Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Two Major Items of Note

First up, a joint resolution/BAR from four Board members - Harris, Burke, Pinkham, and Peters - in support of the district being included in the EIS the City will submit to the feds about the usage of the Fort Lawton property in the Magnolia area. 

Seattle Public Schools desires to collaborate with the City for addition to the EIS, considering interim and future use of a portion of that land and in conjunction with potential existing plans for low-income housing. 

This process represents the largest piece of land in the city and the county being de- accessioned by the U.S. Government. SPS has a capacity crisis and is need of future school sites for the next 20 years and beyond. Further, the site could be used in the interim prior to the need and funding guarantees for a school, e.g., future BEX levies, for maintenance facilities, athletic field(s), environmental science classroom/field trip destination, and/or a learning center to collaborate with Daybreak Star Cultural Center, or other uses. 


Asking to be part of the EIS Process keeps SPS options open and is an opportunity for City/SPS Collaboration. Should the EIS process conclude SPS use is not viable or appropriate, or if the required guaranteed funding source for interim use or school building cannot be identified at time of federal property grant application, SPS can withdraw its request for this important scarce land. Note, this is not the same process that was used for the Federal Reserve Building in 2014.
Hallelujah! 

This is absolutely the right thing to do.  It does not commit the district to anything but allows it to explore and partner with the City over possible uses of the land regarding students in Seattle Schools.  I really don't know why the district has been dragging its feet but this is - as the Superintendent himself has said - the opportunity of a lifetime.

The other big issue - new to me but has been simmering - are changes that have been happening at Concord International School over in West Seattle.  There is a meeting tonight to talk about those changes, most of which have happened with no notice to parents. The meeting is at the South Park Neighborhood Center tonight, starting at 6 pm. (8201 10th Ave. S.)  I know that Director Harris, who represents that region, will be in attendance.

PTA co-president Robin Schwartz says parents are concerned about what they’re hearing from their kids, and have myriad concerns and want answers from the district. That’s what they are hoping will happen at next Tuesday’s meeting, to which they invite not only their fellow Concord parents but anyone else interested in the dual-language program.
From the West Seattle Blog:
Among those concerns: Reading and writing are being taught primarily in English. And Concord’s kindergarten has only one dual-language classroom this year.

At a briefing for families last week at Concord, longtime principal Dr. Norma Zavala explained the program’s status but didn’t take Q&A, saying that would be at a later meeting.
Oh, so changes did happen but no one thought to tell the parents until they asked.  A program that is school-wide?
She noted overall changes including that Concord has a STEAM curriculum now – science, technology, engineering, art, math, and that while the school’s students were 93 percent qualified for free/reduced-price lunch when she started almost a decade ago, that is down to 75 percent.

Kindergarten enrollment for Concord wasn’t enough for two dual-language classrooms, the principal said, so they have one dual and one “traditional” as the result of a decision that had to be made around kindergarten “jump start” time in August. 
I'm not sure I understand why, if there are two kindergartens, that there couldn't be two dual-language ones.

Regarding the dual-language instruction, she said both Concord and Beacon Hill, another of the district’s five elementaries with dual-language immersion, have a “shift” happening:
Students (native/heritage Spanish and English speakers) will learn to read and write in both English and Spanish from kindergarten. Formal, balanced literacy instruction will happen in English. Literacy in Spanish will be taught through small group instruction and through the content areas (e.g. math, social studies, science). The plan, she said, “supports increasing bilingualism of incoming students” – that’s another change, that students who used to start as native Spanish speakers “are now coming in bilingual.”
Overall, many areas in K-3rd are “50/50 Spanish-English,” while in 4th and 5th, there’s more English. Dr. Zavala said that in visiting classrooms previously, 4th and 5th graders “were not engaged … were not talking in Spanish.” But they will still be eligible for middle-school Spanish studies and “the Seal of Biliteracy” in high school. 
One commenter at the West Seattle blog had this to say:
The reason why the school closed down its dual language program is because Concord has not made growth for the past few years. Concord IS the lowest performing school in the area (see link below).  As a result, the school is now under a performance plan. This was a state decision to remove the dual language program, not a district or administrative move. Remember that this dual language model was originally implemented to help native Spanish speakers increase their academic skills with home language support.
 
Over the years, the program became all about the English-speaking families learning Spanish as an “extension activity,” which corrupted the whole dual language model. This mindset hurt the neighborhood children, whom the program was originally designed for. Furthermore, recent bad decisions has been made (including departmentalizing class subjects.) This negatively affected student performances even more. What Concord needs to focus on now is solely improving instructions for all students and not adhere to the whims of a few vocal minority.
I had not actually thought we had different types of dual language models.  I also didn't know the State could decide to close a program based on academic performance.   I'll query the district about this issue.

9 comments:

NE Parent said...

The SBA Test Results at Concord International School are awful. Only 32% of 5th graders passed on ELA, only 28% passed math and only 26% passed science.

And scores in 3rd, 4th, and 5th for these subjects, (with one exception out of 7 scores) were all down this year.

If the point is to use Spanish to help the ESL students learn English, great. But if the point is to teach kids Spanish, the district is clearly not doing them a service. These kids need to learn English, math, and science as the first priority.

The state should absolutely step in.

http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=1045&reportLevel=School&yrs=2016-17&year=2016-17

Pip said...

I don't understand the lack of communication. I mean, change it or don't change it, but shouldn't parents be informed of what type of program their kids are in?

Anonymous said...

NE Parent, that is exactly why test scores should not be the basis of decisions like this. First, there are more important things than test scores, including the ability for bilingual students to learn both languages rather than suffer cultural erasure for the sake of testing. Second, these tests are geared toward white English speakers and thus students who aren't from that background aren't going to perform as well on them anyway. Third, there are numerous factors that cause low test scores, including lack of funding and systemic racism.

If test scores are the reason these changes happened, that damns the system that relies on tests, not the dual immersion program. But it's clear SPS staff are targeting these programs for elimination. Will the board roll over and go along, as they did when the central staff launched their racist attack on Middle College? Time will tell.

Save Concord

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the Board members for keeping the door open on Ft. Lawton. Sickening that the district is so listless on this matter.

-Parent

Anonymous said...

@Save Concord - Concord doesn't compare favorably across all demographics to the rest of the district. In other words, it looks like all groups are doing worse than the district average, ELL, Hispanic even the few White kids.

All the factors you mention are present in the entire system. You'd expect students to generally perform about the same as in other buildings all other things being equal (and they're not). This is a warning sign something might not be working.

Even Beacon Hill, which has a smaller Spanish Immersion program with native speakers doesn't show similar low scores (its scores actually look much better than District Average for ELL students and a bit better for Hispanic students).

=JuriesOut

Anonymous said...

JuriesOut, that doesn't mean the answer is to ditch the dual language curriculum. First, we know all other things aren't equal, and there's plenty of reasons external to the classroom that would cause students at Concord to score worse.

Second, you haven't addressed my point about the problems with using test scores to evaluate curricula or students. The purpose of a dual language curriculum isn't to produce good test scores. Such a program should never be evaluated, changed, or eliminated on the basis of test scores. If the central staff wanted to make changes, whether based on scores or not, they needed to have made that suggestion to the board and to the community. Central staff should never be allowed to make unilateral program changes without extensive public input and board approval.

Save Concord

NE Parent said...

Concord’s test scores are not just underperforming and going down in absolute terms; they are also underperforming when compared to state averages for Hispanic students and for low-income students.

Our democratically elected state representatives require these kids be tested in math, ELA, and science. These kids are failing the state-mandated tests. According to the law, the district is failing these kids and the scores are getting worse, not better. I'm not saying the teachers aren't excellent teachers and aren't working very hard. But something is not working.

I take issue with the statement, that “there are more important things that test scores, including the ability for bilingual students to learn both languages rather than suffer cultural erasure”. That is a personal value statement, it's not state law.

Personally, having tutored low-income Hispanic students in math and reading, I believe there is no reason that after 6 years in Seattle public schools, these students shouldn’t be doing a lot better on these tests. I believe these kids can succeed on these tests, I believe their parents would wish that as well, and I believe its a basic constitutional right.

Anonymous said...

If you ask me, SPS does a pretty poor job with language immersion in general. We participated in an immersion program out-of-state prior to coming here, and we found the Seattle model to be far inferior--more expensive, less effective, more logistically challenging, less collaborative, etc. Others I've met who have experience with immersion both here and elsewhere feel similarly.

Immersion can be done well, but I don't think we are doing it. People will cite test scores for schools like JSIS and McDonald to show that it is working, but looking at the demographics for those schools is it really a surprise? They'd be doing well regardless, likely better.

I do agree that short-term outcomes such as test scores are not the most important measure, but we do need to look at them carefully. In a dual language immersion school you might expect scores to be lower in the early grades as students struggle to gain proficiency in both languages, but as they near the end of elementary school those gaps should start to disappear.That is, if the immersion aspect is working well and students are developing sufficient fluency in the languages so they can learn the material they need to know. If students aren't developing enough fluency with the languages over the course of six years (K-5), perhaps that is an indication that this approach isn't best. Has Seattle ever considered a full-day immersion model, so that students can really gain the fluency they need for learning?

Most importantly, as with so many other SPS programs, we need a comprehensive evaluation of our LI programs.

kitty

Concord Community Member said...

I have to agree with the comments made by NE parent. Thank you for stepping up!

The reason why Concord reduced its dual language program is because Concord has not made growth for the past few years. Concord IS the lowest performing school in the area (see link below). As a result, the school is now under a performance plan. The administration was under pressure from the state and district to make these changes. Remember that this dual language model was originally implemented to help native Spanish speakers increase their academic skills with home language support. Over the years, the program became all about the English-speaking families learning Spanish as an “extension activity,” which corrupted the whole dual language model. This mindset hurt the neighborhood children, whom the program was originally designed for. This is a prime example of cultural appropriation at its worst.

Furthermore, recent bad decisions has been made (including departmentalizing class subjects.) This negatively affected student performances even more. What Concord needs to focus on now is solely improving instructions for all students and not adhere to the whims of a few vocal minority. (You know who you are!)


In response to the previous comment that there's "much more to this school than scores." The recent scores tell a strong story that not all students are being served. That's not okay and the community needs to address this issue. This is what happens when you don't take the dual language model as a serious academic course. This is what happens when you opt your child out of the state assessments. We all pay the price. I agree 100% with NE parent that the Spanish-speaking kids can do well on the SBA when given solid instruction. My child was in the program with two strong teachers who showed that all kids can achieve. I believe Concord can rise up from all this muck. We need to get rid of a few bad apples from the PTA and maybe bring in new leadership.

Whether you get on board and support ALL kids, or take your kids back to West Seattle, hire a Spanish tutor, and let Concord get back to serving the neighborhood kids!