Thursday, July 12, 2007

High School Assignment

So let's have the conversation about high school assignment.

Let's see if we can find a balance between reliable access to a nearby school and equitable access to desirable programs.

I think I've described my thoughts on this fairly well, but I'll spell out the six basic elements of the framework again to provide a starting point.


1. For each of the ten traditional comprehensive high schools, the District will identify a reference area. All of the students in this reference area will be assured of access to the general education program of that high school.

2. The reference area for each school will be right-sized for the capacity of the general education program at the school.

3. The District will determine the program placement for special needs programs: Special Ed, Bilingual Ed, Secondary BOC, re-entry programs, and APP.

4. Access to alternative high schools and to specialized courses of study within schools - CTE programs for the most part, but also IB - will be by Choice. Various tie-breakers would apply.

5. Access to the general education programs at other traditional comprehensive high schools would be on a space-available basis. Various tie-breakers would apply.

6. Families interested in any assignment other than the general education program at their reference area school would list their assignment preferences. Regardless of any choices, the family would always retain the option of their reference area school's general education program.


Presuming that the District has the necessary capacity to implement such a plan, is there anyone who could not find such a plan acceptable? If so, how would the plan have to be altered to make it acceptable? It isn't enough to complain about the suggestions - you have to propose a solution. It doesn't have to be a good solution, but you have to propose something.

Let me add these qualifiers:

A. This plan presumes that every school provides some baseline minimal set of courses from remedial to advanced and across disciplines.

B. It is possible that Cleveland High School would have to add a general education program to the three specialized academies there. Alternatively, it is possible that Cleveland would not have any general education program or reference area.

C. This plan may require the creation of additional high school capacity. It isn't necessary to identify buildings at this stage, but be assured that there are appropriate buildings which can be pressed into service.

D. The tie-breakers for access to specialized programs do not need to be the same tie-breakers for access to general education programs.

E. Students who leave the specialized courses of study within a school - IB or a CTE academy - would lose their assignment to that building and either make another choice or accept assignment to their reference area school's general education program. Program administrators would be responsible for policing this.


Melissa Westbrook said...

On the surface, sounds complicated but if laid out properly, your plan could work. Issues:

-what is capacity size at any given high school for, as you say, general education? Once the District determines those numbers, I'd say they are done - no changing them again.

-you'd have to name all the specialized courses of study. I was woefully ignorant about Roosevelt's Drama program. I thought it was just a great drama program, putting on plays and musicals. It's a full-course program and it would likely need to be included as it is available no where else.

-And what about the music/jazz band programs? Where do they fit?

-so no seat-aside seats? Just apply for a program and that triggers some tiebreakers (most likely lottery?)?

-what to do about people who enroll their student in a program with tiebreakers in their favor (with no intention of being in the program or whose child changes their mind in, say, sophomore year)? If the child doesn't register for the program once enrolled in the school, would trigger something that kicks them back into the hopper? That parent would argue that their child "just changed their mind and now you want my Suzy to leave her new school" versus the case of a kid who desperately wanted to get into the program and didn't. Plain and simple, how to prevent "gaming" the system?

People should keep in mind (as Charlie as said before); seats are finite. The District may be (as I believe in Roosevelt's case) attracting back private school students. We need to perhaps figure in a 3%? comeback rate to make sure that each reference area can truly fit in one high school.

Also, the high school you have in mind for your reference high school may not be the one the district chooses. Can you live with that? As I have read many posts I get the feeling that some are arguing broadly but really mean, "I want School X or nothing."

Keep in mind that south end parents are likely doubtful that their high schools will improve and will, again, feel cheated out of an opportunity for their children.

Anonymous said...

Cleveland only has two academies now, but students share gen ed program reasources (i.e. Art teacher).

Anonymous said...

What I'm curious about is say a neighborhood traditionally sends their kids to X school and can get in due to the distance tiebreaker. This neighborhood is also close to Y school (not as close but under 5 miles). The school board assigns the neighborhood to Y school. Will distance still take a part to allow that neighborhood to send their kids to the closer school if they choose (if it's an oversubscribed school) or are they now in a position where they can no longer get into X school due to capacity issues/set aside seats for income.

Charlie Mas said...


All good questions. I'll see what I can answer.

- The general education capacity at the high schools is equal to the total capacity of the high school less set aside seats for specific programs in the building. At Ballard, for example, these would be Special Ed, Bilingual, Biotech, and Maritime. The general education capacity would only change if the total building capacity changed or if the size of any of the specialized programs changed.

- Yes, you would have to name all fo the specialized courses of study. There really aren't that many of them. The CTE page of the District web site lists most of them. I'm not in a position to say whether the drama program at Roosevelt would be included or not. Some objective criteria would have to be determined to qualify a program.

- I don't see music programs in this category because instrumental music is available at most - if not all - of the schools. The access isn't intended to differentiate between the QUALITY of the courses, just their availability. If the music program at one of these schools rose to meet the objective criteria set for them, then it would count. I doubt many of them could.

- Yes, set-aside seats! That's how it is done. If Ballard says that the biotech academy has room for 120 students or 240 students or whatever, then that's how many seats are reserved for the program.

- As Qualifier E states, students who drop out of the specialized program lose their seat at the school. That is there specifically to preserve the space for the students who want them and to prevent people from gaming the system. Yes, Suzy would have to leave the school. For the purposes of enrollment, Suzy is enrolled in the PROGRAM, not in the SCHOOL.

I don't know to what extent south-end families will feel cheated by such a plan. They will continue to have access to the general education programs at other schools on a space-available basis, which is essentially their current status. They should, through the set-aside seats and separate set of tie-breakers, have improved access to the specialized programs than they have today. It is much more likely that a student from Columbia City could get into the Maritime program at Ballard under the rules I've proposed here than under the current rules.

Here's a thought - if the jazz programs are included and audition is part of the enrollment tie-breaker, could an entrance exam or middle school grades be part of the enrollment tie-breaker for IB or the biotech program?

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 1:16 asks a good question, but for clarity's sake, let's put some names to it.

Let's say that you live in Crown Hill or Greenwood, close to Ballard High School, but not a long way from Ingraham. Kids from there have been able to get into Ballard under the current rules and they typically make that choice.

Under the new rules, however, in order to stretch the reference areas to cover the whole district, the reference area for Ballard is pulled south so it can cover Queen Anne and Magnolia. This tugs the northern limit of the Ballard reference area to 85th and your house is made part of the Ingraham reference area.

If that were the case, then your children would only have access to the Ballard general education program on a space-available basis. If it were undersubscribed and there were space available, however, I expect that distance would be one of the tie-breakers.

You might prefer an assignment to Ballard because that is where children from your neighborhood have always attended school. That strikes me as slim cause.

You might prefer an assignment to Ballard because you regard it as a higher quality school. I would not argue that point with you, but I would ask if Ingraham is not a school of acceptable quality.

You might suggest that Ballard offers classes that Ingraham does not. This is why every high school will be required to offer, as a baseline minimum, a set catalog of courses determined at the District level.

While none of these explanations may be satisfying - I don't imagine they are - this sort of arrangement would be a necessary element in any plan that assured families of access to a specific nearby school. Perhaps not the specific nearby school you had in mind, but a specific nearby school nonetheless.

In this particular case, regarding Ballard and Ingraham (a similar story can be told about Roosevelt and Hale), I suspect that the District will have to add capacity to cover all of the territory. I envision a 800 student general education high school program at Lincoln.

Additional capacity will likely be required to make this plan work at all, but there needs to be some more excess capacity to make it work really well for a lot of people. Some excess capacity will provide some liquidity to the system.

Also, I should add that in the situation described, there will probably be a lot of close matching of middle school and high school reference areas so students will have the added incentive of staying with their schoolmates to encourage them to follow the feeder pattern. Whitman students will largely go to Ingraham, Eckstein students will largely go to Hale, McClure students to Ballard, Hamilton students to Roosevelt.

I would also like to point out that changes in program placement, particularly APP at Garfield, could make some significant differences in where the capacity might be and how the reference areas will be mapped.

Anonymous said...

I think quality of an offering should be included. There is no way to compare Eckstein's competetive music program with say Hamilton's (after school program), or Roosevelt's highly competetive band, with Hales laid back, recreational, Jazz band. They both offer music, but for the musically gifted child Hamilton's after school band class isn't going to cut it. Same with other strong programs like drama, etc. It's just not equitable if we are talking about taking away school choice. As with basic academics, things have to be reasonably equal among schools if we do away with choice.

And how about the schools that offer variations of AP courses? For instance Roosevelt has a full range of AP offerings, while Hale has very few and they are not self contained classes. The AP kids go to regular ed classes, and are just given the extra AP coursework to do at home. Hardly equitable.

There is a lot to iron out if we limit choice.

Anonymous said...

Do most kids from Eckstein go to Nathan Hale? I thought most kids at Eckstein went to Roosevelt. I remember someone posting here about going on a tour at Roosevelt and the person giving the tour asking who there went to Eckstein almost like it was a requirement if you wanted a chance to get in Roosevelt. Also, I thought a lot of kids from Eckstein's music program feed into Roosevelt's music program...

Charlie Mas said...

I certainly understand that there are differences between schools. I want to be VERY CLEAR that this proposal does not reduce choice at all. Not one bit. It does, however, shift those choices around.

So while the Smith family, who can now choose Roosevelt, might find themselves in the Hale reference area with little chance of enrolling their children into the general education program at Roosevelt under the new plan, the Jones family, who have little chance of getting into Roosevelt under the current plan, would find themselves in the Roosevelt reference area with a choice they did not previously have.

Since the capacities of the buildings aren't changed the number of students who can choose them is not reduced - it's just a different set of students. This does not represent any reduction in choice. The same number of students can choose each school.

If the music or drama program at Roosevelt is truly different from what is at other schools, such that it represents a course of study, equivalent to IB or the specialized CTE programs, then some seats could be set aside for it and the students from outside the reference area who are interested in that program would have access to it.

As for AP, AP classes would surely be among the minimum baseline catalog of courses that each school must offer. If Hale doesn't like it, they can lump it.

Charlie Mas said...

In response to Anonymous at 2:22 -

I don't know if students from Eckstein typically go to Roosevelt or not. It doesn't much matter.

After the new plan is written and implemented things will be done differently. I don't know that there is any effort to duplicate what is happening now. In fact, since there is an effort to make a change, I would say that there is an effort to NOT do things as they are done now.

One of the changes that is included in the Framework is for each middle school to have a reference area that matches the reference areas for elementary schools. This would encourage a sort of feeder pattern in which a majority of the students from a given elementary school will go to the same middle school together. I would even expect that the middle school reference areas would match the elementary school mini-cluster borders to keep neighborhood kids together.

There are ten comprehensive middle schools. They will each have their own reference area.

There are ten comprehensive high schools. They will each have their own reference area.

It's not hard to imagine that the middle school reference areas and the high school reference areas will seriously overlap. They may not match up exactly, but the District is responding to public input that suggests that families want their children to have the opportunity to stay with their schoolmates as they move from one level to the next.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I do think that music programs need to be more closely examined in light of choice and school options.

It does not seem helpful to lump
"instrumental music" into one group. For instance, if you live SE and play a string instrument, you are out of luck because neither Franklin, Rainier Beach or Cleveland have orchestras. Violinists do not end up in bands.
Many kids, including mine, are passionate and committed to school music programs.

Also how many AP classes are offered at Franklin? I attempted to find this information on the SSD webiste but was unsuccessful.

Accessability to AP classes in High School will be important to my kid. Right now the only path to Garfield AP classes is through APP eligibility. What if your kid needs AP classes in High School and the pickings are slim at SE schools?

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 4:40 raises excellent points, but I think they have all been addressed.

If it doesn't work to lump
"instrumental music" into one group, then let's not do that. If orchestra needs to be on the list of the minimum catalog of classes available, then let's get it on there. That way students in the schools in the Southeast will have their violin.

The AP class issue has also been addressed in a similar fashion. Which AP classes should be in the catalog of courses that every school must offer? Be sure to include enough so that the pickings won't be slim at any school.

Anonymous said...

Well then, perhaps the next question is, how is the school district going to add needed offerings to all general program high schools and change the assignment plan for the '08-'09 school year?

Roy made some comments about this earlier on a different thread and I think he is on the right track: the plan needs to happen in stages over time.

Seems like working on High School offerings and curriculum comes before changing assignment paths.
Would there not be a better buy-in from families this way?

Anonymous said...

Charlie: Some clarifying questions: I’m assuming that you grouped APP with special ed and BOC and not IB because there is a legal obligation to educate all children to their abilities? What does the APP consist of at Garfield? Is it all about the cohort size or are there basic course requirements to be 'enrolled' in the program? Has it ever been proposed that kids be allowed to test in to APP at the high school level? I assume (incorrectly?) that kids can be assigned to SPED in 9th grade even if they weren’t identified earlier. If APP is to be limited to one building, I think it makes sense to open it up to all 9th-12th graders who qualify, not just those who went to Washington.


Anonymous said...

The District does not have the same legal obligatons to serve advanced learners as it does bilingual and special education students. Elligability for Sp Ed services inolves meeting state crieria. The District is not mandated to have a program like APP, and the rules related to APP eligability are set by the District, not the state.

The APP program at Garfield is nothing more than taking AP classes with some of the same students you went to middle and elementary school with. I think that there is no point in having a dedicated APP high school site unless it is going to be more than just taking AP classes.

Anonymous said...

Has the idea of creating all-city draw extra-curricular/special interest programs ever been thrown around? Or perhaps does it already exist? Please forgive my ignorance, as I'm the parent of young children and not yet familiar with the high school programs.

I'm just thinking that if the strong drama/jazz/etc. programs were scaled back, and ALL students at ALL schools across the city were eligible to try out for a district-wide play or Seattle High School Jazz Band, schools such as Roosevelt could cut out some of the unbalanced demand. Obviously this would be more difficult with the biotech-type programs, but it could be a start.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like working on High School offerings and curriculum comes before changing assignment paths.
Would there not be a better buy-in from families this way?"

Amen. Changing the student assignment plan will not change the current perceptions. Any new assignment plan will be a tough sell until parents/consumers believe that SPS is delivering a quality program at every high school. Until that happens you can tinker all you want with redrawing boundaries,tiebreakers, and magnet programs.

Anonymous said...

"Amen. Changing the student assignment plan will not change the current perceptions. Any new assignment plan will be a tough sell until parents/consumers believe that SPS is delivering a quality program at every high school. Until that happens you can tinker all you want with redrawing boundaries,tiebreakers, and magnet programs."

I agree as well. Just from reading this blog alone, I have certain impressions of Hamilton, Eckstein, Roosevelt, and Nathan Hale. Then, when I read Charlie's suggestion of Hamilton feeding into Roosevelt and Eckstein feeding into Nathan Hale, while geographically it might make sense, looking at the rigor academics and music program at Eckstein and Roosevelt and the comments on this blog of Hamilton teacher's lack of rigor/challenge combined with Nathan Hale's lack of AP courses and competitive electives/sports/music/drama, etc it seems like a recipe for disaster .

Brita said...

Hello all,

I think Charlie has laid out the basic scenario very clearly. If all HS students are guaranteed a gen ed spot at a high school which is fairly close, then the high school 'catchment areas' may look very different. Current de facto feeder patterns (e.g. Eckstein to Roosevelt) could change dramatically.

This may mean that more schools (e.g. Hamilton, Hale) develop terrific music programs or that the quality of such programs across the district evens out (right now, HS might have no program or a superstar program vs. a good music program in all HS)

I agree that all HS should offer a basic menu of courses (both required and elective) and can specialize on top of that. We do not have the numbers to justify Latin in every high school, or auto shop, or vocal jazz.

The trick here will be to achieve a balance between predictability/neighborhood for HS vs. choice of programs/courses and that will show up as the percentage of 'set-aside' seats. We could, for example, offer 50% of all HS seats to nearby gen ed students, reserving the other half for whatever programs exist in that building. Roosevelt, in my district, has terrific music, drama, a unique program called Hands for a Bridge, and the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program, plus courses such as Latin that are not found everywhere.

It makes sense to have curricular alignment between HS and middle school so students can continue with their music studies, or Japanese, etc.

Equity will cost money. If we offer a good solid set of AP courses in every high school, then AP courses in some high schools, in the beginning, may not have full enrollment and the district will in effect be subsidizing them. IMHO it is worth it to jumpstart these because a school with a good college prep offering will eventually attract more students, driving more dollars to that school and filling up those classes.

In the current funding climate, I don't know how much of this type of investment the district will be able to afford to make. To bring all schools to high quality will take money and more. Money is necessary, but not sufficient, and that is where Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's leadership comes in.

Just some random thoughts.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's remember that after the changes in the assignment plan, none of the schools will be what they once were. Think of Meany, for example. Nevermind who is at Meany now, think of what Meany will be like when student assignment is more closely tied to geography and the feeder elementary schools for Meany are Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens, TT Minor, Leschi, Lowell and Gatzert.

The presumption is that students will more likely attend schools close to their homes, so the same students who have Eckstein as their reference middle school will have Nathan Hale as their reference high school. They will be the same kids. I guess this is where we see how or if the schools really will adapt to meet the needs of the community they serve. If the kids coming out of Eckstein want first rate instrumental music and a wide variety of full blown AP classes, then we will see to what extent Nathan Hale adapts to meet that demand. I won't pretend to be optimistic. It is a significant concern that will have to be forthrightly addressed.

I don't know if it is a recipe for disaster, but it is certainly a recipe for confrontation and resolution. Sometimes these sorts of things need to be brought to a head before they can be resolved. Acute issues get attention that chronic ones never get. We needn't fear or avoid confrontation; it is the gateway to resolution.

Another real concern that will need to be forthrightly addressed will be getting every comprehensive high school to offer the minimum catalog of courses. There can be no doubt that some of them do not offer all of those classes at the present. I think the shift to the Weighted Staffing Formula will be a help in this effort, as will the Southeast Initiative. As many people have pointed out, it isn't just Rainier Beach and Cleveland that don't offer all of these classes. Hale is light on AP and West Seattle is light in a number of areas due to the four-period day in use there.

My understanding of the Weighted Staffing Formula is that the District adequately funds a school to provide for the baseline personnel. The teachers for the required catalog of courses will simply be included as part of that baseline personnel.

This is a task that the District will have to accept. Deferring it for a year will not make it any easier. How will they offer the classes? By hiring the appropriate teachers and providing them with a room and a time to teach. I don't mean to over-simplify it, but let's not over-complicate it either.

Maureen asked about APP and why I grouped it among the special needs populations along with Secondary BOC, Special Ed, and Bilingual. I did that because the District recognizes it as a special needs population just like the others. There are no classes specifically for APP students in high school nor are they required to take any specific classes at Garfield. I'm not sure that there are any specific classes for Level 2 Special Ed students either. Having the APP students all together is, as Maureen mentioned, all about the cohort size.

It is regularly proposed that the District allow students to test in to APP at the high school level. It was nearly piloted this past year, but funding fell through in the eleventh hour. Of course it makes sense to open it up to all 9th-12th graders who qualify, not just those who went to Washington.

Anonymous at 6:38 is largely correct in that the District does not have the same legal obligatons to serve advanced learners as it does bilingual and special education students. The District is not mandated to have a program like APP, but they have applied for about $395,000 in grant money from the State for the program and therefore are required to provide a continuum of service. While the District sets the eligibility criteria for APP those criteria must conform to State laws on such programs.

Views certainly differ on the relative value of high school APP as compared to elementary and middle school APP, but the cohort does have value and they do create the critical mass necessary to support a great number and variety of advanced classes which could not be possible if the students were dispersed.

That said, there is no magic reason that high school APP has to be at Garfield. Garfield was chosen because, at the time, it had the empty seats and because it is centrally located. When the District starts mapping out the reference areas, they will probably need those 400 seats at Garfield for general education students. High School APP could find itself at Lincoln along with an 800 student general education program and the secondary BOC or The Center School. Summit, in that case, might have to stay at Jane Addams or possibly move into the Marshall building.

Having APP there, might draw some reluctant families into a new high school at Lincoln.

Anonymous at 7:40 asked about all-city draw high school programs. There are a few of them, but they are more likely to appear as The Center School, NOVA, Summit K-12, APP, the Middle College programs, and some of the programs at Marshall. I don't think that's what anonymous had in mind, however. The proposal in the original post came closer with all city draw for the Ballard Maritime Academy, the John Stanford Public Service Academy at Franklin, The CREATE Academy at Franklin, the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Sealth and Ingraham, the Academy of Finance at Ballard, Franklin, and Sealth, the Biotechnology Career Academy at Ballard, the Academy of Information Technology at Ingraham, International Baccalaureate at Ingraham and Sealth, and Enviromental Science at West Seattle High School.

Some of the drama and music programs could be developed to the extent that they would have some of the same elements as these CTE academies. Then they too would be all-city or half-city draws. This would also help to resolve the lingering music as CTE credit issue.

I think it's great that people are taking an interest in this framework and raising questions. Please feel free to offer suggestions as well. This could be more like a conversation and less like Q & A.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, just as a reality check, if you think the district will ever be able to designate Hale as Eckstein's feeder school, then Michael Moore will be our next president. In other words, it will not happen.

If you think the QA/Magnolia parents were unhappy, try Laurelhurst and View Ridge. I say that with no disrespect to those neighborhoods but time after time it has been made clear that they will accept no other public high school as a feeder for Eckstein than Roosevelt.

Those are the kinds of challenges that the Board and the Superintendent are going to have to work through with communities and then make a decision and stand firm on it.

Anonymous said...


You are correct about the Laurelhurst and Viewridge neighborhoods. They want access to Roosevelt just as much as Queen Anne and Magnolia want access to Ballard.

If the Blueridge neighborhood is forced to go to Ingraham to make room for the Magnolia/Queen Anne kids at Ballard, they will be mighty unhappy. I hate to see neighborhoods pitted against each other. That is why Queen Anne/Magnolia need a new (in an existing building) comprehensive high school. Do I sound like a broken record? You betcha.

Anonymous said...

You wrote" I'm not sure that there are any specific classes for Level 2 Special Ed students either."

As a parent of a special education student, I wanted to chime in to tell you that there is no such thing as a "Level 2" special education student. The "Level" designation is the coding used for programs for assignment purposes. Students on IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) recieve the specially designed instruction (SDI) called for in each student's IEP. "Level 2" is the assignment code for students who recieve SDI in a reasource room in the primary grades or with other students in a classroom taught by a special education student at the secondary level. Most students who need this level of support are indentified as needing SDI in specific academic areas (i.e. writting, reading comprehension ect). Every school in the district at every age group is supposed to be able to serve students who need this level of support (a say "supposed to" because I recently heard that a now-fired principal of an elementary school just choose not to hire a sp ed teacher last year even though there were students who needed the services in the school).

The programs that will be at some, but not all schools will be the programs for students with greater needs, or students whose disability is not that common. For example, the District has one program for students who are deaf and hard of hearing at each age level (TOPS, Eckstien, and Roosevelt). I can't see the District moving programs that require particular physical changes in the SAP. For example, some recently remodled schools have special education rooms with kitchens and laundry areas to teach daily living skills. Others have dedicated therapy space. Other programs require things like access to nearby pools for adaptive PE for wheel-chair bound students. Because of this, I think that the District needs to confirm locations for these programs before they undertake a revisions to determine how many general education seats they have and then of those how many can be set aside for choice.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Brose:

Your use of the word "forced" with respect to Ingraham is awfully ironic. There are a signifigant number of south end families who are greatful that Ingraham has space, because otherwise there are no seats avialable at any North end school now for South end families. Yes, you sound like a broken record, but one that is focused only a particular set of students.

Last I recalled, the actual proposed plan was not "forcing" anyone into any particular school, it was simply designating a default assignment that could be opted out of.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, anonymous at 11:40, for making that distinction.

The reference area high school is not an assignment to the school, but an established assurance of access to specific nearby school. Families will be free to choose another school or a program at another school, but without the assurance of access.

That said, I recognize that school they want will not have much available space and their chances for access will be thin.

I went to the drop-in conversations on the assignment plan, and I heard what people said they wanted. They didn't say "I want assignment to Ballard (or Eckstein, or Roosevelt) and nothing else is acceptable" They said that they wanted reliable access to a nearby school and they wanted to know that they had that reliable access for years in advance.

Now it may be that what they really wanted was guaranteed access to specific school, and they didn't say that because they didn't want to sound like inflexible jerks. I have two bits of news for them:

One, that's not on the menu. It simply isn't possible for everyone to get their first choice for assignment. The schools do not have magically and infinitely flexible capacity. A system can be devised that assures families of access to a nearby school, but it may not be the nearby school they had in mind. They can take their chances on getting another assignment, but it won't be assured.

Two, and this is a really important key that I don't hear people mentioning enough, the families and the District should be working to make people happy with the reference area school. Hale isn't the high school you would chosen? Well, you will have all of the time before your child enters the 9th grade to work with the school and the District to change the school or to find a way to make the system work for you.

Where did all of the Pollyanna's go who tell us that schools adapt to meet the needs of their community?

For all of my pessimism on that score, I think it would be easier for the school to make that change, easier for the families to work for that change, and easier for the District to enforce that change if the schools could rely on getting a certain type of student from a specific middle school. Under the current choice system, schools were encouraged to create their own identity and seek their market. The market did not have to be strictly geographically based. Under the new system, with more emphasis on reliability, the schools will be told who their market is and it will - for the most part - be geographically based. Moreover, the students will, for the most part, be coming from a specific middle school.

Schools are not going to be as free to create their own identity. They will have to have a more standardized identity because they will no longer be able to tell people "I guess we're not the right school for you". Any lack of freedom will be on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, thank you for coming around on the point that schools will adapt to meet the needs of their community with the change in the assignment plan. This was exactly my point in a previous post on another thread, where I believe you called it a "fantasy conjecture".

You bet when all of the Eckstein families from from View Ridge/Wedgewood/Ravenna/Laurelhurst and Bryant get to Hale they are going to work hard to shape it to meet the needs of their students. And they should. Hale WILL have a competetive music program, strong foreign language offerings, and a wide range of AP classes, etc.

I noticed that Marni Campbell (Principla at Eckstein) is moving to Hale next year. This certainly looks like a first step to me. A wise choice by the district in anticipation of the boundary changes that may affect the NE.

Anonymous said...

A change in leadership and a change in student body to a high achieving group of kids, with very involved parents, strong PTA, fundraising, etc., will surely shape Hale into a fine school. The families are not going to settle for less, and they shouldn't. I imagine this scenario playing out at Ingraham and Hamilton too.

Anonymous said...

"This may mean that more schools (e.g. Hamilton, Hale) develop terrific music programs or that the quality of such programs across the district evens out (right now, HS might have no program or a superstar program vs. a good music program in all HS)"

It's the "may mean" part that strikes fear in my heart.

Again, why the need to change feeder paths to high school immediately, before really making concrete changes to equalize the quality of all the high schools?

Why not start with guaranteed assignment to neighborhood elementary schools and perhaps middle school, but have the DISTRICT and not parents be responsible for these changes in high schools?

I don't buy into the notion that if parents get assigned to less
performing high schools that they are going to stick it out in "hopes" that they will effect change.

Anonymous said...

Hale is an award winning school with an active parent group and dynamic student body. It is not Roosevelt or Ballard and does not pretend to be.

Anonymous said...

It would seem moving the APP cohort out of Garfield would create another south end high school without an attractive program. Garfield is an academic powerhouse because of the cohort, and that academic rigor draws in many families who have not participated in the public schools before high school, and keeps other families in the system who have highly capable children that are not enrolled in APP. If the cohort moves north, so will all the advanced/honors/AP classes available due to the critical mass leaving the school. In its wake will follow the families that have chosen Garfield for the academic rigor which will have disappeared.

Garfield is the one high school jewel south of the Montlake Cut. Moving the APP cohort north would further segregate the city and the kids. Opportunities are now available to many who won't have access if it is moved north. Seems like a big step backwards.

Anonymous said...

I think tradition plays apart too. There are a ton of families in View Ridge and Laurelhurst who grew up in those neighborhooods and are now raising their children there. There is a ton of tradition/history at Roosevelt. It means a ton for these families to send their children to their alma mater. In many cases it is multi-generational. These families are alumni donors to the school. These families were first in line at the tours of the remodeled space and still are in touch with their old teachers.

I'm not saying it is necessarily right, I'm just saying that in some cases it is more than making a school like Nathan Hale more competitive/fit better to parent's expectations. In more cases than you would think, it is about tradition and history.

Charlie Mas said...

Pollyanna, you have caught me out, so please allow me to wriggle a bit on the hook though I'm sure all of my efforts will be futile.

The difference between the lack of adaptation that we see now and the adaptation that I hope for under a revised plan comes from a few critical differences.

First, the schools will be required to provide a baseline catalog of courses.

Second, the families will know long in advance that this is their reference school. That will allow them to work on and at the school.

Third, the school will know long in advance which students to expect. They will no longer be seeking a market but they will have to provide service to one identified for them. That's a total reversal of the current process.

Four, there will be a feeder pattern whereby the majority of the general education students at the high school will come from a specific middle school. The efforts towards vertical articulation will influence the courses available at the high school.

Five, the District will be able, and, I suspect, ready and willing, to intervene if the school is not adapting. That is not the case right now. The current perspective is if the school doesn't suit you to choose another. The new perspective will be that the school needs to adapt to the students.

Even still, I know that there will be some legacies of the current culture of all of the schools that will need to adapt to serve a different population. These legacies will endure for years because that's how culture change works.

Have I sufficiently rationalized my reversal of position, or must I acknowledge that some Pollyanna tendencies are required to have confidence in this scheme?

I'm with anonymous at 7:25. The District must be responsible for the changes in the high schools. If the District accepted that responsibility, would anonymous at 7:25 feel any better about it?

I think I mentioned this in another post, but let me be very clear: I expect confrontation over this. In fact, I look forward to confrontation over this. I look forward to the District actively stepping in and mediating that confrontation, and I expect that mediation to usually find for the community and to direct the school to change to meet the needs of their community. Perhaps the District will have to create some sort of Transition Board specifically to intervene in cases such as this.

Seriously, can you hear the arguments on each side:

The community says "Here we are, a significant number of families who want real AP classes at Hale for our children."

What would the Hale administration and staff say on the other side? "This is the way we've always done it"?

That's not going to hold up.

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree with anonymous at 7:25 AM. Start with the guaranteed assignment for elementary and middle school.And at the same time the district needs to work on its high school programs and curricula. These kind of details must be worked out before the new plan is implemented.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the district will level the field by having a base line of course offerings available at every high school. But what about the calibuer of such base line offerings, and what about non base line offerings? That will be up to the parents and community to shape. It would be unreaslistic to think otherwise. The district may offer band as a base line at every high school, but only a few will grow a competetive, award winning music program. Surely the parent community will be the driving force in these areas.

Will this scenario leave huge inequities to face? When Hale has the competetive award winning band, and RBHS just has a basic band that can't seem to get off the ground be equitable? This is history folks. Schools with the means and involved parent communities find ways to have stellar offerings, while other schools may not be able to. It's the way it has always been. No matter what the base line is (and it is definately a great start) or how enrollment and assignment play out, there will always be inequities among schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

A couple of comments:

- my son went to Hale and Hale IS a good school. They have a solid teacher core and good counselors (very important at high school). They have a new performing arts hall and are putting on musicals. It was changing in ways I didn't care for and I was unhappy parents were not told it was changing before they enrolled but it is a good school. You can want a stronger music program, more AP, etc but don't try to remake it into Roosevelt Lite.

- One thing that maybe isn't understood about Hale is that they (along with Eckstein) belong to a national group called the Coalition of Essential Schools. I don't want to go into a deep explanation but it IS a part of their identity. Marni Campbell (Eckstein's principal now moving to Hale) knows this and it very likely why she chose to move. I'm not sure I understand how these schools adopted this separate identity or how it works/will work with district goals but it exists and it exits very strongly at Hale. It is the reason (plus the teachers' viewpoints) that they have pulled back drastically on AP. For Hale (and likely all the high schools) there will be a dynamic tension between what the faculty/staff want (and make no mistake - at the high school level there is very much ownership of the building by teachers and staff) and what families want. The district, if it enacts a guaranteed assignment program, will have to be the negiotiator/"decider" in what a school will be.

We, in this discussion, are striking now at the heart of what is a school's identity and who decides what it is.

-I get the post about the legacy for many families that Roosevelt has. I just completed the library archive at Roosevelt and I saw for myself how much this school means to many generations. But, in the NE, both the middle schools sit to the south. Hamilton, particularly, becomes a no-man's land for high school. Does it go to Ballard, with already too many people clammering to get in? Up to Hale, bypassing Roosevelt? It is actually easier for Laurelhurst kids to get to Hale than Wallingford/Fremont kids because of the freeway. Charlie's idea about Lincoln becoming a high school site may make sense (the idea had been put forth that Lincoln would become a site for a comprehensive high school - I finally looked at a map and I see that it could serve a fair number of kids).

Anonymous said...

Charlie said "Let's remember that after the changes in the assignment plan, none of the schools will be what they once were. Think of Meany, for example. Nevermind who is at Meany now, think of what Meany will be like when student assignment is more closely tied to geography and the feeder elementary schools for Meany are Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens, TT Minor, Leschi, Lowell and Gatzert."....

Isn't this pretty much the default feeder pattern already for Meany? It's just that all the Capitol Hill N. families send their kids elsewhere (lots to private schools) because most of the kids that end up there are performing below grade-level and the real lack of Spectrum at Meany. I live 10 blocks from Meany and would love to have my son go there, but he will be going to Washington Middle School Spectrum next year. 10 of my son's classmates are also going to WMS Spectrum next year. I don't think any of them will choose Meany until there is a quality program and a critical mass of high-performing students there. They've been trying for years to get the neighborhood to give Meany a try and help to turn it around but most are reluctant to take such a risk. As other posters have said...the program needs to be improved first before expecting people to choose their reference school.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me Melissa, but if the assignment plan takes Roosevelt away as a choice for all of the Eckstein families, like it or not Hale is going to be a Roosevelt lite. A school can choose it's focus under the choice program when families can decide whether they want a Roosevelt type program or a Hale type program. But when that choice is gone or limited, the community WILL make the school into what they want it to be. Hale will have no choice in the matter.

And by the way Melissa there is no need to defent Hale. Hale is recognized as a good school, but it is not a traditional program like Roosevelt. Does not have drama, competetive band, or he multitude of AP offerings. They are very different. Doesn't make one better than the other, just different from one another. We live right by Hale and know many families that choose it because they love Hale's philosophy. Others sneer at it and want a traditional program like Roosevelt. All I'm saying is if you are going to take away choice, then the "new" community will come in and shape the school to fit their needs. And, rightfully so.

Anonymous said...

This is what I'm worried about. Families in NE cluster with kids at Eckstein who live closer to Roosevelt than Nathan Hale (Bryant, View Ridge included) have had the expectation that they would send their kids to Roosevelt as the distance tie breaker has allowed them to do for years. They want the comprehensive high school with tons of AP/competitive programs for their kids.

Boundaries change and they are told their guaranteed school is Nathan Hale. Because Hamilton feeds into Roosevelt and is in high demand, they can no longer get into Roosevelt and the predictability to go there goes down. So now it's Nathan Hale or an undersubscribed school.

So parents give Nathan Hale a chance and try to change it but you already have a very distinct culture at Hale supported by current families and administration. I see a lot of fighting - the ones who love Hale (including the teachers) who don't want it to change and the ones who want it to change to be more like Roosevelt.

You are going to have communities battling each other and end up losing a lot more kids to private and Bellevue.

You can say overtime it will change - it seems like Nathan Hale is more an alternative school and maybe it should be moving to Summit to become more of an alternative school and change the actual Nathan Hale building to be a comprehensive high school.

It is only fair if you are going to change the system that you don't make an "alternative like school" as your guaranteed school. It needs to be switched to be more traditional. But then don't take away Nathan Hale's mission - just move it to a new building and make it alternative.

Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with the above poster. You can't take an "alternative like school" like Hale, and make it the guaranteed school for a reference area. If Hale is to be a "guaranteed" school it better be a normal, traditional program. It will have to serve its communitties needs. It serves its communities needs now as an alternative school, and that's fine as all of their students CHOSE an alternative type school. They didn't want a competetive band, sport team try outs, or AP classes etc., they chose the more laid back, inclusive environment. It is working for them. It isn't fair to the Eckstein families or to Hale to expect this type of happy merger, or "take over". Hale is a succesful school, and they have a right to continue on their chosen path. But so to do parents have the right to choose a traditional school if that is what they prefer.

Jet City mom said...

I agree with the last few posters-
Hale is a good school- but it is "alternative" enough compared to comprehensive schools that it should not be a neighborhood designated school

Anonymous said...

Okay, to that end, is West Seattle also an alternative school so long as they are on the 4 period day?

I don't want to restart the 4 period vs 6 period debate, because I know that there are a lot of people passionate about it on both sides, but right now, it makes WS different than the other comprehensive high schools.

Anonymous said...

This is just my two cents for what it's worth. I think if we are going to limit choice, have reference schools etc., then the school have got to have the base line offerings. That is to say that one school shouldn't have anything drastically different from the next school IE 4 period day vs 6 period day. Those type of variations seemed to work OK with choice, but won't and shouldn't fly with limited choice. The field needs to be leveled to get buy in. That's not to say that everything needs to be equal. One school may have an award winning, competetive band, or a great football team, state champion debate team, etc. But they should all have the same, equal and adequate base line offerings. Hale, West Seattle and any other school being considered as a reference school should have to meet the base line, and conform to district standard. That may mean going to a 6 period day for W. Seatte, and greatly increasing AP for Hale, and who knows what else?

Anonymous said...

Think about the huge disparity between even the "good" schools now.

Compare Eckstein to Salmon Bay, two very good schools.

Eckstein offers Spanish and Japanese for foreign language. Salmon Bay only offers into to world language.

Eckstein offers integrated I II and III math, Salmon Bay only offers integrated I.

Eckstein offers competetive band, Salmon Bay scrapes together a tiny multi grade group, but lack enough kids to make a band.

Eckstein offers Spectrum and honors, Salmon Bay offers no advanced programs.

How can we even think about making mandatory assignment or even limit choice to schools (especially alternative schools), when the fields are so far apart. As the above poster said, it worked to a certain extent with choice, but as a reference school type program, the field will have to be more closely matched to get folks in the doors.

Anonymous said...

My point about Hale and WS is that every HS believes that there is something special and unquie about the school. If you start making exceptions, and pulling some off of the reference area list, all you end up doing is creating more limits on where people can go.

I don't think that there is any effort to limit choice. I don't think that choice is meaningful for most families right now because distance is the be all and end all factor. Maybe I am a Pollyanna, but I went to my community meeting, and I believed Tracy Libros, Michelle Corker, and the others who emphaized that the District wanted to keep choice, but that they wanted it to be meaningful (i.e. not count distance twice). To that end, I think the idea of a defualt assignment only works if all 10 big high schools are included.

Charlie Mas said...

It sounds like we have some consensus on this Roosevelt-Hale question. So this situation, and others like it (Ballard-Ingraham, Cleveland-Franklin)is something that the District should manage proactively.

Of course Schools will have their unique identities and cultures, but someone will have to make sure that the community drives them more than the administration and staff. The range of identity will also have to be restricted a bit, as was written:

If Hale is to be a "guaranteed" school it better be a normal, traditional program.

I think the baseline catalog of courses will restrict the schools to a narrower band of variation. Hale, for example, will not have the option to offer "inclusive" AP classes. West Seattle may not have the option of the four-period day. Cleveland will have to offer a general education program in addition to the academies.

This is not to say that every school will have to become a carbon copy of Roosevelt or Ballard, but that they will all have to take a step towards the middle to serve a broader range of tastes.

Anonymous said...

Well said Charlie, and I think you are right.

Anonymous said...

I will believe it when I see it. I still think this whole situation may end up with more protest than school closures....maybe I'm wrong but if the school district is going to make the guaranteed school a school different than what the neighborhood traditionally sends their kids to, I think it's going to result in a lot of backlash, especially from neighborhoods who get their school of choice from the distance tie breaker but live close to 2 different schools like Bryant, Wedgwood, View Ridge, etc. etc.

Charlie Mas said...

Another mom at 11:46, please remember that Salmon Bay is not one of the ten traditional comprehensive middle schools, does not have a reference area, and will not have a reference area.

I'll say it again since it doesn't seem to be taking hold:

The reference areas do not limit choice. You are under no obligation to enroll your child at the reference area school.

Students will, in fact, have improved access to special programs at schools other than their reference area school because seats for those programs will be set aside and not subject to the reference area tie-breaker.

There may - even probably will - be some families who live within the current distance tie-breaker range for Ballard or Roosevelt who will find themselves in the reference area for Ingraham or Hale. That doesn't mean that they can't choose Ballard or Roosevelt, but it does mean that their access to those school is not assured. For those specific cases I can see how it will certainly feel like their choices have been negatively impacted. They had access to those schools PLUS the undersubscribed ones. I won't pretend that isn't true, but they can't pretend that this situation is the general rule. If you think about it, it only applies to folks in specific neighborhoods and we can't say which just yet because the reference areas have not been drawn.

Moreover, if the District does re-open Lincoln as a comprehensive high school primarily for families in Queen Anne and Magnolia, it may not be the case at all. If there is enough capacity, you might still have access to Roosevelt or Ballard even if you're in the Hale or Ingraham reference area because there may be space available at Roosevelt or Ballard thanks to Lincoln.

Jet City mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say all the Eckstein kids would go to Hale; it will depend on how the reference boundaries are drawn and where you live. Not everybody going to Eckstein lives in Bryant, VR, Laurelhurst (hard to believe, I know). I just pointed out that it would be harder for Wallingford/Fremont kids to get to Hale than Laurelhurst,etc. kids.

Hale is not alternative. It's just not. It has just changed its focus on how it delivers upper level classes. How many of you have been at Hale? Been in classes? But as I said, this is the crux of the discussion; who decides what a school will be? I have, for years, told the district that every high school has to have a baseline of what is expected in every Seattle high school so that parents don't have to be detectives to figure out their choices.

The last post is correct and I tried to tell people this when we were in the midst of school closure discussions. Namely, you think this fight over closures is bad? Wait for the new enrollment plan and boundaries. Wait for neighborhoods to turn on each other over, as we can see here on the fringes of the discussion here. One thing I think will not work with a new Board or the new Superintendent is threatening to leave the district. They hear this all the time and know they cannot make everyone happy.

I agree that the enrollment plan might need to be instituted in stages. The district may not want to do it that way but if enough parents say no, it is too much, too soon, without any shoring up of programs or even a district explanation of what a baseline regular ed high school will look like, they will have to listen.

Charlie Mas said...

The way to avoid protest after the decision is to have conversation before the decision.

People need to bring their concerns forward so they can be addressed. That's happening here and it would need to happen at the District level if they were to come forward with a plan like this.


1. I live in a neighborhood which has historically sent children to Roosevelt, but under this plan our reference area school would be Hale. I don't like that because:

1a.Hale doesn't offer the AP classes that my child wants which are available at Roosevelt.

All schools will be required to offer a baseline catalog of courses from remedial to advanced across all disciplines including several AP classes. Hale may not offer as many AP classes as Roosevelt, but if your whole neighborhood is going to Hale and wanting these classes, then the District should support your effort to persuade Hale to offer them.

1b.Hale is too 'alternative' for my tastes.

The baseline catalog of classes will diminish some of the differences between high schools. When Hale is expected to serve a geographical community instead of a self-selected community, the character and culture of the school will adjust to reflect the broader community. The District should support and help manage this change.

1c.We have always gone to Roosevelt.

Times change. Soon people in your neighborhood will be saying "We have always gone to Hale". There are other neighborhoods which have not enjoyed the same sort of reliability or stability in assignment. Now every neighborhood will have reliability and stability in assignment. Your neighborhood will continue to have it, just not to Roosevelt.

2.Doesn't this end choice if everyone has to enroll their child at the reference area school?

It does not restrict choice because families are not obligated to enroll their child at the reference area school.

2a.Okay, officially I can choose another school, but realistically, I won't be able to get in.

First, it is mathematically impossible for this change to make that any worse than it is right now. It may be better. We can't predict how it will really play out until the details are determined, particularly if the District adds to the capacity. Second, if you are choosing a school for a specialized program there, your opportunity for access will probably be enhanced since the specialized programs will have set-aside seats and their own choice and tie-breakers. Third, thanks to the baseline catalog of courses, the full range of academic opportunity will be at your reference area school so it won't be such a tragedy if you don't get your desired general education program assignment.

3.We hate and fear change.

Life is change. Change is good.

Anonymous said...

So, it sounds like the consensus here is that the next job for the district is to define the core programs for elementary, middle and high school. Schools that don't have those programs would have to either add them and become reference area schools, or be designated alternative schools.

Hale might have to add AP, and Madrona might have to add Art, Recess and PE. The teachers and pricipals at each school might not like that, and the district will have to have a way to enforce it.

There will also need to be a procdedure for a school to become an alternative. What if Hale doesn't want to change? Can the principal ask for an alternative designation? Would the program then be moved to a smaller building? Or, does the district decide which schools stay alternative and which adopt core curriculum, without input from the principals?

Anonymous said...

How would an alternative school like AE11 feed into middle school? I know some go to Eckstein and some go on to an alternative middle school (is it Salmon Bay?).

It doesn't apply to us but I was just curious.

Roy Smith said...

Regarding music programs: I was heavily involved in music when I was in high school, and I strongly feel that every comprehensive high school should offer a strong baseline music program (i.e., choir, orchestra, concert band, jazz ensemble). However, that being said, I am not so sure that the school district should be explicitly in the business of maintaining nationally ranked music programs, at least not in the context of the comprehensive high schools, so I find it a bit hard to justify tie-breakers or set-asides based on a particular music program.

I am not saying that we shouldn't provide the opportunities to nurture the sorts of extremely high quality music programs that people want. However, I think that for quality beyond the point that comprehensive high schools can offer without special set-asides, auditions, and tie-breakers, and whatever else has been suggested here, it makes more sense to provide the quality in the context of after-school programs, community programs, all-city music groups, or more specialized performing arts schools.

If any school in this city should ave a music program that people are clamoring to get into, it should be Summit K-12, since they try to market themselves as the school with the strongest arts focus in the district. It's rather too bad that they aren't there yet.

Roy Smith said...

Regarding feeder patterns in the North End:

IF (a very big assumption, I acknowledge) a feeder pattern is adopted from the middle schools to high schools, then a casual look at a map of the north end yields the following (assuming no new schools are opened):

Whitman feeds Ingraham
McClure feeds Ballard
Hamilton feeds Roosevelt
Eckstein feeds Hale

There simply is no other rational way to organize the north end without opening more schools. I hope that the district recognizes that this particular plan is dead on arrival politically, and doesn't try to push it.

That being said, the north end seems to be short of capacity at every level, so it isn't a huge feat to figure out what to do. My proposal is to reopen Lincoln as a comprehensive high school, and to relocate Summit K-12 to the middle of the city (which also makes sense in its own right) and go back to using the Jane Addams building as a comprehensive middle school.

At that point, the feeder patterns are as follows:

McClure feeds Ballard
Whitman feeds Ingraham
Jane Addams feeds Hale
Eckstein feeds Roosevelt
Hamilton feeds Lincoln

Anonymous said...

The idea of eventually turning Lincoln High School into a school for the Queen Anne and Magnolia students would be a hard sell to the parents. These kids and parents want to be reasonably close to a high school, especially if there is no yellow school bus provided. Getting in and out of Magnolia via public transportation is not easy and very time consuming due to the bus routes. I don't know enough
about the Queen Anne bus routes. If the District could talk Metro into putting Lincoln High School on a direct bus route from Magnolia, like the 31, it might work. However, you are right in saying that a new Lincoln High School will help take the space capacity pressure off of Ballard allowing more kids from Queen Anne and Magnolia to access Ballard. Then they won't feel like they are being "forced" (yes, I'm going to use that word) to go to Ingraham. They will have more options and not be shut out of Ballard, Roosevelt and Nathan Hale just because there is no room in these schools. Not everyone will get what they want, but it will be more fair for these neighborhoods who do not have a comprehensive high school.

By the way, what is the earliest that Lincoln High School will be available? I know that it is serving as a temporary facility now for schools that are being remodeled.

Change is difficult, and many people will be unhappy with the new assignment system. You are all correct in saying that we must make the schools more equitable in their offerings so people will still feel that they are getting a good choice of schools. Keeping all of the unique programs and deciding who will get into the programs will be difficult. Call me a Pollyanna too, but if parents feel that their kids have access to a good neighborhood school, they will adopt it as their own. I would!
The key is having schools that offer, roughly, similar curriculum.

Roy Smith said...

kathleen brose writes: The key is having schools that offer, roughly, similar curriculum.

This gets to the crux of whether going to a system of mostly neighborhood high schools is actually a good idea for a city as diverse as Seattle.

Take the north end high schools (Ingraham, Nathan Hale, Roosevelt, and Ballard), for instance. Many people have expressed strong opinions regarding whether they do or don't want their children to be in particular programs, because in some respects they are very different. My feeling, however, is that few would argue that any of these four high schools are not at least adequate in quality (personally, I think they are all fairly strong, they are just differently flavored).

A choice system (at least in theory) allows families and the district to take maximum advantage of the differences, which are mostly not in quality but in style. If we move to a more strongly neighborhood based system, there will be significant demands to flatten out the differences (which as I said, are more about style than quality) in these high schools.

At that point, what happens to programs that are not of lower quality, but which are different? To cite just one example, Nathan Hale's program does not appeal to some families. On the flipside, it does strongly appeal to other families. If all of our schools are going to be cut out of the same cloth, who gets to decide the pattern, and more importantly, is this a step forward for the district as a whole?

As always, none of this discussion absolves the district of its responsility to fix the underperforming high schools in the south end, nor does it remove the district's responsibility to make sure there is actually adequate capacity in the system (and the decision to sell Queen Anne High School was and still is the height of idiocy on the part of SPS!).

I agree that the choice system is not working well, but I don't think that this is because choice is the wrong concept for SPS, but because the implementation has been poor. Maybe one thing we really need is a discussion on whether the distance tie-breaker should be weighted as heavily as it is, since the distance tie-breaker seems to be a major reason why choice is often more theoretical than something real.

Finally, I think we are at real risk of painting ourselves into a corner if we let transportation costs be the major driver behind high-school assignment policy. Hopefully, with all high-schoolers moving to Metro for transportation, this will become a much smaller issue.

Anonymous said...

I want to support an earlier post about the potentially negative impact of moving APP out of Garfield and north of the ship canal.
That move would only serve to further weaken South Seattle high

What about moving APP further South? Rainier Beach? It cetainly would be a way to "walk the talk"
for improving SE schools.

Anonymous said...

The current problem with having one APP cite that really isn't anything more than a cohort is that it creates a school within a school, and pits the needs of the APP student against the needs of the nieghborhood students. Moving APP to RB would likely only dramatically increase the existing tention between the different populations.

The assumption that there is need for capacity at all grade levels in North Seattle is a myth. Hamilton is not at capacity, and it is being built largest to take additional students. There is excess capacity at Ingraham, and in some years (last year being one of them) at Hale. It makes no sense to open up another school just because some people feel "forced" to Ingraham.

The Magnolia/Queen Anne parents have no less choice than the South End parents, distance remains the factor the limits the choice the most. This does not mean that the District should run off half cocked and open a new school (ahem, repeat the ridiculously expensive mistake that is the Center School) just because there is a vocal parent group who feel entitled to a particular school, or the building of a new school just for them because they don't like the choices they have.

As to transportation, I can't imagine that when people choose to live in Magnolia, it does not occur to them that they were also choosing to be far away from any freeway, on an isolated pennisula that does not have a large enough student population to justify its own high school (or schools, like West Seattle). Obviously this has an impact, but perhaps this is some

Anonymous said...

thing that people should think about before making the choices as to where they are going to live, not afterward/

Anonymous said...

"This does not mean that the District should run off half cocked and open a new school..."

I agree. Opening another comprehensive high school is an expensive proposal.One that SPS may not be able to afford. In light of the recent school closures,the politics of opening a new comprehensive high school would be daunting. As a tax payer, I would need to see compelling reasons to open a new comprehensive high school. Redrawing reference area boundaries is going to be challenging enough for SPS. D

Anonymous said...

I have to ask, Ms. Brose, when you moved to Magnolia (I presume from your posts that this is where you live), where you not aware that there is not a high school in the area? When you choose to move to an area that does not have an actual nieghborhood school, I think you should be prepared for the prospect that you would be competing for the space available at other people's nieghborhood schools. To me, this is a trade off that should not result in the tax payers having to build a school when there is plenty of space elsewhere.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, if you want to argue the PICS lawsuit all over again, I think there is already a thread for that. Please take it there.

Nor is this the place to argue the existence of high school APP and whether it improves the school it is in or creates competition for resources within that school. We can start that thread also if folks really want to.

As far as high school APP moving further south, I will say that APP would fit quite well at Cleveland, but it is an all-city draw program and therefore needs a more central location.

Is the assignment plan discussion winding down?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous at 5:37 and Annie:

I'm picking up that you don't like Magnolia and Queen Anne. I'm sorry you feel that way. All those homeowners pay taxes too. I moved into Magnolia 20 years ago, before the real estate market went crazy.
There was a grade school a few blocks from our home. Both of my kids attended it. I knew there was a middle school on Queen Anne and a high school in Ballard. So, I did my research before moving to Magnolia. I could not predict the demographic changes that occurred, because I didn't have a crystal ball. Many people live in this community to have a short commute to work and downtown. It's easy to get downtown on the bus. We are consuming less fuel and creating less polution in the process.

The people of Queen Anne and Magnolia are not better or more special than anyone else in the city. Actually, Magnolia Village is not nearly as interesting or exciting as Columbia City. Many people in these communities do send their children to private schools exactly because we do not have a high school reasonably close to home that we have access to. That is a shame.

I think of all the volunteer hours and fundraising that could be going into the public schools instead of the private schools. I think of all the extra money the District would get with each student they attract back from the private schools into the public schools. That's a win-win for everyone in the public schools. I think of all the private school kids who are not getting the richly diverse (exposure to different economics,race, ethnic, religion and other languages) education that they would get in the current Seattle Public schools today.

I'm still visualizing great public high schools in every Seattle neighborhood, including the SE.

Anonymous said...

"I think of all the extra money the District would get with each student they attract back from the private schools into the public schools."

Can the public schools keep the million dollars you attorneys want? I am sorry, you are not the only person who is a bit of a broken record, but I each find it trite for you to continue to make these claims while supporting DWT's efforts to turn pro bono publico (for the good of the public) into for profit for DWT's bottom line.

And, I do not have a problem with Magnolia. I just think it is short sighted to move to a pennisula that does not have a nieghborhood school then turn around and demand one be provided for you.

Anonymous said...

Before the assignment thread ends, I want to make a proposal.

I do believe that special academic programs with specific course requirements (use Ballard’s biotech as an example--see disclaimer below) should be all city draws with competitive entrance requirements. I believe this because it seems that it should be worth preserving cohort size for and all city access to programs that require a real interest in and aptitude for science (for example). However, that might mean that kids who had access to better elementary and middle school programs (or more educated parents) would have a better chance of getting in. If it appears that the selection process reduces applications by poor kids of color, maybe some of the South Lake Union biotech firms could be persuaded to sponsor a stronger science program at Meany (the Central cluster middle school). Ideally, this would be done in a preemptive way, not after the fact.

Note that this may totally conflict with the vision the current Biotech staff has for the program — I can imagine that they might want to keep space available for kids with no particular strength in science — just a sincere interest. They also might not want the hassle of reviewing applications.


(Disclaimer: Note that I hope my 7th grader might get into the Ballard Biotech program--he has strong interest and training in science but can't go to Garfield because we live in the N cluster and APP doesn't accept kids after 7th grade.)

Jet City mom said...

You bet when all of the Eckstein families from from View Ridge/Wedgewood/Ravenna/Laurelhurst and Bryant get to Hale they are going to work hard to shape it to meet the needs of their students. And they should

How did the parents fare who tried to get Madrona to be more flexible?
Madrona is a K-8, Hale is a 4 year high school- I wonder how long it takes change to benefit your kids?

Some parents, even before their own children were old enough for Madrona, had tried to improve the school. That left some parents with children already at the school bristling at the suggestion that somehow it wasn't good enough.


How many "neighborhood schools" do we have , that don't really serve their neighborhoods?

Anonymous said...

I still think that the conversation must include equity of access until such a time as the high schools are comparable. To me, that means the District should take race concious measure in drawing boundaries to take advantage of diversity where it exists, and nace neutral measures in the tie-breakers, i.e. a socio economic tie-breaker, reverse distances, ect.

I agree with this letter to the Times this morning:

Editor, The Times:

The best response to "Seattle's school parents vindicated" [Times guest column, July 12], Kathleen Brose's sad attempt at justification [of the Supreme Court ruling against racial tiebreakers in deciding school choice], comes from Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent to the decision in the case:

"There is a cruel irony in the Chief Justice's [Roberts'] reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: 'Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.'

"The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, the Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court's most important decisions."

Justice Stevens added: "A re-writing, of course, which is crucial if you want to maintain that remedial racial classifications are precisely equivalent to racial classifications intended to subordinate a particular racial group."

Ms. Brose has left her children a legacy, but not the one she thinks.

— Larry Kimmett, Bellingham

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous at 10:03, there is no equality of access possible. The schools cannot magically expand their capacity to enroll all students who wish to attend.

Are you at all interested in a balance between equality of access and reliablility of access, or are you only interested in one of them?

And what will it take for you to acknowledge that all of the high schools are comparable. Why isn't the baseline catalog of courses enough for you? What more do you want?

Tell us where the the finish line is.

Anonymous said...


I am not presuming (or asking) that the schools will be made "equal." I am talking about equity of access to high quality programs. To me, that means equity of access to programs for advanced learners, for specialized courses of study (such as the biotech program), and not quality performing arts programs.

A baseline catalog will not equate to students of color having the same access to high quality programing so long as this city remains segregated and the quality high schools remain located primarily in North Seattle.

I am not saying that the change should not go forward, it absolutely should, but the tie-breakers should include measures to allow students of color access to schools that are of higher quality until such a time as there are viable quality options in South Seattle. I do not see that as an impossiblity, I hope that Sealth is on its way to being such an option.

My point is that it is great that thought and money is being put into South Seattle schools, but that will not magically result in equity of access overnight.

I don't think that the South Seattle Students of the Classes of 2009-2015 should have to miss out on good programs while the District spends time trying to turn around the South Seattle schools. Which is why I believe socioeconomic status, or reverse distance, or some other measure should be in play until such a time as the high schools in South Seattle are truly viable options.

To me, the biggest mistake would to for the district to use nearer you live distance twice, i.e. as your base assignment and then as a tie-breaker. That would leave us where we are today, with choice only being meaningful to those who can afford to live near schools they want to attend. I don't think a pure lottery system is fair either, because it ignores that the majority of the students who suffer under the current system are students of color and students of poverty. Hence my reference to the letter that I believe eliquently reminds us about why this issue came to light in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why the schools South of the ship canal are perceived as low quality, and schools north of the ship canal high quality?

How did it get this way? Who is responsible for it? Schools are funded equally so what went so horribly wrong? Were the families in S. Seattle not advocating for advanced learning, biotech etc? I just don't understand how we got to where we are? Did the district just have a meeting and decide to put the bio tech program into Ballard? Or did the community want it and fight for it? Did the district say lets have a huge AP course offering at Roosevelt or was it the community? The principal? How does it happen, and why didn't it happen for S Seattle schools?

Once I understand how it happened maybe I can understand what it will take to turn it around. I don't think it's just money, and I don't think the district can do it alone. There must be some responsibility on the community, families and school leadership, for the failure of the schools? And until that is addressed I don't think money or adding AP classes will turn things around for S. Seattle schools as a whole, though it will help a handful of families that seek it.

Anonymous said...


Get online and look at the statistics. With the exception of Garfield (whose numbers are artificially high because of the location of the APP program at Garfield), the South end schools are lower is all aspects: test scores, graduation rates, student enrollment and course offerings. This is not a perception issue, it is a reality issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know it is reality. In my previous post I asked how it came to pass that the schools in the S end are so grossly underperforming? Why?
does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Years of allowing site-based management drive a school into the ground. Couple with the wiehted student formula, it was a recipe for a downward spiral, less studnets equals less money, which means less classes which of course means fewer students.

Franklin is a prime example, 10 years and two principals ago, it was as sought after as Ballard. Current principal is in the process of running it into the ground.

Anonymous said...

i know that test scores do not indicate the quality of instruction at a school, but my concern is that a school with very low test scores (i will use Meany as my personal example since I opted to not send my child there primarily because of the test scores) has a student population that needs a lot of remedial attention. I don't think a teacher with 30+ students can differentiate the instruction enough to meet the needs of students that are beyond grade-level in an environment like that. I didn't see it happening in my son's elementary school and I think it gets even harder as the classes get larger.

Meany actually has some of the best teacher satisfaction/student satisfaction surveys in the district, and there are some neightborhood families that are trying to give it a shot, but I just couldn't convince myself to take the risk with my child's education.

Meany is an extreme example, though, as it's test scores are some of the lowest in the district. I would not use test scores that are within an acceptable range of variability to choose a school.

Charlie Mas said...

When comparing test scores you should try to compare like to like. You should dis-aggregate them by program.

If your child is in the general education program, then try to get the data for general education only and compare it to other schools' general education only scores.

Meany presents an excellent example. Let's see if we can compare Meany's general education test scores with the general education test scores at Washington, the other Central Region middle school.

At first blush, Washington looks a whole lot better.

7th grade WASL pass rates:
Test....... Meany ..... Washington
Reading.... 34.4% ..... 73.8%
Writing.... 39.8% ..... 80.6%
Math....... 23.3% ..... 65.2%

But let's remember a few salient facts.

1. Washington is home to middle school APP, which makes up 40% of the student body there.

2. Washington is home to the Central Region Spectrum program, which makes up about 18% of the student body.

3. 15% of Meany students are special education compared to 6% at Washington.

4. 12% of Meany students are bilingual education students compared to 7% at Washington.

So how can we disaggregate the data to compare general education students to general education students? The Four Year Summary Report shows it.

First, we can see how many 7th grade students took the Reading WASL. It was 131 at Meany and 317 at Washington.

Of those 131 Meany students, 15 were designated bilingual and 12 were designated as special education. So 104 general education students took the 7th grade WASL at Meany in 2006.

Of the 317 Washington students, 17 were designated bilingual, 21 were designated as special education, and 191 were designated as either Spectrum or APP. So 88 general education students took the 7th grade WASL at Washington in 2006.

45 Meany students passed the reading portion. None of those who passed were special education students. Only one bilingual student passed. So 44 of the 104 general education 7th grade students passed the reading portion of the WASL at Meany. That's a general education pass rate of 42.3%.

234 Washington students passed the reading portion. Three of those who passed were special education students and four of them were bilingual students. 188 Spectrum and APP students (all but three) also got passing scores. So 39 of the 88 general education 7th grade students passed the reading portion of the WASL at Washington. That's a general education pass rate of 44.3%.

Similar calculations can be done for the writing and math portions of the test.

It's hard to make tables look good on these blogs, but the general education pass rates at Meany and Washington on the 2006 7th grade WASL were:

Test....... Meany ..... Washington
Reading.... 42.3% ..... 44.3%
Writing.... 48.5% ..... 70.5%
Math....... 27.5% ..... 22.7%

While this doesn't make Meany's scores superior to Washington's, you can see that, with the exception of the writing score (What are they doing at Washington!?! Wow!), the schools' general education test scores are comparable.

I hope this has been helpful.

Charlie Mas said...

ARGH! I nearly forgot this disclaimer/disclosure:

The above calculations presume that no students who passed the WASL are in more than one of the special populations (i.e., both bilingual and Spectrum). It is a flawed assumption, but a necessary one. Hence, I must disclose it.