Board Work Session on Student Assignment

I attended the Board work session on student assignment yesterday. There were lots of maps and data posted but I didn't get to look at them much. I'm assuming it's what is at the community meetings. All the directors were there except Bass and Stewart (it was being recorded for them). I thought there was much good discussion by the directors. There was one slight oddity which was that Director Soriano sat completely away from the other directors. I don't know why. The following is not a complete record but highlights as I took notes.

Raj and Carla both spoke. Here is what Carla said that they are looking to do/have occur in terms of the assignment program:
-equitable access to quality instruction
-family engagement
-access to programs and services
-curriculum alignment through solid feeders

Her requirements:
-Quality teachers at every school
-strong leadership at each school
-increased resources and opportunities
-intentional location of programs
-structural change in assignment

She spoke about the Flight School program in the SE and its use of feeder schools along with incentives for teachers to stick with the program.

Tracy Libros from Student Assignment took the lead on explaining each level to the directors. She mentioned that she believes alternative schools are their own layer, they have varying "taxonomies" and that it is going to be a challenge to figure out how they will work within any new plan.

Reference areas would remain and you would "opt out" of your reference school; it would be your default school. Reference areas would be modified to align with student population in each area (unclear even though the question was asked whether it means kid population versus SPS population) and with building capacity. Accomodate all students in reference area who want school (accomodate those who can't because of grandfathering in a school in their cluster). Maximize walking access to schools. Clusters would give families fewer choices but in a smaller geographic area. Possible staggered school opening and closing times with transportation provided within cluster. Address varying needs around district with, for example, larger clusters in high poverty areas to enhance likelihood of school continuity even if a family moves.

Tracy said, through data analysis, that 80% of elementary students would not be affected by the changes proposed.

Sally Soriano asked about patterns of expansion and contraction as something to think about. Darlene Flynn said reference areas should not be redrawn in a manner that hurts any one school (she gave MLK as an example). Michael deBell and Darlene disagreed about looking at the capture rate at any given school.

Comprehensive Middle Schools

Tracy Libros put forth:

Base attendance would be developed to:
-align with student population in area and with building capacity
-accomodate all students in base middle school if they want to attend that school. Students would start with a base assignment to middle school consistent with elementary cluster.
-maximize walking access
This offers the opportunity for a "cohert" of 5th graders to stay together.
Families could still exercise school choice for another comprehensive or alternative middle school.
Allow for efficient transportation of students who live beyond walking distance.

Cheryl Chow set forth on K-8s which lead to quite the interesting discussion. Cheryl basically said she challenges K-8s to show data on their effectiveness (she said her biasis towards comprehensive). Mark Green, COO, said that at the middle school summit there was some surprise that K-8s did not meet or exceed (in most cases) their demographic and it was an interesting discovery. Brita asked if there were an equitable distribution of K-8s ( they are spread out; every region has at least one but there are, by my count 7 alternatives and 3 traditional with Broadview-Thompson being a new one). Cheryl asked again about the purpose of K-8s and Darlene challenged her on it saying her own kids went to Summit and it worked well for them. Michael stepped in and said that they need data on locations, are they part of alternatives (because K-8 is considered "non-traditional") and why some are all-city and some are regional.

Carla put forth what she had said to the CAC. Both are good choices to have but parents at K-8s have to recognize the limitations which are a mostly static (and smaller) group of kids and fewer academic/arts/sports offerings and for comprehensive, a larger school to support the offerings. There was discussion about why people pick K-8 with classroom behavior, smaller school and safety being issues for people picking K-8. It was questioned whether people want (or pick) K-8 because of their concerns over the state of current comprehensive middle schools.

Michael weighed in with asking about intentionality of some K-8s (I believe he may have been referencing AAA and/or New School) and talked about diversity. Cheryl asked him to define it and he said he considers socio-economic also part of diversity and that we have pockets of it city-wide. Darlene immediately jumped in and told him that the census clearly shows we are a segregated city and that we may just have "incidential diversity".

Comprehensive High Schools

From Tracy Libros: Assignment predictability is just as important but continuity in feeder patterns is lessened as students seek to explore interests and opportunitites at other schools.

Possible Options:
1-no change from current all city choice with tiebreakers
2-all city but process 1st choices first, etc.
3-Geographically-defined designated school (guaranteed if 1st choice, remaining seats are Open Choice)
4-Geographically-defined designated school (guaranteed if 1st choice, percentage of seats provided for Open Choice)

Use of tiebreakers could be used in various ways.

Lots of discussion here. This was the least clear to me in terms of what the directors would agree on. Carla talked about if you created a new magnet high school (like performing arts), you could still have an all-city draw school (or maybe auditions as well). Darlene jumped on this saying no, then neighborhood kids can't get in. Carla said she was talking about a new high school and in the long-term. Brita spoke about the need for equity in offerings like AP. Both Raj and Carla said that they know that Rainier Beach High School needs a lot of help and resources and investment right now. Brita said that some schools did make improvements and have turned around but Darlene said none were in the SE. Michael said he was at Rainier Beach that day and saw a chem lab with no equipment and a great performing arts hall in a school with 1 drama class. He said that the savings realized on redoing the assignment plan should be driven to schools like that. Brita said that Ingraham had not been popular but with rebuilds (the library and labs and athletic fields) and the IB program, it had really come back.

There was also a sheet (which I am distressed to see is not posted on the Assignment Plan page) called High School Assignment Options that gives numbers of 3 different high school groupings (Group 1, for example, is Ballard, Hale, Ingraham and Roosevelt) and breaks out capacity versus students. According to the district's calculations, Group 1 has 52 more seats than students, Group 2 (Cleveland, Franklin, Garfield and RB) have 43 fewer and Group 3 (Chief Sealth and West Seattle) have 288 more seats. (This leaves out, of course, Summit, Nova and Center School, Interagency, etc. which are alternative/non-traditional.) But, in each group, it further breaks it out to find "total seats available for open choice) including in this APP students and students attending other schools and programs. This is somewhat confusing to me so maybe I can ask it be posted so everyone can get a look.

As I said, elementary would, according to staff, not look all that different than it does now. There would be feeder patterns into the middle schools. I believe the Board will keep the sibling tiebreaker. Their biggest challenges (which our great minds should start parsing out) are alternatives (their transportation costs are huge so maybe they need to be regional which, of course, will impact their enrollments and really upset people who want access to TOPS or John Stanford) and high school. The other thing in the mix is the Board wanting diversity but yet calling for feeder patterns. I agree with Darlene; in this city that's going to be incidental diversity because of our housing patterns.

The biggest issue is high school. This plan would dramatically change the face of many high schools because of where people live. If you go with "remaining open seats for Open Choice", you will eliminate Ballard and Roosevelt for anyone not in that area because they would not have any open seats (they have the largest numbers, I believe, for in-area students at their schools) . Darlene would not support any plan that shuts out choice that is not backed up with a specific and real plan to help the struggling high schools. And that means, show me the money first. (Again, my impression based on Darlene's lengthy talking points yesterday.)

If you go with "percentage of seats provided for Open Choice" (Michael de Bell's choice), it will be a challenge to determine the percentage. Is it different from school to school depending on popularity? Is the Board ready to battle the enraged parents that don't get their closest school? What happens to the jazz bands at Roosevelt and Garfield? I'd have to check but I'd be willing to bet that many of the kids at Washington's music program that feed into Garfield's don't necessarily come from that region. What about people shut out of the only biotech program, namely Ballard? I know it wouldn't be fun or easy but maybe they can do a lottery for the open seats but reserve some at Garfield and Roosevelt for auditions for the jazz bands and a special lottery for those students seeking the IB/biotech programs (which are unlikely to get developed elsewhere anytime soon). It seems wrong to have programs that high school students cannot access because of where they live, programs that could help a student get into college.


Anonymous said…
I'm dense - I don't understand what Mary Bass and now Darlene say about MLK's reference area size or shape relative to its its small enrollment and ultimate closure.

Couldn't anyone in the city have gotten a seat there, and anyone in the Central cluster > 1 mile get both assignment and transportation?
Anonymous said…
Thank you Melissa for taking such detailed notes and sharing them with us!
The take on MLK is that the district shrunk their reference area so they didn't even have enough kids in it and, because of the long-time talk of closure, drove families away. What I thought I understood is that some families, in the last 2 years, attempted to rally and get a Montessori program in there but it was too late.

What would be great is if McGilvra was rebuilt bigger thus affording more MLK kids (if their parents wanted) to attend McGilvra's solid program AND have room for private school parents in that area who would come back if there were room. Plus, of course, McGilvra gets a bigger, better building.
Anonymous said…
I still don't understand (about MLK):

Because of the cluster transportation policy, no matter what size MLK's reference area, anyone could go there who wanted to as long as there was space - and there was. The reference area just gave more preference to those who lived within it (in the event of more applicants than seats).

I don't understand what making the reference area bigger or smaller would have done for MLK in terms of dampening demand. Being on the closure list - that I can understand.

Didn't Tracy Libros say the reference areas haven't changed in 30 years - did that one?

I know it's moot because the building has been closed, but it's just something I'd like to understand.
Charlie Mas said…
M L King's problem with enrollment had nothing to do with the size of the school's reference area or rumors about the school closing.

For years, before anyone spoke of closure, the number of families that named M L King as their first choice for assignment was less than 10. In one year it was zero. Yes, zero.

It was not the size of the reference area but open choice nad the grotesque differences in perceptions of school quality that caused these low numbers.

Imagine if you lived in the Central cluster and you could name any school for your child. Would you choose M L King over McGilvra, over Montlake, over McDonald and over TOPS? Would you name M L King as your first choice when you knew for absolute certain that you could still get your kid into that school as a lower choice (or even after on-time enrollment was complete) if you didn't get your first choice?

M L King didn't have to be a bad school to have their enrollment driven down, they only had to be close to good schools and suffer by comparison.
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Charlie - I've waited a long time to hear someone confirm that.

I'm baffled as to why smart people like Darlene Flynn and Mary Bass would make the charge that ML King's reference area was its undoing. Why would they do that?
Charlie Mas said…
Wow/ I really should be more careful about checking the posts I make at 2:37am.

Nevermind the typo in which I wrote "nad" instead of "and", I mentioned McDonald as a choice in the Central cluster. That should have read "Stevens".
Brita said…
Hello all,

Just so people understand--the presentation by Raj, Carla, and Tracy was not so much a staff recommendation as a summary of board input plus staff analysis plus community input at this time. The board has had previous work sessions on this topic and has also been in discussion at our various committee meetings. I think what staff presented was an emerging consensus.

The four options for HS are the crux of the current discussion. There appears to be board consensus that we must see some kind of 'turnaround' plan for each of the underenrolled HS before changing to a geographic-based assignment plan. There is plenty of room in south end high schools for the large numbers of college-bound students who live nearby but without appropriate course offerings at this level, I cannot blame parents for choosing high schools across town. Kids should not have to spend hours commuting to get rigorous courses like AP or IB.

Other ways of jumpstarting enrollment include building improvement (cf. Cleveland), putting in dynamic leadership, adding programs with great faculty to teach them, stabilizing faculty turnover, increasing professional development, and/or subsidizing lower class size. Bear in mind that a school's reputation lags behind the reality but we have seen turnarounds (as measured by waitlists) in several other HS taking 3-5 years each.

The handout Mel referred to is thought-provoking and I'll ask Tracy to post it if she hasn't already done so.
Unknown said…
Just an update: I attended the workshop at Holly Park last night. Most of the parents and educators attending were from the Southeast and the issue that was most extensively discussed was Rainier Beach High and concerns that it needs to be brought up to speed before families will willingly accept the (proposed) assignment plan. The only plan presented (with the caveat that there is not yet an established plan) was something similar to 3&4 in Melissa's outline - geographically designated schools with some seats available for open choice. RBH would need to pull approx 1400 students back if I have my numbers right, which is huge.

It's a big & difficult issue - the students won't come if the programs can't be improved, but it's difficult to improve the programs unless the students start attending. What to do? I'm glad to hear that some of the Board members plus Raj and Carla are thinking are aware of the issue and are thinking about it.
Jet City mom said…
when you view the reference area for King- it appears about half the size of the reference area for Madrona and Leschi- just south of King, one-third of the size of McGilvra- just north of King.
Im wondering if this reference area configuration has ever been changed.

It has closed/reduced enrollment several times.
The site is small originally 1.6 acres, expanded to 1.9.
It seems to have always been the smallest elementary school in Seattle.

I agree if you have a stellar program, then you should be able to attract kids- but in the reference area- I wonder how many kids are going to Bush, and how many are wanting a school that is larger so to offer more support to families.
I know that some advocate for small schools/more personal attention, but our families experience has been, a larger school receives more money and can offer more support through better funded programs and staff.

With talk of closures over the years, this impacts not only parents willingness to send their kids there, but staff to work there.

I also want to thank you Melissa, your notes are amazing- You really should write a book about your experiences raising your kids in Seattle.
Jet City mom said…
re Rainier Beach- It is a decent school in a good location- My daughter has several friends who live in the area, but who attend Garfield, I think they all also attended Washington, so they must have been in the APP program.

It was disappointing to me when it didn't work out to have TAF there. My older daughter worked with TAF, when she was in Americorps and it was a great program.

I know that it could have been handled much better- but the district has to do something to support the school and the community.
Anonymous said…
I understand needing to bring up other schools before having a local assignment plan per say, but that does not help solve the current problem of people living so close to Roosevelt and Ballard and having to go to schools much farther away. I'm glad that my children are younger so hopefully this will be figured out by the time they are older. I feel for the families who have kids in middle school right now. I'm hoping it all plays out for them with the fact that such a high amount of siblings lived outside the reference area this year (in terms of Roosevelt) so that possibly this will not be the case in the next couple years.
Anonymous said…
Both Rainier Beach and Cleveland need to be completely reinvented before you start to see an increase in attendance. Just offering more AP courses is not going to do it. They both need wholesale changes from the leadership on down. Yes there are some bright lights in both schools, but for the most part, they are severely failing those kids.

The flight schools plan (where they're aligning curriculum of the K-8 schools that feed into an area high school) is only good through middle school because nobody in their right mind is going to send their kids to Cleveland or RB. So all those millions of dollars we just got for the flight schools plan is good money after bad.

The district has not demonstrated that they have the vision or the leadership to pull a reinvention off so we're going to continue to have these kids getting on a bus to the north end (or maybe they'll just go to Renton since it's closer).
Anonymous said…
Tried to reinvent Rainier Beach by way of TAF, and got nothing but protest. It's very frustrating. Progress was knowcking at the door, and Seattle turned it away.
Michael Rice said…

I need to chime in on TAF and Rainier Beach. What TAF wanted to do is not a partnership with RB but to remake RB as a Charter School. Anyone who read the documents that TAF presented during this process would draw that conclusion. Now, we can talk about the relative merits of Charter Schools till the cows come home, but the bottom line is that Charter Schools are illegal in this state. Even if we get past the Charter Schools issue, many of the ideas that TAF wanted to implement at RB (work rules, length of the school day, how students got into this school), were in direct violation of the agreement bargained between the SEA and the SPS. Now you can say whatever you want about SEA, but this is the agreement all sides agreed upon and TAF did not seem willing to live by rules that govern the way that schools are governed. The way TAF handled themselves during this whole process was with an arrogance that said "Only we know how to educate minority children". This, of course, is ridiculous. TAF is a fine program that does much to help students achieve academically, but they wanted to pick and chose who would have been in their program, so they could guide their success rate. When we asked TAF where the current RB students would go, they said "They can go to Renton." That is not public education.
Anonymous said…
Michael I have been reading your posts throughout this blog and have respect for your opinions and your experience, but what you say about TAF Academy is flat out wrong. Here are the facts:

1. TAF Academy is NOT a Charter School. A charter school is use of public money for a privately managed school. TAF Academy would have been owned and run by the district with some clear guidelines that ensure the model is a success. TAF is putting roughly $2 million per year in each TAF Academy plus bringing in human resource from the corporate, higher eductaion, and nonprofit arenas.

2. Any student who lived within a 1-3 mile radius of RBHS could attend. First come first serve. No entry test, no other requirement. We would have capped the attendance to 100 students per grade (which is a small schools guideline).

3. The teachers (and I'm assuming you were at the meeting) asked what happens to the kids who don't get into TAF Academy. The question was asked because we put a cap on capacity (100 kids per grade). We answered they could go to Cleveland or Renton.

4. The TAF Academy model has what we call Period 7. The idea is to support kids who are not at standard and to provide enrichment activities for kids who what to get involved in other academic and career preparation pursuits. That was what you called out as "length of the school day".

5. We spent two years building the TAF Academy model with education experts from around the country. It's a great model built specifically for educating kids of color. And no, we don't think we're the only ones who can do it, nor do we think it's the only model that works (KIPP is another great example of a model that works for kids of color).

Everything you need to know about TAF Academy can be found on If you don't find your question answered there, then email me at

The bottom line is that you didn't want TAF Academy and that's fine. Just don't make it something it's not. Apparently the RBHS staff and the district have better ideas. We've moved on and so should you.
Anonymous said…
Well, look at what we have without TAF. A horribly under enrolled, failing school, that nobody will send their kids to. The bottom line is the kids, and in this case the kids lose. You can argue till we all drop dead, that SPS has an obligation to re0invent RB, but it ain't happening. TAF was. The kids lose, so does the community. I live in N. Seattle, and I would have considered sending my kids to TAF. But the culture of no in Seattle impedes progress at every level, every time.
Charlie Mas said…
I wouldn't blame the disintegration of the TAF proposal at Rainier Beach on a "culture of no". It's a lot more complex than that. There were a lot of different factors that came together to sour the deal.

Among them was the lack of community involvement in the planning, the poor communication - I would say miscommunication - of the proposal, deep and widespread distrust of the District, a deep fear of privatization of our public schools, and some clumsy communication by a number of other parties.

Finally, there was no one who could or would step forward to speak to all of the various parties in their own terms, address their concerns, and bring them together. The project lacked a champion when it most desperately needed one.

It's clear to me that Ms Dziko gained a lot of valuable experience in this attempt, and she is applying the lessons she learned going forward. And she will go forward.

I cannot say as much for others in this affair. I don't see those who opposed the TAF - mostly for reasons without basis - having learned or gained from the experience. I don't see anyone from the District who has learned or gained from the experience, let alone applying any lessons.

I think it is sad that a promising program paid for with private money (that's private money coming into a public school; the opposite of a charter school in which public school dollars go into private hands) could not be afforded some unused space (not taking over a whole building, but using otherwise empty classrooms) in a public school building.

Only Seattle Public Schools could present this deal in way that made people want to reject it.

Lesson #1 boys and girls: Don't take advice from Seattle Public Schools on community engagement or public relations.
Anonymous said…
I wish TAF would have been given a chance. I am deeply saddened that an opportunity to improve a struggling Seattle High School flopped due to presentation, politics, and the loud voices of a small handful of protesters. The facts are the facts. RB HS is in trouble, and needs help. The students deserve help. How could Seattle have turned this opportunity down? Charlie , you mentioned that Ms. Dziko has learned from this experience. My guess is what she learned was to skip over Seattle in the future, and move on to cities that are thankful and welcoming of a TAF Academy.
Anonymous said…
I have spoken to many non-Seattle parents, who did not get why Seattle would pass up on the TAF Academy. As North End mom stated, Rainier Beach is an under-enrolled school with excess capacity. We should have explored this opportunity further. In my opinion it was a few parents that are against private money coming into under-served populations that killed this opportunity. I get that Seattle is against Charter Schools (public money going to private organizations), I don't get how a small group of parents get to oppose private money coming into public schools and kill opportunities that have great potential and history of success. In my experience, the majority of these parents are not even stakeholders with students in these schools. Is this an issue of haves and have nots?????? TC
I think (and hope) that there is some middle ground in this discussion about public/private partnerships and in particular, TAF. I had been against TAF going into RBHS because, after reading TAF's website particulars and hearing from the community, it had sounded like TAF was being unilateral in how it wanted its academy to run and that the district was not brokering in good faith with the community. In any public/private partnership, the district has to have the most control otherwise it looks like a charter school (because TAF would be using a public building, maintenance, teachers, etc.)

But again, Charlie is right (how does his wife stand him?). Where was the district in bridging this gap? (They unfortunately used the new high school director - who left/was fired within months - and it only confused the situation.)

Trish Dziko and I had some very spirited discussions in this very blog about TAF. After the pushback from the RBHS community on this issue and TAF withdrew, Trish offered to sit down with me and talk. I took her up on it and was glad I did.

I found we had more in common in our goals for public schools than we had differences. I found her to be a thoughtful person who had learned from the experience, realized TAF had made some missteps and, most importantly, learned from them and is trying again. Sadly, TAF academies are likely to be in other districts than ours despite Trish's best efforts. She has taken pains to try to let the district let on this initiative and, for whatever reason, they are not moving forward on it. It is likely to be our loss.

I supported the fight against charter schools. But I do believe in public/private partnerships where feasible and it is important that the district get a policy in place about them so that we can encourage foundations/companies who want to bring dollars and sound innovation into our schools to feel welcomed into our district.
Jet City mom said…
I get that Seattle is against Charter Schools (public money going to private organizations), I don't get how a small group of parents get to oppose private money coming into public schools and kill opportunities that have great potential and history of success. In my experience, the majority of these parents are not even stakeholders with students in these schools.

I wish we had charter schools- but I am curious- about the choice- especially the unanimous choice of the new supe given the board and districts antipathy of charter schools.

I know that they visited Charleston and heard Dr G-J praise Mishawna Moore- then principal of Sanders-Clyde, a K-8 school.

According to " the web"
Sanders- Clyde opened in 2004- as an Edison school. Part of a For-Profit company that manages public schools in the US & UK

Seems like a charter school would be preferable to an outside company coming in and taking over- but what do I know?
Anonymous said…
Wasn't some of the issue that teachers at RBHS would have had to apply for jobs in TAF Academy - and resented that - and were the ones who had final say on the concept?

I might have a lot of that wrong - and would be interested to know the facts. If it's true, it could be because the teachers thought it wasn't in the best interest of the kids...but unfortunately it comes off looking like it was because it wasn't in the best interest of the teachers, which is often a driving force in that very powerful union.

Like others who've commented, it's hard for me to understand how a desperately under-enrolled high school (and its loyal community) can be so very demanding and declarative about what it will and won't do. I only hear that the district is to blame for responsibility on the part of the community or the staff.

I hope there's more going on at the district with this than is visible to us laypeople, but if there isn't, this is what leadership is about and where it is needed.
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry to sound terribly rude here, but the idea of a TAF Academy at Rainier Beach is dead. We can continue to do autopsies or we can ask the more pressing questions.

What is the district going to do about Rainier Beach High School? What is their plan for college-bound children in South Seattle? How are they going to inspire confidence in the families of South Seattle when their needs have been largely ignored for years?

And, to circle back to student assignment, can the district force families back to Rainier Beach and Cleveland when they are so vastly under-performing other Seattle high schools?
Just to say again what I blogged; my impression from the work session is that Darlene Flynn would not support any change in high school assignments that did not include a plan (with money in place) to help RBHS. I suspect that Directors Bass and Soriano would vote that way as well.

The district is rebuilding Cleveland (but needs to beef up their academics) and is going to renovate Sealth and is on the tail end of development of an IB program there as well. It's not like the district has done nothing in the past couple of years. Rainier Beach, however, seems to have been ignored and I can't say why.
Charlie Mas said…
Thanks to Anonymous who wrote:

"We can continue to do autopsies or we can ask the more pressing questions.

What is the district going to do about Rainier Beach High School? What is their plan for college-bound children in South Seattle? How are they going to inspire confidence in the families of South Seattle when their needs have been largely ignored for years?

Yes, let's face forward.

Cleveland and, to a lesser extent, Beach, have a chicken-and-egg problem:

The school does not offer AP classes (or other challenging, college-preparatory coursework), so students who want AP classes don't enroll there, so there is no demand for AP classes, so the school doesn't offer them, so students who want them don't enroll there, and the cycle repeats in downward spiral.

If Cleveland is going to offer AP classes, they are going to have to start by actively recruiting among their current students to create interest, and they are going to have to start with very small class sizes.

It will be very expensive and it will be hard to defend advanced classes for ten (or fewer) students when there are so many students who need help to pass the WASL.

Start ranting digression

It is unfortunate, but there are a number of people who are always ready to pit the needs of some students against the needs of others, particularly struggling students vs. advanced students. When these people frame a conflict in this way, they don't ever think that a compromise is appropriate. They always believe that every conflict should be resolved in the favor of the struggling students.

This is, by the way, Caprice Hollins' view of equity: no advanced classes for anyone until everyone is working at Standard. From this perspective, the District will never and should never support work beyond Standards in South Seattle. This perspective would insure that every class moves only as fast as the slowest student. I suppose if someone were blind, then all of the other students would have to pluck out their eyes in the name of equity.

End ranting digression

It would be nice if the District could get the students into the school first, and then create the classes, but the District has shown that they cannot be trusted. No one in their right mind would enroll their child at Cleveland based on the District's promises to provide a college-preparatory curriculum there. The District is going to have to provide the curriculum first because they have broken so many promises in the past. In fact, the District is going to have to offer the curriculum consistently for years before people will believe that the District isn't going to pull the rug out from underneath them.

This is the price that the District must pay for their long, relentless history of dishonesty.
Anonymous said…
I also appreciate "anonymous's interruption to pull the chain back to the initial subject of assignment. I was serious when I asked "what to do?" in my original post. It's a messy, "chicken & egg" problem, as Charlie points out. I had no involvement with the TAF thing, but from the entries here one thing seems clear - efforts to improve RBH need to involve and respect the RBH community from the get-go to be successful.

So, what to do?
Charlie Mas said…
I think that the first thing to do is to ask the Beach community (and the Cleveland community) what they want to do to resolve their problems of underenrollment and lack of challenging coursework.
Anonymous said…
11:56 said "I'm sorry to sound terribly rude here, but the idea of a TAF Academy at Rainier Beach is dead. We can continue to do autopsies or we can ask the more pressing questions."

When you don't know why something happened, and won't take the time to understand it, chances are it will happen again (and again...and again...)
Anonymous said…
>>>>I think that the first thing to do is to ask the Beach community (and the Cleveland community) what they want to do to resolve their problems of underenrollment and lack of challenging coursework.

uhhh. And what if they think there isn't a problem???? Or don't care? Maybe that's really the problem. It will still need to be solved, it just makes it harder.
Anonymous said…
I would like to know if Darlene Flynn has some ideas in mind for a more operationally optimum student assignment plan. Other than threaten to withhold a vote/obstuct if RBHS does not get needed support from the District (which is absolutely a very real but separate student learning committee focus,not an operations committe charge). Please, I am really interested in a framework solution that Ms. Flynn has proposed or put on the table that aligns with student assignment goals. A poweful idea is more useful than rhetoric.
Anonymous said…
Good luck ever hearing anything from Director Flynn here, in email, at office hours (none), in the press, or anyhwere. She is almost completely inaccessible (and I'm in her district - though on second thought, that might work against me.)

Here is a quote from Director Flynn in the PI on election night 2003...

"Every challenger that's running has made a commitment to better communication, regular public meetings in the community, more inclusive discussions about issues in front of the board," said Flynn, 50. "This is a group of real seasoned communicators. They have the skills to back it up."

Speaking of which, it's pretty entertaining to go back to 2003 and read candidates' pledges, endorsements, etc.

Back to the matter at hand: no offense, but..."real seasoned communicators?" Brita, yes - at board meetings, in office hours, in emails, through the press - all yes. The others? Sadly, "not so much" would be an understatement.
Anonymous said…
Try this link to the 2003 election night story in the PI.
Anonymous said…
In reference to this statement posted above....."I think that the first thing to do is to ask the Beach community (and the Cleveland community) what they want to do to resolve their problems of underenrollment and lack of challenging coursework."

In my opinion it's fine to "ask" the community what they would like to see. It's always better to engage the community and have people "buy in" to a plan. However, this community has done little for itself. Where are the parents? Why are they tolerant of this type of environment? What about the parents that don't choose this school and have to bus their children across town? Where are they? It doesn't seem like the community has been engaged or active in trying to support RBHS. Someone has to take charge, and that someone is the district. They must put a plan forward, hopefully using community input, but ultimately doing what is in the best interest of the children. Perhaps a change in school admin/leadership is the first step?
Charlie Mas said…
Asking the community, and by that I meant the broader community, particularly the families in the area who choose other schools, is just the first step.

I'm sure that there are some among them who don't believe that they have a problem with underenrollment or lack of challenging coursework. If that's the case, then we really do need to start with these people and wake them up to the problem and get them on board.

Community engagement serves a number of purposes including providing creative solutions, winning local support, recruiting volunteers and suppressing local resistance. No matter how cynical you may be about the Rainier Beach community, no matter how little you may think that community engagement will generate any of the first three of those benefits, you must see how it will at least supress local resistance.

I don't think that they are apathetic at all. This is school where student families picketed in front of the school demanding a chnage of principal. This is a community that has staged a number of protests at the John Stanford Center. There is no basis for calling them apathetic at all.

I'm not sure how anyone can say that the community has done little for itself.

Where are the parents?

I suspect they are at work.

Why are they tolerant of this type of environment?

Ummm... clearly they are NOT tolerant of this type of environment since so very few of them have enrolled their children in these schools.

What about the parents that don't choose this school and have to bus their children across town? Where are they?

Why should families who don't have children at the school have any responsibility for the curriculum choices there?

Tell me, why are YOU tolerant of this type of environment? Where are YOU? Don't you have as much responsibility as they?

The fact is that the community has been engaged and active in trying to support RBHS, but they haven't been successful. Can you name many success stories of activism in Seattle Public Schools? In the end, the District staff and the school staff hold all of the authority, they make all of the decisions, and they are accountable to no one, certainly not the community.

Why in the world would you hold the community responsible when they have no decision-making authority and no means for holding anyone accountable? In what way is the community responsible? The community has made the only choice they could make; they chose to enroll their children in other schools.
Anonymous said…
I am a parent in the Rainier Beach community, and I can say that we absolutely do care about both our community and our children receiving high-quality, comprehensive education.

I am disappointed to read comments like "maybe they just don't care" and questions like "why are they tolerant?". At the student assignment meeting at New Holly, south end families (with years of built up anxiety) CLEARLY articulated frustration and disappointment about the state of south end schools, especially middle and high schools.

Personally, I believe that 1400 children leaving Rainier Beach DOES speak loudly about both parent's frustration with the school and their care for their children's education. This is not a traditional form of advocacy (school board meetings, petitions, letters to the editor, etc), but it is a 22% approval rating (400 out of 1800 attending). Even Pres. Bush is higher than that.

At the student assignment meeting, one parent said something like "We are not willing to make our children experiments while the district tries to work on the problem". That spoke volumes to me. We also clearly communicated what we need at these schools, high rigor and college-ready tracks! We want what all families want, for our children to be prepared to graduate from a 4 year institution.

There is no big mystery about what we need and/or want. We want our children to succeed, and we are willing to bus our children 2 hours one way (in the snow uphill both ways?) to make that happen.

kirstenw on this blog is right that it is largely a chicken and egg issue, but we as south end parents aren't willing to subject our children to the district's indecision and empty words.

As charlie points out, the district will have to make a huge commitment to these schools before parents will invest. We want to be in our neighborhood schools (as our elementary enrollment numbers prove), but we are not willing to just blindly put our children somewhere because the district says it's better.

We want more. We want better. We may not have the resources to "fight the good fight" against the district. But we are using our feet and going elsewhere. In many ways it's a silent protest of hundreds. Imagine if the media would get behind that.
Good for you, South End Mom. Well said.

We may think Darlene Flynn should have some ideas but I agree with her stance on not wanting to vote in a plan that does not, at the same time, have a solid foundation (with resources) to make all schools a viable choice. That is the ONLY weapon in the Board's quiver, namely saying they won't let the status quo remain and vote in a plan that doesn't address it. It doesn't have to be a new "program" but a solid plan of "here's how we support every student in that school".
Anonymous said…
I would like to ask South End Mom if you opposed the TAF Academy? There was a shot at improvement. Still don't understand how a struggling community could turn away an opportunity like that. Maybe thats why the district isn't moving faster on RBHS. It seems that they are moving on improving Cleveland and Sealth??? Personally, I think RBHS should be closed and the children moved to other comprehensive High Schools. Then at a later time re-open it with a progressive, college bound curriculum. Otherwise it's the chicken and egg, and that's a nowhere cycle.
Anonymous said…
I appreciate your asking my opinion. I don't often feel that the south end voice is represented here, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my views.

In my opinion, the TAF question is a complicated one.

First, let's begin by saying that there were a few loud voices that protested the TAF Academy, many of them teachers from RBHS and the usual suspects that complain about everything in the south end (if you've ever been to a school board meeting, you know who they are). Most of the rest of us were in a "tell us more" posture, but that voice was never heard. Most of us with elementary and middle school students in the south end desperately wanted more information. (That would be the authentic community engagement that both TAF and the District failed to do.) However, the usual suspects coupled with the teachers freaking out left the masses with no voice at all.

I commend Trish for owning up to the TAF end and learning valuable lessons. The District and Robert Gary (RB principal), as we all know, continue to play dumb. They hold TAF solely responsible. That's frustrating.

As to the merits of TAF Academy, I think there are both pros and cons.

TAF has a great reputation for producing solid results in technology education. I think it would be great to give that opportunity to traditionally under-served populations. It's a crying shame that we don't have more connection between Seattle education and the technology mecca across the water. I also love the idea of small schools. I went to a high school with 1600 kids and was totally lost in the system. 100 kids in a grade? Sounds great.

A technology high school is a very specific product. I again commend Trish for having a specific plan, and making no apologies for what it is and isn't. However, since we have no comprehensive high school in the area, many students would not have been served. Strictly based on the numbers, there are 1800 kids in the RB reference area, and a high school with 400 students still leaves 1400 with no place to go. Makes for an awful case of the haves and the have nots. (Can we say Garfield? yikes!)

In my ideal world, Rainier Beach would be a comprehensive high school, and TAF Academy would be added to a different school, AAA perhaps? I think it would really exciting to see a K-12 at AAA, and I told the former chair of the TAF board just that.

In the end, TAF won't be at Rainier Beach. I don't know why she would, but hopefully Trish (TAF) can find somewhere else to have a Seattle-based Academy. I can't believe that an organization that has been dedicated to this community for so many years has gotten such horrible treatment by the District and some of my south end neighbors. But it should be known that most of us in the south end deeply appreciate TAF, its innovation, its dedication to Seattle Public Schools, and its unwavering excellence to be in traditionally under-served communities.
Michael Rice said…

I respect Ms. Dziko's feeling about what a Charter School is or is not, but the fact that TAF wanted to unilaterally change the way a school is governed, made her proposal DOA. When these issues where brought up, TAF's attitude was take it or leave it. We chose to leave it.

As for the poster who said the staff at RB doesn't care, I invite that person to come spend a day at RB to see the dedication and hard work put forth by Mr. Gary, the rest of the administrative staff, the faculty, and all the support staff. After having been in a few other schools over the past few years, the staff at RB works harder and tries to do more with less than any other place I have seen.

We do have a few things that we would like to make RB a more attractive option to students and their parents. We want to piggy back on the wonderful Robeson Center and increase our offerings in the arts. This includes music, choir, drama, and the visual arts. We have 1.8 fte for arts right now. We also have an incredibly dedicated LA teacher, who has taken on the performing arts. What we would like (and we have presented this to the district) is a coupel of more FTE for the Arts. We have also requested 3 more FTE for academic positions. What this would this do for me, as an example would allow me to start teaching AP Statistics, which would make us a more attractive academic school. The thing about AP Stats, is that you don't really need to be a math whiz to be in the class (unlike Calculus), but just be curious, and most all students are curious.

One thing I like about this blog is the passion people feel about SPS. I hope we will be able to channel all this energy into making SPS a district that all parents want to send their children to.
Anonymous said…
We are lucky to have your perspective on this blog as someone who is at Rainier Beach every single day. It's always good to hear from someone who has first-hand information.

But I can tell you that as a parent of two high-achieving but low-income students of color, I am not excited about sending my students to Rainier Beach.

I do believe that the Rainier Beach staff works very hard, especially in bringing remedial students up to grade level.

However, for many of us in the community, we need more than 1 AP Stats class and a few drama classes to inspire us.

Let me be clear in saying that I do not believe this to be the fault of teachers at the school. I do believe though, that Mr. Gary could and should be doing more to bring innovation and high academic standards that would attract high-achieving, college-bound students. And I also believe that the District academic officers should be doing more as well.

I am incredibly grateful for the work you do. I have several friends who have work at or have worked at Rainier Beach. It is difficult work to bring kids who are so far behind up to standard.

This last comment is not directed at you, Michael, but the larger blog community:

There is a danger in pitting low-achieving families against high-achieving families in the same neighborhood. This does no good for anyone, and all kids and families lose. Even though I may disagree with Charlie Mas on many things, on this we find common ground. We need to ask the District to provide for both ends of the spectrum and ALL of the kids in the middle. It is not fair to ignore any child.

And therefore, we should not ignore the fabulous work at Rainier Beach to bring under-achieving students up to grade level.

Neither should we ignore the families in the Rainier Beach community who also want college-bound rigor in our neighborhood.
Anonymous said…
I am very pleased that the issues surrounding the high schools in southeast Seattle are getting some consideration. Moreover, the compulsory reassignment plan will cause us to lose access to Hamilton International Middle School and their vibrant program and new remodel and force us into Aki and their stagnant program and old building.

The notion of being reassigned to both Aki and RB for middle and high school is more than daunting for many of us in southeast Seattle. For years, we have voted with our feet and have enrolled in schools in other regions or the private sector to avoid southeast Seattle middle and high school programs.

Aki needs ramping up as much as RB does. Aki just does not replace the opportunities found at Hamilton International Middle School.

Forcing students into Aki and RB is just a bad idea!
Anonymous said…
I feel for the residents of SE Seattle, and thank you South end mom for sharing your perspective. I too lived in the South end for many years. When my children became school age and I investigated our neighborhood schools I was shocked. Being a lower-middle income family of color, I applied for scholorships at several private schools. Our income at the time was in the $50,000 year range. Here is what we were offered. Full scholorship to Happy Medium School, 85% scholorship to Spruce Street School. 50% scholorship to Bush, and they offered us an anonymous sponsor family to pay the other 50% of the tuition. I say this just to let you know that the private school community actively recruits and searches for low-middle income children of color.

The south end deserves high performing, competetive public schools, families should not have to go private. We ultimately chose a private school for K/1 and then moved to the north end, where our public school choices were much better. Thank goodness we had the means to do so. What we gave up was our diverse south end community, and for this we are saddened. We shouldn't have to choose from a vibrant, diverse south end community or a challenging school for a high achieving child. Until the ball field is level, it is imperitive that choice remain as is.
Anonymous said…
Who here would be willing to wait out your own child's high school career for 'quality' to be a reality in your neighborhood? Making all schools quality schools and revising the student assignment plan to deliver equitable access to quality schools (in the mean time) doesn't have to be a mutually exclusive proposition. Why not both?
Charlie Mas said…
From the School District's data:

Total students at Hamilton: 724
Hamilton students from the Southeast region: 270 (37.3%)

Total FRE students at Hamilton: 355
Hamilton FRE students from the Southeast region: 189 (53.2%)

When the students from the Southeast region lose access to Hamilton, either because it becomes more popular among Northeast region students after the remodel, or because the District assigns Northeast students there, or because the District assigns APP students there, the demographics at Hamilton will change radically.

And where will those Southeast region students go to school?

Right now 479 Southeast region students attend Aki Kurose. Compare that with the 270 at Hamilton, 200 at Washington, 171 at McClure, and 136 at Meany. A very high percentage of these 786 students are getting yellow bus transportation. Anyone who wants to talk about reducing transportation costs, cannot ignore this.

People aren't waiting until high school to leave the southeast in search of desirable schools.

When I talk about doing an assay of the demand for public school services, this is what I'm talking about. What programs or services are these families leaving the region to get. Clearly there are enough of them to sustain whatever programs they want right in their neighborhood. The demand is there; but the programs are missing.

Don't you think these folks would rather have those programs close to home? Of course they would! So why doesn't the District (or the schools) provide those programs in the Southeast region? That's an excellent question; isn't it?
Unknown said…
Charlie, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on what to do with those Washington Middle School kids from the SE who are APP students? My understanding is that with the assignment plan under discussion they'd stay at Washington. Am I correct on that? I know you've been quite vocal in the past about not splitting those kids. But, yes, in answer to your question, from my point of view as a Rainier Beach resident, it would be great to have those programs close to home.
Anonymous said…
People aren't waiting until high school to leave the southeast in search of desirable schools.


They're leaving the southeast because they don't want to go to school with their neighbors. The district has funded and encouraged this exodus. And this has made the schools more segregated (along all axis) than ever before. If all those students were attending the high schools in their neighborhood, then the programs they valued would exist there. If the children of all the educated parents leave a school, it isn't at all surprising that those remaining value that sort of education less, understand it less, and that there are less programs for those who abandoned ship. What's surprising is that the disrict allows (and funds) this exodus at all.
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous at 5:26PM -

I agree with your post in many ways, a school flounders when the active, educated, and involved families leave. These are the families that volunteer in the school, support the teachers with academic achievement expectations/readiness at home, and contribute resources (talent, time, or money) to enrichment programs.

However, I disagree that the district is funding the exodus. When you look back at the history of busing for desegregation (forced school assignment), a high volume of parents left the public school system for private schools. Look at the number of open elementary schools in the north compared to the south to see the detrimental effect on enrollment.

This experience has shown we can't force families to attend schools without those able bailing from the district.

We need to develop a funding, enrichment, and volunteer model that supports the diversity of a school community. The current choice system is not what's failing schools, it is the lack of balanced programs (Weighted Student Formula - DOES NOT PROVIDE FAIR FUNDING).

I feel strongly as a parent that did not choose my NE reference school that choice for my family and my child is important. However, I believe that all schools should be well supported with programs, funding, and volunteers to provide a balanced choice system.

Charlie Mas said…
Anonymous 5:36 wrote:
"They're leaving the southeast because they don't want to go to school with their neighbors."

I don't know this, and I would be interested in seeing the data to support this assertion.

I agree that families who are involved and supportive of their children's education have motivated students and want other motivated students in school with them. They want to protect their children from peer pressure to under-achieve. That I certainly understand. But when there are 800 students leaving the area for that environment, and there are less than 500 staying, then I have to believe that they can create the environment they want in their own neighborhood.

Clearly the demand for it is there. The District needs to respond to that demand.

"The district has funded and encouraged this exodus."

This is absolutely true. The District will provide yellow bus transportation from the Southeast region to Hamilton or McClure for any student who requests it. They are, literally, funding the exodus. Since the District will not provide transportation to Aki Kurose for many of these students (because they live within the walk area), they are even encouraging it.

"If all those students were attending the high schools in their neighborhood, then the programs they valued would exist there."

This I don't buy. I have yet to see evidence that indicates that the District or the school will provide programs in response to a population that wants it. I would LOVE it if someone could show me when and where a Seattle Public School did this. All of the examples I have indicate the opposite. This is the chicken-and-egg problem. The District is going to have to break the cycle by providing the programs first, before the students enroll.

The families that leave ARE TOTALLY BLAMELESS. I really resent those, and there are a lot of them, who want to blame the involved and informed families who leave a failing school for that school's failure.

"If the children of all the educated parents leave a school, it isn't at all surprising that those remaining value that sort of education less, understand it less, and that there are less programs for those who abandoned ship. What's surprising is that the disrict allows (and funds) this exodus at all."

This is institutional racism. This is what it looks like. It is the self-fulfilling prophesy of low expectations. It is the sorting of students between those with families who find and follow the path to challenging academic opportunities and those without.

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