of Dorothy's questions about Roosevelt and the AP Human Geography being offered in the sophomore year made me think of a larger issue.

Should parents have any role in the course of academics at their school or in their district?

My experience is that schools might have a meeting or two to explain what they are doing but have no real intention of soliciting parents' input or ideas. We had some lively meetings at Hale when they were starting to initiate the switch from separate AP/Honors classes. ( Okay, take out lively and put in tense.) The teachers clearly knew that parents were unhappy but really didn't care. This was a decision that had been made. I remember one teacher, who will remain nameless, who said, in a moment of anger, "If we didn't have parents like you we wouldn't have to have AP at all." Well, that was telling.

I have found it difficult to talk to teachers about curriculum or even homework. From the administration and teacher POV, I'm sure they believe that parents come and go but this is their workplace and they are trained and therefore know best. But it's hard to take when there are many parents who are unhappy over a single issue. (I have been quite impressed that the Where's the Math folks have gotten as far as they have but I think it helps to have some professors in the group.)

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

My neighbor's children were at Roosevelt many years ago. She was on a curriculum committee in the English department. There were enough parents on the committee to force some issues.

14 years ago parents at Bryant elementary school wrote a grant that brought in NSF $ and developed a hands on science curriculum. That is still being used.

Are these kind of things still going on in the district? I have not seen it.

Charlie Mas said...

When was the last time a group of parents got the District to form an alternative school? It hasn't happened for decades, but that's how most of them were formed.

Anonymous said...

Teachers and administrators at the schools my children attend have NEVER felt the need to listen to parents. Superintendent's have NEVER felt the need to listen to parents. The school board has NEVER felt the need to listen to parents.

Abusive teachers, dysfuntional schools, strange curriculum - doesn't matter what the subject is.

AFter a while you stop trying. I pretty much feel parents do not count in the system, when you get to the heart of the matter.

Anonymous said...

Anon above, perhaps you should try an alternative school, where the emphasis is on community building, parent involvement, and a more holistic approach to learning.

Anonymous said...

At my student’s school we are repeatedly told that there is class room curriculum differentiation.
I have never seen any evidence of my child’s curriculum being differentiated in any way shape or form. Yet every time you mention it to the administration, they tell you instruction is differentiated. You just get so tired, you give up and look ahead to the next school, high school where you hope your student will finally get the opportunity to be challenged.

But then you see a HS principal creating "AP for ALL" and wonder, will we be told yet again, that our student's curriculum is being differentiated?

Anonymous said...

"perhaps you should try an alternative school, where the emphasis is on community building, parent involvement, and a more holistic approach to learning."

Yes and then your child who is good at math can be told that they need to help others in math, and be part of a community.

My child could have slept instead of getting up and going thru the three years he spent at Salmon Bay. I was drawn to the school by the sense of community it offered but it is school and there should be some learning.
My child got all 4's at Salmon Bay and when we started in Whittier-thank goodness we moved into a house within a block of Whittier or we may not have gotten in--this year he started with all 2's but he is catching up and feels he is challenged and seems more confident. Alternative schools have very low retention rates. Schools with very capable teachers with high expectations are what really makes a difference and makes kids feel secure and confident.

Anonymous said...

Ahh...Whittier the perfect school.

How great can a school be if no one can get into. It was our first choice and we only live one street out of the boundary and really it is our closest school but we didn't get in.

I heard when their principal got removed it was the only time some spots opened up.

I don't think any kids are ever bussed there. If you get in it means you live close enough to walk. Is this fair??? Who can afford to move into a neighborhood just to get your kids into a school?

And is it good that they only go to school with kids in their neighborhood? What kind of diversity is that?

h2o girl said...

Anon 12:22:
I have a fifth grader at Whittier, and while I've been very satisfied with her education, it's far from the "perfect school." Just wanted to say that if you look at the all-school address directory, there are many many kids who live further out than the walk boundaries. There are a significant portion of kids who live in the Greenwood elementary reference area, for example. We didn't get in for Kindergarten, but for first grade. Just some anecdotal evidence for you.

Anonymous said...

Its a rather long blog, but facts were researched...
Offering AP courses for all students is a widely used practice to increase student achievement and close gaps in specific student populations. These are probably goals in future Seattle Public Schools’ direction.

Extreme caution needs to be taken when AP classes are used to raise achievement scores as it requires experienced planning, training and integration of school-based supports designed to assist those students who have had little exposure to a more rigorous curriculum and course pace. I sense that the district does not have a long track record here!

These widely practiced supports have been successful in other districts and they require additional resource commitments to:
- More staff and classroom assistants
- Lowered class sizes
- Increased teacher planning time
- Intervention programs
- Companion workshop/ labs
Any effective teacher differentiation requires additional supports especially when AP rigor is involved. But I don’t think that many in the room who approved this pilot program actually understood the resource commitment needed to ensure its success. (Carla S. certainly did.)

It would not be reasonable or fair to expect students struggling in an advanced class designed for those more experienced in high rigor, to have to give up after school and weekend time to get additional help. All supports for these inexperienced AP students need to be incorporated during the school day and not in volunteer after-school tutoring programs, as is currently the case for many Seattle high schools.

And in reverse, it also would not be reasonable or fair to ask more experienced students prepared for this challenging class to sit through a course that has been slowed in pace or reduced in content. The experienced students have been prepared for course rigors should not have their AP experience modified to meet a district's student achievement agenda either.

To my knowledge, it is has not been made clear to any of the Roosevelt parents what the plan is for either the inexperienced or the experienced AP students. There have been no public dialogues, parent communications or meetings by the school where these students attend or by the district officials who made a fairly hasty approval of a major curriculum change. The school board and district NOW share responsibilities in the outcomes for both Roosevelt student groups: inexperienced and experienced!

What was clear in the article, there has been little transparency usually required when public institutions and taxpayer’s money are involved. There were no comments in “support or against” offered by Roosevelt’s parent community because the parents did not know. This can be seen in how the school went about developing their AP plans by not engaging the parent community and how district has not shared its plans to measure the success of this “pilot” program.

If this pilot program is done right, it good teamwork and can do great things for all students. But to go about things in the same old way will get you the same tired results. Its obvious that Seattle Schools could use some gentle reminders in what “public” means in public education. The Roosevelt parents are going to be key team members in making sure this pilot program works yet they have not been even told it is coming!

I hope that Seattle Public Schools "practices in action" can truly reflect their understanding of the importance of community engagement and parent involvement before this small window of opportunity closes for the new superintendent. Future district successes will depend on it.

glad to be gone said...

I had a child at Salmon Bay too. I would agree with the above poster, the academics were the pits, and grades were inflated. My middle son child was an A+ student at Salmon Bay, but when we moved him in 7th grade he was so far behind the other kids, he struggled just to earn C's. A report card grade does not necessarily mean anything. I would look at nationally normed tests to see where my kids was in relation to other kids. Even WASL would help, but a report card is arbitrary. At Salmon Bay as long as your kids showed up and grunted or appeared to be making some kind of effort they got an A. It's not fair to the kids, and certainly not fair to the poor high school teachers that get these kids dumped on them. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

These widely practiced supports have been successful in other districts and they require additional resource commitments to:
- More staff and classroom assistants
- Lowered class sizes
- Increased teacher planning time
- Intervention programs
- Companion workshop/ labs


You're not from around here are you? Classroom assistants? On what planet?

Melissa Westbrook said...

To Anonymous 1:48, Roosevelt probably should have had a public meeting about the switch. As I noted, this is not the way in Seattle public schools (and I doubt any public schools because, again, I doubt that most teachers and administrations want to have those conversations). And it is frustrating.

However, I had very few parents come to me about this issue. I wonder if, in the fall, when more parents understand what will happen that we will have a discussion, however late. Parents, especially at the high school and middle school levels, need to understand that you have to put yourself out there because it parents don't always communicate with each other and until you yourself push the envelope, you'll never really know how many parents feel as you do. This happened at Hale when some pushed for a meeting on AP and lo, there were quite a few who showed up (and the principal had told us she had only heard from "a few" parents).

Anonymous said...

anon at 1:48

2 comments

1. with the resources you mention, all kids who came to school would do great.

2. I think you're off base about the following --

'It would not be reasonable or fair to expect students struggling in an advanced class designed for those more experienced in high rigor, to have to give up after school and weekend time to get additional help. All supports for these inexperienced AP students need to be incorporated during the school day and not in volunteer after-school tutoring programs, as is currently the case for many Seattle high schools.'

-- since the recessions of hte 70's a huge percentage of our population, I would argue a huge majority, have not come to terms with the reality of the world - working your 40 and getting paid to be trained and earning enough to support a family and having energy for after work fun ...

it is ALL gone. Period.

The kids not doing well don't do work unless I'm standing over them. They have to learn to work harder or they're not going to have access to what has been a shrinking pie in the USA, nevermind having the skills to create the new widgets that will lead to an expanding pie for us and the world.

Too bad too many of the education / government policy makers have come from relative affluence - they aren't the main characters of 'Nickled and Dimed' because those people can't afford the multi year job hunts that most policy makers 'suffered' through on mummy's and daddy's dimes. Consequently, the policies they debate and implement have little to do with the realities of the tens of millions scraping by on 20, 40 or 50 grand a year.

however, great comments.

maureen said...

One of the various anonymi (at 12:10) said:

"Alternative schools have very low retention rates"

Excuse me! For 2007:

The retention rate at Salmon Bay is 93.70%! That is the the HIGHEST retention rate of ANY K-5 (or MS or HS) (including Lowell!) The retention rate at Whittier is 88.90%.

The average retention rate for the eight standard K-5, 8 and 12alternatives (non re-entry etc) is 80.96% (range is 64.70% (AAA) to 93.70% SALMON BAY). The Average retention rate for 'regular' K-5s is 80.80%.


http://www.seattleschools.org/area/
siso/disprof/2007/DP07indsch.pdf

It's fine that you didn't like Salmon Bay; alternative schools aren't for everyone. Just leave and make space for someone from the waitlist (and please don't make up 'facts.')

Signed, Alternative School Advocate (aka maureen)

Anonymous said...

Ok Maureen and others.

Can we please not turn this into a "let's all bash Whittier " blog?

I believe that was done to death last year. If you are so unhappy there - LEAVE.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

To Add to the comment above -

Do not make it a "bash Salmon Bay " blog either.

Each schools works for some folks, and may not for others.

Leave if you are unhappy - you never know - the perfect school may not be the one you are at now.

Anonymous said...

What I thought was odd about the AP Human Geography requirement is that, according to Dorothy's testimony, Roosevelt already *has* a universally required history course that's well taught, challenging even for most highly gifted students, and has a global focus -- the World History course in 9th grade. Why do they need another one? Why does it have to be called AP?

Anonymous at 1:48 said: "It would not be reasonable or fair to expect students struggling in an advanced class designed for those more experienced in high rigor, to have to give up after school and weekend time to get additional help."

That's probably right, if they don't have a choice about being in the class. However, in the case of students who *choose* to challenge themselves with an AP course, but do need a little scaffolding, I think it's completely appropriate to have that work done behind the scenes and not take up class time on it (exactly as would happen in college, by the way -- plenty of kids end up at a tutoring center saying "help, what's iambic pentameter?"). If such help could be available during the school day, so much the better, but I haven't heard of high school schedules having a lot of wiggle room for that kind of thing.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Maybe they were talking about Teacher retention rates-alternative schools do seem a little worse than others.
And when I went to the data it seems Salmon Bay and TOPS are the exceptions-most do have a great deal of kids leave.

Salmon Bay's demographics are white and high income (yikes very white and very high income!!! Is this what alternative means? I thought it was more of a philosophy, where are the poor and kids of color???) and low, low free lunch students.

Maureen what does it mean that you are Alternative Mom but send your kids to an almost all white, high-income school? It seems high retention rates would follow as would everything else...some very bad things as well...a sort of elitism but without the academic focus so you would not attract people of color and Asians who have high academic expectations for their kids.

What kind of community does this really create a homogenious one, it seems like it may? That is too bad.

Anonymous said...

Hey let's not bash a person for choosing an alternative school, especially not for the demographic reasons stated above. Alternative schools are open to all, and most are all city draw schools. Parents have no choice or say in which families choose to go to that school. It is open to all which is more than fair, and much much more than can be said about most neighborhood schools.

Maureen chose to send her children to a high performing school that supports her philosophies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Find another pole to scratch your claws on.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing.....you ask a very very good question in reference to Salmon Bay "where are the poor kids and kids of color"

Where are they?? The middle school is an all city draw. Everybody has equal access to the school. Why are there not more kids of color and poor kids? Here is an opportunity to go to a high performing school, that is open to all, I would think minority and low income families would be all over that. But astonishingly they are not. I guess they'd rather sit at home and complain to the district, and woe is me instead of doing something about it.

Anonymous said...

"Where are they?? The middle school is an all city draw. Everybody has equal access to the school. Why are there not more kids of color and poor kids?"

Everyone may have equal access, but everyone does not have equal information. There are lots of alternative schools in this district that I knew nothing about until quite recently, and I consider myself a fairly clued-up parent.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Why not require alternative schools to meet the "all city" draw-make it truely a diverse school.
Then they could at least find out why so many, who also want the best for their kids, choose not to send them to an alternative school.
The crazy-long bus ride that my child would have had to take to end up at a school where no one looks like him was my greatest hesitation.
If they could have said we have at least 10 percent of kids who look like your kid, I would have gone.
But how can I send my kids where I didn't feel comfortable?
Is it good for my kids to be the poorest, darkest in the school?

Anonymous said...

If you are talking Salmon Bay there is some racist undercurrents there. I taught there and the parents are totally great, and supportive and they pretended like they are this community but I have seen a girl who is originally from central america been totally shut out of playing with this group of girls.
I have confronted the girls and they told me that their parents said they don't have to play with her. I stopped teaching there because everything was pushed under the rug. It is community if you wear patagonia, and pull your kids out early to go skiing but there are lots of kids on the outside of that community.

Anonymous said...

"Everyone may have equal access, but everyone does not have equal information. "

Yes, Helen everybody does have equal information. Do you think the district only gives out the enrollment guides to white folks? Rich folks? How do some know about it and some not?? Because some parents take the time to research the best fit schools for their kids, and some don't. Don't blame it on equal information though, it is available to all who want it.

"If they could have said we have at least 10 percent of kids who look like your kid, I would have gone."

How in the heck to you think the district could mandate that 10% of the school look like your kid??? They simply can't. The school is an all city draw. If you choose not to attend it because kids don't "look" like your kids, that is your choice, but nobody else's fault. You can't blame the man (district) for this one.

In reference to Salmon Bay anonymou said "I have seen a girl who is originally from central america been totally shut out of playing with this group of girls. "

You obviously did not have much experience teaching or you would know that excluding each other is a very common "girl" behavior. It happens all the time. In fifth grade my white child was excluded to the point of tears, by her white friends. Teachers (at a traditional school, by the way) told me that this behavior was common and recommended the girls see the school councellor. Please, stop trying to read race into everything. It just instigates problems and resentment.

Anonymous said...

"It is community if you wear patagonia, and pull your kids out early to go skiing but there are lots of kids on the outside of that community."
Ha, this is so true of many public schools! The parents think they are doing everyone a favor by not going private but then they do not let their children play with those who don't have $100.00 to spend on Patagonia technical wear. My boy goes to Salmon Bay and luckily he has a nice group of friends but the boy he is "best friends with" as his teacher reports, has parents who treat us like we are somehow not worthy of their child.
HOWEVER, THIS HAPPENS EVERYWHERE IT IS NOT SALMON BAY IT IS THE TWO SEATTLES THAT NOW EXIST. THOSE WHO CAN BUY A HOUSE AND THOSE WHO STRUGGLE TO MAKE THE RENT!
And boy they don't want their kids to play with us renters.

Deidre said...

Wow, we have had the polar opposite experience as anonymous above. We are a lower middle class, bi racial (white/black) family. We have had our children in two different elementary schools, and two different middle schools, and I can honestly say that we we accepted by, and accepting of all of the families that our children befriended. Some had a lot of money and lived in big houses on the lake, and some are single moms who shop at the discount grocery store. It doesn't seem to matter to us. In fact we have never thought twice about it. And neither have the other families, judging by how my kids have been accepted by all of them.

It's very interesting how two people could have such opposite experiences. And, by the way, one of the middle schools our child was in was Salmon Bay, the two elementary schools were AEII and Bryant.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps anonymous at 5:40 it is your obviously negative attitude toward the Patagonia wearing, home owning, white families that cause you to be excluded, not your socioeconomic situation or skin color. Try being accepting, and then maybe you will be accepted.

Anonymous said...

My point was not about unequal access to official information such as the enrollment guides. I meant that most people look only at their neighborhood schools and the alternative schools are not even on their radar, to the point where years later I didn't recall having heard half of their names.

The people who do hear about the alternative schools are those who have friends with children at them, or who know something about the general concept from elsewhere and are on the lookout for whether Seattle might offer alternative schools. It's not tough to guess the typical demographics of those who would be most likely to have alternative schools on their radar -- especially as lots are in North Seattle. The demographics of the group who *don't* hear much about alternative schools are far more varied.

When we were picking kindergartens, we looked at four schools (minimum -- might have been more), and also had to decide whether we preferred the half-day or full-day programs, the DISTAR or the regular classes. At the time we had four-year-old twins and a baby who didn't sleep much. It was a lot of work, and I wasn't prepared to add in any other options.

I am pretty sure that was before the current program moved into Salmon Bay, by the way, so it wasn't then walking distance from our house.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Sorry, again, Helen, I'm just not buying it. If alternative schools were not on your radar then it's because your radar was not tuned to the right frequency. You have to go to the enrollment center to enroll your student. The enrollment guides are all over the center. There is an entire section on alternative schools . These guides are also made available at your schools office, so you might have seen them when you were touring your school. One look at the SPS website and you find an entire section on alternative school choices too. MOst alternative schools host open houses at areas far away from their schools. Salmon Bay has open houses in S Seattle, Central Seattle, etc. I agree that not everyone takes the time to do the research, but I don't know how the district could possibly change that?? They make the information readily available to all. Do you have the same argument for special ed programs, Spectum, APP??? How about when your child gets to HS, will you have this argument about Running start, tracking so your child is on a path to university?? You see where I'm going with this......you have some responsibility in the matter. If you don't seek the information that is fine, but whose fault is that??

When my children started school, I went straight to the enrollment center and asked them some questions.
How does the choice system work?
What are my choices?
What about gifted education, how will my kids be served if they need extra challenge?

At HS I asked another set of questions that I considered relevant to my child's best outcome.

Just FYI, for anyone who still does not know about our alternative schools here they are

Summit, AEII, AS1 - NE Seattle
Pathfinder - West Seattle
Nova - Central
Salmon Bay - NW Seattle
Orca - S Seattle
Tops - Central
Center School - Central

Anonymous said...

Have you ever wondered how long of a bus ride is it from South Seattle? At one point this was suggested as the best way to close the achievment gap but our kids got burnt out from getting up so early and getting home so late-they could not do the after-school enrichment either (buses don't wait) and we didn't have a reliable car.
How many of you North End parents send your kids to a public or even a private school over an hour a way? I doubt you would do it for more than a year. I did it with my two babies for three year and saw them getting fatter and loosing playtime.
The reality is it makes it too hard for us. South Seattle is a long way from North Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Have you compared test score data for North End Alternative vs. South End. The South End schools SUCK!!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Center School is termed "non-traditional" although they would like to be considered, under enrollment terms, alternative. You left off Nova which is an alternative high school and does an excellent job for its students.

maureen said...

I didn't mean to bash anyone in my post, I was smiling the whole time I typed it, maybe I should have stuck in a face or two :-).

I am a data wonk, so I like to support statements with data when possible. I had data on the issue and I got to provide it! I shouldn't have said the thing about leaving--that sent the wrong message.

Note that Whittier's retention rate is very high, just not as high as Salmon Bay's.

One of the various anonymi said "Maureen what does it mean that you are Alternative Mom but send your kids to an almost all white, high-income school? " I find that confusing. My kids go to TOPS which is 44% white, 20% FRL, about 20% ELL in K. We are fortunate enough to draw from five of the nine clusters, far south to far north. We lived near UW (husband's job) when the kids started school so our neighborhood choices were GreenLake and Latona/JSIS. I purposely rejected Latona because that year all but one of the kindergarteners I saw was blond! I hear it is more diverse now, but still... TOPS has a real emphasis on multicultual curriculum etc...

Salmon Bay is somewhat white! But they have a really limited draw area in K-5 and give preference to AEII for MS seats, so they just might not have much room for kids from the south end. Personally, I think all alt schools should be all city draws, but the District seems to be trending the other way given transportation costs. The geographical segregation we have in Seattle is real and hard for a school to overcome.

I have heard that there is evidence that black families on average tend to prefer more structured schools, there is also a general belief (I've seen it here) that alt schools are for kids who can't hack it in a 'normal' school--that they are last resorts for desperate parents and full of pierced, tattoed ten year olds! It does help to be tied in to a social network to get qualitative information about schools (I think that was Helen's point). We see alot of families from co-op or from certain preschools like Giddens, which don't have large numbers of poor and/or families of color.

You can't really blame the schools, or the parents who chose them for who else didn't show up. Unless you are claiming that they purposely drive away people different from them, which I absolutely don't believe to be the case at TOPS.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:31, Your post is so helpful. Thank you for the considerate and articulate addition to this discussion.

Anonymi 8:17 and 9:27,
Does anyone know why there are so few alternatives in the south end?
Does anyone know why south end schools are getting a bunch of "remedial", WASL prep classes while north-end schools don't get so much of that?
Does anyone know why so many alternative schools were initiated by parents in the 1970s?
Can anyone tell me the difference between a "progressive alt" and a "credit retrieval alt"?
Hint: Johnny doesn't seem to do as well in a comp school. Neither does Sally. Johnny's parents steer him out of the comp and into a "progressive alt" where he'll be nurtured by many active parents/guardian (who often have the TIME to be active, as they aren't working two jobs and commuting by bus) and provided an alternative in his educational pathways. Meanwhile, Sally has no active parents. She still isn't doing so well in the comp, but has no one to steer her anywhere else. She continues to not do well, then gets into all sorts of trouble because of it. She is then steered out of the comp, sometimes into special ed to isolate her, sometimes suspended or expelled or otherwise "steered" into a "re-entry", "credit retrieval", "safety net" school...
hmmm
Hence the disproportionality of the alts: Progressives, evidently, more white and wealthier; Credit retrievals more minority and poorer.
Mitigating factor? Wealth and/or parent involvement.
This isn't to disrespect alts: I'm a product of a very high end high school back east that, because of its wealth, was "alt-like" just because it had the money and brains behind it...And I went to alt colleges, under- and post- grad both. But we'd be foolish not to look at and act on the different scenarios that feed the alt schools.
Me? I beleive EVERY child is "alt" and that some schools are called "safety net" rather than just plain "alt" is classist and mean. Treat every student as if they have special needs, alternative needs, because they do. And those needs differ.

Anonymous said...

I'd again suggest looking at the Alt policy (I think it's C56.00) and also the Alt report generated by a committee that met for a year to discuss what IS an alt, and came up with a check list, which was submitted to the CAO. What happens to this checkist is debatable: With all the changes, lately (there are three categories of "alt", non-comp, schools the District identifies now: Alternative, Non-Traditional, "Safety Net") it's hard to say what will come out of the shake-up. Will alts be held accountable for meeting the checklist items? Will they be measured as to progress on these items?
Additionally, the all-city draw issue will continue to resonate because the transportation is enormously expensive. I don't know, but I'd make a stab at a guess that the bus service for the alts is probably close to 30-40 percent the cost of the comps (i.e. 3-4 dollars alt for every 10 dollars comp) but this serves only, what, ten percent of the students? Big, big cost...
This would suggest, of course, more alts, and spread around the city so transpo isn't an issue or a cost.

Anonymous said...

Getting back to the AP debate...

We're not sure that Roosevelt's 9th grade parent community has been adequately informed. Up to now, no formal meeting has taken place to explain reasoning or how students will be supported with a mandated change. (Parents and 9th grade students had to make school choice and course choice decisions in the absence of this information. ) Our household did not receive any mailed letter officially explaining the upcoming changes. There was nothing mentioned in Roosevelt's February newsletter, a communication that is mailed to parents. I was informed by another parent who called to see if I received (or knew) any information about the "proposed" 10th grade AP changes posted on Roosevelt's website.

E-communications and websites are great tools but they do not reach all audiences, especially parents of the student populations this program was designed to reach!

I'm sure the principal was open to individually discussing parent concerns and I know that our family's concerns about supporting unprepared students were not addressed. ADDITIONALLY, defensive comments directed at parents from Roosevelt's staff played the SPS (dysfunctional) broken record: "The principal and school can make any curriculum decisions without parent input or even school board approval." "Leave it up to the experts to educate children." "The 1-semester AP class probably won't be offered anyway..." These have all been common statements made by the school to diminish concerns adding to further parent suspicions and anger.

I envision everyone winning in parent information sessions: Schools can incorporate parent concerns in future program decisions, perhaps in ways they did not recognize. Parents can gain information through group inquiry allowing them a voice and to be supportive of their school. Schools need to recognize that many parents still deeply care about the public education of their children and should not assume otherwise. Educating children is all about a balance of the home-school equation.

Everyone really wants Seattle Public Schools to win. If this is to happen, we, both schools and parents, need to find "new ways" to dialogue about educating children and stop playing the same broken record ! As a parent, I am listening for a new tune from Seattle Public Schools.

Anonymous said...

An anonymous asked why there were so few alt schools in the south end.

The district has never initiated the creation of an alternative school. Never. They were all initiated by parents, mostly in the 70s, who wanted alternative education for their children. Almost all of the families that fought for alternative schools were white. South Seattle was primarily black in the 70s. Almost all of the black families (we are one of them) that I know wanted and still want a traditional education for their children. They were not and continue to not be very open to exploring what an alternative school can offer. That's fine. That's what's great about choice. But that's also why there are very few alt schools down south. If the south end would like to see more alt schools (besides ORCA), then ban together and fight for one! Let's try really hard to not make everything appear racist. If you break down the facts it's pretty straight forward. The black community did not want or advocate for alternative schools. Period.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 9:27, why do you think a long bus ride to an alternative school is exclusively a south end or black issue. I beg to differ. I am white, live in NE Seattle, and my children went to AEII. I wanted to continue with an alt middle school but AS1 and Summit just didn't have the academics we were looking for, so we chose Salmon Bay. Our child had a one hour commute. I hear your pain. It was awful. But we chose it. We didn't have to. We could have sent our kid to a great neighborhood school, or one of the two alt schools in our neighborhood. A neighborhood school is what you give up when you choose an alt school. South end families have the same EXACT choice as north end families. Choose your neighborhood school if you don't want a long commute, choose your neighborhood alt school (Orca) if you don't want a long commute. IF these schools don't fit your childs needs by all means utilize the choice system, look outside of your neighborhood, but be prepared to have your kid sit on a bus for a long time, or drive them. It's what you give up IF YOU CHOOSE to leave your neighborhood.

maureen said...

Sorry to be posting this on the AP thread but I'm on a data hunt (and people do seem to be using this as an alt school thread too)!

Does anyone have access to real transportation cost data? The only thing I have ever been able to find was the analysis The Seattle Times did in 2005:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
news/education/links/2005profile/

That implies that TOPS' (for example) transport costs are about $60 per student while Whittier's (e.g.) are $200 per student. Clearly that can't be right. Although, TOPS is right on I-5 and does share buses with Lowell ($1791 per student!), maybe they only charge TOPS for the trip from Lowell to Eastlake? That would make TOPS/Lowell average about $925 per student. (Lowell also has a program for seriously physically disabled kids so that probably raises the average.)

I emailed the writer about two years ago but no one ever got back to me.

One thing to keep in mind about transportation is that, given our highways and other barriers, some schools have tiny walk zones. TOPS' for instance is literally four square blocks (and two of those blocks are full of the school and playfield), so (unless they change the rules) I believe that virtually all kids would have to be offered busing to TOPS no matter where they came from.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/
transportation/walk/downloads/
seward.pdf

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:37,
I wasn't brnging race into it, I was bringing class. I was suggesting that those more able to a) be active in their children's lives (which isn't always a class issue, but often is) and/or b) wanted to establish their own school and had the time and tools to do, created/support many lat schools. In one view, alt schools are a rich person's toy. Not saying it's MY view, but it's one way of looking at it: "THOSE schools don't offer my kid what she/he needs, but I can be active over here in THIS school and not have the rest of THOSE students around...Some suggest, not necessarily agreeing, but stating perceptions, that some alts were a product of busing: Schools become "integrated" in the late sixties, some don't want that, so form little schools, little communities, that can be separated from the rest. I personally love alt schools, all students are alternative, but I've heard about and seen instances of classism and racism in them (just like in all schools, I know, but alts often fly under the radar because they are off to the side, and as you point out, many (not all) in minority communities don't really think about alts at all.
This brings us to the second point: You state that:
Almost all of the black families (we are one of them) that I know wanted and still want a traditional education for their children. They were not and continue to not be very open to exploring what an alternative school can offer. That's fine. That's what's great about choice. But that's also why there are very few alt schools down south. If the south end would like to see more alt schools (besides ORCA), then ban together and fight for one! Let's try really hard to not make everything appear racist. If you break down the facts it's pretty straight forward. The black community did not want or advocate for alternative schools. Period."
But why not? What IS a traditional education? (I might add that you yourself are bringing race into it by equating southend with the black community...there are plenty of other people in the south end, some might want an alt...this opens a door to conversation about how OTHER "groups" see alts...)
Personally, I see some alts teaching in traditional ways while "traditional" comp schools have become WASL prep factories, especially in the south end. So what is a traditional education?

Yes, I stated that the alts (the progressives) were "more white and wealthier" and that the "re-entry" alts are poorer and have more minorities...but this is true. And what about it? Why is that?

Me? I look at class first, then race. Race is a weapon in class warfare.

Charlie Mas said...

Go to the original post on the AP Human Geography class requirement at Roosevelt. There is news.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Orca is not the only south end alternative; there's also African American Academy. The fact that no one remembers it or wants to mention it speaks to its lack of relevance or desirablity to parents. It might be better, since TOPS is so popular, to create a TOPS II there. (Of course, New School seems to me to be alternative and was, according to many district documents, until it got changed to Regular Ed.)

I've seen the transportation numbers and they are killing this district. We just can't keep busing this many students from all over the district to all over the district.

Having said that, the district managed to look the other way or be busy when these schools were created, not noticing that they were not evenly spread out. SW Seattle has only one K-8 and one alternative all rolled into one good program in a lousy building. So if the assignment plan were to limit you to a certain region, is it fair that some regions would have more choices?

It's going to come down to money and I suspect money will win.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
I'd thought of African American Academy during this thread, and was going to question its "status" (alt? Non-trad? safety net? what?) but forgot.
Is it an alt? This gets to the heart of the alt debate. The district has already made its decision on a number of schools, some of the distinctions sort of strange:
Marshall, South Lake, Interagency are "safety net";
Middle College is "Non-traditional"
Nova, Summit, TOPS etc are "Alternative."
Why is Middle College Non-Trad while Interagency is Safety Net?
What, in fact, is the difference between a student who has "issues" and ends up at one of the "alternatives" and a student who has "issues" and ends up at IA, SL, or MC? In my humble opinion, the "Safety Net" designation would/should apply to students, not schools. The designation would imply that the district sees the students has some need for support and supplies those needs (or tries to).
This is, in fact, what might be conming along: case management for students with "issues". But we're still left with these schools that are tagged with a designation that makes them seem like some sort of hospital...

Anonymous said...

Melissa you are exactly right!
Add two more alternative schools to the south end list:

ORCA
AAA
New School

And very close by in the Central Cluster is Nova, TOPS and Center School.

Now that is more than any other neighborhood except for NE Seattle that has AS1, Summit and AEII

Anonymous said...

To me an alternative school is anything that deviates from the norm. The African American Academy is definitely not the norm. It is a K-8, it is an all city draw, it has an emphasis on African American Culture, it caters to the African American Community. It seems to me to be alternative. In my opinion there are many schools that deviate from the norm and are alternative even though the district does not classify them as such:

John Stanford International School
Montessori programs
Nathan Hale
Center School
New School
APP/Lowell

I think there are a lot of politics, capacity constraints (JSIS), and transportation issues that account for why some schools are called alternative and others are not.

maureen said...

"I've seen the transportation numbers" Melissa, are they accessible on the web site?

I think the alts have been defined by history and politics. Clearly JSIS should not be a neighborhood school but by the time it was created the District realized that alternatives could be annoying and the Wallingford political pressure reinforced that. What I find odd is that SPS went ahead and commited themselves to all city busing to JSIS so they aren't saving much money by calling it a 'neighborhood' school. According to Seattle Times (2005) the busing cost there is $1092 per student. They do house primary BOC, but those kids switch out twice a year so their bus routes vary and I don't know how much they share with regular ed kids. Does anyone know?

Maybe what we need is another category, like 'magnet school', for programs that don't meet the alternative school guidelines but that have unusual focuses like language, African culture, Montesorri, art... (Wouldn't it be great to have a math and science magnet downtown?!) They could have larger draw areas, perhaps with limited transportation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had access to the transportation numbers from the Closure and Consolidation Committee. However, I believe they are on-line somewhere. I'll check.

Anonymous said...

I just ran across an interesting perspective, from a black teacher in Atlanta, Zackory Kirk:

http://boyforwords.blogspot.com/2007/07/fruits-of-our-labor.html

Monday, July 9, 2007
The Fruits of Our Labor?


... The greatest tragedy in this situation lies in the fact some of the students came into the class woefully behind the mark. Scoring below the recommended forty-five percentile on the PSAT and having low grades in previous English classes, some of the students really did not have a fighting chance. Other students entered the course with absolutely no idea of the high level of work, rigor, and expectations needed for success in an AP class.

Across the country, the “non-profit” College Board advocates that all students take at least one AP course. Well, at the price of each test, this is not a surprise. The “non-profit” College Board also advocates that any student, regardless of prior ability, be given a chance to take an AP course.

I agree that all students deserve to be challenged. I agree that all students should be in classes ripe with rigor and relevance. However, what mandates that this should only occur in AP classes? Shouldn’t this be every single class where college-bound students are enrolled? How did College Board and AP come to patent high expectations for students?

Amazingly, my students defied expectations and did exceedingly well. 76% of my students passed this impossible test.

And what does this mean, exactly? Well, I don’t know. Personally, it means that it's time to get started again. The year is over and in just three weeks, the new year will kick off with a bang.

-------------
So there's a view from a guy who's done this AP for everyone thing, who has been very successful in terms of getting good test scores, who STILL thinks it is not worth it and there has to be a better way.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Helen-
The better way is to offer the Roosevelt AP Human Geo is to:
- Pre-Ap classes in grade 8/grade 9 to prepare students.
- Grade 10 AP class with AP lab for inexperienced students.
- Reduce the rigor of Roosevelt's AP class.
The school has indicated that it will be using differentiated instruction to reach out to all students without reducing course rigor.

Not widely know in the Seattle area, differentiated instruction has been used nationwide for over 15 years and has developed best practices and lots of research behind it. Differentiated Instruction requires a list of other contingencies for student success that Roosevelt is unable to deliver to include smaller class sizes, teaching assistants (not the highly capable students either), different materials of instruction adjusting to differing student needs and levels, extra teacher planning time to adapt her daily lesson plans to the changing needs of students with wide range of abilities...

It also requires intensive teacher training, extensively "scaffolded" curriculum and of course, a highly motivated teacher to make it happen for all students... which could require the teacher to develop 6 different lesson plans to meet the daily needs of different student groups in a widely mixed ability classroom. (A small herculean feat for even the best of teachers!)


Differentiated Instruction, DI, or Differentiation means different. It doesn't mean that the highly capable in students get to sit in the corner working on self-directed studies either. It requires instruction to all levels (a mixed ability group) in one setting. Its really part of good day to day teaching strategies and is not usually linked to AP course because of the rigor and pace of AP curriculum. Don't be fooled by the education language either, DI is not curriculum or additional resources but an instructional strategy totally dependent on teacher's abilities and motivation.

I have heard nothing of these best practices being planned for Roosevelt or the district resources to support them.

Read the research yourself and you be the judge!

Anonymous said...

Here's the scoop about the AP Human Geography course directly from the College Board Office in NY:
AP Human Geography is:
- It is a 1-semester introductory college course and requires a 2 hr. 15 minute AP test.
- designed to give students an "introductory experience" to human geography course in college

It is not widely accepted by colleges and is not considered rigorous for highly competitive colleges.
For Roosevelt's guidance counselors even to suggest otherwise is misleading for students developing their 4 year plans!

The incoming college students with 2-semesters AP Human Geography WILL NOT get any extra benefit (vs. 1- semester of AP) on their transcripts!.
In fact, many colleges and universities barely recognize this AP course in its 1-semester offering; extending it to 2-semesters works against the student transcripts as this AP integrity and rigor of this course is questionable in its 1-semester offering.

Roosevelt needs to stick to the facts!