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.