Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seattle Schools Updates

This can be an open thread on issues at your school.  I've heard from several schools that have concerns about academics and growth boundaries.

UPDATE:  I am also hearing that hours for nurses are being reduced at schools to about 1 day a week (or less).  I'll have to check into this because while I love the idea of health centers at all the comprehensive high schools (and a couple of middle schools) via the F&E levy, I am dismayed that other schools will barely register a medical presence.  Anyone hear anything about this at your school?

First up is Garfield.   The president of the Garfield PTSA contacted Director Smith-Blum with worries over class assignments at Garfield.  Apparently there aren't enough classes - in biology and Spanish - to help all the students trying to fulfill graduation requirements for college admissions.   Some students only have four classes and want to have a full compliment of classes.

It seems to be a district issue as the principal, Ted Howard, has done all he can to shift his school's dollars around.  Howard has asked the district for mitigation funds.

The word was that Garfield was to hear from Michael Tolley about these funds by last Friday, the 20th.  I call tomorrow and see what happened.

Next is Hawthorne Elementary where they have grave concerns over the boundary shifts that would reduce enrollment at their school and change their middle school track.  

They feel all the more unhappiness because Hawthorne, a formerly failing school, has really turned around.    They also were approved to be one of the district's Creative Approach schools, and working towards being a STEM school.  They told the district:

In 2009, Hawthorne was under-enrolled. Now, classes have wait lists and kindergartens are bursting at the seams with 29 in each class. Many parents join the PTA the year prior to their child entering kindergarten and help raise valuable funds for the library. This level of community support is possible because residents know that Hawthorne and Mercer and Franklin are “their” schools. This level of support is correlated with a 10% improvement in three out of four key categories on MSP tests last year.

The BERC Group Research Affiliate evaluating Hawthorne’s SIG success stated “Of all the SIG schools I have evaluated, Hawthorne is the best I have seen.” These changes undermine the investments to build a school model that is working.

When asked why our SIG process was a success by the many evaluators and reporters who visited our school, we answered, “It was a perfect storm of increased neighborhood enrollment, new funds that allowed for key support positions, motivated staff, parent engagement, and school leadership that was responsive to community and teacher input.”

To truly have neighborhood schools, the boundaries must be fixed. If boundaries change every three years, families will look to their future school with skepticism that they will ever actually go there, and hesitate to engage. It is hard to exaggerate how upsetting these changes are for families who have intentionally made a home in a community with schools in mind.

That last statement brings the Growth Boundaries into sharp focus. The boundaries might have stayed fixed (but for minor tweaks) if the growth had not come. But it has come and it is likely to continue.

So you had the cry of "neighborhood schools" but the district didn't clearly warn people that the first 10 years of new boundaries might likely see shifts.

I certainly can see Hawthorne's point of "why did we try so hard, only to have everything shift beneath our feet?"

Hawthorne is saying they do NOT want to be buffeted around because the district has capacity problems.  Will the district listen to that argument?

And, here's the public notice of the Environment Checklist for the Genesee Hill project:
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has prepared an Environmental Checklist, in compliance with State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) regulations, for the Genesee Hill Elementary School Project. This document provides analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the project. SPS seeks written comments on the SEPA Checklist by October 14, 2013.

There will be an informational meeting about the project which will take place at Schmitz Park Elementary School (5000 SW Spokane Street), Seattle, WA 98116 in the lunchroom. The meeting will be held on Thursday September 26, from 7pm – 8pm.
Copies of the SEPA Checklist are available for $12 by calling (206) 252-0110. A copy is available for review only at Schmitz Park Elementary School. Copies are also available at no charge from the SPS Web site, at:

http://sepa.www.seattleschools.org

Written comments regarding the SEPA Checklist must be submitted to the address below. The deadline for receipt of comments is October 14, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.

Responsible Official: Pegi McEvoy, SEPA Official
Seattle School District No. 1
P O Box 34165, MS 22-183
Seattle, WA 98124-1165
Telephone: (206) 252-0102
Fax: (206) 252-0626

13 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Mercer and Aki Kurose swapped feeder schools, with Wing Luke, formerly feeding to Aki Kurose now in the Mercer Service area, and Hawthorne, formerly in the Mercer service area, going to Aki Kurose.

Funny thing, they are each Spectrum schools, but I don't see how it will make sense for Hawthorne to be the Spectrum school for the Aki Kurose service area, being at the extreme north of the zone. And Wing Luke, for that matter, is awfully far south in the new Mercer service area to be close to where the students live in that service area.

In fact, if Hawthorne and Wing Luke were close to where the Spectrum students live in their old service areas, then they are no where near where the students live in their new ones.

Anonymous said...

The principal at Coe is also very concerned about the new boundaries, as Coe is bursting at the seems and Coe is not addressed in the new proposal!!! They recently had to add a 4th kinder (over a 100 students in K). To accomplish this, they had to move the resource room into the staff room to make room for another classroom. The district also gave Coe another teacher for a 1/2 split, but there is nowhere to put another classroom, so they've hired specialists to do pull-out and push-in to reduce class size in 1st and 2nd grades. It's helpful to have help, but 31 in 1st grade is too much. The Coe playground is on city property, and the city has said they will not approve any portables for Coe. There doesn't appear to be any slowing for the growth in upper/north QA, and the new boundaries don't seem to reflect its fast paced growth. Coe is currently at 515 students, and the handout from the district last week said we'd max at 475. If in the coming years each incoming grade has 100 students, we'll be around 600 soon. Maybe the geo-zone for QAE needs to move from Hay to Coe? Or Coe needs to stop taking all of the ELLs for all of QA and Magnolia? Something has got to give.
Coe Mom

SusanH said...

I can see why Hawthorne parents are upset. Aki Kurose, as far as I can tell, is (despite a great principal) still an underperforming school with no real Spectrum program. Mercer is held up as a beacon of light in the South end, with robust offerings across many levels of ability.

Anonymous said...

Fall MAP testing starts soon (get your opt-out letters sent soon if need be).

friendly reminder

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing a lot of grumbling from parents of Hamilton "immersion" students, both in the Japanese and Spanish programs. In order to make more intro level courses available to those starting a language in middle school, the school restructured its language courses this year. Instead of a 3-year series for those new to the language and a separate 3-year immersion series for those coming from an elementary immersion program (or those with significant prior experience who are ready for immersion), the courses are now more of a continuum (essentially levels 1-5). This means many of the immersion kids are essentially repeating what they learned last year. For example, some kids who did well in 6th grade immersion last year and would have been in 7th grade immersion this year have instead found themselves in the lower level immersion class (level 4) with a bunch of 6th graders. The same has happened with many of the current 8th graders, who are in the highest level immersion class this year, but with a bunch of kids who are where they were last year.

I realize a 1-yr difference isn't that big of a deal if there's differentiation occurring in the classroom, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case. Based on parent impressions from curriculum night, that doesn't seem to be in the plans, either. Kids who ended up in the lower level class feel like they're being forced to repeat a grade, and kids in the upper level feel like they won't learn much this year. Unfortunate. It's also interesting to see that while the board is pushing international schools, the already limited middle school "immersion" program is being weakened.

On a related issue, several parents have also come to me with complaints about the lack of coordination between the middle school and high school language tracks. It seems that most kids who take a world language throughout middle school are placed in level 3 language in high school--whether or not they are immersion students. If there is no expectation that attending an immersion school for K-5 would give you a leg up in terms of learning the language, what's the point of all these immersion schools? Or if the expectation is there but the performance is not--which is what I suspect--it would seem time to seriously reconsider our elementary immersion delivery model.

In the meantime, however, wouldn't it seem reasonable to expect a clear pathway for immersion students to place into a higher level course in high school, with intentional efforts on the part of the middle school to ensure they are covering all the prerequisites?

HIMSmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh HIMSmom, stop making sense. Of course, what you're asking is probably true but creating a coherent program is not the district's strong suit.

I was asking these questions years ago as the district lolly-gagged along without any pathways after K-5.

DeBell's insistence of MORE K-5 language immersion while there are real issues at the middle and high school levels is troubling.

mirmac1 said...

Personally, there are more serious issues on whether your child is 2nd or 3rd year foreign language. This is what bugs the heck outa me. Sure my kid is ahead in her language. Do I expect the district to tweak boundaries, pathways and pathways to accomodate her needs? No. Seriously, there are way more serious issues in this district!

Anonymous said...

@ mirmac, nobody said this was the most serious issue, and nobody's asking for boundaries or pathways to be tweaked just to accommodate an individual. But first of all, it's not just about me and my kid--I've heard the same complaint from about half a dozen immersion families already, and there really aren't that many of us. More importantly, it's also not a terribly challenging task to align language classes so that middle school courses feed into the appropriate high school courses. We do for other subjects, right? If a kid passes Algebra II in 8th grade, they don't have to retake it in 9th just because most other kids aren't ready for pre-calc/trig yet. I know some folks such as yourself may not be worried about kids hitting ceilings or being held back for no good reason, but for those of us with kids who feel an intense need to always be learning, this is a real issue.

I'm also trying to look at the big picture here. If the district is going to be so gung ho about expanding access to language immersion, I thought it would be helpful to point out some of the current challenges the program is facing. If HIMS is in the process of implementing a newly reconfigured language series, this seems the perfect time to address this fairly simple issue. Nobody is asking for the moon here...

HIMSmom

mirmac1 said...

How is it the district can seem to make language immersion happen and not decent math and science? Furthermore, as an immigrant I resent DeBell and others trying to leverage IAs and ELL students trying to keep up with grade level, with "helping" others with language immersion?

Melissa Westbrook said...

From Principal Howard at Garfield:
"We received an additional .8 mitigation staffing for GHS. This means we will be hiring for a new Spanish teacher. We will also be working with the Science department to level classes and assess where we can best offer an additional Biology class. I will work with HR to advertise the positions tomorrow. We will be seeking applicants for both positions. I would like to thank our parent community for rallying around our Student Body. I appreciated all your emails and letters of support. Without your help the Garfield community wouldn't have been able to provide a quality education for all our students who wanted to take a more rigorous schedule. Thanks again!!"

I find it sad that a thriving and full program like Garfield's has to beg to be fully-staffed for its students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mirmac, those are questions for DeBell. He seems big on showy things but not the follow-up or follow-thru.

Libby said...

Neighborcare Health is opening/has opened a few new school based health centers at West Seattle Elementary, Van Asselt, Dearborn Park, and Bailey Gatzert. And as you've noted, Melissa, there are several other clinics located in middle and high schools throughout the district.

Libby said...

Neighborcare Health is opening/has opened a few new school based health centers at West Seattle Elementary, Van Asselt, Dearborn Park, and Bailey Gatzert. And as you've noted, Melissa, there are several other clinics located in middle and high schools throughout the district.