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Monday, June 04, 2007

Framework for Revised Student Assignment Plan

On Wednesday evening the Board willintroduce a motion to approve the Framework for a Revised Student Assignment Plan.

This is an interesting document.

Here are a couple of intriguing points in it:

Elementary school reference areas will be re-drawn to align with student population residing in each area and the building capacity.
What number will they use for student population? The current public school population or the schoolage children population? What building capacity number will they use? There are a number of building capacity numbers for every school. None of them appear reliable or credible. Let's see these numbers before they act on them.

How will school programs such as bilingual, special education and Spectrum be treated? Will each school be expected to provide these services for the students living in their reference area or will the District reserve seats for these programs that draw students from several reference areas? It isn't addressed, but it is a big deal. If Lafayette reserves five classrooms for Spectrum and two classrooms for self-contained Special Education, that will reduce the school's reference area dramatically. Will the District also reserve five classrooms for Spectrum at High Point? And if the District shrinks the clusters and creates more of them, will the District have to create a Spectrum program for each new cluster? How will that impact the reference areas and how will that impact Spectrum if the cohorts are splintered between dozens of schools?

Oddly, the Student Assignment framework makes no mention of any programs.

The District will review course offerings at comprehensive middle schools to determine where these might need to be supplemented to provide children in all parts of the city equitable access to quality programs.
What does this mean? What quality programs is this a reference to? Will every comprehensive middle school offer Spectrum? All but Meany and Madison already do (officially). Will the District provide transportation to bring together a critical mass of students? Will the District reserve seats at the middle schools for students enrolled in these quality programs?

Each comprehensive middle school would have a base attendance area consistent with their elementary cluster. What will Meany be like when it is suddenly the default comprehensive middle school for the students from Montlake (236), McGilvra (257) and Stevens (308) along with TT Minor (234)? How will TT Minor's population change when families know where they will go to middle school and with whom?

We know that the District doesn't have adequate middle school capacity in the Southeast, so how will they provide every student in the southeast with a middle school assignment?

Tiebreakers
There is no mention of a tiebreaker for programs.

The Southeast Initiative
Just one question: how did the African American Academy get to be part of the southeast initiative? This is not a neighborhood school, but an alternative school. How did it get on this list in this context. The AAA is not an element of the problem that the Southeast initiative is supposed to solve: people compelled to attend schools with limited academic opportunities. No one is compelled to attend the AAA.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Southeast Initiative-

I agree, AAA gets A TON of funding from private groups, what about Cleveland? Or for that matter, Sealth?

I say that the Board should put the money towards the schools that (a) need it most and (b) have principals actively engaged in trying to improve the school with the support of the community. That is what Cleveland and Sealth are respectively. AAA has and will always be a "sacred cow" (Melissa, would you agree from your CAC days?) with support from private African American groups like the Urband League and Links. Who is looking out for Cleveland and Sealth?

Anonymous said...

And will they redraw these boundaries with an eye on development trends in the surrounding areas? In West Seattle, for example, old single-family homes on arterials are being rapidly replaced by townhouse or condo complexes -- nine potential families where one once lived -- the school populations are bound to grow.

Anonymous said...

I agree that AAA is an odd duck on the Southeat Initiative. Anyone who is there is choosing to be there. Plus, it is in a lovely building and last time I walked in, had tons of technology everywhere. It is nothing like RB and Aki. If the purpose is to make all nieghborhood schools attractive, put the money into a nieghborhood school, not an alternative all-city draw school that is already in a nice facility. I hope that Brita and the other Board members who read this blog ask about why AAA is on this list, and wouldn't the money be better spent on a nieghborhood school to meet the mission of access to quality schools.

I also think that what the tie-breakers are need to be up front, for example, I would be opposed to distance being a tiebreaker. In that scenerio, just like it is now for all oversubsribed schools, "choice" is not meaningful, it is just a two-step process of assigning students based on where they live.

Anonymous said...

Charlie-

As a parent with a student who is in a special ed program, I can tell you that federal regulations are require that school district place specail ed students at the closest school to where they live, unless they need a program that is not at that school, and then they need to go to the next closest school that has the program they need. This year SPS seems to have finally taken that legal requirement to heart rather that just having consulting teachers tell IEP teams where the child should go. So I think that Sp Ed programs will stay where they are regardless of the changes to the assignment system, and will open or close dependant upon area student need.

Hope that helps!
Ann

Charlie Mas said...

Thanks Ann!

I didn't know that they were required to assign students with IEPs who are eligible for inclusion to their nearest school. It's good to know, but hard to believe when I think of how the District hopscotches these kids around.

Of course the ones who get moved a lot are mostly the Level III, Level IV, Low Incidence, and medically fragile students.

For example, I know that the District is thinking seriously about moving the Low Incidence Special Education program now at Lowell. While I don't think that is a very good idea, wherever that program goes, the District will have to consider the bite that program will take out of the space available when setting the reference area for that school. And then the program pretty much has to stay at that school because moving it will unbalance the reference area/school capacity at both the old and new locations.

Melissa Westbrook said...

AAA is an odd case. Yes, during CAC, I was told it hands off on AAA. Yet, I had several members of the SE community come to me at meetings and say, "What about AAA?" as if they expected to see it mentioned in some way.

AAA, to the best of my knowledge, has never filled its building. And yet, staff had wanted to restrict its enrollment to regional alternative rather than all-city. It's 4th grade WASL scores are good and rising while the 7th grade is abysmal. That is very puzzling to me when all the teachers are there to collaborate. And, as Charlie has said, this was a school specifically created for its community and yet the community does not seem to be embracing it. I think if TAF were to come in and revamp the middle school part it would be great (but I believe they would like to go K-12).

I don't believe it belongs in the SE initiative either. The money is best spent on Aki, RBHS and Cleveland. I don't know about Sealth but they just got certified for the IB program so there is forward progress there.

I am puzzled by some of the language like:

"Increase market share through greater predictability and continuity for families."

While we all know that may be true, the district doesn't. They have said repeatedly that they don't track students who leave and have no real idea why they leave. To base this supposition on just the meetings they just had seems simplistic.

Then there's these two:

"Allow for meaningful accountability (when students move as a group)."
"Create opportunities and responsibility for tracking lost students."

What does the first one mean? Keeping a cohort together? What is meaningful accountability in this case?
For the other one, I suppose they mean find out where kids go when they leave our system. But why not just say that?

Last, in their pros and cons, this one is used in one place as a pro and another as a con; does that make sense?

"Approval of all components of the Framework at the same time will allow for greater efficiency and consistency in further development of planning and implementation recommendations."

Honestly, clear English in government entities would be a great thing.

Charlie Mas said...

Why aren't Mercer and Cleveland on the Southeast Initiative?


The Southeast Initiative "is needed to support efforts of some schools to enhance the range of quality programs and instruction that they offer to students"

So why does the document say that Aki Kurose staff will decide how to use the additional funding to "enhance the effectiveness of the education program"? They should use the money to do new things - extend their range - not to improve the effectiveness of their current range of offerings.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the choices of schools in the SE Initiative is odd, but the initiative itself comes from direct input from the Student Assignment Meeting at New Holly two weeks ago. Families who attended, including myself, clearly said that it was not okay to force us back to failing schools.

I deeply appreciate that Tracy Libros and Michelle Corker-Curry left that meeting with a clear message from the parents. One week later, the SE Initiative was a part of the proposal. A little birdie told me during an unrelated meeting with Michelle that the parent voice at the New Holly meeting made an impact.

I genuinely believe that Tracy and others are listening. The constant drafts directly reflect parent input. I commend Tracy for this work.

However, the SE Initiative falls significantly short in providing a consistent educational outcome for South and Southeast families. The proposal does not instill confidence in me. I don't read the document and say "oooh, send my kid to Rainier Beach now!". For me and many others, there needs to be more; both more specifics for the schools that are named and more schools that should be named.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"And will they redraw these boundaries with an eye on development trends in the surrounding areas?"

Tracy Libros seems to be very aware of the impact of development and is being proactive in that area.

I'm not sure that they are accounting for the percent of private school kids in each reference area though. I lived in Wallingford when JSIS was created and saw first hand the drawing power of a new, popular program and renovated building.

Maureen