Disqus

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Waitlists

I had a conversation today with Tracy Libros, District Manager of Planning and Enrollment, about how waitlists work. I had called specifically about Roosevelt but this is how it works for all schools. (I had called on Friday, she called me back at 9:15 p.m. on Friday night and said to try again on Saturday. I did but didn't reach her and figured I'd call her Monday. She called me at 2:00 on Sunday. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was trying to find placements for every child. That's dedication.)

Yes, the waitlist is ordered by tiebreakers. Meaning, it is all the on-time enrollments, sorted by tiebreakers, after the school has filled (more on that later). So, if there were any sibs that didn't get in, they would be first in line on the list. (This rarely happens except in certain programs.) Then, the distance tiebreakers come on the list in the order of closest to farthest.

For schools with waitlists, the school moves its list as room appears. However, district staff call each of those schools once a week to check the waitlist status and space at the school. The waitlist is dissolved on Oct.31.

After that date, any spaces that open up at any school that is full are given to new applicants to SPS. Meaning, you can't just wait till Nov. 1 and come in and apply again. Any room is given only to new enrollees to our school district. (I find this more fair than holding set-aside seats in case anyone new moves to the district. I'd rather fill up the schools with on-time applicants who are here now.)

Now, if you were a private school parent trying to game the system, you could try to get up early on Nov. 1, run to the Enrollment Center, and hope there was space at a school you want for your child. That could get you into TOPS or John Stanford or Roosevelt but that's a lot of ifs. If you had nothing to lose i.e. you already have your child enrolled somewhere and you want to try this, well, okay. But there would be no guarantee there would be a single space when you got there at 9 am on Nov. 1.

In November school send in their projected capacity numbers that they want for the next year and then there are discussions with the district about programs and capacity. So that "capacity" number is somewhat fluid depending on those discussions.

Now recalling someone here wrote that they knew of someone who got in and wasn't on the waitlist, well, that's probably a principal issue. I'd be willing to bet that the district policy isn't adhered to, for whatever reason, by every school. Every PTA should put this in their first issue so parents all know the policy and it lets the principals know the parents know the policy. I think it is also possible for every parent with a student on a waitlist to know where their student is on it and how long the list is.

By the way, the current waitlist at Roosevelt is 346 with 232 on that list being freshman. The list at been at about 425 so it has moved considerably. I'll be interested to see what the number is Oct. 31 as I had been told Roosevelt would not grow from its current 1700.

65 comments:

Roy Smith said...

So if somebody moves into the district in the summer (i.e., after the waitlist was originally established), do they get placed last on the waitlist, or is their position on the waitlist determined on basis of tiebreakers?

Different commenters have said different things with regards to this question, and this post doesn't really answer it one way or the other.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good question, Roy. As usual, I managed to miss asking a pertinent question. I'll try to e-mail Tracy and get an answer. I think it is likely that they go to the bottom of the list as they are not "on-time" enrollees. She made it clear that on-time was a key factor in the list.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend of a friend who moved to the SSD after cut-off this year. They moved from the suburbs and assumed that enrollment was like it was there (oops). They have a middle schooler and late grade schooler who both got assigned schools in West Seattle (they live practically across the street from Eckstein so I believe their schools would have been Eckstein and Wedgwood).

They scrambled and I believe got their kids into different Catholic schools.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about the potential discriminatory (by socioeconomic class/race) effect of the on-time enrollment rules. The on-time enrollment schedule meshes poorly with academic schedules (including university schedules). In addition, the general belief is that the poor move more frequently than the well off, and under circumstances less under their control.

Does this effect last for longer than a year? For example, the eckstein/wedgewood parents would have done OK by submitting on-time enrollments for the next year? And, how are decisions made for non-entry years, anyway? Do the same set of tiebreakers apply? If you move next door to a reference area school when your child will be entering 2nd grade, will you be able to attend the school next door? Does it depend on space availability? If so, do people get locked out, practically?

The SPS shows some statistical analysis that suggests that _most_ elementary school students get their first/second choices, but it seems like there's a lot of data removed in making that calculation, including those who make their choices match the possibilities, and those who leave the system when given obviously bad choices. West Seattle for folks who live in the wedgewood area? I assume the family most have actually put that choice on their list?

nssp

WenG said...

I'd like to hear more about the Wedgwood family that were assigned to W Seattle. Did they include W Sea schools on their list of choices? (Enrollment requires you to list 3, if I recall correctly.) I didn't think enrollment could send you that far out of your reference area. Sounds like it was a good case for an appeal, not that appeals always work. Even if you win an appeal, the principal of your desired school can still deny your appeal.

Anonymous said...

Does Hamilton have a waitlist?

Anonymous said...

Hamilton had no space for our kid last year when we moved to Seattle (mid-year). We live in NE Seattle and were offered Meany (central area), Mcclure (queen anne), and Aki(S Seattle). No transportation either, we would have had to drive both ways every day. I know you will all yell that a middle schooler can take metro, but we didn't want our 12 year old on metro for two hours a day.

We chose private. We could have gotten into Hailton or Eckstein this year probably with on time enrollment, but my kiddo was settled in his new school and we didn't want to disrupt him.

How sad, the system is, and unique to Seattle. It doesn't work like this in other cities that we have lived in.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how many posters on this blog speak of "choosing private school" for their children. This is simply not a viable option economically for most families in Seattle, unless they get lucky in the crapshoot of scholarships for private school programs.

My family has a household income that is about 25% above the median income for Seattle (median household income in Seattle is just a bit above $50,000/year). We live modestly, have one child, rent a modest house for a reasonable price, and have minimal debt, and yet private school tuition is beyond our means unless we sacrifice saving for our child's college tuition, an eventual down payment on a house, or our retirement. And that is with only one child!

If someone in our economic situation (well above median income) cannot afford private school tuition, that tells me that most people in this city probably cannot, either.

Charlie Mas said...

I find it very hard to believe that a family living in the Northeast middle school region could not enroll their child at Hamilton.

Last year, Hamilton had an enrollment of 724 in a building with a capacity of over 900. This is the school that the District staff claimed had room for an additional 225 APP students.

Something is VERY wrong if a family was told that there was no room for them there.

Roy Smith said...

I recall a few threads ago that Hamilton was being really ragged on for lack of quality in their academic program and general school environment. It seems unlikely that a school that is thought that badly of is overenrolled.

Anonymous said...

Is the District dependent on the principals to report available spaces? I can see how, after funding decisions are made (November?), schools don't have any incentive to report open seats. Is it up to parents to call the individual schools and find out if there are any openings?

Anonymous said...

I just can't believe the "anon" and "a friend" are true.

Hamilton was open last year at all grades, including mid-year. I know because my children got in mid-year in both the sixth and eigth grades.

"So if somebody moves into the district in the summer (i.e., after the waitlist was originally established), do they get placed last on the waitlist, or is their position on the waitlist determined on basis of tiebreakers?"

I believe that the one factor that still trumps everything, is children of full time employees. So, if miss on-time enrollment but you work full time at Roosevelt, your child is #1 on the list.

If you have one child get in and not the other, the second child moves up based on sibling "linkage." This is not the same as the sibling tie-breaker, it applies after to wait list students. If I understood the person I dealt with last year correctly (Jay Glover), students who have sibling linkage can have priority over other students on the waitlist, but not "sibling preference" kids, who are students with siblings alread attending a school who did not get in during on time enrollment.

Anonymous said...

WenG-

"Even if you win an appeal, the principal of your desired school can still deny your appeal."

Having been through the appeal process, I don't think this is quite right, unless you are saying that you can win an appeal into an oversubsriced school, but then the building still has to move the wait list to accept any student. That is not the principal dening your appeal.

Anonymous said...

"Last year, Hamilton had an enrollment of 724 in a building with a capacity of over 900. This is the school that the District staff claimed had room for an additional 225 APP students."

Perhaps the extra room was not in the grade they were seeking? I understand that Hamilton was full for 6th grade with a WL last year, but had plenty of space in 7 and 8th. I think it is becoming more popular every year, and harder to get into. Especially in the past couple of years with the John Stanford assignment preference and continuing curriculum.

Anonymous said...

"It seems unlikely that a school that is thought that badly of is overenrolled."

It is over enrolled because even though it is not a great school, there is a lack of capacity in the north end, and families that don't get Eckstein (reluctantly) take Hamilton. We are black, and almost every family that we know that are black choose Hamilton. Not because it is a good school (it isn't) but it has diversity, since many S. Seattle kids get bused up to Hamilton. It makes the program diverse and a nice option for black families.

Look at the Hamilton test scores. They are very low, especially in comparison to Eckstein just a couple miles away. What gives??

Roy, it is apparant that you don't value a "good school" or academics as one of your top priorities, but many families do. Test scores are recorded and posted because families want to know how a school is achieving. I know you dont think test scores are very valuabl, but many of us do.

Hamilton has a long way to go before it is recognized as a great school. I didn't send my kid their, even though the diversity was very very attractive. The academic expectations were the pits.

Anonymous said...

"Hamilton was open last year at all grades, including mid-year. I know because my children got in mid-year in both the sixth and eigth grades."

Are you actually calling two poster liars??

Do you thinks seats are infinite??

Perhaps your kid took the seat that was open. They are not unlimited.

When we got into AEII mid year two years ago, we got the only space open in 2nd grade. So anybody that applied after us was turned away.

Don't be so quick to call people liars.

In addition our enrollment centers, and assignment process are not the most efficient. Perhaps they TOLD people the school was full before checking. They did this to me when we applied for that seat at AEII. I called the principal who told me there was one space, so I went back to the enrollment center and told them to check the computer, and sure enough they found it and enrolled my son.

Roy Smith said...

Randall, so you are saying that Hamilton is both poorly regarded academically and overenrolled? That is, I would submit, an unusual situation for a school in Seattle.

I don't really know anything about Hamilton other than the opinions I have read on this blog; my statement was a speculation based on those opinions that others have expressed.

it is apparant that you don't value a "good school" or academics as one of your top priorities, but many families do.

This statement has no basis in fact. I do not value test scores as a means (or particularly, as the sole means) of evaluating a school's academic performance. I do value good academics and good schools.

To anonymous 4:22, I see no references to anybody calling anybody else a liar prior to your post. Please refrain from the personal attacks and try to be civil, as requested here.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is a perfect example of the lack of clarity in the current choice system. And, when systems are unclear, people don't trust them. For example, without reading this discussion, I wouldn't have imagined that one could find a spot for a kid in a school by calling the school directly and asking them for numbers. And, even after hearing about it, I'm wondering if the system is fair (or if squeaky wheels are getting oiled).

nssp
[ps, no aspersions cast on the parent who called the school to find a spot for their child. Of course, if it works, it's a reasonable thing to do, kind of like taking advantage of tax breaks even if you don't "believe" in them].

Melissa Westbrook said...

Considering it is the school that moves its waitlist and not the district, it is reasonable (and the district should tell parents this) to call the school and not the Enrollment Center. As I said in my post, the district calls the waitlist schools once a week until Oct 31 to see if their waitlist has moved or space opened up. Something could open up and the district might not know for a week.

I have to agree with Roy; I don't take WASL scores as the be all to whether a school works. But, clearly, if parents go to visit and don't see other evidence that makes them feel good about the school, then that's on the school.

I would like people who may have experienced other school systems to let us know how it worked where you used to live. I honestly don't have the answer for popular schools and newcomers. It's a choice of leaving a couple of seats open each year in case someone moves to that neighborhood (and thus leaving families who currently live there but can't get in fuming) or to dissolve the waitlist in Oct and leave any spaces that open up for newcomers.

The district DOES need to have a few seats available at one elementary in every cluster (if they continue the cluster system) for newcomers as it is unfair to ship little kids out of cluster. Likewise, for middle school regions. I would agree that it is unreasonable to ship kids off outside their middle school region especially without transportation (I'm a little confused how the district could have only offered middle schools out of region without transportation in that one example.)

Naturally, the answer is to make all schools better to have less of this but that's a ways off. Maybe the answer is to gently tweak the assignment plan now and wait 3-5 years to see improvements throughout the system and the effects of Metro on high school enrollment.

Anonymous said...

"I would like people who may have experienced other school systems to let us know how it worked where you used to live. I honestly don't have the answer for popular schools and newcomers. It's a choice of leaving a couple of seats open each year in case someone moves to that neighborhood"

It works in other cities because they don't have choice. With choice you can't have predictability.

If you move to Shoreline mid year you are going to go to your neighborhood middle school. They alot for this. They don't have choice. The school has a bit of padding for new kids, and even for a few Seattle students. Most of the country works this way. I don't know of any other city that has choice all over the city, provides transportation to any school in your cluster and all city draw schools no matter where you live. When you have choice, the better schools are going to become over enrolled and the weak schools will take the heat. This plan might have worked better if, when a school was failing or under subscribed the district stepped in, changed leadership, invigorated the program, replicted succesful programs, etc. Instead they turn the other cheek and bad schools stay bad schools, and great schools stay great schools.

As to test scores. The country uses NCLB, that means to me, that data is valuable. I value data. If I were looking at two schools and one scored very high on the WASL and one scored well below average, I would be very very skeptical to send my child to the under performing school. It is interesting to me that this data does not mean much to some of the previous posters.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that Melissa who says she doesn't take WASL scores to be "the be all to whether a school works" sent her kids to the two top performing (test score) schools in the district. Eckstein and Roosevelt.

Melissa Westbrook said...

To the last two posts;

1) NCLB would make sense (and I would take it more seriously) if we had ONE national test for students. We don't; we have 50, all different with different standards. How does that really help us know how our students are doing? The WASL has gotten remarkably bad marks and are we to say, "Well, it's all we've got?" Not me.

2. I sent my kids to Eckstein and Roosevelt AND Hale (my oldest graduated from there in 2006)because those schools were the best fit. However, we looked at a lot of schools especially for high school. I certainly didn't use test scores to decide which school. That the Eckstein had a good Spectrum program and Hale (at the time) and Roosevelt have strong academics (AP and Honors; things I have stressed repeatedly)helped.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, why not call the Shoreline school district and ask if they ever turn children away? If they do, find out what circumstances would cause it. And if they don't find out how they are able to accomodate every kid at their neighborhood school. I know Shoreline has no choice (except with their room 9 alt school) so it is probably much easier for them.

My family was in the military, and we moved ALOT when I was a kid (almost every year). I was NEVER turned away from our neighborhood school, ever. When we moved, we went to the school and enrolled, and that was it. I rode a bus with everyone in my neighborhood, and was able to make friends in my community (even if it was only for the year). It worked.

WenG said...

Anon @ 3:36 pm: The JSIS principal had the final word. Days before school was set to begin, I had a letter in hand from Travis Colton with Enrollment Planning, telling me we’d won; our daughter would join the 2nd grade as promised by the PIC and the principal. The next day enrollment called and told me the principal just informed them that adding another student would over-enroll the class, violating their contract. She was wait listed and the list didn't move.

This was the culmination of two months of enrollment and the school going back and forth, each telling me the other party had the exact enrollment figure.

Jet City mom said...

o they get placed last on the waitlist, or is their position on the waitlist determined on basis of tiebreakers?

What I have heard is- they would not be last on WL, as those who have to move in summer are often disproportionally FRL & IMO, it would be unncessarily harsh to then require them to attend a school outside neighborhood.
Then again those schools where 1/3 of students enroll sometime in Sept- aren't the same as the overenrolled schools.

As least Seattle is now letting parents know earlier.
When my oldest was in elem. She attended private school- we made less than Seattle median- but private schools often do have generous financial aid, for parents who really can't afford it.
However, her deposit was due I think in March and SPS didn't inform of placement till late summer-
Once you are committed to a school- it is pretty difficult to switch that focus when you find out you made it off the wait list a month after school started.
Which is why my D, eventually attended private K-12, even though we are very blue collar and modest income.

Anonymous said...

The uncertainty in public school assignments is something that private schools explicitly exploit: Many private schools in this city require a non-refundable deposit on tuition BEFORE the public schools announce their placements. The trap is that even if the public school assignment turns out to one's liking, the outlay of this deposit makes it hard to walk away.

In most public school districts, except for certain special programs, every address is associated with a fixed elementary, middle, and high school. People choose where they live based on the associated schools and property values are based on this association. This kind of system has its problems but certainty is much better than uncertainty.

Charlie Mas said...

caught wrote:
"In most public school districts, except for certain special programs, every address is associated with a fixed elementary, middle, and high school. People choose where they live based on the associated schools and property values are based on this association. This kind of system has its problems but certainty is much better than uncertainty."

And this is the plan that Seattle Public Schools is embracing. Depending on address, your child will be assured of access to a fixed, specific, nearby school.

A lot of this trouble with enrollment centers and waitlists will go away - so long as you are satisfied with your neighborhood school assignment.

As Anonymous wrote:
"When you have choice, the better schools are going to become over enrolled and the weak schools will take the heat. This plan might have worked better if, when a school was failing or under subscribed the district stepped in, changed leadership, invigorated the program, replicted succesful programs, etc. Instead they turn the other cheek and bad schools stay bad schools, and great schools stay great schools."

This is how choice was supposed to work in Seattle, but Olchefske, Rimmer, Manhas, and Wilson were all too timid and too overbalanced towards site-based decision making to do their jobs. This is, however, how choice was supposed to work.

Fortunately, Ms Santorno takes her duties seriously and has stated that she WILL review school performance (as required by Policy) and WILL intervene if it fails to meet benchmarks (as required by Policy). We also now have a Board who are demanding that the District staff actually do their jobs. This is one of the most important parts of the new emphasis on accountability.

Anonymous said...

I believe San Francisco has a similar choice system. I've heard good things about it from the few middle class people I still know down there, but don't know any details. There aren't many middle class families in the city anymore. Talk about housing prices!

Charlie, do you know what benchmarks Ms. Santoro will be using to evaluate schools? Are these published somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Re how schools of yore were able to guarantee placement in neighborhood schools, weren't class sizes often 30 and up? The SPS history book "Building for Learning" talks about schools like Bagley Elementary (current capacity around 360) being a K-8 and having 800 kids in the 50s and 60s (with portables).And were there union contracts with maximum student:teacher ratios.

Re now, I agree it would be interesting to know how Shoreline and Belleview do it.

Melissa - way to take the high road on anon 3:43.

Charlie Mas said...

I am not positive of the benchmarks that Ms Santorno will be using to trigger district-level intervention in struggling schools. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson may want to have a say on those.

I suggest that you write to her and ask her. Her email address appears on the Contacts page of the District web site.

While on the District web site, you might want to read a few policies, notably these:

B61.00 (in which the Board is supposed to require an annual report on school district programs and the Superintendent is supposed to provide it)

C45.00 (in which the Superintendent is required to conduct an annual review of all schools and programs and to provide support and intervention for schools and programs identified as not meeting the criteria, with progressive interventions for schools and program which persistently fail to meet the criteria).

Anonymous said...

Does San Francisco have a middle class? Their cost of living is much much higher than Seattle, and Seattle has driven away much of our middle class.

Anonymous said...

We live in NE. Seattle, and didn't get into Eckstein this year for 7th grade. Didn't like Hamilton, so chose to send out kiddo to Kellogg in Shoreline, after hearing how great it was.

The enrollment process was sooooo simple. After attending their open house and falling in love with the school/program, we went into the school, and asked if they had space for our son, and if so what we would need to do to enroll. They said they had space, and enrolled our kid right there on the spot. I left shocked (and very happy). I did have some follow up paper work to do to transfer state funding from Seattle to Shoreline, but it was quick and easy.

Now compare that to Seattle's stressful process where you apply in February and hold your breath until April. Don't have any idea where your kid will go to school until it is to late to make alternate arrangements (all good seattle schools fill up, and you've missed the cut off for private school enrollment).

How does Shoreline do it? I'd like to know. Once school starts I will ask around and see what I can find out and post it here. Kellog has 28 kids per class and school has 690 kids, so definately not over crowded.

One last thing. I think the community should have a choice when it comes to adding capacity at a school. I personally would prefer to have a larger school, add portables, etc., to be able to stay in my own neighborhood reference school. We would have been happy to get into Eckstein if we could have. Shame we had to leave our district.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "well off, but not wealthy said..." comments on private school. The fact is that lots of folks in seattle are "rich" by average standards and have no significant problem paying for private school (some may have to budget it, but there are plenty of folks for whom it replaces some other luxury).

I think this plays into the choice/equities/etc. discussions because there are some folks for whom going private is an easy option. They can do it if the schools aren't what they want, regardless of whether they are adequate, good or excellent. Working hard to keep this kind of parent in the system might be futile, because they are consuming a very specific product: the best education for their child, at that instant in time.

nssp

Anonymous said...

Melissa:

"Considering it is the school that moves its waitlist and not the district, it is reasonable (and the district should tell parents this) to call the school and not the Enrollment Center. As I said in my post, the district calls the waitlist schools once a week until Oct 31 to see if their waitlist has moved or space opened up. Something could open up and the district might not know for a week."

But, this is just the kind of thing a new parent moving in would certainly not know. And, even I, who read this blog, and talk to parents about schools didn't know until reading this discussion. I guess by lack of clarity I mean not just the unavailability of information, but also the complications of it.

What didn't I know? That the "schools move the waitlist" (why?) and that the frequency of information transfer between school/and central has low time resolution and that one could work to obtain that information from the schools directly. Lots of parents who don't know those options find their own alternative solutions, opening up spots for more savvy parents.

I'm coming to the conclusion that our choice system in Seattle is significantly broken from this thread.

nssp

Roy Smith said...

daf said . . . I think the community should have a choice when it comes to adding capacity at a school. I personally would prefer to have a larger school, add portables, etc., to be able to stay in my own neighborhood reference school. We would have been happy to get into Eckstein if we could have.

I absolutely agree that the community should have a choice when it comes to adding capacity at a school.

Now, in the case of Eckstein, I am curious to hear people's opinions:

1) Should we grow Eckstein so that it can take everybody who wants to go there, or at least everybody in the reference area that wants to go there? It is already the largest middle school in the state.
2) Is it too big already?
3) Is it just the right size?

It might be helpful when people answer to identify whether:

a) They live in northeast Seattle.
b) They have kids at Eckstein or are pretty sure they can get their kids into Eckstein.
c) They either have not been able to get into Eckstein or don't think they would have access either under the current enrollment criteria or the proposed new enrollment criteria, but they would like access.

I am honestly curious as to what people think on this subject, and I personally have no opinions one way or the other.

Jet City mom said...

Does San Francisco have a middle class? Their cost of living is much much higher than Seattle, and Seattle has driven away much of our middle class.

SF has been much more expensive than Seattle for about 50 years, & while SF school age students attend private schools at a higher rate than Seattle, they also have IMO better public transportation.
But like Seattle, many working in SF, don't live anywhere near there- even though I believe that Calif
has a cap on how much your property is assessed.
REAL PROPERTY APPRAISAL
Under California State law, real property is reappraised only when:

* New construction occurs,
* A change in ownership occurs, or
* Market value declines below assessed value.

Unlike King County- where the vagaries of zipcodes means that while I live in a "very" modest home,in a semi industrial neighborhood, I share the zipcode with view homes and so my propertys taxed value increases about $30K to $50K every year for about the last 10 years-
Pretty much sux- since being less than 1000sqft. and having to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom( or outside, or to the basement, or the bedroom), isn't high on the list of desired amenities for homebuyers.

But lots of tradeoffs- do we move someplace where we could have a bedroom big enough to fit more than a bed even though it might take an hour to get to work?



I do see that SanFrancisco also has a PPS group
http://www.ppssf.org/


I also wanna say about waitlists- for those SPS families who are really set on a school- we used to move the waitlists even in January.
However, now I believe they are dissolved in October- and the only way you can get assigned to a different school after that is if you leave the district ( or homeschool).

So I have know people, currently, who are doing just that- because the school is just not working for their child, but the district- ( as far as I know it is the district and not the school) won't let them transfer to another school.
( These are kids who were doing fairly well academically- but conflicts come up with teachers or other students that make change desirable)

Roy Smith said...

classof75 said . . . However, now I believe they [waitlists] are dissolved in October - and the only way you can get assigned to a different school after that is if you leave the district (or homeschool).

I may be completely incorrect, but I think that it is possible to transfer after October 31 if the school you are transferring to is underenrolled and the principal of that school approves the transfer. This fact (if it's even correct) is of no use to those trying to enroll children at oversubscribed schools, but it might be helpful for those who desire a transfer for other reasons, such as the school their child is currently at simply isn't working out.

Does anybody have more solid information about this?

Jet City mom said...

I wanted to make a seperate post Re Eckstein.
No, I don't live anywhere near there-I didn't consider schools when looking for a place to live- I apparently was a mermaid in another life and I have to be by saltwater.

But I remember when they first overenrolled Eckstein, I think it was just for a couple years- about 10 years ago.
Families did make their preference of having their kids attend an overenrolled school, over going to Whitman or Hamiliton-

I also was at Summit- when Olchefske came to the building to discuss the decision to have Summit add a section of 6th grade every year ( they had two- the district added a third ), in order to partially address the pressure to find middle school seats in NE Seattle.

IMO- this didn't work so well- yes we had families come who were happy about their kids not attending a huge middle school.
But they also were coming after years in traditional elementary- and had different expectations of school. For example-they were not happy with lack of choices in sports/music/electives as compared to Eckstein.
They also were lumped together in classrooms with teachers who either were hired at last minute to accomodate the extra students or were weaker teachers. Several years- the kids had a sub for much of the year. ( 6th grade is part of the elementary school)

While Olchefske may have believed that these students would then stay through high school, but expecting Summit to take in more students in the middle- then not providing enough support for them to do so successfuly- has contributed to a much smaller high school program than desirable ( IMO)

Anonymous said...

I live in NE Seattle, and I would like to see capacity added too.

Eckstein is large. I don't know how much larger we can expect it to grow at it's current site. What about splitting the program, and housing the other half of Eckstein at the Jane Adams building? And move Summit to a building that more matches their enrollment numbers.

This would be effective in my opinion, because Eckstein has a proven track record and is in HIGH demand. It is supply and demand, folks. It is already the largest MS in the state, and it turns many away at each grade, every year. Let's figure out a way to grow it, instead of forcing NE families to send their kids out of their own neighborhood.

Roosevelt has the same issues. Another option would be to house Eckstein 8th grade (400), and Roosevelt 9th grade (450 kids) at Jane Adams. These students would still be Eckstein and Roosevelt famiies just housed at a different site for those grades. I honestly have no idea how that would work out, but I would go for it if my choice was this or go out of my neighborhood or to another district. It would definately add 850 seats of capacity which is more than enough to accomodate NE Seattle with a little padding for new families moving in to the area.

Anonymous said...

I live in NE, and honestly have no idea if I'm in the Eckstein area. I drive by there a lot, but would my children be assigned there? who knows?

I think NE parents want more schools like Eckstein & Roosevelt. daf suggests a solution of growing schools to serve the neighborhood (that's what they did in the 60's, it looks like).

I think I'm actually in favor of doing that, but it has to be done with "right-sized" reference areas, which then allow the student population to fluctuate based on the changes in demographics. There should be a pre-published schedule of "re-districting" (i.e. re-drawing the right-sized reference areas). Then, people can make their housing decisions based on the school their kids are going to attend, knowing that there will be some fluctuation in the #'s of students based on who moves into the reference area (even for non-on time enrollment). Yes, it's an imperfect system, since it assumes people can live wherever they want in seattle and I know that's not the case. But, it would produce transparency, the absence of which is my prime barrier.

I think I would draw the reference areas reserving 10% (or some number like that) slots for low-income students) and another 10% for lottery (no tie breakers, simple lottery). This decreases the slots at the popular schools, but I think we need it. It'll decrease Roosevelt's reference area, and might affect my access (but we'll survive).

I would beef up desirable programs at less desirable HS & middle schools (like the SE initiative) in the hopes that those schools would become viable for some (as Garfield has for APP). Now that requires a reallocation of money where my lack of knowledge of how things are funded really fails, but maybe it could be done with private funding.

I would keep a couple of alternatives at each middle/high school level, and more alternatives at the elementary school level, scattered around different areas.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You could grow Eckstein. It confuses me how many cry "small schools" except when they want a certain school. (And, by the way, a small school doesn't mean small class sizes.) I was told it was 2,000 students in the '70s. It is funny to know that Eckstein is bigger than about 5 of our high schools and that when my son went to Hale, the size of the school went down.

And if you split Eckstein, who gets Mr. E? (He's the award-winning music director.) Can he split his time? Would he? And isn't music a big driver at Eckstein?

And how much further can you stretch the resources there? Eckstein gets no extra money for being big beyond the WSF. There are different pots of money for just being a high school, no matter what the size, and being a middle school. In fairness, Eckstein should be given more because of what they have taken on. But they don't. And now you want them to take on more kids? And you want personalization? And a less warehouse atmosphere? How can you do that in one school with more kids and fewer resources?

It's a mystery.

Roy Smith said...

melissa westbrook said . . . Eckstein gets no extra money for being big beyond the WSF. There are different pots of money for just being a high school, no matter what the size, and being a middle school. In fairness, Eckstein should be given more because of what they have taken on. But they don't.

Are you saying that Eckstein should receive more per student because it is so big? What's the reasoning behind that?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Simply because of size. They are stretching resources like crazy. If they got the money a high school got, they might have another administrator which would help a lot.

Whether or not you think they should get the money a high school does, if you believe they can put more students in there with about the same resources and have it be the same school, then I have a Viaduct I'd like to sell you.

Roy Smith said...

melissa westbrook said . . . Simply because of size. They are stretching resources like crazy. If they got the money a high school got, they might have another administrator which would help a lot.

This doesn't appear to support the "we need to close our smallest schools because they are not cost-effective" line of thinking very well . . .

Anonymous said...

"You could grow Eckstein. It confuses me how many cry "small schools" except when they want a certain school. "

I think the families that "cry" small schools are the families where there is a lot of choice, excess space, and they have the flexibility to argue for small schools. I think the NE cluster just wants access to schools, period. At this point many of us will take a school in our neighborhood any way we can get it. Proof of this is in how full Eckstein is. A 1250 kid middle school is neither ideal or desirable, yet they fill with a huge waitlist every year. I think the split school model would work. The idea would be to expand the Eckstein program. Why couldn't they have a band program at both sites?? Mr. Rowe is pretty awesome too. Why couldn't both sites be identical? The trick would be to enroll for one school and then randomly assign kids to the A or B campus. If placement were based on where you live, it could change the demographics of the school, and then it wouldn't be Eckstein anymore.

With the additional campus would come more resources too, and, hopefully another administrator, assist principal, etc.

We NEED to replicate successful programs, not force people to less successful, out of neighborhood schools. It is driving people away!!!

Anonymous said...

FYI, Charlie and everyone else who said that Hamilton was under-enrolled, and should have space.....your info. is incorrect. The enrollment center opened back up yesterday, and I thought I'd give them a call to verify. I only checked for 6th grade as they were very busy and I didn't want to waste their time. 6th grade is full with 11 kids on the waitlist.

I am the person who moved to Seattle mid year last year and could not get my kid into Eckstein, Whitman or Hamilton and was offered Aki, Meany and McClure without transportation.

There is no EXCESS space in the North end, especially if you move to the district, or apply after on-time enrollment. Beware any families thinking of moving mid year, you're heading South or right into the hands of a private school.

Anonymous said...

Thinking Outside the Box - I appreciate your ideas, but randomly assigning students to Eckstein on 75th versus at Jane Addams would not make sense for families who can currently walk to and from Eckstein on 75th. I'm personally looking forward to when my middle schoolers can walk home from school with their friends (when they are in middle school) and it would be the same thing to me as busing my child to a school outside my neighborhood regardless if the qualities of the 2 campuses were equal.

I'd rather favor what someone proposed in making a campus for 8th and 9th graders to relieve crowding at Eckstein and Roosevelt. The 9th grade school in Issaquah has been a roaring success in the eyes of the parents (even though the district wants to switch it to a middle school, parents want to keep it a 9th grade campus last I heard).

Anonymous said...

Yes, I see your point anonymous at 1:40PM. It would defeat the purpose of a neighborhood school to have kids from say, Laurelhurst going to Jane Adams up on 110th. I, like you, value a school being in close proximity to my house, and love the idea of my kids walking with friends. It's a great independence building experience, and much healthier than sitting on a bus for an hour.

It could be that all kids from Laurelhurst to 85th street go to the main campus and kids from 86th street to 145th street go to the Jane Adams campus, but that would change the demographics of the school, and then it wouldn't really be Eckstein. The main campus would surely be percieved as stonger than the Jane Adams campus because families coming in from View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Bryant, Ravenna, and Wedgewood are generally more affluent than the Meadowbrook, Maple Leaf, Lake City, families. This scenario would probably be like opening a new school, rather than an extension of Eckstein.

Perhaps the 8th grade Eckstein students and the 9th grade Roosevelt student idea might work. It would be nice for the 8th graders to get to know some 9th graders, and have that limited exposure to HS.

I don't have all of the answers but something has to give. The system is broken, and we do need to fix it.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of 8th grade Eckstein students and 9th grade Roosevelt students using another campus, like Jane Adams.

It would totally relieve the over crowding for MS and HS in NE Seattle. Elementary schools seem to be just right as they are.

Great idea!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm in NE Seattle. I hear many parents bemoan the size of eckstein. I know many who apply to private middle schools or choose Salmon Bay first as a way to avoid the "huge" middle school. Are there enough of those families to support a smaller traditional middle school in NE? Say 500 kids?

Anonymous said...

I would support a 500 kid middle school, but for it to compete with Eckstein, it would have to offer the same range of Spectrum/honors classes, great band, sports program, etc.

The problem with very small middle schools is that there are not enough kids to make it "comprehensive".

We chose Salmon Bay, because it was a small middle school. Much to our surprise, there were 30 kids per class, so it didn't feel very small. My son got the same instruction there that he would have gotten at Eckstein. However they had one very dismal band class, a few sports but no strong teams like the larger schools, no honors or Spectrum or any other advanced learning opportunity. In hindsight, Eckstein would have been a much better choice for him.

So, I'm all for small school if it is competitive and comprehesive, otherwise I would go for the splitting Eckstein into two campus wo kids could have all of the resources of a large school but with smaller campus.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The last post points up the problems with K-8 versus traditional middle. With K-8 you are likely to get a smaller school and a more cohesive community. However, as Carla Santorno points out, that benefit is offset by the school's inability (due to lack of numbers and the money it brings) to provide band, electives, etc. TOPS, for example, has band and strings but language is only offered before or after school (with no bus service).

Why isn't it possible to have a smaller middle school with more offerings? For the same reasons as it isn't possible at a K-8. You'd have to have a district staff person cost it out but the numbers would probably bear it out.

So, if you split Eckstein, you would likely have a "lesser" Eckstein which would make people unhappy.

I don't know about an 8/9th grade school. I think you'd end up with getting less than you would get at either school. Also, I thought I heard complaints that the NE elementary schools ARE overcrowded. The district is much more likely, if they moved Summit, to make Jane Adams into a K-8 or middle school before an 8/9th but you could certainly pose it to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that their plan will be to expand the size of some of the elementary schools to handle capacity at that level. My guess is View Ridge is going to be made bigger due to it's large campus. My best bet would be that they would move Summit, make Jane Adams a middle school and count on Nathan Hale becoming larger with the remodel and with the remodel and new principal, count on it attracting more students to relieve capacity issues at Roosevelt. This is not necessarily my wishes, just a guess based on everything I have read.

I have no idea how long all of this would take....years and years? All these great ideas, but with all the focus on high schools, can they even put money into a middle school or expansion of an elementary school without waiting for another levy to pass in a few years?

Anonymous said...

I don't know that capacity for NE cluster elementary schools is as dire as it is for middle and high school.

Every family that I know THAT LIVES IN THE REFERENCE area of an elementary school gets in. The only issue that I see is when families do not want their reference school and try to get into other "popular" schools in the NE cluster. These families may not get in, but always find space elsewhere in the cluster, and definitely at their reference school. I have never heard of anyone having to leave the E cluster for an elementary school (correct me if I'm wrong).

The issue is more with middle and high school. Especially middle school. Eckstein, as large as it is always fills and retains a heftly waitlist. Families have to go to Hamilton, Whitman or elsewhere in the city. Now, contrary to prior posters, Hamilton is full too. Just checked, they have a WL for 6th grade.

Same for HS. If you don't get into Roosevelt, and don't want an alternative type school like Hale, you are again, leaving your neighborhood.

We have to focus on MS and HS issues before we tackle elementary. Elementary will have to be adjusted as the predicted population grows, but it is not as dire as MS and HS right now.

Roy Smith said...

Every family that I know THAT LIVES IN THE REFERENCE area of an elementary school gets in.

Then why is there all this commotion about "predictable access to neighborhood schools"? This comment would seem to indicate that is not really a problem at the elementary level.

Is the demand for predictable access mostly about middle and high schools?

Anonymous said...

Every family that I know THAT LIVES IN THE REFERENCE area of an elementary school gets in.

Not true. Friends of ours up on Crown Hill couldn't get into their reference school because there were only FIVE slots available due to siblings pre-registering!

We are also waiting to get into our own reference school (Hay) due to the Early Entrance Kindergarten process. I wish that some spots could be reserved for reference families who move into the area past the normal deadlines (or have to wait until passing EEK testing).

We simply have to hope the waiting list moves, or that a spot might open up next year for first grade (particularly hard with respect to our reference school since there are 4 K classes, but only 3 1st grade classes). Instead she'll have to be bussed to Magnolia -- I heard from a neighbor who had the same problem last year because of a summer move that it takes almost an hour each way!

Anonymous said...

I was referring only to the NE cluster when I said everyone that we know got into their reference schools. I have no idea what the N cluster looks like, and what the Crown Hill neighborhoods demographics are like.

As to Roy smiths excellent question, here is my opinion. The current system is built such that you can (with very very few exceptions) get into your reference school. The problem is that not all reference schools are equal, and many people don't like their reference school, so they try to get into a popular school in someone else's reference area. That is where the problem lies. The popular school cannot take all of their students and take in all of the students applying from other reference areas.

In my opinion the new assignment plan will not affect elementary very much. It will guarantee access to people who pretty much already had a guarantee. Those that weren't getting in before are still not going to get in.

In the NE cluster this mainly applies to families that live in the John Rogers reference area, and sometimes the Sacajewea reference area. These two schools are not as high performing and have a less affluent population than Laurelhurst, Wedgewood, View Ridge and Bryant. Of course, everyone wants to get in to the higher performing schools. Can you blame them??

The answer is to make all schools high performing schools. If one school performs well below the others in the cluster, the district needs to intervene and figure out what's wrong. Then fix it, or close it down if necessary.

MS and HS are a whole different can of worms.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had a conversation with a SB candidate today on this subject and I feel a lot like the last post. Elementary is not the real problem except if you have your heart set on a program like TOPS or John Stanford. There are good elementary programs everywhere in this district.

Middle school seems to be a black hole with large but popular middle schools (although I did learn that Whitman has been slowly pulling back on its population - good for them) and smaller struggling middle schools. The district has a real problem here and one that I think is more difficult to solve than the high school one.

This may all point to NOT changing the assignment plan without a couple of years with a reform plan for many middle schools and a couple of high schools. They could perhaps change the elementary/alternative plan if they wanted to start saving transportation dollars but I don't believe they are ready to do middle/high school. If that's too unwieldy, then don't change the plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just checked my e-mail and saw that I received an answer from Tracy Libros in Enrollment Services about Roy's question about where someone would be placed on the waitlist who moved here after the waitlist was established. Here's my question and her answer:

Dear Tracy,
Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions on waitlists. I did manage to miss one thing, though. If someone moves into the district between the time the waitlist is established and Oct. 31 (meaning, they missed the on-time enrollment period), would they go to the end of the list? The tie-breakers wouldn't apply to them then because they weren't on-time when they enrolled their student. That would be my assumption if they missed on-time enrollment. Do I have that right?

Tracy's Answer:
Yes, that’s basically correct. All applications received by the end of February (Open Enrollment) are processed together using the tiebreakers. All applications received March 1 through mid-March are also processed as a group based on tiebreakers – but this group of students is added on to the end of the waiting list. So if someone lives across the street from the school and has a sibling, they would probably be the first student among the second group – but would be AFTER the last student on the waiting list who applied during Open Enrollment.

Applications after that point are added to the end of waiting lists on a first come, first served basis. (One minor asterisk – if several students get added to the same waiting list for the same school, grade and program on the same day, they are prioritized by tiebreakers. So if two students applied for 10th grade bilingual program at Roosevelt on the same day and one had a sibling enrolled, the one with the sibling would be ahead of the one without the sibling (even if the one without the sibling got added earlier in the day).

Charlie Mas said...

I'm delighted to hear that every student in the northeast cluster has access to their reference area school - whether they want it or not. That's great.

That may be how it is in the northeast cluster, but there are plenty of places where that is not the case. In the central cluster, for example, there are a number of students in the Montlake and Stevens reference areas who cannot get into their reference area schools. For them, the new student assignment plan promises to make a very big difference.

The demand for predictable access isn't only in the middle and high schools. There are only a few places in town where students cannot gain access to a nearby high school under the current plan. The same is true for the elementary schools.

The demand for predictable access isn't just in the high schools, the middle schools, or the elementary schools, but it is just in specific neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, it seems to me that the current assignment plan allows access to neighborhood elementary reference schools with a great amount of predictibility, with very few exceptions. There are some exceptions, such as you mentioned...Montlake, Stevens, and I'm sure there are others???. In my opinion it would be more prudent to fix the few areas that need fixing, than create a whole new assignment plan for elementary schools. I agree with you...the Montlake and Stevens families deserve the access to their reference school just the same as the rest of the city. The district should address it. They should have addressed this long ago. But again, I think it is more prudent to address, and fix these exceptions rather than create a whole new plan for a system that generally seems to work.

Now for middle and HS a new assignment plan is an absolute must. This is where they system is very very broken.

Anonymous said...

The high school system is broken partly because there is a lack of access and predictability for HS. But there is another component to the HS problem. HS's are inequitable.

Even though just a handful of schools are over subscribed, because HS's are so large, and each serves a high number of students, the number of kids affected is tremendous. It is difficult to get into Garfield, Roosevelt, Center School and Ballard. And the kids in Qu Anne, Magnolia and Laurelhurst, don't even have a HS.

In this case you can't just fix the predictable access and reference areas for the handful of over subscribed schools. You can't fix it because the alternatives are inequitable. People aren't going to go for that. Think about this....
If you can't get into Ballard don't worry you can get into the non comprehensive, untraditional Center School. IF you don't get into Garfield, don't worry you can get into under enrolled, under performing RBHS. Don't worry if you don't get into Roosevelt you can go to alternative style Hale with no AP classes. For HS it is more than just predictability. It is access to equitable programs.

Middle schools face the same issues.

There is a lot of work to be done with Middle and High schools in Seattle. They are in much worse shape than elementary.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's accept the premise from outside the box and say that the problem with elementary schools can be fixed with right-sized reference areas in the few areas where they are needed and interventions at the few schools that need them. The contention is that these fixes can be made without a full-blown restructuring of the assignment plan.

I think that's true. At the same time, that's about all the change that I was expecting from the new assignment plan with regard to elementary schools. Was anyone expecting something more?

outside the box says that the problems with middle schools and high schools is a bit the same, a few neighborhoods lack reliable access to a nearby school, but that the interventions needed are much greater in number and severity. The deep differences between schools significantly raises the stakes on the access issue to a fever pitch.

Perhaps then, we don't need a new school assignment plan so much as we need a new school equity plan.

What are the areas of inequity? outside the box and others on this blog have listed a number of them:

* The perceived lack of high-end rigor at Hale vs. Roosevelt.

* The culture of underperformance at Rainier Beach vs. every other school.

* The lack of a comprehensive college prep program (and AP classes) at Cleveland.

I'm not entirely sure what beef people have with Ingraham except that some of them feel an attachment to Ballard while others some complain mostly about Ingraham's location. A lot of that Ballard trouble may be cleared up with changes to an assignment plan rather than an equity plan.

Finally, we need some work done on the right-sizing, location, and equity of access for our alternative schools.

Is outside the box right about this? Do we really only have - at all levels - a few assignment issues addressed and a few equity issues addressed? Could they be dealt with as alterations to the existing work rather than sewn from all new cloth?

Anonymous said...

Besides making sure that there is a neighborhood assignment available for middle school and high school, here's an answer to NE Seattle access to middle schools and high schools:

Nathan Hale can no longer afford to have a perception among some folks as an "alternative" type high school. They must offer AP classes and make sure that their drama and music offerings are more on par with Roosevelt. Although, remember, with a highly competitive, high-profile program, your kid is not going to get the lead in the school play, because there are too many other talented, experienced kids who are going to edge your child out.

Jane Addams should be turned back into a middle school serving the kids in the northern part of the city who can't currently get into Eckstein. Too many of the people north of 105th, in Lake City, Cedar Park, etc. are opting for the Shoreline School District or private or public schools out of their area.

The district needs to figure out what kind of music program would work for Jane Addams--does Mr. E need to be transferred there? Or Mr. Rowe? Does it need a huge band, or can there be other types of musical education offered? Does there need to be some extra funding for instruments or private lessons for students? What about making a choral group work at Jane Addams? How important is being in the band, really??? What about a fabulous, innovative arts program that could serve as an attraction.

Jane Addams and Nathan Hale, with its planned improvements and wonderful sports complex, nearby access to Meadowbrook Pool and Community Center is a great site, in a family-oriented neighborhood area. There should be a natural progression from Jane Addams to Nathan Hale.

The alternative school Summit should be relocated, preferably in a central location, or maybe closed??? The only comments I've ever heard about Summit have been negative--this includes comments from a teacher, another staff person, and several parents whose students attended the school.

Note about the Eckstein band: The Eckstein Band concerts are great, but the importance of being in the band is overrated in my opinion. My theory is that the high popularity of the band originally grew from parents who wanted a way to segregate their students to be separate from the non-neighborhood, "bused" kids when busing started at Eckstein, as having a band class would influence the schedule of all your classes.

Sure, there are students who really want a musical education, but I remember hearing 10 years ago from a parent that you had to have your kid in the band to be with the "good kids" and I think this perception remains with some of the parents. Check out the art teachers at Eckstein--they are great.

Anonymous said...

I think the numbers prove the importance and popularity of the Eckstein band program. 75% of kids participate, that's a lot. Music is very important to my child, and it was his number one criteria when choosing a middle schools (he didn't get into Eckstein).

If you are going to make Jane Adamas a middle school for the north end (which I whole heartedly support), then it will have to be competitive. The demographics from 105th to 145th, which would likely be the draw for a new middle school, are very different from the demographics from 105th to Laurelhust, which is the current Eckstein draw. The Adams program would draw from moderate working class, and low income neighborhoods, where there are many transient families and apartment complexes. Eckstein will draw from the affluent Laurelhurst, Bryant, View Ridge, Ravenna, Wedgewood neighborhoods. Clearly an advantage. Consequently, Adams will likely not perform as well as Eckstein, and Adams will be at risk of being labeled "not as good" as Eckstein. The district will have to work hard to make Adams competetive and overcome this perception. Otherwise parents will continue to manipulate the system to get into the "good" school. The district can do this, but they have to be competitive with Eckstein and offer the strong sports programs, award winning band program or a very very strong art/drama program, variety of electives and the same variety of honors and Spectrum classes.

Agree also with above poster, that Hale will have to offer a wide range of AP courses to compete with Roosevelt. Otherwise, they really do need to be an alternative school.
I think a strong arts focus would be successful at Adams. One of the complaints from non band families at Eckstein is that the school is so focused on their music program, that kids that are not in band feel left out, or second class. So it would be interesting to see a second school have an arts focus.