Monday, September 28, 2015

October Enrollment Numbers

Seattle Schools, like other Washington state school districts, has to deliver an October 1st student count to OSPI for funding.  I have been hearing from several schools, especially elementaries, that they get their schools geared up with services only to suddenly see a loss of students because of some kind of change/switch that the district does so that students leave their schools.  Apparently this has happened to some schools last year and it appears it will happen again this year.

Naturally, if you are planning around X number of students and 25+ leave, you'll lose a teacher or other staff.  That throws the entire school budget off.

For example, this is an issue at Sand Point Elementary where they have a large number of ELL students - some immigrant but some from UW grad students from foreign countries.  When OSPI put forth a directive this summer to SPS about their ELL services, SPS had to scramble to provide ELL services at all neighborhood schools.  That meant moving students from one school to another.

Naturally, for programs like ELL, Special Ed and Highly Capable, it would be a great thing to have kids attend their closest school AND get the services they need.  But the true fact of the matter is that, at any given school, having a critical mass of kids who need those services.   It lowers the cost tremendously for the district. 

I heard about this issue this weekend at Rep. Gerry Pollet's community meeting.  He pointed out that SPS is in a bind.

On the one hand, if you put a program at one school in order to meet a critical mass of students for one kind of service, they may not be in their neighborhood school (and all the benefits of that association.)

On the other hand, if you move all these students to their neighborhood schools, you do two things. One, you take a child who may be happy at their school out of that school.  Two, SPS could still find itself out of compliance with OSPI (the original issue to start with) if they can't supply the services the student needs at the new school.

Is this happening at your school? 


20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are they losing actual students (i.e., bodies being pulled out and moved elsewhere), or is it an issue of the initial count being much higher than the number if kids who actual show up (e.g., outdated roster, waiting list moves, left the district but didn't report it to SPS, etc.)?

HF

Anonymous said...

Downtown staff is not moving waitlists in a timely fashion. This has been a problem in past years but much worse since the former director of enrollment left SPS. It is horrid this year. School staffs call and call and call and call and where is enrollment to answer their wait list concerns? Nowhere. They don't answer. They don't call back.

Parents are blaming local school staff when the problem is downtown. As support staff we are sick of this issue. At least I am. There is a suspicion among families that not moving the wait list is a way for JSCEE to keep personnel costs lower at certain schools or to keep a leash on principals who are unpopular downtown. At the local level I am starting to believe conspiracy theories. If students are on a wait list but JSCEE holds the list for weeks, then students get settled in to one school or have gone private and JSCEE doesn't have to deal with paperwork or neighborhood school funding changes. Then our schools with long wait lists bear the consequences. And frontline gets to handle upheaval. Thank you JSCEE.

Frontline

Anonymous said...

There aren't many of us left, but schools with space where the district places a program in the spring then plucks it in the fall like with special education and English language get the hammer end of managment's bad planning. We lose more than teachers with those programs. We lose other positions or parts of positions in places like media arts, front office, academic coaches. I looked at this when it impacted on our school a few years ago. I think parents are reasonable and understand there are crowding and scheduling problems when families have the right to show up unannounced at their designated school the first week of class. But that's not the issue here. This is lack of planning downtown on program placement and apparently wait lists. Specifically for English language learner students the district knew last year that the state wanted the program to be run differently. They have had months to plan and the bulk of our students should not bear the brunt of losing staff because of their actions. What is that saying?'Your failure to plan is not my emergency?'

SavvyVoter

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kids are being pulled out (in the case of Sand Point, at least).

Frontline is right about bringing in the waitlist issue. I truly don't know what the directive is from Central but I know it seems that they hold waitlists a very short amount of time and sometimes schools take their own initiative. I think it's probably true that the district wants the fewest numbers moving on their own.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Are you sure kids are getting yanked out of schools and sent to other schools? Wouldn't they be grandfathered at their current school if that school continued to have ELL services? Are they losing assignments, transportation, or both?

I was under the impression that kindergartners and new students would be affected by the change in how ELL is accommodated. I didn't realize that students already at a school would be forced to change schools. That is a lot of disruption!

A lot of these kids have already gone through at least two different schools due to their ELL status, since some are assigned to Elementary Bilingual Orientation Centers first, before they are assigned to a school providing ELL services (technically now this is supposed to be at their neighborhood school). ELL staff develop relationships with the kids. It would seem extremely counterproductive to make these kids switch schools again!

As for ELL staffing...if I remember correctly, under last year's staffing formula, a school had to have something like 70 ELL kids enrolled to qualify for an ELL teacher. Do you know if there have been any strategies put in place to deal with smaller cohorts of ELL students that may result from the recent change in ELL assignments?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I really think there would be less kids trying to go to different high schools if they changed the middle school assignment to geographic area rather than feeder elementary. The Wedgwood kids get split up between Roosevelt and Hale after Eckstein. Friendships are very important to adolescents and many of them want to stay with their friends. I have heard of so many kids on the waitlist at Roosevelt because they want to stay with their friends from Eckstein but since they live above 85th they are assigned to Hale. There are also Roosevelt assigned kids who want to be at Hale. Hale's waitlist has gone down for 9th grade but I haven't seen any movement on Roosevelt's waitlist.

The other big group of kids that seems to prefer Hale, are the Salmon Bay graduates who are assigned to Ingraham or Ballard for the most part.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Mom, yes, you are right; they can be grandfathered but there were some kids assigned already who have to leave and go to their neighborhood school.

I haven't heard what the district's strategy is on ELL services.

Anonymous said...

This is what is happening at our school. We were told that ELL services now need to be provided at all schools. We now have lots of ELL kids at our school. We've always had them, but in the past they turned down ELL services so they could go to their neighborhood school. If you have a certain number of ELL kids, you get an aide for the school. If you have a certain number of ELL kids, you get a teacher. Now that all ELL kids have to be served at their neighborhood school, I'm not surprised Sand Point is short enough ELL kids to keep their teacher.
North School

mirmac1 said...

Not surprisingly, the ELL reformation came about when the district was told it was breaking the law. It could not force families to sign away their students right to ELL services so that they could attend their neighborhood school.

Of course this state of affairs continues for the time being for special education students. The Special Education Task Force came up with a compromise that did provide for some clustering of programs. This wasn't done to make things easy for people downtown, but for all the right reasons - to provide sufficient staffing to support students who would spend their whole day in self-contained rooms (because that's easy) to access general education courses, rigor, and enrichment with peers.

We've heard reports that there is some game-playing going on before the ink on the CBA is dry. IAs are being moved around and teachers are being over-loaded. X number students increase to Y, meanwhile low enrolled programs in some schools may just go away and the kids shipped off.

The ELL (and SpEd) reforms are to comply with Federal law. Will SPS follow through?

Lynn said...

HP,

You'd just be pushing the problem down to the middle school level. Fifth graders want to go to middle school with their friends too. I think the transition to middle school is hard enough without doing it on your own.

The high school waitlists are odd. Are they really frozen unless two kids at the top of the lists want to switch places?



Anonymous said...

Parents at B.F. Day have been informed that we may lose a 1st grade teacher position due to class sizes in that grade. This will mean that the kids in that class will be split between another 1st grade class and a 2nd grade class (1st/2nd grade split). This also happened to our school last year. We also have an ELL and Special Education population at our school, but I don't believe what other commenters have mentioned contributes to this possible loss of a teacher.

Again, it's our 2nd year in a row, and is extremely detrimental to our school. It is simply wrong that the District removes teachers in October, rather than accurately forecasting or (for example) simply sticking with forecasts and adjusting the following year. This yearly process destabilizes schools, angers parents, and impacts kids. It has to stop.

I am very interested to learn which other schools in the District are hearing rumblings of this at their school (thus far I've only heard about B.F. Day and Sand Point). We should work together to daylight this annual event. And if it isn't happening this year to your school, it may next year. Even schools with higher enrollment are in danger - it is not the overall enrollment that matters, but grade-level. One year with too few kids in any grade can make you eligible for an "October surprise". Please chime in...

- Steve Albertson
President, B.F. Day PTSA President

Anonymous said...

BF Day President. I agree with you. It happens every year in different schools at all levels; elementary, middle, and high school. I think that schools should be given a pass once the year has begun. Forecasting is hard. So if it doesn't work out, I don't think the kids should pay. However, just so you know, this has been going on forever. It's lousy. It should change and I think it will be hard to change.
North School

Anonymous said...

Yes, it happens every year, and it is awful. Last year there was a whole hoopla with Garfield, too, and I remember wondering why BF Day did not get as much attention as the very similar elementary in West Seattle this happened to.

I would much prefer schools occasionally get "windfalls" of small class sizes one year in one grade than have this sword of Damocles hanging over all of us every single year. The cost savings of shuffling teachers to get just precisely to the edge of the WSS just cannot be worth the harm and disruption to students(and of course I think any extra money needed to pay for extra teachers should come from the downtown portion of the budget.).

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I would much prefer schools occasionally get "windfalls" of small class sizes one year in one grade than have this sword of Damocles hanging over all of us every single year. The cost savings of shuffling teachers to get just precisely to the edge of the WSS just cannot be worth the harm and disruption to students(and of course I think any extra money needed to pay for extra teachers should come from the downtown portion of the budget.)."

In a nutshell.

Anonymous said...

While friendships are important to 5th graders, they are even more important to 8th graders and teenagers. Teenagers naturally turn to their peers more and it is much harder for them to be separated. Yes I agree ideally, there would be a natural progression but we don't have that. Better for the break to be made at 5th grade than 9th grade.

HP

Lynn said...

HP,

I disagree. I think it's much harder to go out on your own for middle school than for high school. Fourteen year olds are much more independent than eleven year olds.

Anonymous said...

Coe has 30 kids in their kindergartens. The projections were way off. After years of growth, the district predicted a drop in numbers this year (based on hope?). Coe is out of classroom space. The playground is city owned, so portables are not allowed. The result? Kindergarten classrooms with 30 kids in them. Insanity. Catherine Blaine had to add a 5th kindergarten classroom right before school started, in a music room (with stage-stairs). They could open the Magnolia School tomorrow and it would be over-capacity.
QA Dad

Anonymous said...

Well we'll just have to agree to disagree. Everything I have read says that peer relationships at 14 are much more important to a child than at 11. I switched schools at 10 from my local school to the gifted school which started at 5th grade and then I went to a private high school where none of my friends went. The switch to an unknown peer group at 14 was much more difficult than the switch at 10.

HP

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