Hamilton won't know what hit 'em

The Program Placement Committee has proposed placing some portion of the middle school APP students at Hamilton International Middle School. This will represent a radical change in APP; the cohort will be split as it leaves elementary school. Even more so, however, it could represent a radical change for Hamilton.

While Program Placement has not indicated how many APP students will be placed at Hamilton, the number cannot be less than 180 and may be as high as 250 or more. If Hamilton's total enrollment is about 1,000 students, that's 18% to 25% of the student body who are there for APP, not for the international-themed curriculum.

When APP is at Hamilton you can expect Hamilton's Spectrum program to become a whole lot more popular. Right now, about 75% of the Spectrum-eligible students in the Northeast Region enroll at Eckstein, but that is likely to change. Of the 300 now at Eckstein, I would guess that somewhere from 90 to 180 will choose Hamilton with APP instead.

Hamilton has a current enrollment of about 730. Add to that the 200 or so APP students and the school fills up to the building's stated capacity (with portables) of 928. So there is no room for growth of the Spectrum program. That means that for every new Spectrum student who comes into the school, a general education student is squeezed out. If 180 new Spectrum students came in, that would translate to 180 general education students squeezed out.

I don't think the Spectrum students will be coming to Hamilton for the international-themed curriculum anymore than the APP students. I could be wrong about that, but there's a strong possibility of 200 students there for APP and another 200 students there for Spectrum. That's about 40% of the school population who are new to the school and not necessarily very interested in what you have built there. They are likely to be a bit miffed when they learn that they can't gain entry to the Spanish Immersion program or the Japanese Immersion program. Hamilton has to reserve space for both of these programs as well as APP and Spectrum. The Japanese program is new, so every new Japanese immersion student who comes into the building will be pushing out a general education student as well.

APP will make Hamilton more attractive to students other than Spectrum students. A number of general education students will want to enroll at Hamilton as well. Again, each new one who comes in will push out one who would otherwise be there.

If BEX III passes, Hamilton will move into Lincoln for a couple years and then, in 2010, move into a totally renovated building. That is sure to attract some new students. Ballard's enrollment went up 50% when it was renovated. If Hamilton becomes even 20% more popular, that's another 150 students coming to the school, pushing out 150 students who might otherwise be there.

The new building will have 1,000 seats. 100 are for special education students. There are 12 other sections (classes) in each grade. Two or three of the sections will be for APP - probably three. Two or three of the sections will be for Spectrum - probably three. Three sections will be for the language immersion program students coming out of John Stanford. That only leaves three sections, room for 90 students per grade, for general education.

The students pushed out won't be APP students - they will be guaranteed their seats. They won't be Spectrum students - the school might cap the program, but not lower than two or three sections per grade. They won't be Spanish or Japanese immersion students; they are guaranteed their seats as well. It won't be ELL or Special Education students; the school will continue to have their share of them. The students denied access to the new Hamilton will be general education students.

And who are these general education students who won't be able to get into Hamilton in the future? Following the district's current tie-breakers they will be the students without siblings at the school who live farthest away. In short, they will first be the students who come to Hamilton from the Southeast Region. After that, they will be other students from outside the Region - those who come long distances for the international-themed curriculum. Finally, they will be students from the north edge of the Region.

How will the loss of the students from the Southeast Region affect Hamilton's diversity? I can't say with any accuracy, but some things are clear. The students in APP and Spectrum are predominantly White - these programs are 70% White in a district that is only 40% White in a city that is 70% White. Very few of the APP and Spectrum students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. The students in the Southeast Region, on the other hand, are predominantly minority and they qualify for free or reduced price lunches at a higher rate than the Distirct as a whole. There will be some who will suggest that White, affluent students are displacing minority and poor students. This change will occur just as Hamilton moves into a totally renovated building. There will be charges of racism and Hamilton will be on the sharp end of the pointed fingers.

Are you ready for this, Hamilton? Are you ready to see 40% (or more) of your students in APP or Spectrum, not coming to Hamilton for the international-themed curriculum? Are you ready to see as few as 90 seats a year available for general education students?

Did the District come and explain this to you? Did anyone from the District come to Hamilton and discuss the possible impacts on the school as a result of adding APP to your building? Has your principal given you any assurances of any kind? Can your principal - who won't be there in 2007 - give you any assurances of any kind? Did you know that the District believes that the proposal has the support of the Hamilton community? How is that possible when most of the Hamilton community just learned about the idea last week? Did you know that this proposal includes assurances that the Hamilton community will welcome APP and support the program with the necessary resources?

Let's presume for a moment that my words are intended to frighten and alarm you. Is anything I wrote unreasonable? Are you frightened or alarmed? Should you be? What details do you have to counter this projection? Do you know how many APP students are coming? Do you know how big the Spectrum program at Hamilton may grow? Do you know how the increase in APP and Spectrum students will impact Hamilton's demographics? A lot of other projections are possible, but I can't imagine any projection in which students from Southeast Seattle - other than those with siblings at the school - continue to gain access to Hamilton. If you think it will go differently, I'd love to hear about it.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for fleshing that out, Charlie.

I had been okay about that part of the BEX because of the increased north end middle school capacity (this quoted to me by facilities staff). However, if they are just moving APP around that's not really increasing the capacity. Also, I need to check my notes but I thought Hamilton was only going up to 925-950.

I'll bet this would all come as news to Hamilton.
Charlie Mas said…
I have received two non-specific complaints about this posting.

If there is something incorrect or offensive in what I wrote, I would appreciate it if someone would point it out to me.

When I read the posting it is clear to me that it is a projection and uncertain. Several times I express the uncertainty of the outcome by writing "I would guess", "I think", and "a lot of other projections are possible".

Is there anything in this post that is derogatory about Hamilton?

I'm not looking to give offense here, but offense has been taken. I am honestly mystified and would sincerely appreciate having it pointed out to me.
Charlie Mas said…
Ummm... one more thing that might not be clear.

This post was not supposed to come off as a threat against Hamilton from the APP community. On the contrary, it was intended to point out Program Placement's failure to either think through the consequences of their decision or to fully inform Hamilton. It was not the APP community that chose Hamilton - our proposals were very different.

Nor did I intend to suggest that APP at Hamilton couldn't work, only that the program placement will have consequences.
Beth Bakeman said…
Charlie, I really liked your post today on the APP listserv with the subject heading "Clarification."

I like it would be great either to post sections of it here as a comment or as a separate post. I learned a lot about the APP issues and your opinions from that message.
Charlie Mas said…
Here is the post from the SpectrumAPP Yahoo Discussion Group that Beth referred to:

Perhaps I have been unclear.

I believe that APP middle school students can be well served at two
locations, Washington and Hamilton, as proposed by the Program
Placement Committee. Each of the programs will be big enough to
provide the requisite critical mass for a sustainable and viable
program. Not only am I absolutely certain that it can work, I think
it could present a number of strong benefits, particularly for APP
students and families living in the north-end and for APP students
not in the school instrumental music program.

At the same time, I believe that making this split presents a number
of challenges for the District, for the administration and staff at
the two buildings, for the program, for the APP community, and for
the broader communities at the two buildings.

My concern is that someone will not rise to the challenge causing a
failure in the system that negatively impacts the students.

The challenges to the District include writing and supporting an
equitable assignment and transportation policy, providing necessary professional development for teachers and administrators, assuring program quality, and taking steps to mitigate impacts on other students as a result of the change. The District does not appear
prepared to meet any of these challenges, and that troubles me.

The challenges to the administration and staff of the two buildings include acquiring the appropriate professional development and assuring program quality (acceleration, rigor, social and emotional development and support). I don't think this will be a problem. I have plenty of confidence in Hamilton's ability and willingness to meet this challenge. I think that Washington is doing well enough, but could be doing more for students who don't participate in instrumental music.

The challenges to the program will include the inevitable de facto
split of the high school program. I don't believe that many of the
APP students who attend Hamilton will enroll at Garfield. I believe
that they will want to go, with their middle school friends, to
Roosevelt. How will the program continue to provide the same rigor
at Garfield with a half-size cohort? Will the District recognize a program at Roosevelt and give APP students preferred access to that
school? If Roosevelt is an APP school, how many APP students will
enroll at Garfield?

The other challenge to the program comes with the inevitable split
of the elementary program. Although Program Placement didn't include
it in their current recommendations, they have clearly signalled their intention to recommend such a split in the near-term future, perhaps as early as the spring. The elementary split will also be a north-south split creating two separate feeder paths: the north-end-elementary-school-to-be-named-later to Hamilton to Roosevelt and Lowell (or its replacement) to Washington to Garfield. Several people at the public hearing expressed their preference that the District just come forward with this whole plan all at once instead of dripping it on us piecemeal.

I regret to say that I have almost no reason to expect this sort of
support from the District and the Advanced Learning Office.

The challenge to the community will be to accept this inevitable 1-
12 split and to support the students. I have no doubts here. The
members of the community can see that, properly supported, Seattle
can have two parallel APP paths and will do everything in their
power to make it work. The community can easily see the benefits of having two paths - anyone who ever tried to reach Lowell, Washington, or Garfield from the north-end can easily see the benefits. None of these schools is particularly well sited for an
all-city draw.

I am a bit concerned about the support from the broader communities
at the schools. APP does not feel particularly welcome or supported
by the Washington community despite being the largest program in the
building - larger even than the regular ed program. Of course, that
might be part of the problem. The community at Hamilton has not had
the time or opportunity to consider how APP will change their
school, and I am concerned that they will not like the change. It is
possible that they will resent APP for bringing those changes.

Right now, Hamilton is not full to capacity. Consequently, any
student requesting assignment to Hamilton gets that assignment. The
District provides yellow-bus transportation to Hamilton from the
Southeast Region and a number of Hamilton's students come from
there. Despite all of the talk about reducing transportation costs,
there is little chance that this offer of transportation out of the
Southeast Region will be withdrawn because there is a shortage of
middle school capacity there.

After APP is placed at Hamilton, however, the school will be fully
subscribed. In fact, I expect it to be over-subscribed as the presence of APP and the renovations (when BEX III passes) makes the school more attractive for other students. This means that the District assignment tie-breakers will apply. For middle schools, the tie-breakers are siblings, region, special program preference,
distance, and lottery. Other than those with siblings at the school,
it is unlikely that any students from the Southeast Region will be
able to gain access to the school. Right now, Hamilton has a very
diverse student body, both ethnically and economically. I don't know if that will continue to be true after APP is placed there.

In addition, Hamilton International Middle School has a very specific curricular theme - International education. Families who chose Hamilton are choosing it, in part, for that curricular focus.
That may be less true for APP families coming to Hamilton,
particularly if they are assigned to Hamilton based on geography
rather than choice. It may also be less true for families choosing
Hamilton because APP is there, for families choosing Hamilton
because it is close to their homes, and for families choosing it
because it has a new building (after 2010). If there are a lot of
families at Hamilton who aren't very interested in the international
curricular focus, they may exert influence to change that curricular
focus. I'm not saying that this WILL happen; I'm saying this is a
risk. All schools should be responsive to the school community, and as the school community changes, it is reasonable to expect the school to change in response.

So, to be clear, I believe that APP can be strong and effective in
two separate elementary-middle school-high school paths, but for it
to be strong in these two paths will require support from all
parties, support that has been reliable to varying degrees over the
years. As a split program it will be more difficult for one area of
strength, such as family support or cohort support, to take up the
slack when another area of support falters. There are other
configurations which do not present the same set of challenges and
would therefore be preferable. I hope that isn't too nuanced a

One last area that apparently requires clarification: when I write
to this discussion group or any other, I write only for myself and
what I write reflects only on my personal view. If you have a
complaint about what I write, the appropriate place to direct that
complaint is to me and nowhere else.
Weston Keller said…
To note, Hamilton ("HIMS") does not really have an International Ed.--it only offers foreign langauge classes/international otherwise, it's pretty standard-and boring.
--HIMS Student

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