Sunday, March 15, 2009

Seattle Metropolitan Magazine - Getting into Middle School

So I'm at Bartell's and notice the magazine rack by the pharmacy counter has the local Seattle magazines. The current issue of one, Seattle Metropolitan, has an article on looking for middle school in Seattle (by Kathryn Robinson who used to write for the Seattle Weekly and is now writing for the Metro). Below is the link (I did this link differently thinking it would be more permanent.)

Seattle Metropolitan Magazine / Current Issue / Detail

Where to start? First, I'm sure Ms. Robinson thinks she is just hilarious but really, if you want this kind of frothing at the mouth, no one, I repeat , no one does it like Sandra Tsing Loh in her book, Mother on Fire (about the search for schools in LA - Denise G-W and I had the pleasure of her company for lunch one day last fall to discuss how Sandra and other LA moms try to steer new-to-school-parents in LA in the right direction).

Ms Robinson starts by admitting she's actually ignorant about SPS but somehow, that just doesn't seem to matter.

"As I write this, I have no idea where my fifth-grade daughter Samantha will go to middle school in the fall. By the time you read this—I will know.

If this doesn’t strike you as riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama, you haven’t attempted to raise a kid in the city of Seattle. So you might not know that just a handful of the public elementary schools rise above the field—and that they’re the ones in the expensive neighborhoods. Or that a couple of the public high schools perform exceptionally—for kids who score into the smart-kid tracks. Or that the public middle schools, well…completely suck.

Or sorta suck, or pretty much suck, or mostly suck, depending on whom you talk to. Mind you, I have zero evidence to back this assertion."

At least she's honest. She then lays out where she's going with this thought-process,

"It’s every local parent’s parlor game of choice: Share and Compare Your Seattle Public School Nightmare, a game Tom and I have been addicted to since researching kindergartens for Samantha seven years ago. That’s when we began to learn that in Seattle, “school choice” meant “have your pick of any unpopular school!” That south enders like us, being geographically distant from the more moneyed northern neighborhoods and their higher-achieving schools, had a rich and varied spectrum of unpopular schools to choose from."

So first she says there are only a "handful" of good public elementaries, then she says that all the south end schools are unpopular. Really? Tell that to Beacon Hill or Maple or Lafayette, etc.

So then she says this after a discussion with her sister about Bellevue schools:

"We considered it when we realized that in that superior district there were fewer dud schools. We considered it when Sam got assigned our 12th-choice elementary school. (We’d listed 40. I know. I know.)"

Well, Bellevue is a lot smaller and less urban than Seattle so that might account for the fewer "dud" schools. And is she being tongue-in-cheek when she says her daughter got her 12th choice and they listed 40? I can't tell.

After she pats herself on the back for going down to the enrollment center and changing her waitlist school (why this is a major achievement I don't know) and her daughter gets into the school they want she says,

"It was only kindergarten after all. But for a parent, the stakes are unutterably high. Elementary school launches a child’s whole educational trajectory. It’s the first place Sam would be labeled a leader by an insightful teacher—or not. The first place she’d be bullied on the playground—or not. What we asked of kindergarten was a nurturing teacher, challenging creative stimulation, and peers who were being raised to value kindness by like-minded adults. Seemed like basic requests to us."

If you think that being at a "better"' elementary or better yet, a private school is going to protect your kid from bullying, good luck with that.

She then proceeds to talk about public middle schools as if the kids ran amok and the halls were strewen with trash and graffiti. I'm not sure where she looked (it seems it is Washington Middle school) but I can say that Eckstein never looks like that. Anybody at Washington? Is she describing it properly?

Then she talks about what comes up a lot - giving up on your local schools.

"In the morning when I blinked awake I realized with certainty that this absolutely included trading away my principles. We were already old pros at this, having thrown over our mediocre south-end neighborhood school (which desperately needed our volunteer energy) in favor of an excellent north-end out-of-my-neighborhood school (which did not)."

I'm in the camp that only you know what is best for your own child and probably will turn away from any school you believe won't work for your child. But, we will have a new assignment plan and it is likely to change the ability to send your kid anywhere you want. THAT will be interesting; how far will you go before you give up and put that energy into your local school? (And hey, I'm guilty. I didn't like our local elementary school when I was looking for our first child and went afar. By the second one, I wanted to keep them together but I wished I had looked local again because the school DID start improving and I would have like to have been a part of that. Moral of the story? If you have more than one, check that local school out on your second time around. You might be surprised.)

Then, after filling out private school applications for middle school, she says,

"If Samantha still doesn’t make the cut, then we’ll attempt to land her in the more challenging smart-kid track at the public Washington Middle School. If she doesn’t gain admittance through the district-administered test, then we’ll scrape up the dough for a private test. (This test costs around $700, we’ve heard. Many kids who fail the public test get in through the paid test, and we are quite sure we don’t want to look too hard at why.)"

Oh Kath, that "smart-kid" track - you're already too late. If you didn't test your 5th grade child in October for APP, she won't be getting into APP for middle school.

Look, I'm sure she's trying to be frothy and funny. I may be just too sensitive. But if you flip through the magazine, you know who their readership is. It doesn't help public education to paint all of it with a huge brush of exaggeration and misinformation. These people will read this article and say, probably somewhat smugly, "Well, that's just how public schools in Seattle are."

I'm not sure I think she's asking for too much but her hysterical tone and flip manner really bother me. And maybe that's hypocritical - I'm critical of the district a lot BUT I've always also stood up to defend this district as well. This district has a lot going for it but it is amazing how little of that gets out there.


hschinske said...

"She then proceeds to talk about public middle schools as if the kids ran amok and the halls were strewen with trash and graffiti. I'm not sure where she looked (it seems it is Washington Middle school) but I can say that Eckstein never looks like that."

I thought she was speaking generically, about how people THINK of middle school being. "But this was middle school, that lawless land of rebellion and hormones-times-1,000 students, where trash-talking mean girls and trash-minded pubescent boys roam halls and restrooms bedecked with cinematically detailed graffiti and used tampons. Compared with this, kindergarten felt like…well, child’s play."

(Note: word verification on this is "icastypu." Let those among you who are without sin casty first pu.)

I think the graffiti and used tampons are meant to have been in the restrooms only, not the halls; that's something I would have queried as an editor :-)

Helen Schinske

Unknown said...

based on your post, melissa, i just read her story (which is really all they want) and i hope she and tom and samantha do go to the private school of their choice, along with their friends who fake addresses and make inane cocktail party conversation - far away from me, my kids, and the many great public schools in seattle.

what a boob.

Shannon said...

Honestly, I wouldn't expect a substantial or unbiased article in Seattle Metropolitan. The advertising makes up more than half the copy and I never find anything much to connect with.

Many of the private school applications require those same $700 tests (only $500 from Carol Cole!) that the article disparages.

Jet City mom said...

Many of the private school applications require those same $700 tests (only $500 from Carol Cole!) that the article disparages.

what tests would those be?

The ISEE is $80.
Since anyone who takes an AP class in SPS is supposed to take the AP test (@$80 ea) for each class, even if they don't care about using it for college credit , I didn't realize that $80 = $700 when applied to private schools

Considering you can use the same test to apply to nineteen different schools in Tacoma/Bellevue/Seattle
(you also can get a waiver), I though it sounded like what passes for a bargain nowdays

Shannon said...

Oh, I am no expert on the testing of AP classes. I think the author was referring to the testing required to appeal an AP placement decision in Elementary School. For that you need a full-score IQ using a standardized test administered by a psychologist. It takes about 5 hours. You also need standardized achievement scores also psychologist administered over about 3 hours. The cost is $500-$750 as far as i have heard / seen.

I know that friend applying for Evergreen and SCDS and other 'high achiever' schools have been asked for similar test results. Eg SCD says :"Applicants are required to take the WPPSI III or the WISC IV (depending on age) and must score in the top three percent in their Full Scale Score. " This is the more substantial part of the testing required for AP appeal.

[VAGALOG? - Database of vagabonds?]

Unknown said...

It is an opinion piece, written from her point of view. It is just as valid as any one's opinion. Her child has been in public school. Why write her off, and disparage her view?

She made a comment about her daughter getting her 12th choice and they listed 40. Well, we only listed 10 last year, and we did not get into any of them. It is hard living in the south-end.

seattle citizen said...

Shannnon and Emerald City,

I think she was referring to the test to get into APP, not AP.

I don't know which test is used for APP, but as Shannon says, it's the full IQ test.

Shannon is right, its not the AP test, but keep the terminology right (it's easy to get confused!)

AP is advanced placement, on a clas-by-class basis.

APP is Accelerated Progress Program for those children who test in, I think, the top 3 percentile. This is the cohort model: students are either in the entire program or they are not.

APP sort of dissolves into AP in high school (student go from Lowell Elementary to Washington MS as a cohort, then they have a guaranteed slot waiting at Garfield but no more cohort; simply AP classes (I think. I'm not sure about that last piece)

SolvayGirl said...

Melissa says..."Oh Kath, that "smart-kid" track - you're already too late. If you didn't test your 5th grade child in October for APP, she won't be getting into APP for middle school. "

As a writer, I know that lead time for an article is often two months before publications date. I read it that Kath's child had been tested but she did not yet know the result. The APP testing results came out in March.

And to echo Tom. No offense Melissa, but your child got to go to Eckstein and Roosevelt—two of the city's best. Those of us in the southend don't have anything close, unless we're lucky enough to have our children test into APP.

Give us Southend parents (of all colors and income levels) a break and try to understand our angst concerning the quality of education our child receives via SPS. We agonize over our choices and make many sacrifices if we decide to opt for private.

ParentofThree said...

Well said SolvayGirl1972!

zb said...

I honestly believe that in Seattle, automatic assignment to local neighborhood schools will increase the probability that neighborhoods will invest in their elementary schools. I also believe that appropriately drawn boundaries will produce sufficient diversity (and by that I mean few enough poor people) in many schools in SPS.

But, those changes will require altering our current choice system, increasing the size of very small schools, and careful re-drawing of boundaries. I think the SPS is aiming for these changes, and I look forward to seeing if they work.

(I also think I'd agree with a lot of what "Kath" had to say)

Charlie Mas said...

I notice that the program placement update that was removed from the last Board meeting agenda has not re-appeared on this meeting's agenda. What's up with that?

For those who are interested, here is Board Policy B45.00, which clearly states:

"Emergency motions may also be introduced and acted upon at the meeting at which they are introduced. Such emergency motions shall state that immediate adoption is in the best interest of the District. Non-routine, non-emergency items shall be introduced at one meeting, and the final vote for adoption shall take place no earlier than the next succeeding regular or special Board meeting."

Perhaps the Board should be reminded of this Policy. Perhaps, according to their Affirmation of Responsibility, one of them should do the reminding:

"3. Abide by the policies and bylaws of the Board and work with our fellow board members to change those policies as needed to improve student learning.

"We will maintain fidelity to these commitments and will welcome the intervention of our peers should we fail to live up to this oath.

As for the portables at Nathan Hale, I don't understand why they don't use some of the surplus portables all over the district. There are TWELVE portable classrooms at Mercer Middle School, which, according to the functional capacity assessment, has about 162 empty seats. There are two portable classrooms at Aki Kurose, which is also desperately underenrolled to the tune of over 400 students. Surely these schools don't need their portables. I'm sure there are other examples.

anonymous said...

I don't find this article offensive at all. I think it's adds a bit of humor to a really difficult and confusing enrollment process. You could complete a masters degree program in "SPS enrollment", and you'd still be confused. And, just when you think you finally understand it, it all changes!

I live in the north now (moved for access to good schools by the way), but when I lived in the Central area I felt the exact same way that Kathryn does. We had several dismal schools to choose from, mixed in with a few very good schools that we had no chance of getting into because we did not live in their reference areas. We could try our 1 in 4 chance of getting into TOPS, but if we didn't want an alt school we were SOL. This lead to anxiety. A lot of anxiety. MASSIVE ANXIETY. And that was just elementary school. At middle school we knew our choices went from bad to worse - If our kids didn't test into Spectrum or APP (and neither of the did), our choices were Aki, Washington regular program (have you ever looked at their disaggregated test scores), or Meany? These schools pale in comparison to Eckstein, and even Hamilton and Whitman.

And, before moving north, we too contemplated moving to Bellevue or Shoreline for better schools - and yes I know they are better because their districts are smaller and they don't serve the same demographics as SPS but we really didn't care WHY they were better, we just cared that they WERE better and out child would have a chance to attend good schools.

Of course I have a totally different perspective now that I live in my comfy north end neighborhood. Our kids went to TC and Bryant for elementary! My youngest will go to Eckstein next year, and our oldest is deciding between Roosevelt and Hale. Not to much anxiety these days, but hey, I remember the old days.

Melissa Westbrook said...

To me, this was an article about her experience and not necessarily an opinion piece. I don't believe them to be the same thing.

A lot of her angst was directed at elementary schools and that's what I was trying to defend. We do have good elementaries all over this city. I have always said that middle school is the black hole in SPS (probably the whole nation and I wish the Gates Foundation would put their focus there). Even Eckstein has its problems. As for high schools, Franklin is not a good high school and before Center School came along was one of the first choices for Magnolia and Queen Anne parents.

Jet City mom said...

A lot of her angst was directed at elementary schools and that's what I was trying to defend. We do have good elementaries all over this city

yes,yes we do.

I dont read either of the glossy Seattle magazines regularly- although I did read SEATTLE at the emergency vet last night.
That spa where Hazel Wolf school used to be on Roosevelt sounds great. Plus you can't go wrong with an old school PJ photo.

( but those mags articles are for preaching to the choir, frankly what most of the journalism in Seattle has devolved to IMO- they serve little niches and not a lot of news)

momster said...

one of the things I get tired of is the endless characterization of north end:good, central/south end:bad, with very little substance provided.

i drove by bf day yesterday - north end, but with a reputation (deserved or no - i've never been in it so can't say) of not being a sought-after school - in part from word of mouth but seemingly confirmed by the first choice data mel posted the other day.

likewise olympic hills, northgate, as-1 (though i know people who know people in those schools and they love them).

how about in its later years, viewlands? and recently, greenwood (which a new principal seems to have changed the trajectory and popularity of - it's full), and in the last decade, bagley (also new principal, now retired, and one of the highest wait lists in the city)

my point is that people, especially south, make this binary judgment (north end: good, central/south: bad) without a whole lot of information about "the other" beyond "reputation", and without acknowledgment of the changes that are possible.

reputation is some shaky ground - it lags reality for better AND worse. There are probably a number of people at the "good" schools who have some less than flattering info to share, too.

i agree with zb about the improvement a shift to neighborhood schools could bring - and would add that once everyone in the central and south stops thinking that all of their friends in the north end, or at tops, new school, private schools, etc are livin the dream - and take the plunge and enroll in their neighborhood school (which we did) - good change could come.

anonymous said...

Well, yes, momster of course not every north end school is "good". You can go down the list and find a the exceptions. But the fact is that there are many more high performing schools to choose from north of the ship canal than their are south of the ship canal. When I think of the entire Central, South and SE clusters I can count on two hands the number of high performing schools (Maple, Beacon, New School, TOPS, Garfield APP, Washington APP, Center School and NOVA). On the contrary in the north end I can count on two hand the number of "bad" or "unpopular" schools.

Now, I'm only talking test scores here, I realize that "good" is relative and there are many different ways to determine what makes a "good" school. For me one of the things that I use to determine if a school is good is it's popularity. If it meets the demands of it's community it will be popular, if it doesn't it won't.

And I do agree with momster, that once we go to a more neighborhood school based assignment plan, our neighborhood schools will improve. There will be much more pressure on them to meet the communities needs.

anonymous said...

Oh and under the "good" school list in the S/SE/Central I would also add MOntlake, Stevens, McGilvra. And I know Kimball is on the rise...and of course I'm sure I have missed a few more....but you get the idea.

beansa said...

I think the writer is not as funny as she thinks she is, but in some ways I think I get where she's coming from. I live in the North, and we thought the craziness over K selection was, well, crazy - so we went with the perfectly fine elementary in our neighborhood. And it turned out to be a nightmare for our kid, and now she's about a year behind in reading. So, it is a big deal if you chose wrong.

But as far as the tone of the article, it seemed like she was shooting for funny-hyperbole and hit hysterical.

Sue said...

I thought she was just being funny too - and that it was more of an opinion piece. But I can see where people in Seattle wouldn't "get" that style of humor.

I also thought a lot of what she said did hit home for many many families I know.

Maybe we just don't like to see the uglier side of how parents view Seattle Public Schools in print like that? Don't know.

Jet City mom said...

The article reminds me of when my oldest ( who attended private school- mainly because the K teacher at our neighborhood school suggested it) was accepted at a school for 6th grade that ran through high school.

I thought " well, I won't have to do that again- when she is applying to colleges, she can do all that herself!"

Or not.

Charlie Mas said...

As we have been pointedly reminded last week by Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer:

Do not confuse entertainment with journalism.

Do not confuse entertainment with expert advice

Do not confuse people who have a vested interest in your success with people who have none.

seattle citizen said...

This discussion seems to circle back around to choice and neighborhood schools...We've had it before, and I don't want to rehash it, but as a new assignment plan is in the works, here goes:

If those who can afford to move, move...if there is a choice about where to send your child...If some parents/guardians CAN'T move, or can't work the choice system...

It seems to me the whole system of "bad school/good school perpetuates itself. This extends to sending students out of district or to private schools.

If those who are willing, able and savvy to the system (who, most likely, are more willing/able to volunteer, write legislators or board members, bird-dog school staff and policy...if these parent/guardians are allowed, or take, the opportunity to move north, to move students, to move outta district, to move to private schools...Then those that can't move, switch schools, etc are left behind in schools that have no one to hold them accountable, no one to volunteer, no one to write legislators on their behalf.

Maybe a neighborhood system would help. But I fear that this would also result in the old problem, or a similar one to this: Some neighborhoods would still be considered "good." parents/guardians would move to those neighborhoods (my parents did it, to get me into a "good" school system...) and other neighborhoods would experience flight and resulting craptitude.

How do we fix this?

Idealistically, parents/guardians would stick it out, even in "bad" school neighborhoods, to help make them better. This requires that commitment, and it requires the state and district to be responsive to desires for improvement.

Until something like this happens, I fear it'll be the same ol', same ol', as the squeaky wheels (wealthier neighborhoods) get the grease and the silent, frozen axles finally break.

WV....yes: Caring is a good word for the day, thank you. Care for children, care for the district, care about each other, care about the future, not just these twelve years...

Good for you, good for me said...

Call me cynical, but I've found that a school's reputation can largely be tied to the number of FRL kids attending, with possibly the quality of the school building thrown in to confound things.

I've toured both BF Day and TOPS and heard throught the grapevine about one being a "bad" school and the other being a "good" school, and, though it's always hard to tell from a few minutes on a tour, I have to say both schools seemed fine to me, had engaged staff and lots of interesting things going on. The schools have roughly equivalent test scores (with some variation here and there, but no discernable pattern of one being better than the other for either the FRL or non-FRL populations).

I can't help but think the main difference between the two is simply that one has >40% FRL and the other roughly 25%.

The whole thing makes me highly doubtful about the ability of the school district to alter reputation merely with an assignment plan.

The district can gerrymander the reference areas to get a better distribution of haves to have nots, but I worry that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. There's no guarantee that parents won't still flee "bad" schools via other means.

Personally, I'd rather they attract affluent parents to schools via programs that they desire -- Montessori and dual-lanaguage programs. This seems like the best bet of keeping parents in the district and balancing out the schools in terms of student populations and need.

I'm sure some people will suggest that there is a chicken and egg question. Do schools have a bad rep because of high FRL populations or do they end up with high FRL populations because of their bad rep? The argument I see on this blog is usually the latter, but I suspect it's very hard for schools to overcome the ding they get in many people's perception just simply from having a lot of poor kids attending.

Igottasay said...

Beansa, Kathryn Robinson is definitely not as anything as she thinks she is. This sounds just as inane and dippy as her old restaurant reviews, etc, in the Weekly and Seattle Times were.

"Using advanced scientific research techniques available only to restaurant critics, I hereby pronounce Olive You's paninis and hot sandwiches to be ... really yummy."


"More interesting was the carrot gnocchi ($15), in which several of the delectably crusty, sweetish orange oblongs were rayed out from a center heap "

Yeah, I'll say they were.

Danny K said...

I'm with you Melissa. Sandra Tsing Loh did it first, and did it better.

But that's part of living in Seattle, you get to enjoy lots of recycled Californian ideas (and recycled Californians).

I can relate to her woes with the assignment system, we were totally freaked out when our son was originally assigned to a pretty hard-core central district elementary school far away from our house. It all worked out, but we got a little hysterical in the meantime.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

"pretty hard-core central district elementary school" You aren't referring to that the they originally assigned south elem APP students to with double digit suspensions are you?

"Worked out" does that mean they went and it was all cool or that you got another placement?

SolvayGirl said...

Seattle Citizen said: Idealistically, parents/guardians would stick it out, even in "bad" school neighborhoods, to help make them better. This requires that commitment, and it requires the state and district to be responsive to desires for improvement.

As a parent who stuck it out while the District tried to kill a decent Southend elementary (9 principals in 6 years), all I can say is it is exhausting. It's somewhat doable at the elementary level where you have 6 years to try to make a difference, but nearly impossible at the Middle/High School levels. It shouldn't have to be that hard.

TO "Good for You, Good for Me"...
Schools with high levels of FRL have a smaller pool of volunteers (due to a variety of reasons—some valid, some not) and a higher need for remedial tutors and social services. The focus often ends up being on the more needy—and rightfully so. However, it can leave the un-needy with little enrichment or reason to delight in school. It's a conundrum to be sure. How do you serve two (or more) very different populations with very different needs?

Because the southend (and in some cases central and West Seattle) have higher levels of poverty, the schools there will always have a harder time offering what the schools in wealthier neighborhoods can.

Neighborhood schools could help, but the District will need to find a way to serve the gamut of needs that will result. Considering their track record, I am not hopeful.

zb said...

"Call me cynical, but I've found that a school's reputation can largely be tied to the number of FRL kids attending, with possibly the quality of the school building thrown in to confound things."

I say this over and over and over again to anyone who will listen to me, because it shocked me when I first realized it. I run in the same type of crowd that "Kath" runs in, and had a list in my head of the "good" schools. Then, I looked at the stats, and realized that they were almost perfectly correlated with FRL (which, in turn, are almost perfectly correlated with test scores).

But, I hold out more hope for the gerrymandering solution than Seattle citizen does, because I think that progressive Seattle parents want to go to schools that have 30% FRL, not 3% (not all of them, but maybe enough). The FRL population in SPS is about 40%, which is perhaps near the tipping point, but I think there is a balance that is achievable in Seattle (and not in, say, Detroit Public Schools) that might distribute the FRL children in a way that will be acceptable to parents who have choices (especially when combined with the availability of some popular programs and the cost, i.e. free).

zb said...

Oops, sorry, I attributed Good for you good for me's statement to seattle citizen

ARB said...

1) after living in both areas, the north vs south comments appear valid.

2) for a bonus, try navigating placement for a special ed. kid when the school district decided right before the general enrollment period to change all special ed. placement rules and still has trouble telling you exactly how things will work. fun.

Charlie Mas said...

The idea of good schools and bad schools is more persistent than it is accurate.

First comes the question of whether the designations are relative, absolute, or subjective.

The choice for a number of people is good school or better school. To them, the school that is merely good gets the bad school label that it does not deserve. This relative assessment can work the other way as well. Some people have a choice between a bad school and a worse one. For them, the bad school can get, undeservedly, the good school label.

The idea of absolute assessments suggests that there is some objective measure - or, more precisely, set of objective measures - against which schools can be rated. The total of these properly weighted assessments would provide a range of scores for various schools. So higher, some lower. Some exceptional, some acceptable, and some unacceptable.

But it is the subjective measure that I would recommend. Regardless of how well a school works for anyone else, you need to ask yourself how well it would work for your student. Just because a school is regarded as "good" doesn't mean that it is good for your child. And just because a school is not generally well regarded doesn't mean that it wouldn't be great for your kid.

In the end, isn't that what matters? Not how good the school is on any other measure, but how well it would work for your child.

I think you should also consider what contributes to the school's quality (or lack thereof) and how permanent that element is to the school. There are a lot of folks who chose a school for the kindergarten teacher only to realize that their child has a different teacher for five other years at the school and might not even have that teacher for kindergarten.

Jet City mom said...

I would agree that things can change in SPS
WHen I tried to register one child for Summit- they were over enrolled each time of the three times I tried.

Our neighborhood school- now in a fashionable part of the city, at the time would have been condemned according to an UW study ( for PCBs among other things) only they didn't have anywhere to send the kids)

At the time South end schools were often very highly thought of.

Whitworth was written about nationally. Orca and Kimball, even University Heights and Sacajewea , were so popular you couldn't get your child in, unless that was your neighborhood school.

Then they started shuffling principals around every couple years and even though they had rebuilt from scratch our neighborhood school eventually,when it was time for my younger child to attend K, I knew because of her special concerns, that there was nowayinhell, she was going to be able to function in a room of over 20 kids.

When I looked again a few years later at the neighborhood school, especially at the special education dept. I was shocked at the treatment of the students during my observation, notably because the teacher didn't seem to be having a bad day or unusually stressed, but the manner the children were spoken to and dealt with, was not how an adult should be treating children.
Certainly not their teacher.

If we had been enrolled- I certainly would have said something to the principal as I had heard good things- but since we weren't - I didn't really know what to do- especially since I knew that was supposed to have been a " good" school.

TechyMom said...

I agree that this piece wasn't that funny or well-done, but I totally get what she was trying to say. We've toured 9 public and 5 private schools. We applied to 3 private schools, which required writing essays and getting teacher recommendations. It's consumed pretty much all my free time since September. I travel a lot for work, but when I'm in town, I'm touring schools. I'm totally, totally sick of it. And I haven't even turned in my form yet, waiting to find out if TOPS and ORCA will start at 8:00.

As to what a bad school looks like... When I toured Leschi, I heard a Spectrum teacher yelling "shut your mouth" at a group of students. I saw kids marching with their fingers on their lips, and waiting in line for the bathroom as a class. I saw many kids sitting or standing outside the classrooms. I've heard more than one person say they cried after touring this school. Did anyone cry after touring BF Day or Northgate?

Anonymous said...

My daughter is in kindergarten now, and when we toured B F Day last year, we were actually pretty impressed with it. It was 3rd on our list - would have been second, but it is out of cluster for us, so getting our kids there would have been an issue.

A lot of BF Days' reputation comes from the low number of people listing it as a first choice, but I think that is largely a function of geography. BF Day is located in between John Stanford, with the language immersion program, and West Woodlands, which has won sevceral national-level awards in recent years. It is a pretty good school surrounded by great schools, so it doesn't end up first on people's lists.

anonymous said...

I feel the same way as sigrunc in regard to Hamilton and Nathan Hale. Hamilton is a spectacular school, but Eckstein gets all the fanfare. Consequently Hamilton does not get that many first choice applications, yet parent surveys show that parents are overwhelmingly happy there. I too, was very impressed. Same for Nathan Hale. It is a fine school, but Roosevelt is more popular. Hale does not get many first choice applications, maybe because Roosevelt offers more AP classes? Maybe due to geography? But in the end both schools WASL and SAT scores run neck and neck. And parent surveys show parents very satisfied at Hale. Personally, I was more impressed with Hale than Roosevelt. Felt much more personal and had a great sense of community, as did Hamilton to Eckstein.

AutismMom said...

Wow. I had Techymom's Leschi response (that is wanting to cry) after going to Hamilton. I viewed a self-contained special ed class.... the kids would have been better served in the QFC daycare. Some of the kids weren't even awake. And the school office staff seemed compleletely shocked that somebody might want to see the program. Evidently, nobody was prepared for a visit to "special ed" on "tour day". I was looking with a friend who was told by district staff about the great program. Well "great" it was NOT. Completely pathetic.... it was a demonstration of what years of self-containment does to kids. Prepares them for Kindergarten... over and over and over again.

Of course, there was more to Hamilton than that.... but, when whole groups of students matter little... it colors the whole school. None of the kids I saw even took off their coat. They all looked like they were just waiting to go home, at 9:00 am. They all seemed completely disengaged and bored.

SolvayGirl said...

It sounds like the SpecEd class that Dewey was in on "Malcolm in the Middle." Sad to think that something that was played as parody could be so close to the truth.

WV: undogend - end of the underdog?

Jet City mom said...

What I heard at west woodland resource room was the teacher saying to a few boys that they were bad boys. That if they couldnt behave, they shouldn't have come to school and that she wanted their parents to come in and talk to her.

I couldnt see what they were doing wrong, but then my kids dont do sitting quietly either.
She then apologized for the interuption and commented that she was sure she wouldn't have any problems with my daughter because she was " a girl"

This was at the end of the day, and when she finally released the boys, one of them came back and said that he missed the bus, she replied that he would have to call his mother.