Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Specifics From Last Night

This district certainly keeps it interesting. When I talked about moving Montlake and issues with Center School, I had no idea (or belief that they would EVER see the light of day). Boy, was I surprised.

Some of the morning newspaper comments seem to think there was a lot of pressure on the Board by school groups. Anyone around for the last round of closures? I was and this is tame by comparison (although we haven't been to the Public Hearings yet which reminds me of another post to set up so that we have someone go to each one and report back; I'm going to Mann/Nova). I don't think the changes are due to pressure from outside so much as pressure and careful questioning by the Board to staff. The Board is doing a mostly great job in careful going through the process and asking the right questions.

So this discussion of North End Middle School Capacity just came out of left field (I mean the minute Charlie and I saw Jon Hafacre, principal at Washington, we knew something was up.)and I think this was a little last minute to throw this into the mix. Will we see Garfield next? I do think putting half of APP at Hamilton will attract more NE parents. I see Charlie's point about Washington still being too large and possibly not having enough space for the Meany students.

Van Asselt. This one still seems weird to me but the reason is because - wait for it - their building is so bad. Van Asselt has nearly 500 students which is more than I had thought so maybe they could fill AAA's nearly 640 seats (especially if some AAA students stay). Maybe it will expand to a K-8 because, honestly, what a waste of a K-8 building if not. But then you have not one but two K-8s within a mile of each other (New School and Van Asselt plus Dunlap in their backyard). And, if they move Aki into RBHS, as I think the final list will be, you'll have tons of middle school choices. But is this what is needed?

I will take this moment to say (and I pondered if I would say it but when one Board member said to me last night, "Oh Melissa, it's just water under the bridge", it sealed the deal)... I told you so. I got taken to the woodshed for saying NOT to build a new building for New School but to move/close AAA and let New School have their newish K-8 building. So now we are facing down ALL this capacity in one little 1.5 mile area. And, New School (which briefly appeared on the list as a possible location for a yet-unnamed elementary school) is now gone from the list. But is New School really going to be a 1,000 seat pre-K-8 school (because they are building it to that size in case someday they want it to be a just a middle school)? Seriously, that's one big school with a lot of little kids.

Thorton Creek. The issue here seems to be that, across the board and district, people are worried that between Thorton Creek's population AND Summit's K-8 population AND AS#1's K-8 population, all these sources of students might almost fill the school outright (or nearly). While TC's old site is to be a new elementary, have we really helped capacity issues in this area? The district is promising a push for the closed schools' students and so it is a matter of what those parents decide. Harium Martin-Morris called it an "uber-alternative school" with no growth potential. Peter Maier said maybe they shouldn't make the decision on AS#1 yet and see what Summit parents do. (Which seems unfair to AS#1's community because the district could leave them twisting in the wind only to come back next year and close them.) Director Bass jumped in and said ALL the schools under consideration would like to stay open another year as well. She seems to favor an assignment plan before closures but her's is a voice in the wind. Dr. G-J said they can't give schools time to grow and we need to make decisions now.

Also, it doesn't mention Spectrum in the plans for the new elementary at Decater (just "accelerated learning opportunities").

Pathfinder/Cooper. Again, I told you so. If the district had moved or closed AAA and moved New School into AAA, then the funds for New School would have gone to Pathfinder which is in a much worse building than South Shore (where New School was located). Now, the district admits that the Mann building (Nova) is the worst and so are Montlake and Genesee Hill. I knew this and told people this and yet, New School got the funds and not Pathfinder.

And where do we find ourselves now? Rousting either Cooper or Arbor Heights both of which, arguably, have some good points to support saving their programs. This DIDN'T have to happen and yet here we are. "Water under the bridge" indeed; sorry, we need to examine what happens so we don't do it again in the future.

I think Cooper is gone because Pathfinder's building is so poor. The Board is likely to "lift the restrictions of the Student Assignment Plan to allow for hte assignment of Cooper students to W.S North or South". There was discussion on this point because the document made it sound like it happened but has not. There will also be more transportation costs to use Cooper because of the scattering of their population (although I am told that Cooper has a wonderful garden and with Pathfinder's outdoor focus some Cooper students may just stay there). There will have to be funds for this effort because Cooper doesn't have lockers or science labs which are needed for middle school students from Pathfinder.

Montlake/Hamilton. A whole lot of moving around here. Michael De Bell worries about cluster capacity if they close 2 schools in one cluster with no excess capacity around. Sherry asked about public hearing for schools new to the list and was told that it was thought out and there was time for hearings for all these schools.

The district did address that they will have to make this work. All of it. The co-housing, the loss of Washington's music program to half of APP students, etc. Staff spoke over and over about "design teams" - who will be on these teams? Who has the time for all this and really, where are the resources? I don't know.

I do think that the Central area APP students need to go to Lowell (and oddly are placed at Marshall).

Nova/SBOC. Lots of discussion here because of a past Board decision (from 2006) which stated that SBOC should be free-standing in a renovated (to be renovated building). Dr. G-J obviously need the Board to amend this action but I don't know - the Board seems to be pondering this issue.

Previously, staff from Transportation had presented numbers about costs. Summit's and AS#1's is very high. But when we got to this part, it was asked what would happen if Summit moved to Meany and he said the costs would go higher! Now, in the first list they said that Summit's population is fluid so there was no way to know where students would come from and yet they say here that the transportation costs would go higher. I'm not buying this line.

Nova and SBOC still wouldn't fill Meany and neither is going to grow a whole lot. (By the way, Mary Bass admirably spoke up for Meany saying they had good things going on.) I think the Board is still wondering if Summit might be a better fit here (possibly with Nova if Summit were reduced to K-8).

Also, SBOC is owed somewhere between $11-14M from BEX II and whereever they go, they deserve that money.

Summit. So Summit may be gone baby gone. I just can't believe that there is no place for them. Mary Bass raised the issue of why the district managed to get the Special Ed, Bilingual and Advance Learning (albeit partial) audits done but not an Alternative Schools audit so we know what is working? No really good answer on this one from staff. Horribly, here's part of what staff said about where Summit students could go, "Reassign Summit 9-12 students to comprehensive high schools." Isn't the reason they go to Summit is NOT to be a comprehensive high school?" Staff didn't even suggest they go to Nova!

Mary Bass asked about transportation"hubs" to save transportation dollars. Staff said there were two pilot programs going on in West Seattle at Highland Park (which, ironically, Summit is part of) and 2 routes for Lowell students which save money and time on the bus. Good to hear about these new ideas and plans.

Update: I forgot to mention that it came out that the district actually makes money from transporting APP kids (because of the federal dollars).

Center School/Rainier Beach. Way out of left field but here it is. I do not understand discontinuing Center's program - if you have to move them, move them intact. Center would add an interesting option to this area of the city and their arts success might help Beach. They are right about getting the diversity that lead to Center asking to be not assigned as a reference school. I think the other options, subletting the space or using for homeschooling resources is based on the belief they can't get out of the lease but that was neither mentioned or verified.

I think moving Aki to Beach is a better idea but again, we are creating a lot of middle school seats in one small area. Will they all fill?

I was surprised to hear no real questions on this and then realized that moving Center School seems to be a non-starter to Board members. That said, they cannot continue to justify the costs of leasing space and closing buildings. Something has to change or they will look foolish to the public. DeBell said he didn't think this idea had been "vetted enough". He also said he wants to see a definitive minimum size for a comprehensive high school (which I think is in the Facilities Master Plan).

When questions came up, there was the issue of staff mentioning joining Cleveland and RBHS in some configuration at either building. Holly Ferguson mentioned something (and I think it was a slip because it was neither noted or discussed before) about Mercer moving to Cleveland and Cleveland's program ending and students going to RBHS). Dr. G-J mentioned a planning document for high schools and a steering committee something I hadn't heard about but will check into.

I wish they would leave Nova where they are, crummy building and all. They love it there. Co-join Center and Summit at Meany (that would fill the building) and give Secondary BOC their own home (maybe at AAA and Van Asselt shares with New School).

(I'm going to be very lazy here and not proofread. My apologies for any spelling, grammar, etc. errors.)


Roy Smith said...

I think the discussion of North End Middle School capacity was very deliberately included in order to pre-emptively argue against those who want either a comprehensive middle school or a mushroom-model K-8 in the Jane Addams building. Based on their proposals, it is fairly clear that Thornton Creek will not be a mushroom - they will have about 500 K-5 students, and the proposals to close AS#1 and Summit are flat unworkable if Thornton Creek is made into a mushroom.

Of course, the argument that the district is making about adequate north end middle school capacity is not likely to satisfy anybody that is concerned about that issue and about the quality (or lack thereof) of Hamilton.

Also, even if the argument that north end middle school capacity isn't a problem is valid, that still doesn't make what is about to happen to Thornton Creek, AS#1, and Summit right.

Charlie Mas said...

Interesting facts about NOVA at Horace Mann.

1) Moving NOVA to Meany will not save any administrative costs because it will continue to be a separate school with its own principal and school secretary.

2) The Horace Mann building, although reportedly in poor condition, has not been in such poor condition that the District thought it a priority for improvement in BEX I, BEX II, or BEX III. An independent inspection recommended nothing more than new windows.

3) The non-instructional expense at Horace Mann is $470 per student LESS than the District average. It is THE LEAST EXPENSIVE building the District operates.

Why are we closing Horace Mann? What do we hope to achieve by it?

Megan Mc said...

Considering that the only changes in the North End are happening to Alternative schools, I think the district has to wait until after the Alt schools audit to determine what to do with 700+ kids affected by the current plan. After the audit the board can put together a committee to figure out the best way to serve the needs of the affected kids. Having two full mega K-8 alternatives (salmon bay and new TC) is not going to serve those needs.

The situation in the N and NE is different than the other clusters because we are the only one with no wiggle room to deal with the mistakes later.

As much as I would hate going through this closure process again next year, I would rather do that- knowing ahead of time that we were working on creating an equitable alternative plan for the North end - than be dumped in an "uber alternative" school forced to house 3 displaced alternative communities.

Who knows, maybe all the AS#1 kids will take the WASL this year and get ourselves off the list (academic criteria). If the district does more work on the capacity numbers they may learn that there are still to many kids and not enough seats (geographic criteria). Closing AS#1 and Summit greatly reduces proximity to similar programs in the area (proximity criteria). AS#1 fits the closure criteria less under these lenses. We learned from our Ed Director last night that staff has spent no time looking at restructuring AS#1 under level 4 of the NCLB or any other options to make the program more attractive. They don't like the building site and they want to get rid of it. Period.

I appreciate the board pushing to take a fresh look at the numbers.

Maureen said...

Trivial little point here, but I haven't seen it elsewhere. Why not keep Central APP kids at Lowell and put QA/mag APP kids at TMarshall?

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with Melissa that The Center School program should not be discontinued. It is popular and successful. Move it—in tact if they must.

On moving Center School to co-house with Meany. Would they keep their exceptional principal and staff? Would they continue with their late-start (one of the prime elements of their program)? Is there a decent performing arts center (as there is at RBHS)? Would they be able to continue their partnerships with groups in and around Seattle Center?

I believe the answers to most if not all of these questions would have to be yes to make it work. If the District uses their existing space for Home School Resource Center II (which does not now exist) how are costs saved?

TCS only has 4 years left on their lease. Wouldn't it be better to let them stay put (at least for next year) and figure out the best place to relocate them and work out getting out the lease and finding them a new home in a more organized manner?

TCS has an open house tonight. I spoke with the office staff today and they're going to go on with it in hopes that they will still be in their location next year. I wish them luck.

Central Mom said...

Maureen, I ran these numbers just now...
District says Lowell has a planning capacity of 484.

Lowell (incl special ed and split APP), w/ QA/Mag folks and no Central would be 202 this year.

Lowell (incl special ed and split APP) w/ Central and no QA would be 238.

Montlake enrollment this year is 237.

APP enrollment changes year to year per test-ins. But it you put this year's APP cohort incl. Central kids in there, you're at 475. That's close to capacity, and I don't know how the classrooms would really shake out as you're now dividing up the school between 3 programs, not 2.

You'll be busing @30 Central North End (McGilvra, Montlake, Stevens area) APP kids to TM under the proposed plan, including (ironically) 8 Montlakians who, if they opt out of APP would end up at...that's right...Lowell.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ditto Charlie. For some possessed reason Nova loves that building and the 101 year old boiler still works. Let them stay. Put Summit in Meany and let them grow (or if you have to move Nova let them co-house with Summit K-8). Find an appropriate place for SBOC. I'm not buying this idea of two years ago they HAD to have their own place under best practices and now two years later, they HAVE to co-house with a general population.

anonymous said...

"We learned from our Ed Director last night that staff has spent no time looking at restructuring AS#1 under level 4 of the NCLB or any other options to make the program more attractive."

Perhaps it would be better to try to figure out why the district is closing AS1, while they are expanding another alternative school, TC? Why didn't they close TC and move AS1 to Jane Adamms and grow them?

First of all while AS1 is at step 4 of NCLB, TC is doing very well. In fact above the district average. And, while AS1 is loosing enrollment, TC is full with a wait list.

Could it be that your program is unpopular? Could it be that people do value test scores just a little bit, and all of those opt out zero's added up to families becoming fearful of sending their kids to AS1? While TC has a moderately alt philosophy, AS1 is extreme.....could it be that the extreme is not appealing to families?

AS1 is now at step 4 of NCLB. In step 4, the district has to offer federally funded tutoring to all low income students, and a transfer to a school that is performing adequately. At step 4 the district is mandated to plan for a restructure. And, still avoiding the WASL, AS1 will move into step 5 next year, where the district is mandated to restructure or close the program. What reason would the district have to keep the school open?

While I understand the AS1 communities resistance to taking the WASL, and I understand that is your right to opt out, I fail to understand why you didn't work with the district to come up with a mutually satisfactory alternative assessment? And, while you were working on that, just take the darn WASL.

Frankly I think the AS1 closure was completely preventable.

dj said...

I was having a thought. Montlake-reference kids at Lowell get sent to TM. A kid is moved from Montlake to Lowell and tests into APP. Do they get sent to TM?

But that's me being cute. I think the sib questions are interesting ones. For the first time in all of this, I actually feel lucky in that at least both Lowell and TM are a short drive from my house, so moving my kid from one school to the other at least logistically isn't difficult. I imagine there are going to be some kids who currently walk to Lowell for whom this will be much more inconvenient.

zb said...

Since TC is not a title 1 school, does it even have a "step" under NCLB? Are those assigned to schools that do not receive title 1 funds?

I'm not arguing that under the NCLB criterion TC comes out more favorably than AS1, but it's comparing apples and oranges. And, the fact that TC is not a title 1 school and AS1 is, is one more reason why it would be a hard sell as an alternative, regardless of the wonderfulness of it's program. We're shutting AAA, too.

Is Summit K-12 title 1? Odd though it may seem, not many parents are willing to pick alternatives where they will be joining poor children -- that doesn't make the schools bad, just unpopular. As someone else pleaded, about Hamilton, let's not use the unpopular as being synonymous with unsuccessful pedagogy (it could be, but it can also reflect factors like location and demographics).

dj said...

Re: The Seattle Times coverage:

I have to offer really big thanks to this blog for keeping the information flowing. I don't think that the Times does a bad job of covering, but I don't know what I would do without the obsessive level of detail provided here.

Roy Smith said...

An idea for how to do get to where SPS staff appear to want to go in a way that makes it less likely that Thornton Creek School will be destroyed in the process:

1) Relocate Summit K-8 to Meany (the staff's non-preferred option, but at least it isn't completely off the table). Explore possibility of merging Summit K-8 and Nova into a single program under one principal and administration (this may not be feasible, but ought to be looked at).

2) Relocate Thornton Creek to Jane Addams. Add 6th grade only in 2009-2010 school year. Ultimately, they will grow into a stovepipe K-8 with an enrollment of 625 (25 students per classroom, 25 classrooms, which allows 9 classrooms for the SC autism programs which will move into the building). This will allow about 70 students per grade level.

3) Do not close AS#1 for two more years. This will allow Thornton Creek time to add 6th and 7th grade, and they will be adding 8th grade the year that AS#1 N/NE cluster students are merged in (which will be September 2011). Do not allow transfers in to AS#1 if they result in a combined population of AS#1 and Thornton Creek of more than 70 students per grade (not counting SC autism students).

4) IMPORTANT: Cap enrollment at Thornton Creek at each grade level so that there are sufficient seats available when AS#1 is moved in. Essentially, enrollment for the two schools would be capped at what will fit into Jane Addams.

There are a couple of tricky points to be managed here. One is the combined enrollment cap. Communication between the principals and working with the enrollment centers ought to take care of that, though. The second is the fact that unlike AS#1, Thornton Creek doesn't have multi-grade classrooms (my impression from the website, please correct me if I am wrong), so it is trickier to arrange the program to average 70 students per grade. This problem could be solved if the SC autism portion of the building were reduced to 7 classrooms, allowing Thornton Creek 3 rooms per grade (and thus 75 students per grade).

I realize that this is an extremely ugly proposal for numerous reasons. The only virtues it really has is that, for all its warts, it is better than what SPS staff is currently proposing, and that it gets to the same endpoint (although two years later, as far as closing Pinehurst) that staff are pushing for.

The advantages I see (over the current SPS proposal) are:

1) Builds the middle school in a deliberate, manageable manner.

2) Only merges one new population into Thornton Creek, rather than two, and gives both sides two and a half years to prepare for the shift.

3) Gives AS#1 families not in the N and NE clusters two years to work out their options and play the open enrollment game, rather than dump them into open enrollment this spring with effectively no warning.

It still is a rapid and difficult change which will dramatically impact the character of the program, but I hope that this proposal, or something like it, might slow the rate of change down to something that is merely difficult, rather than impossible, to manage.

With regards to Decatur, apparently SPS staff don't think that a language immersion program is something that can be brought online in 9 months (though building a language immersion program would seem pretty easy compared to what Thornton Creek is expected to do with 9 months warning). If they can't have the language immersion program there next fall, why can't they at least announce that long-term, they will be putting one there? The demand is still there, and doing that (particularly if combined with Spectrum? Is that feasible) could get Decatur filled up quickly.

Central Mom said...

Another Way

As a Central Area parent, I can't help but agree w/ Mary Bass that the current proposed recommendations are hitting the Central District hard, and without much (any??) upside for families actually living in this cluster. If we're going to upset the apple cart, there must be a way to provide more benefits for families.

If Montlake closes (er, "moves"), that's the loss of a fantastic program and no matter what the district says, many in the community aren't going to buy a move to Lowell. That's going to leave the Central cluster with yet another (perceived) mediocre school choice and will cause a loss of more families in a district that can ill-afford it.

So...Here's another proposal that tips the apple cart even farther than what staff has been thinking so far. But it has some great benefits that I'm not seeing addressed in current plans. Get out your pencils, please. :-)

Tipping the Apple Cart:
Move the John Stanford International bilingual program from Latona, which is directly on the other side of the U Bridge from the Central District, into Lowell. Grandfather all current attendees, of course.

Benefit: Allows another quality program into the central district instead of a "leftover neighborhood kids" gen ed program at Lowell that no one here wants.

Benefit: The district walks the walk about improving access to programs. Right now, JSIS is a neighborhood school with enrollment largely limited to neighbors. If a bilingual program isn't alternative, what is? This is a perpetual nomenclature problem. Call the spade a spade...make it more accessible and give it room to grow, which the Lowell building would allow.

Benefit: Special needs kids stay in Lowell and now have access to a general ed program. In addition, this allows Lowell to be a much more socio-economically diverse school than what Montlake/North End APP would be.

Close Montlake due to its structural condition.

Making the Best of It Benefit: Keep the Montlake program intact (and keep families in the District) by putting it in a geographical reference school that makes a whole lot more sense than Lowell: Latona. Redraw the Central Cluster to include the Latona building. It's just as much as central location as a NW Cluster location and it's right over the U Bridge from the Montlake neighborhood. All Montlakians go to Latona as a fantastic and intact program. There will still be room for new families located near Latona, because the current JSIS students will all be grandfathered in.

This gives the district room to watch how a Montlake move and other Central changes might send some South Central Montlake attendees to JSIS at Lowell or Leschi or Thurgood Marshall, etc. and to see how neighborhood enrollment in Latona numbers change after the move. Staff can then have the breathing room to readdress enrollment boundaries and capacity by moving Green Lake and BF Day boundaries around during the new assignment planning phase. Both schools have capacity and they border the Latona district.

Continue w/ the planned SBOC move, and put APP North families into Old Hay. Instead of an East Central location, the cohort gets a West Central location. There's room for the program at Old Hay, plus enough room for it to grow and/or allow more neighborhood kids into a general ed program if demographics dictate it. The Old Hay building was a conditional closure anyhow, so I don't believe the district is losing much planned-on savings.

Commence your discussion!

Roy Smith said...

Since TC is not a title 1 school, does it even have a "step" under NCLB? Are those assigned to schools that do not receive title 1 funds?

Yes, it has a step, but there are no consequences. AS#1 was not a Title I school until this fall, which I think is part of why being in Steps 1, 2, and 3 was completely ignored by the school.

That being said, I think having enrollment at only 2/3 of capacity is a whole lot bigger problem for AS#1's case than the fact they are at Step 4 is. If Thornton Creek was at Step 4 or Step 5 but continued to have big waitlists every year, would anybody care about NCLB?

Roy Smith said...

I have never understood why access to JSIS wasn't by lottery only, with no distance tie-breakers - particularly when it used to be the only one in the district.

Roy Smith said...

Isn't a big draw for Montlake the fact that most of the neighborhood kids walk to school? Moving the school intact is great, but they will still be getting on the bus to get there.

Central Mom said...

If Montlake closes, buses are inevitable no matter what the solution. At least w/ Latona, the older kids w/ an adult would still have the choice of walking. Or they pile into a car for a 2 min drive. (5 mins if the bridge is up.) Lowell is uphill and far for most Montlakians.

Megan Mc said...


I agree that AS#1 could have done a lot to prevent this closure by working with the district in a constructive way. However, by the districts own admission they haven't engaged with the school (when ask by director DeBell what had been done to help AS#1, Santorno said not as much as they could have). I know the principal has been working with our Ed Director to put the school in compliance with NCLB but that work has not been shared with the parents nor has their input been sought. One of the principles of the school is democratic decision making so many families left rather then accept being shut out of the process. Which is one reason for our declining enrollment. The other reason is that the school has been targeted for closure several times in the last couple of years (even when it had full enrollment and waitlist).

I have only been at the school for 2 years so I don't feel like I can defend past decisions or speak for those families. I do know that since I have been at the school I have noticed a total lack of coordination of internal and external communication. That is something that is easily remedied (and we are working on it now). We are only under enrolled by about 70 kids (BFD has over 130 open seats, and Olympic Hills has at least 80 open seats) . With a good self-promoted PR push it probably wouldn't be that hard to find kids who are unhappy at their current school but don't know that their is another place to go. Most people have never even heard of us and I'll admit thats our own fault but we are working on it.

If I was really cynical, I would think that the district is pushing to close us now BEFORE we can get our numbers back up.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's remember that there are two ways to reduce excess seats. One way is to close schools. Another way is to increase enrollment.

In the Central Cluster the District originally wanted to remove about 638 seats (388 at T T Minor by closing the school and 250 at Thurgood Marshall by putting APP students into them) and close two buildings.

If the District moves forward with closing T T Minor - and it looks like they will - then they are only looking to remove another 250 seats. The creation of a general education program at Lowell adds 200 seats, putting the District back to having about 450 seats to eliminate.

Closing Montlake won't do it; it will only eliminate about 225 seats. They could do it, however, by repurposing Thurgood Marshall as the AAA for K-5.

By my reckoning, creating a general education program at Lowell and closing Montlake leaves the District with about 250 more seats than they wanted in the Central Cluster. Leaving Montlake open and converting Thurgood Marshall, however, puts them right where they want to be.

anonymous said...

AS1 has been on the closure list two times in the past 4 years. One would think that this would have been incentive for AS1 to do all of the things that Megan Mc mentioned in her post. They should have worked on PR and Marketing to get their enrollment numbers up, they should have encouraged their families to take the WASL or worked with the district to come up with a mutually acceptable alternate assessment so the district could have some data on how the school is performing, they should have corrected the "lack of coordination" and "internal and external structure".

AS1 is there own worst enemy. You battle yourselves.

As far as I can see, it's to late for any chance now. You should have been working on improving your situation for the past 4 years.

And, btw, AS1 has not been full with a waitlist since at least 2000. That was the year my kids entered school and AS1 had plenty of space then, and still does today.

Laura Kohn said...

Just a clarification:
The district has been using the middle school capacity of the future South Shore building, which would be 1000. But as a PK-8 building, it has a planned capacity of 750.

Melissa Westbrook said...

1)Charlie, why do you want to keep bringing back AAA? Seriously, it has never performed well as a program, didn't get the support from community you might have expected, what's the point? I appreciate the symbolic value but we need real value to students.

2) Ah NCLB. Here's some fun facts I found out from research (I think I did mention this before elsewhere). Who decides what "restructure" means? The district. Who enforces a Level 5 school? The district (except for Title 1 funds). OSPI enforces whole districts, not schools in districts. So SPS can decide, anytime, what restructuring looks like.
3) I stand corrected; New School will only be a 750 student PreK-8. I do have to wonder why the district decided to put New School on the list with an unnamed elementary to go in there and now, it just disappeared. Interesting.

Sahila said...

Adhoc -

I'm just seeing you have a bee in your bonnet about AS#1... what is your problem with the school???

You obviously havent got a child there...

Is AS#1's existence detracting in some way from your child's educational experience? Arent you getting enough resources and you're mad that taxpayer money is being wasted on us flakey alternatives?

You obviously dont know that a core of (taxpaying) parents have been/working hard at the school for many years...

You obviously havent a clue what can and cant be achieved in a school that is handicapped by having a small, somewhat scattered, socially and economically disadvantaged population...

Are you feeling threatened by a small group of people who insist on persisting to work within a democratic model and refuse to knuckle under and give in to the bureaurcracy?

What's it to you if we decide to take the darn WASL or not, and get penalised by it and maybe lose our school?

Isnt it enough for you that you can sit and gloat (or sneer, to be more accurate) and say 'its all your own fault, we told you so..."

beansa said...

adhoc, I don't understand why you keep bringing up what AS1 should have done in the past. It's not like we can go back in time and do those things, so it feels like you're just telling us that we're getting what we deserve with this closure.

The thing is, this is my daughter's first year at the school. She had a horrible year in a traditional K and we ended up homeschooling her for half the year. This year, we put her at AS1 for first grade, and she's doing amazingly well.

So I'm going to fight to keep our school open, even though the parents who were there before me maybe made choices that are negatively affecting AS1 now, that doesn't mean the school can't improve. If we get the chance, that is.

Central Mom said...

Apologies for posting here and on the Discussing Dec 9 thread. The conversations going on are kind of similar at this point. Perhaps everyone could move here? Anyhow, here's a copy of the response I just wrote to Beth on that thread...

Beth, thanks for the encouragement to think creatively. Here are some nitty gritty numbers for those who care to continue down this path of thinking w/ me:

SBOC (Old Hay) is in a building w/ a planning capacity of 483. Enrollment 229. You could pretty much move the whole APP elementary cohort there and keep it together if the District wasn't bound and determined to make the split. But I digress. 1/2 the cohort could easily fit in the building w/ 1/2 the space still left for gen ed if/when needed. Aurora moves traffic just as well as I-5 does, maybe better. With APP at Old Hay, the temporary cross-cluster transportation to BF Day for QA/Mag can go away. As the parents have said many times, this was never a preferred excess capacity solution for their neighborhoods.

Suddenly, Lowell opens up again for a large gen ed program. The central cluster doesn't need another large gen ed program. Who
is going to buy into a new school there when Montlake folks are furious that their building is closed, Stevens folks don't want
to be moved, Eastlake rejects the idea that it as a "neighborhood" building and the TT Minor displaced program would neither fill it nor entice additional neighborhood families to join.

The planning capacity at Lowell is 484. The enrollment in the dual language immersion program at Latona is about 336 this year.

There are also about 30 special ed students there (I think). Put those 336 JSIS program folks at Lowell, give the current Lowell medically fragile kids access to that gen ed program, and you can still grow one of the most popular grade school options in the District by almost 100 kids. Does that not fit the District criteria of building on successful programs and increasing both access to and diversity in those programs? It will fill up in a heartbeat.

Moving it into true alternative
status will also save the District grief when they redraw the assignment boundaries. It simply can't keep calling JSIS at Latona a reference school vs. alternative w/ any credibility with an Alt School audit on the way and new reference school boundaries about to be drawn. Frankly, I've always thought the JSIS status is another legal grievance waiting to happen.

Latona's planning capacity is 355. Current Montlake enrollment is 237. Add back in the 30 special ed kids at Latona and at 267 kids in Latona, there's still room for Wallingford placement at Latona in 2009-10, even w/ the whole Montlake reference area pointed that direction. That's because most of the JSIS folks will choose to move to Lowell, not stay w/ their facility.

As the reference lines are redrawn, the 160 vacant seats at BF Day could be filled by the west side of the Latona area. There
are 60 open at Green Lake for the north side of the Latona reference area. That accounts for 220 of the 237 seats taken by the Montlake move. Now go back to the Central cluster and slightly (instead of radically) shift reference assignments south. Give Lowell the same treatment as TOPS...alternative w/ 20 - 30 % incoming kindergarten seats reserved for closest families by distance, and the District now has full capacity programs across the board...and good ones to boot.

Who would least-like this idea? The folks right around Latona, of course, but they get an excellent neighborhood program at Latona and would not lose access to the JSIS program. It doesn't rip apart any existing cohorts (beyond the APP split that the District is pushing) keeps the medically fragile kids at Lowell if they wish to be there, and it is of benefit to multiple neighborhoods and undersubscribed programs. And if the Board could make a special OK to put QA/Mag students cross cluster at BF Day, it can make a special amendment to have the Montlake/Latona reference area happen too. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

You said:
"So...Here's another proposal that tips the apple cart even farther than what staff has been thinking so far"...

Without regard to the specific merits of the individual moves, think about how many kids this affects. One of the basic tenets of school closures and forced program movement should be (and I hope IS) disrupting the least amount of kids to get the desired benefit.

Remember, if the last round of closures is any indication, every time the district uplifts a child there's only a 50% chance they will actually go where they are supposed to go, and a 20+% chance of losing them from the district entirely (private, out of district, home-school, whatever).

So while there are a bunch of plans tossed around by parents (some pretty clever ones), I think the only ones that will/should get serious consideration are the ones that shift minimal kids.

Central Mom said...

The thing is, no one would shift that the school district hasn't already proposed, other than JSIS, and they stay together as a cohort. This would actually keep more cohorts together than anything else the District has offered up in relation to Central capacity. Plus there would be some positives. Right now, there are only negatives.

Josh Hayes said...

There's a relatively old saying about posters like "adhoc" on the net: "don't feed the troll."

Still and all, it's so hard to resist!

The fact is, the district has done everything it can do prevent parents from signing up at AS1: it hides our table at the kindergarten fair (last year we were grouped with - WEST SEATTLE! How crazy is that?). District staffers misrepresent the school (when I signed my children up it was against their wails of protest: "you don't want to send your child there! It's a hippie school, they run around with no clothes on all day!" Other AS1 parents have similar stories). And every year or so, district management threatens to close AS1.

There's an old saying about bad things happening to you: once is just bad luck. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. In the face of all the garbage the district has done, all the roadblocks they've thrown up, we STILL have a higher fraction of capacity than a number of other schools who are NOT targeted for closure.

I read the comments from "adhoc" and it's just stunning how much misinformation is in there -- but I don't blame the poster, just as I don't blame the district staffers who imagine us running around without clothes on (ugh; trust me: we wear clothes at all times!). It's the responsibility of AS1 folk to speak the truth, and we've allowed a lot of falsehoods to be spread around.

I don't think it's useful to talk history here, or to engage in "my alternative is bigger than yours" arguments. But I think that the almost gleefully uninformed comments about AS1 posted by adhoc are equally vacuous. They amount to nothing more than taunting; that's the kind of behavior we try to discourage at AS1. Let's try to base our discussion on realities, rather than fictions.

Unknown said...

I think Mary Bass is right, find out what will happen with the assignment plan before rushing into a closure plan.

There are Directors who actually have questions regarding capacity issues(too many students not enough room), and they haven't even closed the schools. Isn't that a hint not to close the schools?

zb said...

Central Mom:

I think your plans for Latona/JSIS is skewed by the weird category that school fits into. You're thinking of it as an alternative program (and yes, I understand why one would think of a language immersion program as an alternative -I do too. But, it's not. It functions as a neighborhood school for people in Wallingford, albeit ones who are willing to do language immersion. So, the idea of moving their program elsewhere wouldn't open up Latona, because presumably many (perhaps more) Wallingford residents would want to go to Latona, if it were a neighborhood school.

And I don't know if you've actually driven the Montlake-Lowell route or the Montlake-Latona route. But, having done so myself, I think cross-bridge commutes invariably add to the commute time.

(but, I think Beth is right that it's worth thinking creatively).

Roy Smith said...

JSIS is basically a traditional school. That being said, it doesn't make sense for it to be a neighborhood reference area school when it offers a program that is unique in the north part of the city and is in very high demand.

For assignment plan purposes therefore, it ought to be handled like an alternative, not as a reference area school.

Melissa Westbrook said...

JSIS is something of the same issue as TOPS. Eastlake and its surrounding area have no reference school and TOPS should be. JSIS became what is at least a non-traditional school and yet remained a reference school for the neighborhood.

It will be interesting to see how this gets worked out in the assignment plan.

zb said...

The difference between TOPS & JSIS being that JSIS uses a distance tiebreaker? while TOPS allows a small number of neighborhood seats?

Or do they both do the same thing, with the number of neighborhood seats differing?

zb said...

Is there anywhere where there's a breakdown of transportation costs for all the schools?

I've seen the numbers for AS1 & Summit K-12 (both very high, and both all city draws). But, what's the situation for TOPS & Lowell, and for a variety of general ed schools? Are the different general ed schools similar in transportation costs?

Ben said...

Currently, transportation for Lowell SAVES the city money! The program gets more in fed money for transportation than it uses!

hschinske said...

My understanding is that the money for APP transportation is state money, not federal, and is liable to be cut from the budget. If I've got this muddled, please correct me, somebody.

Helen Schinske

Ben said...

Oops — state money. Sorry.

And yes, the budgets are in jeopardy.

zb said...

But, where's the information? On transportation costs?

CS said...

Yes, where do we find the transportation cost breakdown? TOPS and Lowell have shared some bus routes since they're nearby and the TOPS start/finish times are later than Lowell. Does this reduce transportation costs at both schools? How does that break down?

Central Mom said...

re: the difference between TOPS and JSIS enrollment.

This will get us into the always popular debate about what is alternative and not. Which is why we need that outside audit done (because the district doesn't appear to have done much with the alt schools' own report on alt education from a couple years back) and then have the appropriate transportation and enrollment guidelines worked out BEFORE the redraw of assignment areas.

Anyhow...JSIS (Latona) is treated by a reference school by the district. Standard transportation and tiebreakers...sibling, distance... The net effect is a slim-to-none chance that a family can get into this school unless they live very very close by. It's completely backward IMHO. It's a non-standard program being called "reference school" simply because of how the district has chosen its enrollment draw.

TOPS is a K-8 that some folks argue has a standard curriculum and some folks argue is alternative in its programming. Leaving that aside, it has a lottery system for enrollment in a multicluster draw (and the clusters are a legacy from long-ago placement of other programs in the district and may no longer make sense today, depending on many other moving factors.)

Transportation to TOPS is guaranteed from the clusters in which the lottery occurs. It also sets aside, after sibling preference, 20% of seats for incoming kindergarteners (only) to accomodate families that live within a couple-block radius of the school. As I've said in another post, this was a compromise which appears to have worked quite well for both families and the school.

This is why I continue to propose moving the language immersion program up to Lowell and making it a program that can grow to accommodate more kids in the district. At the same time, leave Latona as the reference school, bolstered by the parents and program from Montlake.

Charlie Mas said...

Josh Hayes wrote that adhoc is a troll. HA!

Josh, welcome to the blog. ad hoc has been posting to this blog for a long, long time and is a valued contributor. You, on the other hand, just started blogging here.

I suggest you be more cautious about calling people names, particularly when you're new to a community and you don't really know who is who.

We're happy to have your input here because we sincerely want it. But we don't need you insulting folks - particularly those we know and respect. Your comment would have meant just as much without the snotty preface.

Sahila said...

IMO...adhoc shows very little respect for (sane, intelligent, taxpaying) people who make educational choices for their children that run contrary to his view of how the world should be, and he is disdainful, dismissive and derogatory in the extreme, in his comments towards them... defining a troll (long-enduring or otherwise) and trolling - a rose by any other name is still a rose, if it squawks like a duck, walks like a duck, flaps its wings like a duck, there's a high probability it is a duck!!!

Here's another idea to give the District time to do what it ought to be doing already - stop this impending train wreck in its tracks and tackle this issue at the root of the problem, rather than trying to bandaid it, at a social cost that will far outstrip the so-called savings(?) of $3.6 million, a teardrop in the $37M deficit bucket...

Obama has a proposal to put trillions into infrastructure development, including roads and schools... with 'spade ready' projects able to get money in the first quarter of the new year...

Gregoire already has her eyes on getting the viaduct rebuilt and billions for deferred maintenance at UW and SU... why cant Seattle Public Schools argue for a share of that pie? Especially since one of its arguments for choosing schools to close is their poor building condition, which is due to its failure to maintain them....

And maybe that money will give us time to go about solving this "capacity in the wrong part of town" issue in a sane, logical, rational manner, with the most equitable outcomes and the least amount of disruption to the largest number of children....

Adults should be fixing this problem - a seriously flawed education system that does not deliver best practice principles - without making children pay the price....

rugles said...

Do I have this right?

School closures don't save a lot of money right away.

We need to decide on these closures right now because we have a budget shortfall and we need to save money right away.

Roy Smith said...

I am pretty firmly of the opinion that this school closures mess is driven primarily by a political consideration: namely, the legislature (who control funding) and the state auditor are of the opinion that SPS operates too many facilities. If we are to get any sympathy at all from them, we have to close buildings. In this climate (particularly with the recession and state budget problems), if SPS were to reopen a closed building, the legislature would probably view that as SPS giving them the finger, and SPS would then get the finger right back if they were to complain about not getting enough funding.

This whole situation is all very ugly, and in my view the solutions being demanded by the political situation are extremely short-sighted and unwise. It would make far more sense to halt closures completely until after the assignment plan is worked out and find $4 million/year in savings by cutting central staff a little bit more, but even if SPS got its budget to balance by doing that, I don't think the legislature would care. I think they would overlook a balanced budget and view SPS as still operating expensive excess capacity.

Foolish as the consequences are likely to be, I really don't see how this train is going to be stopped. One way or another, 7 buildings will be closed. The only real question is which programs will lose out in the process.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with Roy. Something I'd like to see happen as a sign of good faith to the taxpayers and parents of Seattle school children would be for Dr. G-J and Ms. Santorum (sp?) to waive their recent raises. Seriously, does Dr. G-J really need to make more than the Governor in these tough economic times? I'd also be thrilled to see the District address the audits assessment of overstaffing at the Central Office before closing schools.

Josh Hayes said...

Roy says:

I am pretty firmly of the opinion that this school closures mess is driven primarily by a political consideration: namely, the legislature (who control funding) and the state auditor are of the opinion that SPS operates too many facilities....


I may well be wrong about this, Roy -- sure wouldn't be the first time! -- but my recollection is that the auditor pointed out that the district not only operated too many buildings but owned too many buildings which it's not operating.

I realize the market is horrible for selling real estate, but surely there are some mothballed buildings that we KNOW are never going to be reopened; why not sell them and at least get some coin for the assets, money which can be applied to the budget gap? Probably the thing about the whole closure issue that bugs me the most is that it's portrayed as this responsible "close the budget gap" effort, but even the district's own estimates of cost savings are trivial compared to the overall gap, and as far as I know, there's been no proposal for where the remaining >90% will come from.

Beth Bakeman said...

Josh, even though the whole closure process is making me sick to my stomach, and even though I worry about whether or not the decisions being made now are ones the district will regret later, I have to say that I'm impressed by Dr. G-J and how she's handling the overall process.

And one of the things she has done at every meeting I have been to is point out clearly that the school closures/consolidations is only one of several (I think she lists 5 or 6) strategies for saving money and closing the budget gap.

I'll see if I can dig up some of the details from her slide presentations. But I know it involves cutbacks at central administration and other moves.

And Chris Jackins and others will tell you that selling district property should be considered an absolute last resort because if/when the district enrollment grows again, there is no way they will be able to afford to buy back any of that property or those buildings.

Roy Smith said...

I realize the market is horrible for selling real estate, but surely there are some mothballed buildings that we KNOW are never going to be reopened; why not sell them and at least get some coin for the assets, money which can be applied to the budget gap?

That would be an even worse idea, over the long term, than closing schools.

1) It is not legal for SPS to use sales of land or buildings to fund operating costs - proceeds from the sale must be used to fund capital expenses. So proceeds couldn't be used to fill the budget holes.

2) There are very few, if any buildings, that we are certain will never be used again, and if we sell them, they are gone, which might create big problems. Just ask Queen Anne residents about their high school. Access of Queen Anne and Magnolia residents to high school is going to be a HUGE issue when reference areas for high schools are drawn as part of the new assignment plan, and a potentially simple way to resolve this (reopen Queen Anne high school) is unavailable because it was sold.

3) Predicting future demographics is tricky, at best. What happens if the percentage of population inside the city limits who are children rebounds significantly? What happens if the percentage of students attending private schools drops from near 25% to 10%? Buildings (or more importantly, the land they sit on - buildings may be rebuilt) may actually be needed again someday.

Selling land or buildings is a setup for long-term dysfunction, and SPS has already travelled down that road before; it's time to stop.

anonymous said...

Sahila will you please point out to me one quote that I have made that "shows very little respect"?

Just because my opinion is differs from yours does not mean that I am disrespectful. And certainly does not fit the definition of a troll.

On the other hand, I can point out many quotes from you being disrespectful and dismissive of others opinions.

I understand that the proposal to close your school hurts. I understand that you want to fight to keep your school open. I commend you for that, and I value your opinion. I learn new information on this blog every day because of people like you who take the time to post here. So, just because our opinions differ, do not mean that we can't be civil and try to understand each others predicament, positions and opinions.

uxolo said...

Sahila, I completely agree "stop this impending train wreck in its tracks and tackle this issue at the root of the problem, rather than trying to bandaid it, at a social cost that will far outstrip the so-called savings(?) of $3.6 million, a teardrop in the $37M deficit bucket..."

A unified approach for us would be to have a massive letter writing campaign to stop the process and act thoughtfully. The fact that the superintendent can be swayed practically overnight makes it clear that this is not being done intelligently.

Maureen said...

I absolutely agree that JSIS should not be a neighborhood school under the new assignment plan and I think it makes sense to put uber-popular (and/or well off) programs in less than perfect buildings. (disclaimer-it was our ref school for my 5th grader, but she followed her brother to TOPS--she isn't the kind of kid who would benefit from learning math and science in Japanese)

Two small points, Central Mom says JSIS (Latona) is treated (as)a reference school by the district. Standard transportation...

True, assignment is like for a neighborhood school, but transportation is ALL CITY. (This may be because JSIS houses an Elementary BOC program and so the buses are shared, but I don't know that for sure.) That means that people can rent an apartment in Wallingford for a year to get in and then move anywhere in the city (West Seattle?!) and get busing for five more years.

and "TOPS...20% of seats for incoming kindergarteners (only) to accomodate families that live within a couple-block radius of the school."

The set aside is for the 20% (about five seats) who live closest as the crow flies (and chose TOPS 1st). In practice, for the one year the District gave data to TOPS' Site Council, someone from North Capitol Hill (around Bertshi) got a spot. Eastlake/Montlake/Roanoake Park/Capitol Hill families also gain entry through the lottery (20-25% of applicants) and with sibling preference so you really can't tell who was admitted under the set aside. Note that, once they are admitted, they can move to five of nine clusters and get busing. One family moved to NE the summer before kindergarten--I don't mean to say they cheated--they had planned the move and they are a fabulous family.

Beth Bakeman said...

uxolo says "The fact that the superintendent can be swayed practically overnight makes it clear that this is not being done intelligently." I've read similar comments elsewhere, and I don't get it.

Don't we want the superintendent to listen to Board members' concerns and questions, public input, do further analysis of data and come up with new possibilities?

And if so, why is it bad that it's happening quickly?

dj said...

To the extent that what is going on is that the superintendent (et. al.) is listening to arguments and thoughtfully responding, that is a good thing and to be encouraged, not lamented.

I will admit at this point I think that there is some of that going on, and some of "falling back to our actual position from the initial position that we took for negotiation purposes."

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Why, oh why, school closures...Here's some old conspiracy theory stuff to kick around (not that I believe them, but because some here are talking about state budgets and politics:
Those who can afford a quality education for their children will find a way to get it, by privates or by supporting their child's public school (not necessarily the district; maybe just the school).
Those who cannot afford a quality education are a "drag" on the state budget and on districts: They often have expensive needs.

One might wonder, sometimes, if it's in the state's perceived best interest to get as far out of the education business as possible. Distance themselves from the costs by streamlining through packaged curriculums, out-source programs for students that need special attention (and save money, maybe, by economies of scale while losing quality education)...

I know this sounds ridiculous, but we can see all sorts of evidence of "new" tools be utilized that do these very things: "Distance learning" via computer, while helpful to a few students lagging in credits, also underminse (and cheapens) public education. It takes out the teacher, the mentor, the facilitator and places the student in front of a computer screen for credit (I once entertained myself imagining a brave new world where the student programs parameters into her or his computer for an essay, the computer writes it and sends it to the teacher's computer, which uses parameters to determine the student's grade, which it sends to the District computer...No one learning there, except the software designers learning how to make money!)
Direct instruction reguires very little preparation. In schools that serve the very poor, this is becoming the cause celebre', t he new wonder toy. Combine that with "test scores" and "rigor" (rigor of fidelity to the packaged, direct-instruction curriculum) and you have a cheaper product (pay the instructor less, cheaper curriculum because it's standardized, easier to report "success" in standardized assessments....
You'll never catch the more educated, often wealthier parents/guardians allowing their children to be instructed in such a manner: they'd scream bloody murder because it's just not education. But those that can be convinced (first come standardized tests, then the standardized curriculum....) those that know no better or can be convinced, or those that NEED some number to grab onto that tells them that yes, their child is somehow equal to the children of those more educated people (read "WASL"), those that might have never KNOWN a quality eduation...their children are potential fodder for a industrialized machine that is detached from true education, that stremalines the process of learning to maximize economic efficiency, that continues to supply "graduates" that are able to pull levers and push buttons without overthinking everything...

Yes, it's merely a conspiracy theory, a bad dream. Everyone knows that it's the economy that's making us cut back on education costs. It was the economy three years ago, too.

Pardon my cynicism. I just worry about the kids who don't have savvy parent/guadians. Or those who hardly have any parent/guardians at all.

Charlie Mas said...

Some negotiators say that if you want a kitten, start by asking for a pony. I haven't seen that strategy work with Seattle Public Schools. Instead, I have found them to be more receptive to folks who put their cards on the table, name their non-negotiables, and give their best offer from the start.

They don't want to haggle. They don't enjoy it and they don't have time for it.

A review of the preliminary proposal leads me to believe that it had multiple authors, each operating with their own set of knowledge and set of standards. That's how you can get Cooper rejected as the new location for Pathfinder based on the mathematical possibility that 36 students might have to be bussed out of their cluster but no mention of any trouble with bussing 200 central region Meany students out of their region.

It appears to me that these proposals were the work of two different teams.

The District always hits their deadlines at full speed, so this Frankenstein's monster was stitched together at the last minute without any time to check if the left arm and leg were the same length as the ones on the right.

For the first time ever we see a preliminary proposal that really is only preliminary.

As the proposal is reviewed and each element is standardized, we see that we need central region seats for 200 students at Meany (addition of the plan to relocate half of APP) and that the mathematical potential of bussing students from West Seattle-North to West Seattle-South shouldn't keep us from using Cooper for Pathfinder.

I know it's weird, but this is what honesty and openness looks like. This is what we see when the District reveals their decision-making process. For many of us who were active during previous administrations, this is glorious.

North End Mom said...

Glorious? So, you think that they'll eventually get past the small glitches, like little or no net increase in capacity for the NE cluster, and all will be well by January? I wish I shared your optimism.

north seattle mom said...

I agree with North end mom. This entire process got started because the district was going to need to spend about $3M on portables for NE elementary schools that were bursting at the seems with no hope of a middle schools placement because Eckstein was already maxed out on portables. The district decided to move Summit because it was cheaper than the portables and they made a great story about how Summit should have been in the Central cluster all along.

How wonderful it is that this proposal does nothing to add or balance capacity in the N end after evicting Summit because it was in the greater good. Hey maybe Shoreline will just send a bus down Lake City Way and we can solve their budget crisis.

Sahila said...

uxolo -

I am amazed at the lack of organised protest that's been going on... a few coloured t-shirts at Board meetings and some signs, nothing more - rather people accepting that school closures have to happen, doing the best they can to make sure its not their school that's having to close or move (though I guess the T-shirts worked for Arbor Heights!!), and then engaging in an intellectual exercise to force the same puzzle pieces to fit into a new picture....

We had Ruth Medsger (sorry about the spelling, too late for me to go check right now)come to a meeting at AS#1 this week suggesting we not protest or complain too loudly or messily but instead to come up with options for our continued existence that might be acceptable to the board/district... as one parent pointed out, that's not really our job!!!

I wasnt really taking any notice of the last round of closures - new here, young child, getting settled, figuring out the lay of the land, etc - but I know there was more outcry then. I asked a parent why there wasnt the same level of protest now and in their opinion, it was because the protestors were criticised and got bad press....

What's happened in this country, when paid public servants call the shots and dont respond to the will of their constituents, when the people they are supposed to serve (taxpayers and their children) and whose interests they are supposed to protect are given a bunch of unacceptable options and told to like it or lump it (eg Summit, AS#1, AAA), when no other options except school closures are put on the table, when their first duty is to provide the highest quality of best practice education available, rather than one-size-(preferably large)-fits all, cookie-cutter standardisation?

As I wrote in an earlier post, where's the 'Hell no, we wont go" slogan this country made so famous?

I'm spending my weekend working on material to justify AS#1's continued existence, for presentation at the public meeting at the school on Monday... been at the school 3 months and this is what I am doing with my time, instead of dealing with a whole bunch of issues in my own life that need attending to.... we're a small school without the luxury of a large population to divide the work into smaller chunks... wow, land of the free and home of the brave!!! You need lots of free time to protect your kids' interests, and courage to take on the bureaucracy...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I concur with Charlie; the first preliminary list was very scattered, very much like it was done by different people. (The CAC was divided up by regions but we all worked on every region together.)

My take is that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson may have believed (or been led to believe) that the Board would rubberstamp what came out (with a few minor tweaks). You could sense some tension when Board members asked how Summit could go to RBHS (going from the far north to the far south)both in terms of transportation and actual buy-in. She said that the Board asked that it be moved and they moved it. Well, everyone saw it for the poison pill it was and said so and she was forced to retreat.

Then, looking down at their sheets of info, Board members could see we had too much high school capacity and we save more money closing a high school and so the question became, "Why not close RBHS?" Staff then backpedaled on closing a high school ("can't take that many seats off-line, blah, blah) and naturally it sounded lame.

The Board is doing the job of listening AND ferreting out answers to hard questions i.e. how does moving Thorton Creek to Addams to become a K-8 and closing both Summit and AS#1 both of which include many north end students, help the NE capacity problem? Sure, you get some more space at Decatur but you nearly fill Addams and force it to start out as a K-8 (unless Eckstein grows another portable).

The Board is doing its job. If, in doing their job the expose the flaws and shortcomings of the various preliminary plans, so be it. You can't just cry poor and expect everyone to fall in line.

I am a little surprised at how slippery these lists have become. It certainly doesn't look coherent. It certainly doesn't engender faith in a sure and steady process.

What is looks like is a lot of people who are overloaded with huge workloads of immediate tasks to get done while facing down HUGE deficits in the midst of an overall economic recession. I sense even that there may not be total unity across the staff for all these measures.

I think the Board is doing its job. I think they are listening to parents and the public. However, I don't think that the chaotic nature of the lists means it won't happen. I believe they will close some buildings (schools). It's kind of like the BEX list; if you do it right, it can be a help to all but if you do it wrong, then more schools suffer than is necessary.

At this point there was one person who I really wanted to call out because of the suffering that Arbor Heights and Cooper communities are going thru (and even Pathfinder because, through no fault of their own, they got a crummy building that has only gotten worse). It could ALL have been avoided under the last BEX but no, there are some within SPS who are more privileged than others.

I know this person reads this blog and I just have one question - how do you sleep at night?

Beth Bakeman said...

Josh and others, here's what the Dr. G-J slides I mentioned earlier said about the financial situation and cost cutting:

SPS is projecting a budget shortfall of at least $24 million and possibly up to $37M for FY 10, based on state and district data. In addition to building closures, the district is undertaking a number of steps to reduce expenses. These include:

1) Central office reductions: cutting central office expenses.

2) Efficiency analysis: gaining greater efficiencies and reducing costs (i.e. in transportation).

3) Review of school funding model: Cost savings through identifying and prioritizing the most critical services for student achivement.

4) Revenue generation strategies: short- and long-term ideas designed to generate new revenue.

As I look through this list, I'm not terribly impressed. Without some dollar amounts attached and/or more specifics, it's hard to see what the district is really doing about other cost-cutting.

Dr. G-J did say that there would be community budget workshops starting January, but obviously that will be too late to be useful in the closure decision-making.

uxolo said...

Guiding principles about how to best serve this city's children and youth were not at the forefront of this process. What may have been presented to the public as this year's first round of closure proposals had to have been in the works since M. G-J.'s Day One on the job. When this supt. signed on, everyone knew budget cuts and continued closures were on the way. Everyone knew that former supt. Manhas agreed to salary increases and that the dollars didn't exist to provide for those increases in the years to come. Deliberately having an audit of APP and excluding Spectrum would obviously have repercussions on programs and buildings. Deliberately excluding the Alternative school programs from the audit process would have repercussions. Management did this intentionally or perhaps they simply aren't very thoughtful. If the major contribution of this supt is/was to close buildings, and the leadership actually wanted to put students first, then preserving and building programs would have been obvious to us all throughout the process. Number of students affected would have been part of the equation from the beginning, as would a clear analysis of savings from transportation costs.Did it really require an audit to know the condition of Special Ed? Recall that Melissa's analysis of BEX III did not get the audience and response it rightly deserved.
This notion that a DESIGN TEAM exists is a whole 'nother topic. It is a handy catch phrase that somebody thought up - why not publicize its members and the procedures that will be implemented?

Unknown said...

Re: Central Mom's proposal to shift JSIS to Lowell:

I would really like to see the half day language immersion/international program grow in elementary: it's the only way we'll see any growth for the middle and high school programs. I always thought that it would be good to have more schools with the program, I hadn't considered putting it in a larger building, but that's probably because I was thinking about replicating the existing program. It is true that JSIS is running at about capacity for the 12 K-6 classrooms. I think the special ed classes Central Mom refers to are the 3 Bilingual Orientation Classes, which fluctuate in number a lot through the school year, as the kids cycle in and out of the program when their English proficiency allows them to go to a neighborhood school.

The proposal to grow the program through placing it in a larger building is interesting, but if the district were to use the current model it would be complex. Because of the half day immersion programming, JSIS has a looping grade band schedule. For example, there are 2 K classes, one studies in Spanish and English, the other in Japanese and English. There are 2 1st grade classes that also each study one target language as well as English. So, while Spanish K is studying in Spanish in the morning, the Japanese K is studying in English. At the same time, the Japanese 1st grade is studying in Japanese, and the Spanish 1st grade is studying in English. Come afternoon, and the classes head to different classrooms. The Japanese teacher has the K class, the Spanish teacher has the 1st grade class, and the English K teacher has the Spanish K class, and the English 1 teacher has the Japanese 1 class. The target language teachers always teach 2 grades each year and the English language teacher switch grades every year. So JSIS doesn't have any more classroom teachers than any other elementary school with 2 classes per K-5 grade.

So to grow the program within one school would require some very fancy planning to make an efficient model. In the current configuration it won't work to just add one class, even if there was a classroom. I think Karen Kodama worked very hard to develop this model, to grow the program incrementally each year and have workable funding and staffing. JSIS fundraises for the target language class IAs, but JSIS' immersion program receives the same money all other elementary schools do (not enough!).

Latona was an alternative school, but I would argue that JSIS isn't really alternative in the sense that AS1, Summit or AE2 are. It has immersion language and international focus, but the teaching style is traditional.

My understanding of JSIS status as a neighborhood school is that was a negotiated point when Escuela Latona was turned into JSIS. (JSIS was originally supposed to be in the CD, I think.) The demographic has changed quite a bit from 2000 when JSIS opened, Latona kids were grandfathered in, and as an alternative school, they had an all city draw, so it was pretty diverse. It is definitely a neighborhood school now. In the current K grade, there are something like 8 kids who aren't living in the reference area, and most of them are siblings. A few might be ESL students, as JSIS does have an ESL program. Every year people who live in the reference area get waitlisted to JSIS.

The district announced 2 years ago that it was going to make 6 International Immersion Elementary Schools, 2 Middle Schools and 2 High Schools. Beacon Hill went on line this year; I would hope that there will be an option in the CD at some point.

zb said...

I'm convinced that an international immersion school is one of the few things that really could draw people to a school that is otherwise not popular (for example, in the under-enrolled central schools). I presume that one reason this hasn't happened is cost and teaching availability? What is the cost for the immersion program at JSIS.

Charlie Mas said...

If you were to follow the work of the District staff for an extended period you would not accuse them of masterminding evil plans or conspiracies. Really. They are good, hard working people who care deeply about children and education.

Let's remember some realities, folks. Seattle Public Schools has about 9,000 seats of excess capacity. That is not efficient. Yes, the District should put the interests of children first, but there are other stakeholders to be considered as well, including the taxpayers, both representing themselves and as represented by their elected officials.

The District should eliminate empty seats. They create an unnecessary expense and they do not serve students. We need to keep some open seats to provide room for growth, to allow flexibility in program placement, and to provide liquidity for enrollment choice. An excess capacity of 4,000 (about 9%) would do just fine, so we have 5,000 seats too many. It makes sense to close them.

Alternative schools are about experimentation. Some of the experiments are successful and produce wonderful results. Some of the experiments, however, work only for a time. Some of them just don't work. It would be foolish to make forever commitments to experimental efforts. That means that alternative schools that don't work out - such as the African-American Academy - or no longer work as well as they once did - such as Summit or AS#1 - should be ended or altered.

Also, while some oddly persist in disputing the obvious, alternative programs are not primarily geographical communities. Neighborhood programs are primarily geographically-based. Consequently, the District can more readily relocate alternative programs - their communities will follow them to a new location more readily than a geographic community can be moved. That is practically a tautological reality. So any effort to shift capacity around must rely heavily on relocating alternative programs.

There is no evil at work. There is no bias against alternative programs. They are just easier to move.

The District staff have put forward their best ideas for meeting this challenge. If you have a better idea, they want to hear it. They are ready to incorporate submitted ideas in the plan. They are being open and mostly honest. However, they have no corner on the market for creative ideas. If you don't like their plan then you can reccomend a better one. It will do you no good to simply complain about their idea and refuse to offer anything better because "that's not your job". This is the work of advocating for your children, and yes, it is your job. The District staff have done their job. You have seen how they chose to do it. If you want it done differently, then it's up to you to find a way. Don't be a spoiled baby crying for your lolly. Get to work - and not work protesting, but real work, productive work that contributes to the process.

Central Mom said...

Following on Charlie's mandate to sharpen our pencils (and I do agree w/ his previous post)...

Tamara and Maureen, thank you for the additional clarification about JSIS transportation and programming. The fact that the JSIS program has all-city transportation right now adds weight to my suggestion, I believe.

Grandfather the JSIS cohort, including their transportation, then move them into Lowell. You don't have to grow the program exponentially the 1st year, as to Tamara's concern, because they're not replacing the same number of gen ed seats there. Add K and maybe 1 as the (great) principal figures out how to grow the population. With additional kids will come additional staffing that I'm sure she could wisely allocate.

Reduce JSIS transportation going forward to the North, NE and Central clusters. Make it an alternative draw lottery, w/ the same 20% setaside for K or K and 1 to give access to the families living closest to the building. This will allow perhaps some slack at Stevens, which in turn will allow room for a slight shift in reference lines in the new enrollment plan. Perhaps give TT Minor and Montlake kids first choice (1 year only) to access the K program. This gives them at least a small benefit for the impact on their populations.

Put the great Montlake program into Latona. Give the neighborhood *certainty* that their kids, along w/ the kids near to Latona, will have access to a topnotch neighborhood program as the next-best thing to keeping Montlake open and JSIS in Wallingford.

Close Montlake. Put North APP at Old Hay, with room for it to grow. This gets rid of the current perception among some that North End APP parents are "winners" by staying in Lowell and Central/South End APP parents are taking most of the risk in splitting the program.

APP at Old Hay continues APP access to the program by northern families, and allows room for gen ed should QA/Mag require it.

The north cluster keeps a strong neighborhood reference school. The sting of the Montlake closure is somewhat remedied. Central cluster gets a new program of benefit in the midst of all the changes its being asked to handle. Special needs kids get to keep their home at Lowell (should each family so desire.)The district dodges a very thorny question of alternative vs. neighborhood reference school at Latona in redrawing neighborhood reference areas.

Charlie says the district staff is ready and willing to do some creative thinking. Let's see....

Roy Smith said...

I hope this is stating the obvious, but while this forum is a great place for hashing out ideas, ideas posted here don't necessarily constitute ideas that the SPS staff is considering, as the ideas may not have gotten to them.

I hope everybody who has come up with a good idea that they believe in is emailing their ideas to the school board members, the superintendent, and/or to the capacity@seattleschools.org email box.

seattle citizen said...

I wrote nothing about alternative schools when posting my "conspiracy" theory. I was referring, perhaps unclearly, to an idea about expediency. In YOUR post, referencing alternatives, you mention that they are "easier to move." THIS is what I'm talking about. The district, you, me....none of us (hopefully) is consciously engaged in some master plan to standardize, simplify and, perhaps, privatize education. But if it's EASIER...if it's CHEAPER...then such elements might creep in.
You can bet your bottom tax dollar that the folks over at Scholastic, Steck-Vaughan, Edison...THOSE folks ARE conspiring to privatize: It's in the best interest of their stockholders to expand their markets. Have you seen the increase in Digital Learning of various sorts? Some are developed by well-meaning institiutions that don't have profit in mind; some are not.
There is a brave new trend afloat here in this state and elsewhere: A digital learning company makes a deal with a district how is losing students: You use our product, students can enroll with you (even if they're from outside the district), you get the state funding, say 10,000, you pay us 5000, it's win/win! While this might be helpful for students who are behind, who need some sort of learning to catch up, how seductive is THAT for a district?

So while there might not be a conspiracy on the part of cash-strapped public servants, there might indeed be one on the part of companies hoping to grab a piece of the huge public ed pie.

And, I'd add, as we see from the "honorable" governor of Illinois, important public assets, such as senate seats, often come up for back-room auction. Perchance might this happen in other spheres of influence?

At any rate, I wasn't referring to the Alts, I was more concerned with those students who do not have advocates to protect them from such things.

Dorothy Neville said...

In the moving around of kids, what about supplies and equipment? Lowell, Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst all have killer libraries, mostly paid for by parent donations (others may too, these are just the ones I know about). How much of Lowell's library moves south with half the kids? With the new assignment plan and Decatur opening as a brand new school --- probably with zero funds for library and other such things, families who used to be in the Bryant and View Ridge reference areas will be assigned/encouraged to move to this new school. Will some of the books from these well-stocked libraries move?

With the changes to assignment plan, perhaps Laurelhurst and Bryant families go to Hamilton instead of Eckstein. Eckstein not only has strong music teachers, it has instruments for students to borrow. Many of these purchased with donations, I am sure from some families in the Laurelhurst and Bryant neighborhoods. Will some of the instruments, music, or other equipment get shared with Hamilton?

(And frankly, I think having music being a de-facto seventh period is a great idea. It allows for a more comprehensive program for all kids, and keeps music scheduling from being the dominating force for everyone. And Eckstein is able to provide Integrated 3 for the handful of kids who need it every year. With more kids in that position, Hamilton will as well. Or if Lincoln becomes a regular high school, perhaps kids could go there for Int 3...)

anonymous said...

I heard last night that Mr. Rowe, Eckstein's beloved and well respected band teacher has moved to Hamilton to get their band program up and running. I also heard, but have not verified, that Hamilton will have band as part of the school day. If band is an elective so I don't see the problem having it be a school day class. Eckstein has both a school day music program and after school "for fun not credit" band classes.

Dorothy Neville said...

I do not have a problem with music being part of the day; some will find it advantageous. I am just saying that there are also advantages to music being after school and perhaps people ought to consider that before pushing hard for music during the day.

In middle and high school, if you take both a foreign language and music, there is no time in your schedule for any other elective, no art or newspaper or drafting or anything. That's a bit limiting.

As Charlie has pointed out, with the very strong music program at Washington, there ends up being a dearth of good electives for other kids.

At both WMS and EMS, the music program pretty much rules (and complicates) the whole schedule. Having music after school allows more flexibility there.

After school music might interfere more with sports though. Nothing is perfect. But it may be worth considering having some after school music comparable to a class offered during the day.

As for after school music at Eckstein, as far as I know, that's just the junior jazz program. Just for Jazz instruments and just for those interested in the genre. And I am pretty sure that almost all those kids are also in regular band during the day.

Anonymous said...

CentralMom said:

"Close Montlake. Put North APP at Old Hay, with room for it to grow. This gets rid of the current perception among some that North End APP parents are "winners" by staying in Lowell and Central/South End APP parents are taking most of the risk in splitting the program."

Who cares about petty stuff like winner/loser perceptions? At the end of the day, the solution that disrupts the least children, while still achieving the district needs, is the best.

Responsible decision makers don't fling kids left and right just because of some petty parental perceptions. There are a lot more important issues to worry about with all of the proposed moves.

Central Mom said...


With respect, I did not say that parental perceptions are the most important thing in this move. I said they are a consideration, in addition to the many, many other considerations the district has in play at the same time.

In addition, I propose that perception is a very, very important part of this process. If families view moves as only negative, the district sets itself up for mediocre programs due to lack of public support. We need more parents involved in our classrooms.

Disruption to school programs can take many forms. If you are referring to moving the JSIS program, I'm arguing that the program is going to change very shortly no matter what, between what I am guessing will be reduced guaranteed bussing to Latona as well as a shift in the boundary lines around the school, not to mention a hard look at whether the program should be allowed to be a reference program at all.

The thoughtful, proactive movement and the possibility of growth for JSIS would be more positive than addressing it in pieces in the coming 1-3 years. In addition, Montlake, TT Minor, the Central Cluster, QA/Mag and more families in the North cluster beyond the Wallingford families living right next to Latona would all see benefits.

Roy Smith said...

Who cares about petty stuff like winner/loser perceptions?

Anybody who wants the district to actually function effectively cares what the perceptions are. The district can't function effectively without trust between central staff and various constituencies. If a change is made that a large number of people view as inequitable without any effort being made to change that perception, then trust is violated, which makes it more difficult or impossible to build effective working relationships. Without effective working relationships, failures increase.

At the end of the day, the solution that disrupts the least children, while still achieving the district needs, is the best.

The thing that SPS needs, more than anything else, is for individual schools, teachers, parents, and students to feel that they are being equitably treated by the district and that they can trust the district to follow through on its commitments. Therefore, the best thing for SPS staff to do is pay very close attention to perceptions, and manage those perceptions (by communicating more in ways that are open, honest, and transparent) so that the perceptions are positive and work as an asset for the schools and the district, not a liability. Currently, public perception in almost every corner, inside and outside of the district, is a huge liability for SPS.

anonymous said...

A bit off topic, but to address Dorothy, Yes, I understand what you mean about band limiting a students other choices. My son is at Kellogg MS in Shoreline, and he has band during the day. They have a 6 period day, and thus can only have one elective. Since band is his elective and it's a year long elective he has not had even one other elective during his middle school years. And, even worse, band and foreign language are both electives, so students can only choose one of the two.

I recently spoke with the music director at Shorecrest HS, and he says their music program is suffering with the 6 period day. In Shoreline for each year of foreign language kids take in MS they get a year of foreign language HS credit. But no HS credit is given for band. So many kids are choosing foreign language over band, and the incoming Shorecrest freshman classes have not had the band experience that they had prior to the implementation of the 6 period day two years ago.

Danny K said...

North End APP kids are being affected, too -- they can stay in Lowell through 5th grade, but then they go to Hamilton instead of Washington. I think there's enough pain and uncertainty to go around! (Also, I'd rather have SPS focus on doing a good job splitting APP, if it has to happen, than on ensuring that everybody is equally miserable.)

I certainly hope they find a way to keep things like advanced math, music, and writing programs available at both old and new APP sites. Rigorous academics are what APP is all about, and both kids and parents will be very unhappy if this gets lost in the shuffle. Libraries can be built up fairly quickly, so I'm not so concerned about that.

Roy Smith said...

To clarify my position, it isn't necessary to ensure that everybody is equally miserable - that is a meaningless and useless goal.

What is necessary is that perceptions of inequity be addressed. This can be mostly accomplished simply with better (i.e., honest, open, and transparent) communication of the situation and reasoning behind decisions to all involved. SPS has not historically done well with this last point, and thus have made themselves wide open to criticism that their decision making processes are inequitable and/or have used poor reasoning.

Unknown said...

Dorthy, I had music as the "extra" after school class. I loved it, we weren't limited in time and often were able to play more types of music.

The thing I see in Seattle is a transportation question for any "after school" program. How do students get home and how safe will the transportation be?

In two different School Districts I have seen the following: An "after school" bus system, fewer buses and hub drop off spots, walking or parents.

In another School District the start times were adjusted for schools, Earlier High School and middle school start, and then allowing for students in middle and high school to ride elementary school buses home. (In those Districts the Elementary Schools lasted longer than the middle and high school).

By adjusting start times music or other significant classes not normally in a schedule could be placed early morning or late afternoon---The students taking those classes would be the only one effected.
It means the students with the special interest sacrifice more, but they also get more.

I hope the above made sense?

anonymous said...

I know Eckstein has an activity bus that brings kids home after the after school classes are finished. I'm not sure if all middle schools do this. And, I'm guessing it doesn't really apply to HS since they primarily use Metro.

rugles said...

"What is necessary is that perceptions of inequity be addressed."

I am concerned that this is why Montlake made the list, Roy.

"This can be mostly accomplished simply with better (i.e., honest, open, and transparent) communication of the situation and reasoning behind decisions to all involved."

Hasn't happened yet. So far they have done a pretty good imitation of Hank Paulson, just substitute school closures for bank bailout.

h2o girl said...

I think most if not all the middle schools have the 'activity' bus for the after-school programs. I know Whitman, Hamilton and Salmon Bay do at least. It is funded by the parks levy.

Unknown said...

just fyi - after school buses are funded by a property tax levy - but it's the families and education levy (FEL) not parks.

h2o girl said...

Evan, you're right - sorry. I was typing faster than I was thinking. (Which is never wise.)

Stephanie Jones said...

I very much appreciate Roy's comments on perceptions of equity. So to my mind it's important for the district to come out and address why the lion's share of programmatic moves and closures seem to be in Central Seattle, when both South and West Seattle are similarly undercapacity.

Central is already over-impacted by all-city draw programs that weaken geographic community connections to our schools. The current version of the plan leaves the central cluster with 11 schools, only 5 of which would not be fully or partially all-city schools. Neighborhood kids (and there are a lot of neighborhoods, of all kinds, in central) and community needs are getting short shrift.

Why are we closing only one building in W. Seattle? Why are we leaving 3! undersubscribed high schools in the south end intact, during a time of declining high school population?

Stephanie Jones said...

I very much appreciate Roy's comments on perceptions of equity. So to my mind it's important for the district to come out and address why the lion's share of programmatic moves and closures seem to be in Central Seattle, when both South and West Seattle are similarly undercapacity.

Central is already over-impacted by all-city draw programs that weaken geographic community connections to our schools. The current version of the plan leaves the central cluster with 11 schools, only 5 of which would not be fully or partially all-city schools. Neighborhood kids (and there are a lot of neighborhoods, of all kinds, in central) and community needs are getting short shrift.

Why are we closing only one building in W. Seattle? Why are we leaving 3! undersubscribed high schools in the south end intact, during a time of declining high school population?

Josh Hayes said...

I agree with Stephanie's (repeated for emphasis! :-) comments, and with Roy's as well: reality is -- well, have you all seen "Rashomon"? The idea, for those who haven't, is that one's perceptions of reality necessarily define one's definitions of reality. And so, perceptions are all-important.

It's hard for me to perceive this closure round as anything other than flailing. Plans to close and move schools seem to change daily, on a whim, and decisions about entire families of schools (e.g. alternative schools) are made, explicitly, before any useful audit of those schools is done, because we don't have time to wait for information before plopping our collective head down so that we can hurry up and run around like the proverbial chicken.

Since we're going to be in deficit in the coming year - and come on, of course we are, given the vague "we're going to look at cutting waste" verbiage given us by the Superintendent - why make like a Marx Brothers movie? Why run in all directions at once, shouting, "Remain calm!"? And yet that's essentially the plan given to us by the managers.

I think that a lot of dissatisfaction about the district's plans center on the conflicting facts of what the district has said ("we support alternative schools!") and what the district now proposes ("all those 'alternative' families will just have to get with the pogrom! I mean, program!") There is a real sense that closures are falling most heavily on those schools who can't mobilize "500 angry parents in our neighborhood" -- and as Charlie points out, alternative schools don't have a physical neighborhood to support them. Since our families are distributed throughout the city, our influence is equally diffuse, and we make great punching bags.

Lost in all of this is the fact that all the schools proposed for closure have lots of kids of color, lots of kids with free or reduced-price lunch/breakfast, lots of kids with single parents at home, lots of kids whose home is not primarily English-speaking, and who, in short, don't have lots of money. District managers are, understandably, desperate to keep relatively affluent families in the public schools, and it's not their fault that affluence and the lack of affluence follow color lines so well. Squeaky wheels get the grease, and in Seattle, those wheels are, predominantly, white. There's just no way to avoid equity issues in the face of that.

Disclaimer: I too am mostly white, and I recognize the privilege that travels with that.

SolvayGirl said...

I still don't understand why we are not seeing some real numbers and figures concerning cost cutting at the Central Office. A friend who is a data wonk emailed me this info:

Link to report download can be found at:

Washington State Auditors Office School Districts’ Administration and Support Services
September 30, 2008 Report No. 1000013

Sure, the report recommended closures. However, there was more...

"The Seattle School District employs a significantly higher than average level of District Administration Executive/Managerial/Supervisory personnel when compared to the other nine districts, based on an average ratio of these staff personnel to full-time enrollment.

During the 2005-2006 school year, the Seattle School District employed 39 percent more Executive/Managerial personnel than a 10-district average on a per full-time enrollment basis ratio. Seattle does not have a policy or procedure in place to routinely assess managerial and supervisory positions’ staffing levels. Seattle’s
excess building capacity (as discussed in Chapter 4), exacerbates its staffing level inefficiency by contributing Executive/Managerial/Supervisory level personnel. Pg 38 of PDF

Potential Cost Savings
When compared to the 10 district average staffing level, Seattle employed 39 percent more Executive/Managerial/Supervisory personnel as a ratio to full-time student equivalent, for the 2005-2006 school
year, which translates to 24 personnel. Using Seattle’s average salary for these labor categories, this higher than average staffing level cost the District an additional $1.9 million for the 2005-2006 school year. However, Seattle’s
average salary is $4,200 less than the 10 district average, which offsets the incremental staffing level costs by $255,000 to $1.7 million. The net result (of the higher than average staffing level offset by lower than average
salary) is an incremental annual cost to Seattle of approximately $2.1 million ($1.7 million difference above plus related fringe benefits of $430,000). Over a five-year period, this staffing level inefficiency will cost the District
an estimated $10.5 million. Pg 39 of PDF"

Let's start pressing the District to make these cuts and wait till next year and the finalization of the assignment plan before closing schools. That would allow the District to go back to its original enrollment period for the 2009-10 school year and hopefully keep more families in the public system.

TechyMom said...

Staying in the city to raise your family is a national trend among Gen-X parents who don't want to loose the vitality of the urban life. I predict the 2010 census will show a marked increase in children in Seattle and other cities.

The number of kids in central is growing. Some of the population projections in the market share doc don't pass the sniff test. They seem to be a projection of a trend of an aging population in this area through the 1980's and 1990's, which meant fewer children. But then, around 2000, the population aged enough that many houses changed hands, and filled with young families.

Many of these young families are affluent, largely because this area is an easy commute to the software jobs on the east side. Walk around the MLK reference area. I'd guess 1/3 of the houses have little kids toys on the porches. There are 3 child-focused businesses on Madison, and all the restaurants on Madison have booster seats and crayons (well, excpet Rover's). There are *a lot* of kids 0-5 here. Where are they all going to go to school, since we're proposing closing 2 more Central schools and have already closed one? The private schools are building classrooms to house these kids. Why isn't SPS?

anonymous said...

"Lost in all of this is the fact that all the schools proposed for closure have lots of kids of color, lots of kids with free or reduced-price lunch/breakfast, lots of kids with single parents at home, lots of kids whose home is not primarily English-speaking, and who, in short, don't have lots of money. District managers are, understandably, desperate to keep relatively affluent families in the public schools, and it's not their fault that affluence and the lack of affluence follow color lines so well. Squeaky wheels get the grease, and in Seattle, those wheels are, predominantly, white. There's just no way to avoid equity issues in the face of that."

In general low income schools perform lower than affluent schools. In a choice system the low performance causes them to become unpopular and thus under enrolled.

In general low income schools tend to have more violence, such is the case with RBHS. In a choice system, many families will shy away from this type of environment. They are scared to send their children to these schools. We have heard this repeatedly on this blog. These schools become unpopular and under enrolled.

In general families would like to have some data on how their school is performing. When a school like AS1 has their kids opt out of the WASL or any alternative, then they can't provide that data to families choosing schools, and people will shy away from them. I know this is a hard one from AS1 families to accept, but it is true. AS1 has seen a declining enrollment for years.

Even a relatively "good" school that performs fairly well like Hamilton, will be unpopular when situated a couple of miles away from a super high performing school like Eckstein. Hamilton becomes unpopular, and under enrolled.

In a choice system a school has to be attractive to families. If for whatever reason, that school is not attractive to a large enough group of people, and there are excess seats in the district, then that school will become under enrolled and become a target for closure.

However Josh, you imply that the district has made racially and/or socio economically based decisions when it comes to closure. I don't buy that. I think they have make rational, pragmatic decisions for the most part. I

Can you give some specific examples to support your theory? Because there are many many diverse schools that have not been affected at all.

Olympic Hills and Northgate, AS1's neighbors, are both very diverse, with a larger than average FRL population for the north end. They are both very small schools. However neither has been affected by the closures. For the sake of not monopolizing space on this blog I will not list every school that fits into this category but you will find many more, in every cluster. Why weren't they affected Josh? Can you explain why Montlake is on the list? Can you explain why the district would (TC) that is not only mainly middle class white, but is also an alt school?

anonymous said...

If you owned a toy store, and you put two new toys out on the shelf in your store, one a red truck and one a blue car, and the red truck always sold out, but the blue car had only one or two buyers a week, what would you do?

Would you work really really hard and advertise and market the blue car? Would you instruct your sales people to use the hard sell approach on the blue car? Would you remove the red truck so people only had access to the blue car?

Or would you just acknowledge that the blue car was not selling, take them off of the shelf and put hundreds of the red trucks on the shelf?

I would put the red trucks on the shelf as fast as I could.

School choice, closure and moving of programs is much the same.

Melissa Westbrook said...

In fairness to the district, I'll just repeat; the closures that occurred in the late '80s were all north end schools which were largely white. To say the district is targeting any one group is not something I'd agree with.

I would agree with Stephanie that it looks unbalanced. The CAC struggled with a second school closure and we finally left it to staff and the Board who we felt could better judge what should happen. I think the Lowell plan plus TT Minor plus moving Montlake is a lot at one time and fraught with possible problems. I have a hard time listening to the district say they don't have time to work things out to merge RBHS and Cleveland and yet they believe they can do it with APP and its denizens as well as other school communities.

I agree with Charlie to take RBHS off-line for a couple of years, reinvent it based on what PARENTS say they want and reopen it.

zb said...

"In general low income schools perform lower than affluent schools. In a choice system the low performance causes them to become unpopular and thus under enrolled."

"Or would you just acknowledge that the blue car was not selling, take them off of the shelf and put hundreds of the red trucks on the shelf?

I would put the red trucks on the shelf as fast as I could"

OK, so let's get rid of all the low income schools (or actually, it's all the low income students, right?).

That's snark, by the way, and the reason why marketing analogies don't work for schools (including the one in another thread where people suggest asking "what people want").

People want some things that it is possible for the SPS/public system to supply, but we've now heard explicitly what some people want, which is that they don't want their kids to go to school with poor kids. That's not something the SPS can supply, and in fact, it is their duty to work against it.

reader said...

The district is clearly trying to get rid of all-city draws, whose transportation costs are not easy to control or predict. This is money that can go to students... not buses. It is completely reasonable to want to have fewer of these, have them sprinkled throughout. The Lowell, Hamilton, and Montlake things has been a long time in coming. Why prolong the solution? They should have closed Montlake last time around but didn't have the guts. How many more millions are we going to spend on that building just to satisfy a loud parent base? Especially when the district was willing to keep the "school" intact. Why in the world should we spend even more time discussing this and hand wringing? And clearly, the district has to close schools and/or consolidate them in places where they are not at capacity.

Next up. Administrative staff cuts. I nominate all vice principals for starters, then on to central administration.

anonymous said...

So ZB, what is your solution for solving the excess capacity?

There are clearly more seats than there are children to fill them.

I have heard you complain breathlessly, and tear apart almost every idea posted on this blog. But you have yet to share what you think WOULD work.

How would you solve the capacity problem? What are your thoughts? The fact is we have more seats than we do students. Way more. We all pretty much acknowledge that some schools must be closed, so in keeping with that how would you do it, and keep every community happy?

anonymous said...

Just FYI my criteria would look something like this.

1) Reduce capacity in the geographic areas where there is excess capacity.

2) Once those geographic areas are identified I would choose the schools to be closed based on popularity of the program. Note I did not say performance (IE test scores) I said popularity of the program. Lower income schools generally have lower test scores, but are not necessarily unpopular (think of Maple, Kimball, Beacon Hill, New School, Olympic Hills). If a school is popular, families are choosing the program and filling the building then I would consider that program successful and not contributing to the excess capacity.

3) I would put at the top of the closure list schools in step 4 or 5 of NCLB, as the government mandates intervention, restructuring or closure for these schools, and this will have to be done anyway.

I would not make special provisions based on race or socio economic status of the schools. Every school would be looked at under the same criteria. If more schools affected were minority or low income or affluent, so be it. I wouldn't adjust the closure list so as to be fair, or even out the field.

Nor would I make any special provisions for alt schools. If they meet the criteria, so be it.

I realize that no matter how you dice up school closure some communities will be destroyed, displaced, and unhappy. There really is no way around that in this process. But you can be fair by using a set criteria.

The fact is there is more excess capacity in South Seattle and Central Seattle than anywhere else in the district. These areas will be affected in a much greater way by closures, and they should be.

Closing schools in the north (with the exception of AS1) would be ridiculous. Not because those schools are more white, or more middle class, but because there is no EXCESS CAPACITY in the north, which includes the NE cluster, the North cluster, the NW cluster, and QA/Magnolia.

SolvayGirl said...

But Adhoc
At least at the MS and HS level many of the northend schools are at or close to capacity partly because they have southend kids in them. That's why I'm advocating for the new assignment plan FIRST. They need to beef up southend schools, then put the kids who live down here in them. THEN let's see how the capacity issues shake out.

I realize the northend elementaries are genuinely overcrowded with northend kids...so perhaps they could work on alleviating that capacity now. Closing RBHS for example without a plan to reopen it with a new admin and focus is just insane. The kids ARE here; they need a place to go to school that is not an hour's bus ride with one to two transfers.

anonymous said...

Yes, that is true Solvaygirl. When, and if a new assignment plan brings students back to their neighborhoods, three schools in the north would be affected (Ingraham, Hale and Hamilton). They would be under enrolled unless some special programs move into them, such as APP to Hamilton.

Personally, I advocate for a neighborhood school assignment plan. I think the entire district would benefit, and all schools would be stronger.

So far though, the new assignment plan is offering guaranteed access to your neighborhood school if a student wants it, but if they don't they can still go to any school in the district that has space. I am guessing that with this type of plan, south end kids will continue coming north to Hamilton, Ingraham and Hale if the schools have space for them......and I think they will.

SolvayGirl said...

I also agree that we need an assignment plan that does more than just encourage people to attend their neighborhood schools. Choice should, at least, be restricted by quadrant. With that in mind however, each quadrant should have high quality schools and a couple of alternatives. I'd like to see a TOPS and ALO in every quadrant, and perhaps a few others like AS#1 to search two quadrants.

Unfortunately, the District will need to improve schools before they can expect people to so to some of them willingly. It is definitely a huge mess.

Josh Hayes said...

adhoc says:

Closing schools in the north (with the exception of AS1) would be ridiculous. Not because those schools are more white, or more middle class, but because there is no EXCESS CAPACITY in the north...

How strange. The district explicitly claims that there are dozens of empty seats at Northgate Elementary and considerably over a hundred empty seats at Olympic Hills. Maybe you and they should get together, and you can explain to them that they really don't have seats in those schools.

However, it also claims about a hundred empty seats at Salmon Bay, despite the fact that its waiting lists are about a hundred families long.

Fact: there is excess capacity in several schools in the north end. Maybe you could look at those schools which have excess capacity -- say, Northgate and Olympic Hills -- and see if you can figure out why?

And on a positive note: Wowie zowie! It's snowing like mad outside my right-near-Aurora windows! Happy holidays to all!

north seattle mom said...

There are not that many south end kids in the north end any more. At the beginning of the workshop when they unveiled the closure recommendations, they spent the first hour discussing the SE initiative. They went into a lot of detail that essentially boiled down to each of the three schools enrollments were up by over 100 kids each and they were declaring that a success because the extra funds from that enrollment was close to off-setting the forward investment in those schools.

They also noted that there were only about 250 kids going to Hamilton. In about 2 years, there will be more than enough kids to over-fill both Hamilton and Eckstein so those kids are going to get squeezed out by neighborhood kids when this elementary cohort hits middle school.

I really hope the SE initiative continues to work as they described at the closure meeting.

north seattle mom said...

Josh - the district already did look at those "excess seats" at Olympic Hills and Northgate and already promised them away due to overcrowding in the NE cluster. The NE cluster has about 1,000 more kids than seats at the K-8 level. No matter how you slice it, that is a lot of kids. Olympic Hills was just made a dual cluster schools so that kids in the north half of the cluster will now be assigned to Olympic Hills rather than John Rogers.

So yes, it is just wonderful how these seats that have already been promised away are now suddenly available once again to demonstrate that we can close AS1.

Same with Salmon Bay, I would love to see those 100 magic seats at Salmon Bay. Salmon Bay has a waitlist at every grade. I highly doubt that they have classrooms just sitting around empty. If Salmon Bay really had that many seats they would have offered to assign AS1 families to Salmon Bay. Which they haven't. Staff is cherry picking the data in an attempt to close at least one north end school. The problem is that they already closed 20 schools in the north end in the 80s so there is just no room.

anonymous said...

Josh, the true lack of capacity is in the NE cluster. Their is a bit of wiggle room in the North cluster, but not much. In fact one of the proposals to ease the over crowding in the NE cluster was to offer families busing to schools in the N cluster.

Wow, I didn't know that Olympic Hills is now a dual cluster school. It makes perfect sense. It's close to home for a lot of families that live in the north part of the NE cluster and Olympic Hills had a little wiggle room in their capacity.

As for Salmon Bay they cap class size at some grades. I know for instance that in 6th grade class size is 23-24 per class (or at least it was this way a couple of years ago). Perhaps the district counts the actual amount of seats available in the building, not the reduced number that Salmon Bay actually assigns to each classroom.

In my opinion AS1 should be closed. Not only because they are under enrolled currently, but because they have been steadily loosing enrollment for years. In addition the program is to small to be cost effective (225 kids in a k-8). Lastly they are in step 4 of NCLB, and will move to step 5 next year, where the district will be mandated to restructure or close them anyway.

anonymous said...

And BTW, Josh all of the schools that you keep mentioning are in the north cluster. Though the north cluster is tight, it is the NE CLUSTER that has a severe lack of capacity. I challenge you Josh. Go through every elementary school in the north east cluster. Then check the middle school (Eckstein) and both high schools (Roosevelt and Hale) and see how many vacant seats you come up with. My guess would be a big fat zero.

The NE added over 8 elementary classrooms over the past two years, and still can't accomodate all of the kids. Our middle school has an entire portable wing and still can't accomodate all of the kids in the NE cluster. It gets a 100 kid wait list every year. Roosevelt HS is 2.4 miles from my home and my son can't get in. There is not enough space for him. Roosevelt gets up to a 200 kid wait list every year. And demographics show that it's going to get much much worse in the NE. We are the only cluster in the district that is growing a program (TC) and creating a NEW school (Decatur), while other clusters are closing buildings.

Despite it's all city draw, Summit is the only school in the NE cluster that can not fill it's building. They are being closed or moved.

The only other anomaly is Hale. While full with a waitlist, it does not fill solely with NE cluster kids. About 800 of their 1050 seats are taken by NE cluster kids, and the rest are quickly grabbed up by kids from all over the city, Many are south end kids willing to ride metro and make two transfers to have access to the school.

Sahila said...

adhoc -

AS#1 caps its class numbers also - we (through the staff/principal) have a policy of keeping class sizes small, as part of our commitment to educational best practice...

Our so-called under-enrolment figures depend on who you are talking to... first there's planning capacity, then there's functional capacity, and then there's the capacity the school considers optimal to guarantee a quality educational experience for our kids... three sets of numbers on any given day...

As a school we dont think we are severely under-enrolled, though the District obviously disagrees - we're sitting on a 2008 enrolment of 191, and kids attempting to return to the school were turned away by the enrolment centre this year, being told we were full.

The District wants us to house around 270 kids... where it wants us to put those 80 extra bodies, I dont know... in the janitor's broom closet, perhaps?

And those declining enrolment numbers? Its not a phenomenon thats been going on for years and years... numbers started a gradual but obvious decline four years ago, at the same time as the most recent repeated attempts to close the school... that's no coincidence - with AS#1 being in the public spotlight for closure repeatedly, plus the lack of support from the District/enrolment centres, it takes brave parents to risk the uncertainty and choose to send their kids to our school...

We all now know that you want AS#1 closed, we all know that I and some others want it to stay open... not the least because it doesnt make sense to close a school down and then dump 191 kids for absorption into other schools that are already full to the gills and there has been no viable plan put forward to solve that conundrum...

So please, can you give it a rest now????

reader said...

Right on zb. The distinction between N... NW... and NE is sort of arbitrary isn't it? Roosevelt isn't in the NE cluster either, but everyone lumps it in with the NE. And yes, people select ANYTHING just to get out of going to high poverty, mostly minority, schools. (I know we all love to claim it's the poverty we dislike... not the race, but it really doesn't make that much difference how you skin the cat.) ZB's exactly right on the money. Students in RBHS area going to Hale, should just go get their blue truck and stop complaining. Then, there would be more selections, more AP, more band, more arts, more DIVERSITY(which everyone claims to love, the numbers show otherwise), more... of well, everything.... Actually, it's called de-segregation, and it works. And here in Seattle, where the neighborhoods are very diverse... it would be very easy and cheap to implement.

anonymous said...

So reader let me understand your take on this...

Families in the NE who want to make sure there is space for their children in their neighborhood schools are really racists trying to de-segregate the city.

And because kids from SE Seattle come to Hale, white people are avoiding the school.

If that is your argument I can't even answer. It's a cop out, and an easy way to avoid dealing with the real issues of under performing schools.

Don't you think the families in the Rainier Beach area want and deserve a high performing school in their neighborhood that is safe for their kids to go to? Do you think they WANT to bus out of their neighborhood and away from their friends for a high performing, safe school?

In my earlier post I suggested that nobody wants to send their kids to low performing, violent schools. Nobody, not black families or white families, low income or affluent. Everyone avoids them like the plague. RBHS is the blue car that needs to be pulled off of the shelf. Close it down for a year and reinvent it. Make it a strong school.

How in the world do you read racism into that????

I am puzzled.

And just FYI before you fling the race card around, know who you are talking to. We are a bi-racial family black/Italian, so definately not avoiding our own kind, which happen to be minorities. Actually we look for diversity in our schools and seek it where we can.

anonymous said...

Almost everyone I know equates high performance in a school with high standardized test scores be it the WASL or SAT.

If a school has above average WASL or SAT scores, people think the school is doing a good job. If a school has below average WASL scores then people think the school is not doing a good job.

It is a fact that children of low income families do not perform as well on standardized tests. They have many more challenges to overcome and they do not get the family support that their affluent counterparts get.

When low income kids come up north to school the WASL and SAT scores drop. When this happens the school becomes one that parents equate with not doing a good job and then they avoid it.

It has nothing to do with race, or even socio economics. It has all to do with the performance of the school.

If a large group of minority kids bus up to Hamilton. But instead of hamilton having mediocre test scores, the school out performed Eckstein, Salmon Bay and Whitman, their neighbors. Do you still think families would avoid Hamilton? I don't.

No south end kids bus up to John Rogers in NE Seattle. It is almost all middle class and white. Yet it is very unpopular with northeast families. They try desperately to get their kids into Bryant, View Ridge, Wedgewood and Laurelhurst. Why? Because Bryant, View Ridge, Wedgewood and Laurelhurst are much higher performers. No racism. Just the desire for high performance.

So please for the sake of not perpetuating racism, try to see that parents want high performing schools for their kids. That's really it.

reader said...

Nobody's saying it's racist per se. And I make no assumptions about Hale and who chooses it. It seems moderately popular, unlike the schools of RBHS and Cleveland. I AM saying that moderately popular schools like Hale are functioning as something of a brain drain from the S end, and it isn't a benefit to SPS. Supporting the brain drain, and the resulting segregation, doesn't improve education for anyone.

The socio economics of Rogers is much lower than the others in its cluster, the test scores are correspondingly lower too. Drive around there, you'll see, it's clearly a lower income area (but not in poverty). Nobody wants to go to Rogers if they could go to one of the wealthier schools. Their choice is NOT because of the teachers, principals, methods or curriculum... they don't want to go there because they prefer the PEERS at the other schools. The same for RBHS. But, the school district is not obligated to protect students from undesirable PEER groups, along whatever axis people decide to choose them. I believe that was ZB's point as well. (And, you've got to admit that race does play some role in how people choose, and how the dynamics develop over time.) If there were NO CHOICE... RBHS would be a great school... or at least a pretty good one. 1800 kids in its reference area would go there. A few hundred maybe just couldn't stomach the thought, and would be accepted into a private or out of district. Still, that would leave more than a thousand attending RBHS.

Josh Hayes said...

I think it's important to recognize that two entirely different, and contradictory, issues are ostensibly being addressed in the school closure arena:

1) Honkin' big budget shortfall, and

2) Dramatic overcrowding in the southern portion of the (completely arbitrarily defined) NE cluster.

This produces the problem that some people argue that some steps are completely sensible in the face of, say, big budget shortfall (close a bunch of schools!), when that same action exacerbates the problem of crowding in some parts of the city (Duh, man: don't close schools in the N/NE area!).

I find adhoc's appeal to the arbitrary borders of the clusters unconvincing -- AS1, for instance, is exactly across the street from the NE cluster. The University District is, according to the district, in the NW cluster. Roosevelt HS is in the NW cluster. I'm sure there's a great hand-waving explanation for all that, but to argue that cluster boundaries are some real physical boundary -- "oh no! The dreaded Slough between the N and NE cluster!" -- is disingenuous.

The fact is, the closure of Summit and AS1 will throw way more students into the North end pool than it removes, and there's just no getting around that: even district staffers admit it. They seem to be hoping that all those kids will magically go to some other school, but still in the SPS, so they continue to get the money for them. That didn't happen the last time round, and it's not going to happen this time either. I'm perfectly willing to admit that if AS1 is closed, two kids, and the money that comes with them, are leaving the district. Where's your cost savings now?

Charlie Mas said...

Let me see if I have this straight. Leaving a low performing school for a high performing school is racist because, whether you openly acknowledge it or not, it is an effort to escape a non-white peer group. Did I paraphrase that correctly?

If so, then by that reasoning all of the families in the Southeast that send their children to schools in the north-end are racists. Right?

These families, these primarily African-American families, are racists for wanting their children to go to school in the north-end - away from (other) Black children.

Moreover, they are classists and elitists - despite the fact that they are living in poverty themselves - because they want their children to go to school in the north-end away from (other) students from low-income homes.

I'm having a hard time accepting this conclusion, so I must have gotten this mixed up somehow. Please show me where I got it wrong.

reader said...

You don't have it straight. People are NOT leaving a school to get a better teacher, a better class, they're leaving to get a better peer group (however they choose to define it). No, it's not hard to imagine at all, it happens all the time. And that exodus leaves fewer opportuntities for those that remain, if for no other reason, they don't have the numbers. And the cycle repeats until we have.. well, RBHS. And no, I don't make presumptions about the racial and incomes of those who choose to go across town. I would imagine they are relatively more affluent than those who do not travel. I would imagine that they have adequate family support to assist them with the difficulties in selecting a school 45 minutes or more away. But whatever the demographics of those leaving their reference areas, we all know the racial and income levels of those who stay... because you just have to look at RBHS and Cleveland demographic data to see it.

hschinske said...

"Almost everyone I know equates high performance in a school with high standardized test scores be it the WASL or SAT."

Not necessarily a wise thing to do. It's actually very difficult to judge a school by *average* test scores, unless quite extraordinarily high or low. The school with the highest average score may be very homogeneous, having almost no really low scores, but almost no really high scores, either, while another school may have many really high scores that are offset in the average by a number of very low ones.

I've also found that schools whose students tend to test high no matter what they do may be rather complacent and not inclined to challenge any children further, even those who are testing high because they've come in at way beyond grade level. Some of the kids I know who've needed APP most (having been miserable in kindergarten or first grade) have come from some of Seattle's highest-testing schools. I've also heard some encouraging stories of true differentiation happening at lower-testing schools.

Helen Schinske

qa_parent said...

Charlie Mas seems to think that everybody leaving a reference area matches the demographic of their reference area. As QA/Mag parent, a region which buses kids in from the South end, presumably to inject diversity... that assumption not true. While it's true that a few minorities come to QA/Mag from south Seattle. Most of the people seeking to leave south Seattle are the well off (relatively), and white. Exactly the opposite of the district's intent. I've heard that this south end preference is being grandfathered out after all the siblings matriculate. Not sure if it's true or not.

north seattle mom said...

Emma -- John Rogers is a very diverse school that fairly accurately represents the very diverse Lake City Neighborhood. They have a 40% FRL population.

The reason why families send their students to the schools a little south is because those schools have spectrum program and for the most part are equally close to their homes. Almost all of the schools in the NE are in the center of the cluster.

If you haven't looked at John Rogers lately, you should. They have a great neighborhood feel, lots of kids walk to school and it was their first choice. They have an amazing after school science program and a very valued inclusion program.

Interestingly, John Rogers would have also been full with a wait list just like some of the neighboring schools but then an additional K class was added to the school.