Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Interesting Info at Assignment Plan Page

So I was trying to get up to speed on the new Assignment Plan. At the Assignment Plan page, there is an FAQ page. On the FAQ page, there are FAQs relating to different topics as well as a "As Heard on the Grapevine" page to help dispel/clarify what you might hear at the supermarket or at the playground. Each section comes with a Comment box to send in new questions. Good stuff.

Among the interesting things I learned:

- Spectrum will be available at all comprehensive middle schools.

- According to this page: At the School Board workshop on March 25, we will seek guidance from the Board on the variables that should be considered when updating attendance area boundaries. Based on that guidance, we will produce initial options for school boundaries.
That clearly didn't happen; we still don't know the boundaries.

-There will be an English language-based program within all international schools for families seeking that option; this program will run in parallel to the the school's language immersion program. Probably needed as many international schools operate as reference schools but what does this mean to the program if it is smaller?

17 comments:

SPSMom said...

Interesting from the FAQs:

"Will the District support optional schools under these recommendations?

Currently called alternative, non-traditional, and/or K-8 schools, optional schools offer a range of choices to students from across the District. We have asked the Council of Great City Schools to conduct an audit of our alternative schools so that we can better define the programs, assignment guidelines, and transportation choices available to families. We expect their work to begin in Spring 2009."


All they did was define optional schools and say there is an audit coming.

But will they continue to support them? Asked and not answered.

Roy Smith said...

From "As Heard On The Grapevine...":

We recently received several questions from families in the Ballard, Magnolia, and Queen Anne neighborhoods about the assignment of high-school age students. Specificaly, they asked if the assignment maps for the students in these areas had been drawn up.So they acknowledge that they are getting questions on this subject, but answer in a very narrow way that does nothing to address the underlying concern, which they are surely aware of. Somebody at the district must be at least contemplating a proposed resolution to the Ballard/Queen Anne/Magnolia high school problem. If they aren't, they are incompetent. If they are and merely refusing to share their thoughts, then they are demonstrating typically district unwillingness to honestly engage with the public.

Central Mom said...

No time to condense this prior comment below, but Melissa, if you're asking Qs at the workshop, could you pls. continue digging on the Intl school specifics? I posted these comments to Harium's blog...he said "good Qs" and "contact Tracy/the District". But no acknowledgement from them so far, so zero confidence that the finer points will really be addressed. Thanks.

The District proposes adding standard "English" courses of studies to the International Schools so that they can call them reference schools in the new plan. Then, the schools are supposed to be opened up to more lottery seats to increase access to the International portion of the programs.
1) What will be the target number/percentage of out-of-area seats open to lottery placement in International schools?

2) Will lottery apply only to the International part of the program (so that families don't win the Golden Ticket but then be told that there is only space in the English portion of the program).

3) For the reference area families, will it be lottery or some other system that determines who gets into the International program? Presumably there will be more reference family demand for the International vs. English portion of the program.

4) By inserting an English language track into these schools, presumably the number of International slots available will be reduced. ***What will be the net gain of access to International programs for out-of-area residents?***

A comment: This would be a whole lot easier if the District just called all International Schools Optional Schools with a small geographic tiebreaker as is proposed for the rest of the Optional Schools. Neighborhood residents living very close to the school would still get in...and it would mean more access for District-wide families to the International portion of the program. You could then discontinue the English track idea. As it is currently proposed, the District is mucking up the definition of Optional schools yet again and there will likely be fewer net language immersion seats.

gavroche said...

Thanks for the link to the FAQs. I came across this interesting lie:

Q: "Are there any changes being considered for the Accelerated Progress Program (APP)?"

A: "We recently created an additional APP program at both the elementary and middle school levels to create increased access for students throughout the District. Further changes are not contemplated at this time."

The district did not "create an additional APP program" anywhere -- it broke apart existing programs and is sending a splintered half a program to different buildings.

There's a big difference.

Not only that, there are disturbing indications that each program will not be equal. The District is clearly directing most of its resources to Thurgood Marshall APP, and fewer to Lowell APP. Lowell's principal and most of its fifth grade teachers are going to T Marshall, and Lowell just learned its losing its longtime librarian to T Marsh as well. One of Lowell's strongest first grade teachers just announced she is leaving for Jane Addams.

Hamilton APP will be housed in a completely revamped building with accompanying resources apparently being sent its way (though it just lost its principal), while there's little talk of sending resources to shore up Washington Middle School's APP cohort that's left behind.

Here's another lie: "To create increased access for students throughout the District." APP is an all-city draw. Students who test into the program are provided transportation to the APP school (currently Lowell, Washington and Garfield) regardless of where they live in the district. Access is already there.

What's more, how does splitting Lowell Elementary in two and moving half of its APP population from Capitol Hill to the Central District, just 3 miles south genuinely 'increase' anyone's 'access'?

Instead, that puts BOTH elementary APP schools in the same south/central end of town. Too bad for the north end APP families. No 'access' considerations for them.

In fact, in order to implement her APP split plan, the Superintendent had to break Board Policy. Realizing this, she asked the Board to rescind the policy that stated that if the district ever split APP, it would have to create a NORTH END location for the school -- in the interest of access and equity
(http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/08-09agendas/010709agenda/finalrecommendation2.pdf)

Lowell is a good central location, but it is not north. And Thurgood Marshall is even further south.

Clearly, the real purpose of the APP elementary split is to prop up schools in the south end of town.

What would make this FAQ Q&A true would be if the District were investing the necessary amounts of money, talent and resources to make all APP locations equitable and likely to grow. Is that what it is doing? No.

Did the District "create" anything new here? No. It broke something apart.

Put in simple terms, say the District had one cookie, or house, or school. Then it breaks it in half. Does it now have two cookies, or two houses or two schools?

No. It has a broken cookie. A broken house. A broken school.

(Unless, of course, you are using Discovering math, and then who knows.)

Megan Mc said...

Why don't they co-house an International School in the Jane Addams building since it is so under endrolled. It could open during the 2010/2011 school year and the kids could feed into Hamilton with JSIS. There is obviously a desire for more Intl Schools and adding English only classes to the existing buildings will only create more demand.

momster said...

roy smith - my guess is they *are* doing straw horse boundaries as they go along (and as the board refines the rules) and *have* brain-stormed solutions for qa/magnolia - not necessarily to zero in on the actual boundaries but to raise questions and points for the board's refinement - and to figure out whether the rules are something they can build into a computer system.

i think they would be crazy not to be doing this work, and equally crazy to publish the results while the board is still refining the rules on which the boundaries will be based.

look at what happened with the start times - they're somewhat transparent in putting out their conclusions as they evolve, and people get crazy when those conclusions change - and say the board and staff don't know what they're doing because the conclusions are moving. sure, some of the changes were probably from the parent response to the published conclusions - but at what cost? like most things, it just seems to settle at where things stood when the music stopped - but could you call that optimal?

i've heard it said that if we think closures and math adoptions were contentious, wait until we drop the boundary around ballard and roosevelt...

Charlie Mas said...

The Assignment Plan says that the International elementary schools will feed into International middle schools. JSIS feeds to Hamilton, an international school. Concord feeds to Denny - recently named an international school. Beacon Hill will feed to Mercer. So where is the announcement that Mercer will become an international middle school?

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another item from the document: "ALO will be offered in every elementary school"

Bad idea.

The District cannot assure the quality and effectiveness of the few ALOs they have now. How can they assure the quality and effectiveness of three times as many?

Charlie Mas said...

Notice how the document misrepresents the Southeast Initiative:

"The District committed more than $3 million to this effort for the first year of implementation (2008-09)."

2008-2009 was not the first year, it was the second year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, that was part of the Assignment plan discussion yesterday. I'll post on the meeting separately but yes, the feeling is that Mercer will become the next middle school that is international.

This topic drew quite the conversation as (1) DeBell wanted to know what if a school DIDN'T want to become international and Dr. G-J seemed nonplussed by the question. (not want to be international? how can that be) It seems they wouldn't force it anyone but I doubt any school would rise up and say no.

Additionally, there was a discussion about where is the high school feeders for these middle schools. More on that to come.

Central Mom, I'll try to get this off to Tracy but not all your questions were raised or answered.

SPSMom said...

"look at what happened with the start times - they're somewhat transparent in putting out their conclusions as they evolve, and people get crazy when those conclusions change"

Look at what happened indeed, at hasty process that was brought to the board for vote...three times and counting. Had this been refined at the worksession level with updates to the community for input, it would have been a transparent process that by the time it came to the board for vote would have included a proposal that could work. ONE VOTE!

The district would have looked competent. Right now, they do not....and yes it is driving parents crazy to see their children's education mismanaged.

Aurora said...

this is not my petition. I pulled it from a NE yahoo board I belong to in order to show a need for a clear grandfathering policy:

--

The final finishing touches are being put on the new Student Assignment Plan that will go into effect in the year 2010-2011.

Once again our family is at direct risk of having siblings assigned to separate schools. My girls will be assigned this year under the current plan, and their younger brother in three years under the new plan.

Even if you will not be directly impacted by this issue, I hope you will sign the petition to communicate to the district your support for putting 'families first' when making their decisions. Whether it is bell times, or as offensive as splitting families apart, students and families should truly be the first priority.

If you support keeping families together select this link and sign our petition now.

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/koktpet2/petition.html

Your children may be assigned to separate schools.

Catherine said...

The draft of the new assignment rules from the May 19th meeting states that siblings are not "grandfathered" for assignment area schools. I think people are just beginning to realize that they potentially could have their children assigned to different elementary schools. What a nightmare.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/rulesdraft2_english.pdf

Evan said...

aurora and catherine, the plan says that your children (including siblings currently enrolled) will be able to stay in their current school through the highest grade offered, even if it is not the attendance area school your address would assign you to.

the only siblings NOT grandfathered would be those not yet in the school (and, note, only those whose older siblings are in a school that ISN'T their neighborhood school and NOT an option school.

but they would have first priority in the tiebreaker for choice seats.

when you think about it, if the school is popular (and i would have to guess that those would be the schools people would be attracted enough to to leave their neighborhoods), it's probably being filled by near neighbors because of the distance tiebreaker. how many people outside the neighorhood are getting into those schools, and thus in the position to have not-school-age siblings?

how long would you have the grandfathering extend? until the last sibling of the last student in k next year?

Catherine said...

Evan, you said

the only siblings NOT grandfathered would be those not yet in the school (and, note, only those whose older siblings are in a school that ISN'T their neighborhood school and NOT an option school.This is not necessarily so. My child is currently enrolled in his reference school, which is operating above its functional capacity, meaning it is over-subscribed. Therefore, I believe the attendance area for this school will be smaller than the current reference area when they redraw the boundaries. We live at the edge of the current reference area, and in the walk zone of another elementary that is under capacity. We are not moving but the possibility exists that we will find ourselves outside of the new assignment area of my son's school. When child number two is due to start kindergarten in a couple of years, it is possible that she will be assigned to a different school than child number one.

I understand the district wanting to re-align people to their neighborhood schools, but I think they should grandfather in the sibs of the current students. So, yes, I'd extend the grandfathering to the last sib of the class entering K.

StepJ said...

I was one of the authors of the petition that Aurora posted.

I do think that the new Student Assignment Plan (SAP) has been composed in a very thoughtful and careful manner. However, I do see a glaring issue with the transition period between the old and new plans - and thus the petition.

The new Student Assignment Plan (SAP) by its basic framework is to provide predictability to families for assignment, promote family engagement and support of their neighborhood school (via the Sibling Tiebreaker - to keep all siblings together), and provide excellent schools for all by reducing transportation costs and channeling those monies to students and schools.

The argument of the Siblings in the Same School Petition is that families that are caught in the transition between the two plans, otherwise known as the Phase In period, will have no predictability of assignment, and diminished family engagement as it is very probable (especially for those families that live in currently oversubscribed areas) their siblings will be assigned to separate schools.

If you refer in the rules to the section labeled, Implementation of the Plan, which starts at the bottom of page 5, Student Assignment Plan Draft, May 19, 2009 it describes how when the plan is phased in initially there will be no guarantee to families that live within a school's assignment area that they will have a guaranteed seat.

For families such as mine that will have older siblings assigned under the rules of the old plan, and younger siblings assigned under the rules of the new plan, that means:

If keeping our family together is our utmost priority we do not have a guarantee to move our older siblings to their new assignment area school. We do not have a guarantee that a younger sibling will be able to attend either our attendance area school, or the school that their older siblings attend. Ironically, families caught in the transition period would have greater predictability of assignment under the Sibling Preference rules of the old plan vs. the rules of the new plan.

Our family lives in the Bryant reference area which is the most oversubscribed reference area in the district. I am 90%+ certain that we will no longer live within the Bryant reference area when the new boundaries are drawn. And further irony, if we do find ourselves in the Wedgwood reference area -- we basically have no chance of gaining entry this year as NE enrollment is rumored to be at the same level as last year, we currently do not live within the Wedgwood reference area, and Wedgwood is only slated to have two K classes this year vs. the four they did last.

I attended the majority of the new SAP workshop that took place this Tuesday the 19th. At that meeting it was proposed that the boundaries of schools be revisited every five years.

I personally, would propose that the 'grandfathering' of sibling preference extend five years. This would 'grandfather' entry of younger siblings to schools that their older siblings attend, via the current rules of Sibling Preference, for the last year of assignment of siblings under the old plan (2009-2010.) This would allow families that apply for Choice seats under the new plan to do so fully aware of the risk they undertaking in that younger siblings may not be able to join them at their 'Choice' school. This would phase in the new plan in a reasonable number of years and also not break apart the very foundation of successful schools - which I believe to be family engagement and support.

To learn more about this specific issue please visit our website KeepOurKids Together.org

Roy Smith said...

Quoting from the Student Assignment Plan Draft 2 (Page 6):

"The phased implementation plan will specify transition procedures so entry grade siblings and older siblings have the opportunity to be assigned to the same school if requested. This does not assure assignment of the entry grade sibling to the older sibling's current school.If the parent/guardian indicates that the priority is to have the siblings attend the same school and space is not available at the older sibling's current school (or for both siblings at any of the other schools requested), the siblings will all be assigned to the new attendance area school."