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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Open Thread for AS#1

20 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Just an observation:
On opening this blog, I noted that there are about seven new threads, one for each school/program closure/movement. I then noted that a couple schools has one or two comments, a couple had three or four, one had seven...and APP had 23.
a) dividing these threads up is, well, divisive. Can't we all comment generally? Is this "divide and conquer"?
b) I hope that the APP stakeholders can continue to contribute to the other threads;
c) I hope that stakeholders in the other schools can step up their commentary
d) I hope that everyone is advocating for everyone (a repeat of "a", but necessary!)
Carry on.

Roy Smith said...

seattle citizen, I think the intention was to be able to discuss each piece of the proposal on its own merits. The problem is, everything seems to impact everything else (as is typical in complex systems), so this may not have been the most effective way to organize the discussion.

Megan Mc said...

The staff couldn't have driven the nail any deeper into the coffin. They didn't even look at other options for keeping AS#1 together. At least DeBell noticed that the district's data was negatively construed with regard to AS#1. The argument that we should close because of NCLB is total BS - they sure arent holding AKi to the same standard and they are in level 5 where as we are only in level 4 - which calls for restructuring - not closure.

What the district is doing to Alternative schools is predatory. By the time they're done with the new assignment plan, there will be no distinguishable choices in Seattle schools. Just two or three cookie cutter models to choose from.

I think it is important for all of the alternative schools to get together to discuss what message the district is sending to Alternatives with these proposals.

Seattle Citizen, I agree that the closure issues should be discussed in one forum. Schools have internal communication mechanisms to talk among themselves. I hope there can be a community wide forum where all stakeholders can see and hear the impact of these proposals.

Unknown said...

5 of 7 recommended building closures are homes to non-traditional programs. 8 of the 9 proposed program relocations are non-traditional schools (TT Minor Montessori is technically not an "alternative" school). The only truly new program is a traditional elementary (Thornton Creek is just growing), and 3 of the 5 discontinued programs are non-traditional. Aren't there some traditional schools with low test scores and failing buildings? Nobody mentioned "non-traditional program" as criteria. Hmmm.... something fishy is going on here.

anonymous said...

I've now seen several comments from AS1 families (on this blog and on the Chalkboard blog) where AS1 families are saying that they would like to have AS1 merge into Thornton Creek K-8 at Adams. I've even seen a post that said the AS1 community will propose an assignment preference for next year, so all of their students who want it, will have a guaranteed assignment to Thornton Creek.

That all sounds well and good, except that AS1 and Thornton Creek have almost nothing in common, except that they are both alternative schools. The two schools have drastically different philosophies, and for years they have refused to even co-locate because of this.

What will happen when AS1 students refuse to take the WASL at Thornton Creek, a school that encourages participation, and perform above state average on the test? Will this cause problems?

What will happen when their teacher at Thornton Creek assigns homework? Many AS1 parents refuse to have their children do homework as it's against their philosophy. Will this cause problems? Thornton Creek expects children to do homework.

And what about the democratic free school pedagogy that AS1 embraces wholeheartedly - it is at the core of everything they do. Thornton Creek is not, nor does it want to be a "free school", they are much more traditional that AS1 was.

The AS1 community is not talking about co-location, they are talking about merging and becoming one program.

Are they willing to fold into the Thornton Creek school? Are they willing to embrace a new school culture? Or will they fight to make it another AS1?

These are definately things to ask yourself, your community, and any new school that you may transition to.

Unknown said...

alt dad, we don't really *want* to be Thornton Creek families.

It's not like we asked for this; we are just trying to figure out how to make the best of this. But if our fate is sealed, what are our options? Thornton Creek, or traditional school.

And, you're not quite right - *some* AS1 parents seem ok with merging with TC but many of us are not thrilled and we have talked about co-locating. But we're not expecting the district to consider two administrations and other duplications if they're trying to save money.

Still, it'd be lovely if someone had the time to organize a concerted effort to protect what we love of AS1, maybe even create a new AS1, but many of us are too tired, too busy, or too poor.

anonymous said...

Well, Doh, that's my point exactly. You don't really want to be TC families. But if you do choose to become TC families are you willing to fold into TC's program? Are you willing to embrace their culture? Follow their lead and rules? Or are you going to try to uphold your AS1 philosophies? The latter will be disruptive to a well established, successful program.

I understand your predicament. I understand that TC is the next best choice for you. But you have to also understand that it is not Tc's choice either. They have a well established, respectable program, and do not want it turned into an AS1 light.

Roy Smith said...

As an AS#1 parent, we successfully argued against co-location with Summit at Jane Addams precisely because it was a setup for failure. The building isn't configured right and it wouldn't save money. So, my suspicion is that the idea of arguing for co-location now would be a waste of time.

My family is an AS#1 family that probably would fit better culturally with TC than AS#1 anyway, so I am not all that upset at the prospect of moving to TC - in fact, my biggest concern is to make sure that an assignment preference for current AS#1 students to TC is built into the plan.

My hope is that instead of AS#1 using our energy to fight this, we figure out what we have at AS#1 that we really want to keep and bring it to TC - and this does not mean attempting to replace the ELOB model - we need to learn what that is all about and how to work with it.

My top nominations thus far for things about AS#1 we want to take to TC are:

- the climbing wall and climbing wall program
- the Rites of Passage program for 8th graders
- canoe-carving program at the Center for Wooden Boats (see this video)

anonymous said...

Thornton Creek has a climbing wall.

The community will probably not embrace a week long rite of passage camping/canoe trip. They do go camping twice a year, and that is more than enough for most families and teachers.

Canoe Carving might very well be embraces especially when looking for electives for a middle school.

Check out ELOB. It's very cool.

Thornton Creek is far less alternative than AS1 is. They tend to do their own thing, but stay within district rules and guidelines. It is going to be very difficult for the TC community to have very alternative AS1 families and many behaviorally challenged children from Summit fold into their mix. It may be the demise of the program to be honest.

Roy Smith said...

The community will probably not embrace a week long rite of passage camping/canoe trip. They do go camping twice a year, and that is more than enough for most families and teachers.

Rites of Passage is extremely popular at AS#1, and frankly I think draws a lot of people to the school. Also, it is not mandatory now at AS#1, so it seems like it might be a good sort of opt-in program for eighth graders, with non-participants continuing in their normal school activities. Since TC hasn't had a middle school before, I hope they are at least open-minded about considering it for inclusion. Let's at least have the conversation.

It is going to be very difficult for the TC community to have very alternative AS1 families and many behaviorally challenged children from Summit fold into their mix. It may be the demise of the program to be honest.

I sure hope not. Even if nothing formal is done to fold AS#1 and Summit students into TC, an awful lot of them will end up there, as it will be the only alternative option left in SPS in the N or NE clusters.

alt dad, I presume from your comments that you are a TC parent - how does the TC community see the changes? Is there any kind of organized resistance?

anonymous said...

No, there is definately not any organized resistance that I have heard of. In fact at times like this, as alt schools, I think the sentiment is that we stick together and help our alt neighbors. I think the TC community will welcome with open arms kids from Summit and AS1. It is part of our inclusive, accepting culture.

What I worry about, and this is just me, not speaking on behalf of the TC community, is that our program will change. There is a reason that we didn't pick AS1 or Summit for our children. We chose TC, for it's small size, and strong ELOB focus. And, though we have shared decision making, we are by no means a democratic "free school". I don't for a minute think TC is better than AS1, but it is very different.

I honestly don't think any of the children will have any problems transitioning into the TC community, in fact they will be welcomed. I think, however, that the parents will have issues. TC is much more traditional than AS1, and I think that parents may find it hard to change.

Rite of passage sounds like a great experience. And you are right, a conversation should happen. I guess as the parent of two at TC, after many years, and many camping trips (2 per kid, per year), I'm a bit weary, but again, it sounds like a fabulous idea.

I didn't at all mean to discourage any AS1 parents from joining TC, I only hope that you will think about the differences in the communities, philosophies and pedagogy, and be accepting and respectful of what we are.

Roy, from everything you have posted, I believe you will find a great home at TC, and be a great addition to the community!

katie said...

I don't know much about AS1 so I have a few questions.

I noticed that the report mentioned higher than average costs for AS1 as one of the many reasons to close the school. I also noticed that they didn't seem to include that for any other school so it certainly seems like they were looking for a north end school to close.

Would AS1 be able to function as a purely North end school with transporation for just North end students?

Would AS1 be interested in moving to a central or South end school to remain an all city draw?

Would AS1 be interested in partnering with Summit families that are not interested in going to Rainer Beach?

Just a few questions and I don't know if anyone has any answers.

S. said...

I am an AS#1 parent and I too am not necessarily opposed to sending my children to Thornton Creek. In fact, my number one reason for not considering Thornton Creek was that it wasn't a K-8 and I was disappointed about that because it looked like a promising program.

However, given alt dad's comments, I feel concerned about how I might be pigeonholed as an AS#1 parent at Thornton Creek. I expect to speak out at any school of which my children are a part, whether that be AS#1, Thornton Creek or Northgate. If at some point I say something that disagrees with Thornton Creek's philosophy am I merely going to be dismissed as some rabble-rousing AS#1 parent? Is TC so rigid in its philosophy and pedagogy that there's no room for new ideas?

I'm also concerned about how Thornton Creek is going to prepare itself for a significant shift in demographics. AS#1 has 37% students of color compared to 20% at Thornton Creek. AS#1 has 40% of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch compared to 8% at Thornton Creek. AS#1 has 48% of students not living with both parents, compared to 4% at Thornton Creek. As the single parent of a multiracial family, I am concerned about how we are going to fit in. One thing I appreciate about AS#1 is how we talk openly and critically about issues of inequity and social justice. How's it going to go over at Thornton Creek if families coming from AS#1 attempt to engage our new community in conversation about such issues and how they affect our families?

Sahila said...

We arent necessarily 'choosing' to become Thornton Creek families... it looks like we're going to be forced into an arranged marriage of sorts, and its a case of which bridegroom will be the lesser of two evils for ourselves and our children - another 'alternative' school, or a 'mainstream' school?

Please dont jump down my throat and point to any perceived resistance or 'orneriness' on my part - we have as many concerns and reservations about fitting in at TC (or any other school), as some TC parents obviously do about us blending with them - witness the posts here and on other threads...

None of us wants to be viewed as the 'homeless poor relations' who ought to eat up and be grateful for the crusts of bread on our plate....

I've read comments elsewhere that some TC parents are enthusiastic about helping us fight to save our programme/school.

While its lovely to think that there are other parents out there who value choice and diversity, its been hard to quiet the cynic in me, who says perhaps their enthusiasm is because they dont want us in their school to muddy the waters with our unruly ways!

There have been suggestions elsewhere that maybe AS#1 might be able to join with Summit and Nova, for example, and form a new entity... that bears thinking about, but I dont know how we can even meet with other interested parents, investigate the idea and formulate a considered proposal, given the speed at which this train wreck is happening....

As another thread posited, this whole process needs to slow down - what is the rush, for crying out loud?

Even with a budget this far in the red, seeing that the savings are supposed to come from capital expenditure, a few more months to think this through properly are not going to make much difference.

And besides, there have been no figures indicating exactly how much is going to be saved in implementing this foolhardy scheme.

Director Mareier, in his recent meeting with AS#1 families, admitted that the last round of closures cost more than predicted to implement and saved less money than projected... who wants to bet that the same scenario results here?

bottlecappie said...

Does anyone know what will happen to AS1 students who don't live in the N or NE cluster? Will we get a spot at Thornton Creek too - or are we on our own?

north seattle mom said...

Per the preliminary proposal, the preference would only be for N and NE families. Thornton Creek has been a N and NE draw since it was at UHeights and that has never changed. There is only bussing provided for N and NE families. Folks from other clusters rarely get in as the school is typically full.

North End Mom said...

Sahila and other AS-1 parents,

I am not a Thornton Creek parent, but several of my friends are Thornton Creek parents. I know that Thornton Creek does not screen their applicants for race, economic status, or any other demographic factors. Entrance into Thornton Creek is by lottery. Perhaps people of a certain demographic make-up are attracted to the ELOB style of learning, who knows? I'm sure that if members of your community chose to embrace that learning model, you will become a part of a vibrant, successful learning community.

The guidelines set forth for determination of building closures were pretty straight forward. At this point, I don't think that arguments based on claims of equity (economics, racial, or special needs) are going to get you anywhere. There are other schools within the north and northeast cluster with similar demographics, and the majority of their kids do take the WASL and perform satisfactorily. As for arguments based on the published guidelines:

Geographic Need: The Pinehurst building should stay open, as there is a great need for more capacity in the N/NE clusters, and AS-1 draws from these clusters (unfortunately, your program is currently 91 students under building capacity).

Building Condition: 55.32. Bad, but not as bad as other buildings still in operation.

Cost per pupil: $538 above avg. This must be due to two things, the high cost of transportation, due to being an all-city draw, coupled to your low enrollment. This could be reduced by restricting your reference area?

Proximity: I'm sure they factored in distance to Salmon Bay, and the proposed Thornton Creek K-8.

Academic Performance: Difficult to measure with limited WASL scores.

Yes, you do have a unique school, and provide a unique environment for the students at your school. Unfortunately, those are apparently not criteria for avoiding closure. I think you need to focus on how your program should stay open to meet the capacity needs of the North and Northeast Clusters, and also pursue restricting your transportation/reference area, as that is likely why your program is so expensive to operate.

anonymous said...

S - How would you like to see Thorton Creek prepare to educate students of color or students from single family homes?? Do you really think they need to prepare for that? Do students of color or students from single family homes really need to be treated differently, singled out for the color of their skin or parental divorce status?

We are a bi-racial family and honestly if someone were singling my kids out or "preparing" for them solely based on their skin color I would be offended. I don't see race as an obstacle to overcome, and I don't see race in and of itself requiring special attention. In fact I see the opposite. I don't want people to see my kids as kids of color, I just want them to see them as kids. TC fulfilled that requirement for me.

I don't think a community has to "prepare" to teach kids of color or single parent homes, unless they present with special educational needs. Skin color alone does not qualify.

I do, however think that some preparation may in order if the socio economic status of families shifts from 8% of students who qualify for free and reduced rate lunch to 40%. But not because of intolerance, rather because it will affect fund raising and support services which will need to be addressed in a practical way.

I was a TC parent several years ago, and I can tell you first hand that the issues that you mention will not be a problem. They are an inclusive community that does not discriminate. The school is open to all, by lottery, who are interested in ELOB education

And lastly, TC is not AS1. They are very different schools. I'm sure they do have some concerns over the dynamics in their school changing as AS1 joins their community, just as you would have had if TC joined the AS1 community. The TC community that I know goes out of their way to be accepting, and I hope that if you do choose to join them you will be accepting and respectful of their program, values, and coveted ELOB curriculum.

Beth Bakeman said...

In response to Bottlecappie's question, the preliminary recommendation currently states (p.76) "Students who live outside the North and Northeast Elementary clusters would no longer be eligible for school bus transportation. Therefore, they would be reassigned to a school in their elementary cluster or a middle school with transportation eligibility. Assignments would be made based on geography (so siblings currently attending AS#1 together would be assigned to the same school if the grade ranges are available), and program needs and access.

Students may also apply for other schools as part of the regular school choice process."

Megan Mc said...

AS#1 @ Pinehurst must stay open :

1. Geographic & Proximity Criteria. Closing AS#1 would destroy the capacity plan that was just passed because it eliminates the increased capacity in the N, NE, NW. The numbers are being double counted: The Jane Addams building has 32 teaching stations. If the new Thornton Creek K-8 is set up as a mushroom model then there is no other rooms for other k-5 classrooms: 12 taken up by TC, 10 taken up by Autism, 8 taken up by AS#1 which only leaves 1 left over classroom for excess NE capacity and NO room for additional middle school seats.


2. Geographic & Proximity Criteria. Decator K-5 will be filled with NE families on day one. Olympic Hills and Northgate have also been promised to NE families for capacity relief.


3. Cost Per Pupil Criteria. The building could be filled with displaced Summit families who do not want to move out of the area thereby reducing the cost per pupil number.


4. Cost per pupil criteria. We accept that all city draw transportation would end. Future transportation would be included for N, NE, NW only.


5. Balance to Programs Criteria. There is high demand for alternative schools. There would still be no leftover capacity at Salmon Bay and Thornton Creek with the removal of 700 alternative seats from the North end (summit and AS#1). There would be no room to add alternative seats in future years.


6. Balance to Programs Criteria. AS#1 serves an important equity function as evidenced by the higher number of minority and free/reduced school lunch students.


7. Academic Performance Criteria. AS#1 is performing well under the Alternative Schools check list developed by the district. The WASL is not a good measure for the school.


8. Academic Performance Criteria. District should wait until they have an alternative schools audit to make determinations about whether or not to continue the AS#1 program.


9. Potential Consequence. Closing a north end building will ensure that Shoreline will get more North End families which means less money for the district. 20% of families did not go where the district reassigned them last time. 10% left SPS altogether. The district would lose money by pushing families out.


10. Potential Consequence. Unnecessary disruption. Anyone else that moves in the building will displace the current population without giving them anywhere else to go. The district will only be switching populations by keeping Pinehurst open but discontinuing AS#1.