Saturday, February 16, 2008

Open Thread

Here's an open thread for anything on your mind.

The WASL is looming (I was surprised to see at Sealth a big countdown banner. Is this at your school as well?). This semester our kids have mid-winter break, the WASL (which disrupts the regular school day for 2 weeks), and spring break. Are they ever in school longer than a week? The new Enrollment plan preliminary roll-out is looming. There's a 4-hour Work Session this week on district demographics on Feb. 20, from 4-8.

Just as an aside, I thought my post about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Cheryl Chow was going to be a " just letting you know" brief. It sparked a very real and valid discussion about race. I am always surprised at what ends up with the most comments but it's what keeps this blog alive and relevant. Thanks for speaking up.


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering about the title of this blog. It used to be "Save Seattle Schools", but now the title appears to be "Seattle Public Schools". While I always felt the old title reflected a pessimistic view of the school district, the new title is misleading since it sounds too official. A first time visitor to the site might be mislead to believe that school officials post to this site.

Anonymous said...

As we wait for the enrollment plan to work itself out, my personal number one concern right now is how the Seattle School District is going to address the growing population of school aged children in Northeast Seattle. Our elementary schools are already packed with waiting lists. This year I've heard there was a 25% increase in kindergarten applicants for the NE cluster for 08-09. 4 our of 6 schools in this cluster alone were asked to find room in their overcrowded school for an additional kindergarten class.

Eckstein is overcrowded as it is. There will not be room in this school for these additional kids once they reach that age. Even the private schools have seen large increases in applicants for this next school year and are having to turn down more kids than normal.

The school district needs to address this increase in students now as our elementary schools are full, our middle school is full and one of our high schools is beyond full. I haven't heard anything from the school district about this increasing population other than reading in the paper once that there are plans to make View Ridge Elementary larger sometime before the year 2050. I sent an e-mail asking a school board member about it (a few days ago) and have since not heard back. Has anyone heard anything about this from a school district level?

Melissa Westbrook said...

What I can tell you from attending various meetings is this:

-BEX IV (to be voted on in 2012) will be elementary schools and middle schools (we've redone nearly every high school to some degree except NOVA, of course). That sounds good on paper (and I believe McGilvra, Laurelhurst and Rodgers were on the short-list for BEX III) and it will be north end elementaries renovated as far more south end schools have been renovated.

Bad news: the Facilties department says a new middle school will cost - drumroll - $150M so work that out for an elementary and it's probably $75. I know but that's what was on a slide at the district's presentation at Sealth two weeks ago. So if you do two middle schools (likely to be either Eckstein, Whitman or Washington)at $150M a pop, plus 2 elementaries at $75M a pop, that's about $450M.

-the new enrollment plan will start with high schools (with roll-out next year for school year 09-10). We'll have to go to the upcoming community meetings (not yet scheduled) to find out when they will change middle and high school enrollment.

I know they will try to draw the boundaries to "right-size" all schools. So, that may mean a less-full school but it may not be the school you feel is your "neighborhood" school. There will have to be trade-offs and compromises. Are we all up to that challenge?

Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

NE Seattle needs more capacity. Summit in the Jane Adams building is the only school/building that is continually and severely under enrolled. It makes logical sense to move Summit to a right sized building in a more central location since they are an all city draw school. Since Eckstein can't and shouldn't get any larger, why not use the Jane Adams building to house a new new middle school or even a k-8 traditional school. And, what about the building up in Cedar park that used to be an elementary school (????) that the district leases to the community? Can we take that building back and open a new elementary school? We have to do something???

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I should have said that I have believed the district wants to move Summit or get rid of it. In their last attempt on the assignment plan, they summarily got rid of it.

It's not Summit's fault; they were in the center of the city for a long time, then got placed "temporarily" at Jane Adams and there they stayed. They'd rather be centrally located (as the only K-12 school in the district) but where to put them is the dilemma.

I think they could take back the Cedar building (that's one I don't know much about except it's not mothballed) but it would likely take work on the building and, allegedly, the district doesn't have extra money.

The demography work session on the 20th will be revealing and maybe force some answers to these questions.

Beth Bakeman said...

I'd be happy to change the blog title --- any suggestions? I did change the original title (although not the URL) after the school closure process finished because I thought it was too negative and backward-focused.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the original poster who suggested a new name for the blog, and I'm OK with it either way. If you do decide to change it, perhaps a name that is unifying, like "Seattle school advocates" or "public school advocates" or "education matters"

dan dempsey said...


"West Seattle High School has been awarded an National Institute for Math and Science grant for increased participation and success in AP and pre-AP classes in English, Math, and Science"

More information at:
Go Westside!!

dan dempsey said...

UW Professor of Mathematics, Paul Tseng, has written a letter to Dr Bergeson, the Superintendent of Public instruction.

This is the first time in my memory that the UW College of Education's party line has come under any scrutiny from anyone at the University.

Dr Tseng really spells out what is going on in other countries in math and points out several places where the proposed million dollar Bergeson Dana Center standards appear to be inadequate.

Dr Paul Tseng's letter to Dr Bergeson

Melissa Westbrook said...

Every single parent who cares about how and what math is taught to their children should read Dr. Tseng's letter to Dr. Bergeson. It should be required reading for the Board and Superintendent and CAO (Dan, did you send it to any of them or do you if Dr. Tseng cc'd them?).

So many excellent points that would benefit our children if enacted.

dan dempsey said...


I will send it to each board member.

You can send it to the Supt.



Anonymous said...

I'm interested in talking about class size, multi-age classrooms and the new assignment plan.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is on record (in the PI on 2/11: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/350769_classes11.html) as saying:
"...the difference is about the quality of instruction in the classroom, not about the size."

My kids have always been in classrooms that are at or above the contractual maximum. That has worked out ok (not wonderful!) for them, but other classes at the same school have experienced a critical mass of 'difficult' kids--or maybe interactions between slightly high maintainence kids-- and run into trouble.

I have no experience with multi- age classrooms.

I believe that the proposals we hear for the new assignment plan must lead to a larger VARIATION in class size and perhaps a larger use of multi-age classrooms. Right now, if too many families choose a neighborhood school, they fill the classrooms and the extras are sent to their second choice. If too few choose it, they have a small kindergarten or create a K-1 multi-age class.

What will happen if every family in a reference area is guarenteed access to a school? What will happen to schools (like McGilvra, mentioned in the above article) that buy down their class size?

Now, 'unpopular' schools (often schools in poor neighborhoods) tend to have smaller classes and 'popular' schools (often in richer neighborhoods) tend to have larger classes (unless they buy down). That (I believe) has to benefit poor kids to some extent (holding all else constant).

What will be the effect on class size of the new guarenteed assignment plan?

(what happened to the 'nickname' option?)

dan dempsey said...


It turns out that Dr Paul Tseng originally sent his letter to the SPS Board and Harium suggested he send it to Dr Bergeson.


Anonymous said...

I'm so tired of hearing about the WASL. I think it is a useless test, and am saddened to see all of the effort that goes into WASL prep. I am all for standards, and accountability, and assessment. I would just like to see something meaningful. I don't even care to see my children's results, as I don't believe that it is a valid measure of meaningful learning. I think "teaching to the test" and all of the "WASL prep" robs our kids of time that could be spent on engaging, in depth learning, as well as projects, art, etc.

Someday I think we will look back regretfully, and realize that Bush's horrible little experiment has been played out on our kids.

dan dempsey said...

Anon at 7:09,

Do not lay all of this on Bush.
Dr Bergeson is the one who decided to use the WASL as the NCLB instrument.

This was not necessary in fact, we had forces at work to change this to the MAP test. The map would have judged each student on their improvement. Instead we have 100% of the students trying to jump over an artificially placed bar.

Dr Bergeson did not want the MAP to replace the WASL, so it did not happen.

It is time to vote Rich Semler for SPI in 2008, enough of this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I went to the Nathan Hale open house last week. A few things really stood out.

First: The principal made the comment that Nathan Hale is a "comprehensive alternative school".

Second: they said that their band teacher left two years ago and that the band program was crippled. They are slowly trying to rebuild it, but it is in transition.

Third: Their drama program is basically boils down to a spring musical, in which they proudly portray as an "edgy" type production. Last year it was Urinetown, this year Third Night and Bat Boy.

Fourth: they do not offer ANY self contained AP classes. They don't even talk about AP classes on the tour. It is almost like a bad word, and definitely seems anti-philosophy.

I am puzzled as to how the district can be moving in the direction of neighborhood schools when a school like Hale is so far off the beaten path?? A self proclaimed "alternative" school.

If we move toward neighborhood schools then Hale should be classified as a choice, or alternative program. It is wrong to make such a school a neighborhood school. It is unfair to them as families may not "buy in" to their philosophies, and it is unfair to a student who this school may not be a good fit for. Namely motivated students who want AP classes, a strong band or drama program.

Of course, even without the "neighborhood school" assignment plan changes, we still couldn't get into Roosevelt as we live slightly more that 1.8 miles away from the school that is necessary to get in.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it seems to me that Hale should either be more standardized or not be a 'neighborhood' school. But that is also true of John Stanford International School and Madrona and Blaine K-8s (and probably some other schools that aren't on my radar).

Are special cases like this being addressed by the new assignment plan?