Thursday, December 11, 2008

Public Hearing Sign-ups for Next Week

The hearing sign-up sheets have been published today for the hearings taking place next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at the buildings slated for closure. There are 40 slots of speaking time (3 minutes each), and none of the sites are full yet.

I know some of the affected schools/programs that aren't getting hearings at their sites have already had meetings with district officials this week, but I would encourage everybody to sign up to speak at one of the hearings. Your comments have to be directed to the building being discussed but, for example, Chris Jackins is signed up to speak at several of the hearings and will mention the building in question while speaking to the broader issue of closing no schools.

To sign up to speak at a public hearing, call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail Sign-ups for testimony will be accepted until noon on the day of each hearing through these methods. After that time, sign-ups will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis at the building site if space is still available.

And for schools like Cooper, Meany, AAA, Summit and others whose programs rather than buildings are proposed for closure, parents, staff, and community members should sign up to speak at the hearing of the program proposed for placement in their buildings.

In addition, the following new information was posted on the district capacity page today:
Note: If any additional buildings are proposed for closure in the Superintendent's final recommendation - due to be announced on January 6, 2009 - a public hearing will be scheduled for those buildings. The date and time for any additional hearings will be announced after the final recommendation is released.


kjsmith said...

I find it very curious that the district has only chosen to hold hearings for buildings that are closing. This makes it very challenging for "programs" to have any real access to the closure process, which might just be the point.

Has anyone read Sable Verity's post about the change on the closure list from Arbor Heights to Cooper? If so, what do you think?

The link is here:

Roy Smith said...

The reason they hold hearings for the buildings is that they are required to by state law. Its debatable if they would have any individual hearings at all if it weren't part of the legal process.

There is no equivalent requirement for a program that is being discontinued, possibly because in many school districts, "building" and "program" are basically synonymous. I suspect that possibility that a program that filled a whole building might be discontinued without closing the building never occurred to the folks that were drafting the law (however many years ago that was), and the legislature has never updated the law to account for changing circumstances.

Sahila said...

And there was I thinking it was all those yellow T-shirts that convinced the Staff to take Arbor Heights off the chopping block!

Melissa Westbrook said...

KJ, thanks for the heads up about the Verity blog. I'll have to write a separate post about it.

AutismMom said...

I think it's ridiculous that Cooper is trotting out its disabled students from the 3 Autism programs. The inclusion programs has been unable to find staffing... causing disruption and forcing students to transfer in during the middle of the year. The self-contained program is so full of maximally disabled students, it's a model of what's wrong with special education in Seattle. And to top things off, before the "new autism inclusion program", the Cooper population was one of the most heavily disabled weighted in the district. Another huge problem we want to solve, not maintain. We don't want our autistic population used to prop up enrollment in underenrolled, unsuccessful schools. (and this is likely no fault of the teachers or students themselves). The fact remains that Cooper is one of the least selected, least desirable (as measured by first choice counts) schools in the district. Pathfinder would be an improvement for everyone.

Beth Bakeman said...

kjsmith, I've read Sable Verity's post and my main reaction was sadness. The closure and consolidation process rips apart school communities, and creates bad feelings and tensions across larger communities, like West Seattle, that last for years.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Amber Campbell tries to address some of the resentment between communities in a recent post on the Rainier Valley Blog. I have to agree with her on the fact that we should all be pushing harder for quality and equity across the board. If more of our schools were desirable we wouldn't find ourselves with capacity issues.

Evan said...

and i thought the conspiracy mentality on THIS blog was sometimes over the top! sable verity - yikes!

beth is right - it is very very sad.

Beth Bakeman said...

Just to be clear, what I think is sad is what the closure and consolidation process does to kids, families, and communities.

And I agree with what Amber Campbell writes and SolvayGirl mentions about the inherent inequalities in our school systems. It's messed up and we need to work to fix it and make it more fair for all kids.

adhoc said...

It's hard for me to read the conspiracy theory style blogs....IE Sable Verity.

Much more practical to deal with the situation with facts and build a rational argument. Talk to the hand, and save the brown kids just doesn't work well.

dj said...

It's difficult. If you are trying to be "practical," and the district is planning to close your school, your only options are (1) arguing that the school district has inaccurate or incomplete information about your school (building score, etc.) or (2) arguing that another school for whatever reason is a more sensible target for closure. Maybe a combination of (1) and (2).

Melissa is right. School closures tear apart communities. I think there is also a bit of a catch-22 in that it seems sensible on the one hand to keep open schools that are doing well and are full, but on the other hand, closing schools that are struggling and distributing the students to other struggling schools (where the open seats seem to be) doesn't sound like a recipe for improving schools.

Charlie Mas said...

Closure and consolidation isn't about improving schools. I don't recall that being named as a primary feature. The District makes other efforts to improve schools, closures and consolidations are about saving money.

As for the Sable Verity blog, I guess once you've decided that the root cause of everything is racism you don't need to look for any other causes and you don't need to make any other arguments. Anyone who disagrees with you is a racist. Anyone who wants to make reference to other possible causes is a racist. Anyone who isn't you is a racist. And anything a racist says doesn't count for anything.

This perspective must be very liberating because you're under no obligation to do anything on your own behalf, you're under no obligation to do any research, and you're under no obligation to do any work. None of it would matter anyway because the racists are all against you and you don't have a chance anyway. You only have to complain about racism and demand restitution.

My culture is full of people who ascribe every negative outcome as the result of anti-semitism, but they are regarded as foolish, ridiculous, and detriment to the legitimacy of cases of actual anti-semitism. They are not regarded as leaders in the community.

Seattle Public schools has about 5,000 too many seats. It makes sense to close schools in those areas of the city where demand for public education is thinnest. That may be in affluent neighborhoods or it may be in low-income neighborhoods, it may be in predominantly White, Asian, or Black neighborhoods. Regardless of income or race, the numbers are the numbers and they are not open to much dispute.

When the building with the thin demand is in good condition or of a good size, the District looked for a new tenant. That's what they did with Jane Addams, as well as with the AAA, Meany, T T Minor, and Cooper.

I can't remember how many times I had to write it last time, but I'll say it again. These schools are not being closed because they are half full of minority students, they are being closed because they are half full.

I've been thinking and thinking about the District's plans for Jane Addams and I think I finally get it. First you have to realize that to them, alternative is alternative is alternative. They can't discern any difference between any of them. The only thing they know about alternative schools is that they are portable.

They need to elminate empty seats at Jane Addams, but the building is a good size, so they don't close it. They don't know or care about the "subtle" differences between AS#1, Summit and Thornton Creek. Since it doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter. That's why they don't hesitate to slam all three programs together in the same building and go with the label they regard as the most successful - Thornton Creek. Consolidating all of these students together in one building allows them to re-purpose Decatur and close Pinehurst.

The AAA is undersubscribed so they will close it. The building, however, is too nice to close, so they move in a neighbor in a crummy building, Van Asselt.

They don't need Meany for Central Region middle school students so they close it down. The building condition isn't great but the size is wonderful, so they want to re-purpose it. They put the S.B.O.C. in there (closing Old Hay) because that program comes with the capital funds for renovations. Since the place still has room for another 300 students, they send in NOVA as well and close Horace Mann.

Too many seats in the Central Cluster. Enrollment is thinnest at TT Minor. The building isn't in exceptional condition, so close it.

They need to close a school in West Seattle, so it's Cooper, where the local enrollment is the thinnest. The building is in good shape, so the program they can move, Pathfinder, goes into it.

This is how it worked. Where do the number of seats exceed the number of students? Find the thinnest spot and close that program and building. If the building, is too good to lose, then look for a portable neighbor to plug in. Thurgood Marshall was a thin spot in the Central Cluster, but the building is too nice so plug in APP. Hawthorne was a thin spot in the South Cluster but the building is too nice, so plug in APP.

The reason that they didn't propose the one closure that was obvious to everyone else, Rainier Beach, was because the number of students in the area is very close to the number of seats in the area - whether the students are actually going to school in the area or not. Same with Aki Kurose.

In each case the preliminary proposal makes sense if you check each zone and determine the excess seats in the zone - counting local students whether they are attending local schools or not. If you find a zone with excess seats you select the thinnest local choice in the zone. If the building isn't good, close it. If the building is good - either its size or condition - then move in a more successful neighbor and close that school's building.

I get it now, and it makes sense. I can't say that it's even a particularly bad way to do things, at least for a preliminary proposal. If you were to do things this way you might figure that the rules wouldn't yield perfect results - particularly since so little judgement or creativity is employed. So you would acknowledge the need for refinement and you would welcome improvements.

Josh Hayes said...

I have to admit, I think Charlie's analysis is right on. Everyone makes assumptions. District management has made a whole flurry of them, and they've identified problems (budget shortfall, mostly, but also overcrowding in the N/NE clusters), and they simply put the assumptions together with the problems, turn the crank, and hey presto, they have a solution.

There are several points where one might find fault with this process:

1) The identified problems may be misidentified - that is, the district is attempting to find solutions to problems which either do not exist or are not correctly characterized. This is a hard sell to make in the case of the budget shortfall; it's hard to see how that's not a real problem. The crowding issue, one might argue, is consequent from particular policies -- that is, it's a symptom, not a problem, and anyone who's ever been sick knows that the same darn symptom can arise from a whole host of underlying causes. Which brings us to:

2) Proposed solutions. It's key to understand that these proposals rely critically on two things: first, that the problems have been properly characterized, and second, that the causal relationships are well established. I think this is a murky area for the managers -- there's no question we're going to have a huge budget shortfall, for instance, but isn't that largely due to external forcers, like our state's absurd tax/funding structure? Tie your budget to a consumption tax, as we have in this state, and your finances flutter in the prevailing economic breeze.

As for the crowding, I don't think the causes for this have been well explained. On this blog we're certainly willing to delve into factors like race and income, but the district is extremely squeamish when it comes to talking about such things, despite the fact that they are obvious factors.

3) Finally, you gotta look at the assumptions. The district assumes, for instance, that the WASL provides useful and accurate information about how well a school is performing. I think it's safe to say that most of us here think that's absurd. They also assume that there are two kinds of schools: traditional, and alternative, and within those categories, there's no difference. Again: crazy. But if those assumptions are taken as givens, and the problems as described by district bureaucrats are also accepted as written, it is, as Charlie says, a completely sensible thing to do what they propose.

I don't think this is because district folk are being deliberately misleading. I think they really truly believe that the WASL is a great measure of school performance, and that alternative schools are really just inferior versions of real schools somehow. If one really does believe such things -- well, it's a cliche (dang, how do I do that little accent over the e?) that if one starts with false assumptions, any conclusion is logically true. That's where we are today.

North-end Mom said...

Interesting analysis. I can see that might be how the District has been going about the process, and it might make sense, in some ways, to go about it in such a manner when there are too many seats in a cluster. However, it does not make sense in the case of the Jane Addams building, where the goal was to increase capacity in a geographic area, the NE cluster.

momster said...

Charlie, thank you for continuing to inject reason, data and dispassion into the conversation about closures, whether on this blog or beyond it.

I second the person who dubbed you the Nate Silver of SPS.

Charlie Mas said...

I think what is important here is that the District used a very rough tool for the initial proposal, but they KNEW it was a rough tool and they were totally open to refinements.

That's really good. We shouldn't lose sight of how good that is.

And now, for something completely different...

Consider how the naming structure defines things for us.

If the District brings AS#1, Summit K-8 and Thorton Creek together in the same building and restricts transportation for all of them to the North and Northeast Clusters, how can you tell which programs are ending and which program is continuing? Is it just by the name?

Surely the new blended community, like a blended family, will create a new culture that reflects elements and legacies from each of the schools. The middle school in particular will likely reflect the interests, values and culture of AS#1 and Summit much more than Thorton Creek since Thorton Creek doesn't have a middle school legacy to carry forward.

So what difference does it make what the school is called when Summit, Thorton Creek and AS#1 are all brought together at the Jane Addams building? Wouldn't the blend be the same no matter what the resulting mix is called? Is it any different for the District to label the new consolidated school "Thorton Creek" or "AS#1" or "Summit K-8"?

So, for families from AS#1 and Summit, would it make a difference to you if the the new school were called "AS#1" or "Summit"?

Would it be any different if the blended school were called "Northeast Alternative K-8"?

I have every reason to believe that the blended program will reflect a mix of the focus and values of each of the three programs. Is there some reason to believe that Thorton Creek will impose their values and focus on the other two communities and work to obliterate any connection with the legacies, traditions, and heritage of those school communities?

I'm just asking. How is this any different from the District saying that they are moving AS#1 to Jane Addams, closing Thorton Creek and Summit, and consolidating them into AS#1? Or how is it different from the District saying that they are changing Summit to a K-8, closing AS#1 and Thorton Creek and consolidating those schools into Summit?

Charlie Mas said...

The more I think about it, the more this question intrigues me.

The blended program will be in Summit's building, so isn't Summit the continuing school and the other two programs are "ending"?

The blended program will be a K-8 like AS#1, not like Summit's K-12 and not like Thorton Creek's K-5, so isn't the K-8, AS#1, the continuing school and the other two programs are "ending"?

The blended program will have Thorton Creek's name, so does that alone mean that Thorton Creek is the continuing school and the other two programs are "ending"?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Excellent points, Charlie. Since Thorton Creek has expressed some misgivings about their move AND the growth of their school in such a short time, why not have all three schools join together to help each other? AS#1 and Summit could certainly offer great advice (and I believe it likely that Summit's middle school teachers would ask to be placed at Thorton Creek and could offer terrific help). This would ease the worry for Thorton Creek staff and parents about how to get this all done in time and done well.

I still advocate for Summit to be at Meany but this is a good offering. Let's not lose the good in both programs.

beansa said...

Won't the blended school have TC's ELOB pedagogy? From reading TC's letter to the school district, I get the impression that they have specific and unique methods that they use.

Will TC have mixed-grade/age classrooms like AS1? Will TC adopt AS1's free-school/democratic model? Will they have the small class sizes that AS1 offers? What about Summit's performing arts focus?

Are the teachers from AS1 and Summit moving to TC, or just the students? What about the principals? They are part of the school's culture too.

TC parents, on other blogs, have already expressed concerns about AS1 students coming to their school and trying to change the culture.

The middle school students from AS1are NOT being assigned to TC's new middle school. I'm not sure about Summit's students.

Also, it's not like the whole student population of AS1 is moving to TC. There are more AS1 students in the NW cluster than in the NE, but the NW cluster AS1 students are not being assigned to TC. What the school is called matters far less to me than the fact that our daughter will no longer be able to attend the new alternative-meaga school.

I don't think you can say that Summit's program is the one that's continuing, or that AS1's program will live on. In fact, I think it's more likely that all three programs will be ruined by the proposed move.

uxolo said...

SPS is not in the business of filling empty apartments. That is how they seem to be moving students. Moving successful programs without assurance that the new location and its "buildout" will be done expertly is troublesome. The Stanford Center is supposed to be filled with experts in education. Where are they? Anyone peripherally involved in any of the alternative schools knows the differences in the populations and approaches; they differ. Nova, for example, had historically been a safe place for gay and lesbian students.

Why not announce the cuts in administrative positions that will occur? Why not advertise for the new positions required to be a part of the Design Team?

Identifying outcomes of institutional racism takes much study. It is hard to believe that there is any question about whether or not institutional racism exists.

If you read Sable Verity blog and the comments, the leadership sounds frightening. How can they let this continue? Would this type of leader remain in a more affluent school?

CPPS formed following the initial closing process. Where is their proposal for the city? They did much work analyzing middle schools and promoting Meany. Who is the supt. listening to at this time? SIngle voices coming at her one school at a time has resulted in targeting the less-abled schools to defend themselves. I thought CPPS formed, in part, to create one voice.

beansa said...

You know, I just realized how super-negative my last comment was, and how unhelpful that is. I think I am just really tired and stressed out over this whole school-closure thing. If AS1 closes, my daughter will be attending her 3rd school in 3 years next year. AS1 has been great for her this year, especially after her horrible experience last year at a traditional elementary, so we are really sad about this.

I'm letting my emotions get the best of me and it's making me cynical. I apologize for that.

It would be great if all 3 programs have voice in the new TC school. Maybe we should work toward that...though it won't matter much for my kid, since we live in the NW and Salmon bay is full.

adhoc said...

Charlie you bring up some excellent points about the AS1/TC/Summit merger and the culture the school will take on.

Honestly, I believe a merger between three schools with vastly different pedagogy and philophies is unreasonable and is setting the programs up for failure.

I believe that Summit should be taken out of the mix. I think they should move as a whole, intact, to a nearby location that most Summit families will follow the program to.

Then TC can grow itself as TC, and try to incorporate AS1 as best they can. TC was the more popular of the two programs, and they are the school that was asked to move and grow, so it seems only fair that their culture will drive the new program.

The only thing that AS1 and TC have in common is that they are all alternative schools. AS1 and TC are very far apart in their approaches, you might as well merge Bryant and AS1, or John Rogers and TC, it wouldn't be that much different.

Both Summit and AS1 feel very strongly about their schools and families choose them specifically for their unique approaches. Each parent group expects very different things from their schools.

AS1 is a free school, a democratic school. If a class as a group decides that they do not want to take math, they don't have to. This would not go over well at TC. Their parents would be outraged, and the war would be on.

TC is an ELOB school. The curriculum is a progressive curriculum out of Harvard, but somewhat traditional in a lot of ways. They use the expeditionary approach to learning. Kids are not included in the running of the school though they do have some shared decision making in the classroom. Very different from AS1 where parents, kids and staff all share in the running of the school and all decision making.

I'm not saying that the schools are incompatible on all fronts, but it should be acknowledged that they are very very different and a merger will be difficult.

AS1 and Summit fought viciously not to even be co-housed at Jane Adams a couple of years ago, even as completely separate programs, so you can imagine the strain a merger will have on the programs, then throw in a third school to boot.

Alt schools are not all the same. Not even close. Co-location, though reasonable to expect, can be difficult. But a true merger of three vastly different schools with vastly different philosophies is not going to be an easy task. Especially when each school feels so strongly about their individual approaches, and will not want to give them up.

I don't know how it will work, or if it will work??? I don't know if a name makes a difference, except that some names have a perception that follow them. Personally, I lik e the NE alternative K-8! But TC may want to keep their name as they worked hard to make it respectable!

I wish them luck!

katie said...

Charlie & Melissa -- typically I tend to agree with both of you. I tend to find that you are thoughtful people and your arguments are research and fact driven. Even when you opposed the BEX for procedural reasons, I disagreed but I had to respect your arguments.

In the case of the uber-alternative school, there is no merit or any facts to drive any optimism in this discussion. It is a bad idea for so many reasons, it probably deserves a thread of its own.

Let's go back to basics on this conversation.

There were 500 local parents at a meeting at Roosevelt High School in September to talk about capacity issues in the NE. From what I have heard this a record for a public meeting like this. I don't know if either of you were able to attend this meeting but nearly every parent in that room could tell you the same facts that I am laying out right now.

Based on this tsunami of public comment the district was forced to examine how they were looking at capacity in the NE. In other words, it became clear that they could no longer cram 30 kids into K classrooms and convert music and art rooms to homerooms.

The board voted to move the Summit program out of the Jane Addams building because of extreme overcrowding in NE elementary schools and the expectation that there would be no room for these students to roll up either in their current buildings or roll up to middle school.

These were complex conversations that happened over weeks but all 7 board members agreed that the situation was extreme enough to make the very hard decision to displace a long standing school to make room for more traditional education seats. The board was not thrilled to vote Summit out of the cluster. It was a very hard decision for most of the board but they all felt there was not other option.

The vote did not specify traditional educations seats but for anyone that attended any of the meetings, it was clear that word traditional was used frequently and the board specifically said that it would be distasteful to replace Summit with another alternative program several times during the vote.

The board also discussed closing AS1 during this same process and thy directed staff that closing AS1 did not help the capacity issue so they took that off of the vote.

So here are the issues as they stand with capacity for this plan

1) This uber-alternative school would simply re-house already existing students and not create the new spaces desperately needed for local students.

2) The board made very clear during this entire process that the only other options if new space was not created with the move of the Summit program was the purchase of very expensive portables for schools already too crowded to to provide PCP space or bussing NE residents to other clusters.

All this uber-alternative program does is guarantee that none of the alternative schools has a chance to succeed while simultaenously guaranteeing that the capacity problem in the cluster only worsen.

This is a bad plan. Summit needs a new home. AS1 needs to remain open and Thornton Creek needs to be left alone.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, but you left out a couple of other realities. One, I did attend the meeting and yes, I heard the word "traditional". But look where we are today - TC is moving in (alternative) and they plan on closing Summit and AS#1. Two, where will all those Summit and AS#1 kids go? Well, to the cheese who stands alone in alternatives in the North/NE and that's TC. Sure some will go elsewhere (the high school kids, obviously, and probably a few middle schoolers) but most will likely go to TC.

So with those two realities facing us down, I agreed with Charlie on the way to make the best of it.

Now, if you don't want that reality, either Summit has to continue to exist somewhere (being the bigger of the two closing schools) or the Addams building has to be a traditional K-8 or middle school.

Interesting that Board members heard loud and clear that the communities want traditional and yet chose alternative. The initial thought probably was that it would be easier to take an established elementary and move them to Addams to kick-start a K-8 but they can't very well ask a neighborhood school to (although past talk had Rodgers moving into Addams as they need an update on their building anyway).

North-end Mom said...

There was a new thread started on NE/N/NW capacity issues, so I posted a comment on the "blended alternative" K-8 idea there.

North-end Mom said...


I saw your spelling comment on Harium's blog. Thought you should know...

There's no "d" in the proper spelling of John Rogers. ;)

Josh Hayes said...

I read adhoc's comments (beginning with "Charlie you bring up some excellent points about the AS1/TC/Summit merger and the culture the school will take on...

"Honestly, I believe a merger between three schools with vastly different pedagogy and philophies is unreasonable and is setting the programs up for failure...")

And much to my surprise, I agree just about entirely. Who knew we'd have common ground?

The district seems to have the idea that they can throw Thornton (and, people, it's ThorNton, not Thorton!) Creek, with its ELOB philosophy, into a building two and a half times its current size, with 150% added kids from who the hell knows where, and expect something coherent to come out. This strikes me as unlikely. It springs out of the idea that, hey, traditional schools are all the same, so aren't alternative schools all the same too?

In a word: no.

If and when AS1 is closed, I'll be deciding where my 7th grade son and 4th grade daughter will be going based on:

1) where do the teachers go. If I don't know where their teachers are going before assignment date, my kids are getting home-schooled.

2) where do their friends go. I'm not an idiot -- well, yes, I might be, but I'm not an OGRE, anyway! So I'd be looking at where my kids' friends are planning to go. I might be willing to take a flyer on a different school, but I'm always going to be ready to bail.

I'm lucky, though, that I have the option of opting out. I feel awful for the AS1 and Summit parents who don't have that flexibility. Maybe I should host a small alternative school in my house for the refugees?

Hmm...I was kidding, but now I'm not so sure...

Sahila said...

Have any of you even read the alternative schools' checklist, adopted by the Board in 2006???

which came out of this report:

all this 'uber' this and 'uber' that... alternative schools are by definition SMALL... alternative schools have democratic decision making, with participation by the entire school community - staff, parents, students... alternative schools have individualised learning, with forms of assessment that are appropriate to the school and the student, not necessarily to the state...

Thornton Creek is not now an alternative school... and it sure as heck wont be with the push to increase its population to 900 students (Addam's capacity)...

The District is turning its back on alternative education by closing (or threatening to close) Summit and AS#1, and refusing to provide alternative students with an acceptable ALTERNATIVE option to which to move, again against the recommendations of the 2005 report, which stressed that alternative students were entitled to be able to graduate from an alternative programme...

Charlie Mas said...

Josh, you don't have to host the refugee alternative school in your house. The Pinehurst building will be available for lease from the District.

Sahila said...

Charlie - what an ugly, insensitive thing to say to an AS#1 parent, or didnt you get that Josh's two kids go to AS#1?

Why under the great blue heavens would you make a comment like that? Were you trying, in some misguided, unsophisticated way, trying to make a joke?

As another AS#1 parent, I find your comment offensive...

adhoc said...

I didn't find Charlie's comment offensive at all. I think it makes complete sense, and could work.

I too was wondering if perhaps the families from AS1 that do not want to fold into another school, and I think there are many of you, might consider starting your own not for profit, co-op type school. I've read several AS1 posters on this blog say if AS1 closes they will home school. Josh is not alone in his thinking.

I think AS1 serves it's purpose. The families that choose it are for the most part very happy.

You could run it exactly the way you want to run it, and would not have to conform to state standards. You would not have to worry about the repercussions of opting out of the WASL. You would not have to worry about NCLB and the government mandates that follow it. And you would never have to worry about being moved, merged, or closed again! It would eliminate all of your worries.

And Sahila I'm saying this with all due respect, not as a jab. I think it could work.

seattle citizen said...

Though your comment to Sahila is made "with all due respect," I have to ask: Are you serious?!
Charlie's comment was obviously (?) a sardonic comment on the closure of AS#1. I don't think (?) he meant in to be taken seriously.

But you really believe that families should consider it? After Sahila posted her comment that included the Board's own Alt School policy that includes points about small schools and democratic process?

Do you really think that parents who are unhappy with the District's application of NCLB (as Sahila has pointed out, there are other schools that are faring worse than AS#1; AS#1 has attempted, in the past, to come up with acceptable alternative assessments (while maintaining a principled opposition to the use of standardized scores to "rate" a school...and, not incidentally, it is not AS#1's fault if some parent/guardians decide to opt out of the WASL; it is a parent/guardian perogative - should AS#1 suffer for it?)

Do you really think that principled parents/guardians/staff/students should go about forming their own private school when theirs is closed?

So perhaps APP should get a private school. The children at Cooper can go private (on...grants?) AAA can start its own private "co-op".


Regardless of your (on-going) dissatisfaction with AS#1 and its non-WASL students, I hope that you believe that ALL parents/students should stay in a public school and advocate for thoughtful, well-planned programs that include the Board's own "support of Alternative programs" as codified in C54.00, and backed up by the Final Alternative Education Committee (appointed by the CAO) Report of June, 2007, which identifies alternative characteristics that Summit and AS#1 have in droves and some other "alternative" (read: all-city, or cluster, draw) hardly have at all.

Let's hope that the district continues and supports alt programs, instead of facilitating the exodus of parents who have lost their board-supported programs.

Sahila said...

Can you tell me where we AS#1 taxpaying parents, with our demographics, are going to get the money to start and run an alternative school in this day and age????

Here's what it took to start AS#1 in 1970:

"The idea for a public alternative school in Seattle came from parents and teachers involved in small, private free schools founded here in the 1960's. In March, 1970 these activists and others from the public schools formed the New School Movement (NSM), with one of its goals being the establishment of a publicly supported free school.

However, NSM's free school proposal to the Seattle School Board was turned down. The explanation: "No money." For one and a half months NSM members lobbied, protested, organized sit-ins at administration headquarters, and pulled their children out of the public schools. The activism led to permission being granted for a pilot project called the "Alternative Elementary School (AES)."

AS#1 (as AES) opened its doors in the fall of 1970 in the old Martha Washington building on the shore of Lake Washington. The three teachers had $1751 for the year's expenses, no support staff, and four virtually empty classrooms. As of April, 1971 the school enrolled 84 students, ages 5 to 12, transported from all over the city by parent carpools. About 11% of students were African-American....

That worked in 1970 - lots of really cool, social consciousness expanding stuff worked in the 60s and 70s - its a different kettle of fish in 2009...

And besides - we ought not to have to even think about having to start our own school yet again - SPS has a PUBLIC POLICY COMMITMENT TO ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION, with the definition of alternative education being agreed in its own policy documents as SMALL schools, with individualised learning and school-student appropriate assessment... these public statements of definition in themselves imply that it cant compare alternative schools to traditional schools as a rationale for closing or disbanding alternative programmes...

What is so hard to understand and accept about this?

north seattle mom said...

Sahila -- I know I am not the first to say this but you need to take people's comments literally. The constant explosions about commitment to alt ed are not helping win people to your cause.

I have said this multiple times so let me say it again. Closing AS1 does not help anyone because there is nowhere for those kids to go. North end schools are full, full, full. This was the argument that Sacaqawea used very successfully two years ago. Don't believe me, read the final report.

The final report recommended keeping Sac open because there was no where for the displaced students to go. It didn't say because they had great t-shirts, a diverse student body, great test scores or any crap like that at all. It simply said, no where to go.

Charlie's comment was actually very insightful and it could be a huge part of your argument tonight.

SPS has a LONG history of closing buildings that aren't fit for students and then doing what with the building -- leasing it for a school. That is a compelling argument for your cause when the district is actively looking at market share issues.

I said on another thread that they can't close AS1 even if it is ineffective. Please read that literally. Definitions of ineffective vary widely. Who cares if you are effective or not, as that is not what is going to decide this. What will decide this is if you can fill your building in an area of town where most schools have 50 - 100 more kids in them than they were designed to hold.

I want AS1 to stay open because we need every school we can get in this part of town and I think AS1 serves a very valuable niche. Please realize that every post here is marketing to a potential new family and that you have an great opportunity to get people to choose your school and the constant explosions don't make me feel like I would want to go to a school like that.

Even so, I want you to stay open!

adhoc said...

Seattle Citizen, I very much believe that all children who want a public school education should get one. If AS1 closes, and an AS1 parent finds another public school that they want their child to attend that would be great. I would roll out the welcome mat. But due to AS1's strong philosophies, and commitment to the free school, democratic approach to schooling I doubt that many parents will find any other public school acceptable.

Sahila is already complaining about TC and she's not even there yet...she has said it's "uber" sized, its not alternative enough, it doesn't share AS1's "democratic decision making, with participation by the entire school community - staff, parents, students", etc. You would be miserable at TC, and you would make them miserable too.

My child attended a small private not for profit, Waldorf, co-op preschool. The tuition was very very the range of $2500 per year, and we only had 30 families. If you couldn't afford the tuition you could work more hours at the school to reduce your share of the costs (worked great for stay at home moms and dads). If you couldn't pay the tuition or work in the school you could get a scholarship. The families that could support the school financially did so, and carried a little extra weight for the families that couldn't. The costs were more than reasonable, and not much more that what families are expected to pay at public school via pay for k, auctions, capital campaigns, Christmas wrap sales, etc etc etc.

I truly didn't mean to offend anyone, I was just throwing out an idea.

Sahila, what will you do if AS1 closes? Where will you send your child to school? Or, would you home school?

Sahila said...

This isnt only about capacity issues and market share...

At the very least, the District - or the new Superintendent to be precise - doesnt understand alternative education (which is hard to believe as its own policy documents are quite explicit in definitions and criteria)... or, at the other end of the spectrum it has an agenda to standardise education across the city to manage costs (standardisation is one of the easiest way to control/cut costs)and it is moving to close down any (mostly alternative, small, vulnerable, disempowered) programmes that dont fit into its model...

Its kinda funny, north seattle mom, I dont know if we have met, but I'm a marketing and business consultant and a social activist at the same time..... believe me, I know about business management, PR and market share and sending out persuasive messages, and catching more flies with honey than vinegar...

(And that's one thing I object to in this process - this talk about market share... our kids are not a business for the SPS or any other public education to be running - we are not manufacturing product to sell on the open market...there are ways to manage an educational system other than under a capitalist profit and loss model)

But, back to your point, I havent heard anyone tell the APP parents to stop advocating for the needs of their children (which they do quite vociferously), to stop pointing out that they too are a special interest group whose needs must be met and that the proposed moves will hurt their programme rather than help it...

This argument is not just about keeping a small school open (as per Sacagawea (?sp)) - this is about the Board's lack of commitment to alternative education - witness the fact that 80% of its proposal closes down alternative/non traditional buildings and programmes... I could go hunt up the specifics of those figures, but they've been posted at least three times on different threads already...

This is not conspiracy theory or victim-mentality stuff - its hard to draw any other conclusion when one looks at the names of the schools and programmes on the hit list and then compares it to the list of schools whose buildings are in worse repair, who have greater underenrolment figures and whose "performance" stats are the same or worse - three of the five criteria listed by the District for closure...

And when your (non traditional) school comes up repeatedly for closure - not once, not twice, but 8 or 9 times since its inception - wouldnt you begin to think that its being viewed as a thorn in the side that must be removed?

I'm sometimes naive, always far too idealistic, but I'm not stupid... and if its not the 'done thing' to be real and to call it how it is, to call a spade a spade rather than employ some euphemism, and honesty drives people away, well...

seattle citizen said...

The continued threat to alternatives is, as you indicate, nothing new. As you also indicate, it is, perhaps, easier for a District to have things simplified, in order to have efficiencies of scale, in order to have some commonality of outcome definition and reporting so it can report to stakeholders (and prospective parents) how the school does.
I am absolutely an alt advocate, but it always has been and always will be that alts have to strongly defend their programs; it's easier to not have them.
This has been a failing of the alts (partly addressed by the Alt Coalition and the Alt Committee in crafting the checklist: at least this finally defines alts, and shows where schools are NOT alts.)
And having a Board Policy is a new thing. Yea!
So alts have to work extra-hard to advertise, to get the word out about their success, and to come up with ways to show their success in ways everyone understands.
Agreed, the onus of building closure is not the best circumstance under which to do these things..

Sahila said...

adhoc - you will laugh when I tell you that AS#1 was not my first choice on my preference form!!!

T/C was my second, after Bagley's Montessori programme...

I toured T/C and most of the schools in the N, NE and NW regions... like all other parents, I'm guessing, I wanted my son to attend a school that would meet his social and educational needs - provide a loving environment where he would grow into his potential...

I had heard conflicting reports about AS#1, I was disheartened by the school's lack of resources compared to Thornton Creek and Olympic View (whose principal said that the pledge of allegiance was not voluntary, which took it off my choice list). I've been through the (mainstream) education system three times in two other countries with my older children - served on PTAs, ran a private kindergarten, fundraised and parent-helped and mentored students with the best of them - and I could recognise where AS#1 has some admin and logistical problems that need taking care of (such as poor community outreach, communication and representation) but AS#1 most closely matches my ethical, educational, social and political views ...

This is too much information and will in all likelihood kill any credibility I might have left, but I'm going to write it anyway... in addition to being a marketing, communications and business management consultant, I am a shaman, and as I was handing over my enrolment forms (with all 10 preference boxes filled out), I asked my version of god to place my son where he needed to be, rather than where I thought he needed to be, for his highest good and the highest good of all... and low and behold we got AS#1 in this cosmic lucky dip exercise that is SPS...

I was not best pleased... but I had asked/intended and this was the outcome... and my son is so very happy and doing so well and the school is full of amazing people and has things about it that work wonderfully and things that need tweaking and here I am, three months later, working my butt off to make sure it doesnt get closed...

Where would I send my son if AS#1 closes? I really dont know... T/C is too rigid and not really alternative enough for me... I like the Montessori programme anbd we have friends whose children go there, but Bagley again is a very traditional and structured school. I cant stand the thought of moulding my son within the cookie-cutter traditional model - no matter how well resourced and what wonderful programmes and extras are on offer. I truly think that the world is changing dramatically (a necessary thing) and that traditional schools hinder, rather than help with that process.

I dont know about going private, and I'm not up to homeschooling at this time in my life - I'm 50 and doing this as a single parent in a new country with little money and few resources - none of which is how it was supposed to be! LOL - such is life)...

So, there you have it...

adhoc said...

Sahila your response above is exactly why I proposed, very seriously, that the AS1 community think about forming a small private not for profit alternative school.

You said very clearly in your post above that you don't want to main stream your child, that TC is not alternative enough, that Montessori is too traditional, and that you are not up for home schooling.

I think many many AS1 families feel exactly as you do, and will not find an acceptable public school option for their child.

I think you should seriously consider a grassroots not for profit alternative school.

Sahila said...

Adhoc - we already have an alternative school - AS#1 - that functions fine under the Board's own Alternative Schools' Checklist - why should we (taxpayers) go through that school-starting process again?

Its the Board's responsibility - under its own policy commitment - to keep us open... its not our responsibility to go off and reinvent the wheel to let the Board off the hook and provide more seats and resources for traditional programmes...

adhoc said...

Sahila once again.

AS1 is under enrolled. AS1 does not meet AYP. And AS1 is in step 4 of NCLB, and will be in step 5 next year. The district is MANDATED to close or restructure the program.

It doesn't really matter what the boards policy on alternative education is at this point.

Really, your only hope to stay open is to present a coherent, rational, fact based argument regarding the lack of capacity in north Seattle and how closing AS1 will contribute to that.

Using the board policy on alt ed is not going to help you now. It's futile.

seattle citizen said...

I second Sahila's comments. The Board, not two years ago, voted its support for Alternatives for the very first time. This support included such things as Sahila mentions, such things we find at AS#1 and Summit: Small schools, democratic process, individualized curriculum, alternative assessments, and a focus on social justice. The CAO went further and appointed a committee to further clarify the indicators of what, exactly, and alt school is. This committee further refined/defined this definition.
So we already have a couple of schools that are well on their way to being truly "alternative": AS#1, Summit, Nova...and perhaps some others. Montessori is not alt, and most other schools/programs that are "non-traditional" (TC, APP, AAA, TOPS....) are not alt.
So under the Board's own definitions, AS#1 and Summit, two of the most "alt" schools in the district, are threatened with closure. You propose, Ad Hoc, that Sahila, since Montessori and Bagley and TC are not alt enough, she should go start another school, a private, to meet the Board's own definition of Alt? That's not fulfilling Board Policy C54.00 or best practice for district students.

adhoc said...

Seattle Citizen are you suggesting that schools that meet the boards definition of an alternative school should not be held accountable to meet the district, state, and government standards? An alt school can move into step 5 of NCLB and the district should not have to restructure or close them as the government mandates? Should they get a waiver of some sort?

At capacity AS1 holds about 300 students. That certainly meets the boards definition of "small by design" for an alt school. However AS1 currently only serves 191 students k-8. That is not small by design, that is small by under enrollment. They can not attract enough families to fill their building. Do they get a pass on this too? And, if so, at what point would the school be to small? What if they only had 15 families that chose the program? Would they still have to remain open because they fit the boards definition of an alternative school??

I mean really, just because a school is an alt does not waive all accountability. They still have to perform.

Sahila said...

adhoc....You insist on comparing apples with oranges...

our stats look crappy cos many of us dont do the the WASL - everyone pretty much agrees the WASL and NCLB is useless - the Board's own alternative education policy adovocates non-standardised assessment for alternative schools... we (AS#1) are in step with Board policy... I'm working to hold them to their commitments...

If you have a problem with all that, adhoc... why dont you go argue it out with the Board, rather than trying to convince me that your position is correct and mine isnt...

I'm done on this... have a presentation to finish for tonight...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Uh, you might have missed this post but NCLB has no enforcement (except withholding Title 1 money and even that's a gray area). There's no one to reinforce Level 4 "restructuring" or "reconstituting". It is whatever the district says it is and the district is only "mandated" to do what they want to do. So that argument is not going to work unless those Title 1 dollars are crucial.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, Ad hoc, I am suggesting that schools not be "accountable" to standards that are unfair, unhelpful to educators, and where alternative assessments are avilable that are helpful rather than punitive.
Furthermore, it is in the interest of the district, and therefore of students, for alternative assessments to be developed and piloted, and alt schools do (or CAN do) this very well. And they have.
Capacity issues are fluid. AS#1 has suffered under the gun of closures for years. Yes, they could be more proactive and organized in obtaining and sharing data. That they haven't should draw the support of the district to do so, rather than the closure of the program.

(could someone remind me how closing AS#1 relates to capacity? I'm confused: Will another program use its building? Won't the AS#1 students go somewhere else up north, filling other seats? I don't get it...)

Your suggestion that it is too late to hold the district to Board Policy is disturbing from a purely procedural standpoint: The Board is US: Public schools are not free to wander where they will with their 1/2 billion dollars: They act on OUR behalf and Board Policy is their law.
Would you suggest that it is "too late" for those at Guantanamo, that legislators and government executives shouldn't be held accountable for illegal actions?
Board policy is the law of SPS.

True, it would be nice not to have to argue for the existence of board-supported alts under the fire of closures, but whaddya gonna do? Stand down? Don't see too many on these blogs doing that, do we.

I only wish the conversation could be completely focused on what's best for ALL students, instead of some of the conversation relegated to shooting each other down. There is no power in division, but great strength in unity. What are you unifying around?

adhoc said...

OK, sometimes I have to admit that I just don't get it. This is one of those times. I really don't get it, but it seems that those in the alt world do.

So, help me understand, Sahila and Seattle Citizen, please.

You say "alt schools should not be held accountable to standards that are unfair", and I assume by that you mean the WASL, and any other forms of assessment that traditional schools use. So what, if any, standards are fair for an alt school? Do alt schools even feel that they need to assess students? If so, what does AS1 use? Is it quantifiable? Should it be quantifiable? Does it or should it show the district or community data to confirm that it is doing it's job?

Then you ask how closing AS1 relates to capacity? I thought it was obvious that the school was under enrolled in an area of the city where students exceed capacity. But, since there are no plans to use the building for any other program, I guess you're right, it doesn't correlate.

One more question...what if AS1 continues to lose enrollment? What if it goes from serving 191 kids to 125 or 90? Is there some point that this will matter? Or, not?

adhoc said...

And, Melissa, is the district really not mandated to do anything about schools failing to meet NCLB standards or are they mandated to act but nobody holds them accountable to do? Are there any guidelines for interventions when a school reaches level 4 or 5? I know I've read that schools must be restructured up to and including closure. Is this not so?

If there are really no repercussions then why is the district so fearful of NCLB? Why do schools so obsessively focus on the WASL? Why do they offer the transfers out of failing schools and government paid tutoring (I know for a fact they do this)?

Thanks, Melissa

seattle citizen said...

ad hoc, I think schools focus obsessively on WASL because it is what has been sold to the state as the be-all and end-all in "accountability." It started as an anonymous test, designed to see what sort of education was happening in each school, and has since morphed over its decade or so of life into a graduation requirement, a NCLB indicator (which, strangely, does not correlate with other states! What a joke: Compare flat-lining national tests like the ITBS with the suddenly improving "new" state tests...Miraculously, states show improvement on the new tests they've each chosen, while no improvement on ITBS...strange, eh?)
Reading your ideas, I think what you think (I could be wrong) is that the WASL is what we have, right or wrong, and it's dumb for a school to not at least try to show some stats, using the WASL if necessary.
I agree to a point: if it's life or death, then why not live? But some, myself included, hold to the idea that it's just plain WRONG to utilize such a test when there are others available or yet to be developed. There is SO MUCH wrong with theb WASL (starting with the idea that those who are better prepared, via educated parents, do better; those that are not do worse, yet WASL scores reflect no such interest in breaking out socio-economic figures, or in using a system that, say, measures INDIVIDUAL GROWTH from beginning of year to end - say a student comes into a tenth grade classroom at the 5th grade reading level. They improve to the ninth-grade level, but fail the WASL. Was no teaching go on? No learning?
The test is worse than useless; it is damaging to the curricula, the programs it doesn't address, the child...
On the other hand, you CAN use qualitative and quantitative data to show growth, usefully and to the betterment of the students individual need. You can use narrative assessments, portfolios, even regular ol' tests and quizes.
The problem is the accountability piece: How do you show the world that the tests, whatever you use, are accurate and contain useful data? If it's a classroom-based assessment, how do you know if a lack of learning is the kid's fault or the fault of the teacher? How do you know what externalities to factor in?
I propose that this could be done. I propose that an external group (much like those that go around and accredit the schools) goes around and 'accredits" the teacher: Is she/he teaching? Is it a good curriculum? Is it individuated? etc etc.
A system like that would provide accountablity while also serving a varied curriculum. Art could matter. History could matter ( doesn't, now...) The student could benefit from ongoing, formative assessment rather than summative assessments that do not factor the student in, do not test many subjects, and are not reported back until the next year.
Me? I like narrative evalautions. Nothin' beats sitting across from a professor, having written about a page per quarter about what you did right and what you did wrong, then, uh, calmly discussing the discrepencies between the professor's written evaluation and your own.
But who has time to read these?

seattle citizen said...

on the capacity issue, I say that C54.00 could use some support, and thereby give schools such as AS#1 support to grow: data team assistance, communication assistance, whatever it takes to get the word out. Also, if people would consider the bigger battles againts tests that make AS#1 "look bad" for no particular reason, that would help: If the community said, what other ways can we assess this school? that would be a good thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

When Holly Ferguson, a staff person who lead the first round of explanations for the closures list, kept saying that a level 5 NCLB was a federal law, had to do something (this was about AAA and also for AS#1 at Level 4), I got curious. So what does NCLB say? Here's what it says at the DOE website:

"If a school fails to make adequate yearly progress for a fifth year, the school district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness.

Federal education department officials said they were not concerned about the schools entering their eighth year of needing improvement, saying campus reforms take time."

Note the word "must" in there. Makes it sound urgent, right? Well, calling OSPI AND DOE, not so much. Districts are responsible for schools, state education (OSPI) is responsible for districts and DOE for states. Now, as I said, a district could lose its Title One money (but as you see above you could be 7-8 years out before that happens) but the district still gets to decide what "restructured" or "reconstituted" means.

So why live in fear? Well, because NCLB is a mandate. You have to have a state test and give the state test. And, the results get reported. No state, no district wants to look bad or like they are making no progress (especially on the achievement gap).

The district offers transfers and tutors because that's part of the law and the part that they HAVE to tell parents about. But, if you look at the numbers, state to state, not many parents take up districts on either thing.

Yes, I was surprised too given how much Mr. Bush made of NCLB.

adhoc said...

NOVA, a school that most consider a true alternative, seems to be able to define their achievement criteria and student expectations incredibly well. They also seem to be able to hold themselves and their students accountable in a way that satisfies the district and community. I have always been amazed when I hear what NOVA requires of their students. 100% completion of their work and 80% mastery! And as for data, they have very high SAT scores, in fact the highest of any HS in the district, further proof that they are doing their job well.

I guess I just expect that all schools, AS1 included, hold themselves accountable not only to themselves but to the greater community, and I think it's perfectly acceptable to do it in an alternative type way like NOVA does. After all holding a school accountable benefits the students!

I've yet to hear what AS1 or Summit's expectations are for their students. I've yet to see any data to support that students are making adequate progress. I've yet to hear any concrete way that AS1 holds themselves or their students accountable for that progress. In fact the feeling I get is that AS1 does not believe in assessment, accountability, or standard expectations (like 100% completion and 80% mastery of work). Am I totally wrong? If so, please share with me what the expectations are and how you hold kids accountable to achieve them. Everyone thus far that has tried to explain this has provided very vague, fluid, confusing answers.

I think it's perfectly fine to decide that your community does not want to take the WASL, but then I think the onus is on you to find another way to meet your obligation to the greater community, which is providing some sort of accountability.

Charlie if you are reading can you tell a bit about NOVA and their expectations.

Josh Hayes said...

It's worth pointing out that until this year AS1 did not receive any Title I funds and hence, as I understand it, did not have a NCLB "rating", since no federal funds were involved.

I'm sure someone more conversant with the ins and outs of NCLB and Title I can illuminate this, or at the least tell me I'm wrong.

I also think comparing AS1 with Nova is apples and oranges. There's no effective way to compare a K-8 with a high school. One might as well point out that kids in Nova are by and large bigger and stronger. (And it's ALSO worth pointing out that historically a hell of a lot of Nova kids are AS1 grads.) But those are two separate issues.

adhoc said...

It's not apples and oranges Josh. I am pointing out that another alt school proudly posts their WASL scores and SAT scores on their website. They clearly post their expectations that students complete 100% of their work with 80% mastery . They clearly post that each student will enter into an individual learning contract for which they are held accountable. They outline their performance based assessment, and indicate that a lot of individual study is required. It's quite clear.

I know AS1 does not have an aversion to data as they use it frequently when it benefits them....they proudly show their high percent of students receiving FRL, they proudly post data on students ethnicity, socio economic status, locations where they live....

Just trying to figure out what AS1 is doing academically??? It's so mysterious.

seattle citizen said...

I haven't been on either As#1 or Nova's website (or the district's pages for each school) so I'm unqulaified to compare these...fruit? but Yes, accountability is key. The question remains, what is accountability? Ad hoc, you suggest that Nova's "100% completeion and 80% mastery" is good; it is. But how is it "accountability"? No disrespect to Nova, by all accounts a fine school (and the SAT is a good measure in some ways: it's national, it's useful after high school....I'm glad Boeing donated funds for all high school students to be given the PSAT this year. Yea!)
But if Nova, or any other school, merely wants to post "completion" and "mastery" numbers on thier websites they are free to do so. How are they accountable for these numbers? What outside review demonstrates that the numbers spring from authentic learning and assessment? If a teacher were to give a 2nd grade level assignment to 5th graders, one might expect something close to "100% completion and 80% mastery" but so what? Again, no disrespect to Nova, but the SAT IS a valid tool while the other two numbers aren't.
So again, I vote for outside oversight, oversight that factors in factors that effect student performance. I also vote for measures of progress that evaluate how much a student has learned, rather than if the student is at the "appropriate" level. (Personally, I think the whole "grade-level" idea is wrong-headed: students learn different things at different rates - they could excell at reading and be past grade level, and concurrently suck at math and be below. Yet they are expected to be "at level" generally, and accomodations for the ighs and lows are difficult to obtain. favor developmental levels of learning: teach to where the student is at.)

hschinske said...

"And as for data, they have very high SAT scores, in fact the highest of any HS in the district, further proof that they are doing their job well."

I think Nova *is* doing a very good job, from all I hear, but the SAT scores are not good evidence. All they prove is that the school doesn't attract many students who are likely to get really low standardized test scores. If you cut off the bottom 20% or so from the average distribution of SAT scores, you suddenly get a lot higher median score, but you haven't actually changed the accomplishments of the top 80% whatsoever.

Helen Schinske

adhoc said...

I don't know about that Helen. NOVA tends to reach out to a very broad range of students from the disenfranchised that have failed in traditional environments to the super motivated.

This excerpt from the NOVA website.

"Nova is a small alternative high school in the Seattle Public School District, created in 1970 by students and teachers. The 280 students range from the academically capable who have been under stimulated to those who have been “failing” in academics because of personal or social at-risk factors. The mix of students creates an atmosphere of acceptance and makes for a rich, diverse community, Nova students score well on assessment tests and have a high participation rate in community college classes. Although entering students often do not consider a postgraduate education, Nova is quite successful at directing its graduates to higher education,"

seattle citizen said...

Ad hoc,
WhileI know that Nova does reach out to (or attract) a somewhat "disenfranchised" student body, this student body is not necessarily disenfranchised by poverty or being new to the country.
Some students come from very educated families, or families who could afford educational opportunites for their children when they were young, but the students, when older, opt out (or become dissatisfied) with the "traditional" schools and choose Nova. So they are well prepared. Other schools deal with a much larger percentage of students who come from poverty or from another country, meaning they often have little academic prepartation for higher-level learning.
Here's some stats, comparing Nova and Garfield (and district, where I could find it) that indicate that Nova has a population that might be better prepared to do higher level learning that some students in other schools:
All percentages rounded up

Nova: FRL = 12% (Garfield is 26%, district is 39% FRL)

Nova: Non-English speaking = 3% (Garfield is 23%, can’t find district)

So how is fair or meaningful to compare Nova and Garfield (or other schools) overall WASL scores, for instance

Sahila said...

Its really simple Adhoc - we dont think a bunch of standardised figures tell you much about how well we are educating our children...

The WASL doesnt tell you that your kid is excited to go to school each day, that she/he is putting in as much effort as she/he can, that he/she has trouble with this, or that comes easily... that he/she likes music, is an excellent runner, has a small, tight group of friends, has a knack for avoiding trouble, gets on well with everyone in his/her community...

The WASL doesnt tell you that your kid's finally leaped the chasm between knowing the times tables by rote and really, really getting what the relationship between numbers and pattern mean and can manipulate those patterns into something new and exciting...

The WASL doesnt tell you that your kid understands how an abstract concept such as geometry works in real life... what that means in our environment, in our living spaces...

The WASL doesnt tell you that your kids understand the relationship between nature and man, between man and machine, between art and science and math and music (which are all interwoven, despite our western culture's need to disassociate them and put them into individual boxes) ...

The WASL doesnt score your kids for being able to use their imagination to tell original stories and then to use the scenarios in those stories to problem solve real life situational and relational problems...

Arent these things some of the major indicators of how well we are educating our children?

And, as one adult said at last night's public meeting at AS#1 - no one, absolutely no one asks you later in life what your WASL score was...

I also think you have some misperceptions about the community AS#1 is - we are a cross-section of the human family and human endeavour and we - parents and alumni - span across the entire average ordinary folk spectrum - rich, poor, school educated, life educated, single parent-one income, two-parent-two income, no parents at all...from poor flakes like me to judges and harvard grads, NASA scientists, microsofties, business people, tertiary educators, coffee pioneers(!), restuarateurs, math professors, musicians and artists and absolutely everything white, black, yellow, red, inter-racial, straight, gay, bi and trans-gender inbetween...

I'd be interested to find out why you seem to have this need to have everything easily labelled, quantified, stratified... life is full of examples where things just wont fit neatly into a box - there's far more grey than black and white... our (society's) multi-coloured, kaleidoscope tribe of kids cant be made to fit into boxes and be healthy and happy at the same time... look what that did to us adults since the industrial revolution and standardised schooling came about - we (western adults globally) have initiated two world wars and thousands of smaller conflicts, we've pretty much killed the planet and our society is one of the most dysfunctional why, in the 21st Century do we still try to standardise our kids?

Why dont we want to give them the room to grow into all they can be, at their own speed and in their own way?... Could it be that we adults are just pretty much a bunch of control freaks!!! LOL... Or that we are living our hopes and dreams out through our kids and we need data to make us feel sure that they are going to do better in life than we did - that at least they will be a few rungs further up the ladder than we were able to make it...

Pushing kids to do better in the same dysfunctional system doesnt produce happier people living better lives - it just produces more of the same...

Isnt the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Am getting off my soapbox now and moving on with my and my child's life - minus the WASL!

seattle citizen said...

Sahilla, your post is accurate as far as students go: assessments should focus on what students are doing. But it's missing the part about how we assess educators and the school system: How can the taxpayer (whose money funds the "public" schools) be sure that her/his money is well spent? How can they be sure education is happening? How can they be sure that some of the things the taxpayer demands for her/his dollar (agreed-upon curricula, such as reading and writing and math and history etc) is being taught? A school is beholden to the larger populace in some respects (they pay the bills!) and must demonstrate effectiveness and that certain subjects are being taught.
It is the difficult (but necessary and rewarding) job of schools to come up with assessment tools (both for students and for educators) that demonstrate that the public's money is well spent. Some guy out in Sequim will not be satisfied with a claim that " our school teaches", nor should he be. It is a school's duty to be self-reflective and transformative: It is necessary to assess students and teaching in order for this to happen.
Lastly, if a student goes to Garfield from AS#1, how do the Garfield educators know where that student is at if there are no common tools to measure progress?

adhoc said...

Thanks Seattle Citizen for providing data on Nova's student population. Data is something that I can wrap my head around, and do appreciate. And of course it makes sense in that light that NOVA students perform very well on the SAT.

AS1 students however do not take any standardized assessment, nor do they take any alternative type of assessment. So the public has no means to measure their success or compare it to other schools that have similar populations. Are they doing their job? Nobody knows? It is all a big mystery.

What would the district look like if all schools decided they were not going to opt out of the WASL and any other form of assessment? How would we know which schools were doing their job? Would the public be expected to blindly trust the schools? I don't think that would go over very well.

Schools are accountable to the public. They are accountable to the students that choose them. It doesn't matter if you use an alternative form of assessment as long as you use some type of assessment. Have some standards. And are able to articulate the outcomes with families and other tax payers, in the district.

What if AS1 decided that learning to read at a certain age was too mainstream. That kids should learn to read when and if they feel ready, and if they never feel ready, they shouldn't be "forced" to learn to read. Would this be OK in a public school? Would the tax payers be OK with this?

I can't seem to get any measure of what AS1 does, or how it holds itself accountable. Sahila goes into long lengths to explain how every one is human, and free, and there is no black and white, but she can't articulate one single thing that AS1 does to show that AS1 has some accountability. Some expectation. Some way to quantify it's success.

seattle citizen said...

Here’s some statistics, links to the Student Surveys of As#1 and Eckstein


Go to page five of both (middle school section on AS#1)
These appear to show that Eckstein was improving over those years (2003-08) while AS#1 suffered a traumatic slide in 2004. What happened? Is the District culpable? Should this mean the whole school goes away, or does it speak to extra attention from community/district to raise the place up? These are questions to ask.(If I'm not mistaken, there was an issue with a principal leaving right around then; which speaks to how very important that position is...Not to discount the present principal, but only to suggest that he is dealing with issues inherited fro before, some of which might have to do with AS#1's alternative path, which at odds with district desires)

These are all statistics that can help paint a picture of a school. It’s qualitative, but since it’s averaged a quantitative view emerges. (Students could self-report high or low, but taken together…) Keep in mind also that Eckstein has about 900 more students, so its numbers are more precise.

beansa said...


If you look at As1's WASL scores with all the zeros taken out, we have around 60% passing in reading and 44% in math. These pass rates are similar to other schools in the SPS that have similar demographics to our school.

I am confident that these numbers would be higher if less parents opted out of the WASL. (Around 40% opt out.) While I think the WASL is not a good measure of a school's performance, if that is the hoop the district wants us to jump through, then I will personally advocate for more people to take the test this year. I will also advocate for an alternative assessment to be developed - one that the district will accept in place of WASL scores.

My family is new to AS1 this year. My daughter is in first grade, and when we went to her parent-teacher conference, her teacher showed us tests our daughter had taken to determine her math and reading skills.

Her teacher uses the same grade-level expectations that are used in the rest of the district. They use the Everyday Math ciriculum, just like the (most of) the rest of the district. Her teacher had a portfolio of work put together, showing her progress in reading, writing and math as well as areas where she needs to improve and a plan to get there.

I assume that assessments like these are given at all grade levels. Maybe an audit of these assessments would give a vaild, data-based picture of academic achievement at AS1.

As to what would happen if all schools opted out of the WASL - personally, I think that would be great. If every parent exercised their legal right to opt out of the WASL, then maybe the state would do something about it, like offering a different, more meaningful assessment.

seattle citizen said...

meaningful assessments:
formative (inform changes in delivery of instruction, on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis)
summative - measures progress over time.
developmental - using summative assessments to measure how far a student has come in learning a particular thing (i.e. how many "levels" they have progressed - this could be a narrow view, such as reading comp, or a wider view, such as reading, or a still wider view, such as "Language Arts", which encompasses reading, writing, literature, communication etc etc.)
An ideal developmental model would deal with each narrow piece and only move students "up" in that area when they have fully learned that piece. That is why "grade levels" are so damaging: At, say, the seventh grade, some students will be behind in reading but ahead in math.
Standardized tests: usually given at "grade level"; "all students in tenth grade should know this and this." Since they are so important (all of a sudden) in "assessing" schools, since they are time-consuming, with many questions (but none about, say, art or history...) then they take a long time to score and are thus not formative, except where they might inform teaching for the next batch of students a teacher sees.
These district, state, or nationwide tests can also be biased, and they certainly are not usually correlated with WHO the student is who is taking it.
For instance, a student moves here from Somali in tenth grade. Ready to take the Reading and Writing WASL for tenth-grade "level"? Of course not. But pass they must, in order to graduate. Ach du lieber!

seattle citizen said...

Ad Hoc,
What IF a school decided that letting a kid learn to read when they are ready is a good thing? Some private alternatives do this, and quite successfully I hear. These students are NOT forced by other's expectations to learn at the speed that society dictates; they learn when they are ready.
Quite an interesting thing, I say. If a school can prove that it works, why can't a public school do this? It's all about results, and which results you want, and which results the taxpayer is willing to support

seattle citizen said...

The point I was making, but didn't make in my last post was that if best practice supports something, why aren't we using it? If data is available that supports differentiated learning, if it supports letting a student set the pace without some arbitrary timeline, maybe this is what should be aimed for. To the district's credit, they are moving towards differentiated learning, tho' certainly not to the level of abolishing grade levels!

Sahila said...

Adhoc - AS#1 does do assessments, on a regular basis - think I have already told you that before - including a measurement in fall and another in spring to gauge each child's and class progress in math, reading and writing...I saw raw, individual assessment data from the teachers this past Friday, in preparation for a presentation paper I was getting ready for last night's community meeting...

As to each child learning to read as and when he is ready, at whatever age - that is actually what happens all the time ... true reading, with comprehension, only happens when the child is ready... one of my daughters taught herself to read when she was 3.75 years old by hanging out in her sister's 2nd year class while I was volunteering as a parent help - cool, small (around 150 kids), public school in New Zealand, multi-age (3 year age span) classrooms with 3 teachers to a room of around 35 kids, with a school population of mostly polynesian and maori socially and financially deprived children.... my daughter loved to just sit in on the reading group... when her sister came home every afternoon, she would grab the latest reading out of her bag and devour it... when she went to kindergarten (preschool here), the teachers would ask her to read to the other kids. When she went to school (a different public small school) at age 5, her teacher (the head of the junior department) wouldnt accept that she could read ... she told me that all parents think their kids can read and that such young kids are really only recognising and speaking memorised words and arent truly reading... we only lasted six months at that school...

And then my elder son (now 22 and an IT geek in the New Zealand army) didnt really read independently until he was about 7... loved to read once he got it (one of the few amongst his teenage peers who did read - its not cool for boys to acknowledge they read once they get past the age of about 9, dontcha know!), but it really wasnt his first priority in life - building things, the sandbox and computer games (and later hacking and writing code) were his passion...

No amount of pushing and tutoring and homework and phonics etc could force that process for him, nor does it for any child.... after ruling out sight problems and dyslexia and any other obstacle, there's nothing much you can do to force a child to learn to read by a certain, specified age... they'll get it when they are ready...

And isnt that how it is with adults learning new skills? Somethings come easy, somethings come hard and some things you just dont get at all, no matter how good your intentions and motivation and your perseverance ...

If that's how it is for adults, why do you expect it to be any different for children?

And Roy - your question on Harium's blog about how to provide an independently tailored, child-focused educational experience for every child.... simple really - spend more money on education!

Demand more money for education, instead of agreeing to play the game of always having to cut your coat from an ever diminishing piece of cloth - a piece of cloth the size, colour and shape of which you dont have any choice or say in determining...

The money is there - its just that there are other things this society seems to deem more important - like wars, like bank and car manufacturer bailouts, like an inefficient and wasteful federal system that duplicates effort and spending and waste, like a pyramidic societal structure where the profits from the labour of the bottom and middle tiers are captured and held at the top...

chris said...

Sahila you've gone off the deep end. You have finally lost all credibility. What wackos at AS1. I am so glad this school will be gone gone gone.

seattle citizen said...

well, Chris...that was a pointless, mean comment. Thanks for sharing with us all! Whatever you think of Sahila's thoughts, it seems to me that most people in this blog try to be civil and at least have the guts to make some sort of cogent retort.
Whatever you think of Sahila or AS#1, I'm sure the children there appreciate your compassionate consideration of their school.

Maggie M said...

Well you do have to admit that Sahila suggesting that kids should learn to read only when and if they choose to is a little bit far out. Almost cult like. It would never be accepted by tax payers or the public who fund the school. And it gives a bit of credibility to the staff at the enrollment centers advising families to beware of AS1.

Now I truly do have a visual of an earlier poster who said "people think we are a bunch of hippies running around without clothes". I must admit that is my visual now.

seattle citizen said...

Some might think the idea to be "far out," but that's no justification for rude behavior.

The idea isn't so far out, and I would argue that IF it could be shown that a person can grow into a creative citizen, prepared with the ability to do whatever it is she/he needs to do in adult life, then why not?

The reaction that it's "far out" and something that the taxpayers wouldn't go for shuts doors. I fear the day when we design schools purely as pleasant sops for taxpayers. I hope that taxpayers expect innovation (if it is backed up by results.)

I'm not saying I agree with the pedagogy that suggests kids learn when they're ready, but I have heard passionate and convincing arguments for it. Before it is dismissed in some bout of reactionary conservatism, maybe it warrants some research: will do some googling, talk to people, learn how this works before dismissing it?

Heck, people scoffed at Einstein, didn't they?

And again, disagreement is no call for rudeness (Chris!)

h2o girl said...

Cult like? Did you actually read what she wrote? She talked about her three kids' experiences learning to read. How is that cult like? Can we stop calling each other names, please?

This afternoon I read about half the (56 page) transcript of the Pinehurst meeting, and felt very sad. So many of these kids came to AS1 because they were not doing well in more traditional schools, then thrived in AS1. It seems many of these kids might have a lot of trouble trying to go to school elsewhere. I have no answers but it just made me very sad.

adhoc said...

Sahila, I think it is fair to say that we should agree to disagree.

As I said before, AS1 is not my cup of tea. I simply do not agree with or understand the pedagogy. That said, I know that AS1 serves its community well. Families that choose AS1 seem to be overwhelmingly happy, and satisfied with the school. And, because of this, I do hope that AS1 survives. In fact, through this conversation, I have come to the conclusion that there is a true need for AS1 to exist. It definately serves its purpose, it's niche.

To those who choose to put other peoples views down, and name call..shame on you. You can disagree, state your point of view, and challenge an argument all you a respectful way. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, whether you agree with it or not.

Roy Smith said...

Sahila wrote: And Roy - your question on Harium's blog about how to provide an independently tailored, child-focused educational experience for every child . . . simple really - spend more money on education!

The money is there - its just that there are other things this society seems to deem more important - like wars, like bank and car manufacturer bailouts, like an inefficient and wasteful federal system that duplicates effort and spending and waste

No matter how much we would like it, we do not have unlimited resources. Even if we did, spending more money is not necessarily the answer. Other advanced countries do a better job of educating their children than the U.S. does, and notably, they do it spending less per student than we do.

Regarding priorities and money for wars and bank and automaker bailouts, those are decisions that are made at the federal level, and schools are funded at the state level. The state is facing a $5.2 billion dollar revenue shortfall for the next biennium. It isn't merely a matter of demanding more, it is convincing a majority of our fellow taxpayers in Washington that more money should be directed to education. If we want to have a realistic chance of doing that, our first priority needs to be demonstrating that we are serious about cutting waste, of which there is plenty in SPS.

Neither the state or federal government are going to provide more money to SPS just because SPS or Seattle residents happen to think its a good idea. So, for the time being, SPS has to make do with the funding it has available.

My contention is that the funding we have available is adequate, if it is spent wisely. SPS does not spend money wisely; we have a bloated central staff, and spend over twice the amount on transportation that other large urban districts in this state spend, just to name two obvious examples of spending in SPS that does not contribute to educational accomplishment.

And I don't understand your comment about "an inefficient and wasteful federal system" - it isn't noticeably more wasteful than any other style of government, and the federal system is part of the Constitution, so unless you are advocating amending the Constitution, I don't see how it could be changed anyway.

Saying "spend more money" is an answer that is too simplistic and unrealistic to actually deal with problems that extend way beyond the number of dollars going into public education.

Sahila said...

I did not say kids should learn to read only if and when they choose...

I am not an advocate for the pains of functional illiteracy... I understand the difficulty when you cannot participate fully in a society because you are hampered by a reading challenge.

I watched my parents struggle to make a new life in a country with a different language - not here... My mother (27 at the time) could read English but not speak it, my father (38) could do neither... my mother adapted quite quickly, my father had a slight level of discomfort with English most of his life - we were bilingual at home, but it was especially hard for him when we switched to all English when I was about 11...

I said/meant that learning to read is a process that happens when the child is ready and that time is different for every child - usually later for boys than girls.

And while there are recognisable steps in the learning to read process (Jeanne S Chall's 5 stages of readings skills, with fluency often not happening until middle school years), and a child can be shepherded through those steps, there is a quite wide norm for when those stages are completed successfully and no amount of forcing will make it happen on a pre-determined timeline... and so what if some children learn to read when they are 3.75 years old, and others dont get it until they are 7 and maybe others dont get it until they are 9...what matters is that they get it...

And this is no 'hippy cult' stuff either - go read up on the research, just like there is ample research to support the argument that assigning and making kids do homework basically is a waste of time in terms of impacting academic achievement and outcome, and that forcing teenagers, especially boys, to go to school and expecting them to learn before around 11am is also a waste of time...

I dont spout this stuff just to be provocative or anti-authoritarian/anti-establishment - most of my views are based on careful research and quite a varied life experience in different parts of the world...

I just dont believe in doing things the same old way just because, especially if the outcomes are pretty dismal...

And Roy - I'll read and respond to your comments later on... been neglecting my child too much in this 'save our school' interval and need to redress that imbalance...

Though I will say I have had the opportunity to observe various forms of government and public administration in more than five countries, and I do think the federal system generally is highly wasteful and inefficient with far too much duplication of effort and cost...

Beth Bakeman said...

Sahila, your post about your children's experience was wonderful. I think that kind of storytelling can be really effective at helping people understand different points of views.

And you are absolutely right about what research shows on homework, and sleep, and pushing kids to meet certain goals on a strict age timeline. Anyone who doubts you on this really needs to do some reading and research!

I also completely agree with h20 girl. Reading, the transcript of the AS#1 hearing last night made me very sad. For anyone who doesn't "get" AS#1, it is recommended reading. You still may not "get" or agree with the AS#1 philosophy of education after finishing it, but at least you'll be better informed.

When I have some time (who knows when that will be), I will try to do some research and post it here on assessment issues.

beansa said...

Chris - You are so glad that AS1 will be gone, gone, gone...

Do you realize that many of the kids at AS1 are there because they were unable to fit in at traditional schools, and were damaged by the experience?

My daughter was so traumatized by her K experience at a traditional elementary, where she was singled out as a behavior problem, that she started saying things like "I'm stupid and bad" on a daily basis. She shut down and wouldn't even let me try to teach her any more...

We enrolled her at AS1 this year and it's made a world of difference. She's reading now, and doing amazing in math. Her teacher thinks she might have ADD, but she finds a way to make things work in the classroom. My kid loves school now - it's a total turnaround.

Our story is the story of many of the students at AS1. We are not running around naked in the halls. If you read my comments above, you would know that the teachers at our school test the kids to assess their skill levels and that students are expected to meet the same GLEs as the rest of the district.

I find it sickening that you would express such gladness that kids like mine are about to lose the one school that works for them, where they are seen and valued for the wonderful, amazing kids that they are, rather than just labeled as problems. But then again, you've probably never had to look into the face of your five-year-old as she cries because her teacher hates her and she knows that she can't do anything right.