Friday, April 11, 2008

Assignment Numbers

Checking in with the PI's School Zone, there was an thread about the assignment numbers (they included a link to some draft assignment numbers at the district). There was a lot of the usual suspects numbers (Roosevelt and Garfield with large waitlists, Beacon Hill doubling its numbers with their new international program, TOPS and Bryant with large waitlists).

Checking out the numbers, there are definitely some trends. (Please note: when I reference numbers I am generally talking about first choice, not enrollment.)

Roosevelt was down on numbers on its waitlist but Roosevelt and Garfield are the only high schools with any significant waitlists (Ballard had 3 and West Seattle had 4). Sadly, Rainier Beach continues to decline with only 20 9th graders listing it as their first choice. Sealth, which had what looks like an IB surge last year (2006-94, 2007, 127), did well holding on with 107 first choices despite the Denny-Sealth controversy. Hale seems to be experiencing a slow decline from a high of 299 in 2005 to 164 for 2008.

Eckstein and Washington remain popular; Eckstein seems to be drawing back on its numbers with 449 students in 2006, 436 in 2007 and 400 for 2008. Denny was the only middle school to be experiencing steady growth. It has a waitlist this year and had none for the past 5 years. But true to discussions here about dissatisfaction with middle schools, 5 middle schools are experiencing declines as first choices. They are Hamilton, Madison, Meany, Whitman and Aki Kurose.

For K-8, TOPS continues its dominance. Why, as Charlie has asked repeatedly, doesn't the district replicate this program if it is so popular? African-American Academy continues its decline with 1 first choice in both kindergarten and 6th grade.

On the elementary school front, Bagley, Lawton, Loyal Heights, Lafayette, Olympic View, Schmitz Park and West Woodland are making steady climbs up (maybe there's something to having an L or a W in the name) . TT Minor is making a comeback with only 1 kindergarten first choice last year to 14 this year. They enrolled 18 kindergarteners last year; this year there are 54. There were some extreme jumps with Bryant holding steady for 4 years at about 105 and then jumping up to 151 this year.

Declines? Madrona is experiencing a steady decline in both its kindergarten and middle school first choices. They enrolled only 5 sixth graders for 2008. Kimball seems to have fewer first choice votes but still have a waitlist. Whittier is slowly declining from 105 in 2004 to 77 in 2008 but they, too, continue to have a waitlist.

One puzzling one is Wedgwood which has jumped around a lot from 2004-2008; 50, 83, 50,89, 64 as a first choice. They have also jumped from 90 kindergarteners last year to 114 for 2008. Another puzzler is McGilvra which has been hugely popular since 2004. However, their steady average K enrollment of about 45 has dropped for 2008 to...24 . Huh? And they have 45 students on the waitlist. Odd.

These are just draft numbers but they are interesting to try to parse out.


Charlie Mas said...

A few observations:

1) This is all based on a spreadsheet from the District. I have never seen a spreadsheet from the District that wasn't wrong in some way. As I often have to say, I don't know the truth; I only know what the District tells me.

2) None of these first choice numbers are disaggregated by program. That presents a skewed view. So, yes, Washington may have 455 students who named it as first choice, but a significant number of them are in APP, Spectrum, Special Education or bilingual education and not part of the competition (as it were) for a seat in the general education program. The disaggregated numbers at Washington present a different view. Disaggregate them further by whether the students are in-region or out-of-region and you'll see even more.

3) These assignment numbers are on-time assignments only. You may be surprised to learn how many Seattle Public School students do not get on-time assignments. It's a lot.

4) The first choice numbers for Cleveland and Rainier Beach are both down. This will, undoubtedly, mean that the district will discontinue the experimental reduction of the schools' walk zones. They did actually tie some accountability numbers to that pilot program and the Board resolution that authorized it required a 10% increase in enrollment from the new areas granted transportation. Clearly, we aren't seeing that.

5) The first choice numbers for Cleveland and Rainier Beach are both down. First choice was supposed to be one of the accountability measures for the Southeast Initiative. Whatever goal they finally (if ever) set for this number and whatever annual benchmark they set (if any) - they couldn't meet it this way. This points out both the need for accountability measures and the urgency of that need.

6) The on-time assignment number for Rainier Beach is 33. That number takes my breath away. This is a comprehensive high school with capacity for about 1100 and over 2000 students who live closer to it than any other. Yet this assignment number is barely enough to fill a single classroom. Why is this school open when half of the newly constructed Cleveland stands empty? If the District simply didn't assign any new students to Rainier Beach, the waitlist would be acceptably small. This enrollment is half the size of NOVA. It is a third the size of The Center School. The Southeast Initiative isn't enough. The District should close the school, figure out what kind of high school people want, take a year or two to totally re-invent Rainier Beach from the ground up, and then re-open it. You can't rebuild the engine while the car is in motion.

7) The waitlist at Ballard is only 3. Does this relieve some of the pressure to provide a predictable assignment for Queen Anne and Magnolia families? Does this make it okay for the District to defer a solution for another year?

8) The waitlist at Roosevelt is over 200. What pressure does this create? Pressure for Hale to become more like Roosevelt? Pressure for the District to add capacity in that area? The only other high school with a waitlist of any size is Garfield. What do these two schools have in common? There are 1 and 2 in the number and variety of AP classes available. They both have strong music programs. What better sign can you have of the programs in demand? How will the District respond to that demand?

9) Denny has a waitlist of 11 students. Madison doesn't have a waitlist at all. That's a reversal. Was this caused by demand? No. At Denny, 132 students named it as first choice - a significant increase over the 87 from last year - and 128 students were assigned there - a significant increase over the 95 from last year. But why were only 128 students assigned to the 6th grade at Denny, a school with a much greater capacity? Why were any students turned away? Madison was first choice for 271 and enrolled 281. Madison continues to be more than twice as popular as Denny.

10) Whitman was first choice for 208, but enrolled 302. Wow! What's the story there? A third of the incoming 6th grade class at Whitman named some other school as first choice? What school? Not McClure (first choice 101, enrolled 153); it has the same story at one half scale. So what school did those 150 students name? It would have to have a waitlist. Don't look only at Washington and Eckstein; TOPS has a sixth grade waitlist of 90 and Salmon Bay's is 98. It looks like a significant number of Northwest Region families are looking for something else from their comprehensive middle school choices.

11) The first choice numbers for Meany continue to be anemic. It has dropped to 29. When and how will the District intervene? Again, if the District didn't assign any students to Meany the waitlist would be acceptably small. Alternatively, the District could relocate either the central region Spectrum program or middle school APP to Meany. Princess Shareef, the principal at Meany who has refused to accept a Spectrum program, is moving on to be the principal at Cleveland. So maybe now the District's program placement needs can take precedence over the principal's preference. The school has room for either program while Washington is packed to the gills. A third alternative would be to make Meany exclusively a Spectrum/APP middle school and expand the draw area of the Spectrum program to everything south of the Ship Canal. That would make the enrollment about 450 APP and about 270 Spectrum, for a total of 720, well within the building's capacity. There would be room for some self-contained Special Education classes or other special needs programs. Every single general education student in the Central region would fit easily at Washington with room to spare.

12) Review the first choice and assignment numbers for the AAA. This school should close. The New School should move into their building and the District should establish a new 6-8 middle school in the Southshore building. Why is this even open to discussion? The unspeakable waste of constructing a new P-8 building so close to the severely underutilized K-8 AAA building is unconscionable. If the New School doesn't want to move, then let's open TOPS II in the AAA building. It is time for the AAA experiment to be declared a failure and discontinued. First choice for Kindergarten over the past three years: 8, 6, 1. On-time assignments for Kindergarten the past three years: 8, 6, 5. Stick a fork in it; it's done. M L King's numbers weren't this bad.

13) Marshall appears as closed. I thought it was moved; not closed. What's the deal there?

14) A number of elementary schools didn't get enough first choice requests to fill a classroom. The District needs to intervene in every one of these cases. They include: Thurgood Marshall, 14; B.F. Day, 12; Hawthorne, 14; High Point (West Seattle), 15; Leschi, 13; Madrona, 16; TT Minor, 14. Of course, the assignment numbers for these schools were higher - much higher in some cases.

15) How and why was the on-time Kindergarten assignment at McGilvra restricted to 24 when it has a waitlist of 45? Was this to leave room for the students who request re-assignment there from a school under sanctions by NCLB?

16) There is a seriously troubling dichotomy in the Central Cluster. This cluster is home to four schools with waitlists (Montlake 12, McGilvra 45, Stevens 57, and TOPS 93) and four schools that didn't attract enough first choice requests to fill a class (TT Minor, Leschi, Thurgood Marshall, and Madrona). Again, the District needs to intervene.

anonymous said...

Due to the lack of capacity in the NE, several schools were asked to add additional kindergarten classrooms. This could account for Bryant and Wedgewood increasing their enrollment by such large numbers? It's also a transition year for Bryant with the current principal, Linda Robinson, retiring.

jp70 said...

I don't understand this spreadsheet. When it says historical assignments does that mean the number of kids who got accepted to the school? I'm trying to calculate the class size. Do they let the classes drop a bit before drawing from the wait list? If I divide by 4 classes for Laurelhurst, View Ridge and Wedgwood, class size would be 29, 28 and 33 for Kindergarten. Then Bryant says 69. They have 4 classes (weren't asked to add a class this year) and that would give a class size of 17? Plus, I've heard 38 kids that live in Bryant's reference area didn't even get in Bryant.

So please tell me I'm reading this spreadsheet wrong. I think 25 should be the most in a Kindergarten class and I've heard that the district said 23 would be the minimum they'd let schools take so these numbers seem off.


SE Mom said...

Unbelievable that there are so many school with very low enrollment while others have long

I have a sinking feeling that the District's solution is to change the assignment plan so that families are assigned to their neighborhood schools, thus filling schools with low enrollment.

As my kid approaches high school, I have no confidence that "choice seats" will help us get into a decent high school.

I kinda like Charlie's idea to put APP/Spectrum at Meany, as we have
struggled with a lack of good Spectrum progams in the southend. But what would happen to Washington? Much of the music program would be lost to Washington and what else?

hschinske said...

The numbers didn't jibe well at all with the impressions I had gathered over the years. I had thought that Ballard had huge waiting lists every year, but that wasn't so. Also, somehow last year there was only room for 360 freshmen, with 44 on the waiting list, but this year, voila, 450 freshmen. Anyone know what happened there?

Still three on the waiting list, even though only 382 gave Ballard as a first choice this year. I *suppose* that must mean that some people chose to be waitlisted at Ballard rather than at whatever their first choice school was.

I had also gotten the impression that Ingraham's popularity, while lowish, had been gradually increasing. Actually the first choice numbers have gradually been going down (well, this year is up two, hardly significant). But of course when a school is known to be easy to get into, more people will put it as second choice after a school that is hard to get into (like Roosevelt). So those numbers may not be a perfect representation of Ingraham's actual reputation.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...


About Ballard. I was surprised to see the low waitlist but didn't notice what you did, namely, that their freshman enrollment went up. So it's likely that they got pressure from the district to expand (this happened at Roosevelt last year).

I don't know what's up with Ingraham. Maybe it's just too far for people. I know a student there (in the IB program) who is happy as a clam. I think they have a decent (and good-natured) principal in Martin Floe. There are intermittent stories of fights there but I think that's true for most schools.

But you also bring up a good point about reputation which seems to be a huge part of people's selection process. Roosevelt must be good if everyone wants to get in, right? If it's too big or not the right fit, then it's not right for your kid.

Charlie, you're right about the numbers. I noted that the freshman size at Roosevelt for last year doesn't match what we had enrolled.

Ditto on your comments about AAA and New School. This is what I was trying, desperately, to point out to people. How can it be of use to have to build a new K-8 within a mile of an existing one in a relatively new building that can't even be half full? It is a complete waste of money. Build New School if you want but AAA needs to be something else and a southend TOPS 6-8 might be the ticket.

JP70, I wish I could answer your questions. I don't think there is a designated class size for kindergarten but it behooves each school to have a small class size because a large one freaks parents out. You could call Tracy Libros in Enrollment about this.

zb said...

What I'm seeing is Stevens, Bryant & McGilvra down by one class (and w/ big waiting lists) and Wedgewood, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, and John Hay up by one class. Is that true? (compared to last year)? Someone must know right?

(and, as you say, are these numbers interpretable anyway?)

jp70 said...

View Ridge is 4 classes next year like this year - both because the district asked due to so many kids. They didn't add the 4th class last year until after letters went out so I'm curious if the 81 kids it says were assigned last year was before the 4th class was added?

It makes no sense why Bryant would be down 1 class this year. They've always had 4 Kindergarten classes and nobody I've spoken at Bryant has told me that they are only going to have 3 next year. That is the number I am most curious about - especially since so many people didn't get in Bryant this year (who live in Bryant's reference area).

jp70 said...

Oh, and yes, Laurelhurst is up 1 class from last year. Laurelhurst, View Ridge and Wedgwood were all asked to have 4 Kindergarten classes next year due to the 25% increase in Kindergarten applicants in NE cluster from last year.

anonymous said...

"It makes no sense why Bryant would be down 1 class this year. They've always had 4 Kindergarten classes "

No, we have always had 3 kindergarten classes at Bryant. We have three classes at each grade level, and has always been this way. As far as I know there is no room for expansion. Bryant is already a very large school with very large classes (over 30 kids per class), and a total of about 550 students

zb said...

Oh, we should be careful not to take comments from random people (like me) as being factually accurate. I said "Bryant down one" because Bryant has 69 kids this year, compared to 97 last year. But, I know nothing of how all of this actually works (i.e. #'s of classes + #'s of students in each class). The same calculation seems to be true for McGilvra & Stevens, so I'm wondering how the assignments are being made (i.e. how the number of available slots are being assigned).

jp70 said...

I apologize for thinking Bryant had 4 classes instead of 3. I thought that was what I was told.

It seems strange to me that Bryant is the newest school in the cluster and the largest, but doesn't have capacity to add classes when smaller sized schools like Laurelhurst (who is adding a portable class to make room for a 4th Kindergarten class) and Wedgwood can add a 4th class. This is NOTHING against Bryant - I just don't understand why the older smaller schools have room for more classes and the newer school doesn't.

Just curious and feeling sorry for all those parents who didn't get into Bryant who live closest to Bryant.

anonymous said...

So, just how large should we let our schools get?? What is fair game?? I personally think 550 students is large enough for a k-5 program?? And 1250 is very large enough for middle school (Eckstein) ?? and how about Roosevelt now at a capacity of 1700??? Where does it end?? Why should we penalize popular schools by making them take more kids. Why should we stuff kids into Roosevelt, when only 23 kids applied for Rainier Beach HS. Why not fix the problem?? Get rid of the schools that nobody wants to go to and replicate the successful schools. The fact is that these popular schools are very very large. Instead of making them add even MORE students and make them even larger, mega schools, why not add capacity by adding another school in NE Seattle. How about a K-8 to relieve pressure on the elementary schools and Eckstein?? I'm tired of people insisting on making very large schools even larger. It is not a solution, it is a bandaid for a much larger problem.

jp70 said...

adhoc, I agree with you 1000%. I think NE Seattle has very good elementary schools which is attracting more young families which is resulting in too many kids to fit into all the schools. The district needs to accept that now and add more capacity at the elementary and middle school level.

anonymous said...

Just a quick fact:

Bryant is the largest k-5 in the Seattle School district.

Eckstein is the largest middle school in the entire state of Washington, and is much larger than many comprehensive high schools.

jp70 said...

Hi again,

It was bugging me that I thought Bryant had 4 Kindergarten classes so I looked on their website. It says they have 4 Kindergarten classes, rooms 101, 102, 103 and 104. One of them says blended class which I understand is the smaller class size due to having some special education students. I knew about that and have many friends who have put their kids in that class due to it being such a small class size (17?). Just wanted to mention that when I said 4 classes, I was including that class not knowing how many of the 17 are special needs students. Maybe I'm still misunderstanding, but it was bugging me that I was wrong on the number of classes. I'm no SSD employee, just a NE Seattle mom with lots of friends with kids at all the NE Seattle schools.

parunt said...

To see the number of kids in special programs, just look at the blue book. From the blue book, you can see that Bryant's blended Kindergarten program has 7 level 3 students. These are kids the district thinks that it can keep out of level 3 and 4 special education programs if it provides a reduced class size along with increased intensity kindergartens for one year. The program has an extra teacher as well. By all accounts, these are great classrooms for everyone in them.

old salt said...

There was a mistake in the enrollment center numbers for Bryant. 76 children are currently assigned to Bryant's 3 general ed class and 10 general ed students assigned to the blended class. That is a total of 86 plus seven special ed spots.

The families most affected, live on the west side of the cluster. That is beside University Heights Elementary which is, evidently, about to be sold.

It is one thing to add 4 more portables for kindergarten to the cluster, but that is a one year fix. The NE cluster cannot absorb 25% increase in the buildings they have. And I shudder to think about all 600 of those kids packing into Eckstein for 6th grade.

So glad they didn't close Sacajawea!

anonymous said...

The size of schools is an important factor to many parents. Many parents in the NE utilize elementary schools and then go private for MS because they just can't deal with a 1250 kid middle school (Eckstein).We have one child at Bryant which I find very large for an elementary and I shutter to think that it could get even larger. When our oldest graduated, and we couldn't afford, nor did we want private school, we opted for a Shoreline MS, that has an enrollment of 680 students. It's a fantastic school in a fantastic district, and much to our surprise there were many Seattle students who were attending. As large as Eckstein is, many families that live in the North part of the NE cluster can't even get in. Those families go private, or to Shoreline.

My point is you can't keep adding capacity at our schools in the NE. They can't absorb the students that they already have much less a 25% increase. Then we have Jane Adams right here in our cozy cluster and it is way way UNDER UTILIZED. I've said it before....the district needs to move Summit K-12 out of Jane Adams and into a more central location, like perhaps the beautiful new building that the AAA is in (The AAA should be closed in my opinion). Then the NE cluster would have the Jane Adams building which holds, viola, 1100 students!!! It was originally built as a middle school and would be absolutely perfect to house a k-8. It just makes sense.

The last poster is right to point out just how out of touch this district is trying to close Sacajewea, a school in this over crowded NE cluster, that is always at capacity, usually with a WL.

Melissa Westbrook said...

A couple of things:

-about Sacajewea; when closure and consolidation were occurring, the committee received some wrong information about the NE and its growth. It is unlikely that we would have chosen any NE elementary given the number of kids you see packing these schools.

-the fact that we have some very solid elementary schools in every single corner of this district and we have an economy that is stagnant (or going into recession) which means some people who might have wanted to go private now can't, means the district should figure out - now - how to serve those families. The district can certainly use the money and the support from these families. I still believe we could get back 5-10% of the people who go private with good marketing and programs that people want.

-moving Summit is problematic. In a way, it would be an irony to move it way to the south because it used to be in the middle of the city (which makes sense for an all-city draw) and go moved to a far north location. Also, those parents have poured a lot of resources and effort into that building; it would be hard for them to walk away. But Summit's lack of numbers and the NE/N need for more elementary/middle school space all point to something different happening for Summit at some point in the next couple of years.

It all really depends on the Superintendent and her plan (yet to be announced). She could say, in her plan, that she is going to laser-focus on 5 things and that's it. If capacity issues aren't part of that, it might be years before anything is done.

I do know that Don Kennedy, the COO, is working on getting the technology issues ironed out so that we can revisit the assignment plan. Capacity and programs drive how many students can be in a building so all these issues will be part of the discussion.

anonymous said...

Why is moving Summit problematic?? It should be somewhere more central since it is an all city draw. Right now they are almost at the Shoreline border, and that just doesn't make sense for all city draw transportation. I know they poured resources into the building, but it's a building that their program can't fill. They have a declining enrollment ( a little over 6oo) in a building that holds 1100, in a cluster where huge wait lists at almost every school exist. How is it problematic to move them?? It's much more problematic to keep them in the Jane Adams building.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's always a problem if there's nowhere to move them. There aren't a lot of choices. Yes, move them centrally both for an all-city draw and the fact that the transportation costs a lot. But where? It's not as easy it may look otherwise I think this move might have happened a long time ago. (A bit of history, after Summit got "temporarily" moved to Jane Adams, they were in line for a different building. I've been told that they were in line for the Seward Building (where TOPS is) but it didn't work out.)

This is why facilities planning is so complicated AND why it has to be watched carefully. The ripple effects of any one move can affect schools in all areas of the district.

zb said...

I'm not at all sickened if the end result of all this unrest is to have default neighborhood schools. If we draw appropriate reference areas (and allow some ups and downs in the school populations) we will be forced to deal with these capacity issues. We'll have to deal with the location of all-city draws in places where neighborhood need is significant (Jane Adams, Seward); Schools will be able to plan better (instead of dealing with the results of popularity contests where parents decide that Wedgwood isn't their first choice this year because the tour guide was annoying).

We can still have choice on top of default assignments, but this uncertainty, and stories like those of the Bryant families who are locked out of their reference area school, only to travel past 3 other schools to get to their assignment for their 5 yo are what drove me out of the system (to private).

anonymous said...

Yes, I have to agree that in the end, I too prefer neighborhood schools too. As I said I have my middle schooler in a Shoreline MS and my youngest at a Seattle elementary school. What I have found in Shoreline where there are neighborhood schools and no choice, is that schools are more consistent. They don't have the good schools and the bad schools, they are all good schools because you have to go to them...you can't simply escape to a better school. When everyone escapes to a better school this leaves the bad school to get worse and worse, and loose enrollment. It's an endless cycle. If you HAD to go to your neighborhood school you would fight to make it a good place. I know Charlie and some others don't buy into this idea, and they will cite the Madrona experience, and I get that. But, I see it working in Shoreline.....

SE Mom said...

I don't think the solution is to get assigned to a poorly functioning school and expect families to improve the school.

From what I can figure, the schools in Shoreline have more consitent enrollment across the board and there are fewer schools
(only two high schools).

Here are some demographic figures for Shoreline and Seattle high schools as one way of perhaps looking at class differences:

Both Shoreline High Schools: 70% and 65.4% white

Cleveland HS: 6.2% white
Rainier Beach HS: 5% white
Franklin HS: 7% white
Roosevelt HS: 60% white
Ballard HS: 64.7% white

School choice and assignment, especcially for middle and high school in south seattle is not an issue of getting wrong information from a cranky school tour guide, as suggested in blog entries above.

anonymous said...

Yes i would have to agree with SE mom. I'm only speaking from my perspective in the NE cluster where we have good, better and best schools. We don't have any bad schools. If I were in the SE, and had to go to Cleveland or RBHS, I would run, not walk out of this district. But I have to wonder if these schools are in the situation they are in because people have had choice, and been able to avoid them?? If, over the years families in the neighborhood had to go to these schools they may be quite different than they are today. But, yes, at this point forcing people into terrible schools would be a disaster.

anonymous said...

So just to continue my thought from above.......it is clear that RBHS is not a desirable school, as it's enrollment numbers prove. It would be a disaster to take away choice in areas like this and force people into these under performing schools. But.....what if RBHS was closed? What if the district did some real outreach to find out what the community wants in a school? What it would take to draw neighborhood families into a school? Then, open a new school in the RBHS building? Then the possibility of a neighborhood school might be appealing. If it were a topsII or and international schools, or an IB school, or a school like Roosevelt that offers a vast array of AP classes? I think the idea of neighborhood schools is something we should explore, but I acknowledge that it can't be done until all schools are good schools.

zb said...

SE Mom:

I know the situation in SE is different. NE is not the same as SE, and probably a lot more like shoreline. I felt this way since I saw people parsing the minute differences between Laurelhurst, and View Ridge, and Wedgwood, and seeing kids cris-crossing the quadrant looking for optimizing these differences. I know the folks in SE are not parsing minor differences and cranky tour guides. But I don't think the choice system as it currently operates helps folks in SE a lot, either. The idea behind choice was that it was supposed to rise all the boats. If it doesn't, you get what you have now, with a too many folks clutching the remaining boats that aren't sinking. The solution to SE is that the schools have to be improved.

BTW, I know you didn't mean it that way, but one shouldn't actually judge a school by the percent of white people in the school. The same point (about the potentially difficulties of serving diverse populations) can be made by citing the proportion of children who who are eligible for free lunch.

zb said...

And, I think the solution in NE is neighborhood schools. True, right now there are some less favored schools (Sacajewea, John Rogers). But, NE is almost certainly homogeneous enough that Shoreline is a reasonable comparison. In principle, if it is the school itself (and not the school's population) people are looking for, choice could help improve overall quality. If Wedgwood was doing something right, John Rogers could learn about it, and do it to. In principle, one could offer support for different learning styles at different schools. In practice, though, I think choice is driving inhomogeneity that creates pressure on some schools compared to others, when it's really not necessary.

anonymous said...

For comparisons sake....the number of white students, and free and reduced rate lunch students is very similar for Shoreline schools VS NE and N cluster Seattle schools such as Roosevelt, Ingraham, Hale, Ballard, Whitman, Hamilton and Eckstein. It would be fair to compare these schools (based on ethnic make up and socio economic status) to the Shoreline model of neighborhood schools.

SE Mom said...

Free or reduced lunch is a better gauge of class than race - I apprectiate the feedback.

I cannot convey how disappointed I am that the SE Initiative may not actually be funded. What is the next step if that fails? Robbing a bank or buying a winning lottery ticket to pay for private school tuition seems more plausible than waiting for the District to improve south end schools.

anonymous said...

Yes, I feel for you SE mom, without the hope of the SE initiative the schools in your cluster will remain undesirable. Even with the new assignment plan, there will be choice. As far as I understand it, the assignment plan guarantees that you get into your reference school if you want it, but if you don't you can choose any other school that has space. The problem is the very popular schools will not have space, but many other schools will. Whitman and Hamilton always have space, as does Ingraham and Hale, and even Ballard this year has no WL. So, perhaps with a commute you can get into a better school. I do feel for you. I used to live in the central cluster and moved (even though we didn't really have the money) to the NE cluster when my oldest was in 1st grade. We lived to far away from Stevens, McGilvra and Montlake so had no chance of getting it. The rest of the schools were the pitts and I just couldn't bear to send my kids to one of them.

serestoo said...

I feel for you too. You might actually have to go with some blacks, or better described, low income people. It's the students that make the school. Those same students in Shoreline or the NE, well, they'd drag that down too. I'm mean, I love living in the SE with all the diversity, but going to school with it. No way!

anonymous said...

No serestoo, sorry to disagree, but it is not a race issue. We are a bi-racial family (black/italian) so believe me we actively SEEK diversity wherever we can get it. This is not a race or class issue, rather it is a bad school issue. The SE schools are under enrolled, offer very little opportunity for advanced learning, are crime ridden, and have terrible WASL scores. That's the bottom line. Good try though.

Charlie Mas said...

Everytime I begin to worry that Seattle might be an irony-free zone, I see something like serestoo's comment and I feel much better.

What would be good now would be for serestoo to come back and write something helpful.

Perhaps serestoo has made a mistake in jumping to conclusions about other people's intent and motivation. Perhaps - and it is a world full of possibilities - just perhaps, people are not choosing south-end schools for some other reason. Maybe it isn't because they don't want their children to mix with Black children or children from low-income homes. Maybe some people want their children to have access to opportunities which are not present in some south-end schools. It's just a possibility.

Let's remember that the people who are not choosing south-end neighborhood schools are the very people who live in the south-end. Let's remember that a great number of them are, themselves, Black and/or low-income. Are these families also racist, classist, and elitist? Even among the White and affluent who live in the South-end, how racist, classist and elitist can they be if they choose to live in diverse neighborhoods? Perhaps, as serestoo suggests, they are willing to live near these other folks, but not send their children to school with theirs. I don't know. I live in Southeast Seattle, but I can only speak for myself. I wouldn't make conjecture about the motivations of others.

Let's examine and consider another of serestoo's statements:
"It's the students that make the school. Those same students in Shoreline or the NE, well, they'd drag that down too." This idea presents a lot to discuss. I suspect it was written in sarcasm, but let's not let style interfere with substance. Do the students make the school? If so, does a critical mass of low performing students create a school that addresses the needs of low performing students? Does this expertise come at the expense of serving high performing students?
In a choice system, does this naturally result in attracting more low performing students and driving off high performing students?

Here's another question: should we presume that just because a school has a lot of low performing students that the school therefore does a good job of serving these students. Or is the opposite true. If the school really were good at serving low performing students, wouldn't it turn them into high performing students and therefore not have very many at all? Which school would you say does a better job with this population? Maple or Hawthorne?

If we are to discover that a school doesn't serve high performing students well and doesn't serve low performing students well, and, in fact, doesn't really serve any students very well, then why should anyone - regardless of race or income - choose to enroll their child in that school?

Only 20 students entering the ninth grade this year named Rainier Beach as their first choice for assignment. Would serestoo have us believe that every other family of a ninth grader in Southeast Seattle is a racist and an elitist? Is that credible?

serestoo said...

Hey, black kids choose the white dolls too. In countless studies, white dolls have been shown preferable among black children. That proves it. They are prettier, after all, everybody knows it.

anonymous said...

Serestoo, can you add something positive to the conversation, or do you just want to keep jabbing and making racist comments?

SE schools are not appealing to anyone. Not to white families, and not to black families. Not to middle class families, and not to low income families. The numbers prove it. Many many families that live closest to RBHS don't choose it, those families are primarily black. The school obviously does not offer what any of these families want.

Do you really think that people who have chosen to live in a very diverse neighborhood such as SE Seattle, would shun their neighborhood school (regardless of the color of it's students) if the school were high performing?? If RBHS was fully enrolled, had a vast array of AP classes, an award winning jazz band, high WASL scores, high percent of college bound students, high SAT scores and a low level of drop outs, do you still think families would shun the school? I don't. Look at Garfield, Washington, Maple, Beacon Hill, Graham Hill, Orca. These schools have figured out ways to appeal to their communities. Nobody is shunning them, and they are some of our most diverse schools in the district.

If you have a black child choosing a doll, and the black doll is all scuffed up, missing a leg, has an eye poked out, and tattered clothes, and the white doll is new in a box, with a pretty new dress, of course the black child will pick pick the white doll. Same for schools. It's not a racist thing, but again, good try.

Stephanie Jones said...

We've got race and class issues in Seattle. Let's just acknowledge that right off. And IMHO, they manifest most strongly in our schools. I've personally observed some fantastic teaching and learning in schools deemed "just bad" by parents in their neighborhoods. My Capitol Hill neighbors remain wary of Meany, despite data that shows them significantly outperforming the rest of the city and state in INCREASING kids' test score performance from year to year, because their overall scores, not skewed by advanced programs, remain lower than Washington and Eckstein and TOPS. Lots of smart, savvy folks in my community, both black and white, see the diversity they embraced in elementary school as vaguely threatening, now that the kids are large and loud-mouthed and swaggering (and this describes kids of all classes and colors).

And because not everyone plays the choice game (more than a third, according to Tracy Libros), and many others work the system (making first choices at popular schools and 2nd choices at schools less popular, for example), that "1st choice" statistic is not as meaningful as it might be.

I want to caution us about characterizing too many of these schools based on enrollment choices and test scores, because yes, the choice system has skewed perceptions, and dated perceptions (Meany and others WERE once substantially poorer performing, wilder, less academically focused than they now are) are very hard to shake. It is important that we look into the schools and look past our own biases before drawing too many conclusions.

So before we advocate for closing schools or district intervention, or even replicating good schools that are frequently deemed good because enough upper middle class, savvy parents choose them to leave no room for the generally less informed, lower class late enrollers, I'd like to see us engaging communities in and around these schools to find out what's really happening educationally. It isn't only about numbers on a spreadsheet.

Stephanie Jones
Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle

Charlie Mas said...

Stephanie raises an important point. One which, ironically, can be found with a spreadsheet.

After removing the results for Special Education and Advanced Learning students (presuming no dual diagnosis), we can find the general education program WASL pass rates for any school.

On the 7th grade math test, Washington had a pass rate of 73% and Meany had a pass rate of 25%. It looks like a huge difference. But when you take out the results for students in special programs, you can see that the pass rate for general education students at Washington appears to be more like 40% and 29% at Meany. Not such a big difference.

On the other hand, if a school cannot attract a classroom full of students, then that school needs help - if only marketing help.

And if an alternative school cannot attract and enroll more than five new students (AAA) or ten new students (Summit) or 15 new students (AS#1), we need to seriously question the continuing need for the program. We may discover, upon investigation, that the continuing need is present, but we should not shy from asking the question.

GiGi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
serestoo said...

Ad_hoc, you can read about the dolls for yourself here or here or, better yet, here.

Liking the white dolls isn't about defective black dolls. It's simply about the dolls being black. Check it out.

anonymous said...

Serestoo...Forget the dolls, it was wrong of me to make an analogy like that. Let's just look at the schools and the predicament that they are in. Why should any family choose a severely under enrolled, under performing school? Why? And, what does it have to do with race?? Black and white families alike are not choosing these schools. Why? Why are they CHOOSING Garfield and Franklin, and Orca, and Graham Hill, and Beacon Hill and Maple? Why are they choosing these very diverse schools... but not Rainier Beach, or Aki, or AAA, or Cleveland? What's your take on it? I would really like to hear your opinion. Really. Why is nobody, black or white, middle class or low income, choosing these SE Seattle schools??

Charlie Mas said...

The point - doll purchasing habits notwithstanding - is that people are not choosing to enroll their children at Rainier Beach High School (and other schools) for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons - I'd say the bulk of them - are perfectly legitimate and honorable and have nothing to do with racism, classism, or elitism.

While it is possible that some people may avoid the school for reasons that some or even most of us would regard as dishonorable, there is no cause to presume dishonorable motivations. There is, in fact, ample cause to presume otherwise.

Moreover, in the absence of quality academic programs at the schools, there is reason to question the intentions of those who DO chose these programs for their children. Rather than inventing heinous reasons that people choose Franklin or Garfield or Ingraham instead, some may wonder what reason people have to choose Rainier Beach other than basketball and proximity? Is that reason enough to choose a high school? Because it is close to home? Does that virtue outweigh all other considerations?

anonymous said...

"And if an alternative school cannot attract and enroll more than five new students (AAA) or ten new students (Summit) or 15 new students (AS#1), we need to seriously question the continuing need for the program."

It is clear as day to me why people are not choosing these programs. They are among the lowest performing schools in the entire district. Their WASL scores are well below average, and quite frankly embarrassing. I wonder how the district can justify keeping these programs alive? These are the types of schools that need district intervention. How long will the district keep allowing these schools to limp along, and graduate 8th graders, that can't pass the 4th grade WASL???

Maureen said...

I wouldn't use WASL scores to judge the success of a school like AS#1 until I found out what percentage of kids opt out (and thus are counted as 0s). (Actually, I'm not sure the WASL is a good measure of success for any school-I wish there was a meaningful value-added measure.)

Another factor to consider in first choices is whether or not people believe the school is under siege by the District (i.e., likely to be closed or lose their transportation).

That said, I agree that if a school like the AAA with such a clear Mission and Vision, no threat from the District and reasonable WASL participation rates can't consistently attract students, it should be closed.

(Does anyone out there care to argue?)

anonymous said...

Maureen, I know that you are a big fan of alternative schools, so am I. But AS1 has been slowly loosing enrollment since their long time beloved principal retired a few years ago. Only 15 kids applied for AS1 this year, and because they are an alternative school, the district can not do any mandatory assignments. So the AS1 kindergarten class of 2008/09 will have only 15 students (if they all show up). In addition to their low enrollment numbers, they have very low WASL scores. Some do opt out and those 0's hurt, but I believe many just don't have the skills they need to pass the WASL. When I toured the school a couple of years ago, I was in a mixed grade class (grades 3-8 in one room, yikes!) that democratically decided they didn't want to take math that year, and due to it's alternative philosophy, this was fine with the school. That class got no math that year! How could they pass any standardized test? And how about Summit, with it's 8% WASL (math) pass rate? They have only had 10 kids total apply for kindergarten for 2008/09. Again, they are alternative, so no mandated assignments. Their kindergarten class WILL have 10 kids (if they all show up). They too have been slowly losing enrollment. They occupy a building that holds 1100 kids, but they only have a bit over 600 kids in a K-12 program. This in a cluster where other schools are bulging at the seams, and have wait lists of up to 89 students??To me, these are signs that the district should intervene now! That doesn't necessarily mean close the school at this point. Perhaps they need some marketing help? After all the district has threatened to close AS1 and Summit many times? Perhaps people are scared to enroll in these programs because of this? Maybe the district communicating that they support and will sustain these programs is all it will take? Perhaps they need a bit of standardization (mandate that all classes must take all core subjects like math)? perhaps they need to encourage AS1 to have all students take the WASL so parents will have a true gauge of their performance measured against other Seattle schools? I didn't mean that schools should automatically be closed, although that may ultimately become necessary.

zb said...

Fascinating discussion, folks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The district has, for the most part, resisted any kind of marketing beyond the basic (kindergarten fair, tours and enrollment guide). I think the problem for them is that they want people back from private schools but (1) realize that many would flock to the popular programs (already overenrolled) and (2)I'm not sure they could handle it if nearly every school was full.

But you see the outcome when they finally open a second language school (Beacon Hill). A huge jump in enrollment.

In terms of alternative programs, it's a delicate matter. Because for every 20 parents who want a Roosevelt, there's 2 that want a Nova. Not all kids learn the same and it's good to have different offerings.

Having said that, alternatives were allowed to develop almost freeform (hence the uneven distribution throughout the district - wasn't anyone at Central seeing this as time went by?). There has been a new alternative school (unless you count Center School and New School which the district doesn't) in years.

The market would say that if parents want alternatives but the ones we have are not sustaining themselves or worse, have a higher per pupil cost, that the district should only keep the alternatives that are keeping up. Some may have been experiments that have run their course or need, as many regular ed programs, reinvention.

One option, for AS 1 and Summit to share a space made those communities very unhappy and they had many reasons against the move. However, if you had a choice between joining with another school to pool resources and remain a viable school or not be a school at all, I wonder what the choice would be.

serestoo said...

Yes, you're right, no need to consider the color of the dolls people selected (and still select). The doll selection experiment was used as evidence in Brown V Board of Ed, to make the case for school desegregation... something of no interest now. Not important.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank goodness we still have sarcasm as an effective weapon in the war on racism.

Sarcasm has the power, with a single withering remark, to change the hearts of thousands by showing them the error of their ways.

There is no need to build anything, no need to be constructive, no need to seriously consider the possible legitimacy of other viewpoints. With sarcasm we can skip those bothersome efforts and go straight to the fun part: blind arrogance and mindless destruction. Ya-hoo! Let 'er rip!

anonymous said...

Serestoo, ironically, it sounds like it is you who is the racist.

southendparent said...

Charlie Mas wrote: "After removing the results for Special Education and Advanced Learning students (presuming no dual diagnosis), we can find the general education program WASL pass rates for any school."

When I read statement like this, I think that this is why kids in special education get left in the margins time after time after time. Why can't the measure of a school's success be its success in teaching all its students? That is the type of report card that could generate a holistic picture of what's working and what's not working, and maybe make movement in meeting the civil rights of children in special ed in SPS

Charlie Mas said...

southend parent, I did not mean to marginalize students with IEPs any more than I intended to marginalize students in advanced learning plans.

The intention was to compare the results of general education students to eliminate distortions caused by program placement. Could you honestly compare the WASL scores of any other school with Lowell's or with South Lake's? Program placement impacts WASL scores and my intent was to adjust out the influence of program placement on those scores. I think that was pretty clear.

As for measuring a school's success with all types of students, those numbers are the ones that are widely available.

There is enough opportunity to find offense where it is intended. There is no need to conjure it where none is meant.