Friday, January 23, 2009

Last Night's Public Hearing

An interesting slog. It was a packed house with many Cooper and Summit parents, a smattering of TT Minor and AAA (although vocal) and APP parents (Lowell and Washington). Director Martin-Morris was not there and there was no reason given for him not being (although I know that every director did not attend every public hearing so he probably had a conflict in schedule).

This meeting, combined with listening to the KUOW interview with Dick Lily, Michael De Bell and Mary Bass yesterday, has really turned some of my thinking. I do believe that I agree with Dick Lily; the district needs to table this for at least a year. It has gotten so convoluted.
Phase II did not go through so this could happen but I believe it would damage the relationship between the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson so they will continue on. However, after listening to the KUOW interview, I think there will be some changes to the final list (although no new schools added).

Highlights from the interview

Michael De Bell
- Board members can submit amendments to the final closure plan by Tuesday at noon. He said they would be available for viewing on the district by Wednesday. Very significant - he said that some Board members had some creative ideas and that "sound changes are floating out there with my colleagues and I expect that there would be some changes."

-I was quite surprised to hear De Bell say that the closures were about demographics, better choices for students and equity and access. This is not what was initially presented. I think this morphing of rationales is confusing. It allows the district to close one school for one reason and yet close another school for a totally different reason. It ends up sounding like "because we said so". Or as Dick Lily said "it stirs the pot without education vision".

-He said they wanted to give students better choices. Is that really true for Summit or Cooper? Not really or, at least for Summit, they are not going to get real choices that they can truly access?

Mary Bass:
-She said that south end kids had been coming up north for years, shoring up north end schools. I'm a little confused by this statement because I don't know if she was referencing busing in the '70s or the choices made by south end parents currently. Hamilton would certainly be underenrolled if they didn't have south end students, for example.
-She was thoughtful in her reasoning over saving TT Minor but for some reason this seems to fall on deaf ears to the rest of the Board.

Dick Lily:
-Lincoln should be a high school in the near future (neither Board member chimed in here).
-No pluses, only minuses to this plan (I would agree).

Practically the only schools/people to get something out of this are Pathfinder (and what a heavy burden to bear) and NE parents who get a new K-8 (but it leaves the NE without any alternative programs). What does the Central district get? What does the SE get (Van Asselt gets a new building but if you read the public hearing minutes, there's not a lot of understanding/enthusiasm there for the move)? What does the SW/WS get?

What the district gets are a few closed buildings and a WHOLE lot of work to be done.

Public Hearing highlights:
-Maria Ramirez (a blogger here) explaining why SBOC doesn't want to move (and nothing against Nova) but best practices do NOT say non-English speakers do better in a school with English speakers. The group, Friends of SBOC, is not for this move. (It was also referenced by another speaker that SBOC had been co-located before and it didn't work. I didn't know this myself.)
-There were a few threats to vote the Board members out and/or recall them.
-There were also a number of speakers who referenced legal issues around the closures. There were several RCWs cited and I hope to research this issue. There was one around the proper newspaper notifications being placed, that citizens can appeal Board votes to close schools and most interesting, that the district can, in times of financial problems, access the interest on capital funds (at this point roughly $22M) for the operating fund. The district does have a lot of interest on the capital funds largely because they did a bond measure last BEX which gave them the money in full rather than a levy that doles it out.
-A couple of children spoke and were articulate and moving in their remarks and love for their schools.
-It was referenced that there was a middle school in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's former district in S.C. that was going to be closed but got reinvented and is now a very popular school.
-A couple of the Cooper parents played the race and income card as well as TT Minor parents. It got a little strident at times with a lot of "have mores versus have nots". I think a better argument was made for TT Minor that Montlake and McGilvra have smaller numbers, about the same size buildings (but TT Minor has no portables) and yet TT Minor is the one being closed. One speaker apologized for throwing Montlake and McGilvra under the bus but said that several Board members told them to come up with better ideas (read: schools) and that was this speaker's answer.
-There were a couple of Washington APP parents who were worried about the music program. I agree it's a great program but in the face of what other schools are losing - namely, their entire school - it sounded a little hollow.
-Several speakers did a good job in saying how Meany has worked hard and now has kids from all over its region trying to get in.
-One great line "This (process) is like Survivor meets the Stanford prisoner experiment."
-Summit and TT Minor scored points in pointing out that their WASL scores have risen steadily over the last two years and virtually no other schools can make this claim.
-Charlie and I both advocated for Van Asselt to not move to AAA and make better use of the space. Also, putting 4 elementaries just a mile or so apart (Van Asselt, Wing Luke, Dunlap and New School) seems very wrong. We both agree that Aki should be closed and moved to either the new South Shore building or AAA and reinvented. If it's good for Denny and Sealth to work together, it should be great for RBHS and Aki. (I did get cornered and called out for "throwing AAA under the bus" by its former principal. I did explain that this was one decision I did not believe the Board would change and I was advocating for the best use of a K-8 building. All I can say is AAA's program never filled its new building, lacked community support even as it sat within the community it was built for and lacked academic progress.)
-According to one speaker, the district has committed to no less than 11 design teams (versus 1 in the last round of closures) and yet the dollars allotted for this effort this time has only increased marginally from last time.
-Another thing I didn't know; Cooper, after its rebuild, had 400 students and then their reference area was redrawn. So they did have some good numbers at one time.

I stayed for 36 speakers (they had moved on to the waitlist by then) before I left.

From Michael De Bell's statement about the amendments and my own gut feeling that they won't walk away from this effort, I do believe that next Thursday some schools will close but that someone is going to get a reprieve. If I had to venture a guess, I would say it will be Lowell but only because their school's recommendation is so complex. That may also signal a reprieve for TT Minor (or not if they choose to close and disperse the regular ed population).


Josh Hayes said...

Practically the only schools/people to get something out of this are Pathfinder (and what a heavy burden to bear) and NE parents who get a new K-8 (but it leaves the NE without any alternative programs).

Just to pick a nit, Thornton Creek is of course in the NE cluster, but it's only a K-5. There would be no alternative middle school program in the NE.

To be fair, AS1 is splot on the (current) border between N and NE clusters.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

The New School could move into the AAA and there would still be room for every single AAA scholar to stay in the building.

Advocating for The New School to use the building doesn't require the AAA scholars to leave and doesn't throw them under the bus.

Let's be very clear. The AAA isn't working. The academic achievement scores are poor. It is in Step 5 of NCLB sanctions. It is woefully under-enrolled. The retention rate is atrocious, about 60%. The District average is 80%. The retention rate for the AAA means that 40% of the students leave the school every year - not counting those who leave for high school. Only 1 - count it: 1 - student named the AAA as their first choice for assignment last year. This school isn't working. It should close.

Actually, I think that the AAA has disproven its case. There is all of this talk about how Black students would achieve if they had teachers who looked like them or culturally competent staff or culturally relevent materials. Well they had ALL of those things at the AAA and they STILL didn't achieve well. This seems to prove that those elements aren't much help.

Rudy D said...

Absolutely true. I wonder whether some of those AAA students had New School as their first choice, but were put on a waiting list and assigned to AAA? Now that space will permit, this would be a great advantage to those kids, as well as lending credibility to New School's claim to serve the minority community. Kids of all backgrounds deserve a safe, well-run school with strong academics.

Beth Bakeman said...

Mel, I'd celebrate if the whole closure process was stopped indefinitely. I'd cry if it were "tabled for a year." There are enormous costs to schools who are involved in each round of closure discussions in terms of negative public perception and drain on parents/teachers time and energy.

Charlie Mas said...

I spoke with Chris Jackins after the meeting about the legal trouble the District is inviting, and I think I can describe it.

First, and most severe, State law (RCW 28A.335.020) requires public hearings before a District closes a school. Cooper, Meany, Summit, and the AAA did not get any such hearings. They didn't because the District is interpreting "school" to mean the school building, not the program in the building. So while Cooper, the program, is closing, Cooper, the building, will continue to be used (by the Pathfinder program) and will continue to be open. So the District conducted no hearing for that building.

The law, however, is much more ambiguous about whether "school" means the building or the program in the building.

So here's the question that will be before the Court - will the District be closing Cooper, and therefore required to meet the conditions of RCW 28A.332.020, if they dissolve the program and move Pathfinder into the building?

What is a school? Is it a building or is it the program?

I suggested to Chris that he investigate how the District defined "school" when complying with other state laws. For example, there is a law that requires the District to submit the WASL pass rates for every school. So let's see what happened when the District closed Whitworth a couple years ago and moved ORCA into the Whitworth building.

If you go to the School Report Card on the OSPI web site you will find one for "ORCA @ Whitworth". Not only can you find the most recent WASL results, but also historic ones. Whitworth is there also, but while there are historical test results for Whitworth there are no current ones. It is clear that, for the purposes of reporting WASL results, Seattle Public Schools considers Whitworth, the school, closed.

It's pretty clear that the District considers the school that was Whitworth to be closed. It's pretty clear that the District sees the ORCA program as having its own history that followed it from Columbia to Whitworth. It's pretty clear that for these purposes, the District considers "school" to mean the program in the building, not the building.

I think it is interesting to note that RCW 28A.335.010, .155, and .230, when specifically discussing school buildings says "school buildings" or "school plant facilities" rather than just saying "schools". The law appears to make a disctinction between the two.

The law regarding WASL reporting, 28A.655.090, refers to "schools", not programs. If there were reports for a school called Whitworth and there aren't any more, then it is pretty clear that the school called Whitworth was closed.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. The District has closed Whitworth, but never had a public hearing for that closure. They didn't have the hearing because they weren't closing the building (ORCA moved into it). That is clearly a grey area that can be litigated.

The district is essentially trying to take advantage of the ambiguity. They are like a bicyclist who switches back and forth between being a vehicle and being a pedestrian. When it is advantageous for them to interpret "school" to mean "program", as it does regarding the reporting of WASL scores and for No Child Left Behind, that's how they do it. But when it is advantageous for them to interpret it to mean "buildings", as it does with these closures, that's how they do it. They need to choose one meaning and stick with it, and it's pretty clear that "school" means "program" not "building".

If that is the case, and such a case can be made in Court pretty much as I have laid it out here, then the District is in violation of the state law on school closures.

Have I clarified things or have I confused them further?

Josh Hayes said...

God, Charlie, hard to see how things could get more confusing than they already are!

I've also had a couple of attorneys with the relevant experience tell me that AS1 can't possibly be at Stage 4 of NCLB, because the law requires that Title I schools be failing for several years (I believe it's three years, but ICBW) to reach that stage - and AS1 only became a Title I school this year. Non-Title I performance doesn't count under the law, they say.

I have no idea if anyone wants to litigate that issue.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Depends on what the meaning of "is" is. Six of one and half a dozen of the other; what is a school? yikes!

Okay Charlie, since you read these things so well, I looked up the RCW that Katie Jonnes referenced last night. She said that it said the Board could use interest from capital funds for other purposes in times of financial crisis. I found the law (RCW 28A.320.320) and I'm not able to read it the way she states it.

I think it is saying you can use the interest but only for "instructional supplies, equipment or capital outlay purposes."

Can you take a read and tell me what you think?

wseadawg said...

The district is walking into a minefield of lawsuits at this point, and the board is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Voting for MGJ, which they want to do, is voting for lawsuits.

It's a nightmare.

Ruthie said...

It's too bad, I had such high hopes for her when she was hired. Though at the moment, I'd be hard pressed to say why.

We're about to see what sort of leader she actually is. Will she push forward, damn the torpedoes? Save face? Do the right thing? What Will MGJ Do?

samdinista said...

MGJ will keep on keeping on just like the person she seems to model her political career after - G W Bush. Like W, MGJ is an arrogant, fact-o-phobic ideologue who has surrounded herself with toadies and yesmen that will create and dispense "facts" as needed to fit her agenda. Like W, she exists in a bubble of her own creation,which the reality based community can never penetrate. She is incapable of admitting mistakes and un willing to comprimise. She is vindictive and divisive. She is the new G W Bush.

Jennifer said...

'A couple of the Cooper parents played the race and income card as well as TT Minor parents. It got a little strident at times with a lot of "have mores versus have nots".'
I don't think that it the most thoughtful of descriptions of these schools arguments. These issues are not something to be taken so lightly. I feel that as a greater Seattle community we should all strive to give voice to all demographics of children, regardless if it doesn't fit your personal argument for your school. I have continued to read this blog during the school closure process and appreciate the documentation of meetings and general information. I understand that school closures are sensitive issues, but that description was in poor taste.

Melissa Westbrook said...

First, I was reporting what was said - the term used, repeatedly, was "have mores and have nots" (not haves and have nots as I have more commonly heard).

Second, I do not take lightly the demographics of this district, indeed of this city. However, these speakers used race/income as a lesser argument (not their chief one) and thrown in, I felt, as a jab at the Board and the staff. One person even made note of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson salary as proof that she must somehow not havebeen thinking of the challenges for those less advantaged.

In the '80s, the majority of closures occurred in the north end which is generally considered more white and middle class. Given the demographics of the north end, I don't find it wrong or odd that the closures are located more to the south end at this time. But Summit and Lowell, both more to the north and mostly white and middle class, are being buffeted around just as much as any school in the south end.

What I find insensitive is throwing around race/income in a manner as to suggest that the Board or staff are behaving in a racist manner. My experience from past Boards is that they are ALWAYS careful to never gauge the depth of concern for a school by e-mails, phone calls or t-shirts. I feel that using this argument, in a shallow manner "See we have more F/RL than they do therefore our race/class is being used against us in closing our school." Show us real stats and how that argument is backed up with them and then I'll gladly put it forth as a real and rational argument.

Fire away.

Katie L Joannes, LMP said...

Ok, let me begin by stating that we have brought copious amounts of data to the attention of the school board, including:
They seem unaffected by this. The are clearly dead set on closing schools for their own personal and often changing reasons. Here are the demographics of programs being closed:

African American Academy – 99.1% minority, 80.5% low income
Cooper Elementary – 77% minority, 71.3% low income
Meany Middle School – 87.1% minority, 68.7% low income
Summit K-12 – 50.2% minority, 47.2% low income
TT Minor Elementary School – 84.5% minority, 78.6% low income
(Click then select a school and look at its annual report. Then select demographic summary)
Keep in mind that Lowell is not closing, but being split into 2 cohorts.
To illustrate the disparity the district is instituting here, we formulated a plan (about 7 pages with data and graphs) which we gave to the board, asking them why not close Montlake and McGilvra who have the smallest buildings, with many portables, and move kids around who have much more stable home lives and thus could weather a change like this much better. I am happy to send you a .pdf of this data as I do not think we currently have it online.
My statement at the hearing which is being noted here was a very brief summary of our findings and was intended to get the attention of the board and others. This is indeed a plan which disproportionately affects low-income children and children of color and there is no reason it should not be stated openly.

Katie L Joannes, LMP said...

Sorry, one more bit. The reason we chose to mention the option of closing Montlake and McGilvra is that the district has repeatedly stated that they are not worried about losing kids from the district to private schools or otherwise due to the closures. In that case why should they be afraid of closing the 2 smallest least "educationally adequate" buildings in the central cluster simply because they are populated by upper middle class white children?

We have noticed that the criteria for closures changes rapidly. As we refute one reason, another comes online.

To further illustrate this disparity, take note that McGilvra funds extra teachers through their PTA to keep their classes the smallest in the state (Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson does not think class size matters) this is great. We would love to have small class sizes at TT Minor and not be told that makes us under capacity. However, our PTA cannot afford to do so. Thus, the school district cannot tout that it's programs provide equity if it quietly allows exceptions to be made.

jo said...

Below is a description of the Community Council and a copy of a letter sent by the Squire Park Community Council to the School Board.
The Squire Park Community Council is a neighborhood organization
recognized by the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods as the
council for the area bounded by E. Union Street, 23rd Avenue, S.
Jackson Street, and 12th Avenue. There is no "Squire Park" in Squire
Park, in case you were looking. The name comes from William Squire who
was the first governor of Washington State and the first developer of
much of the real estate that is currently within the area of the
present community council boundary.

SPCC was incorporated over 20 years ago and has met continuously since
then. The board meets monthly and, four times a year, Saturday
meetings are held with the goal of bringing together all residents
interested in working together for the community, or simply meeting
neighbors face to face.

Body of the letter:
As you know schools are an integral part of the fabric of any neighborhood, and the loss of a school leaves a hole in the identity and character of a community. The Squire Park community in the Central District is one Seattle's oldest neighborhoods with a rich past interwoven with many of the histories of Seattle's ethnic groups. Since the mid 1990s and especially beginning in 2000 this area has been experiencing fast paced revitalization. Community transformations are exciting and stimulating , but are also periods during which many delicate balances must be respected. The new must be embraced while at the same time the character, history , and people of the area must appreciated and honored. When done well the two work together to create a new and exciting vitality within the community.

TT Minor school reflects this history, transformation, and growing diversity of the neighborhood and is now uniquely situated to serve and embrace the diverse groups of families who live here. Census tracts cited in media indicate that number of children under age 5 has risen by more than 15 % from 2000 to 2007, double the average increase citywide. Some have estimated the increase to be greatest within the TT Minor area. Demographic reference area data being used by the School District is current for the year 2006. Even those figures show that TT Minor has the highest rate of growth in the number of births of any reference area in the Central District and has continually been in first or second place in the total number of births for all Central Cluster reference areas since 1997. The 2007 data has not yet been considered. Current data is especially important for a thorough and accurate analysis of communities in transition and those communities are at the greatest disadvantage when the data is not current. District projections do not include the 5,000 new units planned to replace the 348 apartments that currently exist at Yesler Terrace. While the project is slated to begin in 2011 and will take some time to complete, as the new units become available it will have a dramatic affect on Central Cluster school enrollment. It does not make sense to close TT Minor with its record of increased academic achievement and parent and community support. Its location in the heart of a neighborhood with a growing number of children make it ideally suited to serve as a neighborhood school with a Montessori Program for the cluster.

Closing TT Minor School will not only disrupt the school during an important stage of development but will also disrupt a community in an important stage of transformation. The school is one of the pieces key to building a strong sense of neighborhood identity. Without an identity and sense of community any area is subject to deterioration during even the slightest hint of an economic crisis. The Central District is a very walkable area with many new families. The current proposal divides the neighborhood and disrupts the growing parent group. This community and the Seattle School District have much to lose by closing TT Minor and much to gain by continuing to support the growth and success of a naturally transforming and diverse school. We are asking you to please reconsider the Superintendent's current proposal and ensure that the TT Minor school will be here for our families.


Squire Park Community Council

(approved January 10, 2009)

jo said...

Another link:

Jennifer said...

The U.S. Department of Education’s Prospects report (Puma, Jones, Rock & Fernandez, 1993) finds that the level of poverty school wide has an effect on an individual student's achievement--whether or not that student is living in poverty. Puma et al. found that the test scores of all students, both poor and non-poor, decline as they are enrolled in schools with increasing numbers of students living in poverty. Additionally, even though non-poor students perform consistently better than their low-income counterparts, the performance of non-poor students declines as the proportion of their classmates living below the poverty line
Overall, the report finds that "students in low-poverty schools score from 50 to 75 percent higher in reading and math than students in high-poverty schools" (Puma et al., 1993). Further, the report finds a "tipping point", where school poverty begins to significantly affect student performance.
"School poverty depresses scores of all students in schools where at least half the children are eligible for subsidized lunch and seriously depresses the scores when more than 75 percent of students live in low income households" (Puma et al., 1993).
Closing schools with high povery rates and displacing students to other high poverty schools only exacerbates the already existing achievement disparities between poor and non-poor students.

I feel as though it is our duty as citizens to insure to the best of our ability that all children are given equal rights, access and opportunity in our city. I can't think of a way to more plainly point this out to you. It's true we live in America where race and income does greatly affect your life. And as adults we need to be the voices of reason and speak about these issues for the children. That's how most things get accomplished. I guess I'm left to question why you would not see this as a valid point?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Katie, you are right. Montlake and McGilvra are small but they are small and full and have successful (to this date) programs. TT Minor is not full and is just beginning to realize some success. When we had the last round of closures some schools asked for more time. So you have to ask, "How much more time?"

I do agree on many points such as location (TT is more central). It does have a bigger site size and, as such, could be rebuilt bigger (as opposed to Montlake). TT Minor has a better educational adequacy score than either Montlake or McGilvra. It does make one wonder.

(And FYI, the extra money that McGilvra raises for staff well, as I have mentioned before, that gets somewhat negated because under NCLB they have to take kids from a school that is past level 3(?). Ergo, they have had to take any Madrona student who asked to be transferred. So no, even McGilvra's best efforts to lower class sizes can be undone.)

"...move kids around who have much more stable home lives and thus could weather a change like this much better."

That part of your statement makes me uncomfortable because no one on the Board or on the CAC would presume to know what any child can or cannot weather. Maybe you can make blanket statements about a student body but to think you know what any given student's life is like or has been like and base a closure decision but I would never do so.

north seattle mom said...

One small point about McGilvra, their art classes are in a hallway. McGivlra is not the picture of private school luxury. They are very creative about they way they use space.

north seattle mom said...

And to follow up on Mel's comments. In the 80's 20 schools in the mostly white and middle class north end were closed and almost nothing in the south end. It is not unreasonable that this process is equally lopsided. If 10 north and 10 south schools had been closed in the 80s we would have a dramatically different situation.

I don't think this is as much about have mores and have less. I think it is about geography. I also think the Central cluster got hit disproportionately hard because the district is trying to protect the schools in the far south. Why was there no mention of the biggest capacity offenders in this process?? That is because they are all being protected by the SE Initiative.

jo said...

Regarding comments on race and poverty, think about it before you speak.
For instance the TT Minor reference area has great demographics for a school, and improving every year as supported by even the District's data. After presenting the success story and demographic information it is on the closure list in 2006 (The Sloane Foundation had just move to the New School.) This type of treatment of course would then lead to questions about why the District is not responding to the good story and maybe, just maybe it is based on the history of race and class.

TT Minor could and was not a neighborhood school during the time of the Sloane Foundation contract. They required a high level of poverty and the school was removed from the assignment patterns at the Student Assignment Centers.

Since the foundation moved to the New School in 2006, TT Minor has grown as a neighborhood school and has maintained a record of success. In just those few years the diverse parent group has had to learn to work together and incorporate the Montessori Program which by the way had a waiting list.

One of the reasons give for redoing the Student Assignment Plan is that reference areas do not align with demographics. Well, they do here. Please tell me that if this happened to your school that you wouldn't wonder why.

Add: TT Minor has a record of improved test scores and the Montessori scores have not been included.

Montessori had a waiting list even though the school was under enrolled.

owlhouse said...

I'm unsure of the point you are trying to make. I don't think it's any surprise to any of us that poverty rates impact individual achievement.

Cooper families will be relocated to neighboring schools with higher levels of poverty.

AND- If APP at TM means neighborhood kids go to Gatzert, same story.

Meany, Cooper, TT Minor and Summit have diverse populations and improving academic results according to district data. AAA, also improving. Capacity issues in the SE, not addressed. In fact growing as we complete the new New School on an overtime schedule. NOVA, cheap to operate, strong test scores. SBOC, not getting improved facility as promised, likely to be divided again in a year or two, against their will. Special Ed programs moved without proper planning.

It's a nonsensical plan with no educational benefit. It absolutely falls heaviest on the have nots. It's an inequity worth talking about.

Ben said...

I don't think the half-of-APP-goes-to-TM plan will result in too many neighborhood kids going to Gatzert. At least not at first. Only ~17% of kids at TM are from the TM reference area.

I still hate the plan.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I'm not up on the closures of the eighties...I know many were in the north end, but what were the demographics of the schools that were closed? This would be more pertinent than their location. The only ones I'm aware of are Lincoln and Queen Anne; their must have been ten more.

My guess is that most of the schools were at least 70% non-minority, and 70% non-FRL, which bears out the argument that the round of two years ago, and this round, might "balance" in terms of who is impacted.

A couple points, though: The demographics of the entire city have changed, and to do any sort of "balancing", or figuring net effect, one would need to break out these figures.

The second point is in response to the idea that we shouldn't try to guess what a child's life is like, we shouldn't assume the worst if the child is FRL or minority. You quote Katie, Melissa, and then respond:
" '...move kids around who have much more stable home lives and thus could weather a change like this much better.'

That part of your statement makes me uncomfortable because no one on the Board or on the CAC would presume to know what any child can or cannot weather. Maybe you can make blanket statements about a student body but to think you know what any given student's life is like or has been like and base a closure decision but I would never do so.

You seem to be saying that we, and the board, shouldn't make assumptions about a child's ability to "weather" change based on FRL or non-white (or ELL? Or SpEd?) demographics. But we can. Of COURSE we shouldn't do this about individuals, because there are exceptions, but there are certainly patterns that accompany demographics, and these patterns should be recognized.

Some is just plain common sense:
Student A: Wealthier parents, more enrichment at home, less moving about, more time with parents (perhaps).
Student B: Poorer parents, less enrichment, more moving about, less time with parents (perhaps).

There are known indicators that accompany class, race and other demographics: why not take them into account? You seem to say that it's mere guesswork, and thus not actionable, but it's not guesswork. This is why there are programs attached, already, to FRL, to ELL, to provide what is known to be lacking, to add an extra boost to students who might otherwise be behind the eightball.

wseadawg said...

The Pathfinder move will alienate it from the rest of West Seattle for killing Cooper. It will leave scars for generations.

The whole closure plan is about an illusion, not reality. The SE "if we build it they will come" Initiative, while a noble effort, is a financial disaster for the district, but neither the district or the Board will touch that problem before sacrificing many other schools headed in the right direction.

Does anyone wonder why private schools continue to pick up students from the public system in Seattle?

north seattle mom said...

Why would the pathfinder move alienate them from the rest of W Seattle? Pathfinder didn't lobby for the move. They just spent a ton of time and energy and parent dollars painting their dilapidated portables because they were planning on staying at that location for a while?

adhoc said...

Yes, I agree with Melissa on this one. Using the race card irresponsible and without true and just cause diminishes the severity of true racism. When and if a real act of racism occurs it's like the boy who cried wolf....people are less apt to take it seriously and react.

I do not believe that race plays a role in the closure decsions. At all. It is true that more minority children are being affected by the closures, but that is because the excess capacity lies in the minority neighborhoods, not because minority students and families are targets. As Melissa said, there was a large round of closures in the 80s in the primarily white millde class north end. That has left the north end with no excess capacity. There are simply no schools to close here. In fact the District is OPENING a school here.

I don't have a complete list of the closures (I'm sure there are archives somewhere??) but here in the north east you can see the beautiful old buildings that were once grand schools all over our neighborhood. Cedar park, still standing, is now an artist enclave. The stunning and beautiful Ravenna School, still standing, is now a community Center. University Heights, another stunning grand school, still standing, is also a community center. Sandpoint, still standing, is an artist enclave. The beautiful and grand Lake City school, still standing, is now a professional center. The Oak Lake School, still standing, is now the Oak Tree shopping Center. And of course the beautiful old brick Maple Leaf School, torn down years ago, is now a parking lot.

And these are only the few I pass every day. In all there were 42 schools closed in the late 80s, and the vast majority of them were north of the ship canal.

If you want to see the ghost schools of the NE just drive around.....they're everywhere.

owlhouse said...

Pointing to the excess capacity at schools that serve predominately minority and low income students is an incomplete answer. Why is there excess capacity? What has been done to build programs? Why the north/south disparity in ALO programs? Surely we don't actually believe that one demographic produces more capable students than another? In 30 years, how have we addressed the drop-out rate of minority students? What success can we point to?

All of this leads to larger questions of historic and institutional racism. I'd agree that the School District can not answer all the issues of inequity in our city, but the fact that successful programs are being cut in our "poorer" neighborhoods should absolutely be a point of concern. When McGilvra can buy down its class size, thus making the Central Cluster appear further under capacity, that should be acknowledged.

Adhoc, the wolf is here. We as a city should not only call attention to it, but begin the difficult work of undoing the long traditions of inequality.

Out of curiosity, did our city council, mayor or city staffers attend any of the public hearings?

adhoc said...

Owlhouse why do you consider it institutional racism when closures affect a minority community but not when closures affect a white middle class community...... as id did some 25 years ago?

It's interesting how you dance around, cherry pick, and skip over the data and issues that don't back your cause. It makes your arguments weak and not credible.

What about the 42 schools that were closed in the 80s that disproportionaely affected white middle class Seattleites? The closures that have left us with not enough capacity to accomodate all of the children in our cluster today. What about all of the ghost schools that remain as evidence ere in the north?

Take your racist blinders off and look at the big picture.

Katie L Joannes, LMP said...

Have-Nots and Have-Mores may feel uncomfortable as a term but it quite aptly describes what is happening under parts of this closure plan. An example of the Influence carried by Have-More communities can be seen in the District's handling of the Central area under this closure plan. The District has long railed about the fiscal inefficiency of small schools, yet it refuses to close Montlake or McGilvra, the two smallest schools in the cluster and district. From a data-driven perspective, it is an illogical conclusion. TT Minor is nearly the size of the two campuses combined and is in similar physical condition as the others.

McGilvra did not make the closure list in 2005 nor this time, unlike the more well-known Montlake which seems to be on the list every time (indicating the District really does want to close it). Regardless, Montlake and McGilvra always seem to slip out of the net. Both schools boast of small classes funded by active, professional and dare I say it, Have-More, PTSAs. They likely have the highest level of parent education in the cluster but is that any reason to keep them open? Do lawyers and doctors and professors deserve to keep their small schools open while the "have-nots" lose their neighborhood base and are shoehorned into overcrowded classrooms and schools?
Another comment above notes that McGilvra has art classes in the hallway. Why? When we have a huge art room and ample space at TT Minor and we would welcome these kids as well as their supportive PTSA.

Closing two schools (as opposed to one) and using those students to "top off" the remaining cluster schools, makes financial sense, which the District claimed was the driving force to speed up the closures. So without a public discussion of why these schools are not on the final closure list, it seems reasonable to conclude that zipcode did impact who is on and, more importantly, who is off the closure list.

And just because a small school may be full (although McGilvra is only at 87% functional capacity) and may be "successful", that does not change the high costs associated with needing two principals and heating two facilities, etc. If Martin Luther King could be closed for being too small, then so can the two smallest schools in the district (which are actually smaller capacity than MLK).

Similarly, the Cooper community fell prey to the power-savvy Arbor Heights PTSA. So is it just a coincidence these two Have-More schools found their way off the list, while leaving the Have-nots holding the bag? Considering the data originally suggested the closure of Arbor Heights and Montlake, what new data arose to undo this data-driven decision? Unless it could be shown that there was an error in the data or processing, the supposed sterile decisions should have been immutable, right?

Cooper, like TT Minor, is doing everything right with rising scores and increasing enrollment so including them in the closure plan appears less scientific and more political. (And who but the Have-Mores, have political access?) Who can justify busing more than a third of the Cooper children to a school (Gatewood) that just this week made the list of the five schools with the greatest losses in meeting three WASL standards in King County ( Seattle Times, 1/22/09). Would the Superintendent try that on the Have-Mores?

Melissa Westbrook said...

First, I want to make clear that, of course, the number of F/RL and minority students does matter in these discussions. What I don't accept is that somehow there is racism on the part of the district or the Board. And what several speakers made clear or inferred (at several hearings, you can read this in the minutes) is that somehow white, middle-class parents have the ear of the Board/staff when it comes to closures and F/RL/minority parents don't. I reject that belief.

Second, I do not believe Cooper was picked because of who goes to the school but because district staff did not do their homework and picked a school (Arbor Heights)whose building has had problems (mold) in the past and is only a somewhat better building than what Pathfinder is in now. What would be the point of moving Pathfinder to a still lesser building? Cooper and High Point were named, 4-5 years ago during another period when staff was trying to close buildings, as the ONLY buildings in all WS/SW that could become a K-8 building because of their size and newness. I see that as the reason for the change.

Jo, you're right. Most of wish the new assignment plan was in with clear reference areas so we could see how school might fill from new reference areas. It's the cart before the horse.

Is there institutional racism? Of course. Do I think it is entirely gone? Nope. But do I think this district has made strides, huge strides, away from it? Yes. Do I see that the top tier of leadership in this district is black? And that about 40% of the Board is made of up minority directors? Yes on both counts.

Seattle Citizen, you say:
"There are known indicators that accompany class, race and other demographics: why not take them into account? You seem to say that it's mere guesswork, and thus not actionable, but it's not guesswork. This is why there are programs attached, already, to FRL, to ELL, to provide what is known to be lacking, to add an extra boost to students who might otherwise be behind the eightball."

Of course, you take these factors into account. Special Ed, though, is not there because someone is F/RL; it's there for a specific need. ELL isn't there because of F/RL; it's there for a specific need. That many of the students in these programs ARE F/RL doesn't correlate to the existence of these programs.

But let me see if I get this right;
there are two schools in a cluster. One is full and doing great with mostly white, middle-class kids but in a terrible building that costs extra money to run. The other is mostly full and mediocre with majority F/Rl but in a great building. So with their issues balancing out, you would go for the mostly white school on the belief that those kids could rebound better than the most minority kids?

If that's the case, we simply have got different ways of viewing data. I have to tell you that never on the CAC at least did we put things in those terms in making a decision. I do see the point, and in a generalized view of the world, it's probably true. But, in reality, I could not use it in judgment on whether I thought a school should close or not because I have no way of knowing a school that intimately and do not have the professional psychological credentials to know whether the majority of kids in one school could handle stress better than others. I would not use a generalized blanket statement to make that decision.

I think a lot of this is the struggle; the struggle of teachers and principals and districts, everyday, to try to bring structure and stability to the lives of some kids who don't have that when they leave school. But a school, a district cannot, repeat cannot, do it all. The economy is hurting every single person and entity involved in raising children and educating children. It's a reality that we face and cannot wish away nor ignore as adults who have to think of the district as a whole.

I wish I could be more eloquent in saying that but this is the time and place we exist in now as a district.

Eric B said...

Owlhouse stated "Cooper families will be relocated to neighboring schools with higher levels of poverty." This is not true. Most of the Cooper students (>100) will go to Gatewood, which has lower levels of poverty. Another 75 or so will go to Pathfinder, Lafayette, Alki, Schmitz Park and other schools that have lower poverty rates. There are 78 students of the 300 currently at Cooper that will be assigned to WSE and Roxhill which have similar demographics to Cooper. WSE has 81% FRL and Cooper has 79%. So three quarters of the students will be assigned to schools with lower levels of poverty and the rest would be assigned to schools with nearly identical levels.

AutismMom said...

Why can't former Cooper students, newly assigned to Roxhill or W. Seattle request an assignment to a school which isn't failing under NCLB? That is, no student now at Cooper will really be forced into W. Seattle or Roxhill. (This assumes that W. Seattle continues to fail, which seems inevitable if you ever go visit it.)

The McGilvra/Montlake issue is a real and valid point. McGilvra really shouldn't get to buy itself out of serving people with disabilities and minorities as they do now. That is essentially what their little deal allowed. Hey, if they want to buy down class size, they shouldn't get to buy their way "out" of responsibility to all. Even after their NCLB students, McGilvra still only serves 22 per class. Montlake is a very equitable school, and doesn't really have reduced class sizes. But it too is very small, and in a decrepit building. Why are these 2 schools always avoiding the axe? Most people blogging here think... "hmmm lets see, why don't we just close TM, Leschi, Minor, and Madrona (maybe)... and combine it into a big, disabled, minority institution. That would be fine with us! What could possibly be wrong with that?" (Let's look at what these schools really have in common. No, it isn't that they don't have montessori, or some other cool "program") I've been at district meetings where McGilvra parents have said their school shouldn't ever have to serve anyone not in "their neighborhoods". As if the school somehow was for their exclusive use. But they never care that plenty of people in "their neighborhood" are served elsewhere.

We already know what big, segregated schools filled to the top with poor and disabled students does. Look at W. Seattle. Not much.

adhoc said...

In reference to McGilvra and Montlake Autismmo says "But it too is very small, and in a decrepit building. Why are these 2 schools always avoiding the axe?"

It's pretty obvious isn't it? Both of these schools are in high demand in the community. Both are full with a waitlist. Both perform well above the district average. They are model schools, doing everything right as evidence by the many many families that vie to get into them. When schools are very popular and perform above average, they have a bit of leverage, don't you think?? The thought of closing a highly successful, highly regarde, very popular school is really quite absurd to me, and something that would only be proposed in ultra liberal, everything racist, Seattle.

north seattle mom said...

I am with Mel on this. I also don't think this is a case of have-mores vs have-less. To use your parlance on this and the data that ESP has posted, I would argue that this is a case of the have-less vs the have-least.

The schools that are the biggest capacity offenders haven't even been discussed. That is the glaring elephant in the room that nobody will talk about. Closing RB, Aki, Cleveland, or moving the New School would do more to close the capacity gap than anything else that has been proposed.

I think the reason these much more efficient capacity options are not on the table is because of some backwards and ill considered attempt to protect the most disadvantaged parts of the system. So where does that leave us??

The Montlakes and McGilvra are fine functioning schools so they are left alone. The most disadvantaged get protected. So the middle gets wiped out.

I don't think it is a good plan. I do think there are complex issues of race and poverty that are causing bad choices. However, this is not a case of the have-mores out to get the have-less.

Charlie Mas said...

Racism, by one reckoning, is to include race as a factor in making decisions. It sounds like this: "Let's close that school over there because it has a lot of students of a race we don't favor."

It would be nice, I suppose, if we could get to this definition of racism, but our society isn't there yet. The only people saying things like this are those who want to close schools that have a lot of White students in them. Consequently, this is not the form of racism charged by the people charging racism. Rather, it is the form of racism practised by them. It's not very sophisticated and it should just stop now.

Racism, by another reckoning, is to include race as a factor in making decisions that favor the dominant race in the culture. It sounds like this: "Let's close that school over there because they have a lot of student of a minority race."

This is the most readily identified form of racism. There is noone saying this, which is why a lot of people are denying racism is at work here.

Racism, by yet another reckoning, is to NOT include race as a factor in making decisions. It sounds like this: "We're going to go strictly by the numbers and if it has disproportionately negative impacts on minority students, then so be it."

I understand that it is difficult for folks to perceive the racism in this sort of statement. It appears, in fact, anti-racist. But there are historical and cultural factors that created the numbers so that the objective numbers themselves are artifacts of a history of racism and therefore to base your decisions on them makes your decisions based - indirectly - on racist and classist factors.

Ours is not a colorblind society - not yet. So to make colorblind decisions is to neglect significant data.

The Central Cluster does have excess capacity. To reduce the excess capacity we should close a school (or two). T.T. Minor is underenrolled. Closing this school would result in the disruption of least number of students. Therefore it seems a natural choice based strictly on the numbers.

What that analysis neglects, however, is the history. T. T. Minor has an unusual history and the enrollment there was severely warped by the Sloane grants. for years the school did not function normally as a neighborhood school - it had a special enrollment criteria and process. The District has thrown T. T. Minor around with waves of reform and reinvention. The District created barriers to families choosing the school. T. T. Minor may be said to be as blameless for their enrollment as NOVA is blameless for the condition of their building.

I'm not saying that this history should put T. T. Minor off limits for closure, but it should be considered in the decision and it does not appear that it has been. This information and consideration should not constrain our decisions but inform them.

We should take a more sophisticated and thoughtful approach to these decisions and we should adopt a more sophisticated and thoughtful understanding of how we may unwittingly continue racist practices thinking as we think of them as race neutral.

Yes, southeast schools are underenrolled. It might appear that they should therefore be closed. A more sophisticated and thoughtful question, however, would be to ask WHY they are underenrolled. Why do 275 middle school students from the Southeast Region ride buses all the way to Hamilton? What can they get at Hamilton that they can't get at Aki Kurose? And how can the District introduce that elusive element into Aki Kurose so those students can get what they need at home?

When we can answer those questions, then we will be making non-racist decisions.

AutismMom said...

Re: McGilvra/Montlake It's pretty obvious isn't it? Both of these schools are in high demand in the community. Both are full with a waitlist.

Or maybe... people like them because they mostly white? (Before you flame on, it is possible isn't it?) There's plenty of data showing people pick "white schools", plain and simple. Maybe they like them because they've gotten special deals to run at "below capacity"... something not afforded to other schools? Maybe they like the insularity. (in fact, I know McGilvra does. Insularity isn't a feature we should strive for in pupblic schools.) Just because everybody "likes" it, or it "has a waiting list" doesn't mean it is equitable... or even good, by measurable levels. By that measure, the majority in Mississippi would have LOVED to keep it the way it was in the 60's. Surely there were "waitlists". If it was up for a "popularity vote", segregation would have remained the law. Because that was really popular. I'm not saying what we have now is exactly equivalent, but it demonstrates the point about "waitlists". And popularity isn't really the ONLY factor when deciding which school to close. But it is a factor, among many. McGilvra, for instance, has only a 50% 4th grade WASL pass rate. So, it isn't test scores that people like.

adhoc said...

First of all Charlie, I would like to thank you for being able to discuss race in a rational, coherent, unbiased and non inflammatory way. I like the way you broke down racism into the three categories, and I am, or was, of the mentality that race neutral does not fall under the category of racism. However I totally get what you are saying about race neutral actually perpetuating racism in some cases, and I agree.

If excess capacity exists in schools with higher minority populations, then they may need to be closed, but you are right it should be done in a more informed and sophisticated way.

I have and continue to say that Aki and RBHS should be closed and re-invented after the community has been polled to see what it would take to draw them back to these schools. It is an outrage that kids have to get on a bus and go across town to get the services that they need. The District should be ashamed of themselves for this.

Autismmom I don't even really like to acknowledge your posts as they are unreasonable and inflammatory, however you say things that are so outrageous that they warrant a response.

"There's plenty of data showing people pick "white schools", plain and simple"

I find this to be a false statement. The overwhelming majority of families that I know want, seek, and work towards diversity in their schools. Just as my family does. but, I acknowledge that there are some people who are more comfortable sending their white kids to a white school, just as there are some black families that want to send their kids to a black school, and Jewish families that want kids to go to a Jewish school, Catholics, etc.

And actually Autismmom, I think it is you who is continually complains that special ed programs are placed in low performing, minority schools. What gives? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Perhaps it is you who wants your child in a nice white school?

Then Autismmom says in reference to McGilvra "Maybe they like them because they've gotten special deals to run at "below capacity""

Just like New School right? And just like the majority of south and se schools that are so under enrolled their class sizes are 12-15 students. Much lower than McGilvra's. Why is it OK for Leschi to have a class of 12, but not McGilvra to have a class of 22. And don't forget the nice white schools in the NE have 32 kids per class. Do you still want to talk equity??

jo said...

Yes, there are a lot of possible factors. It is just that when an area, school or program continues to be treated unfairly by rules set down by the district, some degree of paranoia is to be expected and healthy. Maybe someone whom Board Members and the Superintendent want to impress is interested in the property. Maybe we are a community used to being pushed around, and well if the School District wants to make deals they don't perceive this community as empowered to make any trouble. Maybe they don't like naturally schools that are naturally transforming and diverse. Maybe they are trying to save some other school at our expense. Maybe they don't like African Americans. Maybe they don't like people of Hispanic descent. Maybe they don't like the white people who go to TT Minor. What is the motive? Finally, there is no room to prove why, but clearly a defense is necessary. The result is a disproportional affect on some communities, whatever the motive.

Not only have TT Minor's scores improved, but the reference area since 1997 has had the highest number of births of any reference area in the Central Cluster. While at the same time. the district clearly indicates that the need to develop a new assignment plan is driven by reference areas no longer aligning with the demographics. TT Minor has perfect demographics to support a school. I will admit that at times families in the late eighties and early nineties tended to migrate out of the area. I was here. The crack epidemic resulted in more transition out than the later rise in home prices. But, more recently families have been staying here accounting for the 15% (twice the citywide average) rise in children under the age of 5 between 2000 and 2007.

There is not much need for an exception when test scores are and enrollment patterns are considered. (Enrollment for the past year is one area the exception might be necessary, as enrollment was rising until a botched AYP letter was sent). And, this still does not count the waiting list for the Montessori. Under enrollment would not be much of a problem if the wait list could be moved. and the new energy and cohesiveness of the parents, along with the clumsiness of drawing reference areas if TT Minor is closed.

Our reference are is not gerrymandered. Our story was told before the final recommendation and yet there was no response to our arguments and no change of plan. Paranoia is only reasonable.

Just treat us fairly by the rules. Respond to our story. Let us know the rules and I'm sure that we will rise to meet expectations.

seattle citizen said...

You ARE eloquent in your explanation of how it is difficult for the district to take into account certain unquantifiable (or even qualifiable) factors. North Seattle Mom, yea, that IS a glaring discrepency in the whole plan, schools that are severly under capacity and yet are left untouched, and I agree that this be because of a hesitancy to touch them due to their make-up and histories...Charlie, your reflection in the different KINDS of racism, and how they might be expressed or applicable in this mess, is helpful. I agree that while maybe the district can't use some "data" about race or class, it COULD use considerations that are less tangible, and are knowledgeble about the past of each school, its progress (or lack thereof) and then make decisions that might not use raw F/RL numbers, for instance, but is nuanced to the situation.

Wow. I've listened to, and been part of, many race discussions over the years, and I want to thank all the particpants on this blog for contributing their ideas, honestly and articulately. It's refreshing and informative about a very difficult subject.

owlhouse said...

Adhoc- wow. "racist blinders"? I'm not sure if you are I are miscommunicating or if we really have fundamentally different worldviews. Given your response to Charlie, I think the former.

I don't speak the the closures in the 80s because I wasn't here to experience them and much as I'm trying to learn the history of this district, I don't know it yet. I do know that then as now, I would advocate capacity management plans that are least disruptive and paired with well identified, fully funded educational benefits. Closures should be a last resort- no matter who they impact. At this point, it seems very clear the district should reopen buildings as needed in the north. To me, crowding in the north speaks to the lack of long-term planning in the district, and should inform our current closure plans.

At no point did I say the district or their plan is racist. Rather, I said that we as a culture, society and city have a history of entrenched racism, that racism exists. I'm asking the questions- why are our southern clusters under enrolled? What is the history? What has the district or the city at large done to answer these questions? Did we implement plans that failed to attract families, or have we avoided the issue? I'm still trying to understand where we are on the SE Initiative.

District intentions aside, the impact of this plan does hit hardest many already "disadvantaged" portions of our population. We are closing schools and programs that serve as unofficial safety-nets for our communities. Personally, I would like to have this larger conversation- to acknowledge that schools do much more than provide academic skills and opportunities.

Eric B- thanks for the corrections. I had a very different impression of the district's plan for Cooper kids. Still, Cooper is strong and improving in spite of a shrinking reference area and should not closed.

jo said...

I am wondering why so much energy is focused toward splitting APP. This is a very narrow slice of the District students. There would be no resulting financial savings. The program would not improve or become more diverse. Other programs would not necessarily improve. If diversity is desired there are many within the community willing to work with the District to help diversity happen at Lowell.

Katie L Joannes, LMP said...

Wow. Never mind. I have board members to email and my child to advocate for. I cannot explain the history of racism/classism to other parents. There is ample data out there. Read it.

Furthermore, I am not advocating for any schools to be closed, simply showing the absolute inequity and hypocrisy of SPS.

You are only aware of my existence due to 3 minutes of testimony that came after MONTHS of number crunching and work one-on-one with board members who told us to offer up other schools for closure if we didn't want to be closed.

btw I'm white.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One other point in terms of leveling the playing field is that the CAC asked for and used value-added data in our calculations. This allowed us to see academic gains school by school, population by population, instead of just comparing WASL scores to WASL scores. We were able to try to give fair weight to schools whose WASL scores may have been low but had a population that was more challenged AND was showing steady growth as compared to a less challenged school with good but stagnant WASL scores.

I have heard no discussion of this by staff or the Board this round.

AutismMom said...

Why is it OK for Leschi to have a class of 12, but not McGilvra to have a class of 22.

Adhoc, you are so easily offended, especially when confronted with facts. It isn't ok for either school to use excess resources in the form of extra building space or extra staffing. That's the whole point of closures isn't it? But, it is completely worst practice to simply close all the underenrolled poor schools and push all the poor kids into a single large ghetto... just because nobody wants to go to school with them.... and will line up where ever they are NOT. Dr. GJ made this very point, since you get so offended if anyone else broaches it. No amount of "reinventing" is going to make it work. Neither will sticking a label like "montessori", "arts magnet", or "traditional math sold here" will solve anything. And no, that's why we won't be merging RBHS and Cleveland. That's why W. Seattle Elem was a bad idea, hopefully not to be repeated.

The district has stated priorities for making decisions 1) building status 2) capacity 3) minimum efficient size... among others. It is simply obvious that a few schools always escape, even though they fail the stated criteria.

Thank you Katie L Joannes, LMP...for stating the obvious.

Charlie Mas said...

I do not believe that the current capacity management plan "simply close[s] all the underenrolled poor schools and push[es] all the poor kids into a single large ghetto"

The T. T. Minor students are being moved to Lowell - I would not describe that as pushing them into a low-performing, low-income minority ghetto.

The bulk of Cooper students are being moved to schools with lower concentrations of minority students and lower concentrations of poverty. So it isn't true for them either.

Meany students will be going to Washington, which, as the only remaining comprehensive traditional middle school in the central region, will reflect that region's demographics. So what is the source of this accusation of creating ghettos? I don't see it.

And I believe that the reason we won't be merging RBHS and Cleveland is because there areas around those schools have enough high school students to fill them. If tastes change and the local families decide to send their children to the local schools, we will need all of that capacity and more to meet the demand.

Maureen said...

Melissa Where did the value added data come from? As far as I know, SPS only posted value added data one year (a long time ago, maybe 2002?) and I always assumed that it was based on ITBS scores (ITBS was last administered in about 2002).

Re the current closure list, I wonder if the staff is motivated by research that says that low income kids do better if they can attend schools that are at least 50% middle class (ie, less than 50% FRL). There is an extensive body of research on the subject (See "All Together Now:Creating Middle-Class Schools Through Public School Choice" by Richard D. Kahlenberg. The research presented here does not seem to be consistent with Jennifer's citation above. Kahlenberg finds that non-poor kids are not negatively affected by going to school with 50% poor kids).

I think that most parents, poor and not, recognize this and, if given the choice, try to get their kids into schools that are not 'too poor.' I don't think it's necessary to bring race into it at all (except perhaps that poorly informed people may use race as a visible proxy for socioeconomic status.)

Staff may be trying to engineer schools that are not 'too poor.' Since the really rich schools are full of people who have already figured out the above, they are driven to splitting APP and closing schools that are disproportionately poor in hope that the kids will disperse to richer schools.

Autism Mom says it is completely worst practice to simply close all the underenrolled poor schools and push all the poor kids into a single large ghetto...

I don't see this happening under the current plan: the Montessori part of TTMinor gets moved to Leschi to shore up their average income, TTMinor gets mixed with half of APP as does TMarshall...I'm not familiar enough with West Seattle to say, but if Cooper kids are given first shot at openings, chances are many will end up at the wealthier WS schools--or at least those not any poorer than Cooper. Reversion to the mean implies that as long as they close the poorest schools, the kids almost have to end up with wealthier classmates. I can see how it would be tempting to close down Montlake and McGilvra and hope their kids shored up the poorer schools, but middle class people have choices that poor people don't and it wouldn't help anyone to have all of those kids leave SPS. I expect that the new assignment plan will do some rearranging in a less drastic way and those kids will end up in more balanced schools in a few years.

I understand Katie's point about not disrupting the lives of more vulnerable students, but, the fact is that a disproportionate number of them will change schools in any given year anyway. The question is, what is the additional disruption created by the District?

BTW if staff is motivated by this research, they are really making a mistake in closing Summit. It's FRL rate is around 50% and closing it is sure to send the poorer kids back to poorer neighborhoods and decrease their opportunities. Summit should move to Meany and share transport with APP and TOPS.

AutismMom said...

To clarify, I don't think the current plan is completely ghetto-izing either. But I also think that Katie Joannes made a good point about a few schools that stay OFF the list, time and time again... even though they always meet many of the criteria. I just don't think "waitlist" status should be unduly considered. That said, I think the district has been pretty thoughtful, equitable, and pragmatic in the closure recommendations this time around. And of course, nobody's going to like it no matter what.

As to adhoc's comment that I've complained about disability disprortionality before, as some big beef. All I can say is: So what? I didn't say poor and/or minority schools shouldn't provide special ed services. Of course they must. I simply suggest they shouldn't be providing them for the whole city. It's hard to understand that somebody would take issue with that.

Danny K said...

I'd like to pick up on what Charlie said in the third post about AAA:

There is all of this talk about how Black students would achieve if they had teachers who looked like them or culturally competent staff or culturally relevent materials. Well they had ALL of those things at the AAA and they STILL didn't achieve well. This seems to prove that those elements aren't much help.

I think that's exactly right. You really don't see that much about Afrocentric education any more, and I think it's because it hasn't worked that well in practice. I also think that kind of very explicit invocation of race is divisive.

It would be neat to have a KIPP school in Seattle, as these schools have really shown some promise in underserved populations. But that would require charter schools, and that's a whole other argument.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The CAC was given the value-added data so I didn't have to go looking for it. I thought it was part of every school's academic profile but I don't know how to go about finding it. If it isn't available, it should be but I find sometimes that information comes and goes at the SPS website.

seattle citizen said...

A "value added" source, for WASL, can be found at the SPS website. >"schools" > select a school > select "annual report" > on bottim section of that, under "Tests" select 2008, use drop-down menu to select "Four-Year Summary."

This gives WASL progress (or lack thereof) for various demographics in the school.

Frankly, though, the apparently random rises and falls of some WASL scores over time reminds me of the uselessness of this to "assess" schools: WHY are scores increasing and decreasing in such large hops in some instances? Is it fair to use this to look at a school's progress (or lack thereof)?

adhoc said...

I know when my children were at TC, the classes were not always equal in size from year to year, and that made a big difference in the WASL scores. For instance one year we had a small 4th grade class of 42 students and the wasl scores plumeted. The following year we had a larger than average 4th grade class of about 55 students and the wasl scores were much higher.

Same school, same teachers, same teaching, different outcome.

I also had an interesting experience testing my eldest son for APP when he was in 2nd grade. He received very high schores, and in fact was only 3 points too low in one category to qualify. The following year, in 3rd grade, he bombed the test. Same kid, one year later, huge performance difference.

hschinske said...

The current tools (the WASL, the WASL, and did I mention the WASL?) are really not susceptible of a decent value-added interpretation. Comparisons between ITBS and WASL scores, such as were used on the first go-round of value-added analysis, are even more problematic. That's one reason I'm looking forward to the MSP, assuming it is some version of the MAP (though I hear kids may bounce around some on those scores, too -- there are always times when you get poor testing circumstances, for instance).

Helen Schinske

anonymous said...
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Jennifer said...

I completely agree with you. That's why I was posing the questions to Melissa and backing up the idea that the populations of schools greatly impacts educational outcome.
Even though some of the commentary on this subject is quite questionable I think that it's great that we have conversation about these issues.