As a HP resident and a parent who sends her kids elsewhere I’d just like to point out that the creation of neighborhood schools and the lack of available busing to get away from failing schools has only further segregated poorer kids and families. Segregation by income is just as wrong as segregation by race.. The district needs to change the policies that only exasperated the income inequality issues at HPE. If not, parents with the financial means to make other choices will just continue to do so.
Actually, parents at failing schools always did have the ability (with busing) to get away. Under NCLB, parents were supposed to be notified of this option (along with tutoring options). I would be fairly sure the district did send those letters but many parents may not have realized what it meant.
If your child was enrolled at a "failing" school, you could request being moved to another non-failing school within your region (maybe district). I know some kids left MLK, Jr. (in its old location) to go to McGilvra under this option.
The irony for the here and now is that with Washington State not receiving its NCLB waiver, all the districts have to send out "failing schools" letters that say nearly every single school is a "failing school." So you could ask to transfer but now, there are virtually no schools to transfer to under this new designation.
end of update.
A couple of West Seattle parents let me know of discussions over Highland Park Elementary and its struggle to right itself. The school is a very low performer and has issues over discipline and bullying. But, the good news is that the community wants to support it and help move it in a positive direction.
To that end, a member of the Highland Park PTA asked the Highland Park Action Committee, a local community group, if they could work together to raise money and awareness for their neighborhood school. The community group agreed and the meeting was held last Tuesday.
The great West Seattle Blog covered it in depth. That was some frank and illuminating discussion that included information about other schools I had not heard before.
According to the district reportcard on Highland Park, it is very diverse school, with 16% black, 29% Hispanic, 27% Asian/Pacific-Islander, 17% white, 3% Native American and 8% multiracial. It is 78% F/RL with 27% Sped. Highland Park, along with Emerson, are the only two schools in the district with the label of "intervention school." Only 56% of neighborhood children attend HPE.
Academically, for example, only 33 percent of third graders are proficient test-wise, compared to 79 percent district-wide, and there is high teacher turnover because of a contract they were required to sign. She also mentioned high bullying rates. “They need more help.”
I'm not sure what this contract is about but I know that the new Seattle Teacher Residency requires those in that program to be in a high-needs school for at least three years.
Interestingly, this was said:
Vela described the “re-commitment letter” that was circulated among staffers, and said that it wasn’t meant to come off as a “commitment letter.” It allowed teachers to be “displaced,” and 12 teachers at HPES “decided to displace,” he said, so hiring has been under way since June to fill the positions they vacated. A few teachers were in the room, Vela noted at that point. He added that substitutes are a role that they have trouble filling, for the southwest and southeast regions, not just this school.
I wonder why the substitute issue is a problem for that region. Anyone?
- The district sent new principal, Chris Cronas (lately from Wedgwood) and Executive Director for the region, Israel Vela. To my surprise, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and City Councilman Tom Rasmussen were also in attendance (kudos to whoever got them to come).
- It was stated that one of the goals was more community involvement in our schools. I know that activists in the Central Area are putting together just such a forum about how neighborhoods can give more support to schools AND involve schools in their neighborhood planning. More on this event to come.
- Cronas said Wedgwood was "an incredibly successful school" now but it wasn't always "because of an unhealthy climate" that he worked on and he made changes that weren't always well-received. Let me guess: he dismantled Spectrum. (He also mentioned that he had personal issues in that his wife had been ill and they have two small children under the age of 3.)
- Principal Cronas apparently is going to take a page from KIPP for discipline: “We have a plan for that, and it starts day one,” he said. Those changes will include how kids line up, how they move throughout the building, avoiding shoving 400 kids through two doors, language regarding behavior, teaching kids about boundaries. “This is not going to happen overnight – this is going to take time,” Cronas stressed. “The first month is going to be a little bumpy,” but once routines and procedures are set, that “bumpiness” will ease,” he said.
- In response to a question from a teacher about meeting the social and emotional needs of students, Cronas said that there had been training for some kind of program called RULER. Vela said that 10 schools in the district are starting the use of RULER. Looking at the RULER website (this is thru Yale University), it looks like a three-year phased in program. I'd be interested to know the funding source for this program as it is not inexpensive.
- However, one person stated that RULER doesn't really cover race/equity issues so the district would need to address those issues as well.
- Cronas also warned that the low test scores could be even lower with the advent of Common Core testing. (I was surprised that neither Cronas or Vela mentioned that with the lack of a NCLB waiver, families would be eligible for tutoring. This is just the kind of community where tutoring might be helpful.)
HP Gal - Until people that live in Highland Park start sending their kids to Highlsnd Park School, things are not going to change. Currently, my neighbors with school age kids go to STEM and Pathfinder. Though I respect their choices, I know that the our neighborhood school would be a better place if their kids were students there, and the parents went to HPE monthly PTA meetings.
Connie Wolf - I am a part of an assemblage of families with toddlers here in the Highland Park neighborhood that founded the “Future Parents of Highland Park Elementary” this past May. Our goal is to build community and excitement around our neighborhood school.
Jeff - “Send your smart kids to the worst school in the district so that hopefully some of it rubs off on the kids that make it the worst!” I’m not in that school’s boundary, but I wouldn’t send mine there if I was. If I have to choose between doing the best for my kids and using them as pawns in some sort of social experiment, I’ll choose the former every single time.
WS Mom - Personally I don’t think there should be a STEM or Pathfinder. Send your kids to your neighborhood school and make those schools better.
Blame away! I’ll take that over deliberately disadvantaging my own kids.
When it’s better I’m sure there won’t be trouble getting local parents involved. The analogy is a stretch, but pioneers get the arrows, settlers get the land.
Lolapop - If I lived in the boundaries of HPE I would not send my child there either. Why would I choose to put my child in a school that has a publicly known bullying problem? Why would choose to send my child to a school that has high teacher turnover? Luckily it’s not a decision I have to make.
Christie - HPE has a high population of ELL (English Language Learners) and special needs kids and we need all the help we can get – so instead of making statements that you or your friends would never send your kids here – Help the school get better by volunteering – or donating school supplies, or coming to the events.
HP Gal - HPE has a free and reduced lunch rate (aka poverty rate) of 81%. There is absolutely no reason why the Highland Park community school should have a poverty rate that is so much higher than the community itself. Poverty is the best predictor of success in school.
Well, first of all, a lot of the people who live here in HP do not have the latitude to move to whichever neighborhood they think will provide the best schooling. Assuming that all people have the resources to move to more affluent areas is offensive. That being said, we may also live here because we love it, regardless of concerns about schools.
Also, to people who think we can or should insist that every child go to a neighborhood school–I felt deeply committed to doing this when my first child went to K (not HP, but local, title 1), to contribute my resources to our local community. That changed when I was essentially told that they would not provide the education that my child needed. Unfortunately, trying to accommodate really divergent needs frequently stretches limited resources much too thin to do anyone justice.
Also, many schools with the highest poverty focus on discipline and/or remediation in a way that many parents will not want for their children. I, personally, don’t think that’s the right way to inspire young learners from any background, but it is certainly not the schooling I want for my own kids. HP is a great neighborhood, and I do hope that HPE will soon reflect the vibrancy we have here.
That last one is a comment you see a lot about KIPP: people think it's good for some kids but usually not their own.