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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Neighborhood Schools: Separate but Equal?

I’m troubled by the prospect that the new assignment policy framework is to some extent a 21st Century version of “Separate but Equal.” Can we thoughtfully discuss the ways in which that might or might not be the case?

The blindness of privilege makes this issue particularly difficult to address. If you happen to live in a neighborhood with a great school that has space for you, and has plenty of human and financial resources to devote to that school, of course the “neighborhood school” concept is fantastic. However, it may be extremely difficult for you to empathize with someone who doesn’t have the same choice.

For those of you who are in a relatively privileged position, I urge you to ask yourself if you would send your child to an underperforming school with the hope that you could successfully make it work for your child. Or perhaps your child or family has needs nearby schools can’t fulfill. Would you send your child to those schools anyway? If you think you would, try reading about the Madrona School experience and ask yourself how you would handle that situation.

In short, should families who live in neighborhoods with an underperforming or inappropriate school have to bear the brunt of making the school different or better, and if not, what specifically will District/State/Federal authorities do to help them? In today’s market, moving is simply not an option for most families, and an influx of a few more neighborhood families is just not going to be enough to improve or change a school. Much help is needed, and I see very little on the horizon that convinces me that help is coming. (For example, the Southeast Initiative is limited to high school and middle schools. What about elementaries?)

Beyond the issues of equity that I’m raising, some voices have asked that alternative schools explain and fully justify their programs, based on the notion that they supposedly carry far higher costs due to transportation and assignment complexity. I have yet to see a breakdown as to how high a dollar figure we are talking about, but shouldn’t we be also asking about the extra costs arising from a move to neighborhood schools?

For example, it seems imperative that the District find out, via survey or other means, how many middle-class families currently using the choice system will leave the District if forced to attend a school that doesn’t work for them. I think rather than capture market share, the proposed framework is going to further drive families from the district, leaving less money for everyone. This is of course exactly the opposite of what Director DeBell and others are predicting, but I think they are mistaken. The only way to settle the question is with professionally gathered data. Is that data somewhere and I’m missing it?

For the families who don’t have the means or savvy to opt out of the District, what will be the long term social and economic costs of underperforming schools? I think we can all agree that that they won’t be zero. I believe that Board and new superintendent should focus on improving schools, recreating successful schools, and on savvy program placement before we start forcing families to attend schools that just happen to be nearby.

98 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

There appears to be a myth at work that says that if middle class families will just send their children to these inappropriate or underperforming schools that their presence will (somehow) change the schools into high performing schools that meet their children's needs.

I don't know the source of this myth, but it is powerful with some folks - despite the fact that I have never seen it happen, the whole idea is kind of incredible, and we have the example of the recent experience at Madrona demonstrating the opposite.

Roy Smith said...

That myth may be based on the idea that parental involvement or the lack thereof is the single most important thing that shapes success or failure of a school. This might be true some places, but doesn't carry any water in SPS.

Frankly, I have no idea how to respond to the issues raised in this post. The issues faced north of the ship canal and south of the ship canal seem to be so different that it is hard to envision policies that address the disparate challenges. Where I live (north), predictability of assignment is the big bugaboo. Poor school quality is not a large issue, at least not as far as I can tell. As for myself, there is not a single reference area school north of the ship canal (at any level) that I am aware of that I would feel uncomfortable sending my child to. Some might fit her better than others, but I generally would not be worried about quality of the school.

For my area, the answer seems necessary and obvious: neighborhood schools. It is just as obvious however that this solution could do more harm than good in south Seattle.

This may be politically incorrect to suggest, but maybe it would make sense to have different school assignment policies for different portions of the city? I'm not advocating this as a solution, but it might be worth investigating.

Anonymous said...

I'd vote for all reference school assignment areas being reduced by 10 percent, with those seats going to economic tiebreaker slots. Predictable for the north. Accessible for the south.

Then I'd get with the City govt and figure out a way to subsidize transportation for those same economic groups to go out of their cluster. (No such help for non-economic placements and this money comes from a private or Seattle City source...not the District which needs out of its transportation $$ black hole.)


Then I'd pump up the south end programs. Southeast Initiative x 10-fold. Map it out now, even if it can't be funded yet. Give the district something to be excited about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You'll get mixed results no matter what.

Why do people go private? (These are my ideas but add on as you see fit.)

1) name brand - Lakeside, Bush, etc. You won't get these people back anyway so write them off.

2)religion - again, won't get these people back unless the schools have uniforms and strict discipline. Even though, no religion so you still may not get them back. Write off.

3)people who don't trust public education (homeschooling) - has grown (the district may know, partially, how many kids are homeschooled from the usage of the Homeschool Resource Center). The reasons here are so varied, it's hard to assess if you could get them back.

4)people who can't get into popular alternative/neighborhood schools and lack predictability. Here's where you could see meanful moves back. But as Johnny says, what are the costs of neighborhood schools? Well, for every kid you might get back in this category, you might lose another kid whose parents believe their cluster choices are poor and leave SPS. Is a wash or will SPS come out ahead/behind?

One of the reasons people go private (and we know this only antidotally because the district doesn't track where kids go or why)is lack of predictibility. So in a feeder pattern you make some people happy and others unhappy.

The two big issues, though, are (1)success may breed more comeback. Wait, you say, isn't that what we want? Well, I can't be sure but I believe the overall success of Roosevelt's programs coupled with its new building have produced a surge back from private schools. That, and not siblings from the south end, would explain the huge waitlist. So if we build new buildings or duplicate popular programs, we will likely get private school kids back. Charlie has done breakdowns of the numbers (at least at high school) but I suspect it will be problematic in many areas.

And (2) it's always about money. The district needs to save money on transportation so they are going to be loath to any exceptions to help parents in areas with poor choices. It negates what is likely the biggest reason to overhaul the enrollment plan in the first place.

Is the district running scenarios to figure what they will do if changing the enrollment plan AND making schools more attractive attract large numbers of students back into SPS? I hope so.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Madrona neighborhood. I counted the number of children that I personally know that live from 33rd Ave down to Lake Washington, bordered by Madrona Dr. to the north and Cherry to the south. There are 110 children that I can identify, certainly, there are more. Out of those kids, one goes to Madrona K-8. Any one of the 109 children in this neighborhood could go to Madrona K-8, and has chosen not to. There is perfect predictability, but given the test scores and climate, the vast majority of neighbors have voted with their feet. Where do they go? Many to Catholic schools (not because they are necessarily religious, but because it is a better school choice for their families and they can predictably get in), some secular private, and some public, notably to TOPS, McGilvra and Lowell. This neighborhood is proof that parents will not send their kids to underperforming schools because it is predictable.

I agree that the new assignment plan is addressing two problems with one solution. The northend needs predictable access to popular, high performing schools, while the southend needs predictably high performing schools.

Anonymous said...

Did I read the proposal wrong?? I thought choice was still available. I thought this addressed predictibility? From the document that I read it looks like you can be assured a seat in your reference school, you can choose another school in your (smaller now) reference area with transportation, or you can choose another school outside of your reference area without transportation. How does that differ so drastically from what we have now? As I recall they were even setting aside choice seats at each school.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, why call it a myth?? That's an interesting choice of a word. It is a difference of opinion. How would you like it if someone said there appears to be a myth at work that says...whatever your position is?

Roy Smith said...

julia, no you didn't read the framework wrong, it is just that it does a great job of being all things to all people without actually addressing the really contentious details. Ironing out the many details that still need to be addressed is where the problems lie.

Anonymous said...

"For example, it seems imperative that the District find out, via survey or other means, how many middle-class families currently using the choice system will leave the District if forced to attend a school that doesn’t work for them."

That would be very interesting data, but hard to mine reality as people intend to do (and often claim to have done) a number of things they in fact won't or haven't, like vote in a particular way.

Interestingly, after the 1989 school closures, there was a signficant dip (4000 students?) in enrollment district-wide, which was entirely recouped by the next year's census date. See enrollment 1884-2002 (wish they'd keep it updated) on district website here.

Hard to know without more detailed data, but one might guess that middle-class families opted out and than had to opt back in as the reality of private school cost (and quality?) hit.

Also, there aren't enough private school seats in the city to absorb all of the families who might be angered by a restriction of the all-city draw seats that syphon students from the south end.

This post sounds a lot like protecting the privilege of TOPS - which is fairly privileged at 22% Free and Reduced Lunch...

Anonymous said...

I never understand the animosity directed at the TOPS program and its perceived privelege when assignment comes up. It is 47% caucasian and 22% FRE. Salmon Bay, by comparison, is 78% caucasian and 7% FRE, and is an all city draw. 53% of TOPS students are minority, much different than the neighborhood. Walk into the building, and you see a rainbow. People with some privelege and people who would be considered historically underserved, who have chosen to come together. Choice. It makes a huge difference.

Johnny Calcagno said...

Anonymous at 5:43pm said:

This post sounds a lot like protecting the privilege of TOPS - which is fairly privileged at 22% Free and Reduced Lunch...

I’m not sure how a school that enrolls by lottery is particularly privileged. Yes, it is true that highly educated, privileged families can probably “work” the assignment system to their advantage, but any family that lists TOPS as a choice – regardless of rank – has an opportunity to enroll. No one gets an extra chance except families in Eastlake, a percentage of which are guaranteed access at the Kindergargen level. That is not a high hurdle to overcome, nor is it overly complicated.

If the privilege in question is the extra transportation costs, please be aware that TOPS will always be a relatively expensive school to provide buses for because of state rules regarding students walking around freeways. There just are not many students who can legally walk to TOPS, regardless of its status. And it’s worth pointing out that its transportation costs are mitigated by sharing buses with Lowell.

And finally, the point of my post is not about “protecting” alternative schools. I’m just trying to hear reasons why, given continued segregation, neighborhood schools make more sense now than they did 53 years ago.

Roy Smith said...

Salmon Bay is not an all-city draw. Transportation to Salmon Bay is only provided to students who live north of the ship canal (3 clusters).

Anonymous said...

Roy, you are wrong. We are a salmon Bay family. They are an all city draw. In fact Orca has a preference for assignment at Salmon Bay. Many many SE, S, and central area families choose Salmon Bay with transportation. Please people, be careful what you post. Make sure that your post is accurate. Alot of people read this blog, and spread the information that they read. Let's keep your information credible.

Anonymous said...

Roy and anonymous are both right about Salmon Bay. It is a north-of-the-ship-canal draw for elementary, and an all city draw for the middle school. This does skew it's data, since the elementary takes up 40 of the 120 seats available when transitioning from 5th to 6th grade. And AE2 (whose demographics almost perfectly match its northeast cluster neighboring schools, and has a north and northeast cluster draw) has preference, taking up anywhere from 10-30 of the remaining 80 seats. So only 50-70 seats are truly open for the all-city draw component.

Salmon Bay has changed drastically in it's diversity since the dropping of the racial tie-breaker. Jeff Clark, the former principal, said that in 2002 when the assignments had to be redone without the tie-breaker, that the incoming sixth grade class went from being something like 40% minority to under 20% minority, if I remember correctly.

Anonymous said...

And Orca's preference into Salmon Bay has now ended as they are becoming a K-8.

Anonymous said...

One thing the plan will do is make real estate prices even higher in those "highly desirable reference areas" like McGilva which I hear has their own field-turf soccer field and teachable class sizes.

And even in Ballard where I live there are good schools and not so good schools.
I worry if Spectrum is at a "good school" it will make people REALLY try and work the system to get their kids in. I worry it may get even uglier...

Anonymous said...

[i]I don't know the source of this myth, but it is powerful with some folks - despite the fact that I have never seen it happen,[/i]

when and why was the advanced placement program in the district given priority enrollment over neighborhood students at Garfield.

If the APP students were no longer given priority, would those students still put Garfield as their first choice?

Jet City mom said...

[i]For those of you who are in a relatively privileged position, I urge you to ask yourself if you would send your child to an underperforming school with the hope that you could successfully make it work for your child.[/i]

I did.
I'm caucasian, in this district that is about as privileged as it gets.
My child attended Summit for 6 years. We tried valiantly to make it work, it didn't .
I don't know what criteria are being used for underperforming, but my child took the WASL twice @ Summit in 4th and 7th gd.
Recieved "1"s in most section, both times.( did pass science WASL with a three)
Still there are attributes to an alternative school education that have broader effect than on the WASL.
She was admitted to Salmon bay for 6th grade, but we opted not to transfer her. Test scores are not the criteria I use to evaluate education.

If the underperforming schools are given additional financial support, if they are employing teachers that are strong that are held accountable for classroom practices and if the students are expected to meet rigourous standards with support to meet those standards, then certainly, I would send my child to that school

Anonymous said...

Class of 75 said:

"If the underperforming schools are given additional financial support, if they are employing teachers that are strong that are held accountable for classroom practices and if the students are expected to meet rigourous standards with support to meet those standards, then certainly, I would send my child to that school"

You said it well. I agree with you 100%.

Anonymous said...

If the funding, strong teachers and involved families all lined up as in the previous post, then the school would not be underperforming any longer. How to achieve that is the million dollar question.

Charlie Mas said...

Choice will continue to be available, but it will be harder than ever to exercise it.

Today, the population of school-age children in the school reference area may not match the school building capacity very well. So there may be schools that can hold all of the kids in the neighborhood - and then some. People from outside the reference area who chose that school had some opportunity for access.

There are also school reference areas that hold more students than the building can hold. Those school tended to fill up and have waitlists. But as people who live in the reference area lose confidence in their access to the school, they begin to name other schools as their first choice for assignment. This is a mistake based in their confusion over how the choice system works. If enough people in the reference area give up on the idea of getting into the school, thinking that there won't be room, then there may be some room.

When the reference area is right-sized, the slack will be gone and so will that opportunity for choice. Also, when families in the reference area are assured access to the school, none of them who really want it will give up, taking away that opportunity. It will approach a sort of zero-net-sum situation in which there will have to be one reference area student choosing to go elsewhere for every out-of-reference area student who gets in.

The best source of liquidity in the system comes from alternative schools. Over 10% of the District's students are in alternative schools. On the average, this would put 10% of the seats in reference area schools open for out-of-area choice students.

Roy Smith said...

I based my comment regarding Salmon Bay's draw status based on the elementary school enrollment guide - I forgot to investigate whether the middle school portion had different criteria.

My apologies to any who are upset at my not fully understanding the criteria or who feel I am spreading disinformation. I try hard to fully understand issues and to use accurate information, but being human, I do make (many?) mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I like the new assignment plan. I like predictibility. I also like that there is still a choice component. Choice doesn't work very well now with "the choice program", as the only choice you have is a bad school. All of the "good" schools are full with waitlists. Heck we couldn't get into half the schools in our cluster (NE). So choice won't change much with the new student assignment. What will change is that now I know my options. I know which school I will definately be able to get into. I know which school all of the kids from this school WILL be able to move on to for middle school.

My guess is people that are very concerned with their school choices will find a way to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Even if it means a smaller house, older car, apartment, etc.

The SE initiative also gives much hope and future to SE Seattle schools, and was long overdue.

Some people won't like their neighborhood school, and may choose to go private. My guess is that these families would have gone private anyway with the lack of predictibility that they had before. They are probably the same families that we have been loosing every year. Because with or without the new assignment plan, if you live across the street from Bryant you were going to get in. So why did the families seeking private leave before? It's the same reason that they will leave now.

We need a new assignment plan. This one is reasonably sound.

Anonymous said...

Julia said...

My guess is people that are very concerned with their school choices will find a way to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Even if it means a smaller house, older car, apartment, etc.

The SE initiative also gives much hope and future to SE Seattle schools, and was long overdue.



1. The SE initiative does not address elementary schools.

2. Many families in the south end do not have the means to move - to say that concerned families could just give up some things and make it happen is not in the realm of financial reality. Nor is the assumption that most families who won't like their neighborhood schools would go private.

3. It seems that more so in the North end, families will at least have assignement to decent school.

4. Why should we adopt a plan that does not benefit the entire district?

5. Why should families have to move to another neighborhood to have good schools?

6. I think the different perceptions of what choice means is really the point of this topic:
"Neighbhorhod Schools: Separate but Equal?"

Anonymous said...

I want to address three things that Anonymous at 735 says.

First of all will you please give the district some credit. They have finally (long overdue) put forthean initiative that addresses under performing, under enrolled SE Seattle schools. This is a huge step in the right direction, and is the beginning of the process. Why must you pick it apart and find every flaw? Be thankful that something is happening, roll up your sleeves, and ask what you can do to help it along. Give the district your suggestions for how it could be better, but keep it constructive and positive.

Secondly, please tell me how the new student assignment will change your options in SE seattle? How will it affect you personally, no generalizations please. The choice component does not appear to have changed at all. This plan only adds some predictability for the over enrolled, crowded parts of the city. But, please do let me know how it will affect you negatively.

Lastly, we lived in the central area for many years and hated our school choices. We did not want to bus our kids to other parts of the city. We are lower income, and also a bi-racial (black/white) family. Education is a top priority for us. Higher than almost everything else in our lives, except our faith and our health. We decided to move north to the NE cluster. We pay no more to live here than we did in the CD. In fact we pay less now, as the CD has gentrified so much. It can be done, even on the tightest budge. Where there is a will there is a way. We saw first hand how our neighbors cared about the poor school choices, but did not care enough to do anything about it. They didn't volunteer in the school, they didn't demand better, they just complained, and unfortunately that just doesn't work. You have to make something happen, but then again, that something has to be your priority

Anonymous said...

My experience is that most people (including me) have no idea or knowledge about any school other than their own - and their perception of other schools is based on an amalgam of buzz, school reputations often well out-of-date, and "conventional wisdom" (the John Kenneth Galbraith notion that we take in only those ideas which conveniently line up with what we already thought, consider them to be "truth", and ignore the reality that they often have no substantive fact behind them).

The wholesale denigration of south-end schools (by north-enders and south-enders alike); the general perception of all north-end schools as "good" and "affluent" - conventional wisdom.

I think about my lack of empirical knowledge a lot when I think I "know" something about schools other than the one my children go to (and even when I think about what I "know" about that one) - I hope you do, too.

Anonymous said...

PS - my comment was not in response to Julia or any particular comment foregoing - just an observation brought to mind by the general discussion of schools and choice in the recent threads here.

I also want to add a personal story: we go to Daniel Bagley Elementary, which in 2000 had dwindled to 150 students and was the school of last resort in the cluster (always space for mid-year enrollments).

Lined up for closure by the district then, a handful of parents and neighbors (none of whom had any influence, power, or "in" with the district) rallied, appealed to Joseph Olschefske, got a stay of closure, a new (strong) principal and $10K to invest in a Montessori program - but no other assistance from the district since (although their putting the school on the closure list again in 2005 inadvertently rallied even more parents and community members).

Even with the closure recommendation in 2005 and the uncertainty of status most schools faced during the closure committee's work during 2006, Bagley increased first choices and enrollment steadily and is maxed out at 330 with wait lists for the Contemporary and Montessori programs.

Often in hindsight things seem pre-ordained or bound to happen - but if you think that was the case you should talk to parents and neighbors of Bagley in 2000 - or 2001, 2002, etc.

A huge factor in this comeback was the principal and Joseph Olschefke's placing her there. Much was a serendipitous confluence of like-minded parents committed to public schools, committed to the neighborhood (which, at 80th and Aurora, is no Laurelhurst and has struggled to improve - in part accelerated by the community investment in the neighborhood school), and hopeful for the possibilities.

To Charlie's original comment, most people in 2000 would not have hesitated to call Bagley "inappropriate" and/or "underperforming" - and I just wanted to provide an example of the presence of middle-class families (and a district-assigned principal and some seed money) making a difference.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ultimate fan. This is exactly what I was talking about, when I said you have to roll up your sleeves and make it happen. Of course the district has to support the effort, and the $$$ always help too. But if not for the drive of the families Bagley may not have improved. This is what I meant by where there is a will there is a way. We live close to Bryant, and hear parents talk about what a fantastic program Bagley has all the time. Apparantly Bagley has made quite a name for themselves. You should be proud!!!

Roy Smith said...

julia said ... My guess is people that are very concerned with their school choices will find a way to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Even if it means a smaller house, older car, apartment, etc.

This may or may not be true. However, I personally cannot in any way equate "you can always find a way to live in the right neighborhood for a good school" with anything resembling an equitable assignment system that provides a satisfactory education to all.

As a personal example, I have ranted at length about how I feel it is inappropriate that John Stanford is a reference area school and that as a practical matter there is no way for me to have my child enrolled in the language immersion program which is there, and not currently available anywhere else. Taking Julia's reasoning, if it is that important to me, I should move to Wallingford. I acknowledge that I could make that happen. However, I would then live significantly farther from my church with which I am heavily involved, away from most of my family's social circle, I would be in a place that could make my commute more inconvenient, etc. If I were a homeowner, I would have to deal with the uncertainty involved in selling my house, and I would certainly have the amount of equity I have in my house set back by agent commissions and closing costs (at least $20,000, probably significantly more). These are not insignificant considerations, and in terms of the last one, possibly a bigger financial sacrifice than enrolling a child in a private school would be.

The education of my children is very important to me, as I think it is to most parents. That does not mean that every aspect of my entire life does or should revolve around the education of my children.

Charlie Mas said...

ultimate fan wrote:
"A huge factor in this comeback was the principal"

I have a lot of respect for the work that families did at Bagley - and they did a lot of work. Nevertheless, I would suggest that similar efforts would not have been successful with a less cooperative principal.

Bagley got a new principal; Rainier Beach suffered a long time without a much-needed change of leadership. I would not presume that the Beach families worked any less hard or were any less committed.

While there are isolated successful cases, such as Bagley, which typically include significant changes in the school leadership or district-level intervention, there is a striking paucity of successful cases in which a cadre of new families was able to turn around a school.

On another topic, I live in southeast Seattle and I can easily name a number of academically and programmatically strong elementary schools in that part of town: Beacon Hill, Kimball, Maple, and Van Asselt immediately leap to mind. I'm sure there are others.

I think that Dearborn Park is making enormous progress and will soon be included in any such list. I don't know how the merger will impact Dearborn Park's progress, but I'm pretty confident that they will continue to show marked improvement.

I see no reason that work done at these schools - and they have not followed any one formula - cannot be repeated at any other school that chooses to follow their lead.

The New School, of course, is also a strong school in Southeast Seattle, but I won't pretend that other schools can dulplicate that work.

As for the absence of elementary schools as part of the Southeast Initiative, I think it is because families will continue to have more choice in elementary school than in middle school because transportation will be provided to a number of schools rather than just one.

Let's remember that in addition to the Southeast Initiative, the District is adopting a renewed sense of responsibility. They have committed themselves - and this looks to be Ms Santorno's decision - to intervene earlier and more aggressively when schools fail to meet goals. The Southeast Initiative is a one-time effort; the District accepting its responsibility is an every year effort.

Anonymous said...

Roy you say "I acknowledge that I could make that happen. However, I would then live significantly farther from my church with which I am heavily involved, away from most of my family's social circle, I would be in a place that could make my commute more inconvenient, etc."

That is exactly why I said education was my top priority aside from my faith and health. It's all about your priorities. It's not bad to make your priority being closer to work than a good school. But you have to acknowlege that. IF your priority is being closer to church and family, that to is OK. It just puts education futher and further down your list of priorities. All I said was that if you want to make it happen you can. My 1st priority was education, so I made some sacrifices to get my kids into a "good" school. I hate that we have to do make these choices and sacrifices. For us the sacrifice was a diverse neighborhood. But living in a diverse neighborhood did not trump a good school (for us). The schools in the south will not get better over night, it will be a long process, as it has been long overdue and a lot of catch up work will have to be done. You make your choices as I have made mine.

Anonymous said...

I think the "principal" involvement is a good one. I think this is probably why the distict put Marni Campbell at Hale. Hale's enrollment and reputation has declined slightly in the past couple of years, and perheps the energy of a strong principal like Marni was a proactive move on the districts part. They do seem to be moving forward on a lot of issues as of late. Though I don't agree with all of the actions, I must commend them.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad for Bagley's success story but just wanted to add that the success rightfully attributed to the Principal came at the expense of another school, Graham Hill, where the district pulled said Principal from.

The school struggled with a lack of solid leadership for 8-9 years after that yet managed to keep it together due to amazing staff & teachers and a strong parent group.

Finally, we again have a strong leader in Ms. Christina Morningstar. Graham Hill is a great SE elementary and is growing stronger under Ms. Morningstar.

Roy Smith said...

I acknowledge that priorities for different people are different, and that those difference will impact the educational choices that individual families make and the level of sacrifices in other areas of their lives that they are willing to tolerate. I also agree that for many families in north Seattle, the biggest issue with student assignment is not access to a quality school. The issue is lack of predictability of assignment in these neighborhoods that drives parents nuts. My point is not to argue with you about those points, because I basically agree with them.

My point, which I illustrated with the problem of enrollment policy at John Stanford International, is that there are some big pockets of inequity in the student assignment system both as it stands and in some of the changes that are proposed, including neighborhood schools. Again, part of the problem appears to be that the core concerns in general of different parts of the city are very different. With this in mind, a systemwide solution may be destined for failure no matter what it looks like, and maybe we should be more flexible and acknowledge that different systems in different parts of the district might adequately address the concerns of more people.

Here is another example (hypothetical, but not too far-fetched I think) that may illustrate the problem I have with the idea that "people that are very concerned with their school choices will find a way to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Even if it means a smaller house, older car, apartment, etc."

Suppose a family with young children looks at the current school assignment policy and current school offerings around the year 2000 and decides that they really like the neighborhood schools in the NE cluster and that Nathan Hale high school is where they want to send their children when that time comes. They are lower middle income, and although they have to really stretch to afford it, the buy a house across the street from Nathan Hale. They also have to uproot their lives because they are moving from another neighborhood in the city to get there. They have confidence that they will have access to a high school they like, and they are also reassured by the fact that the school choice system (as it currently exists) will allow them other options should they or their children decide for some reason in the future that they do not want Hale.

Fast forward 10 years. Their oldest child is be entering 9th grade. The program at Nathan Hale has been transformed into something they don't care much for, and is quite a bit different than what it was when they moved into the neighborhood. The student assignment plan has undergone major revisions in response to the demand for predictability and the demand to reduce transportation costs, and it is nearly impossible for a family located where they are to get into Ballard, Roosevelt, or Ingraham. Transportation is no longer even provided to schools south of the ship canal for students that far north. Summit K-12 still has space available, but they have even less desire to send their children there than to the new Nathan Hale.

They would consider moving, but the housing market has tanked, so they have minimal equity in their home, and also they tried to and have successfully set down deep roots in their new neighborhood. Even if they could sell their current house, their financial situation has deteriorated somewhat and mortgage lending standards have become much tougher in the wake of the housing bust, so they are not at all sure they could purchase a home in another neighborhood, at least not one that is close to a desirable high school. They could rent, but buying again may be unachievable.

This hypothetical family sacrificed to get into a neighborhood they thought would serve their educational needs. Due to a variety of fairly reasonable and well-intentioned changes in the schools and assignment policy, the neighborhood no longer meets their needs, and their options have been reduced in general. Should they be required to sacrifice even more because of that fact?

Whether or not a family has access to quality schools that meet the needs of that family should not be determined on the basis of geography.

I freely acknowledge that my hypothetical family has suffered something like a worst case scenario, but less extreme examples are going to (and in fact do currently) exist if we expect "willingness and ability to relocate" to be one of the criteria that affects whether our children can get into the schools that are appropriate for them.

Anonymous said...

So...interesting and related to something I said earlier about conventional wisdom, there are 17 schools serving K-5 children in the south end, 2 of which are merging with nearby schools in 2007-8.

7 of the remaining 15 have been called out in recent days by Charlie and others (who have reason to know because they attend them, live in the south end, or make it their business to know) as being strong (6) or on their way (1): Beacon Hill, Kimball, Van Asselt, Graham Hill, The New School, and Dearborn Park.

An additional 1 (Orca) has no shortage of demand. I've met, been wowed by the principals and been in the beautiful buildings of 4 more -

Hawthorne (Sumiko Huff)
John Muir (Awnie Thompson)
Dunlap (Greg Imel), and
Wing Luke (Ellen Punyon - though I don't know who her replacement is as she moves to Dearborn Park).

That's 12 of the 15 that I would be happy to enroll in if I lived in the south end, and that others who pay attention seem pleased with.

Who's left? Emerson, African American Academy, and Brighton - each of whom have beautiful facilities complete with computer labs, state of the art libraries, conference rooms, grounds, huge classrooms and natural light (not that facilities are what it's about, but just so you know) and a number of good things going for them, including committed families and community members; dedicated teachers; focused district funding via the weighted student formula (even though it is probably not enough); and great kids.

I don't understand how people can write off south end schools - I just don't.

I would never say they don't need more funding and every bit of attention the district can give them (and I'll bet standardized math curriculum and the attendant professional development for teachers will reap benefits here as everywhere) - but I wish I understood why so many families in the south end feel that if it isn't The New School or TOPS (as one told me), they're not going.

It can't all be about middle school...

Anonymous said...

Roy you say "if we expect "willingness and ability to relocate" to be one of the criteria that affects whether our children can get into the schools that are appropriate for them."

Please don't misunderstand me, I dont think people should be "expected" to relocate. I said that families who put education as their top priority AND are disatisfied with their school choices will move, or homeschool, or choose private (they have scholorships for low income and minority children. Thats all I'm saying. Parents that make education their priority don't settle. And they shouldn't have to. I'm not excusing the district for the inequities between schools, I'm saying that they are a reality, and you have to decide if you want to send your 5 year old to a sub standard school, or sacrifice and move, quit your job and homeschool, etc. It is a reality, and you won't believe how much it happens. Just because you value your commute, social circles, proximity to church over which school your child attends does not mean that everybody else has to.

To Ultimate fan, I am so happy to hear that schools are on the upswing in the S. end. They were not ten years ago when we looked at school (with the exception of Kimble and Beacon hill). But both of these schools were not central cluster schools they were south cluster schools. There were great schools in the central cluster (stevens, montlake, mcgilvra), but we probably wouldn't have gotten in, they were very over subscribed. This comes back to predictability. We couldn't predict where our child would go to school, and couln't take that risk. If he didn't get into Mcgilvra would he go to Leschi? (it was really awful back then). Which brings me to another point. S Seattle schools are on the upswing, but what about Central area schools...Leschi, TT minor, Thurgood Marshall, MLK, etc. They don't seen to have seen much improvement.

Thanks everybody for sharing your perspectives.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Julia, I would sell my house, and live (very cozy) in a studio apartment rather than sending my child to a school that I percieved as awful or sub standard.

You have choices:

You can move

You can homeschool

You can go private (with scholorship)

You can choose a better out of cluster school and drive.

You can choose an alternative school.

You can choose a daycare near a school that you like, and use that address on your enrollment application.

There is so much that you can do to make it work for you. Why would anyone (who cares) send their kid to a subpar school?

Roy Smith said...

julia writes: I'm not excusing the district for the inequities between schools, I'm saying that they are a reality, and you have to decide if you want to send your 5 year old to a sub standard school, or sacrifice and move, quit your job and homeschool, etc. It is a reality, and you won't believe how much it happens. Just because you value your commute, social circles, proximity to church over which school your child attends does not mean that everybody else has to.

I am aware that these trade-offs are a reality for some (many?) families. It disturbs me greatly that we have as many families that have to face these sorts of decisions as we do. I have not personally had to face these trade-offs, for which I am extremely grateful.

My rantings about the assignment policy that pertains to John Stanford International has to do with the fact that I think it is ludicrous that access to a unique and very popular program is rationed solely on the basis of geography. I probably would not have picked it even were it available to my family, but nevertheless it irritates me that the families of my neighbors and I, as well as those of most of the rest of the city, don't even have a realistic chance to send our children to school there, short of relocating. I (and everybody else, too) should have had a chance, even if it was in a lottery, to send a child there.

I sincerely believe that the trade-offs that julia and I referred to above should not be a reality, and I further believe that it is possible (though not easy, perhaps) for SPS to change the reality to something we would all like more. This will involve many aspects, one of which involves what we do with assignment policy. Assignment policy in SPS is a balancing act between predictable positive outcomes and choice; right now, there is too much emphasis on choice and very little on predictable outcomes. My concern is that in the rush to revise the policy, the pendulum may swing too far the other way, resulting in too much emphasis on predictable outcomes and overly restricting choice. This may have just as many unintended negative consequences as the current assignment policy has.

julia, you keep mentioning that the framework as proposed doesn't really change very much. I would submit that it doesn't change much because it really doesn't provide any details, and it is the working out of those details that is going to create a great deal of contention. Many of these contentious details center on equitable access to programs which are not available at every reference area school. These programs include things like Spectrum, special ed programs, bilingual programs, language immersion programs, Montessori programs, drama, IB, AP and honors classes, Jazz Band ... this is nowhere near a complete list, but you get the idea. Managing placement, access to, and distribution of these sorts of programs requires a great deal of careful thought, and this is doubly true as we revise the school choice and transportation policies.

I sincerely hope that SPS will allow for enough time and community input to craft thoughtful and effective resolutions of the many, many details that need to be addressed in order to flesh out the framework. Unfortunately, SPS has a history of sometime failing to do that (Exhibit A: Phase 2 of school closures and consolidations, which was a disaster in terms of thoughtfulness and was ultimately scrapped). Even if the approach is well-crafted, not everybody will be completely pleased, and some will be thoroughly displeased, as the final product comes together (we are too diverse a community to make everybody happy all the time), but that is not a very useful criteria of success. Success to me is a plan that strikes a wise balance between the competing interests of choice and predictability of (positive) outcomes.

Roy Smith said...

anonymous 4:08, I am quite willing to bet that one can find many families who are far enough down the economic ladder that every last one of your suggested options is inaccessible to them.

For a single parent, who doesn't speak English, who makes minimum wage at a full time job, who lives in subsidized housing, who doesn't own a car, and who relies on public transportation, here is what happens to the options:

1) You can move. Not at all easily if you live in subsidized housing.

2) You can homeschool. When? And how exactly does a non-English speaking person teach their child to read and write in English? Even for an English speaking single parent, if one has a low level of education and a full-time job, they may lack the confidence or the ability or both to effectively homeschool their child, and they are probably aware of this.

3) You can go private (with scholarship). Even supposing one has the time and determination to identify the scholarship opportunity, identify the school, and can find a translator to help them fill out the applications, transportation concerns may still make private school impossible (see number 4 below), the child might not get accepted to the school, they might not get awarded the scholarship, or the scholarship might only provide a portion of the tuition, making it still financially inaccessible.

4) You can choose a better out of cluster school and drive. No car, and possibly not feasible on Metro. Even if you had a car or a useful bus route, if you work an 8 to 5 job, there is no way to take your child to school which runs from 9 to 3:15 or so. You could find a daycare in the area, but that presents its own set of challenges (see number 6 below).

5) You can choose an alternative school. Yes, you can, if you feel an alternative school is appropriate for your child.

6) You can choose a daycare near a school that you like, and use that address on your enrollment application. If you are in subsidized housing, you are probably also using subsidized daycare. Not all daycares are eligible for subsidies. Even if they are, see the transportation problems referred to in option number 4.

So, only one viable option remains: choose an alternative school. Some people strongly dislike alternative schools. For them, alternative school is the same as "awful or sub standard".

Yes, there are people that are this poor. Quite a few of them are legal immigrants who have little English fluency. Some of them live in Seattle and have children. I think it is very disingenuous to imply that "everybody has options" when in fact, not everybody does have options. There are a lot of families for whom relocating is a very high hurdle indeed, and for which transportation is a major challenge. These people are not going to be able to opt out of public schools, may not want alternative schools, and cannot provide transportation for their children. For those people, there choices are pretty severely limited to wherever SPS will deign to transport their children to. However, their economic and social status does not mean that they do not care any less intensely about the education and future of their children than any other parent.

Anonymous said...

If you are that far down the economic chain, that you can afford none of these options, then education is not your #1 priority. It wasn't for yourself (or you wouldn't be that far down the chain), and it isn't for your kids. I would assume that if you are this far down the chain, your #1 priority is feeding your family, finding work, finding any accesible housing. I'm not arguing with you at all. There are many people who are in this category. Do you understand that I am not challenging you on this??? Neither was Julia as far as I can read. Please re-read the posts. We both said that these options were open to people whose first priority was not accepting a sub-standard school. Only those people. Julia said her first priority was her faith, health and then school.

Anonymous said...

It's not fair, but it is a reality. If you are that far down the economic ladder, which school your child attends is probably not even on your radar much less a top priority.

But for many many families a good school is a top priority and we have all seen the hoops parents will jump through to get into a good school. Heck they jump through hoops to get a good teacher at a good school. Can you blame them??

It's not equitable. Every child deserves a good school. But it is a reality right now. Can we work to change this? Of course. Not disputing that it needs to change. But right now, for all those parents that have to enroll their kids in kindergarten, middle or high school it is reality, and many parents WILL do what it takes to get the best schools they can for their children. As I said, can you blame them?

Roy Smith said...

north end mom, I agree with your statement. I do not blame anybody who jumps through all sorts of hoops in order to get the schools they want for their children. However, I take strong exception to the implication by anonymous that because one does not have the opportunity to jump through these hoops that that means that they do not care about their children or their children's future. Education is, or should be, the great equalizer in America. Recognizing this, I feel very passionately that it is absolutely wrong to tell poor families that it may be that all they can have is whatever dregs of the education system are leftover after everybody more fortunate than them has fought for their share of the pie.

anonymous 5:30, no you did not say "these options were open to people whose first priority was not accepting a sub-standard school", you said, "Why would anyone (who cares) send their kid to a subpar school?" Those are two very different statements.

So if they are poor, they don't care? If there are subpar schools, they don't also deserve a chance to avoid those schools? Do they not deserve a reasonable opportunity to give their children a chance at a better life than they themselves have?

Yes, minimally acceptable housing and enough food to eat are more important to them than their children's education. Guess what? Those two items are also more important to you, me, julia, and everybody else than our children's education is. The difference is that for those of us arguing about this, we can obtain food and minimally acceptable housing and still have lots of time and resources left over to devote to getting a better school for our children.

Quoting you again:

"If you are that far down the economic chain, that you can afford none of these options, then education is not your #1 priority. It wasn't for yourself (or you wouldn't be that far down the chain), and it isn't for your kids."

Is that so? How many poor immigrant families, or poor families in general, have you met? For some immigrants, the chance at a good education for their children (which was literally not available to them or their children in the country they came from) and a better future for their children is their main motivation for immigrating. These people probably understand much better than you or I do that education is the absolutely most valuable thing they can pass on to their children, and they would probably sacrifice more than you or I would to get the absolute best education they can obtain for their children.

The difference is, they have nothing left even to sacrifice.

The American Dream used to revolve around the idea that anybody could make a successful life for themselves here. Public education was and is part of that. There are people who are very unfortunate in the world. Are they to be denied a chance at the American Dream because of inequitable access to education?

As long as we have subpar schools (they certainly won't disappear by next year, and they probably never will vanish completely), those who are in bad economic circumstances deserve at least a good a chance at escaping them as the rest of us do.

Their situation, and the situation of many others who are economically distressed and/or relatively uneducated is not the result of them not caring or of them having different priorities than you or I do. It is very possibly the result of circumstances which are completely beyond their control.

I have been involved in a number of heated discussions on this blog, but this is the first time I have actually been made angry. I am angry about the complete lack of empathy or consideration that anonymous has displayed for the plight of people who are in bad and unfortunate circumstances. This attitude strikes me as being incredibly self-centered, and I frankly am astonished that anybody in this forum would say something that would make me feel compelled to post a rant like this. No wonder you are posting as anonymous.

Roy Smith said...

I shouldn't post in forums like this when I am angry.

anonymous, please do not construe my remarks to mean that I think you are a bad person. I know nothing about you, aside from the fact that you have expressed one opinion on one subject that I find obnoxious. It is entirely possible that aside from that you are a thoroughly charming and wonderful person.

I therefore take back any aspect of my post that could be considered a personal attack. I stand firmly by my position that those less fortunate than we are care about the education of their children with every bit as much passion as we do, and that we as a city and as a society should bend over backwards to ensure that the education of their children is not disadvantaged as a result of their circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that anonymous intentionally meant to imply that families without means care less about education for their kids than
families that do have means.

However, it is of interest and concern to me that alot of space has been devoted to defending the position of families who can make changes to get their kids into better schools. I did go back and re-read many of the posts and I think that there is a slant towards trying to keep the assignment plan focus on those families and to make a good case for it.

I certainly can see that point of view and I certainly do not blame anyone for having that point of view. In fact, I have done what I thought I needed to do to promote the needs of my own kid at school.

There are some postives or some potential with the new assignment plan.

And, I don't really get how putting some money into Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools is really going to make a significant and comprehensive change for the families in those neighborhoods. As Roy mentioned, I guess the proof is in the details
yet to come.

Anonymous said...

Roy you are very very narrow minded if you are so angered by someone differing in opionion than you. This blog is meant to share our views and opinions. We will never all see eye to eye, but we can be open to hearing what other people say. We certainly don't have to buy into it, but if you find yourself so angered by people who don't share your view of how things should be then blogging probably isn't a good venue for you.

I understand what Julia and anonymous were trying to convey, though anonymous was a little harsh the way he/she laid it out. Nobody is trying to take the american dream away from immigrants or anyone else for that matter. Immigrants come to our country and we support them and offer them an american education. We here in Seattle have no idea what a bad school really is. I'm sure some of the folks in our immigrant communities do though (that is the ones who even had access to a school). Perhaps that is why these communities do not make a "good" school their top priority. They don't work the system. Most of them are grateful just to be here and be in the system. But, their plight, does not override the fact that there are many (more) average american families, mainly in the lower middle income range that do work the system, move, home school, et al, to get what they want. I agree with North end mom when she says "can you blame them?" Of course not. They have every right to. I say lower and middle income, because the affluent just flee to private school when they don't like they're choices, they are not about to move or homeschool or anything else for that matter. They just buy they're way out of the local schools. So we are not talking about the lowest income or the affluent really. We are talking mainly about the low-middle income and middle income average families.

Anonymous said...

I just want to clarify that when I said the affluent are not about to move, homeschool etc. to get a good school, they just flee to private school, I meant no disrespect, and don't blame them either. Everyone wants what's best for their kid, and we all do whatever is in our means to get it. That's just different things to different socio economic groups. To immigrants, it's getting to american for an american education, for low/middle income families it's working the system, moving, homeschooling etc, and for the affluent it's buying into a neighborhood with good schools or going private. Again, no disrespect for the affluent, I repeat what north end mom said " can you blame them?"

North East Mama said...

Does it drive anyone else crazy here how many people post as "anonymous"?? A couple of posts up, posted by Anonymous, they post something that "Anonymous says...."

How do we know you are not the same person? Why don't people just pick a pseudonym and keep their profile private if they don't want to be identified? That is seriously the one major beef I have with this blog.

Anonymous said...

North east mama, why does it bother you so much??? You can reference the anonymous post by the time they posted. IE anonymous at 7:52 said....

And as for your statement of how do you know if anonymous is the same person posting over and over again, let me just say that you can make any name you want and click "other", so if that is someones deceitful intent, then they could make up 10 names and do the same thing.

Don't sweat the little stuff.

Jet City mom said...

Why would anyone (who cares) send their kid to a subpar school?"

but what criteria are we using?

A school that has a higher percentage of FRL students receives more money per student, has often received grant money to provide programs for those students and may have educators who are attracted to the school to help address those challenges.

While "test" scores may still be poor, the community doesn't necessarily use test scores to determine if a school is working or not for their children.

A district that is deemed "successful", as Bellevue is for example, may also be having families moving out or homeschooling, because of pressure to conform to one model.

Not everyone sees AP classes as a preferred model, and some parents may even want their kids to have a choice not to take AP or CC classes.

The disadvantage I see- is that students and families need different types of education.

When I was growing up in the burbs, all many of us knew were large schools, try out sports & attend your closest school.

If you were very bright but had a learning disability, were musicially talented but hadn't had private lessons through elementary to make the cut in high school, were athletically gifted, but not in a sport the school offered, you were pretty much SOL, unless your parent knew how to make the system work for you.

I don't know many parents who did. The few who did, were already working for the district and had their kids assigned to other schools- very unusual in the 70s in the Lake Washington district.

Immigrant parents and those who are not as driven to compare options, may view the neighborhood school and feel it is fine, because they don't know what to look for. Not everyone is a comparision shopper, and frankly, I don't think they should have to be.

I agree that some families not so much because they want complete control but because they want continuity may choose private schools or home school or even pull up roots and head for the suburbs where schools are more closely linked to address.

This has been inaccurately IMO labeled "white flight".
How can it be white flight when Bellevue has a higher percentage of minorities than Seattle, and certainly a higher percentage of families who send their kids to public schools?

I would argue that there are poor schools however. Including north of the ship canal.
As I mentioned earlier, our neighborhood school is West Woodland, I wouldn't call it a poor school, but I didn't send either of my kids there.
Instead- my oldest went private, even though our hourly income is lower than the average teacher wage in Seattle.
We couldn't afford to move, but we did find there were generous scholarships for private education & it was much more appropriate for her because it addressed her special needs- SPS didn't do that.

We had encouragement from others ( not family- but professionals) to find appropriate education for our kids. We need to help others find their way through the system, if needed.

It is much better, for a child to get the encouragment and support they need in 3rd grade, than to find in 7th grade, that they have been behind for 7 years.( and then we chase our tails until they get transferred to another school and it is someone elses problem- )

After all how long have we been administering the WASL?
Ten years?
Only now we are starting the PATHWAY program for highschool students, when we knew years ago they were struggling.
That is unconscionable.

Roy Smith said...

I myself cannot see how being passionate about (and even getting perhaps getting angry about when defending) a value that is important to me - in this case equality of opportunity - is the equivalent of narrow minded, but as you have said, the purpose of this forum is to exchange views.

I personally feel that it would be unnecessarily limiting to restrict ourselves from bringing our passion to the discussion, as long as we do our best to do so with respect for other people, particularly those we disagree with. Education is a subject which inspires a great deal of passion and sometimes anger in many people, including perhaps many people who read this blog. Some subjects that are live issues in education inspire honest anger in some people. This anger may not be inappropriate.

For instance, if the posters here who are advocating for the families who are doing everything in their power to enroll their child in the best public school they can find were to be faced with the prospect of integration of the school by mandatory busing to a mandatorily assigned school, regardless of location in the city (such as was actually done in SPS some years back), I would expect that many of those posters would be posting about a subject which makes them angry just to think about. Thankfully, this particular idea is dead and buried, but hopefully the example illustrates my point.

Extremely vigorous and passionate debate about many subjects relating to education (such as teaching of evolution vs. creationism; comprehensive sex education vs. abstinence only sex education; allowing or barring homosexual people from teaching children; issues surrounding racism and integration; etc.) is alive and well in this country, although some may be more or less settled issues in SPS. These subjects could be considered valid topics of discussion in a blog such as this one. Saying that people who are angered by opinions that may be expressed during such discussions are not invited to participate would not be appropriate, in my view.

I sincerely hope that people do not take statement that I was angry (and I was - I do not deny that) while writing my recent post to mean that I felt that anonymous was not free to hold that view or that I was attempting to squelch an opinion that I do not agree with. That was not and is not my intent, and I believe very strongly that people should always be allowed to disagree, as long as they attempt to do so in a fashion that fosters mutual respect for each other and for the fact that we are all members of the common human family.

Anonymous said...

roy smith said, "...I feel very passionately that it is absolutely wrong to tell poor families that it may be that all they can have is whatever dregs of the education system are leftover after everybody more fortunate than them has fought for their share of the pie."

and I say, "how can one not agree, but - what dregs are you talking about?"

I don't know what schools are like in the Central Area and that may be the biggest issue in the city - but as I mentioned earlier, can we go (elementary) school by school in the south end and talk about specifics?

And if the quality issue in the south end is really middle school and high school - is the Southeast Initiative segment of the assignment plan not directed there?

Yes, details are to be worked out and that's no small thing - but it feels like the focus is now macro instead of telephoto or wide angle - and that seems like a good thing.

North East Mama said...

Ummmm....."I just made a name up"... I can in fact "reference" Anonymous at whatever time. However, when I am reading this blog, and multiple people identify themselves as anonymous, but not by time, as far as I can tell, they are all the same person, it is confusing. I am not sweating at all, I am confused.

Plus, why anyone would want to be deceitful here is beyond comprehension to me, anonymous, yes, but why deceitful?? I come here for information and insight, and if you are tipping your hand and saying you are just making stuff up to be trolling for conflict, well, I don't get it.

I sounds to me like you need to not sweat the small stuff, like other people's opinions or ideas.

Anonymous said...

Northeast mama it sounded to me like you thought all the anonymous people were the same person. I thought you were suggesting that someone was being deceitful. Thats why I said the anonymous tag wouldn't deter that kind of behavior. Perhaps I read it wrong. I apologize. I was certainly not suggesting deceit at all.

Roy Smith said...

ultimate fan said: and I say, "how can one not agree, but - what dregs are you talking about?"

Honestly, I don't know. What I do know is that every time a proposal for reducing the amount of choice available is brought up, there are people who chime into the conversation with the opinion that they or people they know would consider the proposed changes as making a poor situation even worse. I know that other people tell stories about how they moved to another part of the city because the choices that were available to them in their old neighborhood were unsatisfactory. These two facts lead me to the conclusion that there must be pockets of poor quality in SPS that are bad enough that some people feel honestly threatened just by the discussion about possibly reducing the number of options.

My concern is that if there are people concerned about these pockets of low quality enough to either move or protest vociferously about changes in the plan, then there are also probably people who, if such reductions in choice are made, will have no choice but to accept that their opportunities have been reduced to a level that middle class people might find unacceptable if such changes were forced on them. I think it is extremely important that their voice be heard in this discussion. I think the original post (54 comments ago) was an attempt to make sure that these voices are heard, as well as the voices of middle class people for whom neighborhood schools would be highly desirable.

I, too, would love to hear more specifics about the nature of these areas of low quality (surely someone has first-hand knowledge and can speak about them?). I am also keenly interested in how the details that flesh out the framework are worked out. It is completely possible that I have gotten myself all worked up for nothing, but I think it is also possible, depending on how the details are resolved, that a lot of people who are already living in poor circumstances will see their situation deteriorate even further.

Jet City mom said...

well for instance at the last board meeting- Don Alexander waived his time, to a woman who was concerned about gang recruitment, not only in middle schools & high schools, but says that elementary school kids are afraid to go to school because of it.

It wasn't clear which schools have the most problem, but this should be concern not just for the district, but for the city inc. the Seattle police dept.

Its impossible to focus on learning your times tables if you are worried that you are going to be pressured to join a gang.

Anonymous said...

This issue, if true (Don Alexander is known to instigate and exaggerate situations to the extreme) should be addressed with the SEattle Police. They have a gang unit, who I'm sure would be thankful to get a tip like that. The school board is not the appropriate venue for this, although it is good that it is brought to their attention.

Anonymous said...

Roy, what is your vision? Can you expand on what you see as being ideally equitable? My guess, but I may be wrong would be that every school offers the same things? Art, music, drama? Same access to alternative schools? How would you right the district?

Secondly, since every school in Seattle is funded the same, higher $$$ in the south with the WSF, why do you think these schools are not equitable? How, given that they are aloted the same resources would you improve them? And, lastly how would you get low income, and minority, non english speakers etc to have stellar WASL scores like the more affluent schools get? Because if they don't they will automatically be perceived a bad school, and will thus be called inequitable.

These are not rhetoric questions. I would really like to hear how you (or anybody else) would right the district, and make every single school a great school.
Thanks.

Jet City mom said...

I was at the meeting, I didn't speak to Don about that issue- he left after the public testimony.

Another woman with a grandchild at Roosevelt also had similar concerns, but she was also vague and said that she had put them in a letter.

I wasn't aware of this sort of thing, but then I am probably sheltered, I do know that it is more difficult for black males at my daughters high school (Garfield), to stay on track, but her female black friends have more support from peers to pursue their studies. ( however, I am jumping to conclusions, as far as I know the gangs could be skinheads or out of Dickens)
http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/
gangs.htm

I am really concerned about grade school kids being targeted. I know I read about young kids instigating unbelievable acts in other areas, but I'd hoped that Seattle was "different"

( instruction on decision making and logical thinking that I mentioned in another thread regarding the military presence and student suseptibilty could also be made use of here- along with outside controls)

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm just gonna put myself out here... Instead of talking about hypothetical poor people, I am going to share my experiences, as a poor person. I have lived in neighborhoods all around the city (thirteen places since my daughter was born in 94), have had long stretches (4 yrs +) without a car, and have been on food stamps and med coupons on and off again since I was 18 and as recently as six months ago.

It is sad how we stereotype poor people. If we put our children in a subpar school, it must mean that we don't care about our children. Wow. I'm in tears as I write.

Many poor families are poor because we often lack education. We make the best decisions we can with the information we have. We often don't know how to even access information that is out there, or what to do with the information once it is presented to us.

I got pregnant at 17, and I had no idea where to send my kid. How would I, as a nervous 22 year old, understand what good quality education is? Couldn't go to my parents, because I grew up in the foster care system (foster mother died of cancer when I was 18). Luckily, my church had a lot of kids just 1 or 2 years older than mine, so I literally copied everything they did. I had no idea if their decisions would be right for my kid, but I figured if it was good enough for theirs, it must be good enough for mine.

When we were at the school, I tried to tell the teachers that I thought my child was smart, was there something I should be doing. I was told "your daughter has such beautiful hair and she is very sweet". (FYI-- Several years later she tested into APP without appeal and gets nearly straight A's)

Poor families are often treated like second-class citizens. We know that we don't look like the other families or live in their houses. My son asked me this year, "mom, when are we going to live in a real house, like all of my friends".

I remember when I finally bought a used car after years of being without. I pulled up to the school to pick up my daughter, so proud to finally not have to ask another parent for a ride. My daughter said to her friend, "Look! It's our new car!".

Her friend sneered, "THAT is your new car". She chuckled and walked away.

It is humiliating. But I do it. I do the best I can with what I have.

If it weren't for Bev, older mom at my church, I would have made the choice to go to the sub-par schools you mention. But please understand, I would do ANYTHING, and I really do mean ANYTHING, to give my children a better life than I have.

My daughter got into Rainier Scholars, and now, thanks to their wonderful program, I understand what quality education is. I understand how to navigate the system (or even more basically, that there is a system to navigate). I am with other hard-working, lower-income families, whose children are all on college-bound paths. But if it weren't for this program, I'd still be all alone, wondering what was wrong with me and my kid.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I forgot to talk about the subject of this thread!

The new Student Assignment Plan absolutely affects our abilities to get into high quality schools. What dregs? Walk the halls of Rainier Beach, Cleveland and Franklin High Schools.

Even if you have a child who graduates with good grades in the Honors programs at these schools, the children almost flunk out their freshman year in college because they are not prepared.

I say a big AMEN to Johnny, who so eloquently pointed out that the Student Assignment Plan will only limit families without resources. Those who can opt out, will. (including me because APP means Garfield. Boy do I ever feel that our family dodged a bullet.)

But what about the rest who aren't APP tracked kids? It's a crying shame that high school discussions in my neighborhood are "well, I guess we'll do Running Start. That's the only way I can enroll him/her here".

There is no "oh, my child's personality doesn't suit this school." Or "I'd really prefer this school because of their drama program".

I know these are very important distinctions, but to many of us in southeast, they are nuanced conversations compared to the "will be bound for college" or "won't be" we have here.

I waited during the public testimony for parents from other neighborhoods to fight for us down here in southest. Instead, I got e-mails from the Queen Anne group who said... (direct quote)

"We need to stand strong in our support as other neighborhoods may push to modify the assignment plan. This will not be beneficial to our neighborhood..."

What happened to fighting for justice for ALL kids? Where was the public outcry from more affluent communities that the plan will lessen opportunities for our kids?

There are currently 800 southend students who attend the 4 northend high schools. Don't those kids and families deserve access to those schools? Don't those families get to decide for themselves if the bus rides are worth it or not?

I completely understand that northend families need to have access to the schools closest to them. Absolutely!!!!!!

But please also understand that Johnny is right too. The new Student Assignment Plan benefits families who have high quality neighborhood schools. The rest will be in trouble.

Jet City mom said...

I guess I don't know what is meant by sub-par
Are we talking test scores?
% of special ed, ESL kids?
FRL?
what criteria are we using?
Schools that don't have a wait list?

My younger child attended a school for 6 years that had about 48% FRL students.
During one or two of those years, she qualified for FRL.
I wouldn't call the school sub-par however, even though I know many wouldn't choose to send their kids there, and the WASL test scores aren't notable.

Schools with challenged students receive more money supposedly than schools with affluent students, although I imagine not enough to make up the difference between a school that has a PTA that raises lots of money and a school that doesn't even have a PTA.

There needs to be something done about that issue- don't know what.

I think all high schools should be open to all kids.

IF they want to take metro, they should be able to . However, if they are registered for a school, if their attendance drops down say below 5/6 ( unless of illness, and with a DR note- not just note from parents because I am aware of too many parents not taking seriously student attendance) of the days the first few months of school, they need to be warned that if there is a wait list, that they may be reassigned to a closer school.

I also think Running Start is great. I wish they had had something like that when I was in school, I might have graduated.

I know lots of kids who have done Running Start- now have their diplomas from not only schools like the UW, but U Chicago and Oberlin.

Some districts have "college in the schools" actually in the building, but not sure how that works- as it would seem to replace AP.

Incidentally, I would disagree that Seattle high schools don't necessarily prepare students for college. My daughters roommate attended Franklin and graduated from Reed College in 2006 with a degree in biochem. Reed doesn't have remedial classes, it is quite rigorous. He didn't take running start classes although a friend of his did, the aforementioned girl who graduated from Oberlin in 2007. ( She also took a year off to volunteer with Americorps & earn money for college)

So while it can be challenging to find classes, especially in high school, there seems to be more flexibility.

Roy Smith said...

alex, you ask some pretty wide ranging questions, but I will try to answer them in the context of the discussion on this thread.

1) what is your vision? That every family has access to a school that they feels provides an adequate education for their child.

2) Can you expand on what you see as being ideally equitable? My guess, but I may be wrong would be that every school offers the same things? Art, music, drama? No, I do not believe that every school should offer the same things. Not every family wants the same things, and not every child needs the same things. However, when a family has identified what they value most as components of an adequate education for their children, they should have a reasonable chance at getting what they value most. They may not be able to get absolutely everything they want in a school (every choice involves trade-offs, as many people have reiterated), but they should be able to get at least their highest priorities.

3) Same access to alternative schools? With a few very limited exceptions (a few seats at TOPS and Orca), I'm not aware that there are significant discrepancies in access to alternative programs. There may not be enough capacity (judging by the wait lists), but the chances of admission are essentially the same for anybody who lives in the draw area of a given alternative school.

4) How would you right the district? I don't even begin to claim to have the answer to this question.

5) Secondly, since every school in Seattle is funded the same, higher $$$ in the south with the WSF, why do you think these schools are not equitable? I'm not in a position to answer this one, as I am in the north cluster and find that all the schools that I have access to are pretty equitable. However, this issue is raised repeatedly by some of the residents of the central, south, or southeast clusters, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have a legitimate concern. Maybe some residents of those clusters can provide some more specific answers, as it is often people from those areas that are raising the equity issue.

6) How, given that they are aloted the same resources would you improve them? I'm not an educator, so my answer to this question may be considered weak and lacking specificity, but in general, by finding strong principals and by promoting strong community engagement within the school and the neighborhood.

7) And, lastly how would you get low income, and minority, non english speakers etc to have stellar WASL scores like the more affluent schools get? Because if they don't they will automatically be perceived a bad school, and will thus be called inequitable. I personally don't judge a school based on its WASL scores. If people are raising concerns about the equitable access to neighborhood schools based on discrepancies in WASL scores, that may be a problem in its own right. IMHO, quality of a school is much, much more than its WASL scores, which might even be misleading.

I don't pretend to be able to solve all the problems in SPS or to have the right ideas about how to do so. My concern is that when a plan is presented, and significant concerns about it are raised by a portion of the community, I feel like those concerns need to be honestly listened to and addressed, not dismissed by some other part of the community with some variation on "this plan works well for us, so it is right for you as well" or "this plan works for us, and we don't really care about your concerns". In my view, this is what has happened in some of the comments on this thread, and I find it to be disrespectful of legitimate concerns that are being raised by members of our community.

food stamp mom said: I waited during the public testimony for parents from other neighborhoods to fight for us down here in southest. Instead, I got e-mails from the Queen Anne group who said... (direct quote)

"We need to stand strong in our support as other neighborhoods may push to modify the assignment plan. This will not be beneficial to our neighborhood..."

What happened to fighting for justice for ALL kids? Where was the public outcry from more affluent communities that the plan will lessen opportunities for our kids?


This quote above is what I mean by one group dismissing the concerns of other portions of the community. Strict neighborhood school assignments would work just fine for me personally. However, I could not in good conscience support such a plan when I know that it will not work for other families who are also supposed to be well-served by SPS. Maybe I am hopelessly idealistic when I expect that people will be able to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of their own neighborhood and those of the city at large or that they will be able to honestly consider the concerns of others even if those concerns apparently conflict with their own concerns, but I hope not.

Jet City mom said...

I do the best I can with what I have.

I think that is all any of us do.

A few years ago, when my daughter was in college- we got a washer and dryer for our house ( we had been using a laundromat for several years), she was excited and told her friends! They were a little puzzled- as it was something that was not really thought about.

( wait till she told them we had never had cable!!!)

BTW- we live north of the ship canal- not every one lives in Innis Arden, just as not everyone south, lives in Broadmoor.

Anonymous said...

food stamp mom - thanks for the perspective.

Your statement "I understand how to navigate the system (or even more basically, that there is a system to navigate" hits home - and reminds me of the book by Ruby Payne about generational poverty and the hidden rules of class - the unspoken understandings about how things work that "...cue members of the group that an individual does or does not fit".

To your response about "dregs" - I was mostly reacting to the implication that there are elementary schools in the system that someone would categorize as dregs, and recognize that I don't know about high schools in the south end - but thought the Southeast Initiative was targeted at just those needs.

I'd also thought that the rebuild of Cleveland would spark something of a renaissance.

I thought the assignment plan changes maintained high school choice and transportation. Is that an accurate understanding?

I can't say I've read it closely but is the issue that guaranteeing any kids seats in high schools based on proximity will limit the seats available to students coming from farther away?

I wonder if they have considered a gradual decrease in the set-aside seats in high-demand high schools only as there is a ramp up in the investment in the high-need high schools - so that limiting access to some schools will become a non-issue as nearby schools become more attractive.

Anonymous said...

I'm just working on getting my kids to bed, so I'll be quick. Let's play, shall we? I don't have exact numbers, so if Charlie or someone else actually want to run these numbers, feel free!

Let's say Nathan Hale will have an enrollment of 1,200. And let's say that they have a 20% set aside (though, from what I've heard, it will probably be more like 10%-15%).

That leaves 240 open seats. But remember, these are open seats for the entire district, not just south end.

So let's say that South Seattle has 1/4 the of the kids, and would get 1/4 of the seats. That would mean 60 seats at Hale.

Some of the other northend high schools have a higher population, so let's round that up to 100.

That would mean 400 kids in the 4 northern high schools, where there are now 800 (the 800# comes from Tracy Libros). Where do those other kids go?

SE Initiative, so sayeth the District.


I heard one mom say "part of me is totally excited about the SE Initiative, and another part of me thinks, here we go again throwing money at our failing schools".

Many in the south end do not believe it goes far enough. Throwing money at a failing school does not work. There needs to be significant change in leadership and teachers at those schools. And though Cleveland may have a new building and attract some students, that doesn't mean that the quality of education will actually increase. Remember the principal at Cleveland is the one who tanked Rainier Beach!

Another thing to consider is that the effects of the SE Initiative will not be seen for 3-5 years, yet the Student Assignment Plan is scheduled to be in effect in one year.

So what happens to those 400 kids who will no longer have access to north end schools and the south end schools will not have had significant change?

This gap is NOT ok with me. I'm not sure why it's ok with all seven school board members or our CAO.

Sorry this is not quite detailed enough... Must get son to turn off television!

Anonymous said...

food stamp mom - thanks, makes sense. That's why I wondered if they couldn't ramp down set-aside seats up north only as there was demonstrated improvement/increased enrollment/ramp up in the south. If they put out a plan showing the schedule, it would add to everyone's sense of predictability.

I hadn't heard that about the Cleveland principal - yikes.

Just curious - were you for or against TAF Academy at Rainier Beach?

Have you shared your perspective on the assignment plan with Tracy Libros? I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Re TAF. I'll politely go around the question and say this:

I am for creative solutions.

I am for the District truly engaging the WHOLE community (CEASE does not count as representative of SE Seattle), as Tracy has with Student Assignment.

I am for the standard RB detractors advocating FOR change!

I am for a high quality comprehensive high school.

After we have that, I am for specialized niche programs.

I am for teachers being held accountable (which can be translated into re-interviewing for their jobs).

Ditto on principals.

You see, in the end, we have so much in common; the middle class and the poor, the north and the south. We all want high quality education. We all want our children to succeed. Our hearts break on their first day of kindergarten and at high school graduation. We want good teachers, principals and programs.

And I believe, if we worked together (instead of being fearful that one is after the other), we can create a powerful voice that can move the District to make radical change.

Anonymous said...

food stamp mom - very much appreciate your perspective - as well as the white space in your posts - those very long, very dense paragraphs that get posted here are very daunting to read!

and I do hope you are corresponding with Tracy Libros -

Anonymous said...

Yes, food stamp mom, thank you for your perspective. I am curious though, and perhaps it is none of my business, why you are on welfare/food stamps. You seem to be articulate and very intelligent, and are technically saavy (have the internet and participate in blogs). Why welfare and food stamps.

I'm just asking because I only have a high school education. I have two kids. I came from a very low income (dysfunctional) family. Luckily, I have never had to seek public assistance, I have always been able to support myself? No disrespect, I'm just curious.

Thanks,
Julia

Anonymous said...

Julia, asks a good question, though as she said it may be none of our business. Food stamp mom appears to be well educated (or just very intelligent), and extreely saavy about the district issues. Her quote ""I understand how to navigate the system (or even more basically, that there is a system to navigate" actually seems out of place. It appears that you are much more informed about "the system" than many other parents in the district. With all of this time on your hands to figure out the system (very commendable), and your rational, articulate perspectives, why the food stamps? Seems like there should be ample opportunity for someone like yourself to get ahead, no?

Anonymous said...

Just curious....How does one afford the luxury of a computer at home with internet connection (I'm assuming it is at your home becuase you said you had to go to "get your son to turn off the TV") when one is relying on tax payers to supply them with basics like food stamps????

Anonymous said...

reading closely, i see that food stamp mom said she had been on food stamps "off and on since she was 18 and as recently as 6 months ago" - that doesn't mean now.

one of my college-educated, privileged-background friends spent several months on public assistance after moving cross-country with a first grader to leave a dysfunctional relationship - she said it was an eye-opener and sobering if not shocking to deal with people who knew her only in the latter light - and accorded her significantly less basic respect than she'd received in other circumstances.

you guys are a tough crowd!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you guys realize how prying your questions appear. I sure wouldn't care to explain my finances on a public forum (even though I think they are entirely honorable) and I don't see why anyone else should. Also I would hate to lose a sensible voice with a much-needed perspective here.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Wow, reading the last few posts asking for details on food stamp mom's life actually made my stomach hurt. i am really surprised at some of the attitudes expressed here about "people on food stamps." If you are smart or educated, you can't need assistance? Nor can you if you are rational and articulate? And then the implication that if you have any time to devote to thinking about your child's education that you really don't need assistance? The point of this blog is great discussion about education and district policies (that food stamp mom has added to) - after such personal grilling, why would she or anyone else in similar circumstances want to post here again? I wouldn't. I hope that is not what the vast majority of people on this blog would find acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I want to think about the points that food stamp mom made about the assignment plan. That we can't restrict choice until we deal with low performing schools. Are we willing to sacrifce 4 years of ed. for a group of students while waiting for a school to turn around?

Then back to Charlie's point. After what happened at Madrona, can we think there will be no resistance to change in those schools? The families there currently may be happy with the current program. They may not be excited about reproducing north end programs at Aki Koruse, Cleveland & Ranier Beach. Would advocating for a performing arts program at RB be another example of paternalism & white privilege?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate so much that so many of you are disappointed at some of these questions. There is something about this venue that allows people to share their thoughts more openly, yes? I can't imagine someone asking me these questions to my face.

But let's face it, I opened myself up for it with both the pseudonym and references to public assistance. And, while it may be emotionally taxing to share this personal information, I think it's important to break stereotypes and misconceptions about what it means to be poor.

Poor people can be smart, savvy, and care about public education. There have been times when I've opted for a part-time job (and I wasn't on food stamps then!) and give up many many things in order to be with my children. I'm sure many of you have made similar sacrifices.

Yes, I was on food stamps as recently as six months ago. This last occasion was because my previous job was cut to 1/2 time. Due to the seasonal nature of the position, they asked me to leave if I didn't commit another year to the program (considering that I would lost my benefits and could not live on the 1/2 time salary, I said goodbye). Try as I did, I was not able to find a job for several months. And because I worked for a religious institution, I was not eligible for unemployment.

As to my own education, I am a college drop out. I stated earlier that I was pregnant at 17, so I did not start at 18 like my friends. I started college the very same month my daughter started Kindergarten. However, for financial reasons, I was not able to finish. It is one of my goals to be done before my daughter graduates from high school. I have five years.

I am currently employed; working 2 jobs to support my children. I do have a TV and a computer. The TV I own was one I purchased in 1997. I used student loan money to buy a computer for our home (in 2001), and my most recent tax return to buy a new one. Given the nature of education today, it was very important for my children to be able to type their assignments as their classmates do. It always grieves me when the poor kids have to turn in their work hand-written. It's the easiest way to see who has and who doesn't.

We all make sacrifices and choices that we hope benefit our children. I chose to have internet access while other parents may have chosen to buy newer clothes. These are all deeply personal decisions, and while I am glad to share, I hope there is no judgment for my choices. We're all doing the best we can with the resources (monetary, emotional, intellectual, etc.).

One last comment in regards to my motivation... It is BECAUSE of my experiences that I care so deeply about public education. As I mentioned earlier, it was by chance that my children ended up at a high-quality school. I think it is so important to advocate for those who were not as lucky as I have been.

The people we speak of here: the poor people, those who send their children to sub-par schools, the ones who do not demand excellence; these people are my friends. They are my children's friends. They are extraordinarily hard-working, earnest, and love their children. I love them dearly, and if I can learn something and pass it on to them, I do so gladly.

Anonymous said...

And BACK to Student Assignment...

Charlie does raise an EXCELLENT question about whether forcing kids back will make a difference.

I did a little research and I learned an interesting thing. In districts with assigned neighborhood schools, the school is ALWAYS poorer than the surrounding neighborhood. This proving, the middle class families WILL opt out if they can.

Another thing to consider... Rainier Beach could add an AP program. That's great for the high-achieving kids. But then we create two tiers of education (See Washington and Garfield!). Let's be honest and say that if your kid is not in APP, we wouldn't be thrilled about either of those schools. We in the south end do not want to duplicate these tiered programs. They tend (generally speaking) to divide along lines of race and class. It's hard to build community when there are such sharp divisions. Some kids get Alaskan King Crab while other kids get Krab imitation. Yuck!

That made me wonder... kids aren't coming into Rainier Beach equally. That means there are significant differences at the middle school level. Then I wondered, kids aren't coming into middle schools equally either...

That leaves elementary schools. And while there may not be that glaring examples of awful schools, let's remember a few things.

1. Whitworth was a failing school. Those kids' aren't going away, they're going to Dearborn Park. We have no idea what's going to happen there.

2. Sumiko Huff inherited a school in SERIOUS decline. Hawthorne, once the shining star of the southend, was in horrible shape when she became principal. It'll take some time before that school is up and running.

3. The former Emerson principal, who was just awful, only left one year ago as well. And they are also undergoing a merger. Jury still out on what will happen there.


All that said, Student Assignment becomes VERY interesting in Southeast. After lines get drawn, I'm sure it'll be much more interesting all around the District! I sure wouldn't want to be Tracy Libros then!

Anonymous said...

food stamp mom - thank you for responding so kindly, I'm not sure I would have/could have. I was so upset with what was being asked of you that I waited all day before I tried to answer.

While never on food stamps, our family relied on WIC vouchers when our oldest two children were small and we were still in school. I've waited for hours in the health department to have my children seen for immunizations and well child visits. And our middle child was born through public assistance, which required humiliating hours of waiting and working with tired, burned out state social service workers (in anothers state), because our oldest children were born while my husband and I were finishing graduate school. Sometimes when we need help, we take it! Sometimes when others need help, we give it. Thank you for your honest contributions to this dialogue. It is very important for this discussion to hear voices of those who are impacted the most, and not just those who have the loudest voices.

Jet City mom said...

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/
news_article.aspx?storyid=75175

sexual assault at Union high school last month which is being investigated by police- parents are upset they weren't notified.

and apparently a sexual assualt at Rainier Beach- not only weren't parents notified by school personnel, Seattle police were not notified either
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/
321075_assault23.html?source=mypi

Jet City mom said...

to me that is a subpar school
a school where staff covers up dangerous behavior.
in our district, it cuts across racial and economic lines- but must not be tolerated

Anonymous said...

food stamp mom says "It always grieves me when the poor kids have to turn in their work hand-written. It's the easiest way to see who has and who doesn't."

Just FYI, we are not haves or have nots, just average, middle income. We have a computer, but I never let my kids type their school work. I make mine write. I think kids need more handwriting and less keyboarding!!! They can use the computer to research, google and play a few games. But not for their writing assignments! I know a few other moms that do the same (that's where I got the idea).

Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous post above: Some teachers require typed essays/reports rather than hand written,especially as kids get into upper elementary and middle school. And, why the need to keep questioning Food Stamp Mom about her financial choices? Why is she seeminly held to more scrutiny? Of all the topics raised here, why the focus on whether she makes appropriate decisions?

Anonymous said...

class of 75, it will be interesting to see if there is more to that story, and I will probably wait to hear it.

A different situation, but remember the way the Wiz situation with the RB drama coach was first portrayed? That she knew or should have known (as any drama teacher would) that she had to pay royalties to use the Wiz script, and willfully went ahead without doing so?

As it turned out, there was more to the story, much of which would change people's judgment of her actions - can't find the link again, but it wasn't as first portrayed (knew or should have known, willfully went ahead...)

This is a much more serious kind of harm, true - and it's obvious from the suspensions that something happened, which is enough of an indictment of the school environment.

But I think I'll never take any newspaper or TV's first (or often subsequent) take on something like this. They're under too many pressures to get the story quickly (especially the sensational ones) often without having access to the people with firsthand information.

Ever read about something in the paper that you know all about, and seen how many omissions, spins, quotes out of context there are that make "the story" quite a bit different from the reality? Makes you wonder how much of what you read that you *don't* know firsthand is "not quite right", and in what ways.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous mom, I am not the poster who questioned food stamp moms financial situation, so back off. I'm sharing parenting advice with everyone, not just food stamp mom. I'm merely sharing a tip. It has nothing to do with finances, as I made it clear in my post when I said I'm not a have or have not. And, OF COURSE if a teacher requires you to type your paper you have to. All I said was when there is a choice I like my kids to write. I think they need more handwriting experience, and less keyboarding.

Now let's all play nice, OK

Jet City mom said...

well of course- I realize that the media has a different take- I have attended school board meetings and other functions that I wondered if I was even at the same one that was reported on.


Rainier Beach isn't the only school that tries to hide information from the public , I realize that.

Students who are assaulted in our schools need to know that we will get them the help they need

How much training does the district give employees in recognizing child neglect/abuse?

We have mandated reporting- while I am glad that the adult that the girl contacted told the principal and helped her file a police report, the principal needed to notify authorities as well.
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/
default.aspx?cite=26.44.030

If we want schools to be safe places for our children, we can't allow lower standards of safety for students in "subpar" schools than we would allow for students in prestigous suburbs.

Who is more likely to lie- boys who have already admitted to sexual harrassment, or the girl who is being cross examined by police and humiliated?

Jet City mom said...

I also think they need more practice handwriting
I realize typewritten is easier for the teachers to read, but they don't hand back the corrected papers anyway.
Tests such as the WASL and SAT dont allow for computer generated papers unless you have documentation for accomodations. It serves our students to be able to produce a clear handwritten paper.

Anonymous said...

My point was merely this... In the higher grades, most written homework in Language Arts and Social Studies is required to be typed. My daughter comes home snd says there are always two or three kids who say "What do I do? I don't have a computer at home."

I was questioned about why I have a computer, so I was trying to explain my choice.

But this is truly the end of my engagement in this conversation. I tire.

Anonymous said...

I also ask my kids to handwrite their papers whenever the teacher allows. Besides improving handwriting, it also helps tremendously with punctuation and spelling, as they don't have spell check or Word to correct all of the errors for them. They actually have to get our a dictionary to check a word, and think about grammar and punctuation. Sort of like not using a calculator for math until you have a thorough understanding of the work. Maybe, I'm just old school?

Anonymous said...

We have elementary and middle school kids (2) and have never been required to type work. I am curious how a school could require that?? Isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume every child has access to a computer? How could this be required???

Anonymous said...

hope you reconsider, food stamps mom - some minds you'll never open or change, but there are many here who appreciate your situation and want your perspective.

Charlie Mas said...

Back to the topic of how the district can move against the inequities between schools...


food stamp mom wrote:
"Another thing to consider... Rainier Beach could add an AP program. That's great for the high-achieving kids."


Just to clarify, AP (Advanced Placement) are classes, not a program. Rainier Beach already does offer some AP classes, as does nearly every high school in Seattle, but not many. Certainly not as many as Garfield, Roosevelt or Ballard. AP classes are generally open to any student who chooses to accept the challenge. Some of them do have pre-requisites, but none of them require testing. It is a stated goal of the Bellevue School District that EVERY student take at least one AP class.

But then we create two tiers of education (See Washington and Garfield!).

The choice appears to be two tiers in separate buildings (as we have now) or two tiers in the same building.

"Let's be honest and say that if your kid is not in APP, we wouldn't be thrilled about either of those schools."

Actually, both Washington and Garfield are in demand by families with non-APP students.

I think a fairly common mistake is at work here. APP and AP have similar acronyms, but they are two COMPLETELY different programs. AP is Advanced Placement, a national program consisting of a series of challenging classes offered in high schools across the country. They are open to any student who chooses to enroll. APP is Accelerated Progress Program, the Seattle Public Schools program for highly capable students in grades 1-12. It is offered only at Lowell, Washington and Garfield and is for students who are demonstrated eligible through a testing process. The testing is open to any student who chooses to take them. APP does not include any specific classes in high school.

I know that people frequently confuse the two, but they are very different, one national and one local, one in high school only and one in grades 1-12, one with high school classes and one with none, one open to everyone and one with eligibility criteria. Yes, APP students take a lot of AP classes in high school, but there is no other connection.

"We in the south end do not want to duplicate these tiered programs. They tend (generally speaking) to divide along lines of race and class. It's hard to build community when there are such sharp divisions."

Is that the feeling now at Rainier Beach when students take AP classes? I hadn't heard that. Is that the feeling at Sealth when students take either IB or AP classes? I hadn't heard that.

"Some kids get Alaskan King Crab while other kids get Krab imitation. Yuck!"

I hear this sentiment a lot. There is this idea that some of the students are being served better than others by the school because they have more challenging classes. That's simply not true. The students are all getting the class that is right for them. If the AP classes were simply better, then why not have every student take them? The answer, of course, is that not every student is ready and able to succeed with them and not every student wants to work that hard.

Let's examine this thinking more closely. Is it inequitable that students seeking more challenge and ready and able to succeed with more challenge should get more challenge? Should we do away with remedial classes so those students aren't cheated? I don't think it's king crab versus surimi, I think it is more a case of dog food for dogs and cat food for cats. Or, if non-human analogies offend, hamburgers for kids who eat meat and vegi-burgers for those who choose not to. We don't think it's strange or inequitable for a third grader to get third grade work when first graders are getting first grade work. The students get the lessons that they are ready for. One is not better than the other. They are each appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I've had kids in APP, Spectrum, and the regular program. I can tell you, the Krab vs king crab is not program specific ... you can get either one in any program!

I'd also say that a teacher can be teaching at king-crab quality for most of the kids in the class, but for the one who's not at that level (either much lower or much higher), that king crab might as well be Krab. Big waste.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

What does food stamp moms kids get at Lowell? King crab or crab. Cause kids not in APP, so I guess by her definition, they are getting Krab. Yuk.

My kids needs are being met in a regular school. In fact their needs are being exceeded. I would never think of them getting Krab just because they are not in Spectrum, APP, or anything else. I would only think Krab if they were being inadequately served.

I still ponder why all of the animosity toward advanced learning? Why is the division bad? We have to offer challenges to everyone, don't we. APP is open to anyone who applies and qualifies? It is not gender, race or socio economic specific, so anyone can get in the program, right.

The Krab/crab argument just doesn't even make sense.

I tire of the old racism argument.

Anonymous said...

This is typical kid behavior, it happened when we were kids and it's happening today........"I remember when I finally bought a used car after years of being without. I pulled up to the school to pick up my daughter, so proud to finally not have to ask another parent for a ride. My daughter said to her friend, "Look! It's our new car!"."

I am middle class and it happens to my kids all the time. "Mommy why can't we have a big house like Johnny?", "mommy why can't I get a Wii, Joe just got one", "mommy why don't we ski in France, like Amy does?"

Don't let it bother you, if you were in the upper class of society, and make $200k per year, your kids would be asking you why you don't live in a 20,000 sq foot home like Bill Gates.

What does it matter? This has been going on for eternity. My ball is better than yours, my party was better than yours, my car is better than yours. Who cares. Teach your kids what really matters in life. Teach them that material things are just that. Material. That money can't buy happiness, faith or health. Let it be a lessen for them, instead of getting down about it.

Just my perspective.

Another mom.

Anonymous said...

In response to the anonymous post above: I kinda get where you are coming from but I am not sure that the comparisons are really reasonable.

Not having what most people would consider to be usual middle class possessions such as a car, a washing machine, a vacation of any kind ever, shapes a different day to day existence that involves more anxiety, more worry, more fear about making sure basic needs are met.

Sure, most kids want what they don't have and benefit from doing without in some way. But from the sound of it, my kids and your kids will not be doing without in ways that make their daily lives more of a real struggle.

Anonymous said...

Food stamp mom says "We in the south end do not want to duplicate these tiered programs. They tend (generally speaking) to divide along lines of race and class."

I must ask, how would you offer high achieving and/or gifted kids adequate programs and challenge? Do you prefer the seclusion of a school like Lowell? How would you handle it, or are you insinuating that you don't think the South end needs gifted/advanced programs?

Please explain, and thanks for sharing your perspective.

Anonymous said...

"Those who can opt out, will. (including me because APP means Garfield. Boy do I ever feel that our family dodged a bullet.)"

How per se do you think that student assignment won't affect the middle class???? Middle class make to much money to get scholorships to private schools, but don't make near enough money to pay the exorbinent (22,000+) tuition. We are stuck too. I is not just poor, minority families that suffer. We (middle class) may have food to eat, and a car to drive, but our school choice options are the same as yours.

Jet City mom said...

Middle class make to much money to get scholorships to private schools, but don't make near enough money to pay the exorbinent (22,000+) tuition.

What private schools are you looking at that are that expensive?
There are other schools besides Lakeside.

Local day schools are generally much less than that- additionally, aid is not need based as with FAFSA, but also merit based.

It depends on your families commitment to education.
I agree that we need strong public schools for all- but there also should be choices- as in home schooling, private secular and parochial, and possibly even charter schools-.

Our EFC is high enough that we wouldn't have received any aid at all if my daughter had attended in state universities, but she did receive aid for a private college and she did receive aid to attend private school in Seattle from 1st-12th.

However, that might not have been enough for a family that was lower income or had high living expenses.

While she was school age- we did have choice in Seattle- but it was distance based & she didn't get in to any of the programs we wanted.

( Interestingly enough- although her IQ is supposedly only shared by 0.03% of the population, she didn't qualify for the gifted programs- using the district placement test- not the tests done at the UW by Nancy Robinson- I always wonder how many other children fall into that category- I do think that we need enriched education- but I disagree with the district how to run the programs)