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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Public-Private Partnerships with Seattle Schools?

Some interesting comments on the Cooper/Pathfinder Confusion post made me reflect on the issue of public/private partnerships with Seattle Schools.

I am concerned about the district being beholden to funders, with special deals worked out for individual schools depending on who is funding the school. Yet, public schools desperately need the money. And, honestly, it's not like Seattle Public Schools are so well-run that I don't want anyone interfering with them.

I believe the New School Foundation has excellent intentions, with the best interests of children always in mind. But that is my opinon since the school's approach and curriculum (low teacher-student ratio, focus on social justice, focus on the "whole" child) fits well with my beliefs. What happens when/if a foundation starts a school and I don't approve of the mission/vision being funded? Do we trust the district and the school board enough to make good choices about who they partner with and how far they will bend to meet a funder's wishes?

Today's news that Trish Millines Dziko and TAF are looking to fund/create 5 public schools in the next seven years is exciting and intriguging to me, but raises simliar issues. See the Times article Tech foundation aims to open schools for more details.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beth's take is very much on par with mine. I read about Trish Dziko's foundation in the Times this morning. It sounds great and all but I'm with Beth; where's the oversight? Who has control? If you start down a road with a foundation, what happens if they want more control than than the district can give and still be fair to other schools? It sounds like a charter school issue except this state has (thankfully) voted them down now 3 times.

Most of these initiatives/schools will go south if the money is pulled. I'll bet in 10 years we'll be asking if the Gates money kicked started a revolution (or realizations) about how we teach in SPS or will it have been time wasted on planning that could not be fulfilled without continued money?

I think the Dziko initiative would be great but is this the time to be taking on new initiatives? No, it isn't. Kids can't wait but the district also has the responsiblity to not rush into anything. My only thought is that Denny/Sealth are on the BEX III list (they are quite close to each other and apparently, it would make sense to do both at once but I don't know this in fact); neither are great schools. If there was a well-thought plan for the TAF school, they could start with them and have a facility. That's the problem with new schools; what buildings could they go into?

Anonymous said...

Both the TAF plan and The New School Foundation have a target market of underperforming minority students living in poverty. But school districts, and Seattle Public Schools in particular, cannot promise to deliver that demographic. Elsewhere on this blog we learn that The New School has an enrollment policy that mandates at least 45% FRE. That rate, which is about the districtwide average, is remarkably low for the Southeast cluster.

FRE White Black
AAA 84% 1% 94%
Dunlap 79% 2% 49%
Emerson 78% 5% 62%
Brighton 77% 2% 43%
Rainier View 77% 6% 59%
Van Asselt 77% 1% 21%
Wing Luke 67% 3% 27%
Graham Hill 54% 20% 34%
New School 45% 14% 45%

So this program, intended to lift students living in poverty, is used more by the middle class families than by poor families. This school has the least poverty than any other for miles around and only has as much as it does because of a limit on how low the poverty rate can get.

Why is it like that? Is it because middle class families know about the program, want to participate, know how to enroll their children, and pursue enrollment for their children while families living in poverty either don't know about it, aren't interested, don't know how to gain access, or simply can't? I don't know. I'm asking.

Where is the outreach? Why isn't it effective? Is it because the people doing the outreach aren't members of the culture they are reaching out to?

Maybe this is the mix they want. Maybe this is like having a few people paying market rents in a mostly subsidized housing project so they can model behavior for those on the subsidies. I don't know.

I do know that this is why other people in the neighborhood regard the communities at The New School and at Graham Hill as rich and White. Because compared to the other school communities in the Southeast, they ARE rich and White.

Beth Bakeman said...

Point of clarification. The New School had only 14% Caucasian enrollment in 2005. That is not mostly white.

And I'm not convinced that the Free and Reduced lunch numbers there accurately reflect the income levels of families in that program. (I'd love to hear more from a New School parent, so I'll try to get one to post.)

Anonymous said...

Here's that table again:

. . . . . . . FRE . .White . Black
AAA . . . . . 84% . . 1% . . 94%
Dunlap. . . . 79% . . 2% . . 49%
Emerson . . . 78% . . 5% . . 62%
Brighton. . . 77% . . 2% . . 43%
Rainier View. 77% . . 6% . . 59%
Van Asselt. . 77% . . 1% . . 21%
Wing Luke . . 67% . . 3% . . 27%
Graham Hill . 54% . .20% . . 34%
New School. . 45% . .14% . . 45%

Beth Bakeman said...

I get what you're saying and, as usual, you are right.

I'm just saying that all it takes is for a relatively small number of white families to choose the New School because of its low student-teacher ratio, social justice focus, and high quality leadership to get to a 14% number in a small school population.

Enrollment for the New School is done based on distance from the building. It is so popular that you can't live more than approximately 1.5 miles from the school and have any hope to get in for preschool or kindergarten.

So I don't think the issue is insufficient recruitment or outreach. I think the New School offers things (curriculum, approach, etc.) that are desirable enough to attract neighborhood families who would otherwise go prviate or go north for schools.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that The New School Foundation has created a school in Southeast Seattle that keeps middle class families in the district. I don't know if these families would otherwise enroll their children at Dunlap, at ORCA, or at St. George. Is there any data on it? Wouldn't that be valuable data to have? I just don't think that serving middle class families in Southeast Seattle and keeping them in a public school in the neighborhood is what The New School Foundation had in mind when they committed all this money to the project.

I think it is more likely that their intent was to serve the needs of underperforming Black and Latino students living in poverty. They probably expected and wanted to have some students in the mix who didn't have all of those factors, but they garnered a different demographic than every other school in that cluster except for Graham Hill. And I wonder what the demographics are for the Graham Hill Montessori program versus the regular program. The New School Foundation arrived expecting over 70% FRE and had to enforce a 45% minimum.

Can Seattle Public Schools continue to sell schools to private foundations if they can't deliver the demographic that the charities want to buy.

Perhaps the District and the Foundation will tout the test scores and the neighborhood, but not mention the demographics of their self-selected group in the hopes that listeners will jump to the conclusion that The New School is 70% FRE and 3% White like the other schools in that neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I'm a New School parent and currently the co-chair of the parent group. I can comment on a couple of points that were brought up. For the record, we live in Rainier Beach. I am white, my children are not. We are middle class. Also, I'm speaking for myself, not the school or the foundation.
While it seems coincidental that the 45% FRE number mentioned in the MOU is where the New School stands now, that clause has not been invoked. I confirmed today that the only factors that have been used in assignment to date are location and siblings. In that respect the population does represent the population of RB, which includes an economic and racial mix. As Beth mentioned, the New School has attracted some of the demographic that would have otherwise gone private or north.
My understanding is that that the 45% clause may be invoked in the future in the event that the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood change significantly.
However it is interesting to note that the population of the school has grown poorer as the school has expanded. I don't know exact numbers, but the PK - K FRE % is higher than that of the 1st-2nd grade % which in turn is higher than the 3rd-4th grade %. I know that the ESL population correlates with this as well.
I'm bewildered by the larger issues of what's going on in the district and the issues of funding and operating schools. We chose the school for the same simple reason that we live in Rainier Beach. We want our children in a racially, culturally, and economically diverse environment. Of the neighborhood schools we visited, it was the best fit for us.

Anonymous said...

Belated response to post by ben wilson:

"However it is interesting to note that the population of the school has grown poorer as the school has expanded. I don't know exact numbers, but the PK - K FRE % is higher than that of the 1st-2nd grade % which in turn is higher than the 3rd-4th grade %. I know that the ESL population correlates with this as well."

Actually, the data I have (from the district) shows something different, although 1) it is as of Oct 2005 and since you reference 4th grade (which didn't exist in 2005), you must be speaking to this year's enrollment; 2) I don't have PK data; and 3) maybe by grouping the grades as PK-K, 1-2 and 3-4, the averages look different.

The 2005 district data show that FRL was actually lower in the lower grades, and kindergarten was lowest of all - so at that time, the trend was not apparent that the school is drawing a larger % of students living in poverty with each passing year:

Grade - FRL
0 - 19 of 53 students or 36%
1 - 21 of 51 students or 41%
2 - 31 of 59 students or 53%
3 - 19 of 39 students or 49%
Total 90 of 202 students or 45%