Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Upcoming Work Session on Advanced Learning

The Board has scheduled a work session on Advanced Learning for an hour and a half on October 5 after the Management Oversight meeting for ELL and Distribution Services.

This is the time to contact the Board as they prepare for this work session. If you do, please remember a couple things. First, the Board's focus is policy work. They should not be engaged in the details of how things are done, but setting a clear purpose and clear expectations. Second, the Board should address themselves to correcting the problems in the system, many of which, not coincidentally, come from the flawed policy in place, but many others come from the central office's refusal or failure to manage schools, enforce policies and procedures, and hold staff accountable.

So what are the problems and how could the Board address them?

Problem 1: NO DEFINITION

Neither the policies nor the procedures offer any meaningful, enforceable definition of HCC, highly capable services, advanced learning, or Spectrum/ALO. A policy that requires the superintendent to write a procedure that provides a clear, objectively measurable, enforceable definition for each service and program is needed. What are these programs and services supposed to be? We can't even begin to discuss them without these definitions.

The current policy defines highly capable services this way:
"The variety of instructional programs or services for students identified as Highly Capable will include pathways to sites with adequate cohorts of Highly Capable students in order to provide peer learning and social/emotional opportunities for these students, teachers with experience and/or professional development on the academic and social/emotional needs of these students, appropriate curriculum, appropriately differentiated instruction, deeper learning opportunities, and accelerated pacing."
This definition includes a list of requirements, but the bulk of them are not objectively measurable or enforceable and therefore meaningless in a policy. They are nothing but puffery.
  • Adequate cohorts - this has been defined as 250 in elementary and 270 in middle school. This definition works. It is objectively measurable and the authority is held and exercised in the central office.
  • Teachers with relevant experience or training - this is completely undefined and unenforced. Principals assign whomever they like to HCC classrooms without regard to experience or training and the Executive Directors of Schools, who have the duty to supervise and enforce compliance, do nothing to require it. I'm not sure what they could do since there is no set standard for the minimum experience and/or professional development.
  • Appropriate curriculum - Appropriate for whom? Where is this curriculum? More about that later. Who is supposed to write it? Doesn't this suggest that the general education curriculum is inappropriate? This is completely undefined and unmeasurable, and therefore unenforceable, and therefore absent. It doesn't set a clear expectation for the student or offer meaningful guidance for the teacher.
  • Differentiated instruction - Differentiated how and how much? Is every lesson supposed to be different - and different from what? This is completely undefined and unmeasurable, and therefore unenforceable, and therefore absent. It doesn't set a clear expectation for the student or offer meaningful guidance for the teacher.
  • Deeper learning opportunities - What are these? Are they these six deeper learning competencies: mastery of core content, critical thinking skills, ability to work collaboratively, effective communication skills, ability to learn how to learn, and academic mindsets? Are they something else specific? Does it just mean a generally greater depth of understanding of the same content and concepts taught in the grade level Standards? This is completely undefined and unmeasurable, and therefore unenforceable, and therefore absent. It doesn't set a clear expectation for the student or offer meaningful guidance for the teacher.
  • Accelerated pacing - How accelerated? Does this mean going through the curriculum faster, like compacted curriculum, or moving on to the next year's curriculum like acceleration? This is completely undefined and unmeasurable, and therefore unenforceable, and therefore absent. It doesn't set a clear expectation for the student or offer meaningful guidance for the teacher.
If a student's family cannot complain effectively to a principal when their child's highly capable service does not include one of these elements, then there's no point in putting that requirement into the policy. Policies are written to be followed and, if not followed, enforced. This policy can neither be followed nor enforced.

As far as Spectrum/ALO goes, the policy makes these requirements:
"Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities."
These are all part of the description for highly capable and suffer from all of the same problems as they did in that context. What's interesting, to me, is that advanced learning programs and services don't require adequate cohorts, experienced or trained teachers, or an appropriate curriculum.

Maybe the fault doesn't lie with the Board and the policy. The policy also says:
"The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures consistent with state guidelines regarding referral, evaluation, and identification of Highly Capable students in order to implement this policy. The procedures will describe the programs and services available to students identified as Highly Capable as well as to those identified as Advanced Learners."
But, if you read the Superintendent's Procedure and you look for the description of the programs and services, you'll find a description only for HCC and nothing else. Maybe the Board only needs to direct the Superintendent to provide the specifics in his procedure.

Problem 2: NO CURRICULUM

You may be surprised, but the Board has no policy governing curriculum or even requiring curricula. Not just for highly capable students or advanced learners; there isn't a curriculum policy for any students. A policy that requires curricula would be extremely helpful. A curriculum is a necessary and critical tool for the instruction of every student. It's funny, because people in the District talk about curriculum all the time, but there isn't, apparently, any curriculum for them to talk about. Honestly, I'm not even really sure what they mean when they say "curriculum" because they are constantly re-defining the word. The District would do well to set a glossary and provide a static definition for all of the education jargon they use. Then we would have a set definition for "curriculum" and we would know what the word means when it appears in a policy or procedure.

Here's something funny. The Superintendent's Procedure, in the program design section, makes reference to "the curriculum", but it never says what the curriculum is. A written, taught, and tested curriculum for highly capable students (as promised in 2009) and for advanced learners would go a long way towards providing the definition that highly capable services and advanced learning so desperately needs (as described above). It would also take a lot of pressure off the cohort. People would be less focused on WHO is taught in the classroom when they are more confident about WHAT is taught in the classroom.

For general education students there is a set of Standards, set by the State for each grade level and core discipline, which sets clear and enforceable expectations for students, families, and teachers. It forms, in essence, the curriculum. If a Standard isn't taught, the student or the family has a legitimate basis for complaint and the teacher and school can be held accountable for failing to teach that Standard. What is analogous to that in the highly capable and advanced learning programs and services? Nothing. No expectations are set for students, families or teachers. Katie May, the principal at Thurgood Marshall, told the Board that she could easily blend general education and HCC students at her school for social studies because they are taught the same material and taught to the same Standards - despite the policy requirement that the HCC students get something different. Principal Kay made this statement without fear of rebuke, and she received none.

Some may assert that the HCC class is, in fact, taught social studies differently or to some different Standards. If that's the case, then produce the Standards and explain why Ms May didn't know about them.

Currently, the advanced learning programs do not offer much other than grade-skipping (if even that), which is not a curriculum designed for highly capable students or advanced learners. Moreover, the grade-skipping is only for math in grades 1-5 for HCC students and some Spectrum/ALO students and for science in grades 6-8 for HCC students. That's it. Everything else is taught at grade level except middle school math placement, which is made without regard to eligibility for highly capable or advanced learning services.

Problem 3: NO ASSURANCES/COMPLIANCE/ACCOUNTABILITY

The advanced learning community doesn't believe that their children are getting advanced instruction in Spectrum/ALO programs, and why should they? Other than "Walk to Math" at a few elementary schools, there is no evidence of advanced instruction in Spectrum/ALO programs, Spectrum/ALO lacks any meaningful definition, Spectrum/ALO is different in every school, there is no curriculum or set of academic expectations for advanced learners, and the Advanced Learning students are in the general education classroom getting the same instruction as all of the other children in that classroom. The community doesn't believe that their children are getting advanced instruction and in a lot of cases they are right. Schools routinely fail/refuse to provide advanced learning services. That's a big problem.

It has become a problem because there are no assurances of advanced learning services and no consequences or accountability for schools that refuse to provide them. They aren't even at risk of losing the Spectrum/ALO designation. The bulk of Spectrum/ALO schools cannot describe their program - and do not describe their program either on their web site, on the District web site, or in their CSIP. An enforceable policy that offers some accountability or consequences for schools that fail to offer advanced learning is badly needed.

The Board cannot assess for compliance or apply the accountability themselves. Nor can the Board require that of anyone but the Superintendent. They can, however, use the policy to direct him to describe his plan to assess program quality. I'm not sure they can ask for an accountability plan in the procedure, but they can probably direct him to take some sort of action if program quality wanes. He, in turn, will delegate the work to either the Advanced Learning Department or the Executive Directors of Schools. Currently, neither of them assesses program quality - or even the presence of advanced instruction - nor do they provide any accountability. They do not direct schools to address non-compliance with policy or procedure.

Since advanced learning services are now a required element in Continuous School Improvement Plans (CSIPs), and since the Board is interested in making the CSIP an accountability tool instead of a meaningless bureaucratic requirement, perhaps the compliance element for this belongs in the policy that addresses CSIPs rather than the Advanced Learning policy.

I find it odd that the District headquarters staff has so much energy and enthusiasm for addressing non-compliance with field trip procedures and does it with such ruthless effectiveness, yet lacks any similar interest or effectiveness when it comes to policing more important issues like instructional requirements.

Problem 4: UNCLEAR AUTHORITY LIMITS

The principals at McClure and Washington and all designated elementary schools have dissolved their Spectrum programs. This change does not appear to be within their authority since the Student Assignment Plan and Superintendent procedure calls for a Spectrum program at every comprehensive middle school and at specific elementary sites. These schools claim that they still offer Spectrum but there is no evidence to support their claims.

Despite the apparent violations of policy and procedure, there doesn't appear to be anyone at the District level with the authority to direct the schools to restore the programs. In fact, the District continues to designate the schools as Spectrum sites even after the programs were dissolved. The creation, modification, or elimination of Spectrum/ALO programs is governed by the program placement policy, which delegates the siting of Spectrum to the superintendent and ALO to the schools. But the schools usurped that authority from the superintendent when they decided to convert their Spectrum programs to ALOs. The central office was complicit in the dissolution of Spectrum by constraining the enrollment for the programs to numbers far below the demand and below the capacity necessary to sustain self-contained classes. It's easy for a school to say they can't do self-contained Spectrum when they don't have enough Spectrum students to form self-contained classes. Of course, the only reason there aren't enough students is because the enrollment office capped the Spectrum enrollment at twelve students per grade - even if there are three times that many who want to enroll.

The authority of the Advanced Learning Department and the central administration as a whole, around the location, size, and nature of an ALO is nil. There is no one in the JSCEE with the authority to direct a school to comply with the policies and procedures that govern advanced learning programs. The District needs a policy that makes clear which elements of highly capable services and advanced learning are governed by the District and which are site-based decisions. Of those, the only one that needs to be set at the District level is the academic expectations and the superintendent's procedure is the appropriate place for that. Just as important as setting the academic expectations, someone at the District level needs the authority to enforce those academic expectations. The Executive Directors of Schools have not demonstrated any ability to assess schools' efforts along these lines or to exercise authority over schools and would therefore be a risky choice for this work, but the assignment of the responsibility needs to be spelled out in the Superintendent's procedure as well. Providing curricula, definition, and assurances would all work to clarify the areas of authority and responsibility for the District over the schools.

Problem 5: MISUNDERSTANDING OF SERVICES

There is a perception that highly capable and advanced learning services and programs are a prize rather than an accommodation to provide special needs students with an appropriate academic opportunity. The popular erroneous perception that HCC or Spectrum/ALO are something "more" or "better" provided exclusively for an elite must be aggressively confronted and corrected.

This line of thought is misguided, but it only makes trouble when people use it as a rationale to dismantle the programs, discontinue the services, and reduce the academic rigor for students. That only takes service away without adding any, which is not a positive change. When a school dissolves the class, they typically claim that they will continue to provide the services through differentiated instruction or some other magical process. What they never do, however, is assess the impact of the change to confirm that they haven't reduced the rigor.

If people think that the highly capable students or advanced learners are not that special and that there are a lot of other students who could be successful with the advanced curriculum, then add those other students to the class. And assess to confirm that the class is still taught to the same Standards as before.

If people think that the advanced curriculum is something wonderful that is should be made available to all students, then they can simply step up the rigor in all classes to match it. No one is stopping them. Problem solved. That's what Garfield wants to do with their Honors for All Humanities. Their effort is credible because they have provided a clear set of academic expectations. There have been a few schools that, over the years, have claimed that they teach all of their classes to the Spectrum Standards. Those claims have been less credible because there are no such Standards.

If there were a curriculum and some accountability to assure that the advanced curriculum were taught, then there wouldn't be any drama over who is in the classroom or how the curriculum is delivered. This is a problem that will go away when the other problems are properly addressed.

Problem 6: DISPROPORTIONATE RACIAL / SES REPRESENTATION

Students living in poverty and students in some racial groups are under-represented in HCC and Spectrum/ALO. This is not a problem specific to Seattle or to the advanced learning programs, but reflective of the broader academic gaps in education across the District and the nation. There are no easy solutions to these deeply ingrained and longstanding disparities.

The Advanced Learning Department makes some outreach efforts, but has not been able to make much difference in the numbers. The nomination and eligibility process presents bureaucratic barriers, but, even before the students reach that barrier, the District has not been effective in identifying talented FRL, Latino, or African-American students to bring to nomination.

This problem is not in these programs and the solution will not be found in these programs. The solution to this problem is best delegated to broader efforts to address disproportionate outcomes in education. Quick fixes, like super-local norming or extreme adjustments in eligibility criteria by race or SES, would create unbearable inequities and unintended consequences which would not only pose greater problems than we have now, but would alter the intent of the program away from serving a set of students with special needs.

Until those broader problems are addressed and resolved, it is counterproductive for Board Directors and others to refer to the programs with contempt or as "unfair". The fault does not lie in the programs, the teachers, the community, or the students. They don't deserve your contempt. We need to stay focused on students and their needs and not allow the focus to shift away from them.

The Board needs to act by revising policies to create definition, assurance, and accountability in advanced learning. This can has been kicked down the road for nearly fifteen years. Previous Boards have shied away from addressing it. As a result the situation has suffered not so much from mismanagement as from a lack of management. I am optimistic that this Board will finally address these problems directly and resolve them.

111 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this an open meeting?

Hopeful

Anonymous said...

In-coming storm of comments!!!!

BattenDownTheHatches

Charlie Mas said...

The Advanced Learning work session will be an open meeting of the Board.

JBS said...

I came across the following document when I went searching for answers regarding "Honors" class designations at Denny MS. This document seems to spell out, in precise language and on a precise timeline, how they are planning to dismantle and/or fundamentally change AL through school year 2019-20.

The implementation timeline starts on page 7. LOTS of interesting reading throughout the entire document. Just thought I would pass it along.

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/General/ALTF2AllIndivRecCombined5.15.14.pdf?sessionid=387f1c9b56ba0467eec5adaf9a4e1c92

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy if the AL dept would cough up some data comparing HC students in and out of the cohort. How big is the HCC this year? I heard Hamilton is packed with the HCC kids.

Charlie is right on the money about the idea being that the cohort is somehow "better". The problem isn't
limited to opponents of the cohort, however. Parents, believing it's better, scramble to get in, with multiple private tests and coaching. There was a psychologist trolling for customers on the discusapp blog offering tests, coaching and counseling. The district needs to make it clear that it's not a golden ticket. it's survival for a lot of kids.

3 hcc

Liza Rankin said...

I hope they are planning for the auditorium and not the board room - I have a feeling there'll be a lot of people showing up for this one! (Also hard to imagine they will cover much in only an hour and a half.)

Anonymous said...

JBS: Those were recommendations put forth by members of the ALTF Task Force. They are *not* implementation plans, nor were they ever finalized or combined/voted on. Just a bunch of ideas from folks who put in a lot of time and effort to help out AL. Read them if you want, but don't put any credence into them being factual plans.

ALTF2

Anonymous said...

I hope some of the focus is on improving the neighborhood school experience for HC/AL students so schools retain these students. If the HC kids stayed, even if only thru 3rd, this would help with projecting enrollment and planning, and I believe it would be better for the kids, families and communities, except of course for the outliers who need very special attention because they are identified as 2e.

Hopeful

Math in UnFocused said...

My spectrum kid at Coe gets her once weekly advanced literacy and once a week an alo Math teacher helps her regular walk to math teacher. They continue not to use the adopted math in focus curriculum in favor of "my math" worksheets

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, there is an organization that, absent bureaucratic barriers, HAS BEEN EFFECTIVE in identifying and supporting hundreds and hundreds of talented FRL/low SES, Latino/African-American/1st generation students to bring to nomination. Thank you RAINIER SCHOLARS.

Whitesail

Anonymous said...

"Over the next five months, we work with students and their families to identify approximately 60 - 65 motivated learners who will make up a new cohort of Rainier Scholars for the upcoming summer."

Agreed they do excellent work, but the numbers aren't that impressive.

dd

Lynn said...

60 to 65 across three school districts.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...



This is really a top down problem. We have all worked in companies where our boss is gauged on one metric only to get a new boss graded on another metric... which means your whole focus changes. MT is the boss. In fact he now has a fall guy provided by the sup to take fire as he is the consummate middle manger and would hate to have him hit the buzz saw of his 9 years of undermining the program as he does a great job at dividing folks.

- New AL office has said on more than one occasion less than HC is not their focus. That is neighborhood schools affair.

- AL office has no real "AL" focus since BV left; who probably retired because of the obvious internal fight that he waged... and because he knew they would have scrapped the whole AL department if not for the legislature doing the right thing... but now it's only for the HC kids.

- There is really no there, there. Hamilton was able to chip away at AP world history to maintain their language acceleration. So WMS students needed to repeat topics. There is no depth or acceleration to repeating the same material with kids who have never had it.

- Now we have primary school SS and Honors 9th grade LA in the south in order to reduce SEGREGATION. If it was segregation it should be as evident in the north as the south... Not so much though. And it would be systemic. And it wouldn't include accommodations for ELL, SES and 2e which it does. No one test gets you in and the folks opening the door are trying everything to get those groups in. EVERYTHING as that is what their new boss wants even if it doesn't mean that those who need it get the services they need.

Old plan: 2+ grade levels above, accelerated in breadth and pace and cohort who could add enrichment to the learning environment. Which was similar to the gen ed students minus the acceleration. New plan: not so much- see how much we can degrade whatever is left. Oh and accuse those involved of being racist even though none of the data suggest the program has any racial bias.

Old Dawg





Charlie Mas said...

I wrote about the problems that I perceive in the programs and services for highly capable students and advanced learners. Of course some people may not be experiencing these problems and, of course, some people may see other problems. Finally, there will surely be some folks who share my concern about one or more of these problems but think the Board should pursue different solutions.

If you are not experiencing these problems with the program, congratulations! I'm happy for you. But please don't presume that the programs or services work similarly everywhere. In fact, that's the core of the problem - there is no central management or oversight that assures families and students of a minimum standard of service across the district.

If you see other problems tell us about them and suggest a solution that the Board can implement. In short, what change in policy is needed to address the problem? Please bear in mind that the Board must keep their work at the policy level. They can tell the superintendent what his job is, but they can't tell him how to do it.

If you think the solution to one or more of these problems is in different revisions or in revisions to different policies than the ones I suggest, then please suggest better changes or better policies to change.

All of these types of comments would move the discussion forward and would contribute towards solutions.

Anonymous said...

@ Charlie, you stated that for GE students there's a set of Standards, and that there's nothing analogous to that in the highly capable and advanced learning programs and services. I don't think that's completely accurate. During a public presentation on the revised scope and sequence for middle school HCC LA/SS a couple years ago, district officials were clear that HCC middle school was to focus on those same grade-level standards. They'd go "deeper" (whatever that means), but would not be working on above-grade standards. That may be in conflict with what's happening at the elementary level, where parents have reported that students work on 2-yr-ahead standards, but as you well know, schools do what they want. But according to the district, there ARE standards.

So the question is, are the Standards the same for HCC, AL and GE, or are they different--or does it depend on the grade level? If they are different, what are they for each program/service (and grade)? It shouldn't be a hard question to answer, but it is. Maybe that could be cleared up in the policy (e.g., "The HCC curriculum is focused on meeting standards two grade levels ahead" or "HCC uses the GE curriculum and grade-level standards but provides supplementary curricular materials that provide for more in-depth learning"). It's a pretty fundamental issue and needs some clarity. Then again, policy doesn't matter if it's not enforced.

HF

Anonymous said...

HF--- I was told the same about HCC students in middle school working on grade level standards in LA/SS, but going deeper. I was also told Science & Math standards & curriculum are accelerated two years. The teachers and district both told me the same. In addition, there was someone at district trying to align HCC LA/SS curriculum between WMS, JAMS & HIMS. However, it was "voluntary" for schools to participate & was told HIMS teachers did not attend recent meetings past year. Would be nice for their to be a policy to ensure across the board curriculum & standards and way to enforce policy with schools. Don't know why there is an issue & this is not the case.
-MB

Anonymous said...

HIMS doesn't participate in the HCC community. They have not sent a staff rep to the HCC Advisory Committee in a couple of years. On the other hand, they seem to be the last bastion of self contained Spectrum.

open ears

Anonymous said...

Yes - it's unfair that SPECTRUM is allowed to be administered so differently at each middle school. And why couldn't the HCC program at Hamilton be split and some sent to Whitman Middle School since that school has space. It would alleviate overcrowding which is bordering on unsafe at Hamilton Middle School and provide a program that many people want at another north end neighborhood school.
NW Mom

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How about if the Board includes in the new policy that the Superintendent shall develop procedures that clearly define the HC and AL curricula and standards; shall develop and implement a plan to hold schools accountable for delivering HC and AL services; and shall develop and implement a plan to assess the effectiveness of HC and AL services?

In addition, I'd like to see the new policy also address HC students who are extreme outliers--those whose needs can't be met within the scope of the current services, which are geared toward the "average" HC student. Take the hypothetical HC student working 3-5 years ahead in most areas. They are NOT likely to be served well (or at all, really) by a gen ed curriculum that "goes a little deeper," nor are they likely to be well served by a program that has a ceiling of two years ahead. They clearly need something else, and the district SHOULD be able to provide something that's at least in the ballpark of what they need.

The policy doesn't need to guarantee a specific program or curriculum or delivery model, but could simply require that an effort be made to accommodate the unique needs of these kids. There aren't a lot of them so it wouldn't be that much of a burden, and these kids are just as entitled to a reasonably appropriate education as anyone else. The Board could include something along the lines of "For HC-qualified students whose academic needs cannot be met by their neighborhood school or the HC cohort, the district will work with the student and family to determine and implement an appropriate educational plan." Then the Superintendent's procedures would need to address the process for requesting such an accommodation, including the criteria for determining when the school or HCC can't meet the student's needs, and the types of alternative approaches that can be arranged if needed (e.g., supervision and support for on-campus independent study, access to approved online courses, mentorship, etc.).

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

NW Mom - I'm guessing that SPS hasn't split the HCC program at Hamilton and sent some students to Whitman because in 2017, they will be splitting the HCC program and sending some HCC kids to the new middle school (Eaglestaff).

Sure would be nice if there were standards describing the HCC program and curriculum in middle school as another split is about to happen.

Jane

Liza Rankin said...

HIMSmom - I think that's the idea behind MTSS. Too bad no one is using it, because it hasn't been explained or supported in buildings.

Charlie Mas said...

This idea, that HCC (and, I suppose, Spectrum/ALO) are taught to the grade-level standards, but "deeper" not only lacks any sort of meaningful definition or measurable objective, it is not consistent with the requirements of the policy "appropriate curriculum, appropriately differentiated instruction, deeper learning opportunities, and accelerated pacing"

Assuming - and there's a lot of benefit of the doubt in the assumption - that "going deeper" meets the "deeper learning opportunities" element of the policy requirement, we are still without the appropriate curriculum, appropriately differentiated instruction, and the accelerated pacing. I suppose the District could make the argument that the grade level curriculum IS appropriate for advanced learners, that the differentiation comes in the instructional strategies rather than the content, and that the pace is accelerated to make time for the deeper stuff. However, I would find that argument grossly inadequate.

When you look at the grade level Standards for ELA you'll see that for the 7th grade the Standards are things like:
"RI 7.1: Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text."
"RI7.2: Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text."
"RI7.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6–8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range."
"7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation."
These are not things a student can "go deeper" with very much. More than that, these academic expectations, even if done exceptionally well, are too simple for HCC 7th graders or Spectrum/ALO 7th graders.

You wouldn't expect a 3rd grader to get anything from the 1st grade curriculum even if you encouraged them to "go deeper", would you?

And how, exactly, will they show that they are teaching "deeper" and that the students are learning "deeper"?

What guidance do the teachers get, what are the expectations for the students, and what expectations are set for the families?

"Grade level, but deeper" sounds like fluff to me. If it isn't fluff, then someone is going to have to prove it isn't fluff.

Anonymous said...

@ Charlie, I made that same argument to Ms. Vasquez, but she stood by this idea of going "deeper." It's even more when you compare some of the standards across grade levels.

For example, RL1 says this:

6th grade: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
7th grade: Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
8th grade: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

How exactly is an HC 6th grader supposed to go deeper into the 6th grade standard for providing evidence without moving onto the 7th and 8th grade standards, which involve providing more and better evidence? The standards themselves seem to have been developed such that "going deeper" means moving to the next year!

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot a word. "It's even more absurd when you compare some of the standards across grade levels."

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

It isn't fluff - it is designed rather carefully by the district to facilitate scheduling and capacity. Students will be put in a grade level class and whether they get AL opportunities will depend on whether the teacher is skilled enough and has the time to administer it. But there will be no longer any risk - as we have come up against - of the school overtly denying AL classes to HCC kids in situations where the advanced class is full. This has always been against the state law so the district and principals' have always worked very hard to cover themselves when this (frequently) happens. Such as making up (and I mean lying) spurious rules and requirements to deny services if there is no room. I am paraphrasing what has happened to our family and others in the HCC program. I strongly believe, based on my experience, that all this ill defined verbiage is a smokescreen to take responsibility for services off the district and put it on the teachers' shoulders. It also makes it close to impossible for parents to demand the AL services that their kids need, because unlike the 1 and 2 year grade level acceleration (which could at least be defined) the described services ("deeper"?) are subjective. I, personally, have watched the policies change on the SPS website when in response to AL demands that we have made. Take screen shots when you access the SPS website!

-SPSParent

Anonymous said...


"7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation."

My kid was doing that in 4th grade.

bored

Anonymous said...

the state has said that for students who are academically highly talented that an accelerated education IS a basic education. In many ways this has allowed SPS to dismantle HCC (because they'll get the funding for it whether or not there's a real program), it also creates a simple policy opportunity.

The board could - at a minimum - create a policy that reiterates SPS's commitment to the state's standard of basic education for academically talented students, and in that policy, require that district staff detail (maybe even with actual data!) that all HCC programs are meeting the definition of a basic education.

-Barebones Basic

Anonymous said...

I heard from several people at the capacity meeting today that Flip pushed very hard for the committee to endorse splitting HCC and placing students in the Decatur building. The committee was not impressed because there was no rationale and no explanation for why HCC was suddenly the most pressing capacity problem in the entire district. Additionally there was no rationale for why placing HCC at Decatur was a good idea for anyone.

Someone was TC was there and shared that there was no plan for playground space and that the transportation study did not plan for a 1,000 student campus.

Several folks on the committee questioned why there simply could not be portables placed at Cascadia and there was no answer.

- capacity wonk

Anonymous said...

Flip spoke at a Cascadia PTA meeting last spring. At that meeting he was pushing for the new Cascadia building to be a 660 elementary school and strongly opposed portables. He said opening an elementary school larger than 660 would go against best practices. Connecting the dots, going against best practices would look like a failure on the part of SPS and his department. So no portables.
Cascadia parent

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher. MTSS is a great idea on paper that has little connection to reality. Do you really think that teachers have time to develop separate lessons for 3 different levels of students in one class?

Let's pretend that teachers have that time. You are now talking about cutting down the amount of time that the kids receive any direct teaching to one-third. If you really are doing it, you can't just throw some work at kids. You actually have to take the time to teach them. To me it just looks like everyone gets less...a lot less. Unless of course, you leave the high ones alone, teach to the middle, and give extra help to the ones behind. :(
teacher

Anonymous said...

Flip seems concerned about optics. There are schools all over the district with portables, there's no reason Wilson Pacific couldn't start with portables while the board figures out how to revise the AL policy and implement new boundary changes.

People have speculated a small pre-k program and maybe after school programming at Decatur, but to throw a 250-300+ Student HCC school there is going to be upsetting for a variety of stakeholders, including the surrounding neighbors.

Decatur doesn't seem scalable or sustainable. It makes little sense, unless it is a quick fix bandaid solution, in which case they might as well use portables until they identify more viable options or shrink the program.

I only say "shrink the program" because having 800+ students at WP is also not a great option. The lunchroom, playground and other shared space areas are compromised when the school has more students than planned. Obviously, giving more students access to appropriately challenging coursework is ideal, so finding space that will work for more than three years is smart planning, or get delivery fixed at the neighborhood school level.

Total Chaos

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why they wouldn't move Licton Springs to Decatur?? Isn't that school around 150-200 kids? If they split Cascadia, they would have to recreate the wheel and find a new principal. If the moved Licton Springs it would just mean moving the group to a different location, but they would stay intact. I don't get it!

Looking Around

Lynn said...

The Licton Springs seats are inside the middle school building - not the elementary. It's not a bad idea though.

Anonymous said...

Licton Springs includes the Indian Heritage program, which has strong ties to the Robert Eaglestaff site. And two option schools on the same lot (Decatur and Thornton Creek) is pretty unlikely. I don't think it's going anywhere.

Cascadia has been unsustainably big for 3 or 4 years now. If it was just for a year, I'd support portables. But it's not. It's growing every year. It needs to split. Decatur doesn't have a lot of room for growth but it is 275 seats sitting empty now, and these are desperate times.

Cascadia parent

Charlie Mas said...

The Board policy calls for a minimum cohort for HCC, which the District has defined. An HCC program would have to be small to fit into Decatur, but it would be big enough to meet the cohort minimum.

In the end, the Board decides HCC siting. They shouldn't, but they do.

Back when the policy delegated all program placement to the superintendent, Board directors Michael DeBell and Harium Martin-Morris, the two who went on the most about the Board not trespassing on the superintendent's authority, wrote a Board motion to trespass on the superintendent's authority and determine the APP sites. If they hadn't, middle school APP would have been placed at Eckstein instead of JAMS because, in accordance with the Board policy, Eckstein is closer to where the students live. DeBell and Martin-Morris didn't want APP at Eckstein, so they took back the authority to place the program. From that time forward, the Board retains the authority to site HCC through the Student Assignment Plan.

So the District staff can say whatever they want, the siting of HCC is controlled by the Student Assignment Plan and, therefore, is a Board decision.

Charlie Mas said...

The history of the siting of the Licton Springs school is one of extraordinary advocacy for a school by a Board Director.

The District was all set to close Pinehurst, formerly AS-1. The school's enrollment was extremely low (constant threat of closure certainly didn't help enrollment) and the District staff were finally determined to close it. But the school had a friend in Sharon Peaslee and she moved heaven and earth to save it. In the middle of the intense capacity crisis that we're still experiencing, she married the Pinehurst supporters with the Native American program supporters and jammed them into the new middle school building at the Wilson-Pacific site - where there wasn't really room for them. It was a weird, illogical move to save a low enrollment school that takes away desperately needed middle school space in the north-end, but she forced it through. And that's how we got Licton Springs K-8 inside the Robert Eaglestaff building. It's a purely political creation and owes its very existence to the strenuous efforts of one Board director.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the history, Charlie. Eckstein has seen capacity relief since JAMS opened, and I can't imagine how they would have fit HCC there. The location makes sense, but that likely would have been very disruptive.

I wish we could get the buildings back that were sold off after the district budget debacle. Someone mentioned the Sicley (sp?) buildings near Roosevelt. That space would be helpful for our high school crisis. What about U Heights Community Center?

Total Chaos

kellie said...

At the moment growth in the HCC program is one of the most deeply misunderstood capacity dynamics. There are all types of urban legends about the growth of this program and very few facts in the conversations.

Cascadia parent's assert about TC placement is a great example of a solution based urban legend rather than any basic facts.

Splitting HCC CAUSES more growth, rather than cause any alleviation in the crowding. Historically, the hot spots for APP when it was at lowell and washington was ... in the immediate vicinity of lowell and washington. As you went to the edges of the district enrollment diminished drastically as families needed to decide if the cohort was worth a bus ride or an hour or more every day.

HCC has grown significantly after every split. Subsequent program growth in the immediate area of the new placement has been dramatic. Placing HCC in NE Seattle would most likely cause a LOG RHYTHMIC increase in enrollment rather than cause any relief in crowding.

The growth in HCC that is NOT in the immediate vicinity of the new placement has been ... shockingly ... in the areas that are most dramatically over-crowded. The two parts of town that have the most significant capacity problems - the top of Queen Anne and the Bryant-Wedgwood-View Ridge area are the ONLY hot spots that are not directly on top of a program placement.

If you look at the facts, HCC placement is the ONLY thing holding together enrollment in the areas where there are the least number of physical buildings. Placing HCC in those areas is akin to pouring gasoline on top of a fire.

The last area of growth in HCC is purely demographics. The vast majority of the overall growth in the district directly matches the growth in HCC. In other words, the parts of town that are growing the most overall are also the parts of town that are sending the most students to HCC.

Charlie Mas said...

kellie is absolutely right. Splitting HCC doesn't relieve HCC enrollment, it increases it.

When the north-end got a middle school APP site, the enrollment exploded. That's a big part of why HIMS is so over-crowded, the District didn't know that a lot of APP-eligible middle school students who wouldn't enroll at Washington, would enroll at Hamilton.

When North-end elementary APP was moved to the north-end, the enrollment exploded. The travel time to Lowell was a big deterrent that kept north-end families from enrolling their children there. The shorter travel time to Lincoln removed that barrier.

I used to work in Ballard when my kids were at Lowell and Washington. It was extraordinarily difficult to get to their schools from work. Ask anyone how to get to Capitol Hill from Ballard. The answer is: you don't.

kellie said...

In addition to being a hideously poorly considered idea to place HCC in NE Seattle, there are some basic capacity facts that are not being addressed realistically.

The idea that a few portables at brand new building with extensive core facilities is a problem is well .. laughable to put it kindly. Take a look at some of the portable villages that we have that are attached to tiny buildings. Schmitz Park had more portables than building. Viewlands has 11 portables and Sanpoint has 7 attached to a tiny building with inadequate core facilities. Plus multiple schools have lunchrooms and gyms made out of portables.

A brand new building with extensive core facilities is the best location for a handful of portables, because the core facilities can more easily handle the extra students. To be blunt, there are enough bathrooms in the new building. Decatur was built as K-2 and has only ONE adult sized toilet per gender. It is a building that was built for little kids and not a building built for a program that has no K and is very 5th grade heavy.

There are NOT 275 seats at Decatur just sitting empty right now. 275 seats is very aggressive capacity estimate for that building and we all know how reliable capacity estimates have been. 400 seats at Cedar Park ... but wait we can barely fit the actual 300 kids from OH in there at the moment ... hmmmm

And all of that is before you examine the simple fact that the campus was not designed for two schools. If you place two full elementary schools on the same campus there will be a dramatic need to coordinate all of the basic logistics - bell times, playground usage, etc. None of that was even done.

Plus the optics of ... why do those students get bathrooms and a new building as we get this leftovers.

To be blunt if the choice is between a portable at beautiful new building or another split into a building that was declared structurally unsound almost 20 years ago ...

If I was a HCC parent, I would be fighting a TC placement tooth and nail. IMHO, there NO UPSIDE in this placement. It creates far more problems than it solves. It will make the sharing at other sites look easy.

kellie said...

And Charlie has explained the Licton Springs scenario very aptly. It was purely political and created more capacity problems.

This placement is also purely political and will create more problems than it solves.

Anonymous said...

Licton Springs, the water, is right next to Eagle Staff and is a sacred and holy site for Native people. Native students, descendants of the people who lived all across the city before the euros stole their land and killed them, feel entitled to a school near the springs. Peaslee cared about those kids and their culture.

AP

Charlie Mas said...

@AP, and just how, exactly, was Pinehurst AS1 connected - in any way - to the Native people of Licton Springs? Oh, right, not at all.

H said...

kellie, would you consider copying these comments over to the HCC blog? There is so much confusion in the Cascadia community at the moment and I think your insight could be extremely helpful.


Anonymous said...

What I like about the TC placement is that Cascadia is far too large right now. I understand that other districts manage larger elementary schools, but everything about the way we do it- buildings, staffing, scheduling- does not. It's impossible to move the number of young children from one place to another at this level. 3-5th are each almost the size of a normal elementary school. Lunch is impossible. Recess is ridiculous. Assemblies are ridiculous. Islandwood said we can't go there anymore because we are too big. PCP doesn't work because of contractually mandated maximum class numbers, so they have no regular music. Staffing stops adding at 600 under the WSS, and at 200 kids over that, there are nowhere near enough adults. And even if there were more adults, there are still too many kids. Staff has done an amazing job under the circumstances, but there is only so much you can do.

I had been averse to the idea of Cedar Park because it is inflexible, but maybe Cedar Park, if not the Decatur building, though it seems like that train has already left the station. And I have not seen the actual campus- I was led to believe it would be inappropriate for a population that changes size and is pyramid shaped (mostly upper grades). I really do not care about the state of the building, and imagine if asked to choose, most parents would choose a workably sized program over new floor tiles.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

AP-- However the demographic report from 2013-2014 indicates that only 3% of students at Licton Springs are Native American. See the school profile. This indicates this move was purely political. The district needs to best serve the kids they have AP. These are kids, not oppressors. Enough of putting the HCC kids under the bus. If any other demographic group (racial, ethnic etc) experienced what these kids are experiencing there would be an uproar.
-Maria

Anonymous said...

http://urbannativeeducation.org/the-native-heritage-alternative-school-1-program-proposal/

-found this

Anonymous said...

I agree with Maria and would add that are also termed racist in their efforts to do what is best for their kids.


-old dawg

kellie said...

@ H, please feel free to copy and paste any of my comments.

@ Sleeper, the art of project management is "Does this solution X solve your problem?" Liking or not liking the placement of HCC at Decatur is not the issue. The issue is that placing HCC at Decatur does not solve any of the problems your identified and in fact, it creates more problems.

The "problems" that you are identifying are systemic issues that are happening at every single building site in the north end.

It's impossible to move the number of young children from one place to another, when your building is operating at 150 or 200 % of its original designed capacity. Many schools are struggling to get little kids to the bathroom. I am not exaggerating. They have had to create bathroom time schedules because when you have 600 kids and 10 toilets it is a real problem.

You don't have a district-wide "Lunch and Recess Matters" Advocacy group, because lunch and recess are working at most schools. Lunch and recess is a problem everywhere and moving to TC will make recess much worse because you now need to share a campus with another school and have 1000 kids competing for the same resources.

Assemblies? Most elementary schools have already migrated to having anything that really matters in the auditorium of the local middle schools because all school assemblies are just a thing of the past when you are running at the capacity this district is running. The middle and high schools have the same problem. Many don't have any space for an all-school assembly.

Field trips? Don't even go there. That is another huge system issue. Some may be easier with a split and others harder because now you don't have the minimum numbers.

The WSS - That is a huge problem because the WSS was not designed for the reality of our current schools. Middle and high schools are also suffering because they are so far above where the WSS tops out. And going to under 300 puts you in worse shape because you are then not large enough to generate even the minimal staffing.

So the issues that you have identified either get WORSE by moving to TC or have no change whatsoever.


Anonymous said...

Read the document Charlie.

AP

Anonymous said...

Kellie's final comment about ability to get minimal staffing is my concern. I worry about counselors, math and reading specialists, and PTA energy with such a small HCC school. The irony is it will be small with little resource, but it will suffer the effects of sitting on a site with 1000 students. The worst of both worlds. Put 4-5 portables at WP, then work to fix the policy, maybe keep kids at neighborhood schools through 2nd grade, or tighten eligibility criteria, but the TC split is poor planning. One plus about Cedar Park is there could be an opportunity for more HCC diversity as the population surrounding the school is more diverse and they might join HCC if it is close and feels like it is part of the community.

Total Chaos

Anonymous said...

Oppression has a nasty residue that lasts sometimes for centuries. Or is everything hunky-dory with First Nations people now that they can make money off people's addictions?

Oppressors? How silly and deflective to accuse someone of blaming children. It's a big system, The Combine, Chief Bromdem called it. It oppresses all of us, even the HCC kids.

cuckoo

HM said...

How many empty seats are there at Lowell? I would think that those southern parts of North Seattle (QA, mag, wallyworld and uw/laurelhurst) could be housed there right?


Anonymous said...

HM has a good point--why not split off the Hamilton feeder group? Why is NE the only area on the table?

Total Chaos

Anonymous said...

I notice when families come to Cascadia, they say the issues I mention are worse than at their previous school, wherever it was, specifically lunch and recess, but everything else too. And it is worse at Cascadia than at the other two schools I am intimately aware of, both of which are like everywhere over capacity. There are two parts- the overcapacity, certainly, but also pure numbers. No other elementary school is as large as Cascadia. We already share space with other programs, and I believe as long as we stagger start and end times, TC could work well. Or we could look at Cedar Park. I don't think it is ideal, but I do think it is better than an 850 student elementary school.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

To be clearer- i think the overcapacity problems we are all facing are exaggerated by the school's pure size. It is hard to be in a space built for 50 with 100. It is impossible to be in a space built for 500 with 1000. So although not every over capacity school should split, Cascadia should.

-sleeper

kellie said...

IMHO, the capacity problems at LINCOLN are the worst in the district.

Last year, it was a tie between Schmitz Park and Lincoln. As SP has moved into their new building, Lincoln is my opinion the clear loser in the capacity wars for the elementary category. HIMS in the middle school category is a close second.

The issue I am attempting to highlight is that comparing the capacity issue at Lincoln with the potential future capacity problems of not-yet-opened Cascadia is fallacious argument.

Lincoln is a poorly cobbled together interim building where 850 elementary students need to share extremely limited and poorly engineered core facilities with a K8 (Licton Springs) To make the situation worse, because of some very interesting budget adjustments, HCC at Lincoln is operating with the lowest WSS ratios of any school in the entire district. Not only is the WSS NOT engineered appropriately for 850 students, HCC at Lincoln receives LESS than the minimum in the WSS.

By contrast, Cascadia is new building engineered for this age group with significant core facilities. AND no requirement to share with another community.

Yes, the sheer size is a problem. However Decatur does not solve that problem. Day 1 the Decatur campus will recreate the sharing problems of over 850 students on one campus that was not designed to support that many students. AND the WSS will ensure that there is inadequate staffing for these students.

So the students that get to keep Cascadia may come out ahead. However, the ones that need to go to Decatur will go from the frying pan to the fire. IMHO, that is not a solution.



Anonymous said...

Decatur (without the portables) has 13 classrooms. Cedar Park has 19 or 20. Even if two of Cedar Parks classrooms are converted to a library it would be the better building for an HCC cohort.
-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kellie. People who think moving to Decatur will create a nice little HCC community for the NE are missing the point that there will be a lack of resources and capacity will be a problem from day 1 that will only get worse.

Capacity planning (Flip) turns a blind eye on the experience the students will have once they arrive at the school--not his problem. The silos between capacity planning, enrollment and C&I ARE the problem.

Total Chaos

kellie said...

In general, I do not care about optics. However, in this case the optics are another problem.

* The bulk of HCC will go to a brand new building.
* The TC students are in a brand new building.
* This splinter group are placed into an ancient building, with a horrible building condition score, designed for a K2 with inadequate plumbing and portables from the 1950 that are mold ridden.

This HCC cohort will be split from this classmates who are getting a nice upgrade and then be housed directly adjacent to neighbors, sport teammates, and other friends who are also in a brand new building.

All the while needing to manage a 1,000 student campus. How is this a solution????

Anonymous said...

It would be useful for the board to state in policy just exactly what the Advanced Learning offerings are expected to accomplish. Which students are we trying to serve? What kinds of needs do those students have? Then presumably the board could direct the superintendent to provide something that addresses those needs, and some way of measuring whether those needs are being met.

It is one thing to help students who are failing because their brains work very differently from typical students. It is another thing to help students who are succeeding, scoring high on achievement tests, and are able to benefit from accelerated instruction - this is mostly what HCC tries to do. Maybe we want to do both of these things and others as well. But we will never be able to claim success if we can't even say what we are trying to do.

Irene

Anonymous said...

Charlie, many Native American K-8 kids have migrated to AS-1. I know my family members have. AS-1 was already a better fit for many Native American kids than regular elementary or middle school. With an emphasis on Native American culture now, it is an even better fit.

HP

Lynn said...

Are these students who moved to Licton Springs this month? There were just 10 Native American kids there last year.

http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1133&reportLevel=School&year=2015-16&yrs=2015-16

Anonymous said...

I'm not the expert here (Kellie is) so take my comments with a grain of salt, but, the problem looks like it's that HCC is the only form of advanced learning left in SPS. With the attack on Spectrum and other similar efforts, parents see that the only way their kid can get advanced learning is to send them to HCC. And so SPS creates the situation we have now. So like Total Chaos just said, the silo between capacity management and curriculum is a big problem.

I know a lot of HCC parents who would love to stay at their neighborhood school if there were a restoration of real advanced learning options there.

Old Geoduck

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks to all for these cogent remarks.

I do particularly agree that until the district clearly defines the Highly Capable program, there will be problems, both in capacity and execution. I also agree with Old Geoduck, that if the district committed to having HC at all schools - a reality, not on page - many parents would be more than happy to stay at their neighborhood school.

Benjamin Leis said...

@Kellie - the Decatur building will be pressed into service for some group of students. The capacity crunch and lack of options pretty much guarantees that. So objections based on its condition are mostly a straw man argument. I thought also that the portables (or most of them) were being removed now that new TC was finished. That's why the official capacity is being talked of as 275 rather than 400+.

I think in this case the district is attempting to be slightly proactive. If you believe the growth projection, there is not enough space for portables (6) on the Wilson Pacific site to hold Cascadia. It makes sense in that case to produce a plan that will work longer. It also keeps the Decatur building seats in use for elementary rather than pre-k students (which I suspect plays a part in the thinking).

Its debatable which played more of part in the growth of Cascadia in the first place: the overall North Seattle population growth, the more convenient location, decline of alternatives like Spectrum. But even if you believe location was the driving force, the difference in accessibility for Wilson Pacific vs Decatur is much less dramatic than that between Lowell and Lincoln and Washington Middle School and Hamilton. And I do think the combination of a close by middle school/elementary combination amplified any such effect. So its unlikely to affect enrollment nearly as much this time around having a building open 3 miles to the east. At the end of the day we do not have an unlimited supply of potential students that qualify. And as is often stated, "You can only solve capacity problems with more capacity". Throwing 275 seats at the issue is better than say 150 in the potential portables.

Anonymous said...

As of last year there were over 120 HC eligible students in grades 1-5 in the Eckstein service area who weren't enrolled in Cascadia.

AS

Anonymous said...

Melissa, the district will never allow self-contained Spectrum classes to return and without them, true HC students can't reach anywhere near their potential.

The number of students who can get into the program is limited, sure, but if the district lowers the standards for admittance further, especially to try to rectify the poor representation of black and Latino children, who knows how big the program will become.

The program is starting to feed on its own success and with more sites, more parents will try to get their children in.

Don't you think something drastic is going to happen when a MS service area has 20% of its 5th or 6th graders in HCC? We might hit that percentage for some grades this year. We will see when the October numbers come out.

Wary

kellie said...

@ Benjamin,

The tagline about you can only solve a capacity problem with more capacity is mine. So naturally I agree with my own statement.

However, there is a nuance about this statement that you are missing. You can only solve a capacity problem with ACTUAL capacity, not hypothetical capacity. Much of the conversation over the last 13 years of building closures and openings has been about theoretical capacity and politics rather than the hard cold facts. IMHO, the 275 at Decatur is hypothetical capacity and I have no expectation that 275 seats will be able to pushed into service without spending some serious money.

This problem is most clearly seen at Cedar Park. The capacity at Cedar Park was declared to be 400 However, the 300 students from OH don't fit in the building. Those pesky facts messed up that nice theory and students get hurt in the process.

And while many people do debate quite vigorously about the growth in HCC, that debate is primarily political rather than numerical. The numbers paint a very clear picture. But only if you know the history of those numbers and most of that information is no longer on the district website but is well know by all the people who lived through the other side this conversation when the politics was all about closing schools.

The district has grown by approximately 10,000 students in 10 years. During that same time the FRL rate has dropped from the mid 40% to 36% It is simple fact that the HCC population is disproportionately drawn from the same areas that have been generating this growth.

Anonymous said...

Looked at the 5 year enrollment projection report and noticed that Eaglestaff is anticipated to open with around 700 students plus the 124 or so Licton Springs. Capacity is stated to be 850. Whitman enrollment is slated to go down to 600 after Eaglestaff opens. However, am wondering how many Whitman students will ask to be grandfathered. There will be room at Whitman. This would reduce enrollment at Eagelstaff.

Wondering if the district might consider moving 5th grade (from Cascadia) to Eaglestaff to make room for all kids K-4 at Cascadia. Just thinking about solutions...
-MB

Anonymous said...

P.S wanted to add that probably would be too many 5th graders, but my point is there will be room at Whitman & possibly even at Eaglestaff. If alot of kids ask to remain at Whitman, would that open up enough space at Eaglestaff for some elementary kids?
-MB

Benjamin Leis said...

@Kellie - What's hypothetical capacity on the Decatur site? 13 rooms x 20-25 students easily reaches 275. Its been a while since I've been on that site so maybe I'm missing something.
Ben

Anonymous said...

Kellie, that seats are sitting empty at Decatur and that there aren't enough seats at the new Cascadia is a basic fact, not an urban legend. I didn't suggest that the Decatur building would offer any further solution for HCC.

Sleeper did a good job explaining what it's like now at Cascadia. It's not about space, in fact Lincoln feels spacious. It's numbers. It's not unusual for a grade to have seven classrooms. This feels temporary, like we're just squeezing in and making do until we can breathe again. But it's been like this for at least 3 years and will go on well into the forseeable future if it doesn't split. This is every day, every year for the kids in the program.

All that aside, I will agree the Decatur building is not ideal. It would be a small cohort, it would cause neighborhood congestion, it would grow too much too fast, coordinating recess would be challenging, and those NE kids could feel like they were getting a raw deal. But as was mentioned above, HCC families don't put their kids in the program for the floor tiles. It's for the access to a basic education, and it doesn't have to be in a pretty building. It doesn't have to be Decatur either, but that's one that's empty.

cascadia parent

Anonymous said...

@Ben

The 13 rooms would include classrooms for PCP (Art, etc...), resource room, Sped (i.e. ACCESS), etc...so there could probably be about 10 homerooms at Decatur. You could do 2 homerooms per grade level (since HCC doesn't have Kindergarten), but anything more than that would be a tight fit.

-North-end Mom

kellie said...

@ Ben,

I haven't been on the Decatur site, since the new construction was complete. So I don't know what the real-world-deployable capacity would be. My gut says about 200 is realistic, but still a bad plan for students.

That said, I do know what it looks like where there is a solution chasing a problem, rather than the other way around. The space that is left at Decatur is the last scrap of deployable space. I do know that the space there should be deployed in a way that both solves the capacity issues and does the craziest thing ever ... work in a way to support kids getting an education.

There are serious problems at Lincoln. My statement that HCC at Lincoln is the worst capacity condition district wide was unequivocal. The HCC kids deserve a solution that actually works and this one just doesn't provide any meaningful improvement over what is currently happening.

Swapping out a 1,000 student co-location inside Lincoln for a 1,000 student separate-but-equal campus is not in the best interest of any of those kids.

IMHO, the thing that is needed is a simple conversation about the facts about how bad the capacity shortfall is so that there is the slightest hope that the community can pull together for creative solutions. Whenever the conversation focused on shuffling-the-deck-chairs instead of procuring more chairs, everyone loses.

For 13 years now, I have been in the middle of every variation on the we-have-to-do-X-because-it-is-urgent-and-parents-just-are-NIMBY conversation. Every time we agree that it is OK to shove a group of kids into a substandard arrangement because it is an emergency, we all lose.


Anonymous said...

Correction- capacity at Eaglestaff site will be 1000 total. 850 middle school plus 150 for Licton Springs. So there will be room at both Whitman & Eaglestaff if enrollment projections are correct. If they did not move all the kids over to Eaglestaff from Whitman & instead added a 5th grade cohort to Eagelstaff, wonder if that could help with capacity. Eaglestaff is right next to Cascadia and many kids from Cascadia would eventually go to Eaglestaff.
-MB

Anonymous said...

Kellie, you said Decatur is the last bit of deployable space and that we should use it wisely. But also that a 1,000 student separate-but-equal campus is not in the best interest of anyone. The district has said from the beginning that they were going to "preserve the existing building on the Stephan Decatur School site to address projected elementary school enrollment in northeast Seattle." (TC BexIV page). It doesn't come at a surprise that they plan to fill it. I would be more surprised if they didn't fill it. There will be 1000 kids there whether it's TC plus HCC or TC plus someone else.

I don't see it as shoving a group of kids into a substandard arrangement like you do. HCC has to be nimble because of its delivery model. No qualified student is turned away and that means growing, shrinking and rolling with change. This current situation is not so much an emergency as it is unchecked growth, and this move out of the Lincoln building is a good time to check it. I'd like to see energies spent on selecting a good leader for the school and building the learning community.
CP

Anonymous said...

CP, how does placement of HC in the northeast check the growth of the program? What happens when they draw a boundary and 400 kids enroll?

HC2

Anonymous said...

HC2--or what happens when they announce the move to Decatur and half the NE HCC kids go back to their neighborhood schools? Not likely, but can you imagine the chaos?

HCC Advocate

Anonymous said...

HC2, it doesn't check the growth of the program, it checks the growth of the Lincoln cohort. And the 400 kid scenario could happen anywhere they put HCC. Growth is a fact of life for HCC, especially now that SPS is doing away with any sort of meaningful accommodation at neighborhood schools.
CP

Anonymous said...

kellie said...
Placing HCC in those areas is akin to pouring gasoline on top of a fire.

Has there ever been a school of this small size placed in such a student dense area for a program that guarantees seats to any student who qualifies?

Side questions would be, what is the smallest neighborhood elementary right now anyway? Are there splits at every grade level?

AS

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if SPS has shared what the split of middle school HCC kids will be next year that stay at Hamilton vs go to Eaglestaff? Will all the HCC middle school kids currently assigned to Hamilton go to Eaglestaff next year? Or will they split them between the two schools?

Jane

Lynn said...

Jane - That has not been announced.

Lynn said...

AS - Rainier View, Sand Point and Sanislo are all projected to be under 250 this year.

Benjamin Leis said...

@Kellie - Well I come at this from perspective of what's the least worst alternative. I welcome any creative thinking. But until something else is on the table I'm also realistic enough to recognize that the site does offer enough space for minimal viability and more head room that the WP space. Much of this depends on how much you believe the projections. But if you buy the current data the number of students has already exceeded what the site can reasonably contain. Current enrollment is 750 vs 590 or 650 depending on whether the classroom sizes are reduced. If it grows into the 800's you reach a breaking point which triggers late changes. I'd muc rather see an orderly process a year ahead of time than a mad rush in June or July as has occurred in the past when the logistics have become impossible.

Likewise I'm not sure if the real # of rooms is 13 or 15 as in the official doc. But I think my assumptions are conservative at 20-25 per room and let's say there are 200-250 desks. If I use your ratios and apply them to the alternative portables I see 120. I'm more generous and expect you'd pack them to at least 25 students which still only get's you 150 more spaces. What's more under worst case scenarios you might need both the seats at WP and the space at Decatur.

In sum, I'm not sold on this idea but its better than doing nothing. If a better proposal gets floated around my thinking will evolve.

Anonymous said...

Jane-- Regarding your question. "Will all the HCC middle school kids currently assigned to Hamilton go to Eaglestaff next year? Or will they split them between the two schools?" The district has said some of the HCC kids currently at HIMS will go to Eaglestaff. Those within the new Eaglestaff boundary. In addition was told those from Whitman service area. But that is a big group. However, a district rep also said no one program will be a majority at Eaglestaff as school is intended to be comprehensive. They want to keep HCC on the smaller side at Eaglestaff. Looking at the enrollment projection report, not sure if they will have much choice. HCC students will likely make up almost half kids at Eaglestaff. The rest are expected to stay at HIMS (which will still be full when Eaglestaff opens) & there will be a sizeable amount there as well.
-Maria

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, I'm fairly certain it's at least 15. 13 in the main building, plus 2 or 3 in the annex connected by an exterior hallway. And the other annex that housed the art room, tutoring, instrumental music and Kids Time is still there too.

TC

Anonymous said...

You have supply and demand. If we reduce the supply of HCC qualified kids by raising the bar for entry (top 1-2% for example) and make the SPS program more comparable to Bellevue's, we can solve part of the capacity problem and manage the anticipated number of qualified students. Parents heavily invested in identifying their kids as G and T won't like it, but it is a part of the capacity equation that is frequently pushed aside. - CapHill Parent

Anonymous said...

How much space st Sandpoint? If it's under enrolled as a neighborhood school, they should turn it into an option school (STEM or Language immersion) to take some pressure off of Bryant, Laurelhurst, Wedgewood, and Viewridge. It would fill up in a second.

Total Chaos

Lynn said...

CapHillParent,

We identify highly capable students because their educational needs can't be met by our general education program. Their needs don't change because our capacity planning team can't figure out where they should be served. This is equivalent to putting a limit on the number of students who are identified as English Language Learners for the sake of convenience.

Lynn said...

Sand Point's capacity with current class sizes is 298 and is reduced to 255 under the 2017-18 class size rules.

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Capital%20Projects%20and%20Planning/Capacity/task_force_meetings/School%20Space%20and%20Capacity%20V3.pdf

Anonymous said...

Capital hill parent--Bryant has an ALO program that doesn't meet the needs of many AL students (unless they have parents tutoring on the side) and they need the space, so they encourage kids to move to the HCC. I think something like 1/3 of Bryant students go to HCC by 5th grade. If they stayed, Bryant would need to build higher or take over the church across the street.

Hopeful

Anonymous said...

Data,data,data.
Where is it?
How do students really do when they join the cohort?
Does it work?
It seems we have no information, but we do.
Why won't staff release some numbers?
How can the board make policy without data?

Tesla

kellie said...

@ Benjamin,

I understand your "reasonable" approach and I mostly agree. The vast majority of people try to be as reasonable as possible about this conversation.

However, I have been at this a long time and the sad thing that I have learned is that when we stop the bigger conversation and we start squabbling over deploying the scraps of resources, in ways that are not about education, everyone loses.

The real problem is that we have a system that is running way over capacity and a district that is unwilling to admit the size and scope of the problem and ask for help from the City, State and Community. The constant focus on how to put out this fire and that fire has kept the big conversation about what are doing as a City and a community at bay.

The bottom line is that we need more property, more buildings, and more capacity in every part of the system. We need more

* elementary capacity
* middle school capacity
* high school capacity
* sped capacity
* ell capacity
* hcc capacity

and on and on ...

The entire system is log jammed. And what has happened is that overtime we accept a scenario because it is desperate and we have to "do something" that something becomes the new-normal.

I have lost count of the number of times, the Seattle Delegation or the City of Seattle or a philanthropic group offered support on capacity and SPS said NO THANKS, WE HAVE IT HANDLED.

That's right, SPS was offered support for NEW property and / or NEW Buildings and SPS said NO.

The line has to be held somewhere. it is a BOTH / AND problem, HCC needs space AND we need to stop agreeing to bad solutions, because people are unwilling to admit how bad the problem really is.

1,000 kids on one campus is a bad solution. Kids in a building was once condemned is a bad solution.

I just refuse to pretend that bad solutions are OK. They may be necessary and they may happen but that doesn't make it right.

kellie said...

There is one more capacity management basic that I refuse to ignore.

"Sharing" is an advanced skill and "Sharing" is IN-efficient. Inefficient is distinct from not efficient. Not efficient implies that something can be done to make it more efficient. Some that is inefficient is something that needs to be done intentionally.

When you have a system that is running over 100% capacity, efficiency does matter. When you co-locate two programs, where BOTH programs have GUARANTEED enrollment, then you need to have extra capacity to manage the in-efficiency of this.

Schools systems are considered to be at 100% capacity when they are are 95%, because of the inefficiency of that system. In other words since students do not come in perfectly sized packages, best practices dictate that 95% is the MOST efficient you can get out of your physical capacity.

When you co-house two programs, that number drops down to 90% because both programs are bringing their own in-effiencies and then there is the inefficiency of the two put together.

Co-housing HCC with General Education may or may not be educationally sound. I have no opinion on that one way or another. However, co-housing two populations is in-efficient and that has not been part of this conversation at all!

Anonymous said...

Before Sandpoint closed many years ago, the neighborhoods adjacent to the south (Windermere, Belvedere Terrace, parts of Laurelhurst) all attended SP. Now why do all those neighborhoods crowd into Laurelhurst? Because now there is low income housing at Magnussen...

So there's a portion of the capacity problem that doesn't need to exist. Draw a new line further south. The affluent neighbors will either go to SP, or go private, alleviating a bit of capacity pressure on Laurelhurst.

open ears

Anonymous said...

Wait, I thought we heard last year a significant portion of Laurelhurst is assigned from out of area to the SPED program there. Enrollment looks pretty steady (frl rate is up to 23% though, from 11% in 2013, 8% in 2011), so if that is true neighborhood enrollment is down, and sps is back filling with sped. It doesn't look to me like the sped percentage has increased, though. Is that not what has happened? Some change is rapidly diversifying that school already, anyhow. If we are looking for nearby schools with disparate frl rates to spend, it's Bryant(5%) and VR(9%), though. Both full but could have some area swapped maybe.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Spend is supposed to be "SPE." Disparate frl rates to sand point elementary.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Don't forget TC, which has very low diversity for an option school.

Hopeful

Anonymous said...

Basically every option school has low diversity for its area. QAE is about 7% too, I think Hazel Wolf is about 20% now, and its draw is much higher. I think that is a separate kind of problem.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I'm confused by this. If it's an option school, "it" or "they" can cap enrollment, review who has applied, and jigger diversity. Shouldn't "they" be shooting for a goal or standard?

Mix ItUp

Anonymous said...

@sleeper, I think the new boundary lines for Bryant will potentially pull in some diversity from the University, Roosevelt, Greenlake areas, assuming the new developments include more affordable housing.

Mix Itup

Anonymous said...

Right now it is straight lottery, and a good example of how even a barrier like getting a choice form in homogenized a school. I think sps should set aside seats for frl families- maybe the same percentage as the draw area.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I agree. There is no reason TC should have such pathetic diversity numbers.

Mix Itup

Anonymous said...

Diversity and FRL numbers used to be less "pathetic" at TC until the district stopped providing buses to students not in the Eckstein feeder zone.

TC old timer

Anonymous said...

That explains a lot.

Mix Itup

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not aware of any diversity goals or standards for any schools or programs. However, when there's a program within a school and that program's demographics sharply contrast with the rest of the school, the school staff and the District respond.

So no one is concerned about the demographics of Montessori, until the demographics of Montessori at Graham Hill are sharply different from the neighborhood program. Same for HCC at Thurgood Marshall and Spectrum at Washington. Only when the program is co-housed with another program with different demographics does anyone feel moved to action.

Lynn said...

Also Montessori at Leschi.