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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cooper Fights On

The district had a meeting at Cooper on Wednesday night that must have been really interesting. Attendees, according to the summary from our friends over at the West Seattle blog, included Michael De Bell, Cheryl Chow, Mary Bass, Harium Martin-Morris, Sherry Carr and Carla Santorno. From their story, here were Cooper's main issues:

* Do you understand that Cooper is more than a school (or a building)?
* What will happen to our kids — will they go to a failing school instead of one we’ve worked so hard to make successful?
* We did what you told us to do (raised WASL scores, set up special programs). Why are we being punished?
* What’s the benefit of this closure for our kids?

Santorno addressed this last issue directly: “I could tell you this will help your kids now, but I would be fibbing.” She did say that teachers could “follow their students,” and wind up in the same school. But speakers clearly weren’t satisfied with that answer. They see the school as central to a vital community, not as a building or a room that can be transported at will. The idea that the Cooper Elementary community could propagate what they’ve done across the school system didn’t seem to offer much comfort.

"I would be fibbing?" Wow, that's quite an admission. At least when the CAC closed schools we were pretty sure that kids were getting better, in visible ways, than what they currently had at their school.

A parent, JJ Ball, presented a counter-plan that while heartfelt and thought out (it's actually pretty complex with a lot of upheaval) won't fly. (It involves closing Roxhill and merging them into Pathfinder, moving the whole group to the old Denny building and moving Lafayette's Spectrum program to Cooper - to fill it - while Lafayette would fill with more neighborhood kids.) First, you can't force people to go to an alternative school so merging Roxhill with Pathfinder doesn't work. Second, the old Denny school is gone, baby, gone and there is no force that would make Facilities change their mind. Third, move the Spectrum program from Lafayette to Cooper to shore Cooper up? I have no idea if that would work and/or be a good idea. Fourth, it practically creates a K-12 campus (the three buildings, the new Denny, Chief Sealth and old Denny are less than 3 blocks from each other). That's a lot of kids of all ages in one area. Maybe, but I think the district will have its hands full just getting the Denny-Sealth deal off the ground when the buildings are finished.

Is anyone else hearing counter-plans for any other schools?

23 comments:

steve in west seattle said...

Hi, Thanks for picking up this story. I wanted to fill in a little about the alternative plan offered.

The idea for moving Spectrum isn't to shore-up Cooper. The district has said that Cooper's location makes it bus dependent, so it must be used for Pathfinder which is also bus dependent. Spectrum is another bus dependent program that would fill Cooper to capacity and open up desirable spots at Lafayette. It would also allow Cooper to continue offering quality education to it's current population rather than dispersing them to schools with lower academic standards.

The concept wasn't to merge Roxhill and Pathfinder, but to co-host them as separate schools.

The school district has offered 3 potential uses for the Denny property. One is tearing down the building and constructing a new elementary school. So they are already thinking of using the site for an elementary school.

Finally, I wanted to mention the SPS Final Recommendation assigns students who currently walk to Cooper to Pathfinder next year. It also assigns other Cooper students to schools located in the West Seattle South cluster. Both of these are in violation of current policies.

WS said...

thanks for the link, guys ... one small correction for the record, the meeting was on Tuesday night; we published our story Wednesday morning. See you at next week's school board meeting!

Anonymous said...

While I'm really sensitive to Cooper's plight, I don't believe moving programs like Spectrum to outlier campuses in the cluster is a good idea. Central locations for advanced and alternative programs serve the neighborhood clusters best, and are the logical answer for transportation issues as SPS seeks to return kids to their neighborhoods in the new assignment plans.

Cooper is getting torn apart by SPS and it is despicable how insensitive and wrong-headed such top-down management moves are to what is a neighborhood school. Same with TT Minor, and Lowell, which not only tears another school apart, but in turn, pushes more African American kids out of their neighborhood school Thurgood Marshall.

While the Spectrum to Cooper plan is interesting, Lafayette's central location and size are the optimal location for that program. TT Minor also has all Spectrum qualified teachers already and is right in the center of the central cluster, but who knew? Did SPS bother to tell anybody?

I think Cooper has suffered a lack of support, concern, and fair treatment because of its relative isolation in the district and even the WSN cluster. Many people don't know where it is, and don't even realize there's a school up on that ridge. Were Spectrum to be there, it may wind up with empty seats like Spectrum at Leschi, which serves no one's best interests and would waste resources needed elsewhere. Spectrum kids deserve to be conveniently located too, and we need to get away from cross-town and cross-cluster busing of kids, especially for cluster-wide programs.

Cooper needed support a long time ago, but never got it from SPS. Any school with low enrollment will be in the crosshairs next time around as SPS chooses to treat kids like widgets and neighborhood schools like warehouses.

Charlie Mas said...

I give the Cooper community credit for some creative thinking. They understand that they can't stay in their building unless they fill it, so they found a portable population to import: Spectrum.

steve in West Seattle and the rest of the Cooper community should be honest about that. The idea for moving Spectrum is to shore up Cooper. That doesn't make it a bad idea.

The idea to fill Cooper by shifting Spectrum into the building differs little from the District's idea to fill Thurgood Marshall by shifting APP there. The primary difference is that the Cooper community will be able to stay in their building while the Thurgood Marshall community will be squeezed out of theirs.

Lafayette is already a popular school and would probably continue to be a popular school even without Spectrum, so moving Spectrum out of Lafayette would make more space there with the likely result that more families would get their first choice for assignment.

This is also identical to the District's long time practice for the placement of Spectrum programs in low-income neighborhoods: put it in the least popular and lowest performing school in the cluster.

I can't say that it has been a good practice because, rather predictably, it totally kills the program. Given their choices, Spectrum families simply choose not to participate. I think it is very possible that only a small fraction of the Spectrum students will accept the assignment to Cooper. That would ruin the plan. Has the Cooper community spoken with anyone in Spectrum at Lafayette and asked them what they think of the plan?

If the Cooper community is so interested in having an advanced learning program in their building, why haven't they created an ALO? Does the Cooper community really want Spectrum, or do they really just want to stay in their building?

Charlie Mas said...

wseadawg, can you please tell me what a "Spectrum qualified teacher" is? I'm not aware of any such designation. How did the TT Minor teachers get this designation?

TechyMom said...

One of the TT Minor parents posted on a thread a while back that some (most? all?) of the TT Minor teachers had had spectrum training.

steve in west seattle said...

Charlie Mas has some interesting points. I wasn't familiar with the ALO concept, or that Seattle Public Schools put Spectrum into poorly performing schools. I did know that about the APP program. I interpreted "shore-up" in an academic way rather than attendance.

The proposal responds to the capacity management process being more concerned about busing costs than academic performance. It offers a way to reduce busing costs (Lafayette currently uses 4 busses) without sacrificing academics. The current proposal increases bussing costs and decreases academic standards under the guise of future savings under the new assignment plan (which hasn't been designed yet) and promises improved academics in schools that haven't been able to match Cooper's success.

Cooper's academics don't match those of Lafayette, but it outperforms it's peers in West Seattle. The current capacity proposal would distribute the Cooper students primarily to schools that have lower test scores. The Cooper community is very concerned about academic success and has raised their performance through years of hard work by the staff and good communication with families about their children's needs and progress. It makes no sense to disband a successful program and send the children into failing schools.

In addition, Cooper draws students residing in the Lafayette, Schmitz Park and Alki reference areas who can't get assignments at their default school due to overcapacity. If Pathfinder moves into the Cooper campus, there will be no empty elementary seats in West Seattle north of Roxhill Elementary. West Seattle is going through a phase of major residential construction including the High Point redevelopment, where we draw a large percentage of our student body. Cooper enrollment went down by about 100 students when High Point was emptied for redevelopment. At about the same time the Cooper reference area was redrawn and assigned some of the Cooper students to Sanislo Elementary, which is now overcapacity.

This plan was just developed recently and we did not have time to reach out to the Roxhill, Pathfinder or Lafayette communities that would be affected by it. We realize the need to include them in the discussion.

Thanks,

Steve

north seattle mom said...

I don't know WS at all so this may be a crazy and useless idea. Autismmom is always blogging about how it is inappropriate it is for Roxhill to be 30% special ed. If the district distributed those kids and programs appropriately throughout WS, would that create enough space at Roxhill for the entire Cooper community to move there as a cohort? Would a new spec ed program use enough of Arbor Heights excess capacity so that the spec ed kids got a more appropriate location and Arbor Heights would then be closer to capacity?

Again, apologies is this is so crazy as to be useless but I am just curious.

Anonymous said...

It is creative, but its also more shuttling of kids further away from strong, thriving, centrally located community and neighborhood schools. Look, lets be real. Lafayette sits in a very affluent area with lots of neighborhood kids in Spectrum who walk there from their homes. Large numbers of people love the fact that they don't ride the bus. Parents hang out on the playground for an hour or more before and after school. The building is surrounded by residential, mid to high end neighborhoods who strongly support the school and have their kids in Spectrum. They have a strong and active PTA that would be diluted severely if they didn't have Spectrum, becuase it would peel off all those neighborhood parents if it were at Cooper. Lafayette has the best of both worlds. A strong community school that also has Spectrum right in the center of the cluster. It is a true neighborhood school that perfectly fits the population it serves.

And people are so quick, like the district, to say, "okay, lets change it." We have got to get away from that mentality. It is killing, KILLING this district. We need less busing, not more. This mentality of ripping programs from another school apart is as bad as or no different than throwing another school under the bus. We want strong neighborhood community schools with advanced learning and as broad a range of options as possible. And we don't want and don't need "exclusivity" of advanced learning programs, or they themselves will inevitably become targets. Look no further than Lowell APP.

What you'd have in Spectrum at Cooper is Leschi. Spectrum would be half or one-third of the size it is now at Lafayette.

Sorry to go on with such passion, but we need to leave strong, thriving community and neighborhood schools alone. Especially those with strong parental involvement and with populations that can walk to school. The last thing we want is more busing. Pathfinder should not be going to Cooper, largely because of my foregoing rationales. They should rebuild it where it is, in its central location two or three blocks from the Alaska Junction, again, right in the Center of West Seattle.

Cooper folks, you are in trouble because of poorly drawn reference area boundaries, which harm your enrollment. The solution is not to pillage another nearby school. That is just playing the district's game and breaks up someone else's school and community. As a city, forget the school district, as a city, we should not want that. We should desire just the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Charlie: All the TT Minor parents state that is a fact, and Cooper's former VP, now a Minor parent, also said so at the last board meeting. Apparently its their training level and/or certification to teach that curriculum. I'm not the authority on what it takes to be "Spectrum qualified" myself. I'll bet CentralMom or TechyMom could answer that question.

Anonymous said...

And Steve in W.S., you do make a lot of good points, and I give you credit for that and sympathize with your attempts to offer alternatives under the current capacity model. But the the district is going to scrap that model and closure plan soon, and with new Neighborhood assignment plans forthcoming, were they to leave Cooper alone and leave Pathfinder where it is, Cooper's numbers might improve if they re-drew Cooper's goofy reference area boundary which includes too much non-residential land area.

Charlie is right about ALO's. They're the cheapest and simplest way toward re-building a school's reputation and increasing enrollment. If that option was available to Cooper 3 years ago, we wouldn't be blogging about this right now, I'll bet.

I wouldn't have sent my kids to Cooper for Spectrum because I wanted them in a neighborhood school. I believe most Spectrum parents at Lafayette share that sentiment.

What I want for any school such as yours, is to share and experience what Lafayette has by seeing programs expand. Not by creating have, and have-not schools.

Again, its the district's BS game of pitting one school community against another in a zero-sum game. It does not have to be that way.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Charlie is curious, as I am as well, because there hasn't been "Spectrum-training" for teachers. Some teachers, especially in APP, have training in teaching gifted kids. Perhaps things have changed since I had kids in Spectrum but most of the teachers had no gifted ed training. I'd be interested to know what that means in specific as it relates to TT Minor teachers.

North End Mom said...

I would be interested in knowing if there is any special training for "Spectrum-qualified teachers."

I couldn't find any mention of such training when reading about the program certification process (from the SPS Advanced Learning Website):

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/advlearning/certprocess.htm

On another page, describing Spectrum, one of the points of the program was to:

"Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted."

So, is a "Spectrum-qualified teacher" just someone who has taught Spectrum courses previously and is "familiar" with gifted students?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm choosing to ask about the teacher training instead of questioning the veracity of the claim.

I'm pretty deeply involved in the advanced learning stuff and I'm not aware of any "Spectrum training" other than as part of a Summer Institute for teachers.

Other states do offer gifted education endorsements for teachers, but Washington state does not. There are precious few universities or colleges that offer any gifted education classes for teachers. Finding any kind of professional development for gifted education is a tremendous challenge for the Advanced Learning office, so you'll understand my surprise at the claim that an entire staff of teachers is "Spectrum trained". I had never even heard the expression "Spectrum trained" until this claim for the teachers at T T Minor. I can assure you that the teachers in Spectrum programs don't claim to be "Spectrum trained".

I'm not disputing it. It could well be true. I'm just really curious about it.

reader said...

I think the parents are right to ask if the destination schools for their children are showing worse indicators, and to expect that their children get first priority at schools of their choice. Has this been offered? Isn't this standard in these situations?

Dorothy Neville said...

"I had never even heard the expression "Spectrum trained" until this claim for the teachers at T T Minor. I can assure you that the teachers in Spectrum programs don't claim to be "Spectrum trained"."

Neither had I, but Charlie, there have been comments referring to TT Minor faculty as "Spectrum Trained" for at least a month on this blog. The main reason I hadn't questioned it was that neither your nor anyone else had. It is a curious distinction and one that has not been used in this district before as far as I know.

On a completely different note. Evidently High School LA is getting a total alignment and make-over next Fall. RHS faculty first heard about it on Tuesday. Funny how this has been under the radar and here it is. Whereas the math alignment has just been talked about and dragged out forever.

Beth Bakeman said...

I agree with anon that any parents of children displaced during closures should get first shot at open spots. But that is not what is currently being proposed. What the district is currently offering is assignment notification prior to the open enrollment period. And then if the family does not like the assignment, they get the chance to go through open enrollment to get a different assignment.

Rose M said...

Dorothy,


Can you elaborate on the LA curriculum changes?

AutismMom said...

Here's what Roxhill has in the way of special education. Developmental preschool (10 kids, 20 if they have 2 classrooms), a transitional self-contained K-only 10 kids, and an unlisted K-2 only autism self-contained program 8 kids. That is, it has 3 programs... probably around 30 kids. All the rest of the special students are in level 2 or less and are assigned the same way as everyone else. They can not be moved specially. OSPI reported there were 74 students in 2008, and they've added a new program. So, the total is around 80 students with disabilites.

The issue of disproportionality is placing programs in schools which have huge numbers of students of disabilities in resource rooms. The school itself does not provide a "least restrictive environment"... the whole thing is really a self-contained program, or a "blended" program at a minimum. And no IEP recommends a general ed program... which is really a special ed program in disguise. This sort of disproportionality has been challenged in court and found inappropriate.

AutismMom said...

If students from Cooper are assigned to West Seattle Elem, since it is failing step 1, presumably they would have an option to go to a non-failing school. Roxhill is also failing, but not yet in step 1... by fall, it may be in step 1... then those students will also have the option to go to a non-failing school. So, I guess I don't see what the "fib" is? They'll all get seats at a better school if they want one, presuming a better seat is available. I see 22 seats per class at McGilvra getting blown right out of the water. Because, there are some available seats in a passing school. So what if they signed a contract? It was a contract that was impossible to commit to and was therefore invalid.

Rudy D said...

Steve in West Seattle said the proposal to move Spectrum from Lafayette to Cooper "offers a way to reduce busing costs (Lafayette currently uses 4 busses) without sacrificing academics."

But those aren't "Spectrum" buses, there's no such thing. They are for any kids to Lafayette who live inside the West Seattle North Cluster but outside the designated walk boundary for Lafayette.

Even if Spectrum were moved to Cooper, Lafayette would still be full, and there likely would still be four buses.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Best source for what "Spectrum trained" means is not me. We were at a Spectrum program before, and like others here, I don't recall that phrase during that time. But again, TT Minor parents have repeated it over and over. I'm sure anyone who knows a TT Minor parent could get the inside scoop on exactly what that means or why they say that. I candidly admit it is hearsay from Minor parents.