Monday, February 09, 2009

The Fight Goes On

There was an op-ed piece in the Times today by Jesse Hagopian and Andre Helmstetter about the unfairness of the school closures. They truly believe it is racist and directed against children of color. Additionally, they point out that the cost savings (to them) is small and may be counteracted by students who may leave as happened last time (and the dollars that follow them).

They mention the rainy day fund and the possible funds from the stimulus package. Well, the district says over and over they will not go to the rainy day fund. And the money for education in the stimulus package is, to my understanding, directed towards renovating schools AND the Reps. are trying to cut it from the package anyway.

They vow to fight on.

I received a forward of an e-mail from people within the NAACP. They say:
  • They are planning a rally with ESP people and NAACP possibly at the Dept of Education office in downtown Seattle.
  • That the national NAACP is coming in with support. (They didn't define support.)
  • Mt. Zion church, a prominent church in the south end, is also lending support and resources.
As I mentioned elsewhere, proving discrimination, especially direct discrimination as they allege Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has done, is going to be tough.

Everything they say is, for the most part, factually true. TT. Minor is in an area with a growing birth rate. The majority of kids impacted are poor/minority. There is a rainy day fund. The cost savings may not be huge but as is pointed out in a comment after the op-ed, it's about 14% of the $25M and where else would you cut. But just because you don't like the Board/district reasoning, doesn't mean they violated the law. In fact, they are doing what they are legally obligated to do which is to stay within a budget and protect the district from failing financially. So I'm not sure how they will make their case beyond the obvious outrage they feel.

I get their passion and I didn't like all the outcomes. But we still have too much capacity for too few kids, it costs us money and there have to be cuts somewhere and buildings seem an obvious choice.

20 comments:

dan dempsey said...

I still think that the district lacks creativity in devising solutions.

There are urban districts that make use of excess capacity with shared tenants like Senior Centers, Day Care, Pre-school, Health providers etc. Medical offices and/or dental offices.
I have no idea how WA state law would look on that? Did anyone even look? Does anyone even care?

This would have allowed additional revenue to keep current schools open. It looks like the new Jane Adams k-8 is going to have 2 principals ... so what kind of savings is that consolidation bringing?

I still worry about the $400,000 plus dollars in campaign donations to winning school board candidates and what may happen to excess building inventory.

NAACP may have a valid point.

If the NAACP does get involved, I hope they look at the Math achievement gap over the last decade for Black students on the WASL and the Everyday Math adoption. Math decisions appear extremely discriminatory.

owlhouse said...

True enough, it may be very hard to make a legal case here.

Regardless, this op-ed piece, the NAACP actions, follow through on Charlie's bomb-recipe and the likes- play an important role in continuing the conversation re: educational equity and social justice. I've been blasted on this site for saying so, but it is crucial to look at education and the district's actions through an historical lens. The "butts in seats" approach has not worked. Not to manage capacity, not to improve educational programing or access, not to develop family or community support.

Useful Seattle history here-
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/school_boycott.htm

And- Mt Zion is at 1634 19th Ave, bordering capitol hill and the central district. The church housed 500 Jr. High students during the 1966 school boycott linked above.

amsiegel said...

It's also important to remember that while the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause only prohibits intentional racial discrimination, the regulations promulgated under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibit entities that receive federal funds from taking actions that have a disparate impact on racial minorities. Recent Supreme Court decisions prohibit individuals from suing to enforce those regulations, but the Justice Department and Education Department still have the authority to enforce them. I'm not saying that an enforcement action is going to happen (or that it would necessarily be a good idea), but the disparate impact regs are part of the legal landscape.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

I don't get why is it considered racial discrimination to want to get kids of color out of schools that have consistently failed to deliver the academic results they desperately need. How long should kids at AAA (for example) be allowed to stay there and fall farther and farther behind?

Also, this is kind of long, but I wanted to post the text of an email Patti Spencer-Watkins (from the District) posted on the CPPS yahoo discussion group.

The gist of this is: It is a myth that 20% of kids from closed schools exit the district because the schools were closed.

Read on --

From Patty:
Hello all. There have been many comments related to "loss of students" from schools closed in 2007, and what that means for revenue. Enrollment services just completed an analysis of attrition rates, and I think you'll find it very interesting. We are adding this to our FAQ's on the capacity management site.
Best wishes to each of you.
Patti

The summary report on the 2006 closure process indicates that 20% of students assigned to schools that were closed were not enrolled in the district in October 2007. Does SPS expect a similar loss of students through this closure process? Won’t the decreased revenue from fewer students offset the savings from closure?

In summary, the attrition of students from the schools closed in 2007 is consistent with the typical attrition rates from these schools and so can not be solely attributed to closure.

. 20% of the students assigned to the schools that were closed in 2007 (as of December 2006) were not enrolled in the district in October 2007.

· The total district K-11 attrition rate from January to October is about 11%, and is about 9% for grades K-4. It’s reasonable to assume that some students in closed schools may choose to enroll in other districts or private schools, but the higher rates among the closed schools cannot be attributed solely to the fact that the schools were closed.

· The schools that were closed in 2007 already had higher attrition rates than the district total before they were closed. Between January and October 2006, 19% of Fairmount Park students did not return to the district; 17% of Rainier View; 13% of Viewlands; and 19% of Whitworth. So we would have expected high rates of attrition at these schools even if they had not closed.


· Elementary students who live in clusters along the District border (North, Southeast, and West Seattle South) have the highest rates of attrition. Family mobility may cross back and forth across district boundaries, or students may choose to attend nearby schools in bordering districts for various reasons. More than half of the students in the closed schools lived in the Southeast (31%) and North (21%) clusters, where we would already expect higher rates of attrition.

· Non-residents (students who live outside of the SPS District) have the highest rates of attrition (35% in 2006 and 26% in 2007). The closed schools had a disproportionately high number of non-resident students (8% compared with 3% district-wide), so we would also expect a higher rate of attrition due to this particular population.

· Total district attrition has actually been decreasing, and was in fact lower in 2007 (9.8%) than in 2006 (10.6%). So any possible attrition because of closure was offset by less attrition at other schools.

· Any loss of students from year-to-year is offset (though not fully) by the thousands of new students who enroll in SPS each year. Our gross loss is always much higher than our net loss, and so can’t all be counted as lost revenue. Between January and October 2007, the district lost 4,643 students in grades K-11. But it gained 4,318 new students, so the net loss was 325 students.

· Three of the five schools currently recommended for closure have higher attrition rates than the district overall (between January and October 2008, 15% of AAA students left the district; 15% of Summit; 17% of T. T. Minor; 11% of Meany; and 10% of Cooper).

· While we may see an increase in the attrition at schools affected by closure, given the current economic conditions and the fact that district-wide attrition rates have already been dropping, it is reasonable to expect we could offset that loss with new students coming in.

· Many factors go into a family’s decision about where to send their child to school. As the District continues to implement Excellence for All’s strategies to improve academic achievement, families will find Seattle Public School an increasingly attractive option.

January 14, 2009

Enrollment Services

Seattle Public Schools

owlhouse said...

Isabel-
History is important here too. Your example, AAA, was never well supported by the district. It's a good question- how long do we watch an educational experiment and at what point do we intervene and declare failure? Better question- how to we support the intent of the experiment and provide guidance to achieve the success that similar programs in other urban districts have found? And now that we've closed the program, where is the assurance that those students will be better educated in their "new" schools?
Add to those questions the fact that AAA, TT Minor, Cooper, Summit and I think (?) Meany too have shown some measured academic progress over the past 2 years.

The district's breakdown of student attrition is a response to research and concerns presented by parents. While I appreciate the attempt to answer questions, it seems problematic to claim that, essentially, we were going to lose a large portion of these students anyway. So, a net loss of 325 students in 2007. Not huge, but does that loss parallel population demographics? Or is school closure and the endless threat of it, one more piece of the puzzle that drives families from SPS?

Most importantly, where, in this FAQ re:attrition and enrollment, does the district speak to the positive and proactive measures it plans to take to ensure that student needs are met, that families can feel confident in continuing their relationship with SPS? Plenty of numbers, but no recognition of the importance of relationships built within classroom and school communities.

Charlie Mas said...

Please don't tell me about how the AAA was poorly supported by the District.

First, did the AAA get any less support than other schools? The AAA was not singled out for negligence, it got the usual share that went to every school.

Second, the AAA got hundreds of thousands of dollars annually through compensatory education funds that came from outside sources but was allocated to the AAA by the District. How did the AAA spend this money?

Third, the AAA got a palace of a school building designed specifically for them. That sounds like support to me when no other alternative school has a building that any neighborhood school would want. That sounds like District support to me.

Fourth, the District should have closed the AAA a long time ago but kept it open years longer than they should have.

No, the District did not hold the AAA's hand and put them on the front page of every newsletter or devote two full pages to the school in the Enrollment Guides, but the AAA was hardly the object of special negligence. The District did send coaches to the building as the AAA slipped deeper and deeper into NCLB sanction steps.

The AAA had plenty of chances to show progress. They didn't.

And please let's not have any complaints about the revolving door leadership at the school - especially not from Rickie Malone, who took the principal job there knowing that she would only have it for two years.

owlhouse said...

Charlie, I didn't claim negligence, rather that AAA was "never well supported by the district." You and I have differing opinions on what constitutes support. Money given with no required accountability, while ignoring the failures of a program, is not a winning support combination.

Magnolia?? 3 locations in the first 3 years only to end in Magnolia for 7? Yes, AAA eventually landed in a beautiful building, and no, other alternatives haven't been so blessed.

Maybe Ms. Malone shouldn't have taken the principal position. Maybe the district shouldn't have hired her.

There's shared responsibility for the failing of this school. The question remains, what efforts are being taken to ensure better opportunity and out come for these students in their new schools?

AutismMom said...

How long should kids at AAA (for example) be allowed to stay there and fall farther and farther behind?>

And they're falling further behind by what measure? Oh yeah. The WASL. The thing we're throwing away. What about other schools like ORCAs that have horrible WASL scores? Do we close them? Do we chide them for not meeting the bar? Do we look at them paternalistically and say.. "Now, now, you failed. The new plan will be so much better for you." Nope. We only hear about how great it is. The more alternative a school is, the less standardized (by definition). And standardized tests are all about "standards".

AAA is failure for one reason. It didn't attract enough students. It's not at all clear if the students are necessarily getting a better experience elsewhere. So, let's not be patting ourselves on the back.

Roy Smith said...

AS#1 was never ever "well-supported" by the district; conversely, AS#1 had to fight through attempts to close it or radically alter it (against the community's will) by nearly every superintendent for the past 30 years. Up until recently, AS#1 thrived in spite of all that.

My contention is the only useful measure of performance for alternative schools is whether or not they attract students. If they do, leave them open. If not, close them. That seems to be more or less the way it is working out, with regards to the alternative schools at least.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't understand...

Is it supportive for the District to closely monitor the schools and demand accountability or is it paternalistic for the District to do so?

The AAA was moved around before 2000 as the District looked for space for it, but it has been in its current location since September 2000, so are there any current AAA students who ever attended the school in any other location? They haven't been impacted by the school's historical search for a home.

Lack of District support just strikes me as a strange complaint. What school gets District support? None that I can see. Not even the Southeast Initiative appears very supportive to me. Has that been the key to success for any program anywhere? You might as well complain that the school suffered from lack of support from Oprah or comic book super-heroes.

I will absolutely concur that the AAA didn't get District support (other than all-city transportation and a palace of a building), but I would not name that as a factor in the school's failure to attract or retain students. In the end, the school could not win the community's confidence. Poor test scores were a part of the problem, but not all of it. And the passion we saw to save the school far outstripped the passion we saw to operate it.

dan dempsey said...

AAA got the same lame ineffective math programs as the district. Everyday Math in 2007-2008 and Connected Math for grades 6,7,8. The district had AAA using math programs that relevant data finds completely ineffective for populations like AAA.

This clearly was NOT curriculum support for AAA. The districts math curriculum choices for k-8 and used at AAA for K-8 makes me wonder just how tailored the academics were for African Americans at AAA, because for Math they were not. As for other subjects if the district choices were equally lame the question arises ... "So why does AAA exist?"

Well now it does not exist, so we don't need to ponder that question.

Josh Hayes said...

Thanks for the data, Isabel.

I find it telling that the attrition rate is 11%; the supposed swagger line is this:

It is a myth that 20% of kids from closed schools exit the district because the schools were closed.

That's right! 20% of kids leave because kids and their families are leaving SPS in droves regardless. And that's GREAT news, because, see, uh....

Wait. Why is that a victory?

It is precisely these data which drive me nuts: the district is all about how to address falling enrollment on the facilities side, but it has exactly zero, Zero, ZERO to say about how to stem falling enrollments, and maybe even make them rise.

Nothing but, "gee, the economy is bad, so people will come back because they can't afford good education." Such a ringing endorsement.

People didn't leave solely because their schools were closed. But it was surely yet another straw on the ol' family camel's back. To pretend otherwise is just that: pretending. And pretending is never going to get parents to trust SPS.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Josh Hayes has it right. Lack of Trust.

We left the District for middle school rather than busing far north or attending a poor-performing school. We had hoped to return for high school (2009-10). I still don't know what we're going to do.

Our first choice for high school is The Center School, but since it was in the District's sights for closure once, I don't feel very secure that it will be around for the four years of my child's high school tenure. Or, it may exist in name only with a drastically different curriculum. None of the other options available to us are great fits for my child.

We've applied to 3 privates, and the decision may be made for us (she may not get into any of them—competition is stiff). If she gets into any/all of them, we will have a harder choice as we will not know our Public Assignment until months after having to commit to a private.

The District does not seem to care that people leave. By losing us, they lost not only a well-performing student but also dedicated, involved parents. The constant threat of closures, musical chairs of mediocre/bad principals, ridiculous math curriculum and general chaos of the District does nothing to lure us back. I wish it weren't so; I'd rather save the money for college.

dj said...

History is indeed important. I'm thinking of the kids at T.T. Minor who were moved from MLK when it closed and will now move again. How did it improve their educational experiences to close their school and move them to another school that the district evidently doesn't think serves their needs, either? I am not sure how moving the T.T. Minor kids now will magically improve their school experience, either. I am glad at least that they are being moved into Lowell as a cohort instead of being distributed between the unpopular-and-no-reason-to-think-they-are-an-improvement-over-T.T.Minor Madrona and Leschi schools. That is a better closure plan, and I am glad the district rethought the original plan. But the point is the same -- kids don't suddenly get a school that serves them better because you move them.

TechyMom said...

Remember that you can back out of a commitment to a private school. You'll loose your deposit, but those are typically $500-1000... far less than you'll pay for even one year of tuition. Consider that deposit money an insurance policy. If you get a public school assignment you want, then think of it as saving 4 years tuition (close to $100K at some schools), rather than loosing that $500 deposit.

Charlie Mas said...

dj, there are about 6 students at T T Minor who were moved there from M L King. While I recognize that this is a second forced move on these students, at some point you have to discount the impact based on the small number of students in that group.

Second, the sentiment that "kids don't suddenly get a school that serves them better because you move them" sounds a lot like an argument against school choice. After all, if there is no improvement available for a student in School A instead of School B, then they might as well be at either of them. Likewise, if they are no better off at Lowell, then they are no worse off at Lowell either. Right? Or is the act of having to make a transition so disruptive and damaging that their academic growth cannot survive it?

If that were the case, then shouldn't we be just as concerned - in fact more concerned - about the 44 students who transferred in or out of T T Minor last year DURING the school year? That's without double-counting the three students who both transferred in AND transferred out in the same year.

For all of the concern about students forced to make transitions as a result of the closures, I don't see a similar amount of concern for 4,558 (by the most conservative count) students making transitions during the year outside of closures.

dj said...

Charlie, my argument was not that there is a huge cohort of students at T.T. Minor who are being moved for a second time. My point is that if the argument is, "these kids are not being well-served by their school, so we'll close their school and move them," that's only a reasonable argument if you are moving them to a school that will serve them better. I am not in any sense convinced that moving kids from MLK to T.T. Minor helped them. Is anyone else?

I think you're not seeing concern about people transferring voluntarily for a few reasons. One, voluntary transfer is by definition less likely to meet resistance than forced transfer. Two, doubtlessly some of the transfers are for reasons that have nothing to do with school quality (e.g., say, moving houses). And three, because the district doesn't maintain data on why people transfer, it's hard to draw any conclusions about transfers in the first place.

My argument is not for or against closures, per se. It is against the argument, "it is beneficial for the students to be moved from one school to another," without some evidence that the "another" school is better for the students. I am not sure what the "it's not particularly bad for students to have to move" argument does to address that.

owlhouse said...

Tune in to Voices of Diversity
(right now) to discuss the Seattle Public School Closures.

Join in the conversation by calling 425-564-2424.

Voices of Diversity airs every Wednesday from 6-7 PM on KBCS 91.3 FM or online at KCBS.FM

Charlie Mas said...

dj, please understand. Like you, I'm not entirely certain of my position on the question. I'm not asking to argumentative; I'm asking because I think it's an intriguing question worthy of exploration and discussion.

I don't think that the school was closed primarily because it wasn't working for the students but because it wasn't working for the District. I think that the District would tolerate a school that isn't working well for the system if it were working spectacularly well for the students - Montlake leaps to mind - but can't tolerate a school that doesn't work for them and under-performs for the community as well.

I can understand your confusion if you approach the closure with the idea that the school was closed because it wasn't working for the students. That model just doesn't fit the facts. The model that works is the District-centered one.

T T Minor was closed because there is excess capacity in the Cluster and T T Minor is the school that works least well for the District.

Among the guidelines for closure was the one about geographical need. What caused T T Minor to be selected for closure was the empty seats - not just the ones in the building, but also the ones in the surrounding buildings. The closure wasn't, as you pre-supposed, about improving the situation for the students who were relocated. If you are trying to get it to make sense from that perspective you're going to be frustrated.

After the decision to close the school, the District then thought aobut what they could do for the students to mitigate the negative impact of the transition. But the concern for the students came AFTER the closure decision, not before it.

kprugman said...

Don't expect the DOE to intercede, they are guilty as charged. Race relations, like Bush, is at an all-time low. Education is a selfish truth, ...take a look at Washington's alternative programs. What about all the kids we see on the streets. People aren't blind.