Thursday, May 10, 2007

Student Assignment Plan web site

The District has created a new web site specifically for the review of the Student Assignment Plan.

The web site includes information about meetings and events for community participation. The site also claims to offer the same information that is being provided to Board members.

So far, the District has scheduled these opportunities for community members to participate in the discussion process about the New Student Assignment Plan:

Community Forums:
Tuesday, May 22, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Hamilton International Middle School, Auditorium, 1610 North 41st Street

Thursday, May 24, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
NewHolly Gathering Hall, 7054 32d Avenue South

Drop-in Meetings:
Wednesday, May 16, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 pm
John Stanford Center, 2445 Third Avenue South, Room 3700

Wednesday, May 23, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Ballard Community Center, 6020 28th Avenue NW

Thursday, May 24, 9:00 - 11:00 am
Garfield Community Center, 2323 East Cherry Street

Thursday, May 24, 1:30 - 3:30 pm
Delridge Community Center, 4501 Delridge Way SW

Wednesday, May 30, 3:30 - 5:30 pm
John Stanford Center, 2445 Third Avenue South, Room 2700


Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting. I wonder what the difference is between the community forums and drop-in meetings. I'd think the latter is more informal. Might be worth going to one of each. I can't believe only one drop-in is at night.

Charlie Mas said...

Some of the information provided so far is interesting and some of it is just bizarre.

Here's an interesting bit: the number of middle school and high school students who live closest to each of the traditional middle and high schools.

There are only 409 students for whom Hamilton is the closest middle school. There are 1,389 for Whitman and 1,677 for Eckstein. Shockingly there are 1,877 for whom Aki Kurose is the nearest middle school plus 635 who live closest to Mercer. There are 1,327 middle school students who live closest to Denny and only 492 who are closer to Madison.

That goes a long way to explain why Whitman and Eckstein are so full. It makes clear why the District buses students out of the Southeast - that region is the only one that is markedly underserved. It also shows how strong the preference is for Madison - it one of the few schools that draws students away from a closer school.

A similar map is available for the high schools. The big shocker there is Ballard. It is the closest school for 2,387 students - WAY more than it can hold. Here's another shocker: Rainier Beach is closest for 1,840 students and Cleveland for 1,213. Where are these kids? Again, Southeast Seattle is SERIOUSLY underserved, but only 1,000 or so students attend Beach and Cleveland when they are the closest schools for 3,050 students! Wow!

Then comes the bizarre. The same data is presented - closest middle school and high school - for APP students. Why in the world would the District be looking at this data unless they were thinking of breaking up APP? Why is the distribution of 820 APP middle and high school students even on their radar, let alone the topic of so much attention? It does reveal an interesting statistical anomaly: APP students are 4.4% of the total middle school population. There is no part of town where the APP population is less than 2.2% of the total population, but the concentration is highest close to Meany: 11.6%. There is also an oddly high concentration near McClure where it is 9.7%.

I have a lot of questions about the map that shows the percentage of K-5 student eligible for free or reduced price meals. First of all, the color code grouping are arbitrary. They are 1-20%, 21 to 40%, 41-74%, and 75-100%. So two of the color codes represent a 20% range, one represents a 26% range, and one represents a 34% range. What the hell is that? Also, the map gives the rates for alternative schools (listing The New School as an Alternative School), but Lowell is not represented. When looking at the difference between concentrations where the students live and concentrations where they go to school, all of the changes are upward. No school appears to have a lower concentration of poverty in the building than in the neighborhood. It appears that choice only increases the concentration of poverty at schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, can you give us a link to those maps?

Also, New School, despite all outward appearances, is NOT an alternative school. If this is a newer map and it is listed that way, then once again the district staff can't decide what it is. Unless, of course, it serves a purpose to have it be one in one place and something else in another.

Charlie Mas said...

Here are the links:

Main page for Student Assignment Plan

Meetings and Events page

Maps and data page

Middle school map

High school map

Anonymous said...

And the sad part about this is that the District has absolutely no answer for better academics at Rainier Beach or Cleveland.

They need to move Rainier Beach into Cleveland and shut down the Rainier Beach building. Donna Marshall, Cleveland's principal needs to be fired and Robert Gary (Rainier Beach's principal) needs to find a new occupation within the district.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas writes:

"When looking at the difference between concentrations where the students live and concentrations where they go to school, all of the changes are upward. No school appears to have a lower concentration of poverty in the building than in the neighborhood. It appears that choice only increases the concentration of poverty at schools."

How are numbers calculated for where students live? Is it from within the Seattle Public School population? If so, this number has always troubled me because it excludes children who are currently in a private school, but nevertheless live in a school's reference area. I suspect that it may be difficult to access the number of students (as opposed to the # of Seattle Public School Students), but those currently in a private school should be included for demographic planning, shouldn't they?

But, I can't figure out how it's mathematically possible for every school to have a higher number of poor children than the children in that school's district. I think it can only work mathematically if there's something flaky with the binning (and there obviously is, with unequally sized bins). If private school students were included, it would make mathematical sense, but I don't think they are included in the student numbers.

n-ssp (not a Seattle school parent)

Anonymous said...


I too thought the numbers looked flaky in several ways. Frankly, odd enough that I think someone should actually query specifics about how they were calculated. Information sheets like these can anchor people to particular ideas and someone should make sure the numbers are right.


Anonymous said...

Alternative = all city draw

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was told by the demographer that the figures represent all children in any given area, whether they attend SPS or not. Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Charlie says: “No school appears to have a lower concentration of poverty in the building than in the neighborhood. It appears that choice only increases the concentration of poverty at schools” TOPS has a FRL rate of 27%, it is in a neighborhood with a FRL rate of 0-20% (closer to 0 than 20% I would guess). Other alternative schools may do the same, but I'm not sure where they all are.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous says: “Alternative = all city draw.” That seems to be a common misperception, but it isn't true: AAA, AS#1 and Summit K-12 are all city draws, but I think that is it. TOPS draws from five of nine clusters, Salmon Bay from three, Orca from five…

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/elementaryenrollmentguide20062007.pdf p.41.

APP at Lowell and Washington (and Garfield if you tested in before 7th grade) are “all city draws” but not alternative schools.

I hope the District IS looking at the distribution of high school APP kids. Currently they don’t allow new APP students join the cohort and enroll at Garfield once they are 13 but they do save spots at Garfield for kids who tested into APP when they were five or six. The argument seems to be that it’s important to “keep the cohort together.” If that is true, why isn’t it important to keep TOPS or Salmon Bay or Madrona or Blaine cohorts together? From what I understand, there is no real APP program at Garfield--any kid can take any class--it's all about the cohort. Maybe the District is considering dispersing the APP high school kids back to their neighborhoods. I'm not sure that would be a bad thing given the current high school APP system.

Charlie Mas said...

Having the APP students at Garfield provides the necessary demand to support AP classes. APP students could probably get the challenging curriculum they need in AP classes at Roosevelt, IB classes at Ingraham or Sealth, and maybe at Ballard. Challenging coursework is availble or accessible to a lesser extent at other high schools in varying degrees.

The population, if dispersed, would not be large enough to make these classes cost-effective to present. Given that is the likely result, I would consider that "a bad thing".

Anonymous said...

APP was supposed to be top 1%... now it's top 4.4%? And that's after most of the kids who are gifted are already going to private schools serving gifted students: Country Day, UCDS, Evergreen, Lakeside, etc. What's the real point? Can you say "segregation"?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, when you say "Can you say "segregation"?" I'm assuming you mean academic segregation and not race right? Cause if you were assuming race, then I'd have to assume that you believe only white people are smart enough for APP.

Anonymous said...

Finding a largely white'n'Asian school in the Seattle area is not very tough -- no need for top-tier scores to make that happen, if it were really anyone's goal. But I really don't think that most people are choosing schools or programs for segregationist reasons.

Indeed, for my kids, the racial diversity in their classes went *up* when they moved to APP rather than their largely-white neighborhood school --not to mention that they now had many more classmates with foreign-born parents, from many different countries. Is that enough? no. Is it something? yes.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

If the district were operating equitably, APP would be over-represented with poor and/or black students. The private schools for gifted students are over-represented by a large margin with the white (and asian) gifted students, that is, the more well-off students. This leaves the gifted black and poor students for the public schools.... where are they? Not in APP.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So why aren't there more poor and minority (primarily Latino and black) APP students? It's not for lacking of trying on the part of Advanced Learning (and even before it was advanced learning and was highly capable). I remember Bob Vaughn, who headed the department when it was the Highly Capable department saying that he had test scores and called families to tell them about APP. He was accused of being a racist for calling them.

I also know, that in the past, many principals that had schools with largely poor and minority students did NOT tell parents about the program. They mostly didn't want their brightest students to leave the schools and unilaterally made the decision to not inform the parents of an academic opportunity for their children. Now, with the WASL emphasis, I'd be willing to believe it is still true in some cases.

I think it's a combination of parents fearing their child might be the only minority child in a class (other than Asian)or parents who aren't paying attention or don't want their child to leave their neighborhood school because they like being in the neighborhood or don't believe the program would help their child. Maybe the Advanced Learning department could try telephone calls based on test scores as outreach but I wonder if that would help. I know that many private school recruit bright minority students but I have no idea how many of them go.

The district has a responsibility to let parents know about its programs and maybe do outreach to ALL students who do well on testing. But on some level, it is a parent's responsibility to follow up.

Anonymous said...

APP/ Gifted ??

I've yet to see any the brilliant grads of harvard, yale etc devise a social system that employs all of us and gets all of us our needs and provides the chance for us to get some wants.

the ... ha ha ha ... top 1% are THE best at passing tests. as adults, they are the best at gaming the system for the best praises and prizes - and they are the best at making the educational system run cowering because they'll send their 'gifted' offspring to some other school, taking big checks and big connections.

most people could do challenging coursework with the resources. It sure seems like the current system works to pit people against each other because - who is going to get the APP resources and call their kid 'gifted' ?

mom's day anon

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, my son is African American/white, and his standardized test scores were high. The district sent us a letter informing us that his scores were high and that we should consider testing him for APP/Spectrum. They gave us the time, date and location of the test, and the letter urged us to take advantage of the opportunity.

Our school also ran information on the test in the school newsletter.

We loved our neighborhood school, and felt like our son was being challenged where he was. We decided to test (for our own information) but decided that we wanted our son to stay in his school and not leave our community.

My point is that the district does make an effort to attract minority children. Even if a principal decided not to inform their community their are a number of ways that the district makes this information available

1-They send out letter.
2-Informatin about testing is posted on the SPS website.
3-It's in the enrollment guides.

What more could the district do?? Go to your house with an APP recruiter and a bowl of ice cream in their hands?? Some responsibility is on the parents, don't you think??

FYI we also recieved a letter from the Rainier Scholors. And, having moved on to middle school (our 3rd SPS school) I can say that we have been informed every year, from each school about APP testing. If minority children are not in APP, we need to look to the parents not SPS.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The last post said, "We decided to test (for our own information) but decided that we wanted our son to stay in his school and not leave our community."

I just want to gently point out (because I have heard many parents at schools like Montlake and McGilvra do this) that it costs the program money for everyone who tests "for our own information". The majority of the funds in the program go to testing because so many people test and yet don't end up in the program. Please don't use the program for that unless you have a serious interest in being in it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I don't think kids who've qualified once should be tested again and again, but I think it's reasonable to do the CogAT once "in case" and see what you think about the results. Given the time frame, most people have to make up their minds pretty quickly whether to test or not, and may not have decided what to do about the results.

In any case, I think it's valuable for the district to know about high-scoring students (perhaps especially high-scoring students of color) and where their parents choose to have them educated. That seems to me like good data to have. The CogAT is a pretty cheap test, and now that they do so little individual achievement testing, the testing costs for any one kid aren't very high. (Apart from the WASL, of course, but that's not coming out of the Advanced Learning budget, thank goodness.)

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, Melissa, but when the district offers a service, it is not unreasonable for parents to want to take advantage of it. We were ave to share our childs scores with his teachers, which helped them in challenging him. And, though we did not move our son in 4th grade when he was tested, we certainly did use the information when we chose a middle school...IE made sure they offered spectrum, honors classes etc. As you probably know, the scores are good for program placement for two years.

If the district doesn't want to pay for testing they could simply say that if you test in, you will automatically be placed in the program that you qualify for. This would discourage parents who "just want the information" from taking the test. My guess is that all of the data that the district recieves by offering the test (whether people move to app or not) is very useful to them.

Charlie Mas said...

There is clearly a lot of animosity and misinformation about APP and Spectrum.

I would encourage those who have an interest in the programs to learn more about them, about the need for them, about the eligibility criteria, about the attempts at outreach to under-represented communities, and about the various barriers to participation.

I would also encourage everyone to honestly question their assumptions about these programs and seriously consider the validity of other perspectives.

These programs are a lot of different things to different people. For some, they are lifesavers, for others, they are destructive. Every story is a little different. I encourage those who support the programs to be sensitive to the legitimate concerns of those who find them harmful and seek to mitigate whatever harm they cause. Likewise, I encourage those who believe that the programs are harmful to be sensitive to the legitimate concerns of those who believe that the programs are necessary to meet the academic needs of advanced learners and seek to provide that appropriate academic opportunity.

It is not enough to say that the programs are somehow racist or classist or anti-egalitarian without offering some alternative means to meet the academic needs of advanced learners. Nor is it enough to support the programs without working to make them more equitably accessible.

There are, however, limits. There are limits to how much a general education classroom teacher can accomodate the needs of advanced learners. After that point either the student must sacrifice academics for other values or a separate classroom must be created. There are also limits to the outreach and active recruiting that the District staff can do to attract a more diverse population into the programs. Much of the work of getting African-American and Latino students ready for the programs cannot be done by the Advanced Learning staff - it must be done by the neighborhood schools, the students, and the students' families.

Anonymous said...

For many South Seattle parents, APP and Spectrum programs feel like our only option. With story after story (and statistic after statistic) about the lack-luster south end schools: Cleveland, Franklin and Rainier Beach, what options do we have?

And while you'll certainly not see me giving tours for prospective APP families, I'm not going to bash it either. (ok, ok, maybe every once in a while but then I apologize!)

Afterall, where are there high-achieving programs that are truly diverse? Lakeside was recently put to shame in Seattle Weekly for attempting to have diversity but failing miserably to care for their diverse students and faculty.

I remember being upset that these programs weren't more diverse or that the curriculum didn't reflect my children's history. But I've decided not to blame Lakeside (who, as an organization, is really trying to diversify its school) or APP for having a "classical" education.

Our choice is simple: college bound or not. This may seem like a gross exaggeration, but with the exception of Running Start, south-end high schools are not producing college-ready students.

Just two weeks ago I was talking to a mom whose oldest child graduated from Franklin last year. Both she and her husband are college-educated. They are a two-parent, dual income family; stable, volunteers in their schools, etc. etc. etc. She told me that her son, now at a 4 yr university, is struggling miserably because Franklin did not give him the tools necessary for college. And this is from the best of the 3 south end high schools.

So here is my confession: I sent my kid to Washington APP in order to "buy" her a seat at Garfield. Again, my daughter is not in APP because I believe the program to be welcoming or culturally relevant for our family. She is there because she is more likely to be a college graduate if she stays there.

I bought her a golden ticket to Garfield. With Student Assignment up for grabs, it seems a worthless purchase.

I sigh with resignation. All that glitters is not gold.