Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Student Assignment Plan for 2012-2013

There isn't a lot of change in the student assignment plan for 2012-2013 and what is there is mostly a result of the capacity management failure crisis.

They have tightened up some rules about switching schools. I don't think the rules have changed really, they are just more clearly stated. If your child has been assigned to an attendance area school for an attendance area other than the one where you live since before the new student assignment plan, that seat is a "grandfathered" seat and harder to change than if it post-dates the plan.

They are shrinking the attendance area for JSIS. They will have to continue to shrink the attendance area for this school until they finally admit that either it needs to be an option school or the language immersion program in it needs to be an option program and re-located out of the building. The district is simply deferring the inevitable here. It's easier for them, but it creates a lot of wear-and-tear on the community. They have a number of reasonable rules for families who are re-zoned out of the attendance area. Many of them are getting re-zoned into the McDonald attendance area, which may not be so bad since McDonald is also home to a language immersion program. Others are getting re-zoned into the B.F. Day attendance area. I have to wonder how many more students can be pushed into B.F. Day before that school, like Hamilton and Ingraham (two others schools that were over-targeted for additional students), becomes overcrowded.

There are changes to the geozones for some option schools. The original idea for geozones - that they would be small areas immediately around the school so that children who were super-local to the school could have preferred access - has been completely swept aside and forgotten. Geozones are now used exclusively as a capacity management tool. The geozone will expand aggressively into the attendance area for any overcrowded school and avoid the attendance area for any under-enrolled school as if it were hot lava. This represents yet another example of how unprincipled the district staff are. Everything exists only as a tool to address their immediate crisis (or cause) du jour. No matter what the intended purpose, everything gets bent to serve the Strategic Plan, closing the Achievement Gap, as a Pillar, an element of AGREE, to close the budget gap, or, as in this case, to address the capacity management botch up crisis.

Think of all of the families in southeast Seattle that were so delighted to get STEM, an academically focused high school in their neighborhood. Think of how shocked they are to learn that a student living in North Capitol Hill has priority access to that school (as part of the Garfield opt-out) over a student living right near it on Beacon Hill (cut out of the geozone).

One new twist in the assignment plan is guaranteed access to the Spectrum program for eligible 6th grade students enrolled at their attendance area middle school. I'm not sure how this is going to work. As we have noted, Spectrum students do not come in convenient 30-packs. If a school has 42 Spectrum students entering the sixth grade, what will they do? Will they create two self-contained classes of 21? Will they put 21 of them into each of two classes and fill the remaining seats in the class with high performing students? Will they put 21 of them into each of two classes and fill the remaining seats with a heterogeneous group of students selected at random? Will they create one self-contained class of 30 Spectrum-eligible students and one mixed class with 12 of them? Does the District care what the school does? Does the District regulate it in any way? After the experience with Wedgwood Elementary, is it possible that the middle school will make no effort to create Spectrum classes at all? We shall see.

The District has yet to identify the additional elementary schools that will be host to the language immersion programs that will feed up to Mercer along with Beacon Hill and to Denny along with Concord. That said, we can be pretty sure that they will be Van Asselt (when it re-opens) and Boren. I don't know why they don't just announce it now.

As this year, the set-aside seats in high schools have been eliminated. High school choice, which was supposed to be specifically preserved in the New Student Assignment Plan, is gone. No principle or commitment means a thing in the face of the capacity management screw-up crisis.

The elegant process that allowed families to name their true choices in their true order has been swept aside because it was too much trouble for the staff. Now families have to game their first choice because if they don't get it they have seriously diminished chances to get their second choice. All second choices will be processed after all first choices. All third choices will be processed after second choices. If you name a popular school as your first choice and don't gain access, your will have no opportunity to get into any school that fills with students who name it as a first choice.

The tie-breakers, intended originally to provide fairness, have been perverted to serve the capacity management error crisis. The West Seattle high schools now form a sort of attendance area. Anyone living in the Garfield attendance area gets to cut in line ahead of other applicants to encourage them out of Garfield (why don't they do this for JSIS?).

I'm not sure if I'm reading the rules correctly, but it seems to me that new students entering the district after September 30 will not be allowed to enroll in any attendance area school other than their own. Here's what it says:

After September 30, assignments for new students are to their attendance area school (including K-8 attendance area schools), or to an option school with space available.
There is some clarification to the rules for siblings and twins, but I don't believe that these clarifications actually reflect any changes in the rules.

Finally, the plan doesn't include any program placement decisions. It only says that such decisions have been deferred, but that they will be made in time for Open Enrollment. That's what it said last year, but we know that some of the decisions were made after Open Enrollment.


Charlie Mas said...

The tie-breakers for STEM really stink. Look at the geo-zone. All of those folks who thought that the District was providing an academically challenging high school for families in southeast Seattle should consider why a student living in North Capitol Hill gets in ahead of a student living at Beacon and Alaska or a student living at Beacon and Morgan?

Chris said...

Wait, so for incoming freshmen, there is no choice of school? If Hale is our school based on location, we can't apply to Ingraham at all?

RosieReader said...

Chris, you can still apply to other schools. There is always a fair amount of movement among high school students in the north end who are geographically assigned to one school, but opt for, and get into, one of the other schools. Last year there was, ultimately, a very very short wait list at Ingraham, I think of 1 student, but it eventually "moved" as they say. Meaning I think the student did get in.

Chris said...

Thanks for that info, Rosie Reader!

Anonymous said...

I sense that guaranteed Spectrum seat in 6th grade was tossed in to placate parents but doesn't have a meaningful impact or change to how placement is done now.

I only have experience at our middle school, but all kids are placed in math per their ability. So 6th grade Spectrum and non Spectrum kids are together in Honors math if they are able to do it. (like walk to math was at our elementary school). That is a good fix, although it means the Honors math class my child is in is HUGE.

So that just leaves language arts. It was explained to me that the principal has discretion to handle this year by year, depending on the numbers. If there are only a few over, they can make one big self contained LA class. If it's a lot over, they can make two 'self contained' classes that are smaller than the usual class size. Or they can fill w/ other students capable of 'honors' LA. If I had to guess, I'd say that's what's happening this year.


Anonymous said...

Only student who are enrolled in a Spectrum class, not Spectrum eligible students at ALOs, will get automatic placement in Middle School Spectrum classes. By my estimation less half of the students in my child's MS Spectrum classes would have been automatically enrolled. The remaining students were either at ALO schools or tested in for Middle School. So there will still be a significant demand beyond those students automatically enrolled. I don't think there will be a problem with partial classes.


Anonymous said...

We are a family that is being grandfathered against our wishes and again this year for the third time will have to try and get into our attendance area school. But, the advice we are given by enrollment is to waitlist at another school that has fewer capacity issues (we also live physically closer to that school). So, I am now assuming that for the third year in a row we will be walking to one of these 2 schools to catch a bus to the grandfathered school several miles away. And then the district will send me a letter stating how much it costs them to bus my kid. There are so many things I would have liked to seen happen in the new SAP regarding families in similar situations. Every year we are put in the position of not knowing until well into September where my son will be going to school.
Getting a Little Tired of This

Anonymous said...

If you home schooled for the last month of the year, he would be "new to the district" and get to go to your attendance school, no?


Anonymous said...

Come and ask your questions:


Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, Tracy Libros says that what you said may be true in theory but that everyone in the geozone around Cleveland who wanted in, got in.

Of course, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen with the way it is set-up.

You are right on your assessment as geozones starting as a way to allow students who live very close by an option school to access it as a first choice and now morphing into a capacity management issue. They said as much for both Thorton Creek (for View Ridge and Wedgwood), Queen Anne Elementary (for Hay) and South Shore (for Wing Luke).

Po3 said...

"You are right on your assessment as geozones starting as a way to allow students who live very close by an option school to access it as a first choice and now morphing into a capacity management issue."

I think there is more to it than just to allow students living close into Option schools, I think it is the next step in eliminating Options schools altogher by slowly turning them into neighborhood schools.

Eliminating all city draw was the first nail in the Option schools coffin. Standardization of materials is another nail. No waivers, yep another nail.

My bet, in 5 years Salmon Bay will no longer be an Option School, same with TOPS and QA Elemenrary. They will just be neigbborhood schools.

Syd said...

I don't think there is a lot of rigor in assigning students to the appropriate class. When my son was at Washington in APP, he was assigned to a traditional (not Spectrum, not APP) reading class. APP was reading Dickens; his class read books he had read in 2nd grade.

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you don't. It is not equitable and there are no rules.

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

"Charlie, Tracy Libros says that what you said may be true in theory but that everyone in the geozone around Cleveland who wanted in, got in."

I think what Charlie said was families that did *not* live in Cleveland's geo zone, but still live very close to the school (as in Beacon Hill) may not get in since a N. Capitol Hill kid could bump a neighborhood kid due to an assignment preference. In other words the school may not serve it's own neighborhood as it grows in popularity and becomes crowded.

That seems wrong on so many levels. And especially wrong for S. Seattle families that have been deprived of rigorous options for many years.


anonymous said...

Getting a little tired of this wrote "We are a family that is being grandfathered against our wishes and again this year for the third time will have to try and get into our attendance area school."

It's terrible that you are in such an unfair situation. The same thing happened to many families in North Seattle where the schools are so over crowded. A lot of families here wait until the end of the school year and then they un-enroll their kid from SPS, and enroll them in Shoreline (Shoreline apparently has plenty of space for Seattle kids). Then once they are officially un-enrolled in SPS, they call the SPS enrollment center and say they decided to attend an SPS school after all, and SPS has to take them back, and they are now officially "new to the district" and they have to be assigned to their neighborhood school if you request it.

Hate to have to game the system, but heck, it's ridiculous to penalize families for something that is not their doing, and just the luck of fate.

Good luck.


Rufus X said...

re: clarification to the rules for siblings and twins not reflecting any changes in the rules -

What's written into this is actually a huge improvement over what the previous accomodations/rules were for multiples (which were basically nil). As much crap as I gave/give SPS, I'll give 'em credit for at least addressing the issue of multiples in open enrollment and hopefully these new guidelines will be beneficial to families.

@Syd - I'm curious: How long ago was your child enrolled in WMS APP? Also, was your child enrolled in a music class?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response to my post. We had considered un-enrolling him, but were told that he would simply be placed back in the grandfathered school when we call to re-enroll him. Does anybody know specifically of a family that this worked for?
-Getting a Little tired of this

Unknown said...

Re: priority for the Cleveland STEM program: After a parent of a Mercer 8th grader testified about this concern last night at the school board meeting, Tracy Libros sought us out and talked to us at length about what other options would be feasible to expand the Cleveland geozone. Although personally I feel that all students in the Franklin and Rainier Beach attendance ares should have priority for Cleveland, I think it would be progress to expand the existing zone and/or shift it east so it covers more of the SE neighborhood and less of the industrial area. I think Cleveland will develop a wait list in the near future, especially since no students except attendance area students and sibs got into Sealth last year, and historically 20% of the kids at Sealth came from Franklin & RB neighborhood.
Speaking of which - there has fairly recently been quite a bit of enrollment data for the current year posted on the SPS web site for 2011-12 school year. Under Enrollment, select "Resources" and the reports for the current year are highlighted in red. Still incredible to contemplate how many students from the south end go all the way to Ingraham.

Baba Blacksheep said...

I am a parent of twins entering Kindergarten next year. We are ONLY interested in option schools, and find it very frustrating that these schools are being used for capacity management instead of presenting a choice to families!

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