Sunday, August 03, 2008

An Outside Firm to Craft the Assignment Plan?

I received an e-mail from a parent who asked me if the district might be hiring an outside firm to create the new assignment plan. My first instinct was to say no. The Board hasn't in the (recent) past.

But this is a Board and Superintendent who used a lot of outside help in their audits that were done this year. Could they be thinking along those lines for the assignment plan?

The parent sent me a URL for a company that works on assignment plans. It's called the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice. I only browsed the site but saw some interesting reading there. They created plans for NYC, Boston and Portland, Oregon. Of particular interest is their publications page.

What I told this parent is that it might be a good idea but with some major caveats. One, where would the money come from to hire them? The Board just gave the Superintendent a raise and passed a budget that they can't sustain. There is no extra money. Well, maybe the Alliance would pay or some other entity.

Two, my experience is that when the district hires somebody, the staff tells the company want they want. In this case, a plan has to be crafted that works for parents and the district. There cannot be a show of "community engagement" when the company and our district's staff already know the outcome and are guiding that community engagement towards it. If a company were hired, it would have to be working towards genuine consensus.

Maybe I can ask the Portland PTA Council what they thought of what Portland ended up with and how well this company worked for their district.


MathTeacher42 said...

When I was in the Chef business you constantly get potential customers who are going to have a party for 100:

1. want THE BEST
2. want Prime Grade Filet Mignon & Fresh Lobster,
3. have 2 grand to spend, or, $20 bucks a person.

Well, for $20 bucks a person you'll get lobster and filet if and only if it comes from a can.

You could get gourmet sausages/ hot dogs from organic animals with organic rolls and exotic mustards,


you could chicken ...

but, you are NOT getting Prime Grade Filet and Fresh Lobster, unless you want to only have 20 people at your party.

I HOPE that the company the district is dealing with has honest sales people. I've seen toooooooooooooooooooooooooo many software projects where people were promised Prime Grade Filet and given discount hot dogs and day old buns ...

Like ESIS, that I have to use?

Bob Murphy

TechyMom said...

In the software industry we have a saying...

Cheap, Fast, Good. Pick any 2.

Jet City mom said...

So looks like Portland has a lottery system to attend a school outside neighborhood & parents provide transportation in most cases to the transfer school.
General Policy Statement
All Portland Public School students have the right to attend their neighborhood school. All students also have the right to request a transfer to attend any grade- appropriate school or program in the district. The Board is committed to families and students as the primary decision-makers for their choice of educational options. The district has the responsibility, through its centralized coordination of information, outreach, and support services, to provide families and students with information and advice that will enable families and students to make informed decisions about their choice of educational options

Lots of information on the BuildingChoice.org website


This website is designed to help implement and maintain public school choice programs. Included are promising practices from a range of programs, tools, and links to many additional resources to support your choice efforts.

anonymous said...

The way Portland handles assignment sounds perfect, and is exactly what I have been saying for years. Yes, families should be able to choose a school outside of their reference school if,

A)The school has excess space and can accomodate them


B) They provide there own transportation.

With a handful of all city draw schools such as alternative schools, immersion, Montessori etc., that are assigned by lottery, and provide transportation to all who get in.

It's pretty simple and it makes sense.

SolvayGirl said...

I'm uneasy with the "supply your own transportation" part. That would be OK for high schoolers who can take Metro (and maybe even the train), but could restrict choice for many hard working families.

Many people have jobs that would curtail driving a child cross town at rush hour.

Right now, the real problem with SPS schools is the disparity between so many—especially the Southend Middle and High Schools with those in the Northend.

A lottery system would make it nearly impossible to have any idea which school you would get into. if, one's neighborhood school is not acceptable and one did not get into their first choice via the lottery, then what protocal would be used to place the student? Would they default to their neighborhood school? Would they somehow get in the running for their second choice school? I can't see how that would work.

If we went with a complete lottery system, the resulting crap shoot would lead many parents to choose an independent school rather than risk be defaulted to their undesirable neighborhood school.

How does Portland place if a child's neighborhood school is nowhere on their list and they did not get into their first choice?

Jet City mom said...

one's neighborhood school is not acceptable and one did not get into their first choice via the lottery,

In wondering- what defines " unacceptable"?
Because it doesn't have a speciality program?
If lower income schools are eligible for more grants to support programs as in Seattle schools, if teachers are paid & hired according to contract which is the same all over the district, if the school supports and expands connections with the community- what is it that would make it " unacceptable"?

I expect that if your kids didn't get into your first choice school, they would attend your neighborhood school. If you don't like the opportunities there, band together with other parents to work to expand them.

anonymous said...

So, where does support for low income students end?

Since they can't afford private school like affluent families should the district subsidize tuition for them into the private school of their choice?

If a low income family doesn't like ANY schools in Seattle should the district pay for transportation to a Mercer Island, Shoreline or Bellevue school?

How can things ever really be exactly equal and equitable to everyone?

Should the government equalize salaries? Should everyone make, say, $55,000 per year no matter if you work at Burger King or Microsoft? That would make everything fair wouldn't it?

Should everyone drive a 2003 Ford Escape? Since some can't afford any car and others are driving Hummers, this would be equitable wouldn't it?

You see where I'm going? We will never be able to equalize everything.

There is low income housing all across our fine city. You don't have to live in the South End, or in a low income neighborhood, or in any neighborhood with a reference school that you don't like. There is plenty of low income housing right in the heart of the treasured NE cluster as well as Ballard, Capital Hill, you name it? There is even low income housing in the Pike Place Market!

If you can't afford to transport your child to a school other than their reference school you don't HAVE to. You have options. You can send them to their reference school, you can move to a neighborhood with what you deem to be an acceptable school, you can choose an alternative school, etc.

But if you CHOOSE to go to a school other than your reference school then the district should not be responsible for transporting your child all over the entire district and all across the city. That's really just ludicrous.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there's a lot of supposition happening here about other people's lives that I don't think is fair. We can't know the difficulties of what it would take for people to move or not move, it very well may depend on their job or personal situation. So to say there's low-income housing everywhere so that solves any problem isn't realistic.

There also seems to be confusion between equal and equitable. They are not the same thing and we all know, as adults, there is no way to make life equal for all even for children. But what we CAN do (and expect our public entities to do) is expect equity. That's why the district is putting forth the SE Initiative. They are doing it to get some equity in what is offered in high schools.

The district can't expect to change the assignment plan to have predictability as its keynote and not have equity within schools. The district could be sued and the plaintiffs would win because no, we don't currently have equity within our high schools.

The problem becomes more focused when you realize that the alternative schools are not equitably located nor are many popular programs. We have two IB programs, north and south, that's great. But we only have two elementary language programs and they are very popular. Is the district to say those programs are only for people who live in that neighborhood? Only kids in Ballard can access the biotech program? Maybe they can and maybe they can't.

I get the transportation issue both from the fiscal and the everyday (kids spending long amounts of time on a bus). We can't keep busing kids everywhere. BUT we can't shrug and say oh well either. Or rather, the district and the Board can't.

They need to think of how to solve these equity problems before they change any plan.

Maybe that's where they need outside thinking.

anonymous said...

How does our current (excessive) busing help low income families?

You can only get yellow bus transportation in grades k through 8 - and only within your own cluster. Since most schools within the same cluster are fairly equal (with the exception of the Central cluster) I can't see how the current "choice" program makes low income families choices any more equitable.

I agree the quality of schools between clusters is not equitable, however the current transportation plan does not allow for kids to be bused out of cluster, so low income families are not benefiting.

The families who ARE benefiting are the middle class and affluent families who like one school in their cluster much more than another school in their cluster. No equity issues, just personal preference. I see it in the north east cluster all the time. People shun John Rogers and Sacajewea (both fantastic schools) for Bryant, and View Ridge, and Wedgewood, and Laurelhurst. Do we owe these families transportation? I like choice. I love that families can choose a school that they think is a good fit for their kids - but should we really pay for their transportation?

Personally, I don't think so.

As for unique schools like alternative schools, immersion, Montessori, Bio tech, IB, etc, that is another subject. I have always said that the district should, at minimum, have dual programs. One offered in the north and one in the south - and provide transportation to kids north of the ship canal to the program located in the north and kids south of the ship canal to the one in the south. And of course these unique programs should be lottery, and open to all.

Beth Bakeman said...

Ad hoc, you say that "You can only get yellow bus transportation in grades k through 8 - and only within your own cluster."

That's not true.

The district enrollment guide says that for:

"A reference area school outside of your cluster"

Yellow school bus transportation is generally NOT provided unless the school is a designated out of cluster integration option for the cluster where the student lives or is an “all-city transportation” school. Contact an Enrollment
Center for more information."

That policy has been in place for years. I don't know how much it is used, but it is an option parents can use.

anonymous said...

Yes, Beth, I know that alternative schools get all city or multi cluster transportation. I pointed that out (in my earlier post) as one option for families who are not satisfied with their reference school.

I was unaware that integration positive yellow bus transportation was still available. Since the court ruled that it was unconstitutional to assign kids to schools based on their race, I guess I just assumed that assigning transportation based on their race was unconstitutional too. I was wrong, it is still happening.

While checking the district web site I came across another alarming transportation expenditure by the district. The district provides transportation to homeless children to schools outside of the Seattle School District (some times by taxi cab)? Yes, that's right, The district will bus a homeless student to a school in another district. Or, bus a child from another district to Seattle. In addition if a homeless family chooses to drive their child to school the district will pay them in lieu of using transportation. That's right, they get paid to drive their child to school. I really just don't get this.

Here is the quote from the transportation page on the SPS website.

" All students in homeless situations attending a school or program outside of the District from an address within the District or attending a school or program inside the District from an address outside of the District will be provided service to the school or origin."


"Parents/guardians of students assigned to taxicab service may request in-lieu compensation if they choose to drive their student(s)"

Why would we pay a family to drive their child to school?????

anonymous said...

Just to be clear - I 100% support taxi cab and all city transportation for homeless families. Anything that we can do (within reason) to limit transitions should be done. However, I do think it should be limited to services within this district. I don't think if a homeless family moves to Issaquah this district should sent a taxi cab to Issaquah to bring the child to/from school in Seattle.

reader said...

You can only get yellow bus transportation in grades k through 8 - and only within your own cluster.

Also not true for QA-Magnolia. southend minority students, and anyone else who will drive to the stop near a minority student's home, will get transportation from the southend to QA-Magnolia.

You've gotta provide bus service if you provide the option. And it has to be equitable. We also have to start thinking about putting a limit on people driving their kids to school, even if they can afford it. At some point, the number of cars, simply driving around, has many impacts.

SolvayGirl said...

There are a lot of things that can make a school unacceptable to a variety of parents (I'm talking middle and high school here).

A school might not be safe—too many fights, rapes, etc. A school might have major issues with their admin—multiple principals in fewer years, high staff turnover. A school might be too large, too small, not offer a quality music/drama/art/science/foreign language/college prep program. A school might have very low standardds...even Dr. G-J admits that an "A" in one school is not always equal to an "A" in another school.

The problem is that right now, the schools aren't even close to equitable. The perfect school for my child would be Roosevelt with its exceptional drama and music program. As Southend residents, we would never get in--even with today's generous choice program. RB is trying to build their music and drama programs, but their teachers don't even come close in comparison to those at Roosevelt. Add in the safety issues and it makes the school unacceptable to me as it now stands. Perhaps it will be wonderful in a few years, but I don't have a few years.

The transportation is NOT the issue, nor is the location of my home. I love living in the southend and wouldn't live north even if I could afford it. I'd love for RB to be the equal of Roosevelt...but right now, it's not. I hope the southeast initiative will make a difference, but the District will need to develop quality programs before people will be willing to take a chance on them. They need a drama program with a real drama teacher and a music program with a real music teacher—not someone who is doing double duty with another subject like Art or English. Last year, the "drama" teacher at RB didn't even realize she needed to secure the rights to The Wiz before her group could perform it!

Saying you have a program or offer courses only goes so far. The quality of those programs and courses have to equal those at other schools (Garfield, Roosevelt, etc.) to truly be equitable. Until the District works to build quality programs with high standards at every school, they will have issues with the student assignment plan.

Remember...the independent schools select students BEFORE SPS notifies people of assignments. The independent schools usually require a commitment and deposit from families before the know their SPS assignment. As long as the District has an assignment plan that leaves families in limbo, they will lose students to independent schools.

Check out the satire on student assignment by Denise Walker-Gonzalez on her blog on the PI site "Chalkboard", It's very funny...but almost prophetic.

Jet City mom said...

A school might not be safe—too many fights, rapes, etc.

Or murders?

No school is exempt.

In the days before 16-year-old John Jasmer was killed, people twice called Roosevelt High School in Seattle to report that students there had talked about killing a classmate.

The callers -- a parent and a school district administrator -- left messages. But no one at Roosevelt High returned them, according to a report released yesterday. And Jasmer, whom the callers could not identify as the intended victim, was soon dead.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider reinstating the murder conviction of the driver in a gang-related drive-by shooting that horrified Seattle in 1994.

The court will hear arguments in the fall in the case of Cesar Sarausad II. He was convicted for his role as the driver in the shooting in which Melissa Fernandes, 16, was killed and Brent Mason, 17, was wounded outside a Seattle high school( Ballard) on March 23, 1994
Testimony showed Sarausad and two fellow gang members in the car he was driving were among 10 young men and teens who had passed by the school in two cars.

Fernandes, who had nothing to do with the gang rivalry that led to the shooting, was the first student to be killed on public school property in the city.

Sarausad, a 19-year-old University of Washington freshman at the time, was convicted by a King County Superior Court jury of second-degree murder, attempted murder and second-degree assault and was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Note- First student to be killed on school property, not Rainier Beach, not West Seattle or Ingraham-but Ballard.

reader said...

Well, one thing is certain. The problem is NOT about the software, and this is a software company. Despite the fact that the district would like to blame the assignment delay on the bad-old VAX.... or on the IT department, which may in fact have problems, they're definitely not to blame. If the district had the assignment plan figured out, the software to actually make the assignments would be trivial. There's only 45,000 students! Please! Where's the plan?

anonymous said...

"The transportation is NOT the issue, nor is the location of my home. I love living in the southend and wouldn't live north even if I could afford it."

That is your choice. You have just prioritized. You have chosen your neighborhood over getting your child into a school that you deem would be a good fit for him/her. There is nothing wrong with your choice, but you have to own it. You are not going to get into Roosevelt living in the South end. We too lived in the South end and loved it. We prioritized. Our priorities were to have our children in the best public schools they could be in, and they happened to be up north. So we moved. Our house up north cost no more than our house down south, so it was not a hardship for us.

Schools are never going to be equal, and maybe not even equitable. One will always have a stronger drama program (Roosevelt), or stronger AP program (Garfield), or stronger football team (RB). There is simply no way to completely level the field.

And, when you choose to live in a low income neighborhood you can expect that your schools are going to have a much harder time. They have to educate kids coming from difficult situations, language barriers, low income, etc. They are going to have a hard time keeping up with schools in an affluent neighborhood.

Again, you made your choice to live in the South end. You have to deal with that choice. Garfield is a fantastic school, as is Franklin. Maybe one of them would work for you. Or, try Nova, it's fantastic too, and close by.

The one area that does seem to be equitable between north and south is safety. A student was shot by a drive by gang bullet at Ballard. A student was assaulted at Hale last year. And a student was murdered at Roosevelt. Ingraham and Hamilton seem to have ongoing racial issues. And, Roosevelt has one of the highest drug abuse rates in the district. You can't escape the safety issues in this district

anonymous said...

And of course if Solvaygirl really wants her child to avoid RB, in addition to Garfield, Franklin and Nova, there is plenty of space up north at Ingraham (stellar IB program), and Nathan Hale (test scores competitive with Roosevelt). Since transportation is by Metro, give it a whirl!!!

anonymous said...

I guess I'm just confused as to why someone (with the means) would live in a neighborhood where they are dissatisfied with the schools? For generations parents have chosen to buy houses in neighborhoods that they perceive as having access to good schools. My parents certainly did this, as did my husband and I.

It irritates me when people choose to live in neighborhoods that have what they deem sub-par schools, and then instead of supporting their schools and working to better them, they whine about them and try to avoid them. They expect the district to offer full choice enrollment and transportation all across the district for their children. They want spots in the most popular schools on the other side of the district - a prime example south end solvygirl who wants a spot for her child at north end Roosevelt.

The families who get in to Roosevelt live within 2 miles of the school. Many of them chose the neighborhood just so they could get their kids into Bryant, Eckstein, Roosevelt. If the south end wants a school like Roosevelt then you have to work for it in your schools, instead of avoiding them and leaving your neighborhoods. That's the bottom line.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Frankie, the student was NOT killed AT Roosevelt. It was a Roosevelt student murdering (by other students) during the summer off campus. (That said, it seems that there were many signs that were missed by parents and administrators which led to a devastating outcome.)

SolvayGirl said...

Class of 75...I know that bad things can happen in any school, but the reality is the District has had a habit of dumping less than desirable admin on southend schools, which creates an atmosphere more aggreable to problems.

Framkie...I don't know how much you know about the assignment system, but Garfield is not really that much of an option for Southend kids. Very few if any get in unless that are AP and came up through the ranks. In fact, a friend who's child went from Lowell, to an independent middle school lost her AP priority and could not get into Garfield for high school. Franklin can be a good school, and I know friends whose children attend there...but none of them refer to it as fantastic. NOVA can be a great school for a student who is self-motivated, but it is not a good fit for my child who needs more direction at this point in her life.

When I bought my home, Franklin was a more desirable school and had a terrific FAME program. We had/have a terrific public elementary within walking distance, so no complaints there.

But I don't believe that parents should have to move around the city to assure admittance into a quality public school. I disagree with your assertion that schools cannot be equitable. Schools can and should be more equitable. The District has had a history of ignoring, at best, or mistreating Southend schools (and probably some West Seattle as well). They ARE trying to make the schools equitable, but, as noted in my previous post, it probably won't happen in time for us.

Personally, I would like to see the District eliminate choice--except in the case of true alternative schools which should be located in every quadrant. It will take a mass influx of families who are committed to their children's educations to help struggling schools achieve. If I knew that all of the children who live in our area would attend RB (including the AP students now at Garfield), I would be willing to give it a try. But as long as families can choose other public schools (in huge numbers here in the Southend), the struggling schools will continue to have an uphill climb. As I have said before on this site, I cannot risk my child's education in the name of social justice. I have friends who have tried, and failed because there just weren't enough of them. At RB, it would take at least 200 new families.

For us, right now, we're looking at The Center School for next year, but it is not an official alternative school (though it should be) and its curriculum and model could easily be lost if Dr. G-J succeeds in standardizing the curriculum for all of the non-alternative schools. As it stands now, it will be a decent fit for my child. I only say decent because it has no formal music program. Transportation will be fairly decent with the train and monorail.

So we may be OK for high school...but I also want to advocate for my friends and neighbors...and all of the kids who live in the southend. Just because I have a decent choice for my child doesn't mean I stop fighting for equity at SPS. I want ALL of the kids, all over the city to get a quality public education. In a city as well read and wealthy as Seattle, I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Nemom...when I moved into my neighborhood 15 years ago, the schools were in MUCH better shape than they are today. I spent 8 years at my child's elementary working my butt off to keep the school strong despite the fact that the District dumped a couple of bad principals (we have NINE in 6 years).
Parents can only do so much, and in my experience, it takes a critical mass of about a third of the student population to come from families that have the time, money, where withall and energy to invest in a school to make it successful.

Frankly, I am tired of hearing people say that it's my fault for living where the schools are bad!!! You just don't get it. If the District can have some great schools, it should at least have ALL good schools. We're not talking about the difference between inner-city schools and the burbs, we're talking about ONE district with a great deal of disparity from school to school.

This is not just about my child, but all of the children in the city. Stop putting the blame on parents and start putting it where it belongs...on a history of neglect. I can only hope that Dr. G-J makes good on her quest to make all the schools in Seattle suitable for her own child.

anonymous said...

"If the District can have some great schools, it should at least have ALL good schools."

It's not the district that creates GREAT schools. It's the community. It's the mass parent involvement ...gardening, holding auctions, tutoring, assisting teachers, working in the office, holding committees, heading the site council and pta. It's the families commitment to, and investment in, their children's schools. The district can't provide this. The district provides the bricks and mortar, the administration/teachers, and the funding.

The majority of south end families
are lower income, many don't speak english and many are coming from difficult situations. They do not have the time, desire, or ability to commit to their child's school. That's the fact. Solvygirs even says she feels it takes a third of the school families to make the effort work. It just doesn't happen very often in the south end.

How is that the districts fault? They try to compensate by funding South end schools at a much higher rate than north end schools, but that is not enough. It's not the money, though surely, money helps. It's the commitment of the families. So, again, what can a district do?

That's why I say, if you don't like your schools, and your child's school is your priority, then move. Move to a neighborhood that has proven that they support their schools. A neighborhood of families that are like minded and committed to their child's education. A neighborhood where you will have to fight for a spot on the PTA because so many parents want the position.

SolvayGirl said...

Nemom: i do agree with you to a point. Family involvement (with both their own kids and the schools) is a huge factor in any schools success or failure. BUT, as far as I can tell, the District's generous choice program is what lead to the mess we're in.

From what I have read and heard, the District saw a mass exodus of northend families in the early 1970s when they tried busing as a means to integrate schools. Then, the District overcompensated in the northend to woo back families.

This overcompensation, combined with a generous choice program (to voluntarily integrate schools) got us into the mess we have now. The numbers show that many children — including children of color — bus north for the better schools. Few bus south.

So, though I agree that parental involvement is the key to better schools, I fault the District for a policy that encouraged people to bus all over town for the best choice. Ingram High, for example, has a huge population of students form the Southend. It might eve be underenrolled if all of those students were to attend schools in their own neighborhoods next year.

And...the extra money spent in the southend typically is for social programs like counselors, family assistance, etc. They are important functions in schools with large low-income and/or ESL students, and are certainly helpful in making individual students successful. But, these extra social service offerings often come at the expense of enrichment programs. RB for example offered few, if any, AP classes, so college-bound students would definitely look elsewhere even if RB was just a block away.

The District's past funding formulas were also responsible for the dearth of AP classes and electives in the southend as so much of a school's budget. and subsequently number of teachers, was tied to enrollment. The District has worked to remedy this, and I applaud them for that.

That's also why the District IS trying buy pumping money into some SE schools to make them more attractive. As I've said...I believe things will get better—just not in time for my child's freshman year.

The demographics of the southend are changing, and the District should realize that they cannot continue to offer sub-standard schools, or they will see the same sort of flight they saw 30+ years ago. And it's not just white families, we're talking about. I know many families of color and/or immigrant families that have chosen to bus their children elsewhere or to an independent school (many get full scholarships at the city's best).

You ask, "What can a District do?" I answer by saying that a District can create a system that encourages people to attend their neighborhood schools and makes it unattractive to attend outside their cluster. Restricting transportation is one step. Cleaning house of bad administrators and teachers is another. Transparency about problems (crime, etc.) is a third. Ensuring that all schools have high standards and quality programs is the last.

Parent groups do make a world of difference, but they cannot make up for a bad administration (believe me, I lived through that attempt with the scars to prove it), turning a blind eye to crime, and lowered expectations.

old salt said...

It is a very interesting question.

What does it take to make a good or great school? And can the district provide it?

The extra money driven into low performing schools these last few years has not closed the gap. That money was suppose to make up the advantage that volunteers & fundraisers give to other schools. Would more money do that?

I have heard teachers say that the difference is in kids coming to school ready to learn. Well fed, rested, from stable environments, with preschool experience that prepares them for the classroom, and parent support at home that reinforces the school culture. What would the district have to do to make up that difference?

I do think that a good principal can have some affect, how much? I have seen poor principals drive off good teachers & promising students. I have seen poor ed directors drive off good principals. I believe the district could effect change there.

I also see families that are able to offer education to their children outside of school from library visits to tutoring. Can those opportunities be offered after school & in the summer for students who do not have them at home? Could it be enough to make up that difference?

Which of these differences can be affected by the assignment plan?

anonymous said...

The SE initiative aside, the district has always funded low income school much greater than they do middle class and affluent schools. They offer compensatory dollars based on a schools free and reduced rate lunch population. Many S. end schools have much greater funding (provided by the district) than do affluent schools INCLUDING all of their fund raising $$$.

So, no, I don't think it is $$$$ that make a school great, otherwise the south end schools would be far better than the north end schools.

Solvygirl, how did the district over compensate north end schools to woo back families? I can tell you that currently there is absolutely no over compensation, and that the opposite could be said. They are under compensated.

It is the families in the north end that make their schools what they are. There are schools up north that have awful and multiple principals just like the south end. But the difference is the community rises up and causes enough commotion that the situation gets addressed. And you say RB offers very few AP classes, I can tell you that Nathan Hale offers none. Zero. If you want to see AP classes at RB, then the community at large will have to demand them. So, far this hasn't happened. Kids who want college prep go elsewhere.

I go back to my original stand. It is the parent community that makes all of the difference that makes a great school.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why is

"Ensuring that all schools have high standards and quality programs is the last."

last on the list? It seems like it would be first so that parents CAN'T argue that they don't have good programs.

Keep in mind that this district has not done its part to make sure all schools are high quality and Rainier Beach is a good example. Why build probably the most beautiful performing arts hall in our district and then not give the school a performing arts department? Why turn your back on arts groups who were willing to help? It's lack of follow-thru that make parents frustrated and willing to ship their kid anywhere else.

(That and hearing that a 15-year old was shot dead on Rainier Ave South late Tuesday.)

Also, there is confusion (me, too) about who can get transported where. I know, for example, that Roosevelt gets two yellow buses of ESL students from the south end because ESL students' assignments are in a different pool that regular ed assignments. This is likely to change under new transportation rules (which I was told would end that busing by next year) and/or a new assignment plan.

SolvayGirl said...

Sorry for any confusion...I wasn't actually prioritizing that list—just ticking off the major things the District could do to make a difference. You're right...the quality programs DO need to come first.

And, nemom and I will just have to agree to disagree.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hale does have AP. From their course catalog:

"As a result, the offering of AP curricula at Nathan Hale takes different forms:
“Stand-alone” courses that provide preparation for the AP Exams in Japanese Language and Culture (exam first offered spring 07), Spanish Language, Calculus, and Statistics; and
Coursework that may be done on-line or in an addendum meeting with teachers outside of regularly scheduled class time providing for AP Exam preparation: Art, Calculus BC, English Language, English Literature, Physics, and United States History."

Now do I personally agree with this method? No. Do I think it puts a huge burden on students who are in "Coursework" AP classes? Yes. Do I know who pays for the coursework done on-line? No.

But Hale has made its choice and they are parents who like it. (But I personally know at least two families who left Hale because of it - they didn't read the fine print and didn't realize how few stand-alone AP classes Hale had.)

But, from listening to people on this blog, I suspect Hale is going to be forced to backtrack when we have a new assignment plan. That, of course, is up to Carla Santorno, the Board and the Superintendent but parents certainly should weigh in.

anonymous said...

If all NE families had access to Roosevelt with it's vast array of honors and AP offerings, then I would support Hale's unique "alternative" philosophies 100%.

BUT, unless you live within a 2 mile radius of Roosevelt, you can't get in. Many many NE families live outside of that 2 mile radius and don't get in. The only other HS school in the NE is Hale, so by default it becomes a neighborhood school instead of a unique alternative school.

When you are a neighborhood school you should have to offer a baseline of courses. Unique programs like drama, band, bio tech can be housed at different schools, but a baseline of courses, including advanced level, honors and AP, should be offered at EVERY school in the district.

So, unless Hale wants to classify themselves as an alternative school, they will have to answer to the community and offer the courses that families want.

There is a reason that Roosevelt and Garfield have the highest wait lists (by far) of any schools in the district (200+). They both offer a tremendous amount of AP courses, and they both have fantastic music programs. I would hope the district could see the connection, and ensure that all schools will have these offerings.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'd just point out that it isn't just Hale; the LA department at Roosevelt refuses to teach AP courses so there are no LA AP courses at Roosevelt. This, of course, flies in the face of the fact that one of the most taken AP courses in the country is AP English Literature.

Of course, a student can take an AP test without the class but a school not having one of the most popular AP courses should raise some eyebrows.

I have asked, repeatedly, why this is and not gotten any real answer beyond "that's the way it is".

All our high schools could use a good outside look.

SolvayGirl said...

And...a friend just told me that her daughter, a junior in the fall, has already taken all of the AP classes Franklin has to offer. With many colleges using AP classes as admittance markers, we can't afford to have any student who wants to attend college unable to take AP classes at their school.

People keep talking about running start...but, it is not free, nor am I ready to have my 16-17-yr-old sitting in a class with college-age young men. And, I'd like her to get to experience the social aspects of high school: dances, student clubs, etc.

I agree, Melissa, all of our high schools need to be looked at. I am sure they can all use some improvement.

Anonymous said...

SolvayGirl1972--You are incorrect on the cost of Running Start. It IS free unless a student is taking MORE than 18 credits. From Seattle Cental Comunity College website:

"Running Start pays for tuition up to 18 credits. Students must pay for any credits in excess of 18."

That sure seems free to me! Also, having a daughter who just finished at Franklin, I am unclear how a soon-to-be junior could have possibly finished every AP class, when I know for a fact that AP Language Arts is offered for all four years (my daughter was in those classes).

I don't see how a 2nd-year student could take junior and senior level LA, at the AP level before finishing her own grade-level course.

As for your child being in class with college-age kids, well, I can't speak to that. But I'd think that a high school girl interested enough in her education to attend college isn't going to have the attention of trouble makers. Just a thought.

SolvayGirl said...

Thanks for the info on running start; I had been told it was not free by another friend. That certainly makes it more attractive.

As for my friend's daughter, she came to Franklin from a very good independent middle school and had Lowell AP for her elementary years. She tested into a number of higher level classes as a freshman at Franklin (including language). I realize she is an anomoly...but it still points to the fact that many of our high schools do not have enough AP classes for the students who want to take them.

I had another friend whose daughter as a Senior at Garfield had signed up for AP Statistics and Advanced Calculus and was given Auto Shop and Home Ec instead because there were no spots in the other classes (she was not an "official" AP student who had come up through the Lowell/Washington track).

As for the social dynamics of Running Start, I don't think the young men would be "trouble makers," just older and more worldly. I'd prefer her pool of friends to be closer to her own age and experience level. Right now, she's 13 going on 14 (not 18 or 20 as are some of her friends), and I'd like it to stay that way as long as it can.

In the end, if Running Start is our only option, we will most certainly take advantage of it. I'd just prefer it if our high schools could do the job of preparing students for college.

Where's your comfort zone? said...

Here's a WAC's question... When a student is identified as highly-capable, the school district is to provide highly capable program options through 12th grade. How can schools like Roosevelt not offer anything for highly-capable learners in 9th grade i.e., honors or AP class? Why would Nathan Hale High highly-capable offerings be punitive requiring to do both the AP strand and regular class offerings for highly-capable students?

Why does the district not enforce state regs? Money is not always the reasoning when highly-capable offerings can be done without budget increases? Why is the school board not monitoring inequities for this highly-capable student group within the schools and between the schools?

When will parents of the highly-capable tell the district: "We will no longer allow inequities for our children."

How uncomfortable do we need to get with inequity before we affect change?