Thursday, June 25, 2009

Board Work Session Part One: Demographics

I am going to try to give some analysis to what was presented yesterday at the Board Work Session. As I mentioned previously, the first part was Demographics with many charts presented by district demographer, Rachel Cassidy.

(FYI, all the Board was there except Cheryl Chow, out of the country, and Harium Martin-Morris on Board business.)

There were a number of things both on the charts and in Rachel's remarks that didn't quite ring true to me. I am not trained so she probably has good reason to come to her conclusions.
  • Slide 8 about factors driving enrollment. One of the factors listed was "dropout and graduation rates". I thought this odd simply because I'm not sure that most people, when enrolling their student, think about this. Or maybe it was meant as there is more room in high schools because we have a high dropout rate.
  • Slide 9 was a chart showing births and kindergarten enrollment. We lose about 2,000 of these kids from birth to enrollment. She said that a lot of it was due to private school enrollment but I'd like to know the exact numbers especially since I'm sure some percentage simply move. As she says in Slide 10 about migration, "hundreds of students enroll and leave SPS each year". So it stands to figure that between birth and K, that some families do move away.
  • Slide 11, plain and simple; we are losing more students (for all reasons) than we gain.
  • I was amazed to see some of the next slides because it was about the numbers of private and public school students. Slide 12 showed overall enrollment. Between 2005-2008, prviate schools gain 1,000 more students. That's sobering. Between 1999-2009, SPS lost 2,000. Well, private schools obviously didn't gain them all so they must of moved. Rachel repeatedly made the point that they don't have data on out-of-district students who go to private schools and she thinks that where they get a lot of their numbers.
  • Slide 14 was public/private for K-5. SPS lost 1,217 and private gained 311.
  • Slide 15 was public/private for middle school. SPS lost 884 and private gained 263.
  • Slide 16 was public/private for high school. SPS was up by 117 and private gained 730.
Now I post those last 3 because I would have thought there would be a LOT more private school gain for middle school given how many SPS lost and how few private gained. But maybe I'm missing something. I am also surprised that both SPS and private gained in high school. I'm wondering if, at the high school level, there is a "name-brand" status that drives so many parents to private rather than the lack of belief in public schools.

There was a discussion about how difficult it is to find out where housing is being built, how many units, who it is likely aimed at, will it fill and how many tenants will have children.

(I have to say at this point that the directors all had good, solid points that they made. They are clearing thinking this thru and not just thinking outloud.)

Steve said he felt the district was behind "the power curve on visibility on this issue". He referenced a big turnout at his community meeting that morning. He feels he is hearing about a sense of being behind on this type of info on development. Sherry mentioned the Puget Sound Regional Council as a possible place for more information. Tracy mentioned that they did get more resources for demography (as Rachel works alone). However, she did not mention how much,how long or when it would happen.
  • Slide 22 - Birth to K rates. Rachel said they didn't know the cause of the rise; more families moving in or fewer children leaving
  • Slide 23 Projected K enrollment to 2015-2016. It shows a rise of about 600 more K-students.
  • Slide 25 was hard to believe (Projected K growth by clusters, 2008-2012). It showed a decline in the NE/NW and a huge growth in the SE and some in West Seattle North and North. This seems to come out of nowhere given the rates we've seen in the NE.
  • Slide 28 was impressive - nearly 3,000 more students in SPS than previously projected by 2015-2016.
  • Slide 31 talked about market share at 6th grade. But they are making an assumption (I don't know why) that the guaranteed assignments may result in more students staying. I can't believe that will make a huge difference.
  • slide 32, Change by cluster in middle school. Big gains in North, NE, NW,Q/M and SE. It may be a good thing that South Shore (formerly New School) has gone back to being a regular attendance school rather than an option school.
  • Slide 33 showing the continued decline of high school enrollment with only a modest rise towards 2015-2016.
  • Slide 34, Change by cluster in high school. Gains in NW, NE, Q/M. A big drop expected in the Central area and South.
  • Summary slide. WA Federation of Independent Schools projects a 15% decline statewide in enrollment for 2009-2010. Again, the district seems to believe that guaranteed assignments will get more market back at the middle school level.
Discussion
Steve agreed that middle school enrollment may rise and thinks there will be a change in middle school perceptions.

Michael said:
  • that he felt that we see clusters of growth around high performing schools. That people will move to get into them. He feels this might be a big factor in the new SAP.
  • that he felt "bullish" about SPS and people coming back to them.
  • he had met with Holly Miller (Mayor's education liasion) and talked about working more together on issues around housing and school enrollment
Peter said that the district cannot be "passive" on housing patterns and needs to work with the City.

I, along with parents Kellie and Lauren who also attended, felt that we weren't sure about some of Rachel's analysis. Both Kellie and Lauren have statistical analysis backgrounds and felt that some of our uncertainty might be because Rachel works alone and so may not bounce her ideas/analysis off others.

43 comments:

Marie said...

I am thinking that you meant Holly Miller from the City, not SPS staff member Holly Ferguson.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yup and I know the difference too.

Megan Mc said...

I don't know much about the WA Federation of Independent Schools but I thought the main private school organization was PNAIS (Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools). I don't know if the statement of a 15% decline is for WFIS member schools or all private schools.

The private school where I work took in an extra section of 6th and 9th graders for next year. At our open houses, back in January, I met many public school families looking at private school options for the first time. Most said they were looking for responsive learning communities where the emphasis was on strong academics and student teacher relationships and that their perception of private schools had changed.

I don't think that increasing predictability in middle school assignments will drastically increase market share for 6th graders - especially if school sizes increase through portables and bigger class sizes. It does nothing to help families who will be guaranteed assignment at a school they don't want their kid at in the first place. Limiting the perception of choice (even if some choice still exists) may push families to ignore SPS all together.

I think most parents are willing to stick it out for assignment at a "good" school, but when principals are moved around willie nillie and schools are moved, split or discontinued, a guaranteed assignment at a school is no guarantee that it will be the same school.

Its also hard for families who are committed to public education to stick it out when they are ignored and mistreated by the district.

adhoc said...

Yup, I think Megan hit the nail on the head. And, as Charlie has said in the past parents don't just want predictability, they want a predictable assignment to a good school.

Lets look at what happened with Jane Addams in the NE cluster this year. Tracy Libros said that every student who signed up on time would have a guaranteed spot at Addams this year. A guaranteed spot! That's predictability at it's best. Yet, only 20 6th grade families listed it as their first choice. Meanwhile, a far less predictable choice, Eckstein, had 546 6th grade families list the school as their first choice.

That tells me that families want far more than just predictability. They want a predictable assignment to what they perceive to be a good school.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Melissa
As for the missing students (those not at SPS and not at private schools)...
I didn't see any numbers concerning home-schoolers or SPS students going out-of-district in the PP presentation (did I miss it?)

I know a number of home-schoolers and quite a few going out of District. One family who lives in Montlake (and I assume Garfield would have been their high school) went from The Bush School for middle to an out-of-district transfer to Interlake in Bellevue for HS.

I agree with Megan about the popularity of private schools. The MS my daughter attended had record applications this year for the 2009-10 school year, and all of the HS we applied to also said they had record apps. A number of kids who will be attending my daughter's private HS could have gone to Garfield, but they chose private instead.

So, in that, I agree that it's smaller class sizes, student-teacher relationships and a responsive learning community that attract families.

Carolyn said...

From the original post:
Michael said:
* that he felt that we see clusters of growth around high performing schools. That people will move to get into them. He feels this might be a big factor in the new SAP.


This is a huge problem, and it can only be effectively addressed by bringing all schools up to a high performing level. I wish I knew the answer to this. But maybe a start is: work to get teacher evaluation included in job security (vs a focus on seniority), and find a way to work out issues with principals that limits moving them around. (Mentor those who need mentoring and fire those who just aren't working out.)

Megan Mc's comment I think most parents are willing to stick it out for assignment at a "good" school, but when principals are moved around willie nillie and schools are moved, split or discontinued, a guaranteed assignment at a school is no guarantee that it will be the same school.

in combination with the move to standardize curriculum has me worried that the district will achieve equality across schools, but rather than making all schools similarly good they'll all be made worse.

Isn't overcrowding an inevitable outcome when school quality is uneven, especially when there is no plan for alternative assignments when an attendance area is full?

momster said...

in spite of the fact that rachel works alone, her methodology was recently confirmed when the dejong consultants (hired by the board hired in 2006 for demographic data projections) ran their own independent model and came up with results very close to hers.

prior to that, sps had the former seattle city demographer on staff for about a year - so there was additional professional expertise there.

i would say too that without a formal census to actually count people where they live and record their ages, it is very difficult to account for kids and families between birth and kindergarten. sps has long used birth-to-k ratios for projecting enrollment - so the notion that they are suddenly doing something more scientific or valid for projecting enrollment is in error.

the difficulty is not projecting students for the district as a whole, it's projecting them by neighborhood - and doing so years before they enroll for kindergarten and become known to sps.

trying to do it based on anecdotal information about preschool populations, number of kids people say they're seeing in parks or grocery stores, etc is impossible, as much as people offer that as evidence of some boom or bust.

another factor is that other organizations (e.g., dept of neighborhoods, puget sound regional council, etc) may do population projections at the neighborhood level, but only in broad age brackets (0-18) not useful for projecting enrollment for specific schools.

'conventional wisdom' is rife in people's beliefs about what sps should be doing with enrollment projections.

what i thought was interesting from the slides was projected growh in the se - did rachel talk about where that might be coming from?

nacmom said...

To just state the obvious, and NEVER followed through on, suggestion that SPS simply poll their current families for their demographic data. This would not be comprehensive, certainly, but would provide a very solid 'base' of kids VERY likely to enroll in SPS. It would also provide a sense of the 'sibling' population (now seen as a smaller population than initially feared).

Parent groups have been offering to collect this data for years, but the district never responds. I worry, frankly, that without real data, boundary lines will be drawn that are in some cases too small, in others too big. Then who is the winner? those who end up with smaller schools/classes resulting from poor boundary drawing...

Parents do want predictable assignments to good schools, but not to overcrowded ones. The district has a lot of work to do and will continue to lose familes to private or other districts until (if ever) they can provide predictability, quality AND acceptable school/class sizes. Hearing that the 4-5 year plan is to add portables to Eckstein is beyond ridiculous. Everyone thinks it's way to big today. Even bigger? No thanks. I'll seek a better option, as will many.

anon said...

It seems obvious that schools need to be full at less than 100% capacity. That is, there should be wiggle room built into the plan, and that includes any set asides for choice. Let's say 8% is the wiggle room. Schools should be considered full when they are at 92%. The boundaries should be drawn accordingly. If people move into the guaranteed area, there will be room for them. If the area becomes more densely populated, there will be slack to handle it. People should not be able to choose their way into a school and to fill it to the absolute brim. Having a little slack is more important than having the choice to maximally fill a school, and potentially overcrowd it.

jamie said...

Off Topic:

Could it be the beginning of the end of the trend towards scripted lessons and lockstep alignment?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/25/education-reform-labour-ed-balls

wseadawg said...

I want to see the hard data backing up Michael's statement that families are moving to get into particular schools. How much data - in this data driven administration - does he possess? People buy houses based on the quality of neighborhoods and their socioeconomic status. Better neighborhoods typically have better schools anywhere you go in the country. Enough extrapolating causation from correlation! Rainier Beach improved its offerings, so why are families not moving to that neighborhood?

This isn't rocket science. There are only so many Issaquah and Sammamish Plateaus to be built upon. Even as the birthrate drops, anticipated population growth means more kids in Seattle.

We need hard data. Not anecdotes. What's a rule in one neighborhood doesn't automatically extrapolate district-wide.

Sahila said...

"Peter said that the district cannot be "passive" on housing patterns and needs to work with the City."....

Don't you just love that man's unparalled capacity to make totally underwhelming contributions to the great debate....

zb said...

"To just state the obvious, and NEVER followed through on, suggestion that SPS simply poll their current families for their demographic data."

I've wondered why useful data can't be obtained this way, too. They could be concerned that some families will think it's a commitment, that others will be unaware of the request (biasing the sample), there might also be concern that some segments might fear reporting information (undocumented immigrants come to mind). If the SPS set up a website where I could "report" the existence of my children, and, perhaps, offered me access to email announcements (like the online shops do), I'd sign up, though. But, I'm computer-savvy, and have no concerns about reporting my children's existence.

zb said...

I think what some of you who say "predictable assignment to a good school" are ignoring is that I don't want just predictable assignment to a good school, I also want my neighbors to have a predicable assignment to a good school. And, I want predictable assignment to a school that is close to me. That's the neighborhood school model, not just that predictable choice is available to an individual family who makes a particular choice (i.e. puts Addams or Ranier Beach as their first choice), but that it's available for an entire neighborhood. That's why the Addams analogy is irrelevant.

I think a lot of people who have grown used to the choice model (which I think often offers only theoretical choice) have a lot of readjusting to do in considering the new model. I fear, though, that this includes the school district, especially in their assumptions about demographics & capacity.

zb said...

What is a "responsive learning community?"

momster said...

nacmom, i have suggested polling at the school level as a way of getting a sense of not-yet-enrolled siblings, but would never suggest it as the basis for city-wide enrollment projections out the necessary 2-5-10 years it takes to plan capacity far enough ahead of booms and busts.

unless you can get a near 100% response (which would not even be close to possible), you would have to rely on some sort of statistical sample and extrapolation to the population as a whole - so you wouldn't be doing much different from what the district is doing now.

and how do you assure that sample is statistically sound - when, say, all of the people without computers don't respond? is the poll usps-based? kid-mail at school? a combination to reach everyone? how do you assure someone doesn't forget and report more than once?

just curious - what parent group? unless it's something city-wide, like pta, it's likely to be incomplete - so would the district then put schools, capacity, etc in the places that report, but not others?

parent groups can do a lot of things, but i don't know how they would do this.

maybe the parent group could pay for telephone polling such as what candidates and initiatives use to gauge voter response (which has much more chance of being statistically sound); however, it would not be cheap.

it's unfortunate when people assume the district has this fantastic resource just sitting there and being ignored - when in reality, it's completely unrealistic and there is no way they could use it.

adhoc said...

ZB, Jane Addams and Eckstein are about 1.5 miles apart. They are both neighborhood schools for families in the NE. My family is within walking distance to both schools.

While getting into Eckstein is a long shot for many families in the NE, JA is not. All families in the NE cluster had a guaranteed spot at JA, a NEIGHBORHOOD school, if they chose it - but they didn't choose it.

Do you think all of the families that did not choose JA this year will happily embrace it next year if they find that they are within the schools boundaries? Do you think that they will simply be happy because JA is a neighborhood school? I don't.

If JA is perceived as inferior to Eckstein, families are not going to accept an assignment there. They will keep trying to get into Eckstein of other public schools, go to Shoreline, go to private school, or home school. They are not going to just suck it up and send their kids to a school that they don't feel is a "good" school simply because it is in the neighborhood.

This is why I do not think that a "predictable" assignment to a neighborhood school alone will work. We must have predictable assignments to "good" neighborhood schools. And, yes of course that means all of us.

Disclaimer: I do not think JA is a "bad" school, in fact with district support I think it could be one of the strongest schools in the NE cluster. And it is an option school so there will be no boundaries or mandatory assignment to the school - I was just using it as an example of what will be happening across the district.

zb said...

"All families in the NE cluster had a guaranteed spot at JA, a NEIGHBORHOOD school, if they chose it - but they didn't choose it.

Do you think all of the families that did not choose JA this year will happily embrace it next year if they find that they are within the schools boundaries?"

Yes, I do (or, at least, I think the acceptance of the school assignment will be very different than it is under a "choice" plan). The problem with everyone in the neighborhood getting a "JA neighborhood school" by choosing it is that it requires knowing what your neighbors are going to do;it requires not just that I put JA first but that all my neighbors do

We live closer to Roosevelt & further away from Nathan Hale. We live closer to Eckstein, and further away from Addams and Hamilton. So, if I'm making school choices, I'm going to put the closer schools first (in fact, since I suspect that my neighbors are doing the same thing, I am more likely to get a "neighborhood" school that way). And the distance tiebreaker encourages me to chose that option, since I have a better chance of getting into Eckstein than someone who lives closer to Jane Addams than I do.

If, on the other hand, my kids were assigned to Hamilton or Addams or Hale (all schools that are slightly further away), along with the rest of my neighborhood, I'd be comfortable sending my kids there. (JA being a K-8 changes things -- I question mandatory assignments to 6-8 in a K-8, but if it were a regular middle school?)

Now, I'm really speaking for myself; I can't really speak for others. But, I do think that there are others (who come from systems where school assignment was the norm), and are basically comfortable with a variety of school options in their area (and NE is the area I know) who feel similarly (derived from conversations at NE extra curriculars).

Roy Smith said...

Is a K-8 going to be regarded as a neighborhood middle school by those looking for a comprehensive middle school?

I wonder if the disparity between first choice picks between JA and Eckstein is reflective of the relative preference for a good middle school vs. a K-8?

Meg said...

I struggled with some of Rachel Cassidy's analysis/assumptions as well. Her insistence on "out of district" kids for the boost in private school enrollment didn't seem to be robustly reasoned out or thoroughly researched (with, say, a +/- percentage of error, or thinking through which private schools seem to be draws for the greater Metropolitan area and which seem to be much more neighborhood/city region draws).In other areas, her reasoning seemed fine, but for me, that stood out pretty glaringly.

Overall, it seemed (to me) that her analysis is weaker at points where research that is tougher to quantify intersects with directly quantifible numbers. This is different than saying I think she's incompetent, by the way. But given that it's important to find a way to model difficult-to-quantify variables, it's not an insignificant weakness.

dj said...

Please tell me that they are not just now realizing that people will move to be near schools they prefer. That has to be disingenuous.

People who have the ability to avoid bad school assignments will continue to do so. I can't think of anywhere in the U.S. where that isn't true. We will just now have more people doing that the traditional way, by moving.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

We have friends who are leaving their very nice house in our terrific neighborhood for Ballard—specifically because of the schools. Of course, they have not yet been able to sell their house, but are already renting an apartment in Ballard so their oldest child qualified for placement there in September.

dan dempsey said...

Nine reasons for a less than optimistic view of enrollment over the next 5 years. (I am sure readers have many more)

#1... I met a couple at Lincoln Park in West Seattle who had lived in West Seattle and loved it. As soon as their oldest was ready for school they moved East of the Lake. They still come back and visit West Seattle especially Lincoln Park.

#2... The Superintendent's view that class size doesn't matter.

#3... The coming one size fits all 9th grade math of Discovering Algebra ... no remedial math for entering freshmen. The social promotion/ differentiated instruction sham is fooling no one outside of 3rd & Lander.

#4... The district's Curriculum & Instruction rating of 2.0, lowest of all ratings announced in the yearly review at the last board meeting. Is not school about academics?

#5... Forecasting Private School enrollment was based on an economic downturn and affordability. It seems the big decision driver is the increase in Public School class size and curtailing of popular programs, which finds more people seeking private schools.

#6... Completely irrational board decision making in continuing failing math direction with more experiments at high school. Rather than correcting a k-8 math mess, they made a k-12 mess.

#7... Incredible confusion about school closures and north end capacity needs, if this can't be done correctly why trust your kid to this organization?

#8... Where is the predictability of getting into a good school?
It seems that early application to a private school is the best bet.

#9... Home schoolers often return for high school ... the rise in online high schools may effect that.

adhoc said...

I'm always shocked and angered at how people blatantly "cheat" the system, and then brag about it to others. Last weekend I was talking to my next door neighbor who proudly and with no shame told me how her friend who lives in Ballard used a "friends" address, and transferred a few bills into her name, to got her child into Eckstein.

She told me this knowing that my son is devastated because he is being separated from all of his elementary freinds, as they all got into Eckstein, and he didn't because we live close to the Eckstein "border" (1.4 miles from the school).

Do people have no shame? Has SPS caused a situation where honest families feel that they have to lie and cheat? Will it get worse with the new SAP? Families that can move, will move, but what about the others? Will it cause more lying and cheating?

anon said...

At least you'll know the exact rules to lie by... and exactly where to get that new address.

Melissa Westbrook said...

AdHoc, this is a thread I've been meaning to write about as it occurs and likely may get worse. But Tracy says to "tell her" about it but then doesn't really say they could build it into the software to (1) automatically check addresses as kids move from 5th to 6th and 8th to 9th and (2) do random checks of addresses. I do think the new rule of not being able to stay at a non-attendance area school if you move might really make some people have to work hard to keep up the sham but some people are very motivated.

zb said...

"I'm always shocked and angered at how people blatantly "cheat" the system, and then brag about it to others. "

I too am uniformly bothered by unenforced rules, since it rewards the cheaters and punishes those who believe that one follows the rules (especially when there's nothing evil about the rule, and taking something just means taking it from someone else). I'm further dismayed at the idea that you're just supposed to look the other way (for example, if you attend school with this cheater).

I think they should be checking up on addresses, and if errors like this are discovered, a student should be automatically reassigned to their attendance area school, without any actual punishment (we should just treat them as errors). It couldn't quite work that way under the old choice system, since you would have put different priorities in your assignment choices, if you'd been using the correct address.

zb said...

PS: Yes, as Melissa indicates, under this new system, whenever the "error" is discovered, you can just treat the kid as though they've moved. Under the old system, since you could stay in the school assigned to you based on your old address, you could always try to argue that you had just moved in the intervening time, a much more difficult thing to disprove.

zb said...

Renting another place, though, and pretending you actually live there is a more complicated "solution" (i.e. cheat) to disprove, and, a lie only available to the relatively wealthy. Given that good private schools can cause 16K a year, it's easily worth it to rent an apartment to get into a school (and people can even convince themselves that that's not really cheating).

SolvayGirl1972 said...

In my friends' case, they really ARE moving...and I think they plant to move into the apartment in the Fall if they have to—very sad as they're leaving a great house.

It is just absurd that our schools are so uneven in quality that people feel the need to sell/buy a house at one of the worst economic times possible just to insure their children get a good education.

As for true cheaters, as anon said...the new SAP will make it much easier to cheat as they will now know EXACTLY where their fake address needs to be.

But ya know...I just can't be too hard on the cheaters. They are only doing what they think is best for their child(ren). And they, unlike my family, may not have generous grandparents to help with private school tuition if their predictable school is a bad fit.

I actually think the new SAP (and the new algorithm for choice rankings) will cause even more families to find ways to beat the system if their guaranteed assignment is at an unacceptable school.

adhoc said...

"In my friends' case, they really ARE moving...and I think they plan to move into the apartment in the Fall if they have to"

What do you mean when you say "they are really moving", and then say "they plan on moving in the fall if they have to"?

Are they moving or did they just rent an apartment and only going to move in if they have to?

I understand why people cheat, really I do. I get it. But, I don't condone it. I think it teaches a child an ugly lesson - if you can't get what you want honestly, just cheat and lie. And every person who cheats to get into a school pushes another person out who didn't cheat out. That family in Ballard who cheated to get their kid into Eckstein, helped push my son who lives within walking distance of the school out.

StepJ said...

It is possible to obtain better demographic data than what is captured today.

Other cities I have lived in have cooperative agreements with realtors, or even a city ordinance that requires title companies to have a home purchaser complete a simple one page document listing how many people will live in the home and their ages. This was used for the specific purpose of school planning.

As the three major title companies transact over 80% of all business this could be something, in cooperation with the city, that would be a very attainable source of better demographic data. Maybe, include renters too.

In one city they saw the birth and move-in trends so early they put a levy on the ballot for a vote five years in advance of when it was projected the school would be needed. The levy passed and a new school was built and ready when the enrollment surge hit.

I have shared this information with Director Martin-Morris and he says he has shared it with the enrollment office. Perhaps the hesitation is asking for assistance from the city?

Maureen said...

Melissa says I do think the new rule of not being able to stay at a non-attendance area school if you move might really make some people have to work hard to keep up the sham but some people are very motivated.

Note that this is only true of the "attendance area" schools--not the "Option schools" which will have "Geographic Zone" tiebreakers and are generally K-8 schools. So, rent an apartment a block from one of the (generally very popular) K-8 Option schools for six (two?) months and you have a perfectly legal seat for nine years (or maybe twenty years with siblings).

SolvayGirl1972 said...

They rented the apartment in February and will move in and rent out their house if it doesn't sell by September. They are planning to buy a house in Ballard (and may be waiting for the SAP boundaries). So I don't really consider what they are doing cheating since they plan to move to Ballard permanently in September.

Carolyn said...

The real estate form StepJ mentions would make school planning more predictable. Why not put this in place as part of the SAP?

Moving forward on the SAP is important, but I hope they district and board will get all the obvious pieces in place before the plan is approved. The most basic issue is capacity. Another post mentioned a plan for handling "surge capacity". I'd add to this a clear plan for redrawing boundaries as schools become more popular, and a plan for handling assignment for families caught in border changes. The district and board should not naively think that the next time they'll have to draw boundaries is way off in the distant future (when it will be someone else's problem).

Families will move for better schools, and with an address guarantee it can be done. It is very easy to figure out that moving is more economical than private school, especially for families with more than one child. Other cities with address-based assignment don't have this problem because they've had address-based assignment for many years. The change to this system in Seattle will result in several years of within city migration that will stabilize over time.

Deidre F. said...

"Families will move for better schools, and with an address guarantee it can be done"

I don't think we are going to see a large amount of families moving to get into "good" schools. Under our current plan families can move to get into good schools, because our current assignment plan has a distance tie breaker. Currently the closer you live to a school the better chance you have of getting into that school. For example Eckstein's boundary was about 1.4 miles around the school this year. So if you wanted to be really safe you could buy a house within a mile of the school and practically be guaranteed in. We considered moving, as one move could have guaranteed my children access to Bryant, Eckstein and Roosevelt (under the current plan), but we didn't as we have Shoreline schools as a back up, and they welcome us with open arms, so we knew we had options.

"Other cities with address-based assignment don't have this problem because they've had address-based assignment for many years."

There is no difference with other cities. Families have always selected houses where they feel their kids will have access to the best schools. My parents did it back in the 70s and so did my husbands parents. Whenever our family moved, their first considerations were schools.

For families that have the means not much will change in the new assignment plan. If they find themselves in the boundary of a school they don't like they simply move, as they have done all along.

The families that will get the worst end of the deal, are the families that find themselves in the boundary of a school that they don't like, but don't have the means to move, go private, drive to Shoreline, etc.

G said...

"Moving forward on the SAP is important, but I hope they district and board will get all the obvious pieces in place before the plan is approved. The most basic issue is capacity"

North of the ship canal, the most basic issue is capacity. South of the ship canal, the most basic issue is equity. Two very different problems. The attempt to correct both problems with the same solution is not going to work. Drawing boundaries and assigning students to more or less equal schools will work in north Seattle. Families cannot be forced into less equal schools in south Seattle. Why don't they work on solutions to both problems instead of pretending south Seattle can and should be treated just like north Seattle?

dj said...

Dierdre, I disagree. Currently, for people who live near undesirable schools, it is not difficult to get your child into another school. I can't think of a family I've talked to who hasn't been able to get into a school they wanted for kindergarten or first grade, or who hasn't used sibling preference to haul an entire cohort of kids through the schools.

If that no longer is the case, yes, people will move. I have talked to a lot of families who are planning to if the SAP means they are stuck at one of the undesirable schools, because it is still cheaper to move than to send 2-3 kids through private school.

Of course, I suppose if the undesirable schools were improved, that would be different, but improving undesirable schools is not part of the SAP. Except rhetorically.

Megan Mc said...

I agree with G. The district needs to address the problems of the N end and S end separately. The city should be part of the discussions since the SAP could have major repercussions on future demographics in this city as people move to be closer to decent schools. This could lead to even more intense segregation in the future.

I know there are a lot of issues with schools within schools but it seems like a good solution for dealing with disparate population needs in the south; remediation vs enrichment. But as it stands now, the families seeking enrichment opportunities leave the area entirely. At least this way, they would stay in the area and contribute to the neighborhood school. Look how popular the Montessori and Language immersion programs have been.

Carolyn said...

Yes, the SAP may well lead to more intense segregation and areas where the poor who attend the least desirable public schools live down slope from the rich who send their kids to private. ugh.

While I noted that capacity is the most basic issue, I agree that equity actually underlies the capacity issue. But the SAP is silent on this point. If we really had "excellence for all", most families would already choose neighborhood schools.

And the old plan never guaranteed attendance at a school, at least at the elementary level, you just had a really really good shot at it. And there were ways to get into desirable schools without cheating that offset the cost of purchasing a new home.

zb said...

"But ya know...I just can't be too hard on the cheaters. They are only doing what they think is best for their child(ren)."

I disagree with this -- how is that different from saying that you're going to steal your neighbor's car (or perhaps, a car from someone in another neighborhood) in order to sell it and pay tuition? No, it's not OK to cheat.

(and, if we're thinking that lying about where you live in order to get access is a "victimless" crime, it's not, as long as you're taking someone else's spot.

If it's going to result in over-crowding, but not substitution, the cost will be more dispersed (and might end up feeling more like copyright theft and less like stealing a car.)

Sahila said...

Life's not fair - life isnt interested in fairness, its interested in balance...

Dont blame the cheaters - who doesnt want the best for their kid? Gee, my son is going to daycamp at Evergreen - boy, am I green, thinking what a difference $17K/year would make to his educational experience (minus the snob value and exclusionary testing in!)...

And sometimes I think we are mad at cheaters only because we have something inside ourselves that keeps us stuck playing the game, adhering to the rules, waiting nicely, patiently, submissively, obediently, uncomplainingly in line as we have been socialised to do...

Wise is the person that understands that "rules are for fools, guidelines are for the wise"

Dont get mad, get even; put the responsibility where it belongs - with the District for enabling such uneven levels of quality and choice and access to exist in the public school system... demand and ensure that the District fixes that and the cheating will stop...

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I agree with you Sahila.

Personally, I couldn't sleep nights if I cheated, but I was lucky and have parents who can help their grandchild escape our sorry public choices (remember, RBHS is my "Predictable" school) for a quality, private education.

If we hadn't been so blessed, we would have ended up at Center School and I would have spent all my time waiting for the closure/major change in curriculum shoe to drop. If TCS wasn't an option, I don't know what I'd do...apply for one of the lottery "choice" spots and hope for the best? homeschool? virtual K-12? I really can't say what I'd do if I had the option to use someone else's address and my daughter was assigned to RBHS or Cleveland at this point in time.

Sahila...there ARE private schools without a snob factor. And MANY of the schools offer full tuition scholarships. I know a girl from my daughter's elementary class who attended Evergreen for MS on FULL tuition scholarship! It's certainly worth checking out if the District does any more damage to AS#1.