Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tonight's Board Meeting: Waitlists and Ethnic Studies

On the Work Session on the Budget and Waitlists, here's the presentation.  The waitlist section starts on page 14.

Staff is insisting:
Waitlist moves are predicated on staffing, not just space capacity.
That may be true in internal practice.

Long standing actual process/practice is that both physical space and staffing determines the number of waitlist moves at a school. 
I sure wish former head of Enrollment, Tracy Libros, was here to verify that because that may be true internally but that was never transmitted to parents.  What WAS very clearly stated - over and over and over for decades - said is that the district's biggest commitment to families was to keep sibs together.  That I know for a fact.  It was not a guarantee but it was stated in that manner repeatedly by superintendents, staff and boards.

As well, for something as key as waitlists, then it should be clearly stated in the procedure that follows the policy.  It is not.  And, it also isn't clearly stated in the current Enrollment plan.
They list four issues:

  • Is there capacity within the WSS staffing allocation?
  • Is there physical room to add another teacher/class? 
  • Would it create more split classes? Overage costs? 
  • Would it negatively impact/deplete other schools? 
I believe the key issue here is the last one - hurting other schools.  
My stance is that when you have a growing city and a growing district, you should fill schools when there is space.  I believe it makes more sense to run more full schools, than to have more under-enrolled ones by artificial means.
Because the issue that seems to be ignored is why, if most schools are full, are there a few that continue to shrink?  That points to issues at schools that the district needs to figure out and address.  I don't believe there should be any truly underenrolled schools, given the growth in the city/district.
One thing that would truly help enrollment is to fully fund and support programs that the district has placed into schools.  One example is the IB program at Rainier Beach High School
And, you will hurt one school over another, no matter what you do.  I believe by not moving the waitlists - at least for families with the sib issue - the district hurts its relationship with families.  I'm not sure it's worth it.
Staff also pulls this card again:
Student Assignment Plan says “capacity”. That has been interpreted by our families are only referring to physical space. 
Opportunities for Improvement: 



  • What schools should have a waitlist (i.e. only those not already over physical space capacity), refine list of schools/grades
  • Clarify what “capacity” means
  • Clarify timeline for decisions 
There are smart staff at JSCEE and they know that clarity in enrollment practices is absolutely necessary.  And yet here we are again with the "we need to clarify."  No, what staff needs to do is to quit making up new reasons why they have changed past practices and understandings.  They know better than this and the Board should let them know that. 

They set forth two options and, of course, they prefer the one with fewer waitlist moves which is Option 1.

Take a look at those waitlists (see page 33).  There's some weirdness there with Option 1.  Queen Anne Elementary and Coe underenrolled?   Hazel Wolf is underenrolled?  Ballard has no waitlist left? Roosevelt? Garfield? And Cleveland looks very underenrolled (that building has to be able to hold at least 900) and they have a waitlist of 35? That's not going to grow a STEM program.  And Washington Middle, under both plans, would leave a 94 student waitlist?

Regarding ethnic studies, there is a Board resolution on the agenda tonight to include ethnics studies in the curriculum.  Of course, there is no money attached nor is there an explanation about how it would be incorporated (but clearly should be included across all subjects).

From Soup for Teachers' Facebook page:
Advocating for ethnic studies at this Wednesday's school board meeting would be some life-changing soup. Here is a concrete action to fight institutional racism in a district with intolerable racial disparities: advocate for mandatory ethnic studies! 

This movement for ethnic studies, specifically the NAACP ethnic studies resolution, has been endorsed by Nikkita Oliver, Robin DiAngelo, Kimya Dawson, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Jamil Sulelman, Liza Rankin and many more. (See the full list of endorsers here: http://www.seattlekingcountynaacp.org)
I believe there is to be a rally at 5 pm in front of JSCEE in support of this effort. 

Here's an op-ed from the South Seattle Emerald. 
What is ethnic studies? As Tracy Gill, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Denny International Middle School, states, “Ethnic studies is reversing the idea of white as the default race.”

Emerging out of the civil rights movement and the concerns of students of Color on college campuses, ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the identities, history, oppression, perseverance, and struggle for equality and power of marginalized cultures and gender identities in the United States.
These courses undeniably benefit students of Color – benefits recently confirmed by the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Researchers were “shocked” by how effectively ethnic studies served struggling students in San Francisco, a district predominately composed of students of Color. Attendance, GPA, and credits earned all increased. 
White Americans have had their turn playing the curricular protagonists. Their turn has lasted centuries and it’s time for others to take a turn. That’s a lesson so basic that little children learn it on a playground swing set.
It's a very good op-ed even if I question how the authors know this:
The fact is, too many white parents do not talk with their children about race, even when the assault of police killings of people of Color provide an overwhelming amount of opportunities to do so.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reposting link to the June 19th enrollment projection document presumably without any waitlist moves in or out. I am wondering why the numbers are so different between June 19th and report presented at work session today above link for some high schools (ex Ballard 1900 versus 1818 etc)? Anyone know?

https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Enrollment%20Planning/Projections/2017-18%20School%20Enrollment%20Projections.pdf
-K

Sharon McConnell said...

I don't agree that the District should let students move through the Choice system without regard to the impact it has on the school they are leaving. The last two years of data show that Stevens families have rejected the boundary change from several years ago. In 2014-15, 99 students from the Madrona boundary went to Stevens. Last year it was still at 83. Last year we had 212 students at Madrona, so the families who didn't come to Madrona made up 1/3 of the school. That ends up sucking a lot of resources from Madrona. The District is trying to enforce the boundary change by not moving the wait list, rather than letting these families pretend it did not happen. Yes, people get involved and attached to a school and change is hard. But this change is necessary. It is one of the only tools the District has to equalize enrollment.
As for the argument saying that people must not want to go to a school because there is something wrong with it, people make these decisions almost entirely without ever attending the school they are rejecting. School choice is often made based on assumptions about schools, anxiety about what school is "best." I feel like the Choice system only reinforces the anxiety with the assumption that neighborhood schools are not good enough and you have to do everything you can to get to the "best"- read wealthiest, whitest, highest test scores, the school with the special program to make people feel like they are getting the "special program." It's nuts. If we actually believe in equity, we need to stop obsessing about grabbing all we can for our individual kids and look at the impact it has on the people around us.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sharon, you keep saying that somehow something is "wrong" with schools not fully enrolled. I don't know if that's the word but there is something that parents are not liking about a school that keeps them consistently underenrolled. Trying to avoid that by pushing families in means that a situation is being ignored. That serves no one.

I would be okay with only moving the waitlist for sibs as that is the key issue in this situation. Everyone else can make the choice of going to their assignment school or making some other choice. But not splitting sibs has always been the highest priority and now I have to wonder why it isn't.

This is an apples and oranges issue. Apples=the district's very long-term commitment to keeping sibs together. Oranges= people going to their assigned school.

Anonymous said...

@ Sharon McConnell, so in your mind should we have no choice at all, or should only people choosing to leave a popular school get to leave (while those at an unpopular school are stuck)? Should people have any input into finding the school they think is best for their students?

pro-choice

Anonymous said...

If the district is going to offer a choice program, they need to honor it. That means allowing students to go to their choice schools as long as there is PHYSICAL space, then allocating teachers where needed. Yeah, there totally is some misunderstanding of how SPS uses the word "capacity" because that's what happens when you try to create a brand new meaning for a word when everyone already knows the real definition. This practice of assigning staff without regard to the actual number of students the school can hold is stupid. If there are under-enrolled schools, the district should support those schools to fix whatever problems there are that are making them lose students. OR just don't provide choice at all, and work to make real services available at every school. But SPS staff should definitely stop lying to parents about choice being available when it absolutely is not. And now we see the added SPS controlling factor of not wanting to create split classes. Give me a break. Talk to families who are going to be forced to have two kids at two different schools and ask them how much they would care about having a split class if it meant two kids at the same school. SPS needs employees with families in the district who can understand the real struggles of real families, or at least board directors who can see beyond their own special interests and respond to the needs and rights of all families.

No Choice

Sharon McConnell said...

Melissa- I am responding to your comment that if a school is under enrolled, there must be something wrong with it that the District must correct. From your post above: "Because the issue that seems to be ignored is why, if most schools are full, are there a few that continue to shrink? That points to issues at schools that the district needs to figure out and address." I'm saying that people avoid schools without ever attending them, based on old reputations (in the case of Madrona) and anecdotes that float around. I am speaking from experience. I was unreasonably afraid of Madrona and I talked to a lot of people who supported that fear- people who never sent their kids to Madrona. I had my daughter on the Montlake wait list, thinking it was better. I was wrong. I learned that many of my assumptions were based on veiled, unconscious racism and classism. I continue to learn that the Choice system encourages people to make decisions based on these unfortunate feelings, perpetuating segregation and disparity among schools.
To the anonymous poster above- I don't think we should have an open Choice system, no. I think if you have an actual problem at your neighborhood school, you should be able to move, but it should be based on something reasonable. I think all of our schools would be stronger if people committed to their neighborhood school.

Anonymous said...

“Ethnic studies is reversing the idea of white as the default race.” Is that really what's being taught in our schools now? My student learned all about indigenous people of the PNW in elementary school, and in middle school their history text was Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." I don't think my child was left with the opinion--at all--that white is the default race. If anything, my child developed negative impressions about white people through history.

But what really bothers me are statements like this: "White Americans have had their turn playing the curricular protagonists." Really? I don't recall ever taking a turn. I don't recall my kids taking a turn either. It's one thing to say "curricula have typically been developed by whites and have highlighted the white perspective and largely ignored those of other groups," but it's another thing to blame all White Americans for that. Why stoke the flames even more?

As for the ethnic studies resolution, it should be noted that the SF study that showed those surprising benefits targeted low-performing students (GPA 2.0 or lower), and most were minorities. The course was required for low-GPA students, optional for others. Requiring everyone to take such a course would not have the same effect. It would still be valuable to integrate aspects of ethnic studies into education for everyone, but it's important to understand how our approach would be different. We also need to keep in mind that the new core 24 requirements really don't allow for a "new" requirement to be added, so incorporation of ethnic studies into other classes, and/or making it an elective, is a better option.

tired

Anonymous said...

We spent years hashing out the New Student Assignment Plan. Trying to balance walk zones, bus corridors, option schools, feeder patterns, access to unique programs like Ballard's Biotech or Ingraham's IB or Franklin's Mock Trial. There were competing priorities for many families. One concern was maintaining some way for students to have a chance to access programs not available at their assignment school. Another concern was to reserve some space for students who might add to the economic diversity of a school. The solution that was agreed to was to set aside 10% of seats for choice students from outside of the assignment area. As schools became overcrowded, that was harder to do. However, where there is space available I think the district needs to fulfill that policy. It was part of a hard fought compromise with solid reasons for it.


As far as keeping siblings together through boundary changes, that was always the priority. To force families to deal with 2 schools, when there is physical space to keep them together is really outrageous. We know that students largely sink or swim in this district based on their family support. I can't believe the district has decided that is not a priority.

The main reason given for abandoning the choice system for the NSAP was to provide predictability for families. What happened to that? This certainly isn't it. At this point families can't even be assured their kids won't be moved year to year.

I'm so tired of staff changing priorities & policies & making decisions with no transparency, breaking promises, secretly replacing policies. Alienating families is not going to help the district or the students. If staff wants policy changes, they have to do it openly with community meetings & board debate, and if they are smart, they would work to get community buy in.

Where is Charlie's list of broken promises? Must be pretty long now.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with No Choice and disagree with Sharon who makes a LOT of assumptions about why families choose different schools. In our case we entered the rollercoaster that is the SPS in 2004 when there was still bona-fide school choice. Although it was still a situation in which you had priority at your neighborhood school and choice was available based on availability in your quadrant (meaning NE, NW, SW, SE) and less likely outside of your quadrant. We chose a school in our quadrant but not our most immediate neighborhood school. We made that choice (after touring all the schools in our quadrant) based on the math program they offered which was different from the district curriculum. It was great - BUT our 6 neighbors did not swarm to the same school. They each went (believe it or not) to a different elementary school and in each case the choice was made on what was the best fit for their kids and work schedules. It was not a matter of choosing good or bad schools. Parents nowadays have a LOT to consider - especially if both parents work. This isn't 1955. In our case it would have been much better for us to be in a school near work rather than home but this is not accommodated in the district which appears to still operate as if all mom's are home baking cookies all day.

A few years later, the district made a move toward neighborhood schools and also made a serious effort to homogenize all the schools - so that kids could go to any school in the district and experience a seamless curriculum. I don't really know how well that worked but the idea was that there was supposed to be no more school choice. My empirical experience was that this seemed to eliminate a lot of teacher initiative to establish unique educational opportunities. It also seemed to have a bad effect on teacher morale just observing as a parent from the outside. The district wanted to be able to move both kids and teachers around interchangeably. This is what we were told at PTA meetings and it was one reason (seemingly) that Spectrum was eliminated. The district managed to institute this policy in a manner that most strongly inconvenienced families and belittled teachers - IMO. There was no grandfathering in, little attempt to keep families together etc etc. And, the greatest irony at all - when they eliminated choice, they didn't eliminate choice! They just made it less transparent - in a manner that allows them to ham-fistedly maneuver capacity (again, my opinion).

So to conclude, I thought school choice was a bad idea when we entered the district but found, with experience, it made for an nice way to choose the best fit for your kid and work and transportation schedule. And it seemed to encourage teachers. parents and PTAs to try novel educational programs without having to use the charter school format. One problem was that choice favors families with transportation because transportation was not offered for families choosing to go out of their neighborhood school. For possibly this reason and others, the district decided to "eliminate" choice. And true to their exquisite talent for this, they have managed, through capriciousness and lack of transparency, to do it in a way that mades it a worse case scenario for the greatest number of families.

Exhausted

kellie said...

@ Sharon,

There is a flaw in your data and assumptions. The majority of the 99 Madrona students at Stevens were originally Stevens students at Stevens.

When the boundary was re-drawn, Stevens was drawn intentionally too small as it was both over-crowded and it was presumed the continuing to enroll siblings would keep Stevens full.

At this point, it is just a plain mess. If all of those students were moved to Madrona, Madrona would then be too-full and Stevens would be so empty, it would no longer make sense to keep the school open.



Anonymous said...

One last thing - when the district "eliminated" choice while we were in elementary school, they did not remove kids from their school that they were already attending. Although they did split families. That has changed in that you can now be moved, pretty quickly, without warning (we have been). So, nice touch SPS.

Exhausted

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sharon, again, you are using the word "wrong," not me. I find that word distressing but clearly, you want to paint underenrolled schools with that tag.

It is unreasonable to want your children to all be in the same elementary? I disagreed and I plan on tell the Board that tonight.

I note that at tonight's Board meeting there is one whole sheet about the Stevens waitlist issue which I find quite odd.

Sharon McConnell said...

I agree Kelli- I made an unreasonable leap there. Looking at the data, we don't have the details on those numbers. Sorry.
Madrona would not be too full if everyone in its boundary went there. Their data from last year puts the number in the boundary at 381. The District has put us at times at 352 as full capacity and 565, with the middle school. So we have plenty of classrooms. They seem to be artificially keeping the capacity low, maybe so they can use the space for something else.
The District is not removing students from Stevens, as far as I understand. There is one family that moved into the Madrona boundary and the District is moving them, as is their policy, however arbitrarily enforced.
I get that it's nice to be able to choose. It's one way to look at it that it creates incentive to be innovative. Or you could see it as schools feeling the need to create programs to attract parents and compete with other schools. Maybe some see that as a good thing. But I see it as a huge distraction from educating all kids. It creates incentive to pander to wealthy, usually white parents. It pulls resources away from schools that don't have special programs. It reinforces economic and racial disparity. Montlake PTSA just gave its school a grant of $284,000. How can we look at that and say there isn't an egregious disparity among our schools?

Sharon McConnell said...

Melissa-
You're being a bit disingenuous.
I don't think it's wrong to want your kids to go to the same school. It's not a great choice- send your older kid to the new school or have two different schools. I'm sure the Board will offer some compromise. They find it hard to resist loud white parents. And Stevens parents have been working hard to get their siblings in. My point is that the Choice system is not a good system, it is a risk to Choice in one kid and try to get the second kid in. We have a bunch of parents having the same problem at Madrona. The Choice system does not create an entitlement, but may perceive it as one.

Anonymous said...

To the commenter(s) discussing Madrona school:

Happy you are happy there. Perplexed why you have such anger at people you don't know, never met, yet ardently feel confident to condemn as being racist for not coming to your school.

There seems to be an explicit damnation of other families who are not choosing Madrona. You ascribe a motive to their 'avoiding' Madrona: that they are either ignorant of how wonderful Madrona is, or, they are racists. Either stupid or evil. Perhaps you can see why you are not really connecting with people in your neighborhood who's children do not attend Madrona?

Really: Seattle is full of racist parents? Not my experience. We Seattleites, for example, vote for every tax levy for social programs such as housing, for a higher minimum wage, for preschool levy, for school levies, etc. I find Seattle to be very pro-inclusion and ardently ANTI-racist and ANTI-racism/homophobia/Islamaphobia etc. Seattle is pretty good and working earnestly on getting better with open discussions of privilege and institutional racism. The first screen for books considered for our children's classrooms, for example, is that they are free from bias, stereotypes and negative stereotypes, and promote inclusive values from the text to the graphics. And, per the SPS surveys, all parents agreed with that screen. So, I am not really getting where you are coming from in your assertions that the thing that drives parents in their choice is their racism (as opposed to a positive factor such as a unique program or keeping siblings together).

I wonder if passion is blinding you to other factors that drive parents' decisions, e.g., that those parents decide on the basis of academics which is based on which building has better student test scores? For the last year of data, of the 7 available measures, Stevens had higher scores for ELA and Sci and Math except for for 4th grade math (essentially 2 of the 3 math scores a tie). And, more than having the better scores, Madrona's scores were below all 7 state-wide average in each category. So, if a parent had to choose between a building with below State averages AND below the neighboring school (with the exception of the one grade math score), what do you think most Seattleite parents would choose? Seattle, home to the above-average educated population?

Test scores may not matter to you (or maybe they do -- I don't know), they may not be a priority for many, but please do not discount it as being a priority factor for others. Yes, test scores are not 'everything', clearly, but, they are important. They are what drive our district and our federal government to label some school communities as 'failing'.

Anyway, glad you love your child/children's school. That is wonderful. Every parent should feel the pride and joy of being connected to a wonderful community.

no judgment

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sharon, I'll be blunt. You seem to want to make this about race when you cannot possibly know all parents' reasons for their school choices. And to bring in PTA money from yet a third school seems like quite the red herring. The district cannot do anything about PTA funds except to say no PTA money for staffing.

You have parents at Madrona that can't get their sibling in there? I had not heard this before. And the Board will have a "compromise" - like what?

I cannot say how racist any district's parents are. But No Judgment is sure right about all the money voted in to support our district. That is NOT the case in many local districts or even in other states.

Anonymous said...

March 12 thread on ethnic studies:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2017/03/ethnic-studies-in-seattle-schools.html

In the comments:

...By the way, my student had Jon Greenberg that year he was at Hamilton. His LA/SS class was very focused on race and gender and social justice, to the point that my student and their friends were sick of it. They hated the constant preaching and perceived self-righteousness, and thought he pushed his point way too hard. Maybe he was used to working with students who require a lot of repetition, or maybe students who don't think about the world as deeply or something, I don't know. In any case, he turned many of them off, and made my own kid resentful. There's a fine balance between teaching and preaching...

Another commenter:

...I think this agenda is already being informally pursued in SPS. My Hamilton kid came home from school the other day and asked me "Why are white people so bad?". When I probed a bit to understand where this was coming from, I found out that one of the kid's teachers is well known for ranting about white Christians being responsible for the majority of the worlds' problems.

Anonymous said...

@Sharon, @Melissa

Ugh!


Sharon said: "My point is that the Choice system is not a good system..."

Ms. McConnell, you truly are missing the point.


The WHOLE system IS a CHOICE system, whether you like it or not. Whether you think it is fair or not. Whether it is fair or not, or just, or good. It just IS.



But line: parents are the ones in control of their children's fate, not the school district. Parents are the ones who choose. If the district purveys schools parents don't like, they will exit. THEY WILL EXIT. They bolt. We know this. We know this because this experiment has been run before, and, when the district dictated to parents where they kids will go, the parents took their kids out. To Catholic schools, to Bellevue, etc. Kids didn't disappear, they just got displaced, in droves, to the suburbs. To this day, parents in the north of Seattle go to Shoreline to lower F&RL schools rather than accept assignment to SPS Title 1 schools. It is not racism that drives them. It is achievement.

Keep going down this path, telling yourself that 'choice is no good', and you will blind yourself to the larger realities of how choice fundamentally operates. The fact is, it does operate. And, locking captives in a room is not sustainable. In contrast, attracting families to great schools IS not just sustainable, but highly successful for all concerned. A win-win-win.

Our kids were assigned just as the old school assignment plan ended. We could have been assigned to any one of 7 schools in the cluster (plus option schools if we tried for them). Two of the seven we didn't like; and of those two, one we would not accept. Period. So, while waiting for our assignment, our family had 5 contingency plans ready to go if that had been our assignment. 5. Our children would NOT be going to that school.

Choice exists. It always has, it always will. People move for great schools. Everyone knows that. Ask the realtors. The only answer is not to homogenize every school, but, to make sure every school is excellent. Really, truly excellent. And, when two neighborhood schools are beside each other, and, one has a 100% pass rate for 5th grade reading, and, the other has a 42% pass rate, it is easy to understand why parents, if they are able, we reject a placement in a failing school (NOT saying your children's school is failing!). What is inequitable is that with varying school quality, it is resourced parents who can exercise their choice. Which should give even more impetus to make sure ALL schools are excellent: excellent because they are just excellent, not because the district has been clever enough to force unwilling families into those buildings, crossing their fingers that somehow those unwilling families' attendance will magically make that school a great school. (How, by osmosis?)

Choice, exit, voice



Anonymous said...

Sharon, I understand where you're coming from, and on balance I agree. If there were fewer/no options, parents would be forced to support the school their children were assigned to, instead of feeling like they needed to jump through a number of exhausting (or even illegal) hoops to get their kids into a "better" school. They might pour their time and energy into their neighborhood school, benefiting all the kids who go there. They might demand high standards for all the kids at their neighborhood school, fundraise more money, fight for the libraries and counselors and teachers at THEIR school, and stop wasting their energy on exploring other options.

Or not.

Look, there are always going to be some schools that are strong and some that are just not. Some of these floundering schools are in poorer, more ethnically diverse areas. Some are in blindingly white neighborhoods. Some of these schools have a hard time getting the parents and larger community involved in volunteering and other types of support. Some have a stable of smart, driven volunteers who often feel like their efforts are not welcome, and are at their wits' end trying to figure out how to help create a stronger learning environment.

No matter what happens - choice or no choice - disgruntled parents with means who find their kids at one of these struggling schools will move their kids out of it, into another public school, a different district, or a private school. Do you believe that limiting or ending choice at SPS will keep these parents in place? Do you believe that limiting or ending choice will lead to integration, based on how segregated most Seattle neighborhoods tend to be? What do you honestly - realistically - think would happen if SPS stopped playing games with choice and just ended the practice altogether? As much as I'd prefer blunt candor from the district over all the ridiculous hand-waving and machinations that we have become used to, I'm not sure cutting choice out entirely would solve much.

Flummoxed

Anonymous said...

"It is not racism that drives them. It is achievement.

For many that is the case. Others want to keep siblings together. Over and over and over parents state there reasons again and again on this blog..yet some (including Blanford) still assert the same old mantra. These folks cannot see beyond their own agenda. In their denial, they are indirectly calling these parents liars, as well as racists. How insulting.

Should some guess why Blanford chooses to not send his own kid to his reference school? Is it the high F & R lunch, low achievement scores or high special ed population at his reference school?
-HL

kellie said...

@ Sharon,

Thank you for adding to this conversation. I concur that Madrona is a tough spot. Truncating the middle school, opened six elementary classrooms at Madrona and now the school is going to be under pressure to fill those. Prior to this truncation, all of the classrooms were being utilized at Madrona.

There is a mythology that the choice system is the problem. Frankly, there are plenty of problems.

If we step back a few years, when the boundary changes were made, the enrollment projections were substantially higher than they are now. This indicates that over 500 students are not enrolled in this area that had been projected to be there. Had these students enrolled, all of the schools would be full and there would be plenty of enrollment for everyone.

These students and families have gone somewhere. Choice is a very delicate balancing act and clearly is not perfect. However, it is a way to keep families in the system and total enrollment has a huge impact on everyone's experience.

Anonymous said...

Stepping back on the Madrona situation, I believe that if you looked at all of the eligible students within the service area (including private) the total opt out rate from Madrona would be >60%. An objective statement of fact would be: there is a misalignment between what the school is offering and what parents in the attendance area are looking for.

A more systematic and objective way to address this issue (versus, for example, just saying that based on anecdotes, that the parents are racist) would be to survey parents across the area and understand what are the major areas of misalignment - for example, enrichment, unique curriculum, advanced learning. The school could then assess potential changes, including the equity impact of those changes (and the positive equity impact of adding these families to the school). Future enrollment numbers would be more believable if they were attached to a process like this that attempted to understand parent desires and had some intent associated with them. A meaningful CSIP would contemplate all of these things.

A more systematic way of preventing these kinds of situations from happening would be a better framework for assessing the health of a school. The current school reports are effectively useless. These can be redone to provide better data (such as opt out rates, student growth etc) to help identify "healthy" and "unhealthy" schools. And furthermore, it would be beneficial for the district to have a transparent process (perhaps led by the ED's) to identify and address unhealthy schools - by engaging with the (whole) community, re-assessing needs and putting together a multi-year plan.

We are a city of incredibly intelligent people - curing cancer, re-engineering the global IT market, re-inventing retail. But when it comes to our schools, rather than dig deep into the specifics and detail, it just becomes a very superficial discussion about race and equity. One reason I believe that exists is because while people have bought into the concept of equity, our school district has done a less than compelling job of describing specifically what that is and what creates it. Having a Title 1 school in the midst of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America doesn't seem to be equity.

Thingy

Anonymous said...

Thingy-- Please consider running for school board. You laid out a great framework and have great ideas that make complete sense. SPS needs to better engage the families that live in the neighborhood to attend neighborhood schools.
-J

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thingy, bravo!

Anonymous said...

My personal experience has been that schools did not establish unique programs to attract rich white parents. Mainly, principals wanted their schools fully enrolled because this was during the days when the district was shuttering schools based on their erroneous projections and if your school was not fully enrolled you'd be on the chopping block. When school choice was available, we found that principals (the good ones) took a look at their school and pinpointed deficiencies unique to their school and established programs to address them. For example, at our school kids tested low on writing. So the school established a writing program and students improved in this area. Our school was also a magnet school for autistic kids. The school had programs in place and teachers with specialized training designed to specifically assist these kids. All the other kids benefitted as well as each child spent some time working with, reading to, and interacting with the special ed kids. When the district set out to homogenize the schools - my impression is that a lot of these programs were discarded because there was no incentive and no professional reward to continuing them. Furthermore, rapid principal transfers made it very difficult for principals to advocate for their schools. In fact, the district seemed to become actively hostile toward professional initiative.

Exhausted

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