Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Action driven by enrollment numbers

Some of the enrollment numbers provided through the P-I education blog are just astonishing.

I have written to Ruth Medsker, the education director for middle schools, about why enrollment at Denny was cut off at 128 and 11 students were put on a waitlist. At that rate, the school would only have 384 students. It now has 629 (210 per grade). Perhaps the numbers were wrong. Perhaps not.

Given the imbalance between Meany and Washington, some action is required. I'm thinking that the best interests of the students and the District would be served if middle school APP moved from Washington to Meany. That would, over time, move about 420 students from Washington to Meany. Meany would still have room for a general education program of either 270 or 360 students. Does anyone have any other ideas? I'm not sure how the District would feel about Meany housing APP and Spectrum with no general education students. It wouldn't provide APP and Spectrum students time with a more academically diverse community and it wouldn't provide space for non-gifted siblings at the school. Spectrum-eligible students at Meany could be served through participation in the school's ALO. I'd like to discuss this idea for a while, refine it, and then I would like to prepare a program placement proposal to effect the change.

I'm also thinking of preparing a program placement proposal to suggest moving the AAA out of their building. I'm thinking it could go into T T Minor. There is sufficient surplus capacity in the Central cluster that any T T Minor student who didn't want to join the African-American Academy could find a seat elsewhere. I will then suggest that the AAA building be the home of a new program: The Option Program II - a K-8 school duplicating The Option Program at Seward (TOPS) in philosophy and implementation. This is also an idea that can be refined through discussion.

I'm not sure how to address the imbalance in the Central cluster where four schools have waitlists and four schools didn't attract enough first choices to form a class. I think it would help if we were to make Lowell a neighborhood school because it would provide general education peers for the Special Edcuation students there, and it would add so much capacity to the cluster that the District could close two schools. If the AAA did move to T T Minor, Lowell could take a lot of the reference area that T T Minor used to have.

Actually, now that I think about it, we can put these two ideas together. What if we create a new TOPS at the AAA, move the AAA to T T Minor, re-purpose Lowell as a neighborhood elementary school, move elementary APP to Meany, make room for the Meany students at Washington by moving middle school APP to Marshall, and put 300 general education students at Marshall with them to create additional middle school space in the northeast? I think the increase in elementary capacity in the central cluster, along with the surplus capacity already there, would allow the District to close one of those elementary schools.

Does that sound like a good proposal?


SE Mom said...

Good ideas. Here are my questions:
Meany seems to be on perhaps an upswing, so moving some programs from Washington to Meany could be more of a boost. I still have concerns about possible negative affects though on some programs (like music) at Washington, if advanced learning relocates. On an anecdotal note, I have heard recently from some Montlake parents that they will be considering Meany more carefully for middle school in the coming year.

About replicating TOPS - need to consider Orca, which is adding a middle school and is alternative. According to the district numbers,
Orca had 12 first choices for 6th grade for next year and will 26 kids assigned and not wait list (seems as if that means it is currently under enrolled for next year).

Also, connected to Beth's entry from yesterday about putting dialog into action, are we really making any headway on real changes with this blog? Charlie, what do you mean by you are going to make a
"program proposal change"?

anonymous said...

I know TOPS is popular, but I have to wonder if it is popular in part due to it's location. It is in an area without a traditional middle school. It is also in a cluster that has 3 schools with huge wait lists with the of the schools under performing and under enrolled. Because the three schools with the wait lists (Stevens, McGilvra, Montlake) are impossible to get into if you don't live in the immediate neighborhood people who live outside of their reference areas feel that they have no other options but to choose TOPS. I heard this from many families when I lived in the Central area. So, I wonder if the central or S cluster really needs a new TOPS?? I think a new Montlake, McGilvra or Stevens might be a better option. Not only do alternative schools have a much higher cost per pupil (transportation), but several alt programs around the city, including ORCA are not filling their class rooms.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah! Excellent question. Under the recently enacted Program Development and Placement Policy C56.00 anyone - including members of the public - can make a program placement request. There's a form to fill out. So if you want the District to create, place, eliminate, or re-locate a program, all you have to do is complete a program placement request and submit it. The Program Placement Committee will then discuss it and decide whether to act on it or not.

Meany may be on an upswing, but it has a way to go. It is likely to change a lot when the District goes to individual middle school reference areas (as described in the new assignment plan framework) and Meany's students are mostly coming from Montlake, McGilvra and Stevens.

I was thinking about the concentration of non-reference schools in the southeast when suggesting a TOP II for the area. While TOP II will be coming in, AAA will be going out, so it's a wash. I think ORCA's middle school enrollment will grow when they get a chance to show that they can run a middle school.

I would really like to find space for another alternative school in West Seattle, but I think we first need to find an appropriate space for Pathfinder.

Charlie Mas said...

There's an interesing idea!

Let's say that TOPS isn't popular based on its intrinsic charms, but only because it is in an area of perceived scarcity.

In that case, the re-opening of Lowell as a neighborhood school should be succesfull. If Lowell just took those 93 kids off the TOPS waitlist, that would be enough to fill the school.

Maureen said...

Last time I saw the data, more TOPS kids came from the south clusters than from central (that is largely because there are more kids there and because TOPS has a lot of ESL kids). I would guess that maybe 20 of those 93 come from the central cluster.

As far as creating TOPS II, The New School is probably the closest thing you could get (Their first two principals, at least one teacher and one of their early PTSA presidents came from TOPS). If they had a multi-cluster draw and transportation that might work, but do they (and the Foundation)want that? And if they don't, are there enough families to do the work to create another TOPS from the ground up? I think it's true that many of the people who would love to send their kids to TOPS wouldn't be willing to put in the time and energy to start it from scratch (including me), especially given the current push towards standardized curriculum and ongoing threats to transportation.

One advantage of reopening Lowell as a neighborhood school is that it would open more space at TOPS for Central cluster families who actually want to be at an alternative school and aren't just running away from their reference school.

Charlie, I think you should put more thought into what facilities are available at the various buildings as you move the pawns around your chess board. AAA is a K-8, they need a science lab, lockers etc if they are going to stay that way. APP K-5 at Meany would waste those resources (maybe APP K-8 if the numbers work out).

I'm surprised you haven't pulled Madrona into the equation. Could they combine with AAA? They're both K-8 and have similar focuses from what I hear. I haven't done the math but their K 1st choices only added up to 17 this year. I can't find the right map, but from what I hear alot of Madrona students come from outside the reference area already.

seattle citizen said...

The Marshall building would make a good, relatively central location for MS APP. I believe the MS APP numbers about 350. The Marshall building was originally designed for...850, I think, which would leave some capacity for an innovative MS to also be located in it.
As it sits, capacity is probably only...12 classrooms 2nd floor (only floor not modified since build), maybe three on first floor plus two large "double" rooms, and maybe five on third, including a very well-equiped science lab. Additionally, there are now some extra rooms that were reconfigured since build, some small "half" rooms...
So: 20 classrooms x 30 = 600, plus some break-out rooms, two gyms, art room (with nice kiln)...total capacity as it sits, maybe 700-750 with classes using all "regular" spaces.

There is ample office space.

Some problems with Marshall are:
a)it is three floors, and has no elevator for students/staff with mobility needs.
b) there is no playfield, tho' Greenlake is two blocks away. A playfield could be added in back by tearing up some asphalt, including three extant tennis courts.
c) gym shower facilities would need to be recreated, as those areas have been repurposed.
d) the luch room is very small. The "kitchen" is limited, and the eating area, a separate room, only holds about fifty students. The huge auditorium, which has a folding wall in back, has ample area to recreate a cafeteria.

The library is quite beautiful, but smallish. It's the only room that has original wood trims around ceiling, etc.

anonymous said...

Maureen, kids go to Tops from the south cluster for the very reason that they go to Tops from the central cluster. There are very very few high performing school in the south cluster. For many of the south cluster families alternative schools are their ticket out (with transportation), and so they flock to high performing Tops.

I'd be more interested to see the numbers of families coming from the north east cluster and even the north cluster, where there are many high performing neighborhood schools. Does Tops attract these families??

anne said...

I have a son at WMS that is in Spectrum but tests into the math track that most APP kids are in.

I like Spectrum/APP together at WMS so that he can be in both. I don't think there's another middle school that has the same math track.

I think the Advanced Learning Dept realizes there are lots of kids that are advanced in math/science but not reading and would like to accomodate them better in the future.

Just something to think about when discussing relocation of APP or Spectrum.

seattle citizen said...

Then Marshall building could be a MS APP/Spectrum school. An academy...

Melissa Westbrook said...

So many ideas, so little time and maybe, so few administrators/leaders willing to listen.

-Meany. I really don't know enough about this school to offer a good opinion except that Washington seems too large and what Charlie offers might work.

I note that Charlie tiptoes around the idea of a separate APP/Spectrum school. Scary. Look, folks, there are magnet/gifted schools all over the country. It's no big secret; in fact NYC just changed their test requirements from the top 5% to the top 10% (they use a different test than we use) just so more kids could get into gifted schools.

I almost think it makes more sense to have them separate so as to not engender the hostility it seems from having Spectrum programs all over.

- I think Adhoc makes a very good observation. Why is TOPS so popular? Adhoc is right about the particular circumstances of where it is, what other schools are or are not located nearby and the scarcity of seats. Nonetheless I believe a TOPS II in the south end could thrive.

Except for one thing which is New School. One, you still have the odd problem of two K-8s within a mile of each other. Two, New School would probably very unhappy if that occurred. I think New School is fine as long as AAA is doing poorly (not that New School wants that, it's just better for them if it does) and would not like the competition from a TOPS II (not to mention poor Dunlap which is slowly losing students).

-I had suggested - on Closure and Consolidation - making Lowell a regular-ed school to create more neighborhood capacity. So Charlie, we are thinking the same way.

I still favor - in a dreamlike way - K-8 APP/Spectrum (which would be full in a NY minute thus defying the idea that people don't want a magnet gifted school). But Seattle Citizen, your ideas of a small playground and other ways to make Marshall work, well I can guarantee that staff would shoot them down. They have other ideas for Marshall and are unlikely to be dissuaded unless leadership say, "No, we ARE going to do this."

-Central area inbalance. Well, many said the C&C committee punted when we did nothing in this area. Well, that's precisely because it is in a delicate situation of 4 very popular schools and 4 not-so-popular schools. They already were closing MLK; this was really a job for the Board and staff but as you can see, we're still in the same place.

-It is likely that under BEX IV, McGilvra might get the golden ticket to get rebuilt (sorry Montlake, your footprint is too small). So that may be something coming in the next 10 years. (I know, too late for our kids, but we are trying to think as guardians of the district and future parents may thank us.)

-Pathfinder. Well, it would have been nice if the district had put Pathfinder on the BEX III list but that didn't happen. So the only K-8 and alternative in SW/W Seattle has one of the worst buildings. This does make it hard for Pathfinder to draw in students (and I think given their enthused parent base they likely would grow if they were in a better building).

hschinske said...

My data is from the northwest, rather than north or northeast, but there are certainly a fair number of TOPS kids in Ballard. They share a bus with Lowell students, which is how I hear about them.

Last I heard, Eckstein routinely offered math through Integrated 2, and sometimes Integrated 3. Whitman (again, the last time I heard) did not -- they had honors math classes that did some extra enrichment, but not accelerated classes.

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said...

TOPS doesn't draw from N or NE, only kids who moved after they got in (or have 2 households) live in those clusters. (TOPS doesn't draw from West Seattle either)

cas said...

I went to Whole Foods today in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood, and they were giving 5% of all sales made today to...drum roll....John Stanford....
Ok, how in the heck did they decide to give to that school, instead of a less funded program and school?
I remember when my well-to-do neighbors rented a house a block from the school so they could get their first child in-they didn't even move out of their real house just were able to handle both payments.
I think there were more needy schools.

zb said...

Charlie: Where are you relocating APP from Lowell? And why resource Lowell, but not Seward? I think it makes a lot more sense to move TOPS, the program itself further south in Central, than it does to try to replicate another TOPS in Central.

We should also move (or close) Summit K-12, and resource Jane Addams for the north cluster.

And, I think something needs to be done about the Montlake and McGilvra programs, which are too small to be financially prudent.

I agree with ad hoc that much of the pressure on TOPS from Central (and SE) is the

anonymous said...

Cas, it's all about marketing and PR. Families or admin from John Stanford obviously approached Whole Foods for the 5% donations, filled out an application, whatever the process. If one of the low income schools did the same, I'm sure they would receive the 5% too, or at least get a shot at it.

What would be unfair is if one of the low income schools asked for the 5% donation, and Whole Foods denied it, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Whole Foods is a private corporation and has absolutely no obligation what so ever to SPS. Not to be fair, equitable or anything else. It's really no different than when parents solicit their local businesses for auction donations, really.

Like Chris Rock says, I don't agree with it, but I understand.

SE Mom said...

I am in favor of replicating successful program such as TOPS rather than moving them to other locations.

If it ain't broken, don't fix it.
If something works, do more of the same!

The district is doing something right in creating additional language immersion programs and that is what families seem to want.

zb said...

But, that depends on whether it's the program people are really going for, or for the school (location & demographics). I think folks are going to John Stanford for the language immersion, and so it can be replicated elsewhere. I think whether TOPS can be replicated elsewhere depends critically on whether it's really the program, and whether the program can be duplicated elsewhere. Frankly, if it were the program, it shouldn't be a big deal to move the school. It's proof that folks are going for the program. Then, if it continues to work elsewhere, we can talk about replicating it.

Stephanie Jones said...

Well, count me among the Meany supporters who don't want this "gem" of a small middle school changed in makeup and character (ie. to become an APP or APP/Spectrum school) in order to "fix" its low choice status. I know that the Meany leadership and staff does not want that, and I want my son to attend a school where he's NOT differentiated from his friends according to his test scores, but can access appropriate challenge, through ALO options and good teaching, alongside the same diverse kids he's gotten to know in elementary school. Right now, I have that option in my neighborhood, and intend to be one of those 1st choice votes next year.

While it's well within Charlie's and anyone else's rights to propose these ideas, I'm concerned about the belief that we should fix enrollment choice inequities by moving programs and kids around. It seems rather similar to moving popular principals around, and doesn't really deal with what is happening (good or bad) within the school buildings.

Moving more open slots to popular Washington (by moving APP out) doesn't make me any more eager to send my child there -- it's bigger, farther, it has a different philosophy -- it's not the same thing at all. By the same token, a TOPS II in South Beacon Hill cannot mimic the conditions of the current TOPS, in a comfortable neighborhood, right off the freeway, within easy reach of downtown. It wouldn't have the same popular teachers or 25-year reputation.

While the language immersion idea is more readily replicable, general ed programs (like TOPS) don't just get planted in neighborhoods where people don't want to go. Maybe I'm just more of a builder than a mover, but I believe that strong programs become (and remain) so because of parent and community buy-in, and getting that buy-in requires lots of dedicated attention to parent and community interests -- educational, social, safety, etc. The New School has developed itself slowly, grade by grade, and with loads of attention to community/neighborhood buy-in (not to mention loads of money). Orca's K-8 is developing the same way. Meany has started to do that outreach too, over the past couple of years, and it may yet reap results. OR, we could just move things around, but that wouldn't get my vote.

dan dempsey said...

Stephanie Jones said...

In summary that:
it takes time, thought, effort, and resources to produce sustainable quality education programs.

She can certainly correct me if my summary is inaccurate or incomplete.

It is wonderful to find another person not looking for a magic bullet or buying the current offerings of magic bullets or planning on selecting from the coming magic bullets.


If the SPS could see fit to offer a quality K-3 regular program based on strategies and materials that work. We would be a long way toward improvement.

Clearly the continuing ongoing failure by central admin to do so, inspires the continual rearrangement of the deck chairs.


Few folks wish to see their kids on long bus rides. Unfortunately the SPS leadership often leaves people with little choice.


My Granny used to say:

When uncertain or in doubt,
.. run in circles scream and shout.

{although many find that to be my MO - I disagree}

It seems that instead of running in circles our option has been to ride the bus rather than run.

A quick look at the confusion outlined by Charlie on a regular basis, shows no improvement from the Manhas administration in the MG-J era (initially, something few thought possible to do).


I agree with Ms Jones.
Lets get on with the planning of sustainable educationally sound programs. Unfortunately most of what the MG-J admin has advocated for is not that. The insistance on standardization of instruction without interventions for those unable to keep pace is beyond explanation. As is the choice and use of many of the materials that pacing plans are based on.

Good Luck Ms. Stephanie Jones and God's speed.

Charlie Mas said...

I can certainly understand if Ms Jones likes what's happening at Meany and wants that for her child. She should understand that she is in a small minority and that District-level decisions - such as program placement - need to serve the needs of a broader group of interests.

If she thinks that placing middle school APP at Meany would somehow ruin the school, then I have to wonder if she thinks that Washington, the current home of middle school APP, is ruined. And, if so, why does she think it's okay to ruin Washington, but not okay to ruin Meany in this way. If she does not believe that Washington is ruined by the presence of APP, then why would she think that APP would ruin Meany?

Ms Jones writes: "I want my son to attend a school where he's NOT differentiated from his friends according to his test scores, but can access appropriate challenge, through ALO options and good teaching, alongside the same diverse kids he's gotten to know in elementary school."

If APP and Spectrum are moved to Meany, she can enroll her son at Washington for that experience. Or, if only APP is moved to Meany she can choose between Washington, where the Spectrum students would be in self-contained classes for the LA/SS block only or Meany, where all of the same the general education students who were there before would still be there - there would just be some other students there as well.

I feel a need to point out the fact that only half of the students at Meany come from the Central Region. So only half of the students at Meany are "the same diverse kids he's gotten to know in elementary school".

If Washington is too far away, well, there are a lot more people who are going that distance for what Washington offers now. It's her turn to travel for what she wants. Sometimes you have to go a couple miles to get what you want.

As to what Meany leadership and staff wants, that has to be subordinate to what the District needs. And the District needs to make efficient use of its space. The District needs to meet the needs of a lot more people than the 29 who choose Meany.

It's fair to say that, to a certain extent, I am proposing that we fix enrollment choice inequities by moving programs and kids around. It may be that doing so "doesn't really deal with what is happening (good or bad) within the school buildings". But now I'm confused about Ms Jones' perspective. Is there something happening within Meany - something bad - which is causing its low choice status and needs dealing with? Or is Meany great just the way it is. If Meany is so damn wonderful, then why don't more people choose it? Could it be that Meany is wonderful for the narrow group who share Ms Jones' tastes? To what extent should we continue to cater to those tastes? Perhaps we could create a boutique middle school with a capacity of about 450 to accomodate those folks and re-purpose a building with a capacity of over 800 to a program with broader appeal.

I don't see what's so uncomfortable about the Beacon Hill neighborhood. I live there and find it VERY comfortable. The New School is close to the AAA and they don't seem to be having any discomfort in the neighborhood.

As for Beacon Hill being a neighborhood "where people don't want to go", I think Ms Jones is presuming too much that other people are like her. Let's remember that she doesn't want to travel even 1.75 miles south to Washington. I'm going to assume that she wasn't really trying to insult the people who live on Beacon Hill or in Southeast Seattle. It's enough to say that a lot of people want to go to Beacon Hill - maybe not Ms Jones - but a lot of people. It hasn't proven an impediment for The New School.

The AAA building may not be within 200 feet of a freeway offramp, but it is right on Beacon Avenue and very close to MLK Way, Renton Avenue, and Rainier Avenue. It is currently an all-city draw and the lcoation was chosen for it knowing that it would be an all-city draw. The location is just fine for transportation access.

If TOPS cannot be duplicated, then what is it? Is it a program or is it a set of personalities? It is true that a TOPS II wouldn't have the same teachers or a 25 year reputation - what new school could? That isn't an argument against a TOPS II; that's an argument against any new school. The New School hasn't had any of those advantages and has had absolutely no trouble attracting students.

Ms Jones has not shown herself to be a builder as she claims to be, since she is opposed to building any new schools - except, of course, the New School - because they don't have the same people, location, or longstanding reputation of existing schools.

She is right, however, "that strong programs become (and remain) so because of parent and community buy-in". Surely she can see that Meany does not have that buy-in - as demonstrated by the anemic enrollment and the overwhelming preference for Washington among those with the choice. Meany has had 106 years to gain that buy-in and hasn't got it. I think it's time to try something different.

zb said...


I really don't get the motivations in your moving plans.

I think they're premised on a mistaken assumption about school selection being driven purely by some kind of choice about educational theory, ignoring all of the other details that drive people's choices (including distance, access, economic make up of the school, racial make up of the school, personal interactions with enthusiastic or cranky tour guides, not to mention the meta-effect of schools becoming more popular purely because they are more popular). Modeling your "action" plans on that premise independent of the motivations for the choices won't have the effects

Obviously, if TOPS success owes more to it's location and freeway access than to it's educational strategy, the "first choice" numbers at TOPS (the enrollment numbers you think should drive action) tells us nothing at all about how TOPS II would be received. Perhaps enrollment numbers could drive action, but it requires more than just knowing the numbers; we need to know the motivations for the choices as well.

I also think there is a huge cost to uncertainty (as in moving principles, moving programs, moving children).

Yes, I'm an advocate of guaranteed reference schools, and a wholesale change in the dynamics of choice in Seattle. Choice would be fine, on a space available basis, and I still see room for alternative schools that implement different educational theories. But I reject the notion that "free trade" in schools is improving education.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's interesting because when the C&C committee suggested moving TOPS, TOPS said their building was designed for them and they couldn't move because it would wreck the program. This was an troubling because then the argument is over the building and the point has been made elsewhere that a program isn't its building.

So even with moving all the same teachers and administrators, TOPS said they couldn't do the same program. So indeed, with that thinking how could a TOPS II ever exist?

I make this point because Charlie might be a bit heavy-handed in his assessments but this all needs to be discussed by the district.

You cannot change the assignment plan by drawing some boundaries and calling it a day. It is likely that for elementary at least, people will have more choices (albeit they will have to pay for transportation if their choice is out of their region) but for middle and high school choice will be come very limited. The popular schools will fill up.

Many communities would argue that they don't have good enough variety in their assigned school and may even bring a lawsuit against the district for forcing them into a school that is not comparable to what others have access to. And they would likely win because, at this point, it's true.

So Charlie's argument about moving programs around to help schools that are underenrolled is not crazy. The district has to show equity in its planning. And, it has to not allow some schools to take on the burden, yes burden, of more students because other schools are not attractive to parents. (I note that Whitman has been quietly drawing back its numbers for years and it appears Eckstein and Roosevelt are as well.)

What should have been understood from closure and consolidation (but seems to not have sunk in) is that the district is very much on a direction to have different sized schools than we have today.

They want schools bigger and they want them full.

I put that in its own paragraph because it needs to be understood. Go read the new FMP and see what sizes they are aiming for AND what sizes they will be building to in the future. They will not be building any elementary (unless there is a land constraint) under 500.

The district is going to have to be creative in how they put forth an assignment plan that will (1) calm parents who see inequities and (2) fill schools so that we don't have half-full schools.

Believe, I know there are people who like small schools. I appreciate that (although small school doesn't mean small class size and sometimes that confuses people). And, due to land constraints and how slowly the district can replace buildings, we will likely always have some smaller schools. But it is not the direction the district seems to want or the model they can sustain.

Charlie Mas said...

The fundamental problem with Seattle Public Schools, the fault at the source of nearly all of the district's other problems, is this: the district is not responsive to the needs of the community it serves.

zb rejects the notion that open choice improves school quality. There is no data provided to support that position, but I doubt there is anything that will change that mindset anyway. I do howp that zb will acknowledge that open choice gives people an opportunity to select a community and a program for their child.

I am equally convinced that severely limited choice with guaranteed reference schools will not improve school quality. The frequency of success is tiny. There is no reason to be confident of success. I think we can all agree, however, that reducing choice would reduce the opportunity for students to escape a poorly functioning school or a mismatched academic program.

Why do people choose TOPS? I'm sure everyone has their own reason.

Maybe some are choosing it for the location. For them, I suppose it would be just as well or even better if TOPS were a neighborhood reference school. If that's the case, then there would be no possible way to create a TOPS II since no other school could have that location.

But just as I cannot confidently state that people are not choosing TOPS for the location, I don't think that zb has data to support the confident statement that location is the primary motivation. There is no data in either direction.

There is a myriad of factors contributing to school choice. It is heavily nuanced and location, community, and academic programs all figure. I'm comfortable with that complexity and uncertainty. I see the benefits of choice very clearly. I don't see any benefit in reducing the determining factors to strictly location.

Why do people choose TOPS? I'm sure everyone has their own reason. If any of the 93 on the waitlist are looking for a program, and the second location is acceptable to them, and the second community is acceptable to them, we can accomodate their choice and we should.

The District needs to learn to be responsive to the needs of the community it serves. The community is calling for more TOPS. The District should provide it.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa is right; the trend is towards larger enrollments in buildings.
There are economies of scale in this: Fewer heating bills, fewer librarians, fewer transportation costs, etc.

But what happened to the "small school" movement? Gates funded that for a few schools, with, as far as I can tell, little positive effect (I believe there were problems with staff training and buy-in, among others).

If the trend is towards building with more students in them, then creatively mixing programs might be advisable, as programs that can approach the district proactively and suggest various combinations might have more control over their destinies.

This still leaves us with the alts, which are, for the most part, smaller. How will they argue for thier continued existence in the face of a trend towards larger enrollments in each building? If The district is aiming to reduce the amount of facilities it operates, how will the alts argue that they should be spared from this reduction?

If we look at history, say the history of Marshall, we see administrators and BLTs actively adding programs to their schools in order to continue to exist. Marshall started out as a "progressive alt," and then, over the years, added other components to maximize its efficiencies. Of course, towards the end, it wasn't successful as it was, some might argue, over-staffed (but some would also argue that given the nature of its populations, a large staff was necessary)

So we have had, and will have, jockeying for programs in order to bolster building usage. This is not ideal, but it suggests that proactive and creative mixing of programs might best utilize resources and also meet the district's apparent desire to reduce the number of building sites.

seattle citizen said...

I agree that TOPS rocks. But I'm interested in hearing why people think that. Can we give some reasons that we think TOPS is a "good school"?
I'll start: K-8 allows older students to mentor younger students


anonymous said...

Yes, it appears the community is asking for another TOPS, with a WL of 93 kids. But the community is also asking for another McGilvra, Montlake, Stevens, Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst and Wedgewood. It's also asking for another Garfield, Ballard, Roosevelt, Salmon Bay and Eckstein. Why single TOPS out? Why not replicate Stevens instead?? If there was another high performing traditional school in the area, it might relieve the pressure on TOPS. It might allow TOPS to attract the families that truly value alternative education, and are not choosing TOPS because they have no viable neighborhood school options. Why replicate the program that has a higher per pupil cost before replicating a popular program with a lower pupil cost, especially since it seems the community is demanding both? Why replicate a program that may in part be popular because of it's lack of competition in the area, and not because people are so drawn to the program itself?? I think before the district replicates a program like TOPS it needs to survey the current TOPS community and find out exactly why they chose the program.

anonymous said...

"This still leaves us with the alts, which are, for the most part, smaller. How will they argue for thier continued existence in the face of a trend towards larger enrollments in each building"

Co-house (not combine) programs with low enrollments like AS1 and Summit. NOMS and COHO, now Salmon Bay, did this quite successfully. You could also grow alt k-5's like AEII into k-8's to increase enrollment.

Charlie Mas said...

Replicate Stevens?

Okay... I mean this in the nicest possible way, but is Stevens unique in any way other than location? That is to say, is Stevens wonderful because of something that they do at Stevens that can be done elsewhere, or is Stevens wonderful because it is in an affluent neighborhood?

If the factor that elevates Stevens is the high level of discretionary income of the student families, then how do we replicate that?

Supposedly - and I know there are people who would argue this point - they are doing something differently at TOPS. Something which can be replicated in another location with another population - or at least with some of the 93 families on the TOPS waitlist.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen, there is this confusion over small schools versus small school communities. Gates was arguing for breaking up large high schools but not into many smaller schools (with buildings) but into smaller communities where all the teachers knew all the students.

This got brought up a lot during C&C and we tried to explain to people that Gates was not talking about a small school per se. (Also I think the Gates money was a great kickstart to forcing each and every school - whether willingly or not - to systematically examine what they were doing. I think some teachers were unhappy with it but I think a lot of the unhappiness came from doing a lot of work towards a transformation that could not be sustained either because of lack of resources or lack of will from the district.)

Adhoc makes some great points. I'm not singling out TOPS. The point there is yet another piece of the assignment puzzle. There are not enough good quality elementary schools in that area to keep all the students who exist. Many go private. So, again, going back to C&C, when we suggested moving TOPS we saw many opportunities. TOPS gets most of its students from the Central and SE and so moving it closer to them seemed logical. It also would have made people in those areas believe that the district DOES want them to have quality schools right in their neighborhoods. We also saw that we could address the problems of lack of capacity at McGilvra, Montlake,etc. by moving TOPS and letting that building become a regular ed K-8. Again, this did not come to pass but there was thinking about the problems in that area.

I think one of the problems of replicating a regular ed school, especially in elementary, is that alternatives, like TOPS, have a specific focus. In their case I believe it is social justice and art. Maybe I just not aware but most regular ed elementaries don't have a specific focus so replicating a Stevens would be harder than replicating a TOPS.

You ask about co-housing programs but that got a tremendous pushback during C&C for various reasons ("it's our building", not enough room, not similar enough programs). Again, when the new assignment plan comes if the district cannot afford to keep transporting students everywhere, the first programs likely to go are alternative.

Money always, always is the driver in decision-making, whether it is facilities or program placement. Something to keep in mind.

Maureen said...

seattle citizen: The most important of many reasons we chose TOPS is that the families there reflect the entire population of Seattle. I didn't want my kids to go to school only with children who looked and lived like them. Our NW neighborhood schools were very white and very upper middle class. We thought about moving south, but it seemed that most of the schools there weren't any more truly diverse (just much less white). The TOPS curriculum centers on and celebrates the cultures of all of our families.

That's one reason we love TOPS.

anonymous said...

"If the factor that elevates Stevens is the high level of discretionary income of the student families, then how do we replicate that?"

Stevens may not be as affluent as many think. Here are some numbers to play with.

From SPS 2007 annual report:

Stevens has 18% black students
TOPS has 20% black students

Stevens has 53% white students
TOPS has 44% white students

Stevens has 18% Latino students (probably due to their stong spanish program)
TOPS has 8% Latino students

Stevens has 10% Asian students
TOPS has 27% Asian students

From the Seattle Times 2008 school guide:

Stevens has 31% of their students receiving free/reduced lunch, while TOPS has on 19%.

Stevens has one of the strongest, well respected principals in the district, Larry Bell. They use their I-728 funds to buy an extra teacher and reduce class size to 23 in every grade. They have a very strong Spanish program that attracts many Latino students.

Can this be replicated? I'm not sure?? But it can't be much harder to replicate Stevens than TOPS, given the numbers.

Stephanie Jones said...

It may be that personal examples are not the best way to illuminate general ideas -- clearly my choices are my own and represent the current minority, given the statistics. I recognize and meant to convey that while TOPS and Washington are certainly substantially more popular choices than Meany or a number of other central cluster options, their popularity likely derives from a number of reasons, including, as zb said quite well, "the meta-effect of schools becoming more popular purely because they are more popular" (and I would contend that others are becoming less popular, sometimes for the same reason.)

In my observation and anecdotally, I find that lots of folks choose schools for reasons fairly far removed from educational purpose, including distance, neighborhood, cohort (who else will be there with my kid?), special programs or absence thereof, siblings, "buzz," you name it. So while choice creates popularity inequities, they are not always about educational quality. My point is that if we make moves to fix the popularity inequities, we need to be very careful about the ramifications on educational programs.

That said, I am not opposed to building new schools, particularly when there is good attention to "time, thought, effort, and resources to produce sustainable quality education programs" (Dan Dempsey's paraphrase), nor am I opposed to moving or replicating programs. I think all these things should be considered in order to repair overall district quality (and equality).

I just want us to remember that we can build up(as in improve, through coordinated school/community efforts) existing schools as well, where there is potential. And to recognize and build on potential, we have to go much deeper than 1st choice votes or the enrollment trends of a few cohorts.

Charlie Mas said...

By all means, Ms Jones, go deeper.

I'd love to see to do it. Until you do, please don't dismiss the facts as insubstantial.

I'm not sure what significance, if any, you put on first choice for assignment, but regardless of the import of that statistic the District cannot sustain large inequities in choice such as the one between Meany and Washington.

I can't say what motivates people to choose one school instead of another - I'm sure it is a mix of factors, but I do know that a large number of the APP students at Washington are at Washington because it is the designated site for middle school APP. If Meany were the designated site for middle school APP, I am confident that nearly all of those APP families that now choose Washington would choose Meany instead.

That change in program placement would have the direct effect of shifting 420 students from Washington to Meany. Before considering any indirect effect, Washington's enrollment would go from 1038 to 618 and then up again to about 900 when the students on the waitlist are admitted. Meany's enrollment would go from 450 to 870. That would be a step in the right direction for both schools.

There would be indirect effects. It may be that Meany would not want to be as large as 870 - the building's stated planning capacity is 813. In that case, about 90 students who would otherwise enroll at Meany could not. Since half of Meany students come from outside the reference area, it is likely that no neighborhood students would be denied access as a result of this change.

Another indirect effect would be that Ms Jones - and those who share her preferences - would not choose Meany. That would amount to about 90 (three times the 29 who chose the school as it is for the coming fall). What a coincidence! That makes room for the 90 kids who had to leave.

It is, however, possible that some families would choose Meany because APP is there. I can't guess how many, but unless it approaches 300 of them, there will be room for every student who lives in the region.

Let me put this as clearly as I can:

Schools that are not attracting enough students to sustain their programs need to make a change. If the school is unwilling to make that change for itself, then the District will have to impose that change. The District cannot allow schools to wither; there are costs associated with that inaction.

Many of the costs are financial, but not all of them.

Ms Jones and the 29 student families that chose Meany may be pleased with the opportunities there, but there are 99 students on the Washington waitlist who are pushed out of their school of choice because the District is accomodating these 29. That's not right, it's not fair, it's not equitable, and it is a signal that we need change.

If all Meany needs is better marketing - and there is no data to support that contention - then they had bloody well better get started on that. Inaction is unacceptable. If they cannot increase their enrollment, then - regardless of the quality of their current program - the District should do it for them by placing a program in the building whether they like it or not.

It is selfish of the Meany community to insist on occupying that whole building for the benefit of 29 students a year. The District can't afford it.

zb said...

"Supposedly - and I know there are people who would argue this point - they are doing something differently at TOPS. "

I have found absolutely little evidence of this, in a purely educational sense, as other schools have adopted TOPS-like philosophies over the years. Furthermore, even if it were true that they were doing something "different", before replicating the program, one has to show that the families are going there for the program itself.

ad hoc presents evidence that TOPS is less diverse than Stevens. I did an analysis looking at the enrollment #'s for 2006 that showed that for every reference school in Central, the free lunch proportion was lower for the students who left their reference school to go to TOPS than in the reference school itself. For this and so many reasons (including the hullabaloo about a planned relocation of TOPS), I think the idea that problems in the central/se cluster can be fixed by adding a TOPS-II are foolish. As ad hoc says, let's create a Stevens (in Seward) and move TOPS.

And, that solution is golden, 'cause it doesn't matter then if Stevens popularity is purely because of its location -- Seward will have that benefit too. And, your TOPS-II will just be TOPS, moved elsewhere.

I do think schools should be closed if no one wants to go to them. But, I find "first choice" rankings to be a poor assessment, and, we really need to know *why* a school is popular or unpopular, before coming up with flaky, ideological driven solutions. Say, we all know that the NE cluster elementary schools are popular, and the SE cluster schools are not. But, that surely can't be fixed by closing all the SE schools and building new ones in NE.

zb said...

"If all Meany needs is better marketing - and there is no data to support that contention - then they had bloody well better get started on that. Inaction is unacceptable. If they cannot increase their enrollment, then - regardless of the quality of their current program - the District should do it for them by placing a program in the building whether they like it or not."

I have another solution: assign Meany a right-sized reference area, and do the same for Washington. Program placement will need to be part of this solution, and it could end up making sense to move APP from Washington to Meany.

Charlie Mas said...

Meany and Washington currently share a single reference area.

Maureen said...

(I wrote this before I read zb's post so it doesn't address that)

ad hoc: I just don't understand what it would mean to replicate Stevens. Why isn't TTMinor or Leschi a replication of Stevens? What makes that not happen; if we add a strong Spanish program will it be? Do we need to clone Larry Bell? Is it important that the ethnic distribution match that of Stevens? (btw, the Annual report lists TOPS FRL as 24% not 19%)

Warning: too much detail follows, but I couldn't stop myself, I recommend you skim!

I'm not sure it would be much easier to replicate TOPs, but you could start by allowing a five cluster draw with transportation. You make it K-8. You hire a principal who supports teacher autonomy and LOTS of parent involvement. You hire crazy smart teachers who work their butts off, and then come back for meetings (smiling the whole time). You find room in the budget for a full time counselor and integrate a bullying prevention program. You use a multicultural curriculum and celebrate (not tolerate) all families. You begin social studies with family histories in K and go straight through to the oral history project in 8th. You make sure there is a strong drama and public speaking program (which means a stage and sound system and loads of volunteers). You have PE every day. You have visual art 1st-8th. You insist on high academic performance from everyone but you don't track. You teach science K-8. You take more field trips than seems physically possible (including camping for every grade), and then you do TOPICS so classroom instruction time often gets cut into. No one is excluded from any activity due to financial need (including ski bus). You resist cutting class size and count on parents to be virtual aides. You need lots of parent time and support to make any of this work so you 'require' 30 hours per family per year but the only enforcement tool is peer pressure and a sense of responsibility. (And then you do fifty other things that are important to the other people who go to all the meetings you have…)

Rant over, thoughtful conclusion follows.

I don't know, can we replicate this school? It seems like even if you somehow managed to budget for it (remember a lot of TOPS' extras have been added by the community over years with lots of grants and sweat equity), and you could find administrators, teachers and parents who were game, you couldn't guarentee that it would work. Schools are like biological organisms, I don’t think it’s possible to replicate them.. We can learn from their successes and incorporate what we learn into program design, but we can’t recreate a living breathing community.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie said,
"Schools that are not attracting enough students to sustain their programs need to make a change. If the school is unwilling to make that change for itself, then the District will have to impose that change. The District cannot allow schools to wither; there are costs associated with that inaction."
This is true. But even some schools that have proposed change have had no action taken, the proposed changes dropped into an echoing well, and then the district imposes its own changes.

For instance, it's been said that Marshall designed a new model, an expanded, multi-service center that teaches students, their parents, has daycare, social services...a "hub", as it were. From all acounts, not a peep was heard from the vacuum. Now we hear, after Marshall is closed, that the "hub" idea might be gaining traction as a safety net solution. One might wonder if the 100 page business plan Marshall staff submitted is still bouncing around hallways somewhere...

Who gets to decide changes? It's true that anyone can propose a new program etc, Charlie is right, but to who? And what responsibility does the district have to act on that proposal, or at least acknowledge it?

This is one thing that must be rectified: Until their is back-and-forth communication between stakeholders, schools, district...until everyone is at least able to propose, to discuss...until that happens, it's just a black hole.

Central Mom said...

TOPS comes up in every discussion on this blog about Program Replication, Alternative Program Nomenclature, and Elementary/Middle School Enrollment Boundaries and Choice because it sits at the crux of these three topics.

Go back and look at earlier discussion threads on this blog. You'll see the same gists of conversations, w/ TOPS as the poster child, for each of the topics.

I have my views about TOPS, which I'll publish shortly. But the more important point to my mind, dear bloggers, is that the District, by which I mean staff and superintendent, start but never ever follow through to the finish line, implementation of policy around program placement, elementary and middle school enrollment boundaries and alternative school nomenclature.

I'm not saying they don't start initiatives. They do. BUT THEY DON'T FINISH THEM.

Have I been watchng the TOPS situation for 5 years now? Yes. Do I expect to be watching it 5 years from now? Pathetically, yes. If there were a way to overturn the majority of the staff at the district office level, and that includes our new superintendent who has done little but make pr appearances for a year now, I'd be the first one onto that initiative.

I don't expect miracles from the district administration. I don't even expect to agree with it much of the time. But I do expect some form of leadership and some discernable form of project follow-through. If that happened, we’d discuss these issues once, twice and again. But then, we’d get to move into additional areas of educational concerns for our District instead of going ‘round in circles.

zb said...

"Meany and Washington currently share a single reference area."

presumably they won't, with the new student assignment plan.

zb said...

I do think we can replicate a language immersion program, though, and I also think folks choose John Stanford for the language immersion, and not for its location or because other people choose it.

I also think there's a desire for more language immersion, and we should look for places for them.

zb said...

It strikes me that my TOPS statements might appear to have a hidden agenda: reclaiming Seward for north central. But, I don't. I don't live in central.

I do have an agenda, though, neighborhood schools, decreased uncertainty, and consistency. I don't think choice as it's instituted in Seattle mitigates the effects of economic segregation in Seattle and I find it quite worrisome that it might exacerbate the effects. In fact, I'm waiting for that lawsuit, the one that tries to prove that our current version of choice increases segregation (I don't think it would be successful, but I think the data can probably be used to make a case).

But, I don't have an agenda about any specific school. I

Charlie Mas said...

zb wrote:
"I do have an agenda, though, neighborhood schools, decreased uncertainty, and consistency. I don't think choice as it's instituted in Seattle mitigates the effects of economic segregation in Seattle and I find it quite worrisome that it might exacerbate the effects."

And you don't think neighborhood schools would reflect economic segregation?

Maureen said...

I think a large part of the reason choice makes socioeconomic segregation worse is because to get into popular programs, you must register on time. Families who move a lot or who just don't have their act together get burned by that and are assigned to whatever schools are left. Those families are disproportionately likely to be poor.

I understand that that will be better accounted for in the new assignment plan by leaving more unassigned seats and creating larger clusters for parts of town that have more families who register late.

Central Mom said...

As for TOPS and the Seward building in which it sits...

I agree that there are multiple reasons for choosing TOPS, as there are for any school. The Big 4 are
**A reputation for strong academics coupled with valuable/interesting programs and values
**A true belief in TOPS As An Alternative School
**A desire to escape Seattle’s mediocre-reputation and large class size middle schools by getting into a K-8 program
**Neighborhood proximity

In the not-so-distant past I would have put the Alternative School constituency at the top of the list in terms of reasons for enrollment. Today, as the initial TOPS families of two decades ago have moved on, but have left a strong program legacy, I’d put the Alternative True Believers at the bottom, and I’d place good money that a scientific poll would bear me out. Parents want into TOPS, first, for the other 3 reasons. Many don’t realize, or care, aside from the non-conforming enrollment and transportation boundaries, that it is defined as alternative. They just want to know how they can get in. And defining an alternative school as one that draws by lottery from multiple clusters is completely backward in my book in standardizing on “alternative”. But I digress… I’m not arguing whether TOPS is or isn’t Alternative. I just don’t think that its Alternative reputation is what draws the majority of families.

Could the TOPS program, defined as an alternative program, be moved out of Seward and into another cluster needing a strong K-8 program? Possibly, but what good would it do? The TOPS Alternative True Believers continue to fight tooth and nail to keep enrollment lottery-based. They have accepted the 20% kindergarten enrollment set-aside for neighborhood kids with only the greatest reluctance, as the lottery is one of the biggest points they make in defining TOPS as “Alternative”. Therefore, putting the TOPS community into another neighborhood in need of strong local programs could in fact alienate those very neighborhoods. This certainly has been the case with the Eastlake neighborhood in past years, although the current climate appears to be marginally better. In addition, assuming most of the current TOPS community are not Alternative True Believers, the district would have yet another huge PR headache on its hands moving that successful program to another location. It was tried once during the closure process and – setting aside the merits or error of the effort – the district proved publicly and somewhat embarrassingly not to have the will to follow up on the committee recommendation to move TOPS in the face of an extremely vocal school community. (Same w/ closing Montlake, but again I digress into yet another topic that the District dropped like a hot potato.)

Let’s say the TOPS program is NOT alternative. What would be the ramifications on program placement? If it’s not alternative, then it should operate as other K-8 schools do in terms of enrollment boundaries and transportation. That would limit it to a central cluster draw, unless all other K-8s included some multi-cluster enrollment/transportation boundaries. Treating TOPS as NOT an alternative program would also argue against moving the program from the facility. Instead, it would argue for program replication within other K-8s which don’t enjoy the TOPS popularity (Ironically, the other K-8 in the Central District (Madrona) is the K-8 that stands out as needing strong improvement.) or locating/retrofitting a K-8 program in a cluster that doesn’t have one at all, be it “alternative” or “regular”. The SW and NE come to mind. Could one of the currently existing schools use TOPS as a model to change its values, academics or parental involvement via a “mentoring” program from the District, TOPS staff and TOPS community. Sure, if the will were truly there.

Could the district leave TOPS as an alternative school, then open up Lowell – via APP program movement – as an overflow school for the overenrollment pressures of the 3 popular elementaries in the Central cluster (Montlake, Stevens, McGilvra). It could. But would that get community enrollment buy-in? Very, very, very doubtful. Parents will almost certainly choose their “traditional” neighborhood schools, which already have established academic success, as a 1st choice over a new, general Lowell program. Which means yet another 2nd-tier Central school. Better to put that effort into improving a different program in the district, and either expanding the physical capacity at one of the current schools (McGilvra?) or opening TOPS up to additional local students (by reducing its multi-cluster enrollment).

zb said...

"And you don't think neighborhood schools would reflect economic segregation?"

Of course they would, but the question is whether the currently constituted school choice system makes the economic segregation worse or better compared to neighborhood schools. If it made it better, I'd consider that a benefit of "choice" compared to neighborhood schools (along with other potential benefits, including things like Maureen's love of the school she's chosen for her children).

And, yes, I do think the effect of on-time enrollment is one of the reasons. The poor are more likely to move at the "wrong" time, especially given the oddness of Seattle's on-time deadline (in January ).

zb said...

"whether the currently constituted school choice system makes the economic segregation worse or better compared to neighborhood schools"

I'm evil for commenting on my self, but a historical reminder that Seattle's school choice system was designed with a racial tiebreaker in place. That tiebreaker used to mitigate the effect of economic segregation (which is closely tied to race in Seattle). Now that's gone, and I think the end result of choice, if not changed, will be ever more significant economic segregation unless we change choice.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Central Mom, you make a lot of good points. (Despite the hard work of many district staff, I'd go with getting rid of half of them simply because of the refusal to look at things in a different way or even consider that there might be a different way to do things.)

Charlie had suggested a forum and all of what we have discussed would be great for many people to hear - out loud - so that we, the parents of this district - could tell the district what WE want to see happen (albeit in a variety of ways given we all have differing opinions). But I'm not sure the district has even considered half of what has been offered here and that's why we need a couple of nights of public forums to have these open air discussions.

TOPS, we're not picking on you. You, like John Stanford, are kind of victims of your own success with people wondering how to get the golden ticket, is it real (meaning is TOPS as good as people say) and is the golden ticket worth it (meaning, even if I got my kid in, is it the right fit?).

Whoever said that TOPS being alternative is the least of its appeals is likely right. As I've mentioned before, there are good and not so good things to K-8s. I'm sure many parents feel totally torn between going to a bigger middle school with more offerings (foreign language, music, sports) and a smaller, more homey K-8.

One thing I've always wondered about K-8s is if the behavior of the middle schoolers is better? I guess that would be a good question for a principal/staff/teacher who has worked at both. It's hard for me to discern if kids today have bad manners or if there is not enough enforced behavior expectations. I've mentioned this before but it got reinforced today when I was asked to walk the halls during WASL so that there was no noise and no one wandering around. It's just painful to have kid after kid roll their eyes, ignore your question or hiss a reply. I don't know how teachers take it day after day.

(And before you think I'm too hard-nosed, my feeling is you tell the students at the beginning of the year at a school-wide assembly and in their homerooms what the behavior rules are. Then you tell them what happens if they break these rules. And then, you quietly enforce it - in every single classroom. Because then, every single kid knows that the rules are going to be enforced and they are enforced across the board. No yelling, no finger wagging, just that's the way it is. But in the schools I've seen there are teachers who - for whatever reason - just refuse to be consistent in enforcing school rules. And, as parents, we all know the minute kids sense leniency or wiggleroom, they hop right on it.)

anonymous said...

"Why isn't TTMinor or Leschi a replication of Stevens? What makes that not happen; if we add a strong Spanish program will it be? Do we need to clone Larry Bell? Is it important that the ethnic distribution match that of Stevens? (btw, the Annual report lists TOPS FRL as 24% not 19%)"

I believe that many factors come together to make a successful, high performing school like Stevens. You start with strong leadership (Larry Bell), then find out what your community wants (strong Spanish program, new building, small (23 kids) class size at all grade levels, etc. That's a start. But I think the number one factor and major difference between Stevens and Leshi or TT Minor is the diversity that Stevens offers, both ethnically and socio economically. It has enough diversity to attract diversity, in other words it has enough black and Latino students to attract more black and Latino students. Stevens also has great socio economic diversity. The folks with the means support the folks without the means and it is this diversity that allows the program to thrive. TT Minor and Leschi don't have enough diversity ethnically or socio economically. They do not have enough ethnic diversity to attract ethnic diversity. In other words they do not have enough white, Asian, Latino families to attract white, Asian, Latino families. They also don't have much socio economic diversity. The majority of families at these schools are low income. There is no safety net of affluent families to support the community like at Stevens. I think these are huge factors in why one school is successful and another is not. Jut my opinion, I'm always open to debate.

anonymous said...

Melissa's asks whether kids in k-8 behave better than kids in a 6-8 MS?? I can only speak for Salmon Bay, where my child was a student one year (6th grade). I can tell you that the behavior there was not only appalling it was sometimes frightening. My child is now in a Shoreline MS, where I find behavior expectations to be much higher, and consequences for infractions are enforced. It makes a world of a difference.

QAMom said...

Queen Ann and Magnolia serve as a "preference" cluster for the South cluster. Meaning, kids from the south cluster can choose QA/Mag schools, get preference, and get bus transportation. Presumably this was policy was established to increase diversity. In fact, buses will only stop at stops where non-white south end students live. White kids fromt he south end can ride the yellow bus, but they aren't provided a stop. That's pretty weird isn't it? I guess the "tie-breaker" decision didn't apply to the bus. So, what has really happened? Every morning, buses and carloads full of mostly white kids, arrive in QA/Magnolia. The "choice" and "preference" policy hasn't helped diversity, it actually made the schools less diverse.... and has simply drained more white kids out of the south end, making their schools blacker. QA/Mag, are whiter than ever. The middle school picture is a little different, and there's definitely more diversity at McClure (but not Blaine). But, McClure is now a low performing (and low first choice) option. It seems we've really gained almost nothing with "choice". We have lowered the quality and, for the most part, lowered diversity too.

TechyMom said...

Going back to the begining of the thread...

I'd like to see AAA and Madrona merged, since they seem to have similar philosophies, and neither has enough students to fill the building. Put these 2 schools in the smaller of the 2 buildings.

With the other building, I'd do one of the following:

1) K-8 International School
This would include language immersion in a variety of languages, and middle school IB. (primary school IB too if it exists). You might also be able to add High School IB at nearby Franklin, to provide another option for rigor in the south end, and take some of the pressure off of Garfield. There's a new train station across from Franklin, that makes it a pretty easy location to get to.

2) Move Summit there
Summit wants a more central location, and the north end wants their building back. The labs and such that a K8 has should be able to support most of what the Summit HS students need. If Summit were in Madrona, they might also be able to share some facilities with nearby Garfield and Nova.

3) K-8 Gifted Magnet
Spectrum and APP and general ed with ALOs for siblings and neighborhood students.

4) Solid General Ed K-8 school with a cluster-wide draw
Perhaps we could do some analysis of what the popular programs have in common, and build a general ed program that offers those things.
When I read about Stevens, McGilvra, Montlake and TOPS, there are things that stand out as to why I would choose these schools. I'm choosing a K next year, and live in the CD, so this is not academic for me. These include things that I though were a basic part of education, but seem to be thought of as luxuries these days: Recess, PE, Science, Foriegn Language, Visual and Performing Arts, use of technology, and experience-based learning with things like field trips, gardening, and the Oregon Trail reenactment that McGilvra does. They include a philosophy of teaching to the student, not the test, and of teaching to the 75th percentile, not the bottom of the class, with appropriate supports for those who can't keep up and those who are bored. I'll also throw in international standard-based Math (one of the things I like about IB).

This is similar to replicating TOPS, or Stevens, or McGilvra, but also allows us to build (and test) a model that could be used for creating all those great neighborhood schools that people seem to be clamoring for.

Central Mom said...

As a follow-up to my comments about District follow-through on projects, I learned a few minutes ago that Tracy Libros is no longer the head of enrollment services. Anyone who has been involved with the assignment boundary initiative knows that she is (was?) doing the staff heavy lifting in terms of research and community engagement.

IMHO Tracy has been one of the better examples of District staffing. I don't always agree w/ her, but she has been accessible and willing to both engage and listen to Seattleites and public school parents. So what's going on w/ this personnel move? Will she continue her work, or is a new staffer taking over. And why?

Momma Snark said...

Ok, I just have to address what qamom put out there.

I am completely mystified by the fact that Queen Anne elementary schools are full of Queen Anne kids and their very involved parents, but that these people absolutely disappear from the local landscape when the kids reach middle school age. Is there just an assumption that no public middle school can serve kids as well as SCD or some other private school, or is McClure really that bad, or what? What would happen if all the QA parents stayed as involved with the middle school as they did with the elementary schools? Wouldn't it be a better school?

And is this for real?: "In fact, buses will only stop at stops where non-white south end students live. White kids fromt he south end can ride the yellow bus, but they aren't provided a stop."

I can't quite believe this is true.

QAMom said...

I kid you not. The bus thing is absolutely true. You can look in the enrollment guide and see how transportation is provided.

You get transportation if, ( I quote directly from the enrollment guide South End section)

"You choose, are assigned to, and are integration positive for one of these designated
integration positive out of cluster schools: Catharine Blaine, Coe, Hay, or Lawton."

They aren't quite as hardcore as the enrollment guide suggests, since they do actually allow "whites" on the bus. But it still sucks to watch the bus drive by... and have to pick it up a mile or so down the road, where a minority kid lives.

QAMom said...

PS. Addressing the other point. Lots of qa kids do attend McClure. But, it's really the same as everywhere else. If all the people in the SE went to Ranier Beach, I'm sure it would be great too. Since everyone is afraid to go there, for whatever reason, and has bailed, the school has suffered. How can it have a great band, or AP classes if there are only 33 freshmen? Choice has killed it.

Momma Snark said...

Holy cow. I just cannot believe that whole bus thing. Well, maybe I can. But still - yeesh.

I guess it may be true that "lots of qa kids do attend McClure," but on a purely anecdotal level, that's not what I hear. I hear about auctions, parents in the classroom, etc. at Coe and Hay, but every parent I've met on QA plans to send their kids elsewhere for MS.

And as far as the SE goes, people don't just avoid RBHS - they often avoid all the schools if they can. I lived close to Columbia City for 8 years, and I literally only knew two kids who went to a local public school (Graham Hill). Everyone else I knew was sending their kids across town, or to a private school, or just homeschooling them.

Honestly, this was part of the reason we moved to QA, so our kids could go to school with kids from their neighborhood - walk together to class, etc. I would like to believe some of my kids' friends from elementary will join them in middle and high school as well.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's something interesting. For elementary school, only kids who are integration positive can get a ride in a yellow bus from southeast Seattle to Queen Anne/Magnolia. Kids who are not integration positive can ride the bus on a "space available" basis.

In middle school, however, any kid from southeast Seattle can get a ride on a yellow bus to McClure. The student does not have to be integration positive.

Any student from the Southeast Region - reference area for Mercer and Aki Kurose - can get yellow bus transportation to McClure, Hamilton, or Meany. Since all of these schools are undersubscribed, the students are assured of access as well.

So imagine that you live in southeast Seattle and the school district is telling you that your middle school student can get your choice of:

1. a bus ride to Mercer
2. a bus ride to McClure
3. a bus ride to Hamilton
4. a bus ride to Meany
5. a short walk to Aki Kurose
6. a bus ride to the AAA

Whichever you choose, you are assured that you'll get it. No tie-breaker, no uncertainty, no waitlist. Which would you choose?

anonymous said...

I'm especially interested in the bus ride to Hamilton from the SE. When I was looking for a MS for my child I toured Hamilton because they are an international school and are very diverse ethnically. Ultimately I could not bring myself to send my child there due to what I considered a lack of academic rigor, no ALO's, and very poor test scores. I know a good percentage of the kids come to Hamilton from SE Seattle. Another good percent of kids come from the high performing John Stanford International school (they have a preference to Hamilton). So here is a school in an affluent neighborhood (Wallingford), which has a very diverse community (both ethnically and socio economically), and still it does poorly. Certainly the theory of bringing a diverse group together and having advanced kids in the same class mentoring under achievers is not working here. Nor is the theory that the affluent families will be able to support the school and carry the less fortunate. What gives at Hamilton?? I know they have two tracks there. One is for kids who are fluent in Spanish, they go into an immersion program (the John Stanford kids), the other track is for kids who are not in the immersion program (the SE Seattle kids), perhaps this division is causing the poor performance? Perhaps the immersion students are doing well, and the non immersion kids are doing poorly? Is there data available to show test scores from each group separately? My hunch is that the non immersion track kids are performing no better than the kids at AKI, Mercer, Meany, etc. The school as a whole has terrible test scores including the immersion (John Stanford kids), so when you break them away the test scores for the non immersion (SE Seattle) kids must be abysmal. If my hunch is right, then the situation is no better for the SE kids up North.

QAMom said...

I'm not sure which of those middle schools I would choose. SE can also choose New School or Orca for middle school. Orca has free middle school seats, so that would be a guaranteed placement. Queen Anne only has "McClure" as a guaranteed choice, so it's obviously not more choice (since 1 school means no choice), and obviously not better either(since it's on the list for the south end too).

anne said...

I am a parent who's son went to Stevens and I completely agree with ad hoc's assessment of why it is a successful school compared to TT Minor and Leschi.

Stevens is in an affluent neighborhood, and has tons of parent volunteers. At the same time it has considerable diversity for a school in an affluent neighborhood because of it's ESL program which then attracts additional minorities.

I think that is the ideal. The families from higher socio-economic level have the resources/time to help and they are interested in helping children in their neighborhood school.

Although I don't have any direct experience with TOPS, I bet this is why TOPS succeeds as well.

Maureen said...

I agree with anne, that one of the things that makes TOPS (like Stevens) work is our diversity. Given our location, that is largely made possible through our five cluster draw. We do have a significant ESL population that contributes toward both ethnic and socioeconomic diversity (tho not always FRL), and most of our non ESL nonwhite kids come from south and far north of Eastlake.

It seems to me that Madrona is ideally situated to create that same dynamic, but it sounds like their administration has worked against that possibility. I wonder if it's because there's too much of a black/white division in their potential population? When no single ethnic group has a majority, the dynamic seems to be a little different?

anonymous said...

Yes, you're right Maureen, Madrona is poised to be the next Stevens or TOPS. So is Leschi which could easily replicate Stevens given the right conditions. Leschi is on the cusp of a very affluent neighborhood, in a nice, new brick building, where many families are currently choosing private school. The problem is it takes diversity to attract diversity. And, it takes attractive programs, proven performance, and a welcoming environment to attract the affluent and high achievers. Right now it has none of this. It's 81% black and 71% free/reduced lunch. Not much ethnic or socio economic diversity, which is interesting given it's affluent neighborhood. Combine this with low to moderately low WASL scores and a lack of attractive programs and you have the affluent families shunning the school. I don't know how to change this dynamic. My guess is that it would start by having a strong leader at the building level. A principal who actively WANTED to change it. A principal who could market his/her school (right now Leschi doesn't even offer organized school tours). A principal willing to add attractive programs (language immersion, Montessori, etc). A principal who welcomed and celebrated diversity. That would be a start.

Jessica said...

Leschi is our reference school and we have decided that next year when our son goes to kindergarten we will skip the stress of central cluster school "choice" and send him to Leschi. Yes, he will probably be the diversity in his class, but we are fine with that. We like the principals and the teachers we have met. As far as programs go, it would be great if they had an art teacher and other programs, but they do have Spectrum and the choir. We would love to see the school more reflective of the neighborhood, which is already very diverse.

The principal is low-key, but we have found her to be very welcoming to all families. I have started going to PTA meetings already and she has been very supportive.

I agree that they have a marketing problem. They do have school tours and although our tour guide was great and very knowledgeable and helpful, I have heard mixed reports about others.

I agree that Leschi could become another sought after school in the central cluster, but it does need what Stevens and McGilvra have - highly committed families who live right in the neighborhood.

Stephanie Jones said...

Under-subscribed neighborhood school, or oversubscribed popular option down (or up) the road? It's the choice dilemma that drives a heck of a lot of the transportation costs and bother, the angst about appropriate rigor, even Charlie's original analysis about program placement that started this thread.

I agree with ad hoc's observation that diversity attracts diversity, and applaud Jessica for her willingness to "be the diversity" in an undersubscribed school with potential. It's the first step in the approach I've been championing: which is to build strong programs through parent and community buy-in. From the schools' perspective, this means outreach and marketing, willing educational leaders, listening ears, hard work. From the parent and community perspective, this means some risk taking (by folks like Jessica), along with community networking, willingness to work hard, more listening...

CPPS has started an "Ambassador Program" to help people make parent-to-parent connections during and beyond enrollment choice season, in the hopes that more folks can discover the potentials for diversity and success where they exist in undersubscribed schools (however, we welcome Ambassadors at all schools). For more information or to join up, contact me at stephaniej@cppsofseattle.org
I hope Jessica can help us find some Leschi ambassadors, and it sounds like we need them from McClure too!

Charlie Mas said...

At what point do we say, "This school needs some help with marketing" or "This school needs help developing a program" and at what point do we say "This school is not what people want and we need the building to provide something that they DO want"?

My concern with the "Let's give them another chance" plan of action is that it is a plan for inaction. Nothing happens except another year of failure and yet another chance. In the meantime, opportunities are lost for children who won't get another try at middle school or the fourth grade.

When the District made High Point the designated Spectrum site for the West Seattle-South cluster, everyone told them that it was a dreadful mistake. The school was too small, the school's academic reputation was too poor, and the school isn't even in the West Seattle-South cluster. The District responded by saying "Let's give High Point three to five years to build a program. If they can't, then we'll close the program." That was five years ago, and the school has never enrolled more than five Spectrum students in any one of those years. Nevertheless, the District isn't re-locating the program. I suspect that the District has forgotten the pledge.

So if we are going to say "The school just needs a chance" then by all means let's give them that chance, but let's pre-define the expectations and the time limits and let's not fuss about making the change if the school can't convert the chance into success.

I may seem impatient with Meany, T T Minor, or the AAA; it may appear that I'm not giving them a chance to turn their ship around. That's not the case. These schools have had every opportunity for each of the past several years to do so. They have already had lots of chances. If y'all think they should have some more, okay. But how many more? Where do we draw the line? Do we ever draw the line?

Our loyalties should lie with the children, not schools or programs.

Charlie Mas said...

zb wrote:
"Meany and Washington currently share a single reference area."

presumably they won't, with the new student assignment plan.

Here's an interesting fact regarding the "right-sizing" of the middle school reference areas.

The district reports that there are 413 middle school students who live closer to Meany than any other comprehensive middle school and 740 who live closer to Washington than any other middle school. That's a total of 1153 students.

Not all of these 1153 students, however, attend comprehensive middle schools - or one of these two comprehensive middle schools. 118 are at Madrona, 60 at TOPS, 35 at Summit, 14 at the AAA, 14 at Salmon Bay, and another 27 at other non-traditional schools. That's 268 choosing to be elsewhere. There are also 76 APP students in that group who would be relocated out of Washington if middle school APP were relocated.

While "nearest school" does not equate to reference area, it does appear that the District needs about 885 seats to provide adequate capacity for this area of town. All of these students could fit, quite comfortably, into Washington without using Meany as a middle school at all. Washington's current enrollment is 1038. I didn't even discount for the students who enrolled at other traditional comprehensive middle schools.

So, if the District "right-sizes" the reference areas for Meany and Washington in the new assignment plan, and if middle school APP is relocated out of Washington, the right size for Meany's reference area would be none.

anonymous said...

"I applaud Jessica for her willingness to "be the diversity" in an under subscribed school with potential."

Leschi was our reference school when we lived in the Central area. I just couldn't bring myself to give it a try. I couldn't gamble with my child's education. I guess I'm just not as optimistic as Jessica is. We are a bi-racial family so ethnic diversity was not a deterring factor for us, rather it was the poor performance of the school, low WASL scores, lack of any ALO's (they didn't have Spectrum then), and the fact that an overwhelming majority of families were low income, which translates to less "extras" and low parent involvement. I know my kids would make it there, because they have the support necessary to succeed at home, but I just didn't feel like they would thrive there. I hope Jessica will keep us informed as to how the year goes for her family, and I hope it works out.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's be very clear about something. In the discussion of whether or how Madrona could become the next Stevens or TOPS, ad hoc wrote:

"My guess is that it would start by having a strong leader at the building level. A principal who actively WANTED to change it. A principal who could market his/her school (right now Leschi doesn't even offer organized school tours). A principal willing to add attractive programs (language immersion, Montessori, etc). A principal who welcomed and celebrated diversity. "

Let's be very clear.


The current principal, The 2008 recipient of the Thomas B Foster Award for Excellence, Kaaren Andrews, does NOT want to change the school, does NOT market the school or want to market the school, does NOT want to add attractive programs, and does NOT welcome or celebrate diversity.

I was concerned that ad hoc was a bit too subtle for everyone to get that message, and it was a message that I thought everyone should get.

anonymous said...

When I said it takes diversity to attract diversity, I simply meant this.

If you have a choice program, and if you have an all white school, not may black families are going to CHOOSE this school.

If you have an all black school, not many white families are going to CHOOSE this school.

If you have a majority low income school not many affluent families will CHOOSE this school.

I don't believe these families are racist. I think it is just human nature for people to be more comfortable around people like them, or in a diverse MIX of people where some people are like them.

With this in mind I am wondering how we achieve diversity?? How did Stevens do it?? Does anybody have any history on how this phenomena occurred. Why isn't Stevens in it's very affluent neighborhood primarily affluent and white like it's neighbors McGilvra and Montlake?? It can't all be the ESL program, as that does not attract black students, it only attracts students with English as a Second language. And, how are low income kids getting in to Stevens? The neighborhood around Stevens is very affluent, are those families living in that neighborhood?? I am very interested in knowing the dynamics of how Stevens has been so successful at attracting diversity and being one our districts high performing, sought after schools. When we understand how this happened, then maybe we can work at replicating it??

Charlie Mas said...

Man, this is a long thread!

I missed responding to a couple points raised by maureen:

"Charlie, I think you should put more thought into what facilities are available at the various buildings as you move the pawns around your chess board. AAA is a K-8, they need a science lab, lockers etc if they are going to stay that way. APP K-5 at Meany would waste those resources (maybe APP K-8 if the numbers work out)."

There are two solutions here.

One, along with relocating the AAA to T T Minor, we could reduce it back to being a K-5, so it wouldn't need any science labs. If you squint hard and twist the numbers around, you might be able to say that the AAA is having some limited success in their elementary grades, but there is no way that anyone can find promise in their middle school results. If the school must continue, it can continue as a K-5.

"I'm surprised you haven't pulled Madrona into the equation. Could they combine with AAA? They're both K-8 and have similar focuses from what I hear. I haven't done the math but their K 1st choices only added up to 17 this year. I can't find the right map, but from what I hear alot of Madrona students come from outside the reference area already."

Madrona has an enrollment of 403 (as of October 2007), the AAA enrollment is 355. Together, they would have 758. The stated planning capacity of the Madrona building is 491.

Even if we were to presume that all 92 non-African-American students at Madrona left following the merger, the combined enrollment would still be almost 200 too many for the building.

The stated planning capacity for T T Minor is 388. That size, along with some stretch, should be big enough for the 204 students in the K-5 contingent at the AAA and the 235 T T Minor students, particularly when some of them choose to leave rather than join the merged school. I don't know if the 63 non-African-American students at Minor would choose to remain or not. Even if they do, lots of schools have enrollments in excess of their planning capacity. They will find a way to make it work.

zb said...

"With this in mind I am wondering how we achieve diversity?? How did Stevens do it?? Does anybody have any history on how this phenomena occurred. Why isn't Stevens in it's very affluent neighborhood primarily affluent and white like it's neighbors McGilvra and Montlake??"

I think this is as simple as geography. Stevens is further south, and less isolated than McGilvra & Montlake. I'd be interested in seeing Stevens historical trends -- my guess is that the Stevens neighborhoods have been slowly gentrifying over the years, and that increased the proportion of affluent children sufficiently in the area that Stevens hit a tipping point where a magical "diversity" quotient was reached attracting more affluent students.

I, personally, see it as an unstable equilibrium -- my expectation is that with choice in operation, Stevens is going to become less "diverse", i.e. in this case more affluent, as it's geographical reference area shrinks (as more families are willing to send their kids to the now acceptable school). Eventually it will have as little diversity as Montlake and McGilvra (whose lack of diversity is also enhanced by their small choice, allowing them to draw from a more defined geographical area).

I think a more interesting question is how Madrona & Leschi could reach the unstable equilibrium (in my opinion) that is Stevens (by having early adaptors, like Jessica, and a supportive environment). I know the scuttlebutt is that the Madrona environment was not supportive.

So how do you use "neighborhood" schools (which to me mean a default school assignment) to mitigate this? You draw neighborhood boundaries so that the economic makeup of your "neighborhood" schools are as "diverse" (i.e. match Seattle's child population) as possible. You won't be able to match it perfectly, 'cause there's a lot of geographic segregation in Seattle. But, you can draw it making sure that apartment complexes, for example, are included in every "neighborhood" school. You close small schools that have to have too small geographic areas (allowing for economic segregation).

I think you can do a lot with this in Seattle, 'cause I think there are a lot of people like Jessica in this town (in central, especially), people who really value the diversity and are wiling to take some chances (especially in elementary school, where the concerns about danger are less).

anonymous said...

"my guess is that the Stevens neighborhoods have been slowly gentrifying over the years, "

I've always thought of the Stevens neighborhood as historically affluent, not gentrifying. I may be wrong, but all the homes in that area (South Capitol Hill, 2 blocks from Volunteer park) are very large, some mansions.

I don't think it's simply geography, although I think geography certainly plays a role. Especially when you have programs like Madrona which sits a stones throw away from the Bush school. Geography??

I think there is more to the Stevens dynamic. Perhaps the language program attracts a larger Latino community? Perhaps it's the ESL program? Maybe ESL students represent a good portion of the free/reduced lunch (low income) students? Do ESL kids draw from a larger area than the regular Stevens draw? This could be part of the dynamic that allows this diversity. Whatever it is, and I'm sure geography does have a part in it, we should try to figure it out, and replicate it.

I also loved what ZB said... "You draw neighborhood boundaries so that the economic makeup of your "neighborhood" schools are as "diverse" (i.e. match Seattle's child population) as possible."

anonymous said...

Excuse me, I meant North Capitol Hill, 2 blocks from Volunteer park in reference to Stevens location.

Anonymous said...

Ad hoc, the Stevens/Volunteer Park area historically also had a black and lower income population. Many of the black families moving here to work at Boeing and to take advantage of the Boeing boom in the 50's and
60's were redlined up on Capital Hill. There was a thriving shopping area within walking distance, a good school, etc. and a pretty active black community. My husband (who is black) grew up there, and he attended Stevens.

Ironically, white flight was going no at this time, as the black families moved in. Now the white folks are moving back as black families sell and move out. There is still at last one small public housing devlopment in very close to Stevens. My older daughter dated a boy who lived there, and it is primarily black and other non-white families.

I believe zb is right though, that as the area becomes less diverse, so will the school.

anonymous said...

"I believe zb is right though, that as the area becomes less diverse, so will the school."

That area can not get any less diverse than it is right now! It is home to some of the highest price real estate in the city, and is almost 100% white.

If the school has not lost it's diversity by now, I don't think it will, at least due to gentrification.

Old traditions die hard though, and maybe because the school has been historically diverse, minority families continue the tradition of sending their children there??

Stephanie Jones said...

This is a long thread -- I keep meaning to post in a new area, but with all the Stevens conversation, I feel the need to chime in as a Stevens parent and neighbor.

1) Stevens has a new principal this year. Jenniffer Reinig is a 1st year principal, but she's great, the transition has been smooth, and as ad hoc mentioned, Larry Bell set a strong foundation
2) Stevens diversity has been slowly declining, which is of concern in the community, but not entirely avoidable, given the "unstable equilibrium" of both choice and neighborhood demographics. While for many reasons I support and believe in neighborhood schools, at Stevens that mitht even push the diversity decline somewhat faster.
3) The ELL program is responsible for a lot of the diversity. It operates its own choice lottery, and seats at ELL schools are set aside (and people in the language minority communities do tell their friends and neighbors about programs that are working for them, which keeps it thriving)
4) Siblings and the occasional "bubble class" (a third class at one grade level, because we have that extra capacity) bring in folks from a wider community every several years (and then, their siblings), but choice has led the bubble takers to be more often white middle class families from Madrona and Leschi rather than from more ethnically or socioeconomically diverse communities -- there's that fragile equilibrium again!
5) Finally, the neighborhood buy-in has been a combination of demographic change -- some gentrification, but frequently generational transition. In the 10 years I've lived on CH, every single older person's family home of 40 years has turned over to a family of multiple young children, my own included - so more neighborhood children. Housing prices have skyrocketed, so new neighbors are less inclined/able to send kids private when there's a good option just down the street. And, when my eldest child was in 1st grade, Stevens re-opened after a beautifully done gut remodel. The neighborhood buy-in since has been significantly higher than before.

Some of those dynamics are behind why I believe that Meany, just 7 blocks down the road, is headed for a similar transition (which has in fact begun in small ways not yet registering in the broader data). They also bear on what's possible in other diverse communities in Seattle.

Stevens, as great as it is, is not the be-all, end-all either. It's just that this village has come together to make its school work for a diverse crowd both socially and educationally. The district can't "just do it" It's only replicable with the efforts of current parents, the surrounding community, the up and coming (preschool, etc.) families AND the teachers and district/school leaders working together.

Maureen said...

stephanie and anne do you know if there has been any discussion of getting rid of the Stevens bubble class? If it adds to the diversity of the school I can see how it might be difficult to let it go, but if it's beginning to just pull in more affluent families from other neighborhoods it might not be worth the disruption it causes in assignments at all of the N Capitol Hill schools every six years. (and I really think SPS should add some preK facilities for at risk kids)

another mom said...

This thread is really long and I think this comment will be not read but I thought that I would give it a go...

In the past 25 years or so,the Seattle School District has closed/repurposed 5 middle schools. They are: Jane Adams, Wilson, Marshall, RH Thomson, and Monroe. Is it any wonder that Eckstein is bursting?

I would like to propose the the District open a new comprehensive middle school. The curriculum would be pre-AP or pre IB. It would be an all city draw with assignment by lottery, and students would not need to test for the program. I am not proposing to eliminate Spectrum or APP. Many of us know our kids are bright and are able to make it work through the elementary years without testing for gifted programs. And please I mean no disrespect to parents who test thier children for APP or Spectrum.This option would allow parents to opt into a program with a rigorous curriculum. Parents would need to know the work load expectation before making such a choice. Something else is needed besides just redrawing middle school enrollment areas. This may help.

Marshall seems like a logical choice for this. Who knows it may offer stress relief to the very over crowded Eckstein and give S.end families other options.

Just a thought.

Marshall could be used for this kind of program. No offense to Charlie.

anonymous said...

I love the idea of a pre-IB or pre-Algebra middle school!! I would check it out it no matter where in the city it was, although, I agree that the NE really needs the capacity! And speaking of the NE, what about the old Ravenna school that is not the Ravenna/Eckstein community center. We have so many community centers in the NE (magnuson, Laurelhurst, Ravenna/Ecksein, Meadowbrook, Northgate). Who owns the school? Could the district re-open it? It's in a prime location, very close to Bryant. It would relieve some of the NE elementary capacity issues.

Charlie Mas said...

I heard back from Ruth Medsker.

The 11 students on the Denny waitlist are all Spectrum students.

The enrollment in the Spectrum program at Denny was limited to 16 students in the sixth grade. There were more than 16 "applicants" so the tie-breakers were used - siblings, in region, lottery - to determine the 16 who would be enrolled and the rest were offered spaces on the waitlist.

another mom said...

Why on Earth is there an 11 student waitlist for a program with only 16 students. This makes no sense at all. Are 16 students even enough to have a dedicated Spectrum teacher?