Cooper Elementary Fights Closure Proposal

I met several people from Cooper Elementary last night at the Board Workshop. One of them, Rebecca Cressell, a teacher at Cooper, later sent me a Cooper School Closure Fact Sheet which presents the case against the proposed closure.

The fact sheet is quite long (7 pages), so I've posted a link to it so readers can read the entire piece.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction and a list of the section headings:

"Cooper Elementary is not a wise choice for school closure. Relocating Pathfinder K-8 to Cooper Elementary would result in significantly insufficient capacity in the West Seattle North Cluster to serve area students. 56 displaced Cooper students would be mandatorily forced to bus outside of their cluster, a clear violation of the SPS student assignment plan. Additionally, displacing vulnerable Cooper students would cause significant academic and socio-emotional harm to Cooper’s historically marginalized student population."
  • Cooper serves an increasing population of diverse learners
  • Cooper serves 139 students living in the West Seattle North Cluster
  • Closing Cooper will have far-reaching negative effects
  • Cooper has strong WASL scores for its student demographic
  • Cooper is a model school for serving students with Autism
  • Cooper has a unique environmental education program
  • Cooper is a model school for technology instruction and integration
  • Cooper has strong before and after-school programs
  • Cooper holds important historical relevance to the Community
I'd encourage everyone to take a look at the details provided under each of these section headings in the full FAQ document.


AutismMom said…
Funny how every school that has a disabilities program, suddenly is trying to use those students for some sort of gain. First Lowell, now Cooper.

While Cooper has 2 autism programs, the old program is an ultra restrictive, ultra self-contained model... clumping the most severely disabled students together. This is definitely NO model program. It is a model exactly the opposite of recommendations. And the other program, a new inclusion program, has been unable to maintain staff. There was all kinds of trouble getting a teacher. Students have been moved in and out in the middle of the year. Also, NO model. While the teacher and staff in those autism programs may be great, that is insufficient to make a great program, or model program.

We in the disabilities community do not want programs in schools like Cooper which are highly underenrolled, highly disproportionately disabled already, and not particularly successful. We do not want to be used to prop up enrollment for struggling schools. It will probably be a vast improvement for students with disabilities to have an opportunity to go to Pathfinder, which is popular, inclusive and successful.
Here are the facts about Cooper’s “Autism Program”: the “self contained” classrooms has 5 students being included in the General Education (GE) classrooms and curriculum for academic, social, and behavioral instruction. Each of these students go into the general education classrooms with support for a varied amount of time (time varies with each student due to their ability to maintain progress in the general education classroom).These students also participate in the general education curriculum with modifications to ensure each student is successful. All sixteen students are included in general education recess, lunch, all-school activities, and receive general education PCP instruction. The students that are not included in the GE classroom everyday are learning communication skills, social skills, functional academics and adaptive skills on a daily basis; these skills are then put into use during non academic activities with their peers, which vary for every student, as each child is their own person, with their own strengths and challenges. It must also be noted that student programs, including their minutes of instruction occurring within the GE classroom, are clearly guided by their IEPS, of which their families are full participants. Students are receiving the support and services they need to be successful.

Not only is the staff experienced (Instructional assistants: 3 are certificated teachers, with combined experience of over 25 years, but all strategies (instructional and behavioral) are established on theories that are researched based, including ABA, TEACHH, precision teaching, floor time, SCERTS, PECS, and others.

Additionally, Cooper’s Autism program staff were recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the McCarthey-Dressman Foundation to formalize their all-school buddy system. This buddy program pairs students with and without disabilities in order to encourage friendships and increase communication and social skills of all students. Training for general education buddies and positive behavioral supports for students with ASD are consistently provided to ensure successful friendship building. Students with ASD at Cooper have friendships with their peers with and without disabilities. They are meaningfully included in the Cooper School community and their families are very happy with their programs here at Cooper. In no way do they feel that they want the “opportunity to go to Pathfinder, which is popular, inclusive and successful.” Cooper is popular, inclusive, and successful for the 24 students with ASD walking its hallways every day.

If you must make comments about other programs of which you are not a member, please limit the scope to your own experience. Speaking on behalf of the “disabilities community” is very misleading and does not represent the entirety of your community.

As far as “No model” program, Lake Washington School District has used the classrooms at Cooper as a model for their classrooms with students who are significantly impaired with Autism. The University of Washington’s DATA Project made the same recommendation for classrooms in SPS and to other school districts to view this program as a “model” or just to “get ideas”.

The classrooms are not clumped together, two classrooms are in one part of the building (one “self-contained” and the “inclusion support room”).The third classroom with the primary aged students is in another wing of the building.

The inclusion program has had the same teacher and instructional assistants throughout the existence of the program. Due to the District starting the program in January (although they knew the numbers in June), Cooper had a difficult time obtaining a teacher, as the hiring process was conducted mid-year.

Working with adults and children with varied strengths and challenges for 22 years, I have seen “the next new shiny” thing too many times and it always duplicates itself with a different name. I do think every student should be included into the general education classroom and curriculum, taking each students’ needs, strength and challenges into consideration. This process can not happen over night. There also needs to be the proper supports (adequate number of appropriately educated staff and administration) in place, which at this juncture would cost the district more money which they do not have. You should be thankful that there are programs like Cooper’s “Autism Program” - The standard for Excellence for All!
AutismMom said…
Look, I am totally aware that the autism program at Cooper indeed has good instruction and great teaching. And, I applaud that fact. And, having buddy systems are great too. It's just that having a disability program at an school that is already overwhelmingly disproportionately disabled, is NOT the direction we should be seeking for students with disabilities. OSPI reported that Cooper already had more than 21.2% disability rate at the beginning of the 2007 school year before they tried to add it's inclusion program. In 2008 it's sure to be *much* higher. So, Cooper has one of the highest disability rates in the district. In fact, it's a civil rights violation to force students with disabilities to be segregated at schools nobody else wants to attend in such disproportionate numbers. You seem to forget, these students get no choice but to be forced into these under enrolled schools, and federally failing schools. Further, including students with disabilities "at lunch or recess" is really NO inclusion at all. Mentioning lunch, music and recess, speaks to how far we need to go to include our students for anything meaningful. And when the students are included, they're included into the "general" population, which itself is highly disabled, and not representative of the district or community.

And yes it's great that the DATA project and UW recommend Cooper. But those are preschool programs. We'd like our students with disabilities to advance beyond preschool.

To be clear, I believe that the "autism programs", teachers, and staff are great at Cooper.

The problems are:

1) assigning severely disabled, non-verbal students all together into a classroom or program, instead of having classes with a range of abilities, (that is best, and the recommended practice)

2) forcing students with disabilities into federally failing schools. This is illegal. Students with autism, should get a choice to move to a school that is NOT failing under NCLB.

3) forcing students with disabilities into schools that nobody else wants to attend (only 19 families selected Cooper as a first choice, less than enough to fill one kindergarten class) And believe me, THAT is why there's an autism program at Cooper.)

None of those problems are due to instruction in the autism program. But those same teachers will be great at Pathfinder, and we should look forward to that. Additionally, it would give our students K-8 opportunities... there is currently not 1, single inclusion program of any type, for middle schoolers, south of McClure. Inclusion programs at Pathfinder would be great!
Molly said…
As a Mother of a child in the Autism Inclusion program at Cooper I would like to comment. The Inclusion program began in February of '08 hence the kids starting mid year. Also, the child I am aware of that left the program only did so because they gained a seat in an inclusion program at a school closer to their home. Two students still bus in from the North end for Cooper's Inclusion program.
We are very happy with the program at Cooper. The teachers have been very successful in working with our child. She shows enormous growth in her daily attendance at Cooper. Just attending school is a very challenging thing for her. The idea of her having to adjust to a new school/program AGAIN is a very oppressive idea to us. Her adjustment period can last as long as a year with such dramatic new changes in her life.
Although I imagine an Autism program could go over well in the Pathfinder program, I would appreciate Pathfinder finding their own school and starting their own Autism inclusion program.

Cooper is a fragile community and I think kicking those kids out because other kids want our school would leave marks upon their already worn down self esteems. What sort of justice is that for kids who already have so little? "Your time in the nice new school on a beautiful piece of property is up because these kids are more important than you!" They may not understand the logistics of this but they will feel the injustice.

As far as schools succeeding in the NCLB Act, Cooper is succeeding while Pathfinder is failing.
AutismMom said…
Correction. The fact is that under NCLB both Cooper and Pathfinder are failing schools (as in, failing to meet AYP). Look to see. Since Cooper is a Title 1 school, the district MUST offer other alternatives to ALL Cooper students, including those with autism.. but they can't because there aren't enough other autism programs.

Cooper had an autism inclusion program in 2007, but kicked the kids out because it couldn't keep staff. Then invited them back in the middle of the year in 2008 when it found some new staff. That's no way to run an inclusion program.

Check out this month's copy of Seattle Metropolitan magazine for problems with Cooper's inclusion program. (Jimi Hendrix on the cover) Molly, if your child needs stability, look what happened to Noah Weinstein, featured in Seattle Metropolitan.

And finally, while the teachers are great in many of our schools, here are the places where we find the new programs for autistic kids in 2008: Cooper, Roxhill, Madrona, Summit, Leschi, Muir, Schmitz Park, TT Minor. What do all these schools except Schmitz Park have in common? They're ALL failing. They're ALL schools nobody else selects. They're ALL overburdened with special education students. They're mostly minority schools. Are we trying to increase the achievement gap?

I can appreciate the fragility of the community at Cooper. That's a different issue. (And, hopefully they all should get the option to stay in the building.) However, students with disabilities shouldn't be used to prop up enrollment at any school.
reader said…
Autismmom, your concerns about Cooper and Pathfinder raise the wider question of whether these sped ghettos will be dispersed in this closures and consolidation process. I would be interested in hearing from more parents in these programs.

I am also interested in knowing how many of the students with disabilities in both schools would be/could be, nearer their home schools and what's stopping that. Here's a list of the 12 elementaries in the district that parents are selecting at the highest rates, and which are serving fewest level three and four students with disabilities:

Loyal Heights
Schmitz Park (now has 1 program)
John Hay
View Ridge
John Stanford

If anyone has a breakdown of these schools by cluster, that would be helpful.
reader said…
p.s. to molly, of course I agree with you that these children are not commodities to be picked up and moved at the whim of the district. Their self esteem is just killed by all these transitions and it happens all too often for children with disabilities in this district.
AutismMom said…
NW. Loyal Heights
West. Schmitz Park
QA/Mag. Coe
QA/Mag. John Hay
NE. Laurelhurst
West. Lafayette
NE. View Ridge
N. John Stanford
NE. Bryant
Central. TOPS

Most of these schools have no programs, and certainly no inclusion programs. Schmitz Park, Lafayette, and Hay have programs. But the programs would be much better, and much more highly supported if there were 2 inclusion programs in a building.
Unknown said…
Just to clarify a point from a comment by AutismMom:

AutismMom said:
"Correction. The fact is that under NCLB both Cooper and Pathfinder are failing schools (as in, failing to meet AYP). Look to see. Since Cooper is a Title 1 school, the district MUST offer other alternatives to ALL Cooper students, including those with autism.. but they can't because there aren't enough other autism programs."

Cooper did not make AYP last school year, neither did Pathfinder, or for that matter, Arbor Heights. Cooper is considered to be in Step 0 for school improvement. Both Arbor Heights and Pathfinder are considered to be in Step 1. To be clear, the lower your step, the better.

This is the explanation from OSPI:

Year 1/Step 0 First year of not making AYP (alert status).

Year 2/Step 1 Second consecutive year the school did not make AYP; enters Step 1 which requires the development of a school improvement plan and the option for students to attend another school (“public school choice”) within the district that is not in school improvement.

It is only when a school is in Step 1 that a school has to offer school choice. Cooper did NOT have to offer school choice as they are in Step 0 of the school improvement process based on years not making AYP. So, AutismMom is incorrect when she referred to Cooper not being able to offer school choice to students with ASD because of limited availability of programs. Cooper did not have to offer school choice for ANY of its students, including its students with ASD because they are in step 0 of school improvement.

And one additional clarification, by AutismMom's measure of "failing" (failing to make AYP), Arbor Heights and Pathfinder would be considered to be failing to a greater extent than Cooper if one is only using years not making AYP as the measure (which is in my opinion an insufficient measure of whether a school is "failing"), as Arbor Heights and Pathfinder are both in Step 1 of the school improvement process and Cooper is in Step 0.
Unknown said…
Posted on behalf of a parent of a student in Cooper's Autism program:

To the AutismMom who wrote in earlier in this week about the special needs programs at Cooper, I request that you get your facts straight. The special needs program at Cooper is the only one in the district implementing SCERTS, which is a very progressive educational model that systematically develops social communication, emotional regulation and transactional supports for children with disabilities. The special needs students at Cooper elementary school are fully integrated into their school community as much as is possible for them and for the learning of the neuro-typical children in the school. It does not service the IEP goals of the special needs children to have their school community ripped out from under them and then have them tossed in with a whole new set of children from Pathfinder who are unfamiliar with their individual challenges.

The staff at Cooper Elementary School does an excellent job of helping everyone at the school feel included and important as a member of the community.

Please spend your time helping Pathfinder find a building that does not displace a school program that is working. This is the real issue here. Why is the Pathfinder community more important to keep together then the Cooper Elementary School community? Please do not help disrupt something that is working.
AutismMom said…
You're right SAVE. Cooper is failing, but not in step 1. So, what will happen next year? With a whole new crop of disabled students, (disproportionately placed at Cooper because nobody else selected it) the chances are really good, almost inevitable, that Cooper will then be in step 1. Then what? Even less people will select it. Then maybe even more disabled kids will be forced there. Roxhill is more than 30% disabled now, for similar reasons.

Cooper doesn't have to offer anyone another program, Seattle Public Schools has to offer people another programs.. and it hasn't been able to do that so far for students with autism. What about the austistic students at Madrona or Summit? Those ARE step 3... still no new programs in "passing" schools. How about a few programs in a "passing" school? Wouldn't you want that? At least as an option? Wouldn't that be equitable?

I'm not particularly interested in Pathfinder or in "helping Pathfinder" find some new building. Why should I be? This is a 0 sum game. There is NO NEW BUILDING. The object is to CLOSE buildings, not open new ones. If the district keeps Pathfinder, it will need to be in an existing building. DUH! Which building do you suggest?

And finally, as I said. I can totally believe the autism programs are great at Cooper. The curriculum may also be great. So what? Nobody's saying to kill them. By reports from the classroom above, only 5 of them even participate in general education. And the inclusion program just started (after going on and off, like a lightbulb). Further, the distric's special ed review has empahtically found... the programs like those at Cooper, label/disability based and very restrictive, are worst practice despite any great teaching or curriculum. The district has claimed it will dismatle them. (Who knows if they will or not.) Arbor Heights has a special ed program too... so does West Seattle Elem and Roxhill. Almost every building does.
reader said…
Save wrote "special needs students at Cooper elementary school are fully integrated into their school community as much as is possible for them and for the learning of the neuro-typical children in the school."

Save, there are an AWFUL lot of contingencies in this statement. It almost sounds like you are saying that the children with disabilities are in the presence of "neuro-typical children" on sufference, pending what - good behavior???? It sounds like there is not a whole lot of general ed buy-in at all and I get this from reading what rooms 107 and 209 wrote too. I'm very worried about the segregationist mentality of this district for students with disabilities which puts general ed classrooms on par with the Holy Grail. Please.
newbie said…
From rm 107 and 209:
I do think every student should be included into the general education classroom and curriculum, taking each students’ needs, strength and challenges into consideration. This process can not happen over night. There also needs to be the proper supports (adequate number of appropriately educated staff and administration) in place, which at this juncture would cost the district more money which they do not have. You should be thankful that there are programs like Cooper’s “Autism Program” - The standard for Excellence for All!

Hmmm. Let me get this straight. The teaching staff (presumably) at Cooper thinks there are needs of students which are not being met. That is, the students have some needs in general education, but these can't be met or paid for. (Why not?)

She goes on... well, it can't happen overnight. Hmmm. Wasn't IDEA was passed 30+ years ago? Students have been waiting for 30 years, and this teacher has been there for more than 20 of them. That's not overnight in my book. And then she wraps it up, scolding, "You should be thankful that there are programs like [mine]." Wow. That's hubris... and speaks to just how deeply ingrained is the "culture of low expectations"... be thankful, and don't ask for too much.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools