Monday, September 12, 2011

Diversity

There was a request for this topic which we don't talk much about anymore.   I think there's some reasons why. 

One, I think the racial tie-breaker left a bitter taste in a lot of people's mouths (and it cost us a lot of money to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court - wonder what that final bill was?)  

Two, we have a neighborhood plan and we need a few years to see what, if any, difference we see in racial diversity at our schools. 

Three, we have had little use for the Open Choice seats at the high schools.  That would be one big way to have more diversity - whether racial or socio-economic - get into the high schools.  I'll have to ask Tracy for a breakdown of those seats this year but if there are more than 25 in the whole district, I'd be surprised. 

From our readers:
What counts as diversity? Income disparities, the blending of poor, middle class, and rich? Homosexual or heterosexual parents at home? First generation immigrants (even if white immigrants from Europe or Russia) and non-English languages spoken at home? If race only, does Asian or Indian count as diversity? East African or north African immigrants? Or are we talking specifically and only about African Americans and whites when we say diversity?

37 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

For me, the mention of set-aside seats at high school is a bitter topic. It represents yet another broken promise by the School District to students and families. And it is perfectly typical for these broken promises.

The District wants to implement the neighborhood assignment plan. Legitimate concerns are raised about access to programs. The District responds with the promise of a MINIMUM 10% set-aside at EVERY high school.

What really happens? The District violates the commitment the moment it becomes inconvenient for them to keep it. Their restatement of the policy is a negation of the policy. It reduces all high school choice to "space available".

This is a broken promise and a broken promise by THIS BOARD. They need to keep their promises and they need to keep this one in particular.

Anonymous said...

I've posted my view on this topic before -- without the racial (or a FRL) tiebreaker, I believe choice breeds a decrease in diversity (both economic & racial) in SPS.

So, I have no sympathy for set aside seats if they aren't accompanied by an FRL tie breaker (I didn't mind the racial tie breaker, but that's no longer acceptable). I do not believe they would increase the diversity of our less diverse high schools and I think there's a reasonable worry that it would decrease the diversity in the system overall.

My belief on the diversity effects is based on analyzing the SPS data on the FRL make up of the "choice" students come from, compared to the ones they enter. In general, the analysis showed that the exercise of option choices increased the FRL population of the schools that people left.

Now, I think the caveat is that the people didn't necessarily "leave" those schools -- they might not have gone to them in any case. But, I see no evidence that "choice" increases diversity, of any sort (without a tiebreaker tied to diversity ). Tiebreaker + choice did initially increase diversity for the period when SPS tied choice to the race tie breaker, and it continued to have an effect even when the tie breaker ended because of the old sibling preference.

(zb)

Anonymous said...

I would also include disabilities in the list of diversity. My kids have learned a tremendous amount by collaborating in school with kids who are differently-abled, whether it be because of learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities or autism spectrum.

Of course they learned about people who have different abilities. But they also learned things about their own strengths & weaknesses, about communication & teamwork, and they progressed academically equally as well as when teamed with kids who had more typical abilities.

-high school parent

Nick said...

It is troubling to me that public schools in some areas of the city not reflect the demographics in which they are located. In South Seattle they clearly do not. The 98118 neighborhood is, according to the census the most diverse zip code in the country, yet Rainer Beach and other schools seem to deliberately ostracize large portions of the population. The school administration is complicit/leads this move to balkanize, For example the following program: “Through MESA, students of color and girls achieve their full potential in mathematics….”

triferi said...

Like Charlie, I am appalled that the Board so carelessly abandoned its commitment to choice. However, I am only interested in going to bat for the choice seats if they are available to everyone -- not just a selected few who, by race, ethnicity, or disability, trump others. An FRL white male stuck at a school that does not offer the same AP classes that Roosevelt or Garfield do is no less disadvantaged than his FRL non-white brethren. In fact, he may find it HARDER to get into college than they do, given that some colleges also have affirmative action programs that give preference to race. And, in some Seattle schools with high numbers of non-white kids, there are scholarships and mentoring programs -- but none for him, as they target minority kids. Back in the days of the racial tie breaker, I knew of white families that signed their kids up as black, and vice versa -- depending on how they thought they could best "game the system" for admittance to a specific school. I am not at all ok with the "gap" between the various groups of kids. If the District wants to work on finding more resources to close that gap -- I am all for it. But returning to the tired old ways of racial preference in choosing schools is not, in my opinion, the right way to try to solve them.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

I would like to understand your point. Can you explain the zip code, balkanization, and RBHS ostracizing group comment more fully? From my understanding of RBHS, it is an underenrolled school. Sounds like they would be happy for more students. Thanks.

Confused

RBHS PTSA Secretary said...

Nick,

I too seek clarity in the words you wrote regarding RBHS. Anonymous is correct, WE are underenrolled and welcome ANY/EVERY student and their families. Balkanization.... it is the students who choose (thank goodness for that freedom) who they feel most comfortable socializing with. Balkanization occurs in EVERY community. Please elaborate, ears wide open and receptive to various thoughts. Thank you

seattle citizen said...

"Forced" diversity, through categorization, can have some ill effects.
There are ALL SORTS of diversions from some norm or another. What those diverersions are is the subject of discussion amongst kids, parent/guardians, educators, admins, boards, city, state and federal governments...
WHAT is is, thusly, is an ongoing discussion. As is what to do with the "data" surrounding the diversities we've identified at various levels and in various ways.

What it ISN'T is categorization of whole peoples into little boxes, and, unfortunately, that seems to be the trend. This simplified shuffling of students into this group or that appears, to me, to be glossing the necessary nuances and leading almost certainly backward into racist and classist assumptions and prejudices about children.

Parents/guardians have their way of teaching about the many differences. Educators SHOULD, MUST, be aware that there ARE differences and do their best to educate in such as a way as to be as wide-ranging in what they address and how they address it as possible. I hope we can trust many educators to do this: It's a big part of that "magic" that is educating, and those that can't should be shown how (of course, that's another thread, one I've poked around the edges of in other threads: What should be made actionable from data gathered from the checkboxes; what SHOULD teachers, boards, citizens DO with that information?)

Who SHOULDN'T be "doing diversity" are the huge bureaucracies of school districts, governments, large businesses...What is generated from these is the codification of something that just can't be codified: Humans. Large institutions HAVE to narrow down strands, measure, input...output narrowly defined parameters in which only groupings matter: "This kid is Black, HIspanic, Middle Class, and has a RIT score of 241." The key ingredient missing from such a recipe is the actual human, with all her or his nuances, non-codified inputs, vagaries and whims...

The institution can, and should, demand a general competency in teaching to and about and with diversity. But when the institution demands specific metrics and goals, it must codify and thereby misjudge the people it aims to serve, and potentially categorize and segregate the people. THAT is a return to ways we've said we're leaving behind, ways that judged people based on the color of their skin, on their class, on their ability...

Expect educators to TRY and BE diverse, and teach diversely, and be aware of diversity, but don't demand that educators meet race quotas, or address a child's needs based solely on mandates from large institutions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Triferi, the Open Choice seats are lottery and nothing else. Whoever gets drawn, that's it and it could be anyone.

Charlie is quite right about this bait-and-switch on the Open Choice seats. Parents always get told there will be great benefits to some change and then, no follow-thru or "we changed our minds."

I think some gentle pressure on the Board and the Superintendent could turn that around but not until these capacity management swells calm down.

SST said...
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SST said...
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SST said...

Melissa, I think Trifari was responding to ZB, not Charlie. ZB said he/she would only support the open choice seats in high schools if there was an FRL tie breaker. I totally disagree with ZB. Choice seats should be open to all by lottery without any preference to any particular group. That is the only fair way to parcel out the few available seats. Why should a low income student have preference to those seats over a middle class student? My child isn't FRL, so he would get no preference, yet we certainly can't afford private school or to move to another neighborhood or district. If there were a FRL tie breaker my child would be at a huge disadvantage as would many middle class children. That doesn't seem reasonable to me.

Further, the definition of diversity is variety. Variety includes ALL races, socio economic groups, and ability levels - including white, middle class, affluent, and yes, even the academically advanced children.

Charlie Mas said...

I think I know what Nick was writing about.

There is a strong belief - I don't have the data to either support it or refute it - that White, Asian, and affluent Black families in Southeast Seattle commonly choose schools other than their neighborhood attendance area schools. Consequently, the enrollment at the neighborhood schools in that part of town are not representative of the community but over-represent
African-American and Latino students and students from low-income families.

There is a strong myth that spreads the belief that if affluent and highly-involved families (the ones who don't enroll their children in these schools) would stop leaving the neighborhood schools, then the schools would *magically* improve. This myth is, of course, absurd and has no basis in reality or history. It presumes a number of things which simply are not in evidence, such as:

1) the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with these schools

2) the mistaken belief that the mere presence of these families will improve the schools (through some un-explained magical process)

3) the mistaken belief that school quality is determined by the demographics of the enrollment

4) the mistaken belief that these schools will welcome the constructive criticism of affluent families

5) the mistaken belief that the schools would decide to provide new services to meet the academic needs of the high performing students if they would enroll

Can you imagine how it would be recieved if a cadre of eight middle-class White moms enrolled their children in the kindergarten at Emerson and expected the school to change to accomodate their image of how the school should be? I think it would be perceived as arrogance and it would be perceived as insulting. I wouldn't expect them to be able to transform the school. Tell me where this has worked. Should we review the history at Madrona?

Syd said...

Charlie,
I do agree that schools that typically serve low income students have a hard time accepting the advocacy of more affluent families. In fact, given my experience at Graham Hill, I would say many of our families are if not encouraged to leave, not encouraged to stay. Fewer and fewer middle income families return each year.

On the other hand, I think I have seen some studies that showed having a maximum set percentage of low income children in a school does increase the success of those low income students. In other words, not having a majority of low income students. I'll have to look for that again.

I thought the minority to majority bias of the old system was a good strategy.

WV: fackfun- I love fun facts, like telomeres get shorter as you age.

Syd said...

Another fun fact , or maybe an opinion masquerading as fact, I don't know - 40% of teacher don't plan to teach more than 5 years.

fsuspc.fsu.edu/media/trends_in_higher_educ.pdf

Jon said...

Mostly agree with what you said, Charlie, but one thing to add. I do think that, if we could attract some of the kids back from private school back into the public school system, that probably would help all the schools in Seattle. Not only would some of the money those parents currently spend on private school tuition go to the public schools in the form of donations, but also there would be more political support for levies and other sources of additional funding for Seattle's public schools.

seattle citizen said...

Jon, I would hope that even parent/guardians with all their kids in private schools would STILL fully support public schools. One can only hope...

hschinske said...

How many levies in Seattle have ever failed? Darned few, in my experience.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I second the notion of including disability in the count of diversity. Currently, disabled students continued to be shipped to everywhere. Garfield exports nearly all its students with disabilities somewhere else. Secondary students with autism, mild or severe, are not served at Washington nor anywhere in the south end. Highest priority seems to be other students. And diversity is reduced.

-parent

Nick said...

I am very encouraged that we are still concerned about diversity in south Seattle schools. If Rainer Beach HS and other schools in the SE want to reflect the diversity of the 98118 zip code a great deal will have to change. At the present time most of the families in my neighborhood simply do not even think about public schools. If this is to change, it would require leadership that will strive to an honest and open discussion. At the present time the school administration seem to be more interested in dictating “solutions’, while no attempt is made to reach out. As a starting point, I would suggest that the success of a school be measured at how well it reflects the neighborhood it is in. If it cannot meet the needs of the local students, a new school that does needs to be established.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nick is right on the point of including community in the direction a school should take especially if it is not working well. This, however, is a big sentence:

"If it cannot meet the needs of the local students, a new school that does needs to be established."

How do we do that? How do we decide what works for the most students? Is a focus that important or solid academics and support for the school?

Maureen said...

Syd, I think you're referring to All Together Now by Richard Kahlenberg. He says that schools with FRL rate less than about 40% improves results for poor kids without harming results for middle class kids.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you wrote "Can you imagine how it would be recieved if a cadre of eight middle-class White moms enrolled their children in the kindergarten at Emerson and expected the school to change to accomodate their image of how the school should be? I think it would be perceived as arrogance and it would be perceived as insulting."

What message gets sent out in predominantly white schools where well meaning principals and teachers spread a very small group of minority kids and FRL kids among the classroms in each grade to provide "balance" and "diversity" in the classroom? So a child who is darker than most may have certain needs (more academic rigor, teacher-student personality match, etc.), but that child's individual needs get trumped by the fact that we need "diversity" in the classroom, so the only thing that is considered is the color of his/her skin, FRL status, etc. for placement year after year.

-parent of place holders

SST said...
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SST said...

I like where Nick is going with schools meeting the needs of the local families, and I think in homogeneous suburban communities that's a realistic and attainable expectation. However, I think it would be most difficult to do in a neighborhood such as SE Seattle where there is such a great amount of ethnic and cultural diversity, a huge disparity in socio economic levels, in student ability levels, and so on.

I think that is part of the reason that the district opened the STEM school at Cleveland (which BTW now has a waitlist). SE Seattle families complained for years that none of the schools in SE Seattle were able to meet the needs of advanced or motivated students. Now, finally, there is a viable school option for these students in SE Seattle.

RBHS however still serves the same demographic it always has, which includes a majority of low income, struggling students. Instead of turning RBHS into an IB school, which will further marginalize these students, I think they should embrace them and focus on meeting their specific needs. They should provide plenty of intervention and support services -like extra class time, smaller class size, homework clubs, tutors, etc. They should focus on increasing their graduation rate, bringing down their suspension rates, and preparing kids for life after high school (career and college).

I think having the two schools serving such different demographics, while somewhat divisive, is probably more effective at meeting student needs. They can focus on their "type" of student, and provide what is needed for them, which I doubt would happen (at least effectively)if all schools had to be all things to all people. We tried this experiment with Special ed inclusion (all schools serve all sped kids no matter their needs) and it has been a total disaster.

For those who want a more middle of the road, comprehensive high school experience, their is always Franklin in S. Seattle. They seem to be doing well by most accounts (though not sure how easy it is to get into Franklin if it's not your "neighborhood" designated school).

Jan said...

I don't know, SST. On the one hand, I think you correctly identify that it can be/is difficult to meet the needs of two very diverse demographics in one school -- but in the end, isn't that what we want? Don't we want the same proportion of SE kids (ALL SE kids -- not just those who come in at high levels) in programs like IB -- regardless of whether they then go on to Yale or South Seattle Community College?

Frankly, I wonder if Franklin isn't the model here (because based on the August state figures, I think they may be materially more successful than Garfield with black and FRL kids on EOC tests.

The good thing (at least I think it is good, but I have no actual experiance with IB) about IB is that it provides instant credibility in terms of course content and rigor -- to a school where, because of low attendance and test scores, things like "honors" designation -- or even AP courses -- might not have the same weight.

But -- I agree that since IB doesn't start until 11th grade, the focus for the first two years at RBHS needs to be on getting kids in a position where they can succeed in IB classes when they get there -- and if that takes WAY more staff, smaller classes, extra school hours, weekends, summers, starting at Aki in 8th grade, whatever -- then we should be doing that. Not all RBHS kids may want to be in IB, just like not all Ingraham kids do. But many will, or should. I just don't want to turn RBHS into a totally "remedial" school. That would be an unfair "program" for an attendance school -- unless we are going to give up on RBHS as a comprehensive high school altogether, assign ALL of its kids to Franklin -- and make it an option school, and to me, that seems like a big loss, a big defeat.

Anonymous said...

At my kid's school, mostly white, the few minority students are always placed in the same class. It is the placement policy of the school, and everybody likes it. Minority students are never the ONLY minority student in their class, they get to see other kids like themselves and not be singled out. There's no special tracking of the other "majority" students, so it has always been a good mix of kids. Sometimes a minority parent has a reason for a different placement, that too is honered. The problem with the southend parents is that they see no value in diversity and do not see how their child could ever be taught in a diverse environment. They think their kids are too good for it. What they would like is a segregated class at a minority school, one dedicated to advancement for their child only. That ain't going to happen, get out your pens to write that big, fat check to the private school. Good riddance.

-another parent

another south end parent said...

Careful there, another parent, you sound like you are both broad brushing south end parents and that you know some (any?) of us. I could just as easily surmise that you don’t value diversity by the area YOU are living, and don’t know much about it if your school has so few non-white children that they can keep them in a single class.

ben said...

Although I usually agree with you Charlie, I have to pushback on the first 3 points of your last post.

1) the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with these schools

Do you really think everything is OK in the SE quadrant? It seems to me based on any reasonable measure test scores, graduation rates, local enrollment etc. they are not serving their current population. You can argue about the solution to the issue but there is definitely a problem.

2) the mistaken belief that the mere presence of these families will improve the schools (through some un-explained magical process)

I'll throw out one hypothesis. Affluent children tend to do better in school. If you throw enough of them into the building you'll raise the buildings overall score regardless of whether the prior population is affected. But on top of that, affluent families donate more money and volunteer time to their schools. I'd also argue that its possible you can change the environment of the classes with enough of a new population. BUT based on my experiences growing up in a much more integrated school system than Seattle's all of those effects don't necessarily translate to better outcomes for minority/lower income students.

3) the mistaken belief that school quality is determined by the demographics of the enrollment

In general doesn't the data directly support this? Wealthy school districts have better outcomes.

Ben

dan dempsey said...

Ben,

Thanks for making your points. I would care to state that what is taking place in classrooms is also influenced by administration and this can have a powerful effect.

Seattle's failings for SE schools:

#1 Refusal to follow policy and provide effective interventions for struggling students. Instead the Board changed the policy to one Holly Ferguson wrote, which is meaningless.

#2 Failure to allow teachers to use the Classroom Disruption law. RCW 28A 600.020 part 2=
Any student who creates a disruption of the educational process in violation of the building disciplinary standards while under a teacher's immediate supervision may be excluded by the teacher from his or her individual classroom and instructional or activity area for all or any portion of the balance of the school day, or up to the following two days, or until the principal or designee and teacher have conferred, whichever occurs first. Except in emergency circumstances, the teacher first must attempt one or more alternative forms of corrective action. In no event without the consent of the teacher may an excluded student return to the class during the balance of that class or activity period or up to the following two days, or until the principal or his or her designee and the teacher have conferred.

#3 Failure to allow schools to openly use effective materials. The board approved math materials that do not have enough practice or much explicit instruction. Readers Workshop and Writers Workshop are also not doing the job but are better than the math situation.

In regard to SPS ... and EDM: there are lots of coaches in a system that produces very poor results.

Auburn School District also uses EDM but allows schools to get waivers to use other materials.

Auburn's demographics are very similar to Seattle's and yet in the last 4 years Auburn has made great growth in Math and Reading while Seattle has not.

For examples of two schools with very high poverty in Auburn that produce great results see Gildo Rey and Pioneer elementary schools.

#4 Carla Santorno and Susan Enfield were completely ineffective CAO's. If only they had been paid based on performance.

==========

Gildo Rey uses the latest version of Singapore Math - "Math in Focus" and has for the last two years.
See their MSP scores HERE for grade 5 Low Income students.

Here is Gildo Rey's :
demographic profile
80.4% Low Income
42.7% Hispanic
33.3% White
35.3% Transitional Bilingual

SST said...
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SST said...

Well yes Jan of course we "want" all school to serve all kids in their neighborhood. That would be ideal and as I posted earlier it is a very realistic and attainable goal in homogeneous suburban neighborhoods where everyone is pretty much the same. But in the very diverse SE Seattle schools that has not been the case. RBHS serves a majority of low income, minority students so that's what they focus on. Advanced and motivated students have not, understandably, been well served at RBHS because the school focuses on the serving the majority. Could that change? Could RBHS meet everyone's needs? Maybe? If the administration were willing to do it and if, say, 1/2 the school were IB, and the other 1/2 a traditional comprehensive HS with a focus on intervention and support services. Thou I'm not sure how the average (at grade level but not IN or remedial or IB) student would fare?

Personally, I like the idea of the STEM school serving the motivated and advanced and RBHS focusing more on serving struggling students. I would outright oppose that though if students were tracked and assigned to one school or the other, but that is not the case. SE Seattle students have the choice of attending STEM or RBHS. It's all up to them and I like that.

Anonymous said...

Actually South-end-parent, my kids now attend very diverse schools and you have no idea the area I live in. And yes, I know tons of S and SE families. But on this blog, there is a repeated refrain: "I love diversity but I hate to go to school with it. My kids are too good for it, but I like the food."

-another parent

Jan said...

SST: the arrangement you propose -- of two programs, split about 50 50 in the school is what I would love to see -- but I agree that it will take an administration committed to serving BOTH programs well -- AND creating cohesion in the entire student body (not an easy task, perhaps) to have even a chance of making it work.

And "another parent" -- you said: "But on this blog, there is a repeated refrain: 'I love diversity but I hate to go to school with it. My kids are too good for it, but I like the food.'"

could you point me to a post on this blog that holds this position? -- much less repeated ones? Most people I know would love to have their kids in diverse schools -- but only if the academic quality of the school, the course offerings, schools activities, etc. work.

Nick said...

In this state it is possible to set up program that is state funded, insists on a direct parent involvement, and offers classes that are small and responsive to individual student needs. These programs, where they exist are usually very diverse (in every way) and are ideally suited to situations where industrial type education usually fails. They go buy the name Parent Partnership Programs (P^3) and are covered by a very innovative state law WAC 392-121-188 and RCW 28A.150.305. I do not know of all the reasons why we do not have such a program in south Seattle, but one is that the administration fears that it will result in an exodus from already under enrolled schools. This type of leadership Balkanizes.

Charlie Mas said...

Ben, you seem to be making the error in logic that equates low test scores with low school quality. They are not synonymous and may not even be associated. The schools have no control over the level of preparedness of the students who enroll.

School quality is a function of how well the school serves the students who enroll. It is not a function of the share of students who demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests. Of the factors that lead to that outcome, the school-based factors are overwhelmed by the home-based factors.

Jan said...

Nick -- I felt that I followed your post above right to the last sentence, and then was lost. What balkanizes? It sounded to me like you thought a P3 program sited somewhere in South Seattle was a good idea? Did I misread you?