Thursday, December 13, 2007

Go Rainier Beach!

This article appeared in today's PI about efforts to revamp RBHS and get them on the radar for high school choice. These include:

- hiring four extra teachers this year, including a full-time drama teacher and a full-time music teacher

-plans to add more drama, music and dance classes next year to take advantage of the school's state-of-the-art performing-arts center.

-expanding the school's honors and Advanced Placement classes for next fall.

From the article:

The school has also gained notice for its weekly "seventh period" after-school class for sophomores, in which they get extra doses of math, reading and writing to help them prepare to take the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning."

At 374 students they have nowhere else to go but up. They need more numbers as the school is large enough for 1200 although a 750-1000 is probably a good goal.

The posts in the Soundoff area of the article show a lot of mistrust that things could be changing. Some of it is because of the neighborhood and I'd have to agree. It really has problems and that's should be on the City to do something about it. This is one area where the City really could have some power in the outcomes for a school.


Michael Rice said...


This is a very positive article that captures the spirit of what we are trying to do at RB. We are very pleased by what we have accomplished but by no means are we satisfied. We acknowledge that even though we have made great progress, we have a long ways to go. We have a hard working, dedicated, innovative and creative faculty, staff and administration that will not accept anything other than academic success for all of our students, no matter what their level of ability when they walk through our doors for the first time.

As for Ms. Westbrook's comment about the neighborhood, their is much truth to that. What is ironic is that our adddress is 8815 Seward Park Ave S. and anyone who has ever been along Seward Park Ave S. and the area around it, will want to live there. It would be great if we could get the families that live in that area to come to RB. It is the area around Rainier Ave. that is sketchy.

As for the people who posted the negative comments in the PI Sounoff about what we are trying to accomplish, I have invited them to come to RB at anytime and observe what goes on in my classroom. I extend the same invite to all readers of this blog. Please come observe before you make any judgments.

Michael A. Rice

Charlie Mas said...

Rainier Beach High School continues to suffer from a bad reputation rooted in events that happened years ago when different people were in charge of the school and the District.

The damage to the school's reputation resulted in reduced enrollment which, in turn, caused reductions in the variety of course offerings. The reduced offerings resulted in both diminished reputation and enrollment and the whole thing spiralled down - completely independent of anything that was actually happening at the school or with the students.

The previous Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer refused to intervene. They allowed the spiralling decay to accelerate out of control.

The current Chief Academic Officer and Superintendent, however, have stepped in. They are providing the school with additional funding specifically to expand the course offerings. Neighborhood students will not have to bus north for AP, Honors, Art, Music or Drama classes. At the same time, the Principal and staff are working to improve the academics for all students, and, through the Flight Schools grant, working with the middle schools and elementary schools in the neighborhood so the students will arrive at RB prepared to do high school work.

It's really a great story.

It won't be easy. It takes a long time to repair a bad reputation. A lot of people don't trust the District's claims of improvement at the school because the District has a poor track record around honest communication. That track record was made by other people, but, as with the school staff, the current District staff inherit their predecessors' reputation.

There can be no doubt that the neighborhood is rough. There have been some highly publicized incidents of violence at and around the school. The school needs to show that they take student safety seriously.

It will be hard to raise the school's test scores because the school draws much of its student body from underperforming groups. Yet they are doing it.

Rainier Beach High School has reason to be proud of their achievements and their direction.

Anonymous said...

As a Seward Park resident and parent of two young kids I really hope the district finally gets behind RB & other SE schools. I am hopeful.

However, I am very uncomfortable with the location of RB. A community activist tells me that the dubious distinction of Seattle block with highest crime alternates between the corners of Rainier and Henderson and Rainier and Othello. Drive by shootings, assaults, armed robbery, carjacking, sexual assaults - all good reasons to avoid the vicinity. We didn't consider The New School in part due to the location.

I completely agree that the City could and should have a positive impact on schools by addressing crime in the Rainier Beach area.

I have tremendous admiration for the teachers and staff who are working so hard to turn things around. And, teachers shouldn't be expected to fix societal and neighborhood issues. We should all continue to press the District and City to make long overdue investments and take action in South Seattle.

Anonymous said...

We have a hard working, dedicated, innovative and creative faculty, staff and administration that will not accept anything other than academic success for all of our students, no matter what their level of ability when they walk through our doors for the first time.

Thank you Michael for this attitude and commitment. It's great to hear something besides, "let's just fail everyone after the 3rd grade WASL so that my child genius won't have to sit next them." ... and it's especially great to hear from SPS staff. Thank you.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, anonymous at 5:39, I missed the post when someone wrote:

"let's just fail everyone after the 3rd grade WASL so that my child genius won't have to sit next them."

Could you point it out to me? And if it turns out - as I suspect - that no one ever wrote or suggested anything like that, could you please apologize for the slander? Thanks.

We all need to do our part to keep this a civil and intelligent discourse. Anonymous pot shots are not constructive to that effort.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're thinking it could be you.

Anonymous said...

I'm very proud of RB for all of the accomplishments that they are making. It was shocking to read in the article this morning that RB's enrollment has dwindled to 370 or so students. I hope they can regain their market share, and become a thriving school. The south end sure could use it, and deserves it. It sounds like they are on the right track!

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that for RBHS from Spring 2006 to Spring 2007 the passing rate increases in WASL reading +8.5%, writing +10.5%, & math +10.1
produced a total of 29.1%

West Seattle was next with a 9.5% improvement followed by Cleveland with a 6.2% improvement out of 10 comprehensive high schools in Seattle ranked by WASL score improvement these are the top three.

Huge congratulations are due the RBHS community.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to RBHS for all the progress.

Dan- Its great to see the rise in passing rates. One comment though on the numbers. It doesn't make any sense to me that the passing rate increases (WASL reading +8.5%, writing +10.5%, & math +10.1) were summed to a total of 29.1%. It seems like that number of 29.1 shouldn't have a % next to it and would be meaningless unless it was divided by three to produce an average of the 3 improvement percentages. Or I am reading the data wrong?

Charlie Mas said...

Moreover, it isn't a percentage increase but an increase in percentage points.

To go from 8% to 16% is an 8 percentage point increase in the pass rate but a 100 percent increase in the pass rate.

To go from 88% to 96% is also an 8 percentage point increase but only a 10 percent increase in the pass rate.

Since school WASL scores are quoted as the pass rate, it can confuse all the numbers and changes in rates.

Anonymous said...

"The previous Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer refused to intervene. They allowed the spiralling decay to accelerate out of control.

The current Chief Academic Officer and Superintendent, however, have stepped in. They are providing the school with additional funding specifically to expand the course offerings."

Sorry Charlie, but Raj Manhas was the Superintendent who decided to provide the school wih additional funding specifically to expand the course offerings. That decision was made, announced, and began implimentation before Dr. G-J arrived. I know you refuse to acknowledge anything positive that he did, but this decision was his. Dr. G-J has carried it forward, and put her own spin on it (I mean that in a good way), but it was not intiated by her.

Anonymous said...

Dan you have made it very clear that you think the WASL stinks as an assessment tool. Why then do you quote WASL scores for RB and West Seattle??? You can't have it both ways. You either value the information that the WASL provides, or you don't. You really should decide, and then stick to your decision.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:19,

The WASL is the only tool we have.
Have you noticed that?

Yes I think the WASL is hugely flawed and over time improved results are inflated.

The WASL remains the only tool we have to compare anything that is happening in even a flawed way.

These are improvements based on percentage point differentials.

The fact that this district and state have only this flawed instrument is hardly the fault of RBHS or my fault.

What is your point?

Mine is that based on year to year comparisons of WASL results from Spring 2006 to Spring 2007, RBHS has performed in an outstanding way.

So again: What is your point?

Anonymous said...

My point is that you do not regard the WASl as a legitimate, functional evaluation tool. You have made that very clear in many of your posts. When someone on this blog uses WASL scores to support their statements or point, you quickly point out how flawed the WASL is, and use that to de-value their point.

However, when WASL scores benefit or support your points, you have no problem using them, posting them, and standing behind them????

You are right, it is the only tool we have, like it or not. So, we either accept it and utilize the data that it provides, no matter how flawed you think it is, or you don't. But you can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

A measurement can be very flawed and yet have some value in aggregate. When I was pregnant with my twins, I was told that individual weight estimates based on ultrasound were likely to be quite inaccurate, but that changes in estimated weight over time were a good measure of the babies' well-being. Similarly with fundal height: my doctor told an accompanying intern during one of my exams, "That's the trouble with twins. *I* don't know where she's supposed to be. She's bigger than she was last time, that's all I care about."

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:15,

I think your accept WASL as valid for everything or ignore it completely position is without merit.

The situation here with Rainier Beach is very similar to Helen's point.

You seem more interested in berating me than in analyzing situations in this district.

So what do you think about the Rainier Beach improvement...
is it real or just an illusion?

Are great congratulations merited by the RB community or are we being hoodwinked?

Anonymous said...

Dan, I have never disputed the validity of the WASL. I don't think it's the best or only tool we should be using, but I think it is all we have right now and so we must take what we can from it. So yes, I believe the data suggests that RB is making huge progress.

You are the one that manipulates the validity of the WASL and bashes it all the time.......except when it works to support your points, then you point to the data that it provides.

Anonymous said...

Correction I do not manipulate the validity of the WASL. As far as the WASL being a valid instrument for the measurement of High School level math achievement it is not.
As far as being a measure of Reading Skill improvement over time it is not.

Read the Washington Institute for Public Policy Interim report for WASL 2006 by Wade Cole and Robert Barnofski carefully observe the strand data from year to year for reading and math.

You said:
And so we must take what we can from it.

Thanks for clarifying that we can do that but I can't.

Congratulations on finally using a screen name in this discussion. Could you please remember to keep a consistent screen name and use it. That way I'll have an idea of when I speak to you as opposed to all the other Anon's.

Using a screen name is a courtesy that takes only a few seconds more than anon. It adds greatly to a reader's ability to identify the participants in the ebb and flow of various discussions (or do you believe even this coutesy would violate privacy).

Perhaps you are the Anon with the attitude of get used to it, its what I prefer to do in this medium.

Anonymous said...

Dan, do you not have any bigger fish to fry than berating people who post anonymously????

The managers of this blog have decided to make it OK to post anonymously. They didn't have to. They could make everyone register and identify themselves. But they don't. WHY THEN DO YOU THINK YOU CAN OR SHOULD???????

Let it go Dan. Chalk it up as a pet peeve of yours and move on. You look absolutely ridiculous pounding on a poster for doing something that is readily accepted by the managers of this blog.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct. It is not illegal to be discourteous.

Some care to use manners and courtesy anyway.

Anonymous said...

It is in no way discourteous to post anonymously. If Beth were to force people to identify themselves you would loose many posters, especially teachers and district administrators, who unlike you, do not feel secure revealing their views publicly. They post under the safety and security of anonimity. Why would you want to take that away from them Dan??? And to say that is is discourteous is absurd. I value the fact that ANYONE can post here. I am glad that this blog is so well read and attended. I would hate to see it shrink in attendance because YOU want to know a persons screen name, which tells you nothing of relevance anyway. Thank goodness you have absolutely no authority....you merely rant and rage. Arghhh

Anonymous said...

Please tell me how the choice of a screen name in anyway changes anonymity. It makes it easier to address responses to questions. It also makes it much easier to read through threads and follow the dialogue.

How would a name such as Teachermom or Country Joe or MadMax or FineMan violate anonymity?

What am I missing here?

I certainly agree that the SPS may well be viewed as vindicative when it comes to those who choose the freedom of speech guaranteed to public employees.

Private corporations can demand allegiance to the company that a public school is not legally allowed to require. This certainly has rarely stopped many administrators from bullying employees for expressing their views.

I fail to see how the use of a screen name in anyway compromises a person's position within the SPS.
Assuming of course they do not publicly divulge their screen name.