Sunday, January 17, 2010

Odd Consequences of the NSAP

The New Student Assignment Plan will have some odd consequences that may not be apparent at first glance.

First, I cannot overstate the importance of the elimination of the distance tie-breaker. This means that students living in the Rainier Beach attendance area will have the same chance for assignment to Ballard High School as a student living in Crown Hill, just north of the Ballard attendance area. Thanks to the end of the distance tie-breaker and the creation of the 10% set-aside for out-of-area students, 8th graders living in the south-end will suddenly have access to Ballard, Roosevelt, and Garfield like never before. Of course, a lot of those out-of-area seats will go to siblings of students who gained access under the old rules, but that can't last long. Between the greater access to the popular schools in the North-end, the predicted availability of seats at high schools in West Seattle, and STEM drawing away every local motivated student, Rainier Beach High School will continue to be be significantly under-enrolled.

Second, I don't think a lot of people will participate in Open Enrollment. Remember that prior to Open Enrollment, everyone is going to get a letter with their child's default assignment. That letter will say "Your child has been assigned to _____ School for the 2010-2011 school year." A lot of people will not think that there is any decision for them to make or any action for them to take. This will be the case among the less engaged families in particular. They will think it is over. Also, a lot of the families living in the attendance area for a popular school will be done. They will accept that assignment and choose not to participate in Open Enrollment. The media and the common wisdom is that Seattle has gone to a neighborhood assignment plan and that's it. Case Closed. Choice is Over. The District has not gone out of their way to dispel that notion. The only people who will be participating in Open Enrollment will be those who are not accepting their default assignment - people choosing Option schools and people who find their attendance area school unacceptable. But FIRST they have to know that they CAN choose another school, and I think that number will be way down. There are going to be a lot of people - particularly in the communities that are difficult for the District to engage - who won't know they have a choice.

Third, the absence of geographic zones this year may have its greatest impact at South Shore K-8 (formerly The New School). This is the best funded school in the District (if not the state). This is the school that the superintendent chose for her own child (instead of their reference area school). Without a geographic zone or any sort of distance tie-breaker, enrollment at this school has been thrown open to the whole city on a totally equal basis. Moreover, with their big new building, I expect this school will have to expand enrollment to make good use of the space. If you EVER wanted to get your child into this school, THIS may be your best chance. I don't know how many people are willing to drive their child back and forth from this school from outside the neighborhood, but if you were thinking that private school was your only option and you were going to have to drive to and from the private school, you should consider South Shore as an alternative. Given the goals of the New School Foundation, I would expect South Shore to get a very carefully drawn geographic zone in the future. This year, however, the only tie-breakers are siblings and lottery. Go for it.

Fourth, the tie-breakers for access to Elementary Spectrum are Service Area and Lottery. This means that a Spectrum-eligible student living in the Wedgwood attendance area has no better chance of getting assigned to Wedgwood Spectrum than a Spectrum-eligible student living in the Bryant attendance area. Heads up for that.

There may be a number of other odd consequences of the New Student Assignment Plan that aren't obvious. We still have to see the Program Placement decisions. They are due in February, prior to the start of Open Enrollment. In particular, it will be interesting to see which elementary schools will have Spectrum programs. There will be interesting consequences if its Muir for the Washington Service Area, Hawthorne for the Mercer Service Area and Laurelhurst for the Hamilton Service Area as the staff have proposed.

31 comments:

Lori said...

"This means that a Spectrum-eligible student living in the Wedgwood attendance area has no better chance of getting assigned to Wedgwood Spectrum than a Spectrum-eligible student living in the Bryant attendance area."

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think this is a change. We have a 1st grader at Bryant whom we suspected would be Spectrum- or APP-eligible back when touring schools prior to Kindergarten so we asked a lot of questions about this prior to choosing a school in the NE. The principal at View Ridge assured me that our odds of getting a spot in their Spectrum program if we were to attend our reference school (Bryant) for K were just as good as that of a child already at VR. That is, already being at the school did not guarantee a Spectrum seat once qualified. It probably has something to do with the fact that not all schools offer Spectrum and as a district-recognized program, they have to make it available to all who qualify.

Like I said, I could be wrong. We didn't even test our child in K so we haven't yet tried to negotiate the options. But those letters are due later this month, and I'll be curious what they do tell us our options are with the NSAP going on concurrently.

Seattle Parent said...

Charlie- The district's predicted availability of seats at high schools (and middle schools) in West Seattle totally contradicts what we both have a feeling will happen- most people will accept their default assignment (especially in West Seattle, given there really are only 2 schools to easily access by metro at the HS level).

That said, the district's recent projections in the new document posted online, "Follow-up to Transition Plan Questions and Recommended Changes", in the West Seattle section seem to be very questionable. The district projects that the same approx. half of the Denny & Sealth attendance area kids who currently go to other schools, will follow the same pattern next year! They are not even assuming ANY kids will follow their default assignment!

In the new document they show that Denny could take 300 6th graders next year, whereas there are 325 6th graders in the Denny attendance area. The incredible prediction is that 150 of those kids will reject their default assignment & end up going to other schools. (Sealth is similar: room for 380- 9th graders, 350 in the area, but subtract out 170 predicted to go to other schools).

What happens if their predictions are wrong? The new assignment maps will directly cut enrollment by 30% to the 2 other West Seattle schools (Madison & WSHS), with no options for the now popular seats at Sealth (other than the 10% open choice seats- just 38 seats for all city Seattle draw).

This plan has been too rushed & the district has not taken the time to find out what families will do. There will be some big surprises in March after enrollment finishes.

hschinske said...

Tell me again why a distance tie-breaker is NOT an obvious part of a move back to neighborhood schools? I'm sure it's been discussed ad nauseam, but I just don't remember and/or don't get it.

(WV: unweari. Not sure if that means "not tired" or "not on guard." Neither one is very accurate!)

Helen Schinske

zb said...

"Tell me again why a distance tie-breaker is NOT an obvious part of a move back to neighborhood schools"

Because neighborhood schools, to soe (including me) means a guaranteed assignment, default assignment. That is, by definition your "neighborhood" school, the default assignment based on where you live. A tie breaker, any tie breaker, is an overlay on top of that, and only comes into play when you're engaging in choice (i.e. not neighborhood school).

This is also the reason why my conception of a "neighborhood" school plan has to include slots for late comers into the system (i.e people who move into the system at the last minute). If they are not guaranteed access to their neighborhood choice, you break my major premise of "neighborhood" school, a school that you go to based on where you live.

Of course, during the transition plan, and during other transitions that might occur, like the re-drawing of boundaries, anamolies develop. But, the concept of "neighborhood" school, the one that I grew up with, required that where you live == where you went to school.

reader said...

Distance can't be a tie breaker because lots of schools are close together... which leaves some families with lots of reasonably close schools, and leaves others with only 1 school. The kids who are close to only 1 school should be in the attendance area of that 1 school, even if that means that some people who live even closer are assigned somewhere else. I guess that describes the best way to draw the attendance areas, but also is an equitable principal as far as choice. You shouldn't have an extra edge at lots of schools just because the district placed a bunch of them in 1 neighborhood (in its infinite wisdom).

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Parent said:
"This plan has been too rushed & the district has not taken the time to find out what families will do. There will be some big surprises in March after enrollment finishes."

Isn't rushing standard operating procedure for the School District?

Consider EDM math adoption (why wait for State recommendations?)

Consider Cleveland contract for $800,000 to NewTech Network (introduction item this Wed.)

Doing anything in a coherent fashion is rare for this administration.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said:

"and STEM drawing away every local motivated student"

Is Cleveland STEM already a done deal?

The planning for Cleveland STEM is even more poorly executed than the SAP planning.

WOW!! does anyone believe the Superintendent realizes there is a huge budget problem?

Are money and planning focused on improving academic achievement for all students in the school district?

This administration refuses to budget for the maintenance of buildings or plan for significantly improving academic achievement.

What is planned for is greater centralized control of schools despite no evidence that this works.

Seattle spends $461 more per student than Olympia SD on Central Administration.
$461 per students x 46,000 students = $22.6 million
With the amount of central administrators in Seattle does Seattle really need to hire more outside consultants? And buy outside programs? JUST SAY NO!!

Maureen said...

South Shore...with their big new building, I expect this school will have to expand enrollment to make good use of the space.

Do they still restrict class size there? How long can they continue to do this?

Given the reduction in grandfathered transportation to two years, I think there needs to be a new short term tiebreaker that gives preference to kids who are driven out of their Alternative/Option school and have no guaranteed seat at an attendance area school. They should be given preference (after sibs and before any Geo Zone) at the alt/option school that they can be transported to.

emeraldkity said...

I am using my iPod and am not looking at the maps and zones- but let me get this straight.
Reducing time on the roads /traffic/money spent on vehicle maintenance is a good thing- amiright?
Parents who have easy access to their childs school are more likely to be able to be involved.
Walk zones around high schools are what? Two miles?
Even if a circle centered around say Roosevelt, is too large to guarantee all high school students within that zone a place there, if we are really about saving money with transportation, wouldn't we give those students within walking distance priority over those who need transportation?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Charlie is right on the issue of people believing there is no real choice left. I think I mentioned previously that at a parent meeting I attended this week, one parent insisted that you had to go to your attendance area high school. Some of the other parents though you could only go to another high school through the 10% choice seats.

Couple that with the district's trying to tamp down tours, well, you can see why people would be confused.

You can go to ANY attendance area school if there are seats after attendance area kids get in. Ergo, you can write them down during Open Enrollment. Is this going to happen in the most popular schools? Of course not but to say "oh well it's a neighborhood system now" is not reading the plan. I'm seeing the president of the Seattle Council PTSA this week; I'll ask her if the word is being spread through the local PTAS that you still have choice.

Charlie is also right on the South Shore issue (and I'm sure New School isn't exactly happy but it's only for one year and then they will have a Geographic Zone). But it's open season for ALL Option schools given that there are no Geographic Zones drawn yet.

Working Together said...

I agree with Melissa's post and wanted to expand:

Geographic zones: Yes, correct analysis-- and for those families that are willing to self-transport / carpool with other families, it's an unheard-of opportunity for families not satisfied with attendance area schools to have an opportunity for a quality option. For example, a student assigned to School X, miles away, has, for this transition period only, JUST AS MUCH CHANCE of getting into say Jane Addams or Salmon Bay or TOPS as a student who lives across the street. This is HUGE and the importance cannot be understated. One of the concerns many families have had with NSAP is the lack of equity between attendance area schools. That problem may not be solved but here is a huge back door, as long as a family is able to handle lack of bus service through creative means. This back door is likely to be in place only in 2010-2011, so if you want to use it, use it now.

reader said...

a huge back door... except at some places. Why should Thornton Creek students get any special preference at Salmon Bay? TC wasn't available to everyone... neither was any alternative/option schools. Why should students who have had that advantage already, continue getting it... just because they already won the lottery.... or just because there was some special deal eons ago. People now don't care about old special deals.

Keepin'On said...

No kidding reader. Why the special treatment for Thornton Creek? The old days and agreements are gone. They need to suffer along with the new plan along with everybody else.

There are a lot of families who would like Salmon Bay, and this extension of the preference for TC only continues the problem.

Bad move Harium.

zb said...

He's playing constituency politics and looking out for a vocal group of families in his service area. I think more interesting is why HM-M's been more successful at this than others who have tried to benefit subgroups of their constituency.

One reason might be that there isn't a lot of demand for Salmon Bay in the NE, where TC is, so there's no conflict within his own constituency. But, I agree that the special access smacks of special treatment and shouldn't be passed.

(I also think the APP programs shouldn't have special access to Garfield and that every APP-eligible student should have the opportunity to enter, even if they weren't previously enrolled in the APP program -- i.e those in SPS who chose not to go to Lowell/TMarshall and those out of SPS)

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

Don't forget that both of Harium's kids went to Thornton Creek and used the Thornton Creek preference to get into Salmon Bay - with transportation. I can see why he'd support it, and not realize how grossly unfair it is to the rest of the city.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

A friend..."Greener Grad" asked me to post this as she was having trouble:

The new Student Assignment Plan is supposed to be sending a whole bunch of middle class families into Rainier Beach High School. Parents are frantically making plans to choose option schools, private schools, or most popularly, to lie about their home address. Although people have been LYING for years to get into Roosevelt and Garfield,
the new Student Assignment Plan makes it that much more attractive than in the past. There is no downside for the parents, just a little
inconvenience. Rainier Beach will still be woefully under-enrolled. Here's another option to consider: Take some unused classroom space at
Rainier Beach High School, and put some Central Administration offices there. Have the Superintendent, or the Chief Academic Officer, or the Security staff work there three rotating days each week. That would assuage the fears of middle class parents. You can't just close your eyes and pretend that Rainier Beach is just like Roosevelt High School. The US Supreme Court called the district on the carpet for not investing in schools such as Rainier Beach, and the District has done
little to improve the situation since then.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not a bad thought, Solvay.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Thanks Melissa...but the credit goes to "Greener Grad."

Dorothy said...

Dunno bout his son, but HMM's daughter went to Eckstein.

Rosie said...

The issue with Thornton Creek is the absence of an alternative middle school option in the reference area. There are MS alternative schools in all the other service areas, except the one in which Thornton Creek resides. The thinking is that parents who opt for alternative education shouldn't arbitrarily lose that option for middle school. Much like the District has promised ot provide other types of services in each reference area, here's one they are failing to provide in that particular reference area. And this is the proposed fix

Another option would be to expand Thornton Creek to a K-8. Or even to expand some of the other K-8s into "mushroom model" k-8,s meaning that, like Salmon Bay, the middle school classes are larger than the elementary classes. But in the absence of that, then those families that have opted for an alternative K-5 at Thornton Creek have asked for, and apparently HMM is proposing, an amendment that would allow them to continue to have their children educated at an alternative school through 8th grade.

Maureen said...

I believe it is also the case that it was TC and Coho parents who got together to form the New Option Middle School that was eventually physically cohoused with Coho and then later the two merged to form Salmon Bay. The intention was that TC 5th graders would go to SB for 6th grade since NOMS no longer existed.

As far as Eckstein area kids not having access to a MS alt school though--isn't AS#1 in that service area? Also, McClure and Aki Kurose area kids won't have access (ie, transportaion) to ANY alternative school at all. And McClure MSers won't have access to even a non-alt Option school.

As far as transport for TC grads to SB, they will be eligible for Metro passes just like all of the other MSers who choose an Option school outside of their attendance area.

h2o girl said...

Have to say I agree that the TC preference for Salmon Bay doesn't really have a place in the new assignment plan. Right now if one lives in the Eckstein svc area where TC is located, you have two option schools with transportation guaranteed - AS1 and Jane Addams. Salmon Bay will give transport to middle school kids in the Whitman AND Hamilton svc areas starting next year - so if you are also putting TC kids into that mix, I fear that it will be like it is now, with Salmon Bay having a miles long waitlist and AS1 and JA struggling for kids.

Bruce Taylor said...

Charlie Mas wrote:

In particular, it will be interesting to see which elementary schools will have Spectrum programs. There will be interesting consequences if its Muir for the Washington Service Area, Hawthorne for the Mercer Service Area and Laurelhurst for the Hamilton Service Area as the staff have proposed.

I'm sorry to be thick. What kind of interesting consequences are we talking about?

I am particularly interested in the impact on Laurelhurst Elementary. LH currently has about 450 students. Under the new boundaries, its projected 2015 population will be 300. Meanwhile, Sand Point Elementary is reopening at great expense to add a couple hundred seats. Will Spectrum fill 150 seats at Laurelhurst?

Charlie Mas said...

Bruce Taylor asked:
"What kind of interesting consequences are we talking about?"

Well, if Muir is the choice for the Washington Service Area, will anyone send their child there? Muir is a long way from the schools and neighborhoods in the north-end of the service area where a lot of the Spectrum-eligible students live. There is a Spectrum program at Muir that had been growing in size and reputation, but the students for that program came from areas that are now in the Mercer Service Area instead of the Washington Service Area. By cutting it off from its historical recruiting grounds and placing it so far from its new recruiting grounds, the Spectrum program at Muir will face recruiting challenges.

Madrona K-8 would be a better choice. First, it would require Madrona to address the needs of advanced learners, which would give the neighborhood families some confidence that Madrona will address those needs instead of focusing exclusively on the needs of under-performing students. Also, it would provide additional 6-8 Spectrum capacity for when the Spectrum capacity at Washington fills the program there - with enrollment capped at 180. Since the District will not provide transportation to another middle school, the cap on Spectrum enrollment is essentially a cap on Spectrum services. There are Spectrum K-8s in the Whittier and Eckstein services areas (Broadview-Thomson and Jane Addams), the other two middle school programs that sometimes fill up.

Meanwhile, the families in the Mercer Service Area who were sending their Spectrum-eligible students to Muir might not send them to Hawthorne. Hawthorne is the only elementary school in the Service Area that has a poor reputation for academic achievement. Historically, Spectrum families have not chosen to enroll their children at such schools - whether they are the designated site or not.

Bruce also asked: "Will Spectrum fill 150 seats at Laurelhurst?"

It could. It certainly could come close with the 100 or so that are needed to build a viable, credible program.

Bruce Taylor said...

Thanks for the reply, Charlie.

Spectrum at Laurelhurst might have the same problem that you anticipate for Spectrum at Muir -- too far away to be attractive to families from other schools in the middle school service area.

Laurelhurst is 41 blocks (2.1 miles) east of I-5; every other school in the Hamilton service area (except for a little slice of the MacDonald area) is on the other side of I-5 and the U-District.

Dorothy said...

Laurelhurst does seem one of those program placement decisions based on empty seats but no rational thought. As Bruce says, it is way on the edge of challengingly shaped service area.

Am I right in that one can apply anywhere and you are just not eligible for transportation? So Spectrum eligible kids living in the Eckstein area, very much in walking distance, could apply for Laurelhurst. That could alleviate some crowding in the Eckstein area, but sure isn't pretty for the Hamilton area families way on the other side of the freeway. Could be an escape for families worried about Sand Point.

I didn't realize Jane Addams had Spectrum? Is it a big enough program to be viable?

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, the existential question of which schools have Spectrum.

Does Lawton have Spectrum?
Does Leschi have Spectrum?
Does Wing Luke have Spectrum?
Does West Seattle Elementary have Spectrum?

The District claims that they all do, but has no evidence to support those claims.

This discussion would prove far too complex and divisive to be merely a digression on this thread. In the end, nothing would be determined except that there are official truths and actual truths and they are not the same.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Ah, the existential question of which schools have Spectrum." Charlie, you gave me a good laugh at the end of the day when I really needed it. Ha!

sigrunc said...

Well, I think there will still be plenty of people using the open enrollment, because not everyone has enrolled early. You can't get an advance assignment to a school if the school district doesn't know that you exist, can you?

I think a lot of people (like me) will have held off, because unless you are happy with your (possibly new) reference school, you are just going to have to redo all the paperwork during open enrollment anyway, so what's the point? For those of us with older siblings at option schools, there wasn't any way to get them assigned there even though siblings is still supposedly the first assignment preference, so there didn't seem to be any point.

It would haver been nice if they could have addressed the whole issue of option schools during the early enrollment because I would rather have done the paperwork early, but what dopes it accomplish to get her asgned to another school & then have to request a change? Why not just do it onec? Presumably the open enrollemnt form will still have a place on it for siblings preference.

Sully said...

Jane Addams had 7 Spectrum students total in grades K-8 this year.