Friday, April 24, 2015

Seattle Schools Found Out of Compliance on ELL Programs

I'll just print the letter that Veronica Gallardo, Director of ELL and International Programs, wrote to principals.  It's fairly stunning.  It upends the ELL program almost completely, adds thousands of more kids to be tested for ELL services and shows a district that either does not make sure it is compliance or does not understand what OSPI has said.  Either way, not good.
School Leaders,

We are writing to inform you that OSPI has found the district out of compliance regarding ELL student access to schools and ELL programs. Historically, our student assignment plans included ELL service schools. It was a district belief that ELL families could opt to attend an ELL service school within their assigned service area if their neighborhood school was not an ELL school. The state does not agree. In addition, during the state review it was discovered that enrollment services did not administer the placement assessment to over 1100 students who reported speaking another language other than English at home.

As a result of this finding, several big changes are in the works. Below are the actions the district is taking:
  • Eliminate the designated ELL school model
  • Initiate ELL services in all schools (two models of service will be provided based on ELL enrollment at each school)
  • Terminate the requirement that parent's must waive ELL services to attend a non-ELL service school (formerly only available at designated ELL schools) since all schools must now provide ELL services.
We are currently working out what this will look like, staffing required, timeline and other factors. We will share more as the new process is developed and approved. In the meantime, there is one immediate need: parent notification and student language placement testing.

Student testing
1,200 potential ELL students who were missed during the enrollment process must now take a language test to help the district identify what ELL services are needed to support those students in their schools. This testing (which can take between 30 minutes and two hours) must be completed by June. We will provide each school with testers and options for a Saturday testing date hosted by our ELL Department staff. Please expect a notice with next steps, options and a list of students requiring testing shortly.

We regret the timing of this testing, as we know it conflicts with SBAC testing and incoming ELL kindergarten testing of over 880 students. Thank you very much in advance for helping accommodate this need to assure we're providing the best access to all of our students.

The district is preparing letters home to families informing them of the upcoming changes as well as the need to conduct testing before June. Families of those needing testing will be informed directly.

As the details of the new model become clear, we will share more information. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at Please be sure to include


mirmac1 said...

This likely stems from the Consolidated Program Review findings from spring of last year, and continuing I see. I suggest you read the CPR and Kevin Corrigan's updates.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

And I just received this as rebuttal of a civil rights complaint on the assignment of special education preschoolers to a "support facility" at Old Van Asselt, while their former classrooms at actual schools are handed over to FEL daycare providers:

"The OVA Preschool has 40 special education students enrolled; there have been typical peers in the pre-school classes at OVA this year. None of these students qualify for ELL as they need to be in kindergarten to qualify for this category. Of these 40 students, 18 have a home language other than English."

My point exactly. Parents without English do not realize that their children are denied a FAPE when they are placed in a distant building without security or administrative support.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, we don't take anonymous comments but I will point out that Sand Point is full, diverse and thriving.

Anonymous said...

Does "all schools" includes option schools, too?

- reality check

Anonymous said...

Melissa, forgot my signature then signed it in the next post as "North of 85th above". I do not see anything wrong with the content of my post. I see a lot of reason to call out the oblivious and often self-centered masses. I will repost unless somehow I upset someone's delicate sensibilities. I don't mean yours. You are tough.

North of 85th

Anonymous said...


This will only be a surprise to the ethnically homogeneous, well off areas of the city and yes I am looking at you Northeast Seattle. Oooooh, wouldn't want our kids districted into Sand Point school with the ELLers. I remember those protests well. More recently it was the those kids should go to Jane Addams talking points. (An added point via Melissa: Those schools are diverse and thriving. It's not so bad to include ELLers and services right in their own communities. It can even be enriching for nondiverse kids. Wow!)

Considering ELL and SPED and ELL and APP also currently seem to be mutually exclusive looks like there will need to be some adjustment of expectations among the hoi polloi. It's about time the state did something since Seattle communities and district workers have taken a separate but equal antiquated approach to the issue for far too long.

Next up, multifamily housing in the sacred single family zones. Barbarians at the gate or a long-needed solution to red lining and unaffordable housing? Guess it depends on your income status perspective doesn't it?

North of 85th

Anonymous said...

Given the bait and switch history of The World School, which serves ELL secondary students, it is not a surprise that the Seattle ELL program has been found lacking in many ways. Those kids have been shunted from Queen Anne to Meany and now TT Minor over the decade I have watched. No place was ever OK as a home for them. In Meany they have been in a seismically suspect building. Appalling, really. It is time ELL kids, who after all will soon be voting Seattle citizens, receive fair treatment. It means the rest of us will have to suffer budget shortfalls and staff shortfalls as fallout, no doubt. That is painful, but the pain comes as usual from the far-below-acceptable planning and leadership from downtown vs. the students themselves.

As I type, something is occurring to me. Is World School even a viable program, given state guidance? Does this mean the services will be dispersed to all high schools? If so, is there a possibility of TT Minor being a grade school again? This is a tangential thought, I know, but since downtown rarely puts the full puzzle pieces in place, it's up to us to suss out ramifications.


Anonymous said...

Don'cha love the passive voice in " It was a district belief that ELL families could opt to attend an ELL service school within their assigned service area if their neighborhood school was not an ELL school.

No one is responsible within SPS and it's the big bad state's fault that ELL must be redone. As usual not a soul downtown will take responsibility that seems a bigger failure than even special education programs.

The state must have been examining the program for a while. Wonder if it started on Banda's watch. Wouldn't it be interesting to know whether someone who touted his Hispanic heritage got out of dodge as the heat was turned on? If that turns out to be the case, his present district, and their newspaper, need notification.


Lynn said...

I think they'll have to rerun enrollment for option schools now - giving ELL students equal access to those seats. Budget allocations may change also depending on the number of students who want to leave their current schools.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean enrollment for next year has to be redone? Is there a timeline for correction of enrollment if families want to go to their neighborhood school instead of a linked school?


Anonymous said...

This is how a lot of districts handled ELL, not just Seattle, and it now explains what a friend of mine, who teaches in Shoreline, was all on fire about. (ELL will be at every school next year, they have to find more room in whatever school she is at, even though every single classroom/space is full). I expect most districts will be scrambling to make these changes.


Anonymous said...

The district is preparing letters home to families informing them of the upcoming changes as well as the need to conduct testing before June. Families of those needing testing will be informed directly.

So, I am assuming if the District is sending letters families who do not speak English in the home, that the letters are sent in either the correct language or at least the 8 known 'top' languages in SPS ("The top eight languages our students speak are Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Amharic, Tigrinya and, Oromo"; other 'top' languages include Cambodian, Arabic, Marshallese, Somali, Korean, Russian).

It would be tragic (as well as useless and incompetent) to notify non-English speakers of their rights to school language support English. I am assuming the District at least gets this part right.

I am a bit curious about this, because ELL is so different than SpEd, for example, in that a child over time with an immersive environment will acquire English language skills. It is a steep learning curve, but, it does happen, so, they 'graduate out' of ELL.

In contrast, a child who is medically fragile or has ASD will never graduate out of being medically fragile or having ASD. Therefore, having immediate access to their attendance area school along with their typically developing peers is the law.

Having a hub of ELL so that an IA fluent in Oromo can support 8 children makes sense to me, and, when those students are ready to move on, they can transition to their attendance area school. I appreciate this sentiment may be an uninformed and unshared point of view. It just seems cost prohibitive and excessively inefficient to put 8 Oromo IAs in 8 different but close-together schools rather than 1 Oromo IA in one school. Especially when one considers that there are 128 spoken languages in our schools, and, that Washington is the third most linguistically diverse state in America with 163 spoken languages. But, clearly OSPI has indicated service-where-enrolled is THE only method and approach.


Lawyer said...

If I was the superintendent of the district I would have some very tough questions for my legal department.

The reason you have in house counsel is to make sure you programs comply with the law.

Where is the general counsel?

Lynn said...

Here's a link to the Dear Colleague Letter referenced in the Consolidated Program Review audit findings.

See page 21 for information on access to advanced/accelerated classes, page 29 for information on meeting the needs of EL students who opt out EL programs or particular services and page 37 on ensuring meaningful communication with limited English proficient parents.

n said...

It doesn't make sense to me. I have divided feelings/opinions on this and I may not have an accurate understanding of it. But on the one hand just how much can the District do with revenue available to administer to every need in society. Seems reasonable to me to have area schools provide services to the unique needs of a relatively small group of students and families. Isn't that a reasonable expectation? And do other countries provide such services for non-native speakers who attend their schools?

On the other hand, ridding SPS of a lot of overhead down at JS might just might provide enough revenue that such a child-friendly system could actually be maintained.

Get rid of the monolith at John Stanford, split the district and hold administrators accountable to families and kids. It is not a money issue but one of quality.

Lisa Reibin Evans said...

I had the opportunity to see this yesterday & to talk with Ms. Gallardo about the work of the ELL Dept. at SFPAC meeting. I was disappointed to learn that yet another of SPS' departments (another that supports a high[er] need community) was out of compliance.
I'm stunned that this is news to OSPI – that SPS has ELL designated schools & not all sites offer ELL services. I don’t contend that it's right, that services are limited to slightly more than half of our schools – but OSPI didn’t know this before?!! Seriously?! OSPI wanting an immediate fix on this (40+ schools have to SUCCESSFULLY come on-line w/ staff & services to meet the diverse needs of the ELL communities & without interrupting learning or damaging the unique communities established in “designated schools”), is crazed. How will this affect assignment plans/capacity numbers at schools? Will SPS dismantle existing programs as students are routed to their neighbourhood school - schools which may have a very steep learning curve ahead to provide both required instructional services & the critical supports for the ELL learner/family community. I believe in comprehensive models of inclusion at ALL sites, inclusive of SpEd and APP, but thinking SPS can SUCCESSFULLY roll this out before Sept. is insane. The ELL Department will have to oversee it – they’re a staff twelve, six of those are Coaches, one a Data Analyst & one oversees the International Programs [yes, the "International Programs"… MacDonald, Concord, etc. … all are under the ELL portfolio] … so pray tell how is this is supposed to happen,the manpower alone?
I am most furious at how & why continued systemic & procedural ineptitude (with seemingly even the most basic of procedures) happens within SPS. How does Enrollment not highlight/see/move forward 1300+ students needing ELL testing? How is this overlooked when the information is so clearly highlighted within the Enrollment form with the “Home Language” box &“(do not leave blank)” text which [hypothetically]belies the value of this information? How can this be overlooked 1300+ times? Where are the checks & balances? Does everything that happens, or, more so, everything that “doesn’t happen”, have to be revealed through OSPI & OCR investigations & FOIA searches? How is this acceptable? How can such ineptitude not have consequences … well, there are consequences, frequently at the expense of students & learning.
I respect & like Ms. Gallardo. I have found her, and her staff, to be willing partners & ardent supporters of the students & families that fall under the umbrella of ELL Dept. When I have had the opportunity to work with this team, for Family Engagement purposes or seeking assistance to support families, they have been incredibly helpful & worked quickly to find the best solutions/outcomes. Could they benefit from a larger staff? Yes. Do they take this non-compliance finding seriously? Yes, very much so. Ultimately, I don’t think the questions of failure should be directed at ELL Dept., instead hard questions should be directed to the top at JSCEE - by asking how much they authentically value & prioritize ELL/SpEd/African American male scholars/Interagency programs & students/[in the end] ALL students & families. Do they value these things more than the trendy “item du jour” (SBAC, Math Adoption, universal Pre-K, Charter Schools’ Authorizer, etc.)? In a time when we discuss with fervor the SBAC, assessments and accountability (for all appearances, punitive) of students & teachers based on the accumulation of these… where are the same levels of cumulating accountability for lack of progress/growth and failure of those senior staff that work at JSCEE & oversee this district?

Don’t listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds - Einstein

Anonymous said...


ELL is not really "a relatively small group of students and families."

According the OSPI, there are about 6000 Transitional Bilingual students enrolled in SPS, 11.6% of total enrollment.

In comparison, there are about 7500 Special Ed students, 14.5% of total enrollment.

I'm guessing that the 6000 Transitional Bilingual students don't include those who qualify for services, but have waived them in order to attend a school that does not offer services. So, if you added those in, there would probably be at least as many ELL students as Special Ed students.

- North-end Mom

n said...

So between sped and ELL, we are talking about a quarter of our enrollment? That's a big chunk of kids. And considering each group has very diverse needs - languages and disorders - how does a District accommodate those needs?

Not arguing. Wondering.

Do I have it right?

Anonymous said...

n, you are a teacher, right?
Two big concerns here. First, that you didn't know the general demographic population of the district. Two, that you are asking how the district is supposed to serve its own students.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

From The Seattle Times: Melissa gets credited with this news scoop on ELL. Congratulations. Without your fortitude these kinds of immense program failures would be hidden from the public.



They've Had Time said...

I am a veteran ELL teacher in the Highline district. To me, this mandate should come as no surprise since it has been state law for a long time. There is no other district with large populations of ELL students that still attempts to segregate and exclude ELL students the way SPS does. The World School as a solution after the 2008 report of non-compliance was in no way a sufficient response to a mandate of inclusion. ELL students are SPS students and SPS teachers must be expected and supported to be able to teach them. That's what the law says. In terms of funding--don't worry--SPS receives millions of dollars of Title III money each year for professional development, materials, and Instructional Assistants. As with many departments in SPS, it would be intensely interesting to be able to see where that money is currently being spent. While things aren't perfect in neighboring southern districts, they are very far ahead of SPS with the assumption that ELL students are STUDENTS who receive ELL services.

I am relieved that SPS will finally have to modernize their programs and attitudes, but I agree with Lisa Reibin Evans that it's going to be messy for awhile. However, it is a step that is SO long overdue (remember that the district was also found out of compliance in 2008. . . and the Bilingual Education Act was passed in 1974. . . They've had time).

Anonymous said...

North of 85th,

One of the main reasons my child did not leave Bryant for APP was because so many of her friends were ELL students & there would not be any at Lowell. My kid stayed gen ed through 12th grade partly because she did not want to be divided from her diverse friends, ELL, sped, FRL. Now she is in college enjoying her foreign roommate and volunteering in the support center for underrepresented students.

It was a sad day for Bryant when the ELL program was moved to Sand Point. Parents met with board members & BLT members protested to the ed director. The district moved the program because of capacity issues at Bryant. Just like sped, those ELL students were treated like second class citizens.

And if it makes you feel any better the Bryant principal at that time started telling all HC learners that their needs would not be met in Bryant classrooms. (When that happened to my sped kid at Roosevelt, it is called 'counseling out'.) Families began to leave for APP in droves. Another way to make room in the building.

The best thing that ever happened to Eckstein was the NSAP boundary change that send significantly increased numbers of FRL students into the school. Sadly, that too has been reversed. I hope that Jane Addams appreciates them.

I'm glad we are done with SPS.

-sad parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Several things:

- I do not know this issue well, either the district's program nor national trends. I will say that I know that these services can depend on the age of the child being served, how long they might have services.

Younger children should be able to learn English - even if it is not spoken at home - with a year or two. That is what I saw growing up in Arizona. My husband - when his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 9 - learned English in a year (and his parents didn't speak English at home).

Unless kids come here from countries where they may have not been in school previously, I can't see this transition taking longer than two years.

For older students, it can be more difficult so I understand the need for the World School.

- a suspicious person might wonder - as some have here - how OSPI managed to miss this for so long. A suspicious person might think that OSPI is lowering the hammer, complete with timeline to get it done, to punish a district that has a high number of SBAC opt-outs.

(The Times says that OSPI is giving SPS until the "end of the day Monday" to come up with a plan. C'mon, that's a short, short window for a big, big change.)

- I did call the district for an official query (as the letter was to principals and sent to me by a source) but I did not hear back from them.

Ed Voter, I may have been given credit at some point in the Times' story but it is no longer in their current story (although their notation does not indicate any update to it). The regular media, except for the West Seattle Blog, never gives me credit for breaking a story.

Anonymous said...

Credit's still there, Melissa...

"On Tuesday, Gallardo alerted principals of the upcoming changes in an email, which was first published on the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog."


Anonymous said...

The inclusion model didn't work for spectrum. The program and services were effectively dismantled. I worry this will happen for our EalL students as well. Is the plan to hire translators to shadow all our ELL students for the first year or two?

Melissa Westbrook said...

NW, I should learn to read, not skim. Thank you for pointing that out and thank you to the Times for acknowledging it.

Ragweed said...

Melissa, Seattle Schools Community Blog was definitely given credit in the print edition.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the up-thread comment about the lack of due diligence and oversight from in-house counsel. Isn't it their job to ensure compliance whatever the level of apathy coming from OSPI all these years? Both OSPI and the SPS Legal have been letting us down for years. They've let SPED slip into the creek and the ELL situation too. And I am skeptical of the present leader of ELL. Why does she still get to have her job when she, as leader, was found to be running such a vastly noncompliant system?


Anonymous said...


The General Counsel appears to continue to be on admin leave. Something that is now several months old with no update other than that another member of the legal office left suddenly and under mysterious circumstances.

Another Lawyer

Anonymous said...

ELL programming has certainly been bounced from school to school, especially in areas where there are capacity issues. Like SpEd, it seems like ELL kids are often used as capacity management widgets.

The Bryant to Sand Point ELL move is just one example.

Sacajawea was an ELL assignment school until ELL was moved to the Jane Addams building, when the K-8 opened there in 2009. I'm pretty sure that ELL kids were grandfathered in at Sacajawea, at least for a while. I don't know what happened when grandfathered busing was recently cut.

Last year, John Rogers became an ELL school, through in-house identification of students already at the school who qualified for ELL services. Some of these students were at John Rogers because there was no room for them at Hazel Wolf K-8. By the end of last year, we had 18 students who were finally receiving the ELL services they needed.

This year, John Rogers is now the ELL assignment school for the Sacajawea and John Rogers attendance areas (instead of Hazel Wolf K-8).

I have noticed that ELL students arrive at John Rogers all year long. Some of our ELL students were previously enrolled in the EBOC at Viewlands, before being assigned to John Rogers. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though the logistics of ELL assignment was taken into consideration when staffing budgets were allocated, because class sizes have crept up to the point where there are 28-30 kids/class at some grade levels.

However SPS implements this, there will have to be a lot of coordination between the ELL department, facilities/capacity management, Enrollment, and Budget.

-North-end Mom

n said...

@enough already - Judging me or anybody is not a solution. There is no reason I should have know the proportionality of sped and ELL kids in the District.

Serve them? Back to you. Your solution is . . . ?

Thanks N of 85th for a telling experience. And to They've Had Time I appreciate your experience in Tacoma. Have you found the implementation of Tacoma ELL programs to be successful?

Finally, Lisa Evans, thanks for a thoughtful response and posing questions to which I, too, would like answers. I think you get to the heart of the matter.

For me, the really big one is where's the money? Administrative salaries? In a previous thread, I asked about sped programs that were working. None were offered but someone did comment that sped seems to be a problem most places. I'm not one to redefine the problem over and over. I look for solutions. So far, I've found few who are able or willing to offer solutions. Perhaps finding the money is the first step in all the non-compliance issues. And if the money really is there, the next step has to be to shape a program that works. To me, that's the crux of the problem.

SPS is a monolith with little motivation to be accountable. It seems Seattle is often out of compliance with one program or another. Does anybody really think they are going to change? Or is it possible that finding programs that work is really, really hard?

Too many questions: money? motivation? intentions? ignorance? self-interest? Complex issues are rarely solved with simple solutions.

Ann D said...

Being a designated ELL school brought diversity to the enrollment base at Stevens Elenentary on Capitol Hill. Multiculturalism is celebrated there and it would be a loss to the broader community if that bridge was lost, especially given the housing market pressures on the Hill. Stevens community fought when the district was proposing moving ELL to Madrona two years ago, a change that I am not sure if it happened or not.

Anonymous said...

N of 85th you say you didn't choose to move to APP yet you feel free to perpetuate a myth and expound about how you imagine it is. There are PLENTY of kids in APP who speak another language at home. In my class that includes Korean, Chinese, Russian, Farsi and Hindi among others. They are not receiving ELL services, but yes, many APP kids have immigrant parents.

not signing today

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not signing today. It was me that told my family's story about interaction with the ELL students served in the ELL program at Bryant. I did not realize that HCC is now open to students who are beginning to learn English.

At the time when my child was offered a choice, APP was not available to any student who could not score highly on an achievement test in reading in English. The ELL population that my child loved having in her classes was a population that was just beginning to learn English and were placed at Bryant because they required ELL services at Bryant. Often they were children who came from other countries that school year. The Bryant community benefited from having those ELL students & their families there. Those students were not included in the APP program at Lowell at that time. That is not a myth.

-sad parent

Lynn said...

I don't think the point is how wonderful it is for a not-so-diverse school to have ELL students bused in from other areas. The post is that busing them away from their neighborhood schools is inequitable. They should have the same rights to choose a school every other student has - and they should also receive the services they need.

If Highline is able to provide these services without segregating the students, why can't we? I believe the districts receive the same funding for ELL services. Where is this money going?

I wonder now if the World School is going to be viable. If students are able to receive services at their neighborhood high school and avoid the long bus ride across town, World School may not have the population to fill T.T. Minor.

Anonymous said...

I agree Lynn,

Many of the ELL students at Bryant were living in the Bryant boundaries. They were forced to change schools with the NSAP. They should be offered ELL services in their neighborhood schools. So should sped. I wish that boundary changes would not exacerbate homogeneity in schools.

-sad parent

Lynn said...

1% of the students in Bryant's boundaries received ELL services this year.

Anonymous said...

Are there students at Bryant who waived their ELL services so that they could attend Bryant?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

For better or worse, SPED, ELL and HCC all seem to be used as tools to address capacity issues. The results may be ugly, but I can't blame the district for trying to make the numbers work in impacted areas.

So would the state like to pay for some new buildings? That's another way to address capacity.

I'm a bit bitter that the legislature continues to kick the can on school funding.

Grumpy in NE

Anonymous said...

I know that I lost this battle (at least for general education students) when we adopted the New School Assignment Plan, but one of the advantages of being in a big district with lots of school buildings often quite close to each other is that we can offer a diversity of educational programs, thereby maximizing the number of students who can get a program that fits their needs. The alternative, which we have seen, is standardization at a very low, very generic level that serves no one's interests. Fetishizing the "neighborhood school" and assuming that it can be all things for all students forfeits the advantages of being a large district and ends up enforcing a standardized mediocrity.

Against Uniformity

Lynn said...

I hated the old assignment plan. It might have allowed some families to get a school that was the best fit for their children. It left other children assigned to schools with educational programs that were an awful fit for them.

I think more families agree with me. Enrollment is soaring because families want to know where their children will attend school.

We still don't have enough uniformity. PE waivers, opportunities for advanced math students, rigor in middle and high school courses, electives vs exploratory courses in middle school - these are all dependent on the neighborhood you live in. That's not right.

Anonymous said...

It was not the new assignment plan that enforced uniformity in SPS. It was the reign of every-child-on-the-same-page-in-every-classroom MGJ. The surrender of site-based management to the top down teacher-proofing, fidelity of implementation reform.

What we were promised was management that supported the successful things that schools were doing & intervention in the areas that were failing students. What we got is the same failing programs, like sped, and the dismantling of successful programs like alternative schools in order to standardize classrooms.

Choice could have still happened under the new assignment plan, was in fact part of the NSAP, but went down the drain when the pot-sure district leadership refused to see the capacity issues racing toward them. Teams of parents working with Tracy begged the district to take it into account & were shut down.

Bad deal.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

So is the idea that all schools will need to be all things to all people? If every school has to offer all types of SpEd services, provide ELL services in any language needed, provide services for HC services, etc., how realistic is it to think that any of it will be done well? Granted "specialization" as it's been implemented hasn't been so great either, but I have a hard time thinking a dispersed model will be an improvement. Is that what equity looks like--mediocrity for all? Or should equity mean equitable access to appropriate services--which might mean you have to go elsewhere?


Anonymous said...

HC services are going to be offered at every school as well and lots of parents want that. They don't want to bus their kids anymore than Sped or ELL parents. They will make a stink until they get the math and LA their kids are entitled to receive.
From what I've read, many parents will have their kids attend their neighborhood school, but only if it provides the challenge and avoids the bullying.
I hope principals step up and demand some action from staff and quit counseling families into the HCC.


Anonymous said...


I just don't see any of what you suggest really happening in this district. I agree with the poster above who said MGJ brought in major conformity and the principal at my kids' school loved it. He talked excitedly about how all the 2nd grade (or whatever grade) classes would be doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time day after day. That sounded horrendous to me. All I could think about was the poor, bored to tears teachers who would have to teach in a system like that. I want teachers to have time to teach things they are excited about - they will be happier in the classroom, and that will make for happier kids.

Antagonism against HC is so high, I don't see differentiation happening. Parents will claim that kids doing different things than their kids in class isn't "fair" and then no kid will get anything.

Until the district says, and actually believes, that each kid needs a different thing, differentiation will not happen. Teachers and principals need to believe it as well. The district will need to stop listening to parents who complain about "unfairness" and do it. Instead words like "tracking" from parents currently stops any sort of differentiation from happening now.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Lassie nails it - can you provide every service at every school in any kind of meaningful way that meets those needs or should you provide better services at fewer locations?

Anonymous said...


With respect to ELL, I think having it at every school is a good idea.

In the current system, at many schools, there are student who have waived their ELL services to attend either their neighborhood school or an option school. Last year, at John Rogers, we identified 18 such students. Although 18 students didn't buy us a whole lot of ELL support, the staffing we did get was a benefit to those students.

The language issue is a tricky one. At John Rogers, I think we have over a dozen native languages represented in our ELL community (currently about 50 kids). It is not possible to have staff who speak all the different languages, but all ELL students and families still receive support.

Kids who do not speak English well at all are usually assigned to the Elementary Bilingual Orientation Center prior to being assigned to a school with ELL. By the time they are assigned to the school with ELL services, they usually speak some English. I have no experience with EBOCs, but presumably there are staff who are fluent in a range of languages?

Placing all ELL kids in a region at one school can cause capacity issues at that school, especially if the school is already experiencing growth. Of course others will argue that there is "no room" for ELL at schools that do not already have ELL services.

Capacity issues, aside, SPS needs to think in terms of how students are best served.

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

North-end mom said:
At John Rogers, I think we have over a dozen native languages represented in our ELL community (currently about 50 kids). It is not possible to have staff who speak all the different languages, but all ELL students and families still receive support.

What sort of support do they get if nobody speaks their language? And how is that a better situation for that child?


Lynn said...

North-end Mom,

Weren't those 18 students assigned to John Rogers for ELL services? (It's currently the default assignment for students needing ELL services from both John Rogers and Sacajawea.)

Anonymous said...


I have not personally had a kid in the ELL program, but I volunteer regularly at the school.

From what I've seen, our most of our ELL kids speak some English, but they may not be fluent, and it varies greatly from child to child. Our ELL staff speak a variety of languages, just perhaps not all languages the kids may speak at home. ELL support is a layer of advocacy and support for these kids. It may take form in translated materials, better communication with families, time with ELL staff to help the child in specific areas, etc...

It is my understanding that kids who speak very little or no English usually go to an EBOC first. That is where it would be more important that there be someone on staff who speaks a particular language.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...


John Rogers became the default assignment this year (2014-15). Previously, Hazel Wolf K-8 was the default ELL assignment school for the region. John Rogers is now the default assignment school for both the John Rogers and Sacajawea attendance areas. Olympic Hills and Olympic View both have ELL programs at their schools, as well.

Last year (2013-14), John Rogers started an ELL program mid-year, based upon in-house identification of students who qualified for services. We were not the default ELL assignment school at that time (Hazel Wolf K-8 was the default assignment, but how that worked with the assignment rules for an option school is something that is not clear to me). 18 students were identified at John Rogers last year. We received ELL staffing mid-year. ELL staffing was increased this year, due to the increased number of ELL students relative to last year.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

@ North-end mom,

I understand that it's done, I just don't see why it would be preferable to keep ELLs at schools where nobody speaks their language...or understands their culture, or can easily communicate with their parents, etc.

According to an OSPI report (,

"Research on the effectiveness of different instructional approaches has demonstrated that the more instruction is provided in the student’s primary language, the better the student’s overall academic performance over time. Experts believe that developing proficiency in one language promotes the development of proficiency in a second language. Results from the analysis of student-level data that OSPI reported in 2000 were consistent with this conclusion. These findings indicate that more academic instruction needs to be given in the student’s primary language rather than simply relying on English language instruction. There are indications that the shift to provide more academic instruction in the student’s native language is occurring in our state."

It might be challenging to find teachers fluent in every language represented in Seattle, but when we can, it seems like students and families would benefit most from working with them.


mirmac1 said...


there's no pat answer as to what works for SpEd. It is exceedingly complex. Would love it if you would spend the immense time and energy some of us invest in pushing our district to put these in place and comply with the letter and spirit of the law.

Anonymous said...

@ Lassie

Some parts of town are more challenging than others when it comes to serving ELL kids. The Lake City area is particularly-diverse. It could be that other schools/areas of town have a more obvious predominant language, which would make it easier to provide instruction in that population's predominate native language.

All I can say is that the ELL-qualified kids at our school have more support now than they did when we had no ELL staffing.

That said, it takes 70 students to qualify for a 1.0 FTE ELL teacher... the level of funding for ELL could definitely be higher.

- North-end Mom