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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Deferred elements of the new Student Assignment Plan

The New Student Assignment Plan has been sketched out. We're all pretty familiar with the features as the lines are getting inked in:

* Right-sized elementary school reference areas - matching the student population size with the school building capacity
* Default assignment to a reference area elementary school
* Guaranteed enrollment to a reference area elementary school
* Continued choice in elementary schools
* Elementary school transportation limited to clusters
* Clusters reduced in size to cut transporation distances
* Single middle school reference areas
* Middle school reference areas aligned with elementary school reference areas (feeder patterns)
* Default assignment to a reference area middle school
* Guaranteed enrollment to a reference area middle school
* Continued choice in middle schools
* Middle school transportation limited to reference area school
* High school transportation by METRO
* Continued choice in high schools


Also written, but not as darkly:

* Single high school reference areas
* High school reference areas aligned with middle school reference areas (feeder patterns)
* Default assignment to a reference area high school
* Guaranteed enrollment to a reference area high school
* Some percentage of set-aside seats for out-of-region students at each high school


There are some topics that have only been mentioned, not really discussed:

* General transporation policy for alternative schools
* Transportation service areas for specific alternative schools
* What is and is not an alternative school?
* The possibility of set-aside seats in high schools for specific programs (e.g. biotech at Ballard, Jazz Band at Garfield and Roosevelt, IB at Ingraham and Sealth)


And then there are some topics that have not even been mentioned out loud, but are definitely on the radar and causing concern:


* A rational, transparent program placement process driven by student data instead of principal politics
* The impact of program placement decisions on building capacities and reference area size
* Equitable access and distribution of Spectrum programs - real Spectrum programs
* The possible need for out-of-cluster or out-of-region transportation for Spectrum students to gather enough to form viable programs
* Equitable access and distribution of special education programs
* Equitable access and distribution of bilingual programs
* Placement and configuration of unique programs like APP, elementary and secondary BOC, the programs now at Marshall, and the programs now at Wilson-Pacific


There are almost certainly some items I forgot or didn't classify correctly. I hope people will add them.


Some at the District have hinted that they don't want to discuss some of these last things yet. They have suggested that these elements can be discussed in a second Phase. I don't see how. If the District doesn't consider the impact of program placement on capacity when right-sizing the reference area, they will end up with 580 students trying to find seats at Lafayette. In a similar vein, after right-sizing a reference area for a school, how can the District add a program to it?

I think these unmentionables need to be talked about as part of the whole design. The principles driving the design of the whole should extend into these cases as well. So let's talk about these oddly shaped pieces of the puzzle and where they fit in the big picture.

There are benefits of coming early to the discussion. If you are among the first, then you have a better chance of participating in it, positioning it, even directing it. These little vacuums represent opportunities for activism and advocacy. I don't know that the District staff will be open to suggestion on these topics, but I do know that the ideas with the best chances for acceptance are those that serve all students' interests well - not just the immediate self interests of a small group, and are consistent with the guiding principles of the whole project.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the district has a whole lot on their plate right now. I think they are wise to focus on the major issues at this time, and then in a phase two look at some of the special programs that you mention. Let them work phase one out. There will be plenty of room for activism along the way, be it now, or when your "unmentionables" are addressed later.

Anonymous said...

Re: There are some topics that have only been mentioned, not really discussed:

* What is and is not an alternative school?

Agree that this piece has to be addressed at the same time the reference zones are redone. In part to see whether transportation savings can happen here. In part to see whether some of those facilities can also accommodate reference area needs. I read the "School Assignment Vote" thread 2 posts back and some people are already touching on this question for the NW area and the Central area. Additional Qs come to mind around New School, Orca and a few others. I've heard that the Alternative School committee, charged w/ coming up w/ a -- what does the district call it -- taxonomy? has gotten nowhere fast. Here's a suggestion: Schools with an unusual way of addressing curriculum...combining grade levels, experiential vs. standard textbook teaching, not issuing grades...be considered "alternative". K-8s generally wouldn't be considered alternative (unless they had a very unusual curriculum). Doesn't mean that a k-8 would have to serve only a small reference area...perhaps it could serve what today is a "cluster" or larger grouping of schools to preserve choice. But while serving a larger area than a standard elementary school, the K-8 could also be a reference school. I think someone mentioned that in the other thread. This might also address some of the leakage to private schools at the middle school level.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, what would your classification mean for John Stanford, in your opinion? That is our reference school right now.

Anonymous said...

Wallingford...This is only an opinion, certainly nothing that I've heard from the district...IMHO, John Stanford, with its language immersion, is certainly an alternative school. It is teaching curriculum in a non-standard way. So then what? As that previous thread said, perhaps there are a number of ideas that could work. As one poster said, a reference school overlay (set aside) for neighborhood children could be established, with official reference schools being BF Day, Bryant, even Montlake and TOPS/Seward (if that were to be reclassified). Who says the current clusters, which divide out at the Ship Canal, have to be continued? Or the school could be 50 percent normal classes, 50 percent alternative, with another language immersion program opened at a less popular school in the south end to draw students in. In all cases, I concede that there would be fewer spots as a whole for Wallingford students. But the positives for the general District might outweigh that issue.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't think the District can or should delay these considerations to a second phase.

Read the preamble to the Framework. It says:

"A new Student Assignment Plan should provide every student with access to a quality education that supports enhanced achievement for all students, including elimination of the achievement gap. Toward these ends, the new plan should enable stronger family
engagement with schools, provide equitable access to programs, continue to offer opportunities for school choice, and foster diversity. This requires strong leadership at every school, careful and intentional location of specialized programs, and structural changes in how students are assigned to schools.
"

This is the weird thing. The written goals for the plan make clear reference to equitable access to programs and the "careful and intentional location of specialized programs", but then the body of the document is completely silent on the topic. There is no reference to them anywhere.

Isn't that weird?

It may be because the Board is leading the Student Assignment Plan but the Superintendent has unilateral control over program placement.

Anonymous said...

Someone told me today that Eastlake sent a letter to district staff and board members officially asking that K-8s and elementary alternative facilities be considered as placement possibilities in this go-round of reference redraws. Makes sense to me. How can the district not look at all buildings? (This is sounding like last year's closure debate when people were advocating that the whole picture be examined at one time...not in stages.) It will be very interesting to see whether and/or how staff and board members respond.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to high school assignments, the elephant is still in the room. Queen Anne and Magnolia need their own high school.

Roy Smith said...

roanoke park wrote: Someone told me today that Eastlake sent a letter to district staff and board members officially asking that K-8s and elementary alternative facilities be considered as placement possibilities in this go-round of reference redraws.

I wonder if this is code for making TOPS a reference area school? I know next to nothing about TOPS, as I don't live in the draw area for TOPS and so did not investigate the program when going through school selection, but it seems to be a widely held opinion that TOPS is not really alternative (unless, by "alternative", one means "highly regarded", which by many accounts, it is). Can anybody here speak more to what TOPS really is and what it isn't?

I am speaking from the position of an outsider looking in when it comes to school issues in the central cluster, but from my perspective, TOPS looks less like an alternative school (in the vein of AS#1 or Pathfinder, for instance) and more like a case of a committed (and some would say privileged) constituency that has a popular program and is fighting to preserve an entitlement to send their children there.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, QA and Magnolia (and to a lesser extent, Laurelhurst) need a high school to call home. The Center School is a great solid niche school but not what the community wanted and neither Don Nielson (who was the primary developer) or the district listened. Much money has been poured into the school (for remodelling and leasing) and yet, when you hear about plans to remodel Seattle Center, you hear nothing about the school. Would it be allowed to stay there? Where would students go in the interim?

I'd have to check on site size but the district does have the old Magnolia School that might be able to redeveloped. I'd love to see the money fronted for that (like from BEX III) to help alleviate this problem. I have no doubt that the parents in QA/Magnolia would pitch in and create a great school for their students (but, of course, not excluding their choice to go elsewhwere). The idea that Lincoln would become the QA/Magnolia high school is just ridiculous because of the years off it would take and...it's in Wallingford.

Anonymous said...

Does the timing of this make anyone feel a little strange?

1. Passing a student assignment plan before there is an academic plan in place? How do you provide "access to quality education" without fixing under-performing schools first? And, considering that specialized programs are not equally distributed across the city, wouldn't the District want to remedy that before passing a student assignment plan?

Let's remember that academics weren't an issue at all until some Southeast families complained at New Holly (thus the birth of the SE Education Initiative). Isn't it scary ... Academics weren't a consideration in this plan! Eeks!

2. Passing a framework 2 weeks before a new superintendent comes to town?

3. Passing the detailed version just before there are new school board members?

Call me crazy, but shouldn't the new Sup. have an academic plan, and shouldn't that plan inform the assignment plan?

Instead, we have an assignment plan that will drive academics. Seems a wee bit backwards to me.

Anonymous said...

The Alternative School Committee does have a good start on a taxonomy of "alternative" schools that was created two years ago, and can be found on the district website at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/altedfinalreport.pdf

This report is forming the basis for the current standing committee, which is working with the definition to create a rubric by which schools can identify themselves as alternative.

Anonymous said...

sorry, that web link should have a .pdf on the end,

it should be
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/altedfinalreport.pdf

Anonymous said...

Once and for all TOPS is an alternative school.

1-They are a k-8 multi cluster draw.
2-They have mixed grade classrooms.
3-They have late start for middle school.
4-They have a social justice theme, and weave race realtions, and civil justice into all facets of their curriculum.
5-There is a shared respect amongst teachers and students, not common in traditional schools. Teachers are addressed by their first names.
6-Large focus on the arts.
7-They use an alternative report card, have no grades, and no tests.
8-They emphasize service learning.
9-They do a lot of hands on, experiential learning.
10-They teach children to be responsible in subtle ways. Instead of lining up after recess and being mother ducked into school by a teacher. They are responsible to hear the bell, and get themselves to class on time (at all grade levels, even kindergarten). This them is wound in everything they do.

There is so much more, and way to much to list. But do know they are alternative. Maybe not as extreme as AS1 which in my opinion is so extreme that is counter-culture and way way to lax. TOPS is more of a progressive model of education, but still values the community in which they engage. That doesn't make them not alternative.

Johnny Calcagno said...

To add to Anonymous at 9:56am...

More information about why TOPS really is an alternative school is available here and here.

Anonymous said...

TOPS an alternative school? A great school, yes absolutely. I have to go with the majority and question its alternativeness. Points in line...
Once and for all TOPS is an alternative school.

1-They are a k-8 multi cluster draw.
>>Just because a school is K-8 doesn't make it alternative, or at least that's what District staff seem to be socializing.

2-They have mixed grade classrooms.
>>For what programs? Mixed grade classes can also be found in traditional schools.
3-They have late start for middle school.
>>Why does this make it alternative?
4-They have a social justice theme, and weave race realtions, and civil justice into all facets of their curriculum.
>>Other traditional schools have strong themes too.
5-There is a shared respect amongst teachers and students, not common in traditional schools. Teachers are addressed by their first names.
>>If this is what makes a school alternative, then the District really has a problem on its hands. Shared respect should be a basic tenant of all schools.
6-Large focus on the arts.
>>Again, focus is not "alternative".
7-They use an alternative report card, have no grades, and no tests.
>>Interesting, would like to know more. Pls. explain.
8-They emphasize service learning.
>>See #6
9-They do a lot of hands on, experiential learning.
>>As do all progressive classrooms.
10-They teach children to be responsible in subtle ways. Instead of lining up after recess and being mother ducked into school by a teacher. They are responsible to hear the bell, and get themselves to class on time (at all grade levels, even kindergarten). This them is wound in everything they do.
>>See #5

Anonymous said...

Dear South End Mom,
Yes the timing seemed a little funny to me, too, but I went back and looked at notes from the prolonged closure debate, and the District was talking 2 years ago about updating reference areas in about two years...so I guess that puts us at "now". Also, Manhas is leaving in large part because of the school closure situation, so the new superintendent is coming because of this ongoing effort by the district to update itself. In this case the chicken does seem to have come before the egg, or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with several of the posters and say that TOPS is not a true alternative school. I have met both Elaine's of the Alternative Schools committee, and they would also argue that TOPS, as it is now, is not providing alternative education.

The real issue for TOPS is that they want to maintain a diverse student body (for the sake of the larger argument, we won't get into the argument of whether it is truly diverse or not), a huge portion of which comes from South and Southeast clusters. Moving to a neighborhood school would lose that diversity. However, TOPS families will have to realize that unless the school moves to Southeast Seattle or the southern part of the CD, they will not be able to retain the diversity they love so much.

I was a parent at TOPS when there were committees being formed and discussions being had about "What makes TOPS alternative?". Here's a hint, if you have to ask the question to the parents who are currently there, and they don't the same answer (or any answer!), it's not an alternative school.

Shouting over and over again "We're Alternative!" doesn't make it alternative. And if you've ever looked at traditional schools, you'll see that there is little differentiation, except that TOPS kids get to call their elementary teachers by their first names.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered for a while about what makes a school alternative in the seattle school system. Glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't understand. As an outsider, I had been theorizing that the school was permitted more control over it's decisions, but I think I'm wrong, 'cause it seems like most SP schools have a lot of local control. I heard that one can't be assigned to an alternative school, but then there are examples like John Stanford, that don't make sense to me.

Which schools are alternative, according to official current definitions?

nssp (not a seattle school parent)

Anonymous said...

Even diversity is an interesting and unclear question about TOPS and other schools. What kind of diversity? Racial? Economic? It's a labyrinth, isn't it? And this is something you savvy bloggers should definitely investigate, especially with a new set of tiebreakers being reviewed. When schools cite their own student population diversity statistics, are they looking at every student housed in their school? Or just the ones that are in the school's main program, which would be a more true test of diversity. For instance, there are ESL or hard-of-hearing or additional special needs programs in some of these schools which use facility space but have next to zero interaction with the student body. Some of these schools then count those students when pointing to the diversity of their programs...or to the areas from which they draw students. But that's never seemed fair to me...to use those non-integrated-into-the-school-as-a-whole heads to garner more public relations or fiscal or whatever good will.

Anonymous said...

Maybe i am old school, but, I thought alternative schools were for "At Risk Children". It seems to me Tops and John Stanford are two schools which offer different programs from the Traditional schools. Why must a moniker be attached to them?

Anonymous said...

"I have to agree with several of the posters and say that TOPS is not a true alternative school."

OK, will someone please define what they think a "true" alternative school is. My definition is anything that is not traditional. IE John Stanford, Montessori, APP, Marshall, Nova, AS1, AEII etc.

Does an alternative school HAVE to be a radical? counter-culture? Anti-district? What does AS1 do that TOPS does not do? I would LOVE to know.

What is the criteria? Why is

Brita said...

Hello all,

The board has been talking about the new student assignment system in terms of improved academic outcomes since September, long before any recent meeting in SE Seattle. Dick Lilly's recent CrossCut missed the point completely. When kids have an opportunity to attend a good school close to home, their families should find it easier to be involved which ultimately improves learning. When elementaries feed into middle schools, we can have 5th grade and 6th grade teachers working in close alignment to make sure that kids are prepared to be academically successful in MS. When kids have an opportunity to proceed to MS with the bulk of their cohort, they should be able to feel more supported and have an easier transition.

The framework we are voting on tonight is for the basic new plan. The board and staff have been upfront that once this is passed, staff will need to do a lot of homework and model various options regarding specialized programs and nontraditional schools, along with implementation issues regarding tie-breakers, etc.

The board appointed a committee 2 years ago to look at alternative education (which in Seattle, unlike many districts, is a far broader notion than re-entry programs) and they came up with an excellent report (still on the web I believe). The board subsequently voted on a definition of alternative education and that will form the basis of our next deliberations regarding student assignment, transportation as they relate to the 'non-traditional' schools.

Darlene Flynn and I are working this summer on a new board policy regarding program placement, so stay tuned.

I am glad that the staff is waiting to get official board direction (through our vote tonight) before spending an enormous amount of time on the rest of the student assignment overhaul. The next stage will also involve community engagement and a board vote next fall.

Hope this helps clarify where we are. Thanks to Charlie for clearly outlining the tasks before us.

Beth Bakeman said...

Thanks, Brita. I really appreciate having your voice and perspective on this blog.

And I want to second your "thanks" to Charlie. Charlie's writing for this post was a wonderful example of thorough research and analytical thinking.

Whether or not I agree with Charlie on any given topic, I always appreciate the information he brings to the table. He helps all us of have better informed discussions.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my skepticism, but that alternative report was written by alternative parents with a vested interest in keeping their particular schools labeled "alternative". Case in point: calling a multi-region draw one of the definitions of alternative. That may be a result, but it's not a definer. Otherwise, every alternative school could keep its definition into perpetuity by pointing to its draw area.

I have nothing against alternative choice. However, I'm a huge proponent of K-8s -- as are many of my friends (prospective SPS parents in the coming 1-3 years) -- for the very reason that Brita cites...continuity between elementary and middle school programs. And with a number of the district's K-8s clinging to their "alternative" status, I continue to be concerned that the district won't commit to using these schools as reference schools. They certainly skirted the issue in the Framework, as the Eastlakians called out. I happen to agree with them that the Framework should indicate whether (or not) K-8 schools are to be considered what the plan calls "regular" schools.

Roy Smith said...

I think it might be helpful to differentiate between "alternative schools" and the various sorts of other special programs that we have in SPS.

In my mind an alternative school is one that takes to heart principles of the free school or democratic schools movement. These schools are generally characterized as having an anti-authoritarian nature, using democratic and inclusive decision making processes, not using formal testing mechanisms and numeric letter grades, and emphasizing student directed learning and experiential learning.

Of the schools I am somewhat familiar with, AS#1, AE#2, and Pathfinder clearly fit into this definition. Salmon Bay, Orca (I know even less about Orca than I do about TOPS), TOPS, and Summit K-12 may also fit into this definition, but I don't know enough about them to really say.

Of the other unusual programs at the elementary level, I would generally classify them as non-alternative. Due to their uniqueness (such as John Stanford or the AAA), I think it is absolutely appropriate, for some at least, that enrollment be handled differently for them than for the neighborhood reference area schools, but they are basically traditional schools with special features.

The other point that is worth making is that it is probably not possible or worthwhile to draw a bright line differentiating traditional and alternative education. Of "The 12 Key Elements of the Best Practices of Alternative Education" (found in Alternative Education Committee Advisory Report, at least half are elements that I would consider to be very desirable in all schools, regardless of educational style. Alternative school and traditional school are better understood as labels for points on a continuum, not as a either/or choice.

Anonymous said...

Roy's comment defines an alternative method of teaching and learning, but doesn't really define alternative schools in the SPS. Could a neighborhood school choose to use alternative pedagogy?

For the purpose of school assignment, I think we need to define which schools will be filled through mechanisms other than reference areas.

Anonymous said...

It is very confusing right now. Graham Hill's Montessori program is not considered alternative, despite its very different educational philosophy...and where does the New School fit in? And geeze, as a Southend parent, I don't feel very good about Aki being the middle school reference when such a small percentage of children are passing standardized benchmarks, and there's no academic plan to fix it! And so no wonder southenders are trying to get into TOPS, the K-8 Orca, etc.

Roy Smith said...

north of ballard writes: I'm a huge proponent of K-8s -- as are many of my friends (prospective SPS parents in the coming 1-3 years) -- for the very reason that Brita cites...continuity between elementary and middle school programs.

Would having a guaranteed enrollment path from your neighborhood elementary school into your neighborhood middle school ease your concerns about continuity between elementary and middle school programs? With a feeder system such as that suggested by the new framework, presumably middle schools would be able to provide better continuity than they do now.

It seems to me that much of the current popularity of the K-8 concept stems not from the fact that K-8 schools have any inherent advantages - it is not at all clear to me that they do. It stems instead from fear of the mess that Seattle middle schools are perceived to be combined with lack of a predictably positive outcome in school assignment at the middle school level. Enrolling a child at a K-8 is seen as the most reliable way for parents to avoid the problems that SPS generally has at the middle school level. (By the way, I sympathize with this sentiment: although the fact that AS#1 is a K-8 was completely incidental to my family choosing it, I can't say that it bothers me that we don't have to sweat the middle school assignment process.)

If my perception is correct, then the way to address the issue is not to open a bunch of neighborhood K-8s (which in all likelihood will intensify battles over how student assignment works), it is to fix the problems that families have with the middle schools as they are now.

As an aside, has anybody figured out how student assignment for Broadview-Thompson will work when that school transitions to a K-8 status? Do people that live in the reference area automatically have a leg up on everybody else in getting into a K-8 program if that is what they want? And if that is the case, is this equitable?

Roy Smith said...

nnsp said: Roy's comment defines an alternative method of teaching and learning, but doesn't really define alternative schools in the SPS. Could a neighborhood school choose to use alternative pedagogy?

Since a core principle of free school pedagogy as I understand it is that families are not compelled to be there, I sure hope that a reference area school doesn't try to use alternative pedagogy.

nnsp said: For the purpose of school assignment, I think we need to define which schools will be filled through mechanisms other than reference areas.

Exactly. I think the district has it mostly right as things currently stand, with a couple of glaring exceptions. Right now, the main points of contention seem to be over TOPS, which apparently a lot of Eastlake families want into and which is not universally considered to be alternative, and the John Stanford school, which is a reference area school that has a unique program. I have no opinion one way or the other on TOPS; in my mind, the fact that John Stanford is a reference area school is a travesty because the language immersion program is so popular and there don't seem to be any plans to make language immersion more widely available.

In the future, I think we may expect contention over the student assignment mechanisms for traditional, i.e., reference area K-8s.

Anonymous said...

Brita said...

Darlene Flynn and I are working this summer on a new board policy regarding program placement, so stay tuned.
The next stage will also involve community engagement and a board vote next fall.

Brita - Does this mean that the board will be addressing all of these issues before you leave office? After all, neither of you are running again.

Personally I hope the answer is yes, because how can a vote on something this complicated happen right when a slew of new people come onboard and the ones who put the research time into it aren't making the vote?

Anonymous said...

This is North of Ballard again. In my case that predictable path would be nice but wouldn't address my want to get into the K-8, because my family values the idea of walkability and I would be guaranteed a walkable proximity for my child's whole education. And I would be relatively close to the school, so it would be easier for me to be involved, since I don't always have a car to use.

Anonymous said...

"In my mind an alternative school is one that takes to heart principles of the free school or democratic schools movement."

I'm glad you prefaced this with "in my mind" because that's where it needs to stay. You do not need to be radical (free school, democratic school) to be alternative. These are just two of the extremes. Alternative is a progressive model of education in most peoples mind, and in some it just means differing from the main stream (in whatever way). But to say that only the most extreme pedagogies are alternative is a diservice to the alternative community.By the way our children attended AEII for 6 years and they are neither free school or democratic, thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

But, how different does an "alternative" school need to be from the model at a neighborhood school to count as alternative education model.

Again, as an outsider, a lot of what I see in the alternatives (AE2, Pathfinder, and TOPS come to my mind), are a community + people trying to avoid their neighborhood schools. Those motivations for choosing alternative programs have nothing to do with pedagogy.

Roy Smith said...

A free school is not an extreme pedagogy. It is different, but it is not extreme.

Maybe I was mistaken about the nature of AE2. What makes it or its pedagogy distinctive, if it is not a free school? What makes it distinctive enough to warrant designating it as "alternative" and thus complexifying the enrollment system and increasing transportation costs?

The problem that some posters on this blog seem to have with TOPS is that it is not clear that it is distinct enough from a good reference area school to justify its multiple-cluster area draw and its non-standard enrollment assignment system. I don't have a problem with AE2 or TOPS if they choose to inhabit the continuum somewhere between AS1 and a traditional reference area school, but if they are in that position they need to be prepared to justify and defend more expensive (and some would call preferential) enrollment and transportation policies. As tops not alternative points out, Shouting over and over again "We're Alternative!" doesn't make it alternative.

anonymous 3:01 wrote: Alternative is a progressive model of education in most peoples mind

I wish I had your apparent ability to discern the mind of "most people". I don't agree with your definition here - does that make me not "most people"? (I'm fine with it if I'm not, in case you're wondering.)

As you pointed out at the start of your post my opinions are just that - my opinions. I try to make it clear that my comments are just my opinion and observations, and I try to avoid presuming to speak for others or for the community at large. Please try to extend the same courtesy to the rest of us.

Roy Smith said...

nssp said: Again, as an outsider, a lot of what I see in the alternatives (AE2, Pathfinder, and TOPS come to my mind), are a community + people trying to avoid their neighborhood schools. Those motivations for choosing alternative programs have nothing to do with pedagogy.

This is related to the problem of people advocating for more K-8s to avoid problems with the comprehensive middle schools. These sorts of "solutions" are not particularly beneficial for alternative education, they do nothing to fix the problems that people are using these "solutions" to avoid, and worst of all, they are creating a system in which the advantage goes to families that have the time, savvy, and motivation to work the system for their own benefit.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone intimately involved with alternative programs in the district can explain a few things to me.

1) How come, for the most part, when you look at the demographic data, the population at those schools tends to be less ethnically diverse (more "white") than the district overall.

2) Those schools also have a lower rate of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

3) Why, with an emphasis on social justice, more is not done to recruit a diverse population, one that seems to reflect the district's population?

Then, if you look at what passes as alternative at the high school level, it is drastically different.

Just curious. I couldn't find anyting about this in the alternative education report.

Roy Smith said...

In response to anonymous 3:44, regarding AS#1 (the only school I have detailed knowledge of):

1) The school is more white overall than the district (64% caucasian at AS#1 vs. 42% in SPS).

Regarding race numbers, SPS has no means of accounting for children who are mixed race (i.e., caucasian and something else), such as my child and a significant percentage in the district, so it is not particularly clear to me just how meaningful this statistic is. For those of you who don't know, parents can designate whether a multi-racial child shall be considered white or minority by SPS. I suspect (though there is no actual data source that I am aware of to check this) that many multi-racial children, particularly on the north end, are designated as minority in an attempt to game the racial tiebreaker in case it comes back. Since over a quarter of the births in Seattle in recent years are of multi-racial children, this might not be an insignificant factor that distorts the statistics.

2) Free/Reduced price lunch: 36% of AS#1 students are FRE. SPS as a whole is 38%, so AS#1 is reasonably representative of SPS in that category.

3) 16% of AS#1 students are special eduation students, vs. 9% for the district as a whole.

AS#1 is more white than SPS as a whole, but it is also located 1.5 miles from the north edge of the district, which may make a big difference. In spite of the fact that AS#1 is an all-city draw, most parents do not like to send their children a long distance to elementary school, so a majority of AS#1 students are from north Seattle. For the record, AS#1 was originally located in the central district and there is still some sentiment in the school community for returning to a more central location, if an adequate facility were identified.

For me personally, I like AS#1 because of the free school environment. The social justice element is nice, but frankly was not a factor that drew me to the school, so I personally don't really worry about the racial balance of the school. Very fragmentary anecdotal evidence indicates to me that minority parents may have a strong preference for more traditional types of schools and find the free school concept off-putting at best, but this is also mainly conjecture and may be wrong.

I think AS#1 has a student body that is reasonably diverse, and as there is currently no wait list for the school, it is difficult to argue that the school mainly benefits privileged families who can work the system to enroll their child there. At this point, anybody can get in - all one has to do is ask.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah! We seem to have hit a nerve with the

"* What is and is not an alternative school?" bullet point.

It clearly needs its own thread.

So I'll start that and let's re-focus this thread on the sort of unintended consequences and plowed up opportunities that appear with the new assignment plan.

Think of this:

With smaller clusters, will the District have fewer sites with more special education students? Will they be more concentrated, more dispersed, or about the same?

With smaller clusters there will be more clusters. We will go from nine to... what, 16? How many will there be in the north, in the central area, in West Seattle, in what is now the south and southeast clusters? Think of how the new elementary school clusters will feed up to the ten middle schools. What schools will be grouped into the new clusters?

How will the District provide each cluster with a Spectrum option, a K-8 option, and equitable access to alternative schools?

Spectrum will be tricky - will the District bus students out of their mini-cluster to form the critical mass necessary for a viable Spectrum program?

How will that go over when students are getting bussed from out of cluster to take set-aside seats at a popular neighborhood school? Will Spectrum students have to go to completely separate elementary schools like APP? With APP?

Will the District have to make more K-8's? Which schools could be reconfigured?

How will the reduced transportation impact choice and equity of choice. What will it mean when a middle class family can drive their child to a school out of cluster (or region) but a low income family cannot? Should the middle class family be denied the option in the name of equity?

If some people are blind should we all pluck out our eyes in the name of equity?

Does anyone expect pushback from the CAO or the new Superintendent over the Board's intent to write a Program Placement policy? Will the Board oversee or review program placement decisions? Do they want to? They reviewed one this year and it was like turning over a rock and finding a tangle of bugs and worms squirming underneath. Does that mean that the process needs reform or review or both? Maybe it means that we shouldn't watch when sausage is being made.

What high school programs should have set-aside seats? If we say Garfield Jazz, then will students have to audition for a seat? And if they get the seat, will they have to stay in the band to keep it? If a student gets a seat at Ingraham for IB, can we compel the student to enroll in the IB classes?

Where the heck will the District put the Secondary BOC?

What, if anything, can go into Old Hay, Rainier View, Fairmont Park, Magnolia, McDonald, Marshall, Lincoln, or Wilson-Pacific? What about Cedar Park or Sand Point?

There is a lot to talk about other than whether or not TOPS is an alternative school. I'll start a new thread for that.

Jet City mom said...

as a parent of a child who was in an alternative school for 6 years and as a volunteer including as co-chair of that schools parent group I have additional questions.

Should Seattle public schools attempt to serve all the children of the city, although the racial and economic mix is different than those currently enrolled in the district?

How can alternative schools successfully recruit more minorities when parent participation is usually critical to the success of the alternative school ( and part of the attraction), yet volunteering is seen by some ( including the director of community "engagement") as a "white & therefore racist" value.
http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/
educatingmom/archives/116934.asp

( in my experience- I didn't know the reasoning behind it, but although the alternative school I was most closely connected with had
42% FRL, and is 49% minority, the volunteer piece despite great effort by the Caucasian parents, to reach out to the broader community, was mainly filled by white parents- & one of the reasons why we left.

I see this even at our current
( traditional)
school with 21% FRL and 57% minority. The minority parents who are directly involved, make a valiant effort, often being the main motivation behind support for programs, but their numbers are still not representational of the student body.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason that AS1 has no waitlist. Free school, and democratic school's are very extreme. You can argue that the are not, but when you walk around a traditional school like Wedgewood you will understand just how extreme AS1 is. It is not appealing to traditional, mainstream families, and thus does not have a waitlist, though it is in a very overcrowded part of the city.

Anonymous said...

To class of 75, The race issue is a complicated one....

We are a black family whose children attended an alternative school. We continually had to defend ourselves to our black freinds, and justify why we would choose an alternative school. Most black families want a solid traditional, education. They want reading, writing and arithetic, and do not want their kids going on camping trips, calling their teachers by their first names, and sometimes they are not even interested in art. I think we saw a good example of this at MLk, where new neighborhood white families wanted a garden, recess, and art, and the black families fought vigilantly against these things. I think it comes from the feeling of being at a disadvantage, and the overcompensation that would go along with that. The mentality of you have to work harder, and be better because you are black. And of course, working harder translates to no alternative education where children are immersed in the arts, music, camping, service learning etc.

We were definately in the minority in choosing an alternative school amongst our black freinds. And our parents thought we were just plain crazy. This may add some insigt as to why alternative schools do not attract as much diversity. Also, you may note that the majority of alternative schools are in the north end. Take a look at the demographics of ORCAS they are about 50% black. They are in Columbia city.

Roy Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roy Smith said...

anonymous 4:37 said: There is a reason that AS1 has no waitlist. Free school, and democratic school's are very extreme. You can argue that the are not, but when you walk around a traditional school like Wedgewood you will understand just how extreme AS1 is. It is not appealing to traditional, mainstream families, and thus does not have a waitlist, though it is in a very overcrowded part of the city.

No here argument about AS#1 not appealing to "traditional" middle class families. It doesn't. It appeals to those who put a higher value on things such as creativity, freedom of thought and expression, self-directed learning and motivation, individuality, and inclusive democratic process than they place on things such as rigid order, schedules, test scores, or conformity. What you consider a "traditional" middle class family probably puts more emphasis on the latter attributes, even if that emphasis comes at the expense of some of the former attributes.

If you consider people who have prioritize their values differently than you do to be "extreme", then so be it. The people who are at AS#1 are there by choice, and it serves them well.

You seem to imply that not having a waitlist is a bad thing because it means the school is not "popular". I don't care if my child's school is popular; I care that it serves her needs well. AS#1 does that, and I view the fact that they don't have a waitlist as a good thing because it means that the school can serve everyone who wants to be there without having to turn anyone away.

Jet City mom said...

anon-
Summit- originally, I believe was more Centrally located- and the district "intended" on moving it back- I don't know when or where- but that promise had been made.

It does attract students from all over the city, and although I feel its current building is a good fit- I also think the community would be better served to be closer to the " middle" of Seattle- to use the variety of resources available more easily, rather than being way out in Lake City.

Just from my perspective, we live in a pretty "unchurched" area. But the community a congregation offers seems to be a larger part of the minority community.

Church in general seems to be more "traditional", I wonder if this is also an influence in why alternative education isn't seen as attractive with a larger selection of families in Seattle.

I myself attended an alternative high school, where I first had a taste of " relevant" education, maybe this background made me more interested in other ways of teaching and learning- a lot of being comfortable with something, is just exposure.

But while getting minority parents involved in my daughters alternative school was really frustrating, we did place a high value on a place where kids from every corner of the city came together in the classroom ( although taking them all home again during rush hour could be a PITA)

( parents thinking you are crazy- isn't limited to the minority community-
my inlaws were/are incredulous that we were preparing academically and economically by saving our money- rather than on trips to disneyland, to send our kids to college-)

Anonymous said...

To Roy Smith, you so eloquently name off all of the great attributes about AS1, and imply that mainstream families do not value the arts, self expression and individuality. What democratic means in the terms of AS1 is that kids vote on and make the rules. They run the school. Kids, however, do not always make the wisest decisions. They are just not mature enough to make some of the decisions about their academic career yet. They are not able to run a school yet. The freedom of self expression translates into kids that disrespect authority. They run wildly through the halls because making a rule that children should walk (a safety precaution) would be somehow inhibiting their self expression. While mixed age classes can be considered cutting edge, a 3-8th grade class is absurd. But there is one at AS1. The children have graffiti'd all over the side of the building, as a form of artistic expression I'm sure. But what does that teach them? It's OK to defame public, taxpayer owned property? When I toured there was a class that had decided not to take math. MATH!! The kids who were truly interested in math could take it as an elective the principal told us. I guess this is where I was going with kids don't always make the most wise decisions. Then half the families opt out of the WASL, again teaching kids to be counter culture. To defy authority. To feel like they do not have to adhere to the same set of rules that society does. I think opting out of the WASL rather than being a philosophical issue, is an escape from being accountable for academic achievement. OF the 50% that did take the WASL, if I remember correctly the average was 8% passing. 8% !!!! Of course you are not concerned with test scores, I forgot.

The middle schoolers look disengages, and angry. They all look like they are in a rock band, and don't even respect their classrooms enough to take their hoods down, or earphones out. It's actually downright rude.
Kids do need structure, and benefit from adults wisdom. IT is not oppresive to give kids structure and guidance. If you don' do it now authority will at a later date. IE their bosses at work, the police, A college professor.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is too much alternative water under this bridge to continue the conversation around student assignment. I would suggest re-posting the student assignment conversation with a new thread so that we don't have to scroll through the TOPS / alternative conversation.

Roy Smith said...

anonymous 6:24: I did not say that "mainstream families" (whatever that means) do not value the arts, self expression and individuality. I said that some families place a higher priority on order or grades, etc., and if those values conflict with values such that the arts, self expression, and individuality, then order or grades will be the determining factor.

I assume that nearly everybody values creativity, freedom of thought and expression, self-directed learning and motivation, individuality, inclusive democratic process, order, schedules, mutual respect, and academic achievement, among other things. However, these various values sometimes conflict with each other, and people emphasize these values differently when they decide how to resolve the conflicts between them. People also make different choices about how some values should be measured (such as academic performance), and this also drives differences in how they view various schools.

It is clear from your posting that you do not like AS#1. That's great. I have no problem with you not liking (or disapproving of, even) AS#1, and I invite you to not send your children there. I would ask, however: Do you deny AS#1's right to exist? Would you deny families the opportunity to make an informed decision to send their children there?

By the way, I also find your characterization of "traditional" or "mainstream families" as generally not liking AS#1 to be somewhat offensive. I am white and college educated; I attend church nearly every Sunday; I served 8 years of active duty in the military; our household income is somewhere around the median income for this area; I am happily married, my spouse and I are both on our first marriage, and my wife is a stay at home mom. My family loves AS#1, particularly the values it teaches. I appreciate the freedom that it gives children and the fact that it teaches children that with freedom comes responsibility. I appreciate the fact that they teach that it is okay and sometimes essential to question authority, if we hope to have a functional democracy. I appreciate the fact that the school teaches the children to value people as human beings and refuses to judge students primarily on the basis of academic performance. I regard the WASL as badly flawed, even in comparison to other standardized tests.

Tell me: am I not mainstream? If I am not, then who is?

Anonymous said...

To be frank, I am quite happy that AS1 exists. Most AS1 families do not filter into main stream society easily. They would not be happy at a traditional school, and would complain endlessly about the oppresion and rights violations inflicted on their children (requiring them to take math, not allowing grafitti, having dress codes, discipline policies, grades IE accountability, etc) So, on the contrary, I am quite happy that there is a place that works for you and the other AS1 families. To that end, I love choice.

BTW, you are definately not main stream. Sounds like you are a nice person, with good values, but hardly mainstream.

Roy Smith said...

Anonymous, since I am not mainstream, perhaps you can define it for me.

Anonymous said...

Mainstream:
The expectation that children follow the rules, whether they like them or not. That does not suggest that they never question authority or express their views, it just means that the school has the ultimate authority.

Alternative:
Counter culture, non authoritarian. Not only question but refuse to follow rules and respect authority. Non compliance.

As I said, Roy, you sound like a nice, articulate person. But you chose this environment for your child, which takes you out of the mainstream category.

Roy Smith said...

Hmm. I expect my child to follow rules, both at home and at school, and that she respect legitimate authority. AS#1 has rules. They are enforced. It is different in that AS#1's rules may allow for a much wider range of behavior and expression than that which is permissible at other schools.

If the definition of a "mainstream" family is "they wouldn't choose AS#1", then of course "AS#1 doesn't appeal to mainstream parents".

If the fact that I chose AS#1 for my child is what makes me "non-mainstream", then I am guilty as charged. For what it's worth, our second choice was Northgate Elementary. I suspect that we would have been just fine if that was where we ended up. I know that I am not unique at AS#1 in that sentiment. Many of the AS#1 graduates go on to traditional comprehensive high schools, where many of them thrive, both academically and socially. Many of the parents (including myself) are successful in very ordinary "mainstream" types of careers and lifestyles. I am not at all convinced that we are the bunch of misfits that you think we are. Yes, there are families there that would not fit in well at a typical reference area school or who make very unusual lifestyle or career choices; however, there are probably more families that would do or are doing just fine in what you would call a "mainsteam" environment, as exemplified by the fact that some families send one child to AS#1 or another alternative and another child to a reference area school.

Anonymous said...

As I said Roy, you sound like a very nice person. With a very nice family. My children attended AEII for several years, and we had a very bad experience. Academically and socially. I guess I am still a bit frustrated, and am taking my frustration out on the wrong person. We have found that a traditional program works much better for our children.

I am truly happy that there are alternative schools though, and that we do have choice in Seattle. I am glad that you found a school that works for your child. It didn't work for mine, but I have no right to discount your choice, or AS1. I apoligize.

Brita said...

Hello all,

To clarify--our board terms run through the end of November. Darlene Flynn is running for the board. Yes, I fully expect to develop the program placement policy and vote on it while still in office as well as the details of the student assignment plan (we did vote to adopt the framework at tonight's meeting). I can't predict whether or not there will be staff pushback regarding a program placement policy. I have mentioned the need for this to several staffers and so far there seems to be interest in but not opposition to the concept.

Anonymous said...

roy smith at 7:09 said "I would ask, however: Do you deny AS#1's right to exist?"

I would say that its size (<250 enrollment for a K-8)- not its ideology or pedagogy - is my concern - and would say the question might be "do you deny AS#1's right to exist in a building of its own, with a full administrative staff drawing $250K from the district that might otherwise go to classrooms and to other programs with more widespread appeal?"

You essentially have your own small private school in AS#1 - and it sounds as if it's fantastic for you and your family, but as a city we can't afford it.

Anonymous said...

Could you list a few of AS1's rules?
I'm curious after all of the above posts.

Roy Smith said...

You essentially have your own small private school in AS#1 - and it sounds as if it's fantastic for you and your family, but as a city we can't afford it.

AS#1's budget is funded using the same formula as every other elementary school is SPS. Even if AS#1 didn't exist, getting rid of the Pinehurst building wouldn't make sense given the shortage of capacity in the north end, so that fixed cost is not going anywhere any time soon. AS#1 is not "unaffordable".

You essentially are arguing that big schools are more cost effective than small schools, which is a debatable proposition. Bigger schools may have lower per student costs (and even that is debatable, as well), but they also have a tendency towards producing less favorable academic and social outcomes. Since academic and social outcomes should be a major factor in determining cost effectiveness of a school, relying solely on per student costs is foolish.

The academic research on this subject is inconclusive, at best. Some studies of cost effectiveness (this one, for instance) make a strong case that no elementary school, alternative or otherwise should be larger than 150-200. A key reason this is the case is "diseconomies of scale" (read the report for a detailed discussion of what these are) that are usually ignored when promoting plans to consolidate schools.

Anonymous said...

roy smith, I am looking forward to reading the paper you referenced.

Would clarify that I would not propose closing the Pinehurst building, but use it for something more suiting its capacity and the shortage of north end regular program elementary seats you cite.

What I would suggest is that spreading the fixed cost of administration ($250K) over more students - either in that building or another - is a better use of the district's very limited dollars than subsidizing a small program of limited appeal in a geographic area with significant capacity shortage.

How does AS#1 measure (and demonstrate to others) its academic and social outcomes?

Anonymous said...

A) AS1 does not focus on academics and thus really have no desire to measure the success or show the outcome.

B) The over crowding in the district is not the fault of AS1. As much as I would love to see the Pinehurst building house a trad. elementary school and Jane Adamas buildings house a new trad middle school, it would be unfair to AS1 and Summit. They should not be squeezed out by the district poor analysis.

I do think however, that there must be some creative solutions. I think co-housing some of the under enrolled alternative schools could work. The jane adams building could hole AEII (290 kids), Pinehurst (250 kids), and Summit K-12 (600 kids?). The building capacity is 1100. That would open up the decatur building, and Pinehurst. I think it could also strengthen the alternative schools. They wouldn't be threatened with closures every year, they could share some administration, school buses, etc. The problem is these communities don't seem to want to bend or compromise at all.

Anonymous said...

Roy, what exactly is "legitimate authority" as it pertains to a school setting? Thanks

Roy Smith said...

alex f said: Roy, what exactly is "legitimate authority" as it pertains to a school setting? Thanks

I can't hope to answer this question in general, because what constitutes "legitimate authority" varies from school to school, so I will instead answer it for AS#1.

The operational definition at AS#1 would appear to be "authority that makes decisions based on inclusive participation in the decision making process". I know that is vague, so I will also define what is not considered legitimate authority at AS#1: decisions made by the principal, the teachers, or other school administrators that does not allow for adequate input and due regard for the concerns of those affected by the decision, whether they be students, parents, faculty, or others. I understand that this is also vague, so here is another way of looking at it: Legitimate authority is that which is embodied in a democratic decision making process.

How decisions are made is a continual conversation at AS#1. There is no final verdict on what is or is not appropriate now, and there probably never will be. This is not generally viewed as a problem by the school community.

The principal is a legitimate authority insofar as he is in an executive position at the school. However, that does not mean that it is appropriate for him to override the consensus of the community just because he is the principal. At other schools, this may be appropriate, hence be considered "legitimate authority". At AS#1, it is not.

Anonymous said...

"I know that is vague, so I will also define what is not considered legitimate authority at AS#1: decisions made by the principal, the teachers, or other school administrators that does not allow for adequate input and due regard for the concerns of those affected by the decision, whether they be students, parents, faculty, or others"

All I can say is Oh my god! How will your children fold into society after AS1? What a rude awakening a traditional High school will be for them. Not only may they never have taken math, they will have to deal with teachers and administrators as authority figures. How about in a workplace environment? When their boss does not ask their opinion before he/she makes a decision? How will they handle that? How about when a police officer does not seek their input before they give them a speeding ticket, or arrests them for disorderly conduct (sure to come on this path).

All I can say is thank goodness for choice.

Roy Smith said...

ultimate fan said: How does AS#1 measure (and demonstrate to others) its academic and social outcomes?

Historically, the school has not done this in a comprehensive, organized manner. In the aftermath of the Phase 2 of school closures and consolidation, a group of parents recognized that demonstrating our academic and social performance to others could be crucial in preserving the school's existence. To that end, several parents have been working with district staff to identify appropriate benchmarks and measurements of academic performance. I am not aware of where that work currently stands, but discussion had included using things such as 9th grade and/or high school GPA of AS#1 graduates, high school graduation rates of AS#1 graduates, and similar measures that would demonstrate whether or not AS#1 graduates were properly prepared for high school.

justine said: AS1 does not focus on academics and thus really have no desire to measure the success or show the outcome.

This statement is a gross misrepresentation. AS#1 does not focus solely (or perhaps even primarily on academics), but academics are important at the school. Parents and teachers communicate regularly and (for my family at least) in great detail about the academic progress of the children. I have a very good idea of what my child's strength and weaknesses are academically, and I am comfortable that she is performing up to the level of her ability.

That all being said, the school community has not typically felt compelled to prove that it works to those outside the school in the form of a series of numbers that supposedly measure academic performance. This is changing somewhat as I noted above, but there is still a strong desire to do it on our own terms, not in WASL terms or some other measurement like that.

Roy Smith said...

Oh my goodness said...
All I can say is Oh my god! How will your children fold into society after AS1?

How indeed? Well AS1 has many more facets than just those that have been touched on so far during this discussion. Along with democratic decision making, another core principle that is taught at AS1 is taking responsibility for one's own actions, and accepting the consequences of one's choice. AS1 recognizes that it doesn't make sense to separate freedom and responsibility. Kids are given more freedom than at other schools, and they are expected to take on more responsibility. Another way of expressing this is that they learn that they have choices, and that their choices have consequences that must be accepted when a choice is made.

To get an idea of the level of responsibility that students at AS1 are imbued with, I offer a description of a tradition at AS1, Eight Grade Rites of Passage.

Last year, 19 of our students (about 2/3 of the eighth graders) participated in Rites, a tradition at AS #1 for more than 14 years. The students left from Colonial Creek campground in the North Cascades National Park in a fleet of canoes and paddled the length of Ross Lake and back over the course of seven days. In the middle of the trip the students left the water to climb over 5,000 feet to the summit of Desolation Peak. They were chaperoned by two teachers, our principal and two AS #1 Alumni who had done this trip years earlier as 8th graders.

Rites of Passage is exemplary of what we intend to accomplish with our work at AS #1. It is the culmination of an educational process that works with each child to help them find and develop their own strengths in order to meet all the challenges that will face them as lifelong learners in the 21st century. We have found that a wilderness challenge that puts students in a natural setting with real life problems to solve with a group of caring classmates and older mentors is a perfect learning laboratory. The elements of the trip, physical challenge, personal responsibility, an overnight solo experience, a day of silence, and being part of a team with a common goal, all combine to make for a very valuable time for personal reflection and inventory as our youngsters leave our AS #1 nest and move toward young adulthood in high school.


I participated in hiking and canoeing trips similar to this when I was in Boy Scouts, and I have two observations:

1) A trip like this cannot be successful if participants are not able to take responsibility for themselves and the consequences of their own actions.

2) When I was doing these sorts of trips in Boy Scouts, most of the participants were older and there was typically a higher ratio of adults to children on these trips, as well. Even so, these trips were not something that were easy and successful completion was not something that could be taken for granted. The fact that 8th graders are doing this sort of expedition is remarkable and speaks volumes about what the students at this school are capable of.

AS1 students learn responsibility, perseverance, how to accept the consequences of one's actions, and how to think for themselves. They do not learn blind obedience, but they do learn that there are times when they do not have a direct voice in decisions. For instance, if something can't be done because it violates SPS policy, the SEA contract, or a law, that is normally the end of the discussion.

My comments regarding what "legitimate authority" means at AS1 pertains to decisions made inside the school community. Legitimate authority at AS1 also includes SPS policy, SEA contractual obligations, and laws that have been passed by legitimately constitued legislatures, such as all of our local, state, and federal laws. Just because AS1 practices of specific form of self-governance doesn't mean that the school teaches that the world follows the same rules.

I am confident that graduates of AS1 are able to figure out that they have to take responsibility and do their homework in high school and college or else suffer the consequence of poor grades, that they will have to take responsibility to do the tasks that their employer assigns them or deal with the consequence of being terminated, and that they will take on the responsibility of following the laws or suffer the consequence of being arrested, and they will behave accordingly.

They will also learn the value of and will have practiced participatory democracy, which is (at least in theory) a value that the United States was founded upon.

Anonymous said...

"2) When I was doing these sorts of trips in Boy Scouts, most of the participants were older and there was typically a higher ratio of adults to children on these trips"

That was to keep you safe!!!!!
What would you do if one of your students fell off or had a serious injury on their 5000 ft high hike? What if one drowned while canoeing? How would you explain that to a parent? How would you explain it to the school district? Not only would it be tragic, it would be a lawsuit in the making. The boy scouts weren't trying to keep you from being a responsible person, they were trying to keep you safe.

Roy Smith said...

justine: Are you implying that AS1's Rites of Passage are an unsafe activity? What, in your opinion, is an acceptable level of risk for school-sponsored activities? Is aversion to risk, regardless of the potential benefits, a principle that we want to instill in our children?

Risk is a part of life. In my opinion, part of the value of Rites of Passage is that in the process of preparing for it (a year-long endeavor in and of itself) the students learn to assess risks, evaluate risks vs. rewards, and learn when it is appropriate and necessary to take action to mitigate risks.

SPS allows AS1 to conduct Rites of Passage as a school-sponsored event, so the district is apparently comfortable with the level of risk involved. AS1 is comfortably with the risks involved, and the parents of any child who participates (not all do, and parental consent is obviously required) are aware of the risks and feel that the benefits of the program make the risks worthwhile.

By the way, the Boy Scouts don't (or at least, didn't when I was doing it) even have a requirement for any adult presence whatsoever on hiking, camping, and canoeing trips. For canoe trips, a certified lifeguard may have been a requirement (its been a long time, so I am recalling from somewhat hazy memory) for canoe trips, but that requirement could be fulfilled by a senior scout. We had lots of adults because we had a lot of involved fathers, not because it was mandated by either requirements or the concerns of parents or troop leadership.

Anonymous said...

No, Roy, I thought that you might be impying it, by saying that only a handful of adults go on the "Rites" trip, and contrasting it to the Boy scouts who had a much higher teacher/adult to student ratio. I personally, find it concerning, to have a large group of CHILDREN in the wilderness with little adult supervison. They are after all children, and children don't always make the best decisions. And, poor decisions on a week long camping trip can lead to injury, pregnancy, drug use, etc.

Especially at the age of 15 or so.

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