Friday, January 22, 2010

Aki Kurose Middle School

Southmom asked for a posting about the middle schools in the South. I've been writing for some time about how it is unreasonable for us to expect Rainier Beach High School to show strong academic achievement among its students when they arrive at the school working below grade level. Many of those students are coming from Aki Kurose middle school.

Aki Kurose is the middle school in the Southeast Education Initiative. Academically it is in terrible shape. The WASL pass rates are abysmal.
Aki Kurose WASL pass rates, 2009:
6th Grade Math: 30.8%
6th Grade Reading: 61.9%
District Average 6th Grade Math (comprehensive middle schools): 60.6%
District Average 6th Grade Reading(comprehensive middle schools): 76.1%

7th Grade Math: 22.5%
7th Grade Reading: 45.8%
District Average 7th Grade Math (comprehensive middle schools): 59.6%
District Average 7th Grade Reading(comprehensive middle schools): 64.4%

8th Grade Math: 38.6%
8th Grade Reading: 63.7%
District Average 8th Grade Math (comprehensive middle schools): 56.2%
District Average 8th Grade Reading(comprehensive middle schools): 71.7%

It gets worse when you explore the numbers deeper. Here are the distribution of scores:
6th grade math
10.8% Level 4 (exceeds standard) - 13 students
19.2% Level 3 (met standard) - 23 students
0.8% Basic (met standard) 1 student
16.7% Level 2 (below standard) 20 students
52.5% Level 1 (well below standard) 63 students

Over half of the students entering Aki Kurose are working well below standard in math. Over half aren't even close to grade level.

In the 7th grade, 61.7% of the students received Level 1 scores. Three out of five Aki Kurose 7th graders are working far below grade level in math. That is twice the concentration for the District as a whole. Among all 7th graders in Seattle, 29.1% got Level 1 scores on the math WASL.

In the 8th grade, the Level 1 percentage last year was only 35.4%, while 24.1% of the students received Level 2 scores. This could represent impressive change since the majority of 8th graders in previous years were in Level 1 (62.1% in 2007 and 53.2% in 2008). Or it could just be a statistical blip. We'll see if they can sustain it.

Let's think about this. We are encouraged and impressed that only 35.4% of Aki Kurose 8th graders did horribly on the math portion of the WASL. At Madison, Hamilton, and McClure, that number is between 18 and 24%. The District rate - all 8th graders - is 24.1% in Level 1.

Aki Kurose is in Step 5 of sanctions under No Child Left Behind as it has been for two years. It would be in Step 6, but 5 is the highest level. The school was supposed to have been "restructured". Neither the school nor the District prepared nor implemented a restructuring plan for Aki Kurose. It turns out that no one actually enforces this law, but Aki Kurose should have been closed, re-invented, and re-opened. No one is doing anything in response to NCLB and no one cares. For all those who think that NCLB would mean corporate takeover of schools, it turns out that it is just like everything else in the culture of public K-12 education - unenforced and unenforcable.

In case you're wondering, yes, Aki Kurose, like all middle schools except for Madison, officially has a Spectrum program. There are two Spectrum students at Aki Kurose. Count them: 2. I can't help wondering what sort of program the school provides for these two students. I can't help wondering why the District chooses to pretend that there is any program at all. I can't help wondering who they think they are fooling.

Aki Kurose had a revolving door of leadership of late. For the 2006-07 school year and for many years before, the principal was Bi Hoa Caldwell. For 2007-08 the principal was Ana Ortega. For 2008-2009 the principal was Mia Williams (interim), and for this year Ms Williams has been named the long-term principal. The superintendent chose Ms Ortega, despite the recommendation of another candidate by the hiring committee. Ms Ortega lasted one year.

For the past three years, Aki Kurose has had an extended school day paid for with Southeast Initiative money. There has been no assessment made of the effectiveness of this strategy. Aki also spent Southeast Initiative money to buy a Springboard curriculum from the College Board, but I can't find any description of what that is. There has been no assessment made of the effectiveness of this program.

Aki Kurose is terribly under-enrolled. There were 561 students enrolled as of the October 1, 2009 count. This is a big increase over the previous year when the enrollment was 434. The increase is largely due to the closures of the African-American Academy, Meany, and Summit K-12. The school has a functional capacity of 842. That means it is under-capacity by 281. So why does it have portables? Only 73.4% of Aki's 6th and 7th grade students of last year returned to the school. This is the lowest return percentage in the District. The average is 80.6%. Only 39 students, 19.4% of those enrolled, named Aki as their first choice for assignment.

Can Aki Kurose offer a full range of classes? Apparently so. I see that Aki does teach Algebra as an 8th grade honors math class. It is taught in a 100-minute block. The math department is also bolstered by having Rosalind Wise there as a math coach. There is one World Languages teacher, who apparently teaches Spanish. No other world languages are offered. Mercer is the only other middle school that offers only one world language. Aki Kurose has a full-time Theater Arts teacher.

Aki has a lot of staff. There are two assistant principals, four counselors, a school psychologist, and a mental health provider.

Discipline is an issue at Aki Kurose. Last year, 20.3% of the students were suspended. The District average was 12.1%. Three students were expelled. Districtwide last year only 10 middle school students were expelled and four of those came from Madison. The attendance rate at Aki is only 86.3%, the lowest in the district.

These are the facts about Aki Kurose Middle School. This is where Rainier Beach High School students come from and are going to come from. The entire attendance area for Rainier Beach High School, except for a thin strip west of Beacon, is contained within the attendance area for Aki Kurose middle school. Some Aki students, those living north of Morgan and those living north of Othello and west of Rainier, are in the Franklin attendance area.

Of course, just as it is unreasonable for us to expect Rainier Beach High School to take in students working at the 6th grade level and bring them up to the 10th grade level in a year and a half, it is unreasonable to expect Aki Kurose to take in students working at the 3rd grade level bring them up to the 7th grade level in a year and a half. The interventions need to come much earlier and they need to happen at Dunlap, Emerson, Brighton and Wing Luke.

Other South Seattle elementary schools are having success with similar demographics. Maple is the best-known case, but Kimball, Dearborn Park, Van Asselt and Muir are also doing well. The continued failures are unacceptable. This is where the District should be making investments. This is where the District should be providing intensive interventions. It is a mystery to me that they are not, and I have to believe that decades of ineffective representation on the Board is a contributing factor.

45 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, do you have any figures that show how students do on WASL over time (meaning WASL rates for 6th graders in 2006, 7th in 2007, 8th in 2008?

Of course, the cohort isn't exactly the same, as some come and go, but it might show something.

southend girl said...

Thank you Charlie. It looks pretty abysmal. Many report that Mia Williams has great energy and drive to turn things around. But, as you've pointed out, the problems begin at the grade school level (really before) and SPS has yet to even outline any real plan to make improvements at either the elementary or middle school levels in south Seattle - despite ongoing requests, pleas, etc.

Could you post a similar analysis for Mercer? Sad that many assigned there felt relief to avoid Aki, yet cannot get excited about the current situation there either. One middle class parent who visited Mercer recently was told in so many words by the principal that the school is not for her child. She said the school's focus is on meeting basic needs not met at home and getting students up to a 6th grade level. Is this the best we can hope for?

People are fleeing to K8s just to avoid these schools, even though K8 middle school offerings down here don't have great reputations for solid academic offerings either.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have believed for a long time that middle school is the make or break for a lot of kids. (Of course, jumping the hoop in elementary to being able to read, write and understand math is the first step.) But middle school has so many moving parts, not the least of which is growth stage it represents.

Middle school is big hole in the U.S. I believe there must be some good middle school models somewhere but I'm not sure I've seen one I really like in SPS.

Middle school is where we really should reach kids about their future. They should be having regular input about going to college and careers. They should be visiting campuses. That would provide a goal, a vision of what they are working towards and what kind of life they want to have.

High school is NOT the time to kick it into gear (although it isn't too late by any means).

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, your comments point to how wonderful it would be to have (another) K-12 school, where support is ongoing, each student is known, older students help younger students...

Also an ideal setting for skill-level progression, rather than "grade" level progression. A fifth-grader could, in theory, take algebra, and a tenth grader could take lower level reading...

SolvayGirl1972 said...

It was the lack of decent MS offerings in the southend that forced our family out of public school and into private. My daughter's school—Explorer West—in (south)West Seattle was everything we had hoped it would be, giving her an amazing, well-rounded education in preparation for high school.

Every student took Latin, Drama, Music, PE and Art along with the traditional classes. She read books most don't read till high school and the entire school focused on Sustainability and the Environment (winning awards for their curriculum). There was also an Outdoor Program where each grade level did two major outdoor trips a year. By 8th grade, they did a 3-day backpack on Mt. Rainier (in Fall) and a 20-mile backpack on the Washington Coast (June). The students were responsible for all aspects of the trip; the 2 adults (including a MOFA expert) were there for emergencies.

It was money well spent (and EW is relatively affordable compared to other similar schools, AND the do have financial aid). I saw how a well-rounded education that focuses on the child's needs and development can be a driving force in my child's success.

I know public schools can't do what the smaller, independent schools can—especially since public has to take all comers. But I know that at least some of our publics offer excellent programs for those lucky enough to be in the right geographic locale or talented enough to pass the APP testing.

We like living in the southend and love our small 1906 home, so it was worth the fiscal sacrifice to enroll our child in private MS & HS rather than move to Eckstein/Roosevelt's assignment area (which would have cost a pretty penny too).

The problem, as I have often said, is that it is very difficult for any school to serve an extremely diverse population well. One group will be neglected, and in the southend it is, understandably, the at/above-level learners who are pushed aside. So, that group looks elsewhere and the school ends up with a lopsided population.

The District needs to look to WMS and GHS as the models for schools in the southend. They need to put in comprehensive programs that will attract the at/above-level students, while maintaing programs to help those at risk as well.

Perhaps Lisa Escobar and Dr. Gary will be able to work some kind of magic on RBHS. It will take time though, and many families are not willing to risk their child's chances for college on an experiment.

Meg said...

I can't remember if I ranted... er, commented about this before. But Aki is in AYP, right? Under the rules of NCLB, doesn't this mean that the district cannot make any family go to Aki that doesn't want to? I went ahead and read a rather mind-numbing document from the department of education and it appeared to say that if there's an academically acceptable school, no matter how crowded it is, the district MUST provide a family with that option. And that the kid can go there through the final grade at the school.

Once they've run through their title transportation dollars, the district doesn't have to provide transportation, but even so, that looks like a pretty big back door for people who are really unhappy about being assigned to a school they feel is failing.

I don't know if it can be used for high schools or not, since SPS doesn't use its title I money in high schools. So I guess this is a question and a comment Does anyone else understand it this way, or did I read it wrong?

agibean said...

Solvay-while both WA Middle SChool and Garfield DO maintain programs for both high achievers and struggling students, make no mistake-there is a two-tier system going on in these two schools. The white populations are doing very well-passing WASL subjects with percentages in the 90 percents, while black, latino and Native Americans languish in much lower passing rates---exactly what Charlie was using to prove what a "failure" Aki is.

While SOME of the differences can be attributed to the APP programs, which are overwhelmingly white, not all of the huge gaps can be laid at that door.

The plain fact is the we're back to the chicken-egg problem. Middle class white parents, and some middle class minority parents see south seattle schools as so bad they won't go there, so they don't offer the programs higher achieving kids might use. So middle class parents won't go there.

WA Middle and Garfield have a district-wide PERCEPTION of being successful at offering all things to all students, and yet, many students are failing (according to WASL results, which Charlie uses in his Aki post) at VERY high numbers.

But the middle class is happy and chooses them in droves, because they can pretend everyone is getting the "rigor" they so highly prize.

I don't have an answer to that. From our tour of Washington last night it appears that the admin and faculty care a great deal about ALL of the students and they do indeed have a variety of programs to try and work on the achievement gap. But it's still very much there.

I believe that what they will try to do at Aki and RB is meet the needs of the "haves" while the struggling students already there will continue to struggle-just like they do all over the district. WA and Garfield just make it harder to see them because they are not the ONLY students.

dan dempsey said...

Well these kids can go to one of the Seattle High Schools that teach no classes below algebra I, because a rigorous challenging curriculum is what they need.

Lets take a look at what the District considers a successful example to model Cleveland after the NTN schools. These are so well liked it is worth $800,000 to copy them.

New Technology High in Sacramento is one of the older NTN schools. It has been stated that these schools get better over time. Test scores at NT Sacramento have not.
California classifies schools each year with API numbers. The API ranks are determined by academic performance standing relative to all CA schools. A 10 = highest 10% of CA schools and a 1 = lowest 10%, thus a 6 is slightly above average and a 5 is slightly below.
Here are API rankings for NT Sacramento & enrollment:
Year API ranking enrollment
2005 : 6 240
2006 : 5 239
2007 : 4 236
2008 : 3 223

The LA School of Global Studies is an NTN school that has been open for three years.

The NTN demonstration school, LA School of Global Studies, had an API ranking of 2 in 2007 and dropped to 1 in 2008. In addition to having an API rank of 1 in 2008, which places it in the bottom 10% of all California High Schools, the API Similar Schools ranking for 2008 places it in the bottom 10% of all CA high schools that are demographically similar to it.
===========
there's more

At New Tech Sacramento and LA Global (LAUSD), two NTN demo schools, as well as Student Empowerment Academy (LAUSD) there are no math classes taught below Algebra I. Here are the percentages of students testing at Below Basic or Far Below Basic for each of the last three years on End Of Course assessment.

Algebra I
2007 . 2008 . 2009
(77) : (70) : (57) .. LA Global
(52) : (53) : (80) .. Sacramento
(67) : (54) : (43) .. Student Empower

Geometry
2007 . 2008 . 2009
(55) : (94) : (84) .. LA Global
(63) : (65) : (69) .. Sacramento
(87) : (90) : (85) .. Student Empower


Algebra II
2007 . 2008 . 2009
(55) : (75) : (82) .. Global
(79) : (89) : (94) .. Sacramento; of 50 students tested advanced =0 proficient=1 basic=2
(85) : (77) : (77) .. Student Empower

==================
Remember the SPS Central Admin tells us all 41 NTN Schools are successful because they did the research to find out.
=================

Good Luck to those Aki kids heading to Cleveland high school for math.

dan dempsey said...

More on what has happened and what may happen at Cleveland:

NTN Schools focus on Project Based Learning and Inquiry the same focus as Seattle’s currently inadequate vertically aligned k-12 math program. This is the same focus that the NSF funded PD3 project* used at Cleveland for three years (2007-2009) with UW direction using the IMP math series. The results on the 10th grade WASL for Cleveland Math: (n/s = no score)
All Students
Year .. passing ….. far below basic&n/s
2005 23.2% 59.4%
2006 21.1% 46.7%
2007* 17.9% 67.0%
2008* 12.2% 74.4%
2009* 21.2% 58.9%


Black Students
Year .. passing ….. far below basic&n/s
2005 16.5% 67.0%
2006 8.5% 59.5%
2007* 11.1% 74.6%
2008* 6.3% 73.4%
2009* 12.7% 74.7%


The SPS continues to use ineffective methods, which produce poor results, when proven better methods are available.
John Hattie’s reported effect sizes in Visible Learning are:


Problem Based Learning 0.15
Inquiry based learning 0.31
Direct Instruction 0.59
Mastery learning 0.61

Central Admin pushes what does not work “PBL & Inquiry” and ignores what works. The Everyday Math pacing plan is a prime example. Defective materials made worse through pacing.
The National Math panel calls for increased “Explicit Instruction” for students struggling to learn math. To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Will Seattle ever intelligently apply relevant data?

The $800,000 NTN contract still needs the Seattle School Board's approval.
STEM will be one topic at the Board Work Session next Wednesday, from 4-6:30 p.m.
I’ll be there to listen to what the Central administration has to tell the school board.
-- D

Charlie ..It seems in math the Central Admin is demonstrating the Peter Principle cubed.

Charlie Mas said...

seattle citizen suggested following a cohort through Aki Kurose.

Okay. Like this?

Class of 2009 WASL pass rates:
6th grade math (2007): 31.1%
7th grade math (2008): 22.4%
8th grade math (2009): 38.6%

6th grade reading (2007): 49.4%
7th grade reading (2008): 45.5%
8th grade reading (2009): 63.7%


Class of 2008 WASL pass rates:
6th grade math (2006): 19.9%
7th grade math (2007): 21.8%
8th grade math (2008): 24.1%

6th grade reading (2006): 37.4%
7th grade reading (2007): 54.9%
8th grade reading (2008): 51.0%


Class of 2007 WASL pass rates:
6th grade math (2005): ---
7th grade math (2006): 15.5%
8th grade math (2007): 16.8%

6th grade reading (2005): ---%
7th grade reading (2006): 29.1%
8th grade reading (2007): 44.7%

emeraldkity said...

She was not the only one who had taken remedial math at the same time she was taking honors- but think that is one of the reasons why she and many of her friends succeeded, because they were allowed to spend as much time on their strenghts instead of putting all their time in "catching up", as seemed to be the case at some other schools.

Re: race- she didn't attend the same middle school as many of her math classmates had, but in her 9th gd math class, she was the only white girl.

( and while I don't use the WASL as a evaluation of math literacy, she took it as a 10th grader- didn't pass- because she said some things she hadnt had yet- but as an 11th grader she scored just short of a 4)

Charlie Mas said...

Meg, my understanding about the option granted by NCLB that allows families to transfer out of failing schools is that it does require the District to provide an option with transportation, but it does not require the District to transfer the student if the receiving school is full.

Aki Kurose is in Step 5, the limit of improvement steps for NCLB, and it does recieve Title I money, so Aki Kurose families do have the right to transfer their child out of the "failing" school to a school that is not "failing".

But where could they go?

Mercer is also in Step 5.
Washington is in Step 4.
McClure is in Step 2.
Hamilton is in Step 4.
Eckstein is in Step 1.
Whitman is in Step 2.
Denny is in Step 4.
Madison is also in Step 5.
ORCA is in Step 2.
TOPS is in Step 1.
Pathfinder is in Step 2.
Madrona is in Step 4.
Catherine Blaine is in Step 1.
Broadview-Thomson is in Step 1.


South Shore is not in improvement.
Salmon Bay is not in improvement.
Jane Addams is not in improvement.

Would the District have to re-assign students from Aki Kurose to South Shore?

Martha McLaren said...

Charlie correctly pointed out that the improvement needs to originate in the elementary schools. When it comes to math, this means several things for sure: We need elementary teachers with a sophisticated understanding of fundamental mathematics (maybe we need specialists teaching mathematics), textbooks/curricula which are based on examples, don't allow calculators, and which bring students to mastery of topics before moving on; strong leadership within the building to demand that teachers put focused energy towards math. None of these changes can happen overnight, but nothing will improve if we don't work on these foundational issues.

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

I have a couple of questions for you Agibean.

First off, what do you mean by "white populations"? In your racial breakdown you never mention Asian-Americans. Are we to assume you consider this population white?

Regarding a two-tier situation at WMS and GHS, the fact that these schools have a cohort of highly capable kids following an accelerated curriculum in a specific program by definition creates a 'two-tiered' school. The district set it up that way -- even more so with the recent splits of APP.

I don't know that 'the middle class is happy' and everyone thinks these schools are great for every kid and all kids in them are doing well. Most people I've talked with are aware that there are at least two programs in these schools and different learning experiences going on. I don't know of anyone who's especially 'happy' about that.

I guess I'm questioning your presumptions about other families and their perceptions of these schools.

And your omission of Asian-American kids. They are in APP too, btw.

Perhaps we agree on this point: the district doesn't do a whole lot for the kids who are struggling. Injecting APP kids and parent resources into their schools (GHS, WMS, Thurgood Marshall, and maybe Hamilton) doesn't automatically mean the non-APP kids will do better. But the district seems to forget about those kids at that point, their challenges masked by the test scores of the other population, or whatever money the district throws at the school facility (GHS).

I wonder about what good has been done for the gen ed/ALO kids of Thurgood Marshall, TT Minor, Cooper Elem this past year. What has changed for these kids, other than losing their schools and community completely, or having to share their schools with a group of kids in a separate program?

Lastly, I would also like to see greater diversity in APP. If the district is serious about that, it needs to identify more kids who need the program, require schools and principals to inform families about the Advanced Learning test and be willing to let go of their top achievers to the APP schools, even if that means a lower WASL score for their school and whatever subsequent NCLB-dictated ramifications that may ensue.

The APP splits, meanwhile, have done little to nothing to increase the diversity in the program, despite the rationales the district gave for the splits.

Sully said...

Solvay said "The District needs to look to WMS and GHS as the models for schools in the southend."

Why? Why must the district only use large, institutional, comprehenisive schools as models? Many southend families would love to use Ingraham's IB program as a model. Or Hale's academy and inclusion/integration approach as their model . Some would like an alternative school modeled after Nova, or a performing arts school modeled after Center. And many think STEM is a fine idea, and is just what the south end needs.

Why are Garfield and Washington the only schools you feel are worthy of replication?

Did you know that there are two tracks at WMS? APP and regular. Did your child test into APP? If not would you be OK with her in the "regular" program where there are kids performing far below grade level, where there is a huge achievement gap, and plenty of racial tension?

Personally, I don't see WMS or Garfield as the be all end all of schools. Sure, they have some strong areas, but they also have their fair share drawbacks.

Charlie,
On the NCLB transfer option, it can get tricky because "failing" is categorized and sub categorized into many different groups. For instance a school can meet all NCLB requirements in all areas except, say, special ed. That school can go all the way into step 5 even though all of their students are exceeding NCLB requirements, except for the special ed students. A special ed student at that school could request a transfer out, but here is the tricky part. That student can be placed in another school in step 3 or 4 or even step 5 of NCLB as long as that school was "passing" in the special ed category. At least this is how Dr. Libros explained it to me.

Charlie Mas said...

Because the culture of public K-12 education is so perfectly resistant to enforcement or accountability of any kind - even where the law is clear - I vacillate between wanting to know the law and exercise it and not seeing any point in knowing the law at all. After all, what difference does it make what the policy, the state law or the federal law says if no one is going to follow or enforce it? And what difference does the policy or the law make if it written in such a way as to be unenforceable?

For example, schools in Step 5 of improvement must be "restructured", but there is no definition of "restructuring" provided. So a school or a district can do anything they want (or nothing) and claim to have "restructured". The people who are supposed to enforce the law have no interest in doing so, so they simply accept whatever the school or district does as meeting the (completely undefined) requirements of the law. Case closed.

There are, no doubt, subtleties in the student right to transfer out of "failing" schools prescribed by NCLB. The law definitely requires the district to send the student family a letter advising them of their right to request a transfer. The law also allows the District to decide which schools are open to receive those transfers and allows the District to say when those schools are full.

If nothing else, families who want to reject an assignment to Aki Kurose will be made aware of their options, under NCLB, to transfer out.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Here's what I said: "The District needs to look to WMS and GHS as the models for schools in the southend. They need to put in comprehensive programs that will attract the at/above-level students, while maintaing programs to help those at risk as well."

I think all the other programs Sully mentioned are great: IB, etc. But, the southend needs at least ONE, all-around comprehensive high school that at least tries to serve all of the populations. I know RBHS has put in AP classes, but the staff's focus is still on the under-achieving kids. I am sure some of this is chicken and egg, but from reading MKD's posts about her high-performing kids who got assigned to RBHS because they entered the system last June, it doesn't sound like the school is being successful in creating a good learning environment for those who want to learn.

I honestly had no idea the at-risk populations at both WMS and GHS were being so under served. If this is true than SPS is truly a complete mess. I picked GHS because it is in the Central District, which compares better demographically with the Southend than the north.

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

Solvay said "I think all the other programs Sully mentioned are great: IB, etc. But, the southend needs at least ONE, all-around comprehensive high school that at least tries to serve all of the populations"

Um, both Hale and Ingraham ARE well rounded "comprehensive high schools" that serve all populations. They both offer stand alone AP classes. They both offer honors classes (though Hale's are inclusive). And Ingraham offers IB in addition to AP and honors. They both have regular programs, special ed programs, music, performing arts, sports, clubs, electives, and everything else in between.

So, I'll ask again: why are Garfield, WMS and Roosevelt the only schools worth replicating in the south end?

Have you been inside of Hale, or gone on one of their tours? Have you seen how inclusion and project based learning works first hand?

How about Ingraham? Or Sealth? Have you gone to an IB presentation and learned about how it works, or seen Ingraham's award winning drum line perform?

have you gone to look at Ballard? Or West Seattle? Have you gone to Franklin inquired about their finance academy? Or do you solely rely on your friends opinions and how the school worked for their children?

Have you been to a STEM presentation yet?

And lastly, have you actually gone on a tour of Garfield or WMS? If you have, surely you noticed the two tracks at the school and the clear division between them (APP and "regular ed"). In fact before the remodel Garfield used to have all APP students (AP classes) upstairs and all regular ed downstairs (not sure if they still do that?). They were like two completely seperate schools that merely shared a building. One group, APP, made up of almost 100% white and asian students, performing far above grade level, upstairs, and the other group of regular ed students, who are primarily black and latino students, performing far below grade level, with many more discipline problems, downstairs. Integration pretty much only happened in PE, some electives, and lunch. It was pretty creepy.

So yes, you are right in that Garfield does serve "all kids", but is this the model that you really prefer? That you want a new south end school modeled after?

We have plenty of other fine high schools that are doing amazing work in this district. Give them some credit.

hschinske said...

"In fact before the remodel Garfield used to have all APP students (AP classes) upstairs and all regular ed downstairs (not sure if they still do that?)."

(A) To my knowledge, they never did that and (B) AP classes are NOT only for APP kids by a long stretch. To reiterate what people have said dozens of times on this blog and elsewhere: AP DOES NOT EQUAL APP. Even the most AP-minded APP students take many, many regular classes, and some APP students take few or no AP classes. Many, many students who were never in APP take AP classes.

Helen Schinske

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Sully: Perhaps you've not spent much time in the southend, but I don't think you can compare the neighborhoods to those in the north. Read the Rainier Valley Post (online) and see the amount of crime committed by youths in SE Seattle; check the suspension/expulsion rates for SE high schools. Garfield comes closest as a school with a large population of truly at-risk kids.

Does Ballard have to worry much about gang activity? Ingraham has had a lot of kids from the southend, but they are the ones motivated to find a school with more rigor. Southend high schools need to offer a higher percentage of social services than their northern siblings. Again, because it's in the Central District, Garfield is the most similar in so far as demographics of at-risk kids.

As noted before, I was not aware that Garfield was serving the non-AP population so badly. I have friends with non-AP kids there and they were/are happy with the school—especially the remedial-type interventions offered. Some of these friends are people of color, so it's not just White/Asian kids we're talking about. I did know about the upstairs/downstairs element of the old building, but thought that had been addressed with the remodel.

I KNOW that Ingraham, Ballard, etc. are all GREAT schools, they just don't have the demographics of the southend. It's just the reality of Seattle's demographic make-up. All I'm asking for is a school where the neediest kids can be served along with high-end kids—with neither group being swept aside in favor of the other.

STEM is NOT that; it's only for kids who want extreme rigor in math and science. As Charlie has noted in other posts, it is NOT intended to serve Cleveland's traditional population, but to attract higher achievers.

The extreme demographics of the southend is the main reason SPS has so many issues here. There are million-dollar+ homes along the lake, and tons of low-income housing in the Valley. On top of that, it has gentrified SOME over the past 15 years, so there is a larger middle-class element than there had been. Serving all these populations well, in the same school, is a difficult task.

And Sully, I'm not quite sure why you are so vehement in your comments regarding this. Garfield is one of the MOST popular schools in the District—whether you like the school or not. I don't understand why the southend can't strive for one school modeled along its success.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"They both offer honors classes (though Hale's are inclusive)."

This is in reference to Ingraham and Hale and the issue of comprehensive high schools.

I just went through Hale and Ingraham's course catalogs. Every honors class is open to ever student...at both schools. I suspect that is true at all the schools. Now you need to have some prerequisites but that is true everywhere, including Hale.

I bring this up because of this perception that Hale is more inclusive than other schools. I don't agree. Hale does some honors within regular classes but other high schools have honors classes that are open to all with prerequisites (as does Hale).

The difference is self-selection, not inclusiveness. Some schools have chosen to have honors classes that anyone can take. The kids who choose those classes know they are likely to move at a faster pace and/or go deeper than a regular class. Hale's is probably just as rigorous but likely slower and to get the honors you do extra work beyond the regular homework.

It's a different way of having honors but I'm just not getting why a separate honors class gets perceived as less inclusive. If you get to pick it, just as you do any other class, then it's inclusive.

Sully said...

"I bring this up because of this perception that Hale is more inclusive than other schools. I don't agree. "

It is true that most, if not all, comprehensive high schools offer honors classes to anyone who wants them. However, most high schools offer those honors classes in self contained classrooms. In other words only honors students are in the honors classes. At Hale all students share the same teacher and the same classroom. In a Hale classroom some kids are working below grade level, some at grade level, and some at an honors level. That is inclusion, no? Now, I'm not saying that this is the best model, it has it's flaws, but it does work for many. And, it might be absolutely ideal in a south end school. In fact it sounds exactly like what Solvay is asking for.

Dorothy said...

Actually, the whole honors classes thing in high school is in flux, with the new weighted GPA. I have heard that RHS is going to have to deal with this; ie come clean that their approach to honors in LA classes is a crock. At RHS, in LA, you get honors credit by doing a few outside of class activities. And they aren't even evaluated! Just a check mark that they were done. Nothing is taught at a deeper or faster pace, nothing more is expected from regular assignments. That certainly does not deserve the same Honors designation in calculating GPA as a true honors stand-alone class. I suspect that the Hale model of Honors will also come into scrutiny. Plus, as Mr Vance pointed out at the last PTSA meeting, every department is supposed to start offering an AP course. So RHS LA, which has balked at doing such a thing, is required to comply. Again, since the "AP" or "Honors" designation on the report card translates into different weighting of the grade, these inclusive, do-it-yourself AP or Honors designations ain't gonna fly.

agibean said...

Gavaroche,

Ok, here you go-Asians at WA scored 14% lower than whites in reading on last year's 8th grade WASL (95 vs. 81%), and 15% lower in Math. At Garfield, for Math, the difference is 76.9% vs. 93.7 for whites.

Latinos, Native Anericans do much less well. Essentially, all PEOPLE OF COLOR do less well than white students, PERIOD.

The problem is that you cannot look at WA and say "Look at the great job they're doing," because they are not, not with all populations. And you CANNOT compare it to Aki, because, for one thing, Aki's white population is pretty much non-existant. Same for the feeder schools, which you can't compare to say, Montlake or any north end school.

As I said, I'm sure the APP kids bring up the WA and Garfield scores, but my point was that if you're going to get upset abnout the terrible scores at a school with an entirely minority based mix of kids, you CANNOT look at another school and say how great it is when the minoriy kids are not scoring well THERE either.

As for APP, which really wasn't my point-my own child has thrived at TM, and has made more friends in the general population than in her APP cohort. But she's a minority (ha!) in that she literally has a foot in both populations being a biracial child. For once she is in a school where she has friends with interests in academics, friends who share her outside interests AND is challenged in class. And I do know of several parents of minority students who had their kids tested this year solely because of the split.

TechyMom said...

"And I do know of several parents of minority students who had their kids tested this year solely because of the split. "

I'm very pleased to hear this. It will be interesting to see if more minority kids tested, placed, and accepted assignments to APP than in the past.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What's an honors student? Huh? Someone who takes an honors class. That's all. So anyone who wants to (or has the necessary prerequisites as all the high school require for certain classes) can be an honors student.

Yes, what Hale does is inclusion but that doesn't make the other schools' honor classes exclusionary. It also doesn't make Hale's classes honor class. They are regular ed with an honors supplement.

Also, the Advanced Learning department has tried, for years, to get more minority kids to test, in many kinds of outreach (including calling their parents).

One of the biggest issues here is the pushback from some principals who see it as poaching their brightest kids (whether or not Spectrum or APP would be the best thing for the student). They fear for their test scores if these student leave. They don't announce testing, explain testing and have, in the past, put the program down so that parents won't look into it. They tell parents their child will be the only minority child. It's quite the battle and as parents we know how programs/schools acquire reputations that are hard to shake.

Sully said...

Wow, Melissa. So you don't think Hale offers true honors? Interesting.

The families who attend Hale whose kids work hard to earn honors at Hale might disagree, as would their teachers who work very hard to offer true and meaningful differntiation and much more rigorous work to honors students.

Colleges might disagree with you too as they count Hales honors classes as they would a stand alone honors class at any other school.

Melissa, I wish you would interview a teacher or two at Hale and find out what happens in their classrooms. It has changed since your son was there. Teachers do not just give honors kids a lump of extra homework and expect them to sink or swim. Honors students have the opportunity to do much deeper more rigorous work, without a ceiling. It is true that the classes don't move at a faster pace than a regular ed class, but do Roosevelt's? Does Roosevelt cover 2 years curriculum in one year? Um, no, they don't. So what's so different between a Hale and a Roosevelt honors class? Could you answer that, and that's not meant to be snarky, I really want to know.

Hale is doing something right. They garner some of the highest test scores in the district, some of the highest SAT scores, and some of the highest graduation rates. They also have one of the lowest achievement gaps in the district. All kids are being served at Hale - under achievers, kids working at grade level, and kids working above, and far above grade level. Isn't this what people continually ask for?

I'm not saying Hale is perfect. It's not. And it's certainly not for everbody. But it works for many many kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One, I didn't say Hale didn't work. Never. My son graduated from there and I'm proud of it.

Two, yes, things might have changed but I see that a lot of teachers that I knew are still there and I do recall what their attitudes were.

Three, has the honors changed? It could be.

Four, I know of no honors class that covers 2 years in 1. I'm not even sure that is the definition of honors so I don't know what you are talking about.

Five, as to what colleges look for. I've asked several college admissions officers. Here's what they say. AP or IB or you have to be a school that offers neither but has a recognized rigor (i.e. Lakeside or Bush).

Honors, whether stand-alone or add-on, are completely taken with a grain of salt. They just don't take them all that seriously because every single school offers them differently. The colleges probably give you brownie points for taking alleged harder classes but have no way of knowing the degree of rigor. So, they just don't care that much for them. Please, call UW admissions and ask. (But UW does recognize Hale's method of AP in regular ed classes and they are certified by the College Board. Happy? I checked that too.)

Hale is not a bad school but using the word "inclusive" constantly makes it sound like the other schools are exclusive and they are not. That's my point and sorry if it took so long to get here.

Sully said...

Thanks, for clarifying your point Melissa. And, I do get it.

I still have one more question though. Since you have had kids at both Roosevelt and Hale can you give me your perspective (since I have only had the experience of Hale) on what makes honors at Roosevelt different from honors at Hale? Since honors classes at Roosevelt only cover one year of curriculum, just like a regular class at Hale, then I would assume that they aren't moving at a faster pace than the classes at Hale. Do the kids in an honors class at Roosevelt do more work than an honors student in a regular ed class at Hale? Do they delve deeper into each topic? I am truly trying to figure out what is so different?

BTW, Hale only has one inclusive AP class now. All other Hale AP classes are stand alone.

Sully said...

Oh, and LA at Hale is unique alos, in that all 11th and 12th graders take AP LA. There is no "regular" or non AP option for any students. Not sure if I agree with this, but it seems to be working OK so far.

Charlie Mas said...

I got an email from someone who seems to think that reporting the facts about Aki Kurose, including the WASL pass rates, constitutes a hit piece on the school.

It was not my intention to say negative things about Aki Kurose. I have spoken to any number of people who have told me about the positive and beneficial experiences their children have had there.

That really wasn't the point. The point was that Aki's academic outcomes are largely outside that school's control. The WASL pass rates for Aki students reflect more on those students' K-5 academic experiences than anything that happens for them at Aki Kurose.

The point is that if the District wants better academic outcomes for students in Southeast Seattle, they need to invest their efforts in the elementary schools more than in the secondary schools. They show up with their bucket of water when the building is already fully engaged. If they got there earlier they could have put out the fire before it caused the damage.

Sully said...

I totally agree Charlie. I live in the NE and everytime I hear someone say how great Eckstein is, I remind them that the school is very lucky to get the students that they get. Eckstein students feed into the school from View Ridge, Bryant, Wedgewood, Laurelhurst - some of the top performing elementary schools in the district. Those elementary schools are top performing because they are lucky enough to get kids of high socio economic status, predominatntly white, with very involved families. It has nothing to do with how good or bad a school Eckstein is, really. At all. In fact I would argue that Eckstein is too large (1250 kids and the largest MS in the state) and very institutional.

If you took all of the Eckstein students and put them into AKI with the same AKI teachers, the same AKI class offerings, same building, Aki would suddenly become one of the top performing middle schools in the district. Without one single change to the school. Consequently, if you took all of the AKI students and put them in Eckstein, with the fantastic Eckstein teachers, same Eckstein class offerings, same building, you would find that Eckstein would become one of the lowest performing schools in the district. Without one single change to the school.

For the most part, it's not the school, it's the preparation of the kids that come to the school.

Charlie Mas said...

And that is exactly the point.

People talk all the time about "struggling schools", but we have no idea which schools are struggling. Instead, we have some schools that have a lot of struggling students. Unfortunately, the District sees that as a struggling school and sends the help to the school.

The school may be just fine and working well. In that case, the help is wasted. It would be far better if the District realized that it is a school full of struggling students and sent the help to the students.

Here's the difference: If the District sees the school as struggling then they send coaches for the teachers to change what the teachers are doing. But the teachers are already near optimal, so the coaches have little or no net effect. If the District would see the students as struggling, they would send the coaches to work with the students. Then, maybe, we would see some improvement.

This sort of misperception is being played out on a large scale at Cleveland. The District is spending a ton of money to bring STEM to a school that they regard as struggling. They fully expect the academic outcomes at Cleveland to improve dramatically. And they will. But the change will be due to the change in the students, not the change in the program. The students who will enroll at STEM are not the same students who would enroll at Cleveland. It is almost a completely different set of students.

So the District will be improving the academic outcomes for the building, but not for any of the students.

The District can close schools, open schools, or change programs, but until they start to respond to the real situation - struggling students - they won't improve the outcomes.

Charlie Mas said...

Aki Kurose has almost no influence on the academic outcomes for the students enrolled there.

Here's a really nice story - What is so Special About #575? It's about an Aki Kurose student who got a perfect score on the Math portion of the WASL. Now, did that happen because of what she got from Aki Kurose? And if she got what she needed to make a perfect score on the 8th grade Math WASL at Aki Kurose, then why didn't every other student at Aki Kurose get what they needed to make a similar score?

This idea of the big impact of teacher quality - let alone school quality - is just so faulty. In any classroom of students there will be a broad diversity of outcomes. But they all got the same lesson at the same time in the same way. If the teacher is so good, then how did any of the students fail? If the teacher is so bad, then how did any of the students pass? Good teacher or great teacher, the diversity of outcomes will still be huge. If the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher is two or three more kids passing in each class, then that difference is only a very small determininant of the outcome and a poor place for us to invest in improvement.

This difference, of course, presumes that the teacher isn't actually a bad teacher. There is no place for bad teachers in our classrooms. So far as I know, the teacher quality idea and the merit pay idea is about finding and rewarding the difference between good teachers and great teachers.

What could they do at Aki Kurose - that they aren't already doing - to improve the outcomes for their students?

From Wing Luke Elementary, 48.0% of 5th graders failed the math portion of the WASL with 22.0% of them getting Level 1 scores.

From Dunlap Elementary, 54.2% of 5th graders failed the math portion of the WASL with 27.1% of them getting Level 1 scores.

From Emerson Elementary, 47.5% of 5th graders failed the math portion of the WASL with 34.4% of them getting Level 1 scores.

From Brighton Elementary, 66.7% of 5th graders failed the math portion of the WASL with 29.2% of them getting Level 1 scores.

Not all of these students went on to Aki Kurose. I'm sure that Aki Kurose's outcomes would be better if they did. It is very likely that the higher performing students from these schools are among the hundreds of students who leave Southeast Seattle for Hamilton and McClure middle schools.

Now, before someone takes this to mean that the school would be good if the better parents in the neighborhood would just send their kids there, let me be clear. That is NOT what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that the school is probably just fine as it is. If the higher performing students in the neighborhood enrolled there then the WASL pass rates at Aki Kurose would improve, but those increased pass rates would not reflect improved quality at the school anymore than the current low pass rates reflect poor quality at the school.

The school's WASL pass rates reflect outside factors about the students enrolled, not the work that the school has done with them.

Don't tell me that Aki Kurose isn't a good school - they had an 8th grader get a perfect score on the math portion of the WASL last year. Did Eckstein? Did Whitman? Doesn't that prove that Aki is the best school? If you're going to say that student's score doesn't reflect what is happening at Aki Kurose, then how can you say that any student's score reflects what is happening at their school? The answer, of course, is that you can't.

jasonbrown4108 said...

As a long time supporter of Aki Kurose Middle School, I am appalled by you Charlie Mas. It seems like you have some sort of agenda for putting the school in such a bleak light. You call the school in “academic terrible shape.” You listed the WASL scores but did not point out that every single score in every single subject went up. For example in 8th grade math, the students went up by 14%, in 8th grade reading by 12%, in 8th grade science by 15% and in 7th grade writing by 16%. The writing score met the district average at 74% and beats the state average by 4%. It is really interesting to me that you choose to leave that information out.

When you say “Aki has no influence of the academic outcomes of their students,” the increased WASL scores show that you are wrong. Aki went to an extended day for the first time last year in order to give students an additional hour of academics. If the teachers are so “terrible” then none of the students would have improved. There is “one assessment of the Southeast Initiative” being effective.

You also assert “if the teacher (of the 575 perfect score) was so good then why did any of the kids fail?” That is completely ridiculous and you know it, especially for you to say that about a state test that is so inherently faulty that it is being changed this year.

Also check your facts, many of Aki’s students actually do not go to Rainer Beach. Many go to Franklin and Cleveland. So for you to say that there would be no reason for students to succeed at Rainier Beach because they went through Aki is also a ridiculous point.

Another point you try to make is that Aki only has two Spectrum students. Just because students are not enrolled in Spectrum doesn’t mean they are not Spectrum material. The test is on a Saturday, parents may not know about it and it is not allowed to be given during the regular school day.

Additionally, “a revolving door of leadership?” Once again, CHECK YOUR FACTS, I would not call it revolving. Bihoa Caldwell was there from the beginning of Aki. When she retired they had a principal for one year who chose to leave on her own accord. Mia Williams who is the current principal, is now in her second year and if you have ever met her or actually visited the school, you would know how wonderful she is and how committed she is to the school. Additionally one of the vice-principals, Ron Howard has been there almost since the beginning. The other vice principal, Jennifer Hodges, has been there as a teacher and now an administrator for ten plus years. They are amazing people and are wholly committed to the school.

Yes, Aki has challenges but by the gains they have made and the change in the school day; the staff is obviously there for the best interests of the student body. You didn’t include the high percentage of Special Education students (20%), the rate of students with Free or Reduced Lunch (over 75%), the number of ELL students (8%). Let’s also talk about the different subgroups at Aki. When you tout other middle schools, do you really look at ALL the groups? Is every school except Aki serving every single student in every single sub group? The answer is no! This is a district problem, not just an Aki problem. Aki has actually made gains with many of their sub groups, but of course you did not mention that.

I am not sure what you have against the school, but while giving the “facts” you should also give both sides of story of the school and leave your bias out of it. When is that last time you spent a day there? I am guessing you never have because your article would have been quite different. When is the last time you talked to the administration? I am guessing never. When is the last time you talked to students or their parents that have gone there? When have you talked to teachers or sat in their classes? If a person has the audacity to post such a negative blog about a school, they better have all the facts and actually have some experience inside it.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Personally, I don't see comparing year-to-year WASL scores reflecting much of anything. This year's 8th graders are NOT the same kids as last year's 8th graders (at least I hope not). They're different kids, period; we can't compare them. And that's the point Charlie is trying to make.

Sure, the extended day for Aki kids is probably having a positive effect, but the point is, the majority of the kids came in struggling, you can't blame Aki for that, and Charlie doesn't.

Mr. Brown, if you actually read Charlie's post carefully, you would realize that he is NOT bashing the school, or even the kids for that matter. He is just pointing out that a middle/high school that has more struggling students has lower scores because it has students who have been struggling since elementary school, NOT because it is a bad school with bad teachers.

Charlie Mas said...

I must be a terrible writer. If jasonbrown4108 can take the message he took from what I wrote, then I should seriously consider giving up on written communication.

On the other hand, it could be that jasonbrown4108 is entirely responsible for the miscommunication.

On one hand, jasonbrown4108 wants to invest a lot of importance in WASL scores, pointing out changes in the pass rates from year to year. On the other hand, he wants to discount the WASL as "a state test that is so inherently faulty that it is being changed this year".

jasonbrown4108 reports that "every single score in every single subject went up." By "score" I presume "pass rate" is intended. I have no knowledge of the scores and, I daresay, neither does anyone else. I presume, further, that this is a reference to the pass rates for each grade - not each cohort - and for the past one year only. So we see that the pass rate for 6th reading and math in 2009 were higher than the pass rates for 6th grade reading and math in 2008. The pass rate for 7th reading, math, and writing in 2009 were higher than the pass rates for 7th grade reading, math and writing in 2008. And the pass rate for 8th reading, math, and science in 2009 were higher than the pass rates for 8th grade reading, math and science in 2008. That's true.

It's also true that the increases in some cases were so small as to be within the margin of error. For example, the 7th grade pass rate in reading increased by 0.3 percentage points from 45.5% to 45.8%. The 7th grade pass rate in math increased by 0.1 percentage points from 22.4% to 22.5%.

I wouldn't be touting this year's increase in the 7th grade math WASL pass rate from 22.4% to 22.5% if I were trying to make an argument about the effectiveness of new programs at the school. If the programs were effective, the pass rates would be much higher than 20-30%. The District average is 56.3% and the state average is 51.8%. If the programs at Aki are responsible for these pass rates, then those programs are dreadful.

Let's be very clear. I wrote that Aki is NOT responsible for these pass rates.

"The writing score met the district average at 74%"

No. It didn't. The school's pass rate on the 7th grade writing WASL this year was 74.6%. The District's average was 75.1%. If you're going to tout incremental differences then get them right.

I wrote that what happens at Aki doesn't determine the academic outcomes for the students in the school. If we are to believe that Aki DOES determine the academic outcomes of their students, as jasonbrown4108 suggests, then Aki Kurose is the reason that so few of them pass the WASL and these students, if they attended a higher performing school, would have passed the test in higher numbers. That's just not credible.

However, if jasonbrown4108 wants to make that argument, it certainly would not recommend the school that he is trying to defend.

Mr. Brown writes :"You also assert 'if the teacher (of the 575 perfect score) was so good then why did any of the kids fail?' That is completely ridiculous and you know it"

Yeah, I know I know it. I was making fun of that idea. Am I that bad a writer or is jasonbrown4108 an incompetent reader?

Did jasonbrown4108 read this part of what I wrote: "I'm saying that the school is probably just fine as it is. If the higher performing students in the neighborhood enrolled there then the WASL pass rates at Aki Kurose would improve, but those increased pass rates would not reflect improved quality at the school anymore than the current low pass rates reflect poor quality at the school."

continued...

Charlie Mas said...

( ...continued)

I don't know how many students at Aki Kurose could qualify for Spectrum and neither does jasonbrown4108. I do know that the school only had two Spectrum students last year. I also know that they were both in the 8th grade. I don't know if the school has ANY Spectrum students right now. Moreover, the school makes absolutely no reference to the Spectrum program whatsoever in its CSIP or transformation plan. Other than claiming to have a program there is no evidence of one. Dr. Vaughan spoke of programs that are only on paper. This one isn't even that.

Revolving door of leadership. I would call three different principals in three years a revolving door. You don't have to agree. I never suggested that Ms Williams isn't wonderful or committed. I'm sure she is. Are you suggesting that other principals in Seattle Public Schools are not as wonderful or committed? Which ones?

jasonbrown4108 says "I am not sure what you have against the school" Nothing. I have nothing against the school. In case you haven't been reading what I've been writing let me say it plainer:

Aki Kurose is a perfectly fine school. There is nothing wrong with Aki Kurose. The school has a lot of students who, due to reasons completely outside of the school's control, are academically ill-prepared. There is little or nothing that the school could do to bring these students up to grade level performance given the short time and resources allotted. The school does not deserve its poor reputation.

HOWEVER the school and the District should immediately dedicate whatever resources are necessary to bring the underperforming students at Aki Kurose - and underperforming students in grades K-12 in every school in the District - up to grade level.

jasonbrown4108 your hurt feelings and acrimony are misdirected. Please re-read what I have written and make a greater effort to get the message. It was not a negative blog post at all. And, while you're at it, recognize that these numbers are, in fact, very very bad. No amount of happy talk will change that.

Finally, instead of being "long time supporter of Aki Kurose Middle School" how about you become a supporter of the students in the school? Because most of those students clearly aren't getting what they need.

jasonbrown4108 said...

I am not going to go back and forth with you. I do volunteer the school which is why I know so much about it.
You first post was in fact very negative. Using words like "abysmal" and saying the school is in "terrible academic shape" are in fact negative terms. My comments were not "happy talk" just the facts of the other side of the story. You chose to tell only the negative side and then to say "I am sure Aki is a fine school that doesn't deserve the negative reputation" is very contradictory. Then you go on to insult my reading skills which was childish at best. I read everything you wrote, I was choosing to respond to the first post.
I was most of all dismayed that someone would decided to write a blog about a school without reporting all the facts. I especially do not think you should write a blog about a school you have never set foot in. I did say “Yes, Aki has challenges but by the gains they have made and the change in the school day; the staff is obviously there for the best interests of the student body.” I am pointing out that they do have a lot of work to do but I also think the whole story should be told. You chose to leave out certain facts, be sarcastic about others and be rude and insulting to anyone that gives another point of view. You obviously have a certain agenda and I hope people come to Aki and see it for themselves.

agibean1958 said...

The thing to remember about Aki is that there are students there from some of the most challenging circumstances you can imagine. There are children from abusive homes, children from households so poor they are going without heat, or water (not HOT water, but ...water) or food. There are children from homes where drugs are used, and some from homes where the parents don't speak a word of English and who have never set foot in a school until they reached Aki.

To blame it all on the inability of the elementary schools to save these children is not just unfair, it's fantasyland. Schools in the area DO try to help these kids, but there are so many pressing needs that are completely outside the ability of schools to change.

You can hook up a family with energy/water assistance, but there is a shortage of aid for these programs and some familes cannot get help. You can point out other assistance programs, but most are just as desperate for funds as everyone else is these days. And you can tell youth services about drug use/abuse, but they're overwhelmed too.

And yet...there are teachers in all of these schools working their butts off to help. They sit the non-English speaking girl next to the most vocal one in the class. They work with the school office to find clothes for the needy family. They try to shelter the boy who's stepdad beats him regularly.

But chances are these kids won't all reach grade-level on time. Or maybe ever. And they'll have crappy WASL scores. But I don't think that means the schools are failing them all. And I don't think you can blame all the FAMILIES either.

That refugee kid may never get to college, but maybe by high school she'll be fluent enough to get a decent job. That's important, because she'll be helping her parents pay for the heat and water and food that they need. And maybe that poor family is really struggling, but that struggling middleschooler might have ONE teacher who encourages her to take challenging classes even though she thinks she will never get to college-and four years down the line, she DOES.

I'm not just making up these scenarios. My older daughter went to Aki-on purpose. She had Algebra in 8th grade, and Spanish while she was there. She WANTED Spanish, so she wasn't upset about their not offering 2 other languages. And she had friends like some of the kids I mentioned. And, four years later after going to Franklin with many of them, she, and some of THEM, got into college.

My younger daughter went to Dunlap for 2 years. I've never seen such dedicated teachers, who seemed to find a way to make it work, no matter the ability levels of each kid. And they worked HARD to save the ones in real trouble.

I'm also involved with a refugee family with two girls at Aki. She may never get to college, but she is sure dreaming about it. And her teachers are doing what they can to make it happen.

The real reason, I think, that so many parents "flee" the southend schools is because of kids like the ones I mentioned. They don't WANT their kids in the same rooms as any of them, which is their right. But-those children have to go somewhere. They DESERVE to go somewhere. The sad truth is that not all kids in need are going to have school as their top priority. But at the same time-dedicated kids CAN get what they need at south Seattle schools. I know, because mine did.

My youngest is in APP now. But the foundation she got in her first two years-at Dunlap, one of the schools Charlie called out, is what got her to APP.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm tired of defending this post. The data in it is all accurate. The adjectives are warranted. It is not the post which is negative but the facts.

Most of all, I am tired of having to repeat, over and over again, that these facts do no indicate that Aki Kurose is a bad school. This data does not much reflect on the quality of Aki Kurose as a school at all. Rather, this data reflects the high concentration of challenging students that enroll at Aki Kurose, not the work they do when they are there.

I am sorry that people see this as a knock on the school. It isn't.

Yes, I used words like "abysmal" and "terrible", and you know why? Because those WASL pass rates ARE abysmal. The school IS terribly under-enrolled. Is there anyone who is going to say that these numbers are just dandy?

Is there a set of facts that would present another image of the school and the students? No. There isn't. Pointing at growth or growth rates outside the context of the total outcome is meaningless. Should we presume that Lowell is doing poorly with its students because the WASL pass rate there hasn't increased by 10 percentage points? Not when the pass rate started at over 90%. Likewise, the growth rate at Aki Kurose pales in significance to the low total outcome.

No one questions the dedication of the staff at Aki Kurose. In fact, once again, that is exactly the point. The quality of the staff is a much smaller determinant of academic outcomes than the powerful determinants outside the school's control. Consequently discussions about teacher quality - whatever that is - and school quality - an equally ambiguous expression - are just silly. As I have written for some time now. Clearly, if I think that these outcomes are not a legitimate measure of school quality, then I would not support the conclusion that Aki Kurose is a bad school based on these measures.

Three more things. No blog post can "report all the facts". That's an unreasonable expectation. First of all there are far too many to report. Second, some of them simply are not relevant. Fortunately, this is a highly democratic medium. If you have other facts to report you are perfectly free to report here. I read the additional facts presented and I addressed them. All readers are free to similarly question or diminish the importance of the facts I cite. agibean, for example, wrote that one world language offering was enough.

Second, none of these people have any idea of how much I know - or don't know - about Aki Kurose. They don't know whether I've been there or not. They probably wouldn't know me if I were sitting next to them on the bus.

Third, all of the sarcasm is in the tone that the reader assumed. There is none in what I wrote. Steve Allen used to do a very funny bit in which he would read innocuous letters to the editor in a loud, angry voice. Try reading it all again without presuming a sneering tone.

JvA said...

I'm a first-time commenter on this blog, and I just wanted to thank some of you.

First, thank you, Charlie Mas, for all his posts about South End schools. Your information gathering and reporting have been absolutely invaluable to me. I've been posting links to your posts in comments in South End blogs, and also sending them directly to parents I know.

Also, I'd like to thank Jason Brown and agibean for sharing their thoughts about Aki Kurose, and JB for volunteering there. I've been reading this blog for some time and would love to hear more first-hand reports from parents who have sent their kids to South End neighborhood schools.

--Beacon Hill mom and potential future SPS parent

JvA said...

(And sorry about the poor editing of that thank-you note!)