Monday, March 28, 2011

A Small Double-Standard/Hypocrisy

As we all know, the District has intentionally made language immersion programs at attendance area schools. This works directly against the District's stated goal of equitable access to programs. It's just bad in every way.

It's getting worse. When building the feeder pattern for language immersion programs, the District wants to have two elementary schools feeding into each middle school and, then, into one high school.

If the second elementary school program were placed in a school in another middle school service area, but adjacent to the middle school service area of the language program middle school, then access to the program could be extended to students in another service area. For example, if the second school with language immersion in the north-end were at Green Lake, then students in the Eckstein service area (theoretically) would have access to a language immersion program as well as students in the Hamilton service area.

The District, however, has rejected this idea because it messes with their feeder patterns. Apparently feeder pattern symmetry is more important than equitable access to programs.

BUT - when choosing a high school destination for these students, the District didn't hesitate to name Ingraham - despite the fact that the Ingraham attendance area does not include ANY of the same territory as the language immersion programs that are supposed to feed to it (JSIS, McDonald, and Hamilton).

Hmmm. So it's so critically important that the territory overlap - more important than equitable access to programs - until it isn't.

Look for this to repeat in the Southeast. After the District has built the IB at Rainier Beach, look for them to name Rainier Beach as the high school destination for students coming out of the language immersion programs at Beacon Hill, the Elementary School To Be Name Later, and Mercer, instead of Franklin, the attendance area high school for those students.

15 comments:

Steve said...

I've talked with several parents for whom John Stanford Int'l School is their default neighborhood school, and they don't want to go there because of the language immersion (not right for their kids, etc.). Unfortunately, because this isn't a "choice" school, they now have to apply out of their zone and hope they get in somewhere else. It's so stupid to assume that a specific program like this is right for every student.

Greg said...

It does seem like the district should have two types of schools, neighborhood schools that draw locally and alternative programs that draw all-city.

That allows parents to always have the option of attending local schools or alternative programs. Alternative programs could then be expanded or duplicated based on demand and their track record.

It would also compete local schools against alternative schools to some extent, since parents would effectively opt-out of their local school and pick an alternative school if their local school was not performing well. Again, the district could respond to demand, expanding schools and programs that are successful and attractive to parents, closing schools and programs that are not.

Anyone know why the district does not do things that way?

jd said...

Hi Steve -- I believe that students who do not want immersion are allowed to opt-out of JSIS in favor of an automatic assignment to BF Day (which is a great little school).

Maureen said...

jd, is right, and the same (guaranteed BFDay assignment) applies to families in the McDonald area. The other immersion programs are cohoused with gen ed (nonimmersion) programs. I'm not sure how they determine which program kids are placed in for those schools (Concord and Beacon Hill). Is it true that McDonald/JSIS families who don't want immersion have to go through Open Enrollment? Or do they just enroll at BFDay as if it is their neighborhood school?

zb said...

I don't actually see this as hypocrisy (even though I think that the language immersion schools should be option schools). The new NSAP has feeder patterns to middle schools, but not to high schools. A set of elementaries feed into a middle school, but the boundaries are re-drawn for the high schools.

So, it's not particularly hypocritical to continue the same pattern with the immersion schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Greg, what you say makes sense. The problem is we would have to go with "find your own transportation" for all city draws. It is incredibly expensive to transport kids all over Seattle.

With your method, popular alternatives would be duplicated and therefore, trim the transportation costs. But I think the district wants to get those costs down and would be reluctant to go that direction again.

GreyWatch said...

BF Day is a great little school, but it's not walking distance for anyone living in the JSIS or McDonald boundaries. Sure, it's not far, but it is in another neighborhood, another community, etc.

Kids and families who opt-out of LI miss out on getting to know the other families in their community. One of the great benefits of neighborhood schools is the community building (walking each other's kids to school, sharing the childcare load on early dismissal days, etc.).

Alternative schools are able to build community because people who choose those schools are committed to whatever that program/school is offering. LI would have no problem building community were it an option program. As it is set up now, the program excludes those who don't fit the mold, or who move in after grade 1 -- not an appropriate model for a neighborhood draw school.

Anonymous said...

@Steve, @Maureen: students who live in the JSIS or McDonald attendance areas but don't want Language Immersion are guaranteed a spot at BF Day. They do have to apply during open enrollment, but they are guaranteed a seat, as if they lived in the BF Day attendance area. It works in the same way a student new to the APP program would apply during open enrollment.

@Charlie Mas:I agree that the international/language immersion schools should have always been option schools, but when the choice was made to place the program at Latona, the community asked for the neighborhood school designation and that request was granted. It was a short term fix with, to the district, unforeseen consequences. After John Stanford passed away, there wasn't any district support for the grand vision.

I think that it's going to be very important to have students from McDonald feeding into Hamilton, because without the numbers it's very difficult to maintain the program, much less grow and improve it.

If Greenlake were to be an international school, it still would be a neighborhood school. (Not to mention that while I'm sure there would be families that would be excited, I guarantee that there would be families that don't want it.) I don't see how offering one small section of the Eckstein attendance area the international program would help the equity problem. Further, you’d need to put in an exception for middle school assignment, much like they have for the JSIS out of attendance area kids for the last 2 years. Or, alternatively, you could try to offer language immersion at Eckstein for a small group of kids. Keep in mind, right now Eckstein doesn't offer language to 6th graders.

The program isn't just dual language immersion, at least at the elementary level, it really is the international program. It's more than a language program. That's what is making the choices hard for 5th grade parents. Reducing the program to one language class at middle & high school means that it's so much less than what the students got at elementary school, that if there are other criteria that families use, the one language class isn't a strong reason to choose the international middle school.

There are a lot of schools that are not interested in adding this to their programming, regardless of the numbers of students in their attendance areas who would like it. Roosevelt would have been the obvious choice of high school, given that so many of the Hamilton kids live in the RHS attendance area, but Roosevelt really hasn't shown a lot of interest in accomodating immersion language learners. Their focus has been on the ways the immersion students don't fit their pedagogy. Realistically, why would RHS make curriculum changes for 6 - 10 kids in a grade? A school would have a reason to create classes for 50-75 students, which in 12 years might be the case.

Of the 1st K class at JSIS there are 9 kids at Ingraham doing Spanish from that JSIS class. Of the 3 classes of JSIS graduates now in high school,that's the most in one high school, and that year produced 56 5th graders in immersion Spanish. The class below had one class of Spanish and one of Japanese. Those 9th graders are in many different high schools. JSIS 5th grade families commitment to language and international education at the middle/high school level is reduced in proportion to the quality of programming and support offered at the middle and high school level. The quality can't improve without students in the classroom. So while I agree that international schools should be option programs, I think that we're better off building a strong program within the structure of the NSAP and then extending it. I think diluting the program before it's completed through 12th grade will weaken the chances of having a strong program.

Tami

Anonymous said...

@Greg: I agree that the district should have neighborhood schools and option schools. However, I think that your idea the district responding to demand, "expanding schools and programs that are successful and attractive to parents, closing schools and programs that are not" doesn't admit of the incredible amount of time, emotion and trouble it takes to close a school, or the tremendous amount of work it takes for the staff and community to build a successful school. Not to mention how difficult it is to get agreement on what a successful program is, and how to decide on what other program to build.

Tami

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't get Charlie's equitability point. JSIS and other international schools take kids in their immediate attendance areas. Beyond that, I think it's (very limited) open admission. A kid in the Hamilton service area, but not in the JSIS attendance area, isn't more likely to get a spot at JSIS than a kid in the Eckstein area.

If you made Greenlake international instead of McDonald, you don't change anything for kids who are not in one of those two elementary attendance areas. You're just swapping out one elementary area for another. I don't see how you're improving equitability.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I don't see how offering one small section of the Eckstein attendance area the international program would help the equity problem."

Because it would put LI in yet another region and thereby spread the program? It seems inherently unfair to have a hugely popular program in certain regions. Yes, you are just swapping one elementary for another but you are spreading it more throughout the city.

I'll go out on a limb here but I think most parents would prefer a language offering in elementary, starting in kindergarten (a real 5-day a week lesson), to a language immersion school. You'd have foreign language happening in every elementary (or nearly as possible).

I think more people are attracted to the idea of learning language early than a full language immersion school.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm just tired of the District's hypocricy in placing Mercer service area elementary Spectrum at Hawthorne instead of Kimball and explaining the decision as "putting the program closer to where the students live" when Kimball is in the center of the Mercer service area and Hawthorne is on the edge of it. Likewise using the "putting the program where the students live" rationale for placing the Washington service area program at Muir instead of Madrona. But when it comes to north-end elementary APP students there is no need to even put the program in the north-end and there is no concern about "putting the program where the students live".

This year their rationale for not moving the Washington area program from Muir to Madrona was that they didn't want to shift the program, but they didn't hesitate to shift it from West Seattle to Arbor Heights last year. What's the difference?

NW Mom said...

I'm a newbie, but I was looking at the program placement plans and was wondering how on earth they aren't setting Ingraham up to be over-crowded in, say, 5 years. APP, IB, Language immersion, etc. Did anyone else have this thought? Is an overcrowded school somehow a good thing for the district since it equals success? For all those complaining about lack of open seats, maybe Ballard will have some in 5 years!

Anonymous said...

@melissa westbrook: I think that you might be correct in thinking that parents might like consistent language opportunities in elementary school, not just language immersion programs. The problem then would be how do you effectively build on that? Keep in mind that the best SPS is doing is offering students who have had 9 years of language education assignment into Spanish 3 or Japanese 3 in ninth grade.

SPS currently has a 6 period day in middle and high school. Language isn't considered a core subject, and if kids are interested in music, or anything else, and they have to take PE, it becomes a scheduling problem. This continues on in high school. It's tough for a student to do all the requirements for graduation (PE, Health, visual arts, occupational education) as well as the classes that will make the student competitive at selective schools.

Tami

monasmuse said...

How will low income language immersion families with one- or no car- get their children to school now the buses only serve kids between 1.0- 1.25 mile of school? thats what I want to know!