Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meetings, Meetings (Oh Joy)

Here are some updates on various meetings coming up. Thanks to the Seattle Council PTSA for this info.

Wednesday, November 12, 6:00 - School Board meeting. The Board will vote on the capacity plan for the north end and vote on tweaking Board policy to meet a fast-track school closure schedule among other items. An interesting confusion is the issue of what happens to Summit. If the Board votes to use the Jane Addams building for a new K-8, Summit has to go. But the Board also said that, based on school closures, Summit might go into a newly closed building. However, the Board has also stated that closures this round are mostly to be based on building condition/site. So would they move Summit into a building they don't consider a good one? Also, interesting how we are going to close some schools, possibly end a program (Summit K-12) and yet we still pay for a lease to keep The Center School at Seattle Center.

Thursday, November 13th, 6-8 p.m. at Cleveland High School sponsored by the Center for Improved Student Learning (OSPI) . The discussion will be:

"To explore causes and solutions to the African-American student achievement gap. The meetings will let parents, students, educators and community members share their experiences and hopes for the education of African-American students. Feedback gathered from these town hall meetings will inform a comprehensive set of recommendations to close the achievement gap that will presented to the Legislature in late December.

Thursday, November 13th from 5:30-7 p.m. at the High Point FamilyCenter. The Kinship and Grandparent Support Group is hosting a resource and support event. Free dinner and child care. Please RSVP to Dena Nelson, 206-923-3266, or Debbie Dickson, 926-9370

Monday, November 17th, 9:30 am to 2:30 pm at the Frye Art Museum. Annual conference to provide parents volunteers in school classrooms with skills, vocabulary, and resources valuable to teaching the visual arts. The interactive workshop allows time for participants to practice visual thinking strategies in the galleries and art-making in the art studio. Capacity is limited: Conference fee of $25. To register for the Parent Docent Training Workshop https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/TheFryeMuseum/OnlineRegistration.

Tuesday, November 18th, 7 p.m at JSIS library sponsored by the Seattle Council Special Ed PTSA. General meeting and panel discussion lead by Ilene Schwartz, UW Experimental Education Unit about Inclusion for Special Ed Students.

Upcoming Assignment Plan meetings that are centered on discussions around guiding principles such as how much busing should be provided? Access to alternative schools? Program placement (not specific but what you think should be in each school/cluster/region)? The district wants to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 14, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Northgate Community Center
10510 5th Avenue NE

Saturday, November 15, 10:00 a.m. - noon.
Delridge Community Center
4501 Delridge Way SW

Tuesday, November 18, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Treehouse - The 2100 Building, Community Room B
2100 24th Avenue S

Thursday, November 20, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
NewHolly Gathering Hall
7050 32nd Avenue S

Tuesday, December 2, 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence
2445 3rd Avenue South


SolvayGirl said...

There is also a Roundtable Discussion with Dr. G-J at Columbia Library on Nov. 13 with parents who chose independent (private) schools over public. I was lucky enough to get on the list. As a parent with a child who went through Pre-K - 5th public then switched to independent for MS, I have a broad perspective. We have not yet decided about high school.

The meeting is only slated for 1 hr. 15 min., so not sure how much will be accomplished, but I'm heartened that the District at least recognizes that they are not serving all families.

h2o girl said...

This notice was in our school (Salmon Bay) bulletin yesterday, although it's actually about a meeting at Ballard High.

Ballard High School is proud to announce that at the next general membership meeting, Thursday, November 13 from 7-9PM in the library, we will be joined by SPS Director Peter Maier.
Guest speaker (and former Ballard parent) Peter Maier, will bring us up to date on all of the current "hot" topics--there's a lot going on in Seattle Public Schools right now! Come hear updates on the district's budget, school closures and the revision of the school assignment policy. These are VERY important issues for ALL families in the district--find out how they'll specifically affect our Ballard community. Bring your questions and comments for Peter....this is a great opportunity to meet with him and there will be lots of time for Q&A and discussions after the meeting.

ParentofThree said...

"we still pay for a lease to keep The Center School at Seattle Center."

Two points: Good programs cost money and owning a building is not a zero cost to the district.

So the question to ask: how much more does the district pay to run Center over Nova (somewhat comparable schools) and is that incremental cost worth the results seen at the Center school?
(i.e. good WASL and SAT scores, high enrollment and more than 90% of graduates continuing onto college and of course happy/motivated students, which is priceless.)

Charlie Mas said...

It's not entirely fair to compare The Center School to NOVA on test scores. It's a well-known fact that NOVA has the highest average SAT scores in the district and some of the strongest student climate survey results (happy, motivated students).

It's wonderful and astonishing that Peter Maier is coming out to speak with the community. I wonder how much he will ask them, how much he will tell them, and how much he will engage interactively in the Q&A and the discussions. Let's hope he does it a lot and let's hope he does more of this in the future.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto on what Charlie said; Nova has great students. As for costs, I have to believe Nova costs far less. First, their building? One of the oldest and most rundown buildings in the district (with a 100 year old boiler but it still works!) but Nova students love it. I would suspect it costs more to heat Nova versus Center School simply because I don't think Nova is a particularly energy-efficient school. However, Center School has a lease plus when the Seattle Center is rebuilt (and the City has said Center School is welcome to stay), I suspect that lease price will go up.

anonymous said...

"It's not entirely fair to compare The Center School to NOVA on test scores."

Why not Charlie?

ParentofThree said...

My point was not to compare NOVA students to Center students, test scores etc. only to point out that no "building" is zero cost. I used NOVA as an example simply because the student numbers are about the same, around 300.

I guess I should have been clearer, as one comment alluded that I was comparing test scores? Interesting, but in fact, I have no clue what NOVA's scores are.

Maybe the better way to phrase this is:

How much does the Center school cost to run, today, not three years from now?

Do these costs seem out of line with what it costs to run other high school programs?

And finally, can we factor in the school's success into the cost to run it (i.e. cost/benefit ratio) without comparing to any other school?

Meaning, is there any way to say, "While the Center school may cost more to run, it is successful and should be continued to exist?"
Or do we just to want summarily say, "Center is expensive due to the lease option and needs to be moved or closed due to that cost?”

anonymous said...

I think momasks brings up a great point. Should the district weigh a schools cost/benefit ratio when considering closure, consolidation or a move? I think the answer is yes. If the Center school costs a little more to run than say RBHS, but Center is producing great results, while RBHS is not, then Centers benefits are outweighing it's costs. It should continue to exist.

Same with the Montlake issue. The school may be smaller, and the building in poor condition, but it is another school where the benefits outweigh the costs.

How about AS1 with 235 kids in an entire k-8 program? It's not my cup of tea, but it is unique, and a one of a kind school, that works wonders with kids that need this approach to education. Don't their benefits outweigh the cost of running such a small school?

And Nova, another 300 kid high school, can't possibly be as efficient to run as Roosevelt is, but again, it's a unique program, with proven results, and high performance. Wouldn't you vote to keep this school alive?

The New School too, though I know they get private funding.

Just things to think about as we begin to look at closure and consolidation again.

Beth Bakeman said...

To me, the scary part of the direction this thread is that when people want an easy measure of "success", they look at standardized test scores (WASL or SAT).

I have two big problems with that.

1) No test can measure some of the things I believe are essential in a "successful" school (community, joy of learning, connection to the world and global issues).


2) Every research study I have ever seen shows an incredibly strong correlation between standardized test scores, and two other variables: family income and level of mother's education. So when you look at a school that draws from a population of children from well-off, highly educated families, you will see higher standardized test scores almost regardless of the quality of the teaching happening at the school than for a school with a majority of children from lower-income, less-educated families.

I know that many of you will argue with me, saying "What about Maple or Van Asselt"? Others will argue that I am being racist/classist and contributing to the culture of low expectations.

My responses are:

1) Maple and Van Asselt are the exceptions that prove the rule. They are regularly cited as standouts because they exceed expectations. But still, if you compared WASL scores at Maple or Van Asselt to schools with a majority of higher income kids, these standout schools would not appear to be as "successful."

2)I believe that all children can learn and all children can have good test scores, but only if they have all the necessary support. Seattle Public Schools does not come close to providing what every child needs to be successful in terms of tutoring, enrichment activities, intervention, etc.

Maureen said...

I notice that one of the guiding principals in the assignment plan meetings is 'how much busing should be provided.' Has anyone ever been able to access data on transportation costs by school? I've never found anything on the website. A parent I know has been asking Board members for data but hasn't been able to get it. Years (4?) ago there was somehing in the Seattle Times, but much of it seemed inaccurate or strangely defined (eg, as I remember it, Lowell Heights' costs were 2-3 times those at TOPS).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, one, we are comparing a lot of alternative schools to comprehensive schools and by their very nature, alternatives ARE different. So, it's not an apples and oranges comparison. However, Center School is not an alternative school (although it is moving in that direction) and has had fewer students enrolling in it. I hope no one thinks I believe The Center School should close or move; I'm just point out that it costs more to lease a building. Detailing it down to cost benefit ratio is not in my pay scale.

Transportation. There used to be at the Times website a school link that showed how much each school costs in transportation. I have some documents from closure and consolidation and that's how I know that transportation costs are way out of hand (no matter how needed or great the school, we're all in this together and no one school should be costing more than 2-3 schools put together unless it's a Special Ed program unique to that school). Call Transportation and ask them where the figures are. If they put you off, write to your Board member and request, with a cc to Dr. G-J and Mr. Kennedy that these costs be put on the website.

anonymous said...

"No test can measure some of the things I believe are essential in a "successful" school (community, joy of learning, connection to the world and global issues)."

No, tests can't measure "the joy of learning" and the other things Beth mentioned, but they can measure academic proficiency.

We have been taking standardized tests since we were kids. They serve their purpose. I believe that we need some form of measure to hold schools accountable to teach what is required of them, and to teach it to an acceptable standard. Something firm and tangible, like a test.

I agree with Beth though, that low income kids test scores will not be as high as their affluent counterparts, that's a fact. The district could, however, establish a performance expectation or baseline for low income children, and they can hold schools accountable to meet whatever expectation they set, and to make sure that even low income students show improvement from year to year. And, if student achievement does not improve from year to year, like what has happened at the AAA, the school should be held accountable to include intervention up and to closing the school. Standardized tests are a vital piece in determining if a school is meeting its expectations.

Personally, I would advocate for a national standardized test.

What would you suggest Beth, instead of standardized testing? Just listening to a schools Spiel and trusting them and making sure your child is happy. That just doesn't seem like enough to me. I need something more concrete and tangible, personally.

I do acknowledge, however, that test scores should only be considered a part of the big picture, and should not be used exclusively to judge a district, school or teachers performance, and NEVER to judge an individual child's performance. I adamantly disagree with high stakes testing.

ParentofThree said...

Again, getting away from the main point being that Melissa states that "we still pay for a lease at the Center school,” indicating to me that she feels there is something inherently wrong with this situation.

I pointed out that Center is successful school and yes, test scores are a part of that, as well as graduation rates/college bound rates. But I also pointed out that Center students are very happy and highly motivated. I think all these factors combine to make this school successful.

I guess I would like Melissa to defend her position. Why is it so bad that the district rents space to run, what appears to be a very successful program (by many indicators), and what does she propose a solution?

Move the Center School? Where?

Close the Center School? If the latter, where would these 300 students go to school? Would Roosevelt be willing to take them?
The answer to that question is, NO, as some students already tried that route, were assigned to Center, and waitlisted at Roosevelt.

Bringing up another point, Center does serve to take some pressure off both Roosevelt and Ballard.

In addition, the Aspergers program at Center allows more students access to a school closer to home since the Aspergers programs at Ballard and Roosevelt’s are full.

So, what exactly is the issue of renting space for the Center School?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, plain and simple, money.

We have too many buildings for too few kids and yet we can justify renting space for a school? I'm just saying EVERY school should be on the table. The rational this time around for closures is building condition/site. Center School's site, which cost the district $5M to shape for the school, is likely to have a higher lease price tag in the future with some capital investments when the Seattle Center is renovated. I'm just pointing out the obvious discussion points and I not here to defend anything. When I am saying what I think should happen, then I'll be happy to defend it.

Center School is small and takes kids from around the district. In fact, Center School advocated for and got the distance tiebreaker thrown out for them (although I don't believe they are overenrolled). They wanted more kids from throughout the district.

I don't know where it could move, maybe to the Old Hay building on QA when Secondary BOC finally gets its new home. I still believe in the next 2-3 years a QA/Magolia high school will come into being (albeit not in QA or Magnolia). It has to happen to have a fair assignment plan and the Board knows it. Then that comprehensive high school could serve all the kids of QA/Magnolia.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to add, the district needs to create more autism/Asperger's programs as the need seems to be there. This could happen at a new QA/Magnolia high school.

Charlie Mas said...

The idea of comparing test scores came from momasks:
"the results seen at the Center school? (i.e. good WASL and SAT scores, high enrollment and more than 90% of graduates continuing onto college and of course happy/motivated students"

There are the references to WASL, SAT, and the student climate survey that piqued my response.

I'm afraid that I've become a bit jaded and I have started to assume (always a mistake) that people wouldn't invite comparisons unless they already knew the results. There isn't any school in Seattle that is going to look good on SAT scores and student climate survey results when compared to NOVA because NOVA blows the curve on both. The results from NOVA are noticably better than those from every other school.

So, when I read the suggestion that The Center School's results be compared to NOVA's results, I presumed that it was an effort to rig the test - to set The Center School up to look bad.

I see now that was not the case. If NOVA was suggested based entirely on size then we could (and should) also put Rainier Beach High School into the comparison as well as some of the safety net high schools. Those are the high schools with enrollments of 200-500.

I must say that like the idea of creating some sort of blended benchmark that would represent the ratio between the cost of operating a school and the results from the school. The results should include multiple measures of academic achievement as well as enrollment demand, and student and faculty climate survey results. It should NOT, however, include building condition.

I absolutely oppose the use of building condition as a criteria for closure. The building condition is not a function of anything happening at the school, but a function of how much the District has invested in the school historically. Academic priorities should dictate the operational decisions - and NOT the other way around.

NOVA, like Montlake, is an excellent example of how a school can have fabulous results, high demand, over the top student and faculty satisfaction in combination with an absolutely atrocious building. The District shouldn't close NOVA. On the contrary. Instead of walking away from the building, they should provide some capital to fix the place up.

I must also say that the Horace Mann building, where NOVA resides, is a great space and dearly loved by the school community. The building's wide hallways are uniquely appropriate for the school. They don't want to leave it, and they don't want to leave the CD. So don't do them any favors by relocating the program into a "better" space.

ParentofThree said...

So, am correct that your thinking is that Center costs too much money to run because it has a lease, not really knowing what that lease amount is? They could have a sweetheart deal for we know.

You say that all schools should be on the table, yet you only single out Center. Shouldn’t you also bring attention to NOVA, an old building, in need of repairs and expensive to heat? Maybe that school is costing the district and arm and leg to run. The point is we don’t really know what it costs to run a school with 300 students enrolled.

I also do not understand the logic that a QA/Mag high school would eliminate the need for the Center school as it draws students from all over the city. In fact, this fall they enrolled a record number of freshmen, 125 and I believe 100 are currently enrolled. This school is still fairly new, in its 8th year and I think it is really starting to resonate with families, once they take a good look at it. I would guess that enrollment will continue to grow, as will the waitlists that come with popular schools.

I must say, I am amused by the idea of moving Center to the SBOC. I believe this idea was mentioned in another thread. That school is set up for elementary students, low sinks in the bathroom etc.

So moving a high school into it would cost the district millions to revamp it. And this is about money.

What I think we should take away is, it’s just not that simple, especially from the outside when we don’t have all the facts and figures to say if a school should stay or go.

I do believe all schools are on the table regardless of whether the space is owned or in need of repair.

Good programs cost money.

So maybe both Center and NOVA should continue as is, despite the cost to the district. Guess we will find out shortly what the boards thinking is on school closures.

I agree with you on Aspergers programs, we need many more seats in all the schools, yet that suspect that is not on the table.

ParentofThree said...

“There isn't any school in Seattle that is going to look good on SAT scores and student climate survey results when compared to NOVA because NOVA blows the curve on both. The results from NOVA are noticably better than those from every other school.”

OK you got me bite on test scores and am wondering if you have different reports than what I pulled down from the district as I see nothing that blows NOVA off the curve in relation to Center or Roosevelt (just to add one large school to the mix)

Let see, you boast SAT scores, well here they are:

Verbal = 611 (well done)
Math = 531 (also good)
Writing = 564 (dandy)

Center 07
Verbal = 610 (also well done)
Math = 536 (edging out NOVA)
Writing = 565 (statistically dead heat)

Verbal = 558 (also well done)
Math = 572 (WOW: Center and NOVA cannot compete!)
Writing = 564 (statistically dead heat)

Looking at WASL scores for these three schools, the only thing that pops off the curve at NOVA that I can see is Science coming in at 27%, versus 70% Center and 49% Roosevelt.

So, what am I missing here?

anonymous said...

I find it interestng that the two highest performing high schools in the entire district, are both small schools and choice schools. Available to every kid in the district, without wait lists.

I guess size does matter!

Melissa Westbrook said...

When I came out again the list of projects for BEX III, one of my reasons was precisely that we had good programs that could grow and do better if they were remodeled. Nova was one of them and believe me I did talk about that building. (I know, Charlie, that they don't want to move and why should they? We have space right there for them.) But Facilities runs in its own little world.

I agree with you,Charlie, that closures should not be based on building condition/site which no school community has any control over. I can't even see what good hearing do because these people are not responsible for the condition of the building.

SolvayGirl said...

Another reason NOT to move The Center School is its unique relationships with other Seattle Center tenants like Seattle Rep. Having the school anywhere else would eliminate these partnerships—some of the things that make the school popular.

anonymous said...

I think the idea of disturbing very popular, high performing, successful schools, is ludicrous.

In a district where so many schools are failing, under enrolled, and un popular, why would we focus on the schools that are doing something not only right, but impeccable?

Yes, there should be sacred cows, Melissa. And they should be schools that have proven themselves effective. TOPS, Montlake, NOVA, Center School, McGilvra and all of the other schools that continue to perform to high standards.

Let them continue to serve our communities.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay but the criteria for closures is building condition/site. So there's a poor performing school that's underenrolled in a good building and a great performing school that is overenrolled in a terrible building. What if you moved the better program to the better building? Wouldn't you give the option of the better program to more students? Isn't that the goal- to give more kids a better program?

Also, be careful of "high standards". We have no real definition of that phrase in this district. You may have in mind what it is and I may have something different. And, there are some schools that may not look outwardly like successes but for them each day is success and small steps mark forward progress. I found this out from the experience of closure and consolidation. No one has the perfect equation for a good school. That's what makes it so hard.

anonymous said...

OK, then lets protest the criteria for closures. It should not be building condition or size. Period.

Moving programs from one building to another may be easy in some cases but very difficult in others. Montlake and McGilvra are in the heart of their communities. Nova loves it's old heritage building. TOPS has a great location for all city draw. Center School has a connection to Seattle Rep and is in a great location for public transit for it's all city draw.

So it's not so easy to say they'd be better off in a nice new building. There are a lot of things to consider.

g said...

I doubt if TOPS will remain an all-city draw.

The district is redoing the assignment plan to response to parents' wishes for a more predictable plan AND to save money. If Summit remains a school, they are likely to be the only all-city draw left based on their grade range. There simply is not the money to keep taking kids around in buses. As well, parents protests that they would get their kids there some other way is likely to fall on deaf ears because that isn't equitable (not all parents can get their kids to a faraway school).

This is not my wish or desire; simply what I have heard over and over from staff.

anonymous said...

Currently TOPS has a multi cluster draw, but not an all city draw.