Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coffee with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

I went to the coffee with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson at Hamilton yesterday. It was very strange. She would often totally ignore a person's question and give an answer to another question - sort of like a politician at a "debate", but then she would allow the person to follow up, in which they would ask their question again. This pattern would repeat until she would finally answer the question, but with some weak "it would depend on the individual case", "these things take time and we are working towards that" or "that hasn't been determined yet" sort of weasel answer.

There were a few questions and answers that I think merit notice.

1. A fellow noted that it is poorer students who change addresses most frequently and that the new SAP requires students to change schools if they move out of their current school's attendance area. He asked if that didn't put a disproportionate burden on poorer students by creating additional transitions for them and subject them to additional bullying (as the new kid in school). Under the current plan the students could remain at their current school even if they changed neighborhoods, and isn't that better for the student? Dr. Goodloe-Johnson pretended to not understand the question for a long time and then pretended to give the incorrect answer and then suggested that the student could request their old school on a space-available basis. It was a weak answer to what was a really insightful question.

2. A fellow raised some excellent points about the loss of the sibling preference, about how it was counter to the stated goals of the new plan (predictability, family involvement, etc.), and how it messed up the people who were planning ahead and playing by the current rules. He noted the references to the transition plan in the adopted policy and how the Board made it clear that transition was clearly outside their authority and the Superintendent's responsibility. She, instead, tried to kick it back to the Board, and then, when pressed, said that she would work closely with the Board when making those decisions. It was clear that she was trying to dissociate herself from the decisions in transition. That was one of the themes of the evening - she didn't want any blame for decisions to stick to her.

3. She was asked about capacity in the northeast and answered that it would be addressed with the levies, particularly BEX IV. When the woman asking the question said that no solution from BEX IV would actually be available for use until 2015, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson didn't bat an eye. Apparently that's soon enough for her. It was funny because she told this woman from John Rogers - where they don't have a PCP space - that her child's school will have to continue to be overcrowded. A few minutes later she was telling someone else that there might not be space available in her school of choice because the District will close off enrollement once the functional capacity - which includes an allowance for PCP space - has been reached.

4. I asked about accountability - we have heard all about it for two and a half years, could she cite some examples of accountability in action. She answered that accountability will come with the performance measurement system. So there hasn't been any accountability for the past two years? Apparently not. She said that these things take time. Without the performance management system in place no one will be held accountable for anything so no one has been accountable yet. How about that!


zb said...

I think the argument that the right to stay in one's school when a student moves benefits socioeconomically disadvantaged students is a misleading characterization. Since out-of-cluster moves don't guarantee transportation, and because the disadvantaged are less likely to be privy to the system, my guess is the vast majority of students who use this benefit are socioeconomically advantaged compared to the mean. Unless someone has data that shows that's not true -- that is, that the benefit accrues to the poor (rather than the speculation that it might, theoretically, because the poor are more likely to move), I find the argument to be fraudulent.

I wasn't there at the coffee, but I understand what Charlie means (ignoring questions, answering her own, weasling), all classic political moves. But, I also think that there's a group of parents who really haven't groked that the new SAP means a sea change in how things are done in SPS. They've figured out ways to make the old system (w/ its "choice", waiting lists, sibling preferences, grandfathering of schools work for them independent of where they choose to live). So, now that the system is going to be different (it'll really depend on where you live), they're still hanging on to the old remnants.

For example, I think there's a logic to the answer to the last question: schools like John Rogers will be over-crowded, but there also won't be space for students from out-of-the area because of the "PCP" holding of space. The logic is that within-assignment area kids will be able to over-crowd a school, but that the slots for other kids will only be grudgingly available at popular schools.

This is the new world. I actually like it, and want to think about ways to make it work (accountability, for example, is independent of any particular SAP, so are the BEX issues Melissa raises, so is the quality of education & the distribution of resources). If you don't like the new system (which is going to be really different) you can keep fighting it, but I think the tweaks people are trying to keep are only going to be marginally acceptable (within the larger changes). And, they'll be perceived largely as people trying to tweak for their own personal benefit (i.e. how do I get my kid in the school I want, and which rules/tools can I keep to make that happen).

zb said...

Oops, didn't realize how long my comment was going to be. The short version is that I fully understand that the political animal that is the superintendent might have been a complete weasel at the meeting. But, I also think it's possible that parents and district are talking past each other because the district is rolling along into a really new world (with the new SAP), while some parents are still attached to an old system that they'd invested in understanding, so that they could make it work for them, regardless of where they lived.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I actually like it, and want to think about ways to make it work (accountability, for example, is independent of any particular SAP, so are the BEX issues Melissa raises, so is the quality of education & the distribution of resources)."

Accountability is independent of any particular issue?

ZB, I'm not following; could you please explain?

Charlie Mas said...

I haven't actually seen the data (it isn't publicly available in a disaggregated form), but I have been told that low-income families move much more often. The data I have seen supports this conclusion as there is a high correlation between FRE and transfers in and out at schools.

In addition, the District has long said that elementary school clusters in low-income areas have to be bigger so students can still have transportation when they move.

Page 2 of the Framework for the New Student Assignment Plan says:
"Address varying needs around the district. For instance, clusters in high poverty areas might be larger than other clusters to enhance the likelihood of school continuity, with transportation, despite family mobility."

Of course, this page also says that cluster would be modified to "Add the flexibility of staggered school opening and closing times as an additional choice element for families, with transportation provided within the cluster. This has an additional benefit of saving on transportation costs."

Back then staggered bus and bell times saved money. The next year it was standardized bus and bell times that saved money. Weird, huh?

wseadawg said...

Good luck with the new SAP. I predict it will be a disaster for several years to come.

The current system gave parents choice and options if they couldn't get what they wanted or needed at their local school.

Now, the choice is taken away and made for them, as they are told, "your local school is just as good as the one you want to go to."

Is there a single human being who believes that will be the case?

I don't blame anyone for trying, but the people with the least will once again suffer the most under this plan. At least under old plan, families had a right to choose a different school. Now, it's a privilege. We are losing something big right there.

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

I really don't understand how the new SAP is so very different from the current assignment plan? It guarantees families near popular schools assignment to those schools. But doesn't our current plan already do that? I mean right now if you live within a mile of Roosevelt you are getting in. If you live between 1 and 2 miles away from Roosevelt you will likely get in. If you live more than 2 miles away you don't have a shot in hell at getting in. We already have boundaries, they are just a bit fluid from year to year. Except for solidifying a boundary what is changing?

Kids that didn't get into Roosevelt under the current plan won't get in under the new SAP either.

If you live in a neighborhood with less than desirable schools you will have the same exact choices available to you under the new SAP as you have with the current plan - Your choices will be your neighborhood school or any other under enrolled (read less desirable) school in the district.

So what exactly will change under the new SAP? How will it restrict choice any more than the current plan does? Will someone please give me a scenario where choice will be restricted more than it currently is.

The only area that I can see that the plan truly restricts "choice" is with option schools. Their draws will be limited and they will be more regional. That I get.

Otherwise, I just don't see anything that will force families into their neighborhood schools any more than they are currently forced into their neighborhood school. Same shi*t, different day.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Adhoc...from my understanding the big difference will be the physical configuration of the assignment area. I may be wrong, so someone correct me, but here's what I see.

NOW: Onion-like, concentric circles that contract/expand depending on the number of kids who apply in a given year and their distance from the school. Sometimes these circles can overlap (RBHS & Cleveland? RBHS & Franklin?) if the schools are not popular and for whatever reason someone who lives far away chooses a school (ex. someone from the Central District choosing RBHS for its sports program). Popular schools have small circles, unpopular schools have big ones.

NEW SAP: The circles will be replaced by definite puzzle pieces (ie, irregularly shaped areas depending on the demographics, etc.) There's been some talk about the area for Ballard shooting out a fingerling to grab Queen Anne, etc.

So...the big difference for the uninformed will be that they can no longer say "I live 1 mile from School X, so I am in." They'll actually have to look at the map and may find that though they are one mile from School X, they are in the area for School Z.

Does anyone know if my assessment is correct?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Solvay, I think your assessment is key to understanding the difference. Depending on enrollment, under the old SAP, the distance from the school to get in could greatly change. Under this plan, not so much.

Here's something I figured out that I hadn't realized (part of the mind-set change from the old) is that the tiebreakers only apply to high school for Open Choice seats. There is no overenrollment because they are right-sizing the high schools so no tie-breakers there.

BUT for the Open Choice seats, well, that's where it gets interesting. So currently, if you are in a high school but the new SAP boundaries put your student as an out-of-attendance area student, your sib will have to apply for the open choice seat. Now, since sibs are the first tie-breaker, you are practically guaranteed a seat. So that's how we will continue to have out-of-attendance area kids at high schools (until their sibs run out).

Also, any specialty program that puts out-of-attendance area students at a school (like ELL or Special Ed), their sibs, too, will have to apply under the Open Choice seats but again, they have almost an automatic in because of the sibling tiebreakers.

I pointed this out to Harium and said that (1) I hadn't realized that the tiebreakers apply to Open Choice seats; I thought it was a straight lottery where anyone could get the golden ticket and (2) that as far as being an "open choice" well, it's your choice to apply but there are people who have a better chance of getting in than you do.

I still cannot get anyone - Tracy or any Board member - to tell me whether the Open Choice seats will be a percentage of the overall school enrollment OR percentage of the freshman class (a big difference).

One other thing to be revealed next week at the Work Session - which closed buildings are on the list to be reopened to address the capacity issues in the NE (this was on a Work Session document as well as mentioned at last night's levy meeting).

When these buildings could be opened is a mystery because (1) they need work and there's (gulp) $36M in the BTA III levy for that work and (2) permitting from the City (although the City has said it will help fast-track those permits).

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said...

ad hoc, one thing that will change is that neighborhoods that have been on the fringes of a popular school's reference area will now have guaranteed spots at some school. So Laurelhurst (for HS) and Eastlake (FOR k-5) won't say 'we don't have a school' anymore. In fact, some unspecified chunk of Eastlake will have basically guaranteed seats at TWO schools-probably Montlake and then TOPS (through the geographic zone tiebreaker.).

Also, Option schools will actually have increased draw areas--all of them will become all-city draws. The trick is that their transportation will be radically reduced (to only the middle school attendance area they sit in) so most of them will probably experience major changes in socioeconomic diversity. If you have the resources to get your kid there, you have lots of options, if not, too bad.

Solvay I think you are right--one thing I would add is that those irregular borders can't stay the same forever, so even if you look at the maps when you buy your house, that doesn't mean you will know where your 1st grader will go to High School.

Jaybird said...

That's also my understanding, SolvayGirl and I've been trying to follow this pretty closely.

We live on the perimeter of an oversubscribed reference area (Bryant), and currently incoming students in our neighborhood have no idea where they will go to school. Some (especially older kids) go to Bryant. This year, kids on my block were split between Laurelhurst and Thornton Creek even though they all put Bryant first.

The new SAP will give us a guaranteed assignment (but to where, we don't know). That will be good for some, especially those who just want to go to the same school as the neighborhood kids.

I'm not sure what will happen for those kids whose assignment school is not a good fit for them. They might get into an option school. I somehow doubt they will be able to have a choice of other NE cluster schools, except maybe Jane Addams. As adhoc says, "Your choices will be your neighborhood school or any other under enrolled (read less desirable) school in the district."

I'm concerned about what will happen in the interim, especially if there's no provision to try to keep siblings together for at least a few years. It might be the "old remnants," as zb put it, but parents have made decisions about where to put their kids in school based on existing rules (or happenstance, if their kids had to attend a non-reference school), and now the district is changing the rules mid-stream.

Needless to say, I'm dying to see these new boundary maps and hear more about implementation, or phasing in, next week.

Stu said...


I welcome any change if it brings predictability and accountability. The fight, as I see it, isn't the goals of the plan, it's the complete inability of the plan to reach that goal.

You want to guarantee placement to neighborhood schools then you have to have spaces available in those schools. The NE cluster has ONE middle school that's already turning away kids. We know families who couldn't get into their local -- less than two blocks away -- elementary 'cause of overcrowding. If you're going to support neighborhood schools then why should anyone from outside the area get into a school before someone from down the street?

Of course, this all leads to the inequity of Spectrum programs throughout the district, the lack of buildings in some areas, only a few language immersion programs . . . the trouble isn't in the assignment process, the trouble is that there's no consistency between programs and, therefore, students can't be assigned equitably.

And the circle continues . . .


SolvayGirl1972 said...

I'm concerned that the Open Choice seats will have sibling strings attached. As Dorothy (I think) has noted on past threads, the pure lottery aspect of open choice could be lost quite quickly.

I understand the desire to keep siblings together, but a handful of seats could, feasibly, end up going to a few families and everyone else is out of luck for a number of years.

The devil is in the details!

G said...

Under the new SAP, people will know exactly where they have to rent apartments or "use" addresses to get into the Garfields and Montlakes of the district. This year, the boundary around Garfield was so tight that neighborhoods that have always gotten in, like Capitol Hill, did not get in. I know people who had "used" addresses on Capitol Hill, sure they would get in though they live far from the area (one not even in the district), but they didn't get in! The new SAP clears up any confusion, because you know where you HAVE to live to get in. Whether you live there or not. People will do what they need to do to make the district work for them, IF THEY CAN, because of the inequity between schools. Creating such hard and fast boundaries in a way increases the inequity, because those who can manipulate the system will actually be more successful with the new rules.

dave said...

Has anyone heard anything more about whether they'll do an interim sibling grandfathering for a year or two? When are they going to decide on that? When is the implementation plan supposed to be done?

adhoc said...

We live in the NE cluster near Lake City. We live on a very modest block of small homes, mainly lower middle class families, a couple of very low income families, and a mixed income apartment complex on our corner. We have ALOT of families that have school age children on our block!

Of the families on our block two kids go to Shoreline schools. One kid goes out of cluster to Olympic View (not to be confused with Olympic Hills). Three go to private school. Two are home schooled. Two go to Hale. One goes to Eckstein (got in the year before they decreased their capacity), one decided to give Jane Addams a try this year, and one goes to Laurelhurst (got in 5 yeas ago before the over crowding was at it's peak).

Not one goes to our neighborhood school, John Rogers. I'm not knocking the school, I've heard great things about it, but for whatever reason families on our block do not choose it.

I don't care what boundaries the new SAP brings - the district will not be able to force families, even low income families into schools that they do not feel will meet the needs of their kids.

Those who can afford it will go to private school. Those that can't afford the tuition for private school will apply for scholarships. Those who do not have to work will homeschool. Those who have access to a car will go out of district. Or out of cluster. Or to an option school.

Families, even lower income families, are not just going to roll over, shrug, and settle for a school they don't want just because the boundaries have changed.

Sure the boundaries are now oddly shaped instead of concentrical circles. Sure QA gets a high school, but where do Ballard kids go now? Ingraham? Most Ballard families don't want to send their kids to gang ridden Ingraham. They will now be faced with the same options that NE and SE families have faced for years. They will be forced to find alternate school options.

That's what I mean by same sh*t different day. The same exact issues will still exist perhaps however to a different group of people (Ballard instead of QA for example)

Since the amount of seats at a school is finite the shape of the boundary will only change which group of people get into school X.

And those that don't get into school X under the new SAP will have the same dismal options that families that don't get into school X under the current plan have today.

What really is changing??

adhoc said...

And I am curious to see how many homes are bought and sold shortly after the new boundaries are released. I personally know two elementary school families who are waiting for the Eckstein and Roosevelt boundaries to be released so they can move to be sure they are guaranteed space at those schools. They reason that the cost of a move is much less than private school tuition for 7 years X 2 or 3 kids.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Well Adhoc...when you put it that way, you're absolutely right. Philosophically, realistically, the only thing that will change is who is affected by the new map. Some will win and some will lose.

But what really can the District do about "gang-infested Ingram (or any school)"? As Sahila often points out, the real problems are societal.

Though I have no love for SPS or our current super/board, our problems are being repeated in nearly every CITY school district across the country and I don't see it improving anytime soon.

G said...

Or families that do get into school x under the current assignment plan, but don't want to go there and go private, or to a public school that better meets their family's needs, or test into APP, will still be assigned to school x, and will still not go there (e.g., Madrona).

No change, whether you want to go to Bryant or you do not want to go to Madrona. The new SAP will let some people know, for certain, that they have access to the school they want, predictably. Everyone else, no change.

SE Mom said...

I really did not realize that there would be a sibling tie breaker for open choice high school seats.

Wow, so what's the point again of having open choice seats? Crazy.

Melissa, I will be more than interested to know what clarification you can get about the percentage of open choice seats. I have a friend who attended a meeting very recently that was held at Eckstein. She was told that the open choice seats would have a "rolling percentage" of 6-10% but it was not clarified as to what that meant.

My other big question is about how families will decide which schools outside of their reference school they will apply for. For instance, if we really want Garfield as a first choice and don't get an Open Choice seat, will that really prevent us from getting our second choice school, say Sealth? Since second (and third and so on) choices will not get processed any longer as a first choice, should families still list their "real" first choice? Or is there a game now that we're going to have to figure out?

Since Open Choice seats will be even more limited by a sibling tie breaker, figuring out how to play our cards becomes quite the game or roulette. A shot in the dark basically, if one does not want a reference high school assignment.

zb said...

"For instance, if we really want Garfield as a first choice and don't get an Open Choice seat, will that really prevent us from getting our second choice school, say Sealth?"

I think that you will have to game the system, and consider how likely you are to get into a school before you put it as your first choice. I don't know how popular Sealth is, but it's possible that it could be popular enough to be filled by 1st choices before they get to your 2nd choice. The iterative algorithm they used to use is going to go away, I think.

I'm also surprised by the use of a sibling tie-breaker for open-choice seats. I guess it follows, logically, for what we've heard about sibling tie-breaker for elementary schools (that is there is one, if space is available), except that in high schools, there will be space available because of the open choice seats. Interesting effect.

Sahila said...

Melissa - as regards which schools are to be re-opened...

by chance, at 4pmish on Thursday or Friday of last week, I heard a Phyllis Fletcher piece on KUOW about levies and schools reopening... there was an audio clip of Michael Debell, which I wasnt sure if it was current of archival....

I heard two schools were being re-opened, one being Sandpoint... cant remember the other, but remember being surprised - they were not obviously close to (central) north overcrowding...

I went looking on the KUOW site when I got home so that I could post the link to the info, but couldnt find it... I might try again now...

Central Mom said...

The schools he mentioned were Sandpoint and McDonald.

Stu said...

Not one goes to our neighborhood school, John Rogers. I'm not knocking the school, I've heard great things about it, but for whatever reason families on our block do not choose it.

The funny thing is that, for a number of years, I hard iffy things about John Rogers only to find, through a number of friends, that it's a lovely school with a really great community. However, I know of 3 families who had John Rogers a their first choice, one family 2 years ago and 1 last year, and didn't get in. One family was "assigned" to Olympic Hills, which wasn't on their choice list and isn't supposed to be one of their assignment schools -- they since left for Shoreline -- and one family eventually got in. I don't remember where the third family ended up going but it wasn't John Rogers.

Of course, it gets ridiculous at the middle school level. John Rogers, Olympic View, Sacajawea, View Ridge, Bryant, Wedgewood . . . these are all walking distance to Eckstein and yet the majority of these student have to be shipped out of the neighborhood because there's not enough room.

I repeat what I said before. NO neighborhood assignment plan will work if they don't have enough seats in the neighborhood.


reader said...

But what happens if after a year or so, that the popular high schools fill up with people in the reference area. Won't that diminish the "Open Choice" seats, and do so pretty quickly? After a while, people ARE going to move, and I agree it could be very quickly especially by those gaming the system with an apartment rental. And if open choice seats then fill up with siblings, then there will be no real open choice seats at all. Perhaps that's the goal. Then, there will be a lot of pressure to reduce special programs in schools, since those will fill up the popular schools along with siblings. A couple questions, is there "open choice seats" for grades k-8, or only high schools? Has the QA/Mag high school issue been resolved? Sounds like people are saying it's Ballard.

adhoc said...

Well, Solvaygirl you're right in that there is not much the District can do about gangs, and the larger societal problems that plague our schools. That is a topic in and of itself.

What I was referring to is the continued comments about how the new SAP will "greatly reduce choice" and "force families into their neighborhood schools".

Maybe I'm just not getting it? If someone can give a firm example of how choice will be limited please do so, because I can't think of one.

The new SAP merely trades the fluid concentric boudaries for oddly shaped permanent boundaries. For every family who with the new SAP finds themselves within the boundary of popular school X, there is another family that has been pushed out.

Families that under the current plan gets into Roosevelt, who now find themselves outside of the new SAP boundaries for Roosevelt will feel that their choice has been "limited". And it has. But at the same time choice has increased for the new families that now find themselves within the boundaries. It all balances out. It's A shuffle. The players change, but the game is the same.

adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keepin'On said...

The high school tiebreaker appears to be pretty simple - if you go to the assignment plan webpage on the Seattle Schools website.

The only time tiebreakers will go into effect for a high school is for open choice seats, and then only if more people apply for open choice seats than seats are available. For example if they hold 40 seats for the 9th grade as open choice seats, and 45 people apply, the tiebreakers will go into effect for those 45 people. If 10 of those 45 people have siblings in the school, they get the seat. and the other 35 applicants are assigned by lottery.

The problem of course, as has been said, is what if the attendance area jumps drastically in number one year? Then the number of open choice seats will be reduced say from 10% to 5%, or perhaps to none. Every meeting I have been to states this quite clearly, that they want flexibility to manage school capacity. That is why they have not finalized the amount of open choice seats for high schools. They need to see how many kids from the attendance area apply before they can set those seats aside.

So, I suppose choice will be limited for popular high schools, located in over-populated attendance areas (Ballard and Roosevelt). There may simply be none or almost no open choice seats available at those two schools, due to the huge numbers of high schoolers in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Am I getting this right?

adhoc said...

Stu, I've also heard great things about Rogers recently.

But 9 years ago when we bought our home in the NE, before the over crowding, families could pick and choose which schools in the cluster they sent their kids to. The more affluent schools like View Ridge, Bryant, Laurelhurst and Wedgewood were more attractive options and came with yellow bus service. Though there was nothing wrong with John Rogers, many families just didn't choose it. After awhile Rogers got a reputation (not sure if was true) for having lower income, less involved families. Then there was their test scores - while decent, they paled in comparison to the more affluent schools in the cluster. So the school became under enrolled, and it got a bad reputation.

And bad reputations take a long time to shake.

Today, with space at such a premium in the NE, getting into JR is like a golden ticket. I would imagine it's a fantastic school today. And I've heard this from many families. I know they have one of the best music programs in the cluster, and I hear their art program is stellar too.

Today, most of the families on our block have older elementary, middle and high school age children. We only had one new kindergartner this year and she is at Jane Addams. Not sure why they didn't chooser Rogers, but I'll ask them next time I see them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Michael might have said those two but Facilities staff all played dumb at last night's levy meeting. I'm sure they know which ones but until the boundary Work Session we won't know for sure. They deny having filed any permits with the City as of last night.

Reader, the thinking is that the high schools will be slightly undersized because (a) of any kids that come in because of specialty programs, (b) Open Choice seats and (c) slight adjustment for any growth. As far as I know, Open Choice seats only exist for high school.

Well, we'll see how they "solved" the QA/Magnolia problem next week. Either they announce Lincoln as a new high school (unlikely) or divy the kids up among Franklin, Roosevelt and Ballard (with outer Ballard kids off to Ingraham). That's my guess.

TechyMom said...

Getting rid of the iterative algorithm limits choice. You now basically get one shot at a school that's not your attendance school. No more listing them in your order of preference. No more option to try for a super-popular school like TOPS, and a less popular second, third or 4th choice. You can put it down, but your second choice will be processed after everyone else's first choice.

When we looked at schools, there was one clear first choice (TOPS) and 4 that were about the same after it, 3 more that were 3rd choice material. In the old system, we had a chance at any of those schools. In the new, we'd have our attendance school (probably unacceptable Madrona) and one other option. It's going to be very hard to figure out what school you have a chance at for a few years. Will TOPS have more or less people trying to get in? Maybe lots of people will be satisfied with their guarenteed assignement somewhere else and won't bother. How will you know whether to risk it?

I'm just glad that we got our daughter into K this year, before all this mess hits.

G said...

For those of us in current reference areas and future assignment boundaries of schools that are not meeting the educational or social needs of the neighborhood, the word "choice" is really a misnomer. We are forced to scramble to get a seat at schools that are nearly impossible to get into unless you live less than a mile away, sometimes, way less than a mile. It is not really a choice. Getting into another school, whether it be an alternative/option school (eg TOPS) or a different neighborhood school, the process is much more luck than choice. But at least we have the ability to try. It sounds like going forward, luck will become even more important for those families in neighborhoods with the less popular schools. Private school marketing is going to be even easier than it is today.

Central Mom said...

The train has left the station on whether the SAP tenants are workable. There was a long (unusual) process of public engagement in structuring the plan. It is not perfect and it will need tweaks, (get out to those meetings next month) but best to affect *major* change in the myriad of other areas that need addressing.

BEX, I have to agree, looks like an excellent place to start. APP curriculum and also the spec ed "inclusion" plan are also fertile ground IMHO.

TechyMom said...

I wonder, though, if the iterative algorithm could be considered a tweak. This is the biggest weakness of the new plan, IMHO.

zb said...

"Getting rid of the iterative algorithm limits choice. "

Yes it does, and that's a purposeful feature of the plan, not a bug. So does limiting sibling preference, and providing fewer transportation options. They're planning on a system in which most SPS children (minus those in the limited number of option schools) are at their neighborhood schools (and I said SPS children, because I think it is likely that we will see movement of families with the new plan).

This is what I mean by the district & parents talking past each other. The district probably won't say that their goal *is* to restrict choice, because choice is such a positive word. But, I'm pretty confident that it is their goal.

They believe that restricting choice will strongly encourage people to attend their neighborhood schools and hope that more neighborhood schools will become acceptable to people, if the choice option doesn't allow them to bail. They may be wrong, but that's the experiment we're trying next.

I'm not certain what the outcome will be, but since I have no attachment to the current system (and its associated FRL populations that range from 3% to 97% in elementary schools), it's an experiment I think worth trying.

I think the many well-educated residents of Seattle have become very knowledgeable about Seattle's current system. I've had something of an obsession about it, since my child was 6 mo old. People have learned all the ins and outs of the rules, and learned to treat the current system as a standard. But, it's actually a rather unusual system (and I wouldn't be surprised if the current Superintendent finds it so).

G said...

The new SAP seems to be answering the cry for predictability in the northend and just ignoring the pleas to create equitable schools in the southend before forcing families to go to their underperforming neighborhood schools. The train has left, but the engine is in the wrong place. I attended a few of the public engagement sessions, one notable one at the Garfield Community Center. That session was dominated by parents from Queen Ann who had poster board displays and professional marketing strategies explaining their plight (which is completely valid, but didn't leave much room or time for anyone else to be heard). The inequity of schools is dismissed and the train is leaving the station as though everyone has a fair chance of getting the best education provided at the best schools in SPS, just because they say it is so. My taxes do not indicate that my kid's education should be third class, while someone else gets the first class education every child in Seattle deserves.

Ingraham Dad x3 said...

adhoc - I must strongly disagree with your characterization of Ingraham as "gang-ridden". You are possibly holding tightly onto some problem that happened at the school many years ago. My wife and I have 3 children; one is a graduate of the IB diploma program at IHS, and our middle son is a sophomore there taking all pre-IB classes. We will be sending our 8th grade daughter there next year.

There isn't a gang problem at Ingraham.

Martin Floe is in his 6th year as principal at Ingraham, and his work along with the successful run of the International Baccalaureate program there (now in its 7th or 8th year) make it a great choice for students who are willing to work hard. We also especially enjoy the performing arts program there. You should know that Ingraham has held state & regional championships for marching band (field show division) and color guard recently. Our marching band is the only one in SPS to compete in this circuit; in addition, the drumline is in its second year of independent competition.

zb said...

"The new SAP seems to be answering the cry for predictability in the northend and just ignoring the pleas to create equitable schools in the southend before forcing families to go to their underperforming neighborhood schools."

I think that's not completely true. I really do believe that the district believes that pushing children to their neighborhood schools might improve equity. I know families are unconvinced, and until they are, it won't happend. But, I do think the SPS believes that they can attract a families that would use the choice clause to flee, but won't move out of the district, or pony up for private school fees.

With that caveat, though, how would an SAP address the inequity problems? It can address (kind of) capacity and predictability. But I don't think it can address inequity.

I find it heartening to hear eager support of both Ingraham & John Rogers, both schools that I think have gotten bad reps because of their affluent competitors in the NE clusters.

reader said...

Why would the choices for QA/Mag families be "Ballard, Roosevelt, and Franklin"? The closest high school options for QA/Mag would be "Ballard, Roosevelt, and Garfield". Since you'd have to travel through Garfield's reference area... on the way to Franklin if Franklin were the high school "reference" area for either QA or Mag. I thought that they were strictly saying that drive-through reference areas are out... that is, you'll never drive through 1 reference area, to get to your own. Otherwise, they could just make Ranier Beach the reference area for QA/Mag and kill 2 or 3 birds with one stone.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just said Franklin because in the early '90s that, if you didn't get into Ballard, was the school of choice for many QA/Magnolia students. It could as easily be Garfield except Garfield is full. Again, we can only wait and see.

TechyMom said...

"Getting rid of the iterative algorithm limits choice. "

"Yes it does, and that's a purposeful feature of the plan, not a bug. "

I know that. And I think it's the biggest problem with the new plan. I also wonder if it's enough of an esoteric detail that it could be quietly changed as a "tweak".

If that happened, the new SAP would be pretty good. It would get rid of some of the uncertaintly of the old system, and have a better outcome for people who move or miss the deadline, but would still allow enough choice. As it is, I think the new SAP throws out the baby with the bath water. We have something wonderful and special here in Seattle, that lets families who can't afford private school have some of the same kinds of choices those who can have always had. THAT is equity. And we're just throwing it away. </rant>

dj said...

One thing the SAP plan could do to address inequality -- but won't -- would be to set aside FRE seats at every school with a small current FRE population and to provide transportation for those students to those schools. It could also offer, for FRE students who move, the ability to stay in a selected school. When the SAP is put in place and school assignment is predictable, I imagine rents in areas assigned to desirable schools are going to take a nice hike and FRE families currently living there will be priced out. It may slow the exodus to offer continuity to those kids.

reader said...

Yeah, the FRE set-aside was in the original plan... only to be lambasted out of existence by the status quo. It's long gone.

Jessica said...

I am really curious about what they would use McDonald for. It is awfully close to Greenlake and while that area is booming with families, it seems like those two elementary schools would be very close. It does make me wonder though about JSIS becoming an all city option school.

Chris said...

Does anyone want to talk about fundraising? It has come up at both coffees I went to (both S of downtown) that some schools in the north have all this parent money not available to those with less affluent demographics. MGJs response is always that it's a problem but she can't control it. I'm from up north, and it concerns me too, because I see that money buying things that seem very likely to have an effect on academic outcomes (e.g. tutoring in lower grades.)

However, when I mentioned this at DeBell's community meeting, it was pointed out that the non-affluent schools have access to big money, which I assume is Title 1, LAP, etc. and that what PTAs raise is a small fraction of that. My idea of a good fundraising year is 20-30K, and Title 1 funds are more like 200-300K. Today, MGJ referred to PTAs raising 200-300K in one night. Am I just out of touch? Live in the wrong neighborhood? Was she exaggerating?

Also, I realize Title 1 funds are available to relatively few schools, and are meant to address needs of those populations far beyond "ability of parents to attend auction."

So I have two questions: 1) can we get a handle on the size of this problem, if it is a problem and 2)Maybe what matters is not the money but how it is spent? The obvious magic of PTA money is that parents have some say in how it is spent. (and you know what? we go ask the teachers!) Instead of "busting" north-end schools for trying to reduce class size, why not look at what we might be doing that works? To be specific, someone said on this blog, "the district can't replicate TOPS" then I found out that one thing TOPS was doing was buying extra FTE for doing academic work in small groups with kindergarteners-which the district put the kibosh on.

adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

First, Ingraham dad X3,thank you so much for sharing your positive experience at Ingraham. I'm happy to know that Ingraham is doing so well and that there are no longer any gang issues there.

Second, ZB said "With that caveat, though, how would an SAP address the inequity problems? "

Inequity issues will not just be north VS south or FRE VS affluent. Equity rear it's ugly head almost anywhere. It could mean being assigned to Ingraham, where there is a thriving, well regarded, IB program, but not one AP class. Or it can mean getting assigned to Hale, a school that has far less seat time than most SPS high schools, and an integrated educational model with no separate honors classes and only a few separate AP classes. Or, it can mean getting assigned to Roosevelt, where there are tons of separate AP and honors classes but not one IB class.

Unique programs were able to thrive (the good ones anyway) because of choice. People chose schools based on their programs, performance, culture, and location. What is going to happen when families do not "buy into" the culture or philosophy or program of the school they are assigned to? Will they just have to take what they get? Or will every school have to offer IB? Will every school have to offer a standard array of AP classes? Will parents demand that?

Sahila said...

Greenlake, Woodlands, Greenwood, Bagley and now McDonald...

I Googled the 5 schools - by car:
from Bagley to Greenwood is .9 miles,

from Greenwood to West Woodlands is 1.6 miles,

from West Woodland to McDonald is 2.3 miles,

from McDonald to Greenlake is 0.6 miles and

Greenlake back to Bagley is 1.4 miles...

Five elementary schools within the area west of I5, south of N/NW 80th, east of 8th Av NW and north of N 50th...

It would be interesting to have a look at the anticipated population growth to see if this particular area of the city actually does need 5 elementary schools in such close proximity...

I'm all for small classes and (good quality) neighbourhood schools, but if the object of the exercise is to relieve overcrowding in the N/NE of the city, is this the right place to re-open a K-5 school?

How is the overcrowding at the middle school level going to be dealt with?

zb said...

"Or will every school have to offer IB? Will every school have to offer a standard array of AP classes? "

I think that mandatory assignments should mean a certain consistency of available programs, and I would include AP classes in that consistency. I think making those mandates without support (i.e. Ranier Beach, which probably can't sustain them & Hale, which doesn't seem to want to) isn't really going to accomplish much.

wseadawg said...

Folks: MGJ has defined "equitable" as each kid having access to a quality education at their neighborhood (assigned) school.

Done! Nobody has to worry! All schools will be on par with one another. Equality is Here! Finally! Its just that simple.
(Caution: Flying Pigs.)

Its far less about waitlists, tie-breakers and open seats. Its about proving a theory that all schools can be equal, and nobody will have to opt for a school outside their reference area. Choice, as we've known it, is dead, except for the 10,000 exceptions.

The problems will be the same as always, and people will game the system, and probably get what they want if they raise enough hell, but the point is that the district, MGJ, and the Board are just smarter and better than anyone who's gone before them, and will pull off the heretofore impossible task of making all the schools so great, and of such high quality - remember, all schools - that choice won't be necessary any longer.

Could they be a little overconfident perhaps? Could such expectations be a little naive, or dare I say, ridiculous? But hey, what does history matter to these folks? That's so OLD!

Chaos and gaming up North, and slamming doors to the CD for kids who currently bus up from the South. Great plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay Chris, here's my take. 1) Dr. G-J is right; she doesn't control fundraising. Title I/Lap is controlled and spent by the school and only on specific things. So it is not in the same pot as fundraising.

This is an issue we have discussed here many times. I did put a link to the Portland Foundation which is, obviously, in Portland where they pool fundraising. (I am going to be talking to a few people in leadership about it this week.) There is a huge disparity in fundraising in this district. As well, some schools do not ever direct money towards buying FTE and others do. It is doable so I don't know how the district can stop it (I think the money has to be funneled through the Alliance where the principal can spend it and not given over to the school by the PTA.) And yes, some schools do raise money in the hundreds of thousands (they tend to be high schools but there is an elementary or two).

Ingraham Dad, thanks for the shout-out. My son's best friend went to Ingraham, had a great time, no gang issues that he thought were of much impact and he got into Reed College (he was in the IB program).

Adhoc, you make good points. I have been advocating mightily (and said this at a meeting where Michael Tolley, the high school director, was present) that we need a high school "baseline" - here is what you will find in ANY comprehensive SPS high school. Things like a music program, arts/drama, at least 4 basic AP classes (English, Math, Science and Social Studies), etc. That way, parents can be assured, whatever the focus or philosophy, their children will have available to them the same things as other high schools. IB is a little unworkable in this situation as it is a total program (as opposed to separate subject classes like AP). You have to get accredited to have IB; it certainly isn't something for every high school. So that's why you don't find a lot of AP at an IB school and vice versa. (But one good thing about IB is that you do NOT have to commit to the whole program; their classes are open to all, at least at Ingraham.)

Anonymous said...

Jessica said: "I am really curious about what they would use McDonald for. It is awfully close to Greenlake and while that area is booming with families, it seems like those two elementary schools would be very close."

One possibility that makes perfect sense for McDonald is the APP north elementary site. If you look at the full north region (NW,N,NE,QA/Mag), McDonald is almost dead center, and it's just a few blocks from an I-5 exit. It's absolutely perfect for an all-city draw program.

Because the north end is crowded, the only reasonable way to ever move the "north" 1/2 of APP north is to do it when new buildings open. Otherwise, it would be putting an even tighter squeeze on the students already there. This move would also free a bunch of seats in a part of the central cluster that is going to be needing more seats soon.

All this said, I have little confidence that the district would recognize a perfect solution if they saw one. I hope they prove me wrong this time!

adhoc said...

I totally agree that APP students living in the north end should have access to an APP sight in the North end. However, until the district opens enough new buildings there really is nowhere to put APP. One comprehensive middle school and a minimum of two to three new elementary schools are needed to stabilize capacity in the north end.

APP moved into Hamilton this year and now every single middle school north of the ship canal is full with a waitlist. That's right, there is not one open middle school seat (in a comprehensive middle school) open north of the ship canal. When we didn't like our assignment to Jane Addams I called enrollment to see what other schools my son could attend in the north end and was told none, but that there was space at Aki Kurose, in South Seattle. It's tight up here. Really, really, tight.

I want north end APP here. I rallied for Jane Addams to be a large north end APP and Spectrum K-8 school. Since the JA building holds almost 800 kids, I reasoned that if 200 students were APP, that left 600 seats for Spectrum students. If all of the north end Spectrum kids went to Addams, it would surely relieve a lot of pressure from the north end Spectrum schools (Eckstein, View Ridge, Wedgewood, etc.)

For instance, Eckstein has about 312 Spectrum students in grades 6-8. If all of those students went to Jane Addams APP/Spectrum school, then 312 seats would open up at Eckstein. That's 104 extra seats per grade at Eckstein! And believe it or not that is still not enough space to accommodate all of the kids that want in to Eckstein (there were 160 kids on the regular 6th grade waitlist this year)

And by the way, speaking of waitlists, and totally off topic - all SPS waitlists dissolve today. SPS student may no longer change schools for any reason.

hschinske said...

"It could mean being assigned to Ingraham, where there is a thriving, well regarded, IB program, but not one AP class."

For the record, Ingraham does have AP classes (seven classes in five subjects), as well as offering individual IB classes.

Helen Schinske

Stu said...

For the record, Ingraham does have AP classes (seven classes in five subjects), as well as offering individual IB classes.

I don't want this to come out the wrong way but why does Ingraham have such a horrible reputation. I don't know anyone who's gone there but remember a number of families almost panicking when they heard of a plan to "assign" students at certain NE schools to a specific educational track. (The plan was, if you went to a certain elementary school, you would automatically move on to Hamilton for middle school and then Ingraham for high school . . . since most of the families were in the walk zone to Eckstein, Roosevelt and Hale, and regarded them as better schools than Hamilton or Ingrham, there was quite a bit of panic.)

Anyway, all I heard at the time was "there's no way I'm sending my child to Ingraham" comments and I'm wondering why it's regarded so lightly. (I know it has the IB program but I'm talking about students who aren't IB.) Also, what's the condition of the building up there? I've only seen some run down things from the soccer field.


Stu said...

I rallied for Jane Addams to be a large north end APP and Spectrum K-8 school.

During all the breakup stuff, I spoke directly with an Advanced Learning Rep and Board Member, trying to get a reasonable answer about why the North program wasn't being moved North. I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be politically suicidal to propose moving the privileged to the North end.


SolvayGirl1972 said...

For years, the IB program made Ingraham a school of choice for southend families. I know a few people who took advantage of its low enrollment and were very pleased with it (most had gone to Hamilton for middle school) as a guaranteed option.
Most southend families who want IB now go to Sealth (though I understand transportation is an issue as Metro does not have great cross-town routes).

Bird said...

It would be interesting to have a look at the anticipated population growth to see if this particular area of the city actually does need 5 elementary schools in such close proximity...

It does seem like a lot of schools close together, and, although I don't have extensive demographic information on hand, I'm going to take a stab at this and say, yeah, I think they do need that capacity. The district may actually be on track with this instead of way behind the demographic curve.

We live close to MacDonald and after going to my Kindergartener's elementary open house and noting both the large number of attending Kindergarteners and the large number of attending baby brothers and sisters, I decided to take a look at the enrollment numbers for our five closest schools. Enrollment for Kindergarten at those schools went up something like 70% year over year!

And since these kids clearly are the leading edge of the local baby boom, I don't see how the district will be able to absorb all the kids in the NW cluster without making some additional space. It's not as though the N or NE can take up the spillover.

adhoc said...

I don't understand. Why would moving APP students who live in the north end to a north location be political suicide? There would still be a Central/South location for students in that area. Not sure I understand???

And with that philosophy, why have any schools up north at all? I mean why give privileged north end kids access to public schools at all?

It makes me want to scream.

wseadawg said...

"I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be politically suicidal to propose moving the privileged to the North end."

Stu: Which Board member told you that? DeBell (again)? Or another one of the "group-thinkers?"

As AdHoc and I both said: Board members need to man or woman-up and do what's right for the community instead of acting like frightened little pansies.

And what does that say about their inherent racism and class-ism that they assume South-folk like me will burn down the city if they do anything for the North - which is booming - without an offsetting bone being thrown to the South. Politics, politics, politics, with a little racist, classist "those people are animals in the South" thrown in. Its truly infuriating how the Board unwittingly aggravates North/South divisions by being wimps.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ingraham has had a few gang issues but nothing that has driven down their enrollment particularly for IB. Mr. Floe, their principal, went to Ingraham himself and is one of the most enthused and active principals I have ever met.

As for the building comments, I have to smile a bit ruefully. Ingraham has been on every single BTA and BEX levy. Every one. BUT it has been to do a bit here and a bit there. When they finally do get cleared to put their addition on the existing building (and I think eventually a judge will say the district has done enough to honor the grove of trees in question), they will be done.

So, the building has had numerous updates (and I saw photos of the newly floored and painted interior and it looks better). But, the outside will always look kind of dated because the district didn't give the school a complete remodel. And, because they have done so much piecemeal work on it, Ingraham won't be getting one (unless they are going to dump all that money down the drain which I doubt even they would).

Ingraham, Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach are somewhow the poor stepchildren of the district and aren't getting major remodels. Sealth, I believe is the youngest building so that explains some of why they aren't (plus they are giving the complete job to Denny right next to them). Ingraham, well, they've done so much work they really couldn't justify a remodel. RBHS probably needs more students to justify a remodel (in the district's eyes).

Hale didn't get a complete remodel per se but major parts of its building have been redone and by the end, the district will have spent about $90 on that building so it's as if they did.

Melissa Westbrook said...

$90? I meant $90M for Hale.

adhoc said...

"And what does that say about their inherent racism and class-ism"

Interesting wseadawg....DeBell makes so many comments about race and politics it has to make you wonder....

And wasn't it DeBell who made the "strange fruit" comment shortly after he was elected? If anything were political suicide and construed to be a racial disaster it would be that. And, though he claims that he didn't know what "strange fruit" meant, the community backlash was pretty hefty.

Man up DeBell. Get the job done.

adhoc said...

Funny, I just noticed Ingraham only has 1020 or so students. It's pretty small for a north end comprehensive high school, which I really like. But it's Hale that you always hear about as being the "small" school. And apparently according to Helen Schinske they have added 7 AP classes, in addition to their plentiful honors offerings, and full IB diploma program.

Could Ingraham be the north end hidden gem? Why do people shun the school? Is it because a lot of south end students bus up? I don't get it? What's up?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think most people think that our high schools are big but only Roosevelt, Garfield and Ballard are "big" - over 1400. I think West Seattle, Franklin, Ingraham, Sealth and Hale are in the 1,000-1300 range with RBHS and Cleveland being under 800. But, in the rest of the country, there are mega-high schools of 2,000+.

zb said...

"I don't want this to come out the wrong way but why does Ingraham have such a horrible reputation."

Because its competition is Roosevelt, a school that people who have lived in Seattle for a long time are familiar with, has an affluent (relatively) population, a foundation, and has a solid program with a positive reputation.

I think that in the north end, this "competition" has been a really tough problem for schools that are perfectly good, but aren't "Harvard." It's changing as the capacity issues force people to reconsider their options -- they end up realizing that some of the other options (Ingraham, John Rogers, Nathan Hale) are acceptable. And when they go, the school becomes more than acceptable.

That doesn't solve the middle school capacity issue -- I'm still guessing that Jane Addams is how that's going to be resolved in the north end, but I think it's going to work out for high schools in the North End, even with the expected influx from Queen Anne.

I think the south end issues are more complicated. Ranier Beach or Cleveland can't be fixed by 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 families like Stu's sending their kids there and just spreading the word about how the fit has worked for their kids. There's a chicken and egg question, and those programs aren't at the tipping point where an influx could fix them. That's where equity comes in -- I think those schools have to start offering AP courses/other opportunities even if there aren't students to support them. Run the 2 person calculus class if you can at all, even at the extra expense. Find money somewhere for it. That's how to balance the "south/north" conflict and the increase in capacity in the north. There are kids in the south end, and, as someone else said, their parents pay taxes and have the right to the same quality of schools (even if they currently feel they can't send their kids there).

I still hold out hope that Thurgood Marshall & Madrona can be "fixed" by the influx of families who try to look for hidden gems, especially given the demands of the economy. I think Nathan Hale will be fixed that way (to whatever extent "Roosevelt" families find it unacceptable now).

gavroche said...

Blogger adhoc said...

"And wasn't it DeBell who made the "strange fruit" comment shortly after he was elected? If anything were political suicide and construed to be a racial disaster it would be that. And, though he claims that he didn't know what "strange fruit" meant, the community backlash was pretty hefty."

What?! Do you know the details or context of the comment? Can you verify this? If so, holy cow.

This much I know for sure: DeBell was bizarrely dismissive of the Cooper Elementary kids who were evicted from their building by the "Capacity Management Plan" he voted for.

Cooper was largely comprised of kids of color, while Pathfinder -- the school the District moved into their building -- is primarily white.

When asked about his vote, DeBell justified it by merely saying: "Pathfinder needed a better building."

So that somehow makes the Cooper kids less deserving of a good building?

Why do so many District decisions have to be a zero-sum game?

It wouldn't surprise me if the District lost the pending discrimination inquiry/lawsuit over what it did to Cooper.

hschinske said...

It's not *just* the competition with Roosevelt, though that's part of the picture. Ingraham doesn't come out that well on the numbers, either: their WASL pass rate isn't great, nor is their on-time graduation rate, nor the percentage going on to four-year colleges.

Incidentally, according to http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/schoolguide/profile.php?building_id=3276, a higher percentage of students passed all three WASL tests (reading, writing, and math) than passed math alone. How does that work? Did some students get counted for one and not the other because they didn't take all three tests, or something like that?

Helen Schinske

wseadawg said...

ZB: I hear what you're saying, but the "if we build it, they will come" has not worked. I wouldn't send my kid to RB if they had a Calc or AP class with 2 kids in it. I just wouldn't. They need 20 or 30 or more. They have to fix the culture at those schools to make them safe bets for kids of all types: Athletes, Scholars, Musical types, and plain old average kids. Many people work very hard to keep RB alive and from sliding completely off the district radar, and to push back against the "problem school" view the district holds of RB. South Shore and the New School have sustained interest to date, but that's because of huge influxes of support that RB just hasn't had. It needs an all hands on deck effort, not just money and "we have AP classes" advertising. The district needs to partner with the community. (If they can partner with business interests, why can't they partner with community groups?)

gavroche said...

Does Michael DeBell deserve to be running unopposed?

Just came across this from 2005, and it's interesting to see what promises DeBell has kept, broken and where he's been blatantly hypocritical since he first ran for School Board [annotations mine--shouting not intended]:


Electoral Class of 2005
Nine people are running for three Seattle School Board seats. Perhaps this new slate can help save public education.
Nina Shapiro
published: August 10, 2005

With three kids in the public schools, Michael DeBell has been a PTSA president at one school or another for six years, most recently at Ballard High School. "To be honest, it's much more satisfying to work at the school level than the district level," he says. And yet he's running for School Board in northwest Seattle's District 1, currently represented by outgoing board member Dick Lilly. DeBell's running because he's alarmed. "The progress that I've seen in the past 10 years, ever since John Stanford came to town, I think that's quite possibly in jeopardy," he says, referring to the late charismatic superintendent who whipped up a storm of positive feeling for the district. [THEN WHY DID DEBELL VOTE TO SPLIT AND MOVE APP FROM LOWELL AFTER JOHN STANFORD PUT IT THERE AND EXPRESSLY SAID NOT TO CO-HOUSE IT AGAIN LIKE IT DID AT MADRONA?]
Since Stanford's passing in 1998, things have deteriorated. We now have an ongoing multimillion-dollar deficit that recently prompted the district to put forward a hugely controversial downsizing and restructuring plan.

While the district has largely withdrawn the plan, the controversy left the public and district staff in a funk. The district's bleak financial situation remains, and so does the possible necessity for changes so sweeping that the health of the district and that of the entire city could be affected. Will people choose to live in Seattle? In which neighborhoods? Says Jane Fellner, a candidate in central Seattle's District 5: "If the middle class bails out of the Seattle Public Schools, then we're down the tubes."

(continued on next post)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wseadawg, New School and South Shore are one and the same. It was New School, now it's called South Shore.

gavroche said...

continued from previous post

"If ever there was a time to pay attention to School Board elections, this is it.

That's one thing many of the 2005 School Board candidates can agree on. Although several candidates have dropped out since formally filing to run last month, there remain nine people running for three seats—quite a reversal from what it seemed earlier, that no one wanted a job that is so time consuming, basically unpaid, and underappreciated. The candidates range widely in acumen and experience. They include political veteran Cheryl Chow, a lackluster former Seattle City Council member, and Astrid Gielen, a 19-year-old University of Washington student who's into libertarian politics and the "running-for-office thing." They also include several deeply involved, on-the-ball parents, like DeBell, who are unhappy with the way things are going.

Winds of reform are blowing—again. Only two years ago, four reformist candidates swept in on a wave of voter anger with a board that was seen to be rubber-stamping whatever then-Superintendent Joseph Olchefske wanted to do. The folly of that practice became apparent when it turned out that financial mismanagement had produced a $30 million–plus shortfall.[ACTUALLY, IT WAS MORE LIKE OLCHEFSKE WAS COOKING THE BOOKS, WHICH MARY BASS HELPED DISCOVER.]


gavroche said...

(final post)

"Those four candidates—Brita Butler-Wall, Sally Soriano, Darlene Flynn, and Irene Stewart—joined with dissident board member Mary Bass to create a new spirit on the seven-member board. Unlike its predecessor, this board asks critical questions. But it has been so busy second-guessing district minutiae and pursuing individual agendas that it has neglected its primary business. [THANK GOD OUR PREVIOUS BOARD THOUGHT FOR THEMSELVES AND DID TRY TO HOLD THE SUPT AND DISTRICT ACCOUNTABLE AND ANSWERABLE TO REAL DATA.] At least, that's the way some of this year's candidates see it.

"If the School Board was really on top of its job, it would not need all these extra groups," says DeBell, [SCHOOL BOARD IS A PART-TIME JOB -- HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT THEMSELVES WITHOUT SOME OUTSIDE HELP? SEEMS NAIVE. THE REAL QUESTION IS, WHO SHOULD THE BOARD TURN TO FOR EXPERTISE--THE DISTRICT ITSELF, OUTSIDERS WITH A POLITICAL OR PROFITEERING AGENDA LIKE THE BROAD FOUNDATION AND NCTQ, OR GENUINE GROUPS OR PARENTS WHO CAN OFFER UNBIASED DATA?] who runs a family real-estate business and an eco-friendly experimental tree farm. DeBell is referring to a couple of blue-ribbon committees that are looking at the district's financial problems and related issues. The most important, convened by Superintendent Raj Manhas, is due to give recommendations on Dec. 15.

DeBell characterizes board members as having "a very negative tone, too critical of the superintendent and too critical of each other," a tone which he says "has not been instilling pride and confidence in the public schools."
[MAYBE THIS EXPLAINS DEBELL's MINDLESS CHEERLEADING OF OUR CURRENT SUPT. and HIS RUBBER-STAMPING VOTES SUPPORTING HER AGENDA.]At the same time, DeBell does not seem to be a potential rubber stamper.[HA. SEE ABOVE.] He calls the plan that the superintendent unveiled this spring, which would have closed numerous schools and limited school choice to save money, "highly flawed." He believes the criteria used to select the list of schools for closure was unacceptable because it failed to take academics into account. "You can't close successful schools," he says, [AND YET HE VOTED TO SPLIT SUCCESSFUL SCHOOLS LIKE LOWELL AND WASHINGTON APP, MOVE NOVA, CLOSE TT MINOR WHICH WAS IMPROVING, JUST TO NAME A FEW EXAMPLES.] echoing widespread criticism that ultimately forced Manhas to take closures off the table. As a School Board member, DeBell says, he would take the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm. [SO MUCH FOR THAT PROMISE. SEE ABOVE COMMENT ABOUT COOPER ELEMENTARY, AS WELL AS WHAT HIS VOTES HAVE DONE TO NOVA, SBOC AND APP.] He also says he would make academics a top priority by encouraging "a program of excellence" in every school, whether an honors program or one that offers language immersion or an "academy" focused on a particular discipline.

Yet he is not against school closures, per se. Nor would he halt the attempt to limit choice. [HE LIVED UP TO THIS.] He is more concerned with making sure that teachers are not laid off en masse,[REALLY? SO MUCH FOR THAT PROMISE. NEARLY 200 TEACHERS WERE RIF-ED THIS YEAR ON HIS WATCH. WHERE HAS HE TRIED TO STOP THAT?] thereby raising class sizes [THAT HAS HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF THE CAPACITY MANAGEMENT PLAN HE VOTED FOR.] and ridding the district of fresh, young talent...." [NOTE HIS AGEIST ATTITUDE TOWARD TEACHERS.]-- Nina Shapiro, Seattle Weekly

zb said...

wseadawg said..."ZB: I hear what you're saying, but the "if we build it, they will come" has not worked. I wouldn't send my kid to RB if they had a Calc or AP class with 2 kids in it."

I hear you, too. I wouldn't send my kid to be one of 2 AP Calc students at RBS, either. But, we have lots of options. Having that isn't doesn't mean that they've built it, only that there's a little nucleus of hope. I think all the things you've described are necessary, and promising (well, not promising, we know that the district has a history of promises that haven't been delivered), but working towards building them is the flip side to spending money to address capacity in NE.

zb said...

hschinske said...

It's not *just* the competition with Roosevelt, though that's part of the picture. Ingraham doesn't come out that well on the numbers, either: their WASL pass rate isn't great, nor is their on-time graduation rate, nor the percentage going on to four-year colleges.

But, these *are* all, in comparison/competition with Roosevelt. UC-Berkeley's stats are better than UC-Riverside's, too. But, UC-Riverside *is* an acceptable school. In NE (and, I do believe that this is *because* of choice), acceptable schools have become unacceptable, because people had, theoretically, choice to get into the more acceptable school. I've said this before, but if my neighborhood gets assigned to Ingraham (or Nathan Hale, which is more likely), I'm not going to move to go to Roosevelt. But, if there's a choice option, I would put Roosevelt first over those other options. In NE, individual actors, making these decisions is going to help democratize (equitize) our options.

SE/Central is different, facing different issues.

Charlie Mas said...

Some folks are very focused on "the best" when it is often only incrementally better than another option which is easily good enough. In addition, the most important factors are unquantifiable and never appear in the narrow statistics people use for ranking schools.

Good enough is good enough. The pursuit of "the best" - simply because it is the best - is irrational and unnecessary.

hschinske said...

Last year, only three high schools had a lower pass rate than Ingraham on WASL reading (Summit, Cleveland, and Rainier Beach). On the writing WASL Ingraham was dead last. Only in math were they somewhere in the middle, with seven schools doing better than their 41% and five doing worse (Sealth, Franklin, Cleveland, Rainier Beach, and Summit).

For someone who goes by WASL scores (I don't much, but a lot of people do), Ingraham's going to look unacceptable by any standards, not just by comparison to Roosevelt. Again, I don't think that's fair, but I can totally see how it happens. I also think people expect the IB program to turn Ingraham into a sort of north-end version of Garfield (by whatever metrics they find Garfield particularly attractive -- probably including number of National Merit finalists and the like), and are disappointed that it's not so.

Helen Schinske

Stu said...

To be honest, one of the other things that makes Ingraham unattractive to us, and some other NE Cluster families, is that we're walking distance to Roosevelt which we think is a very good school. Although things might change in a few years, when our son's friends are all moving into High School -- he's slated for Garfield but I can't imagine the APP won't be split, and possibly split again, by then --the overcrowding in this area means kids aren't getting into their neighborhood schools. There's significant resentment to being sent out of cluster to a "lessor" school when there's a good one right around the corner.


zb said...

"Good enough is good enough. The pursuit of "the best" - simply because it is the best - is irrational and unnecessary."

And bound to fail. If everyone demands the "best" we'll get nothing at all, at least on the public purse. When we were "school shopping", as one does in Seattle (and not everywhere else), someone told my child, a 4 year old at the time, that she was visiting schools so that we could find the "best" school for her. I remember being seriously disturbed (or at least annoyed). I joked at the time that we were just looking for "adequate." I know now that wouldn't have been good enough. But, "good" is certainly good enough, especially when it's a resource we all have to share.

adhoc said...

Well what exactly is the best? What's best to one is certainly not best to another.

By most measures Roosevelt's band is better than Hale's band. But is the Roosevelt's band better for my son? My son doesn't want to compete for a chair. My son doesn't want all that pressure to perform at Duke Ellinton or to move up to the next tier of bands. He isn't interested in a music career. But he does love playing his sax. And he loves being in his school band. And he's perfectly happy in Hale's small, laid back, fun, band.

So actuality Hale's band is the "best" band for my son.

One might think that Hales mandatory AP LA classes for all 11th and 12th graders is "the best" in the NE. But it's only the best if your child can handle AP LA. If he can't and the class puts undue pressure on him, or he gets a bad grade in the class, is it really "the best"?

"Best" is personal.

wseadawg said...

Thanks MW. I think I meant New School and ORCA. South Shore, South Lake, New School at where in the heck? I know there's two semi-alt-like programs that have strong support in the SE, which shows it can be done. RB will improve when SPS truly commits to the community and stops playing, and constantly worrying about, politics. Sure, Charlie may be right, they'll take flak, but somebody has to have the cajones to get through that instead of tucking their tails and running.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Adhoc hit the "best" issue on the head. It's not getting the best school; it's getting the school that best fits your child. I know of kids, including Harium's, that don't really like Roosevelt. It isn't a good fit. So it is important to consider that you find the school that fits your children AND if it is acceptable, be willing to work for things that you would like to be there but aren't.

reader said...

How can WASL scores NOT matter in high school? Do graduation rates matter? If Ingraham has low WASL pass rates, then it follows they will have low graduation rates (on time or not). It also follows it will have a low numbers of students preparing for college. How can that be a good thing if you DO want your kid going to college. OSPI doesn't publish the list of how many students passed a various number of WASL's, but you can project that the number of 10th graders passing even 2 WASL's is less than 50%, and college bound way lower than that. Is it good enough?

Meg said...

Accountability will come with the "performance management system?"

It's like saying you can't be expected to behave ethically until there's an Ethics Performance System in place.

It's all the weirder if you bother to note one of the "Vision" statements in the Strategic Plan (the very, very first section of the whole thing): "District leadership and staff model excellence and accountability." It doesn't have a little corollary saying that they can't pursue their vision until the proper benchmarks and metrics are in place.

john said...