Thursday, April 09, 2009

Assignment Work Session (More Thoughts)

I, too, attended yesterday's Work Session on the Assignment Plan. While there was good discussion, time ran out and they didn't really talk about the Option schools (which seems to much of the discussion from Charlie's post). I did e-mail Tracy Libros with some questions so I'll let you know what she says.

All the members of the Board were present save Sherry Carr who was ill.

They started discussing high schools first with an interesting chart about capacity now and in the future. What I was most surprised at was the figure for "students at Intervention Services Schools/Programs - 910". That seems like a high figure out of total of 13,554 total high school students. It was indicated that Nova could grow to 340 (from its current of around 300) due to moving to Meany.

Dr. Brown and Mr. Tolley went over intervention programs with the Board. Here I got a little confused because the handout indicates 300 students, not 910 (but it may be that I'm just not reading it properly). This was a slightly depressing presentation because (1) they made it sound like some providers might be exaggerating their numbers of how many students actually attend on a daily basis and (2) there is no coordinated, integrated system. Meaning, these kids aren't really tracked in any meaningful way from the time they enter another school to returning to their original school and everything in-between. How can this be? They had no in-take system and are working on one.

(Dr. Brown also mentioned wanting a truancy officer in each high school. Really? I mean I myself do want kids in school - I stop kids around Roosevelt all the time and ask them why they aren't in school - but is that the highest need at our high schools? And, with what money?)

Then there was the discussion was mostly around Cleveland and it becoming a STEM school (and possibly have a bio-tech program like Ballard's).

Board questions on these issues:

Steve - he brought up the issue of how the services are provided and we found out there was no coordination of them. He likes the idea for Cleveland but said they would need private sector partners.

Harium said that he did not believe the high school figures given matched what they had been given previously but Tracy explained how they got to these numbers (the first numbers given to the Board were done before functional capacity numbers had been completed). Harium also said that the bio-tech program might be a good idea for Cleveland but it is an expensive program because of the needs for equipment and teacher training. Mr. Tolley said they were trying to partner with businesses interesting in promoting STEM.

He also asked about the numbers of AP students at Cleveland. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson gave numbers which were fairly low (under 15 in every class) but said that was good for a first year of AP classes. Harium also asked about staff at Cleveland and it was acknowledged that they need more AP trained staff.

Peter also chimed in about liking the plan for Cleveland but it would take time and money. He also asked where the students not in STEM would go? Tracy said other schools but I would assume that means they would get assigned to RBHS or Franklin.

Cheryl was her cheerleader self (she even said that) as she said how much she liked the plan for Cleveland and that some comprehensives even have small AP classes like Cleveland's. I hate when something like that is set out in the ether. Is it true? If so, are those AP classes at other high schools small because of the subject or the numbers of students who take AP?

Michael brought up the issue of whether we hold seats at high schools for re-entry students. Apparently they do as these kids generally do come back to their original high school. He also mentioned the difficulties of starting a bio-tech program, noting you need good industry mentors and staff that has worked in the industry.

Then they moved on to the tiebreakers. Here's how the economic tiebreaker would work (this is only for high school):

Higher poverty to lower poverty:
If the student lives in one of the 10 highest poverty elementary attendance areas, then the student gets this tiebreaker when applying for 1 of the 3 lowest poverty attendance high schools.

So who are the lowest poverty high schools? Without looking, I'm thinking Roosevelt, Ballard and Hale.

Lower poverty to higher poverty:
If the student lives in one of the 10 lowest poverty elementary attendance areas, then the student gets this tiebreaker when applying for 1 of the 3 highest poverty attendance high schools.

Here I would guess that means someone in Laurelhurst could go to RBHS, Sealth or ? (I would say Cleveland but they are becoming an Option school so that let's them out.)

Lots of discussion here around the economic tiebreaker. Shannon McMinnimee (I love that name) , a district lawyer, came out and gave a lengthy explanation of the use of income in other districts throughout the country. She went through the numbers of students using the racial tiebreaker before the court cases and it was quite interesting because there were only 4 schools involved (Roosevelt, Ballard and Hale for minority students and Franklin for white students). Amazingly, 80.3% of students received their first choice and the number would have been 80.4% without the tiebreaker. And, the racial makeup of these schools did improve because of its use. Also, she said some districts go beyond income to include student reading levels.

Tracy also said that using free/reduced lunch numbers from elementary is okay because it closely matches those in high school (except the high school numbers for free/reduced lunch are much lower). There was an interesting point made that more students may be on this list because of Pay for Play (those costs went up and more students likely did apply for free/reduced lunch in order to get this discount to play sports).

Peter said he had reservations about using a student address for enrollment. He said not all neighborhoods were poor in the same way (meaning you could live in what might be perceived a low income area but cross the street and you have a wealthier area). He warned of unintended consequences. Cheryl agreed with Peter on this point.

Harium mentioned that he, Peter and Mary had gone to a district in Burlington, Vermont and said that they use parent education level. He pointed out that we, as a school district, haven't had a community discussion about diversity and how we feel about it.

Michael also concurred on this point and said he felt it might be better to have a straight up lottery for open choice seats. It would be fair and leave out the complexities of income.

I have very mixed feelings on this point but if we are moving towards a simpler plan, then maybe a lottery is the way to go. If Cleveland had STEM/biotech that would take out the argument of bio-tech being only at Ballard. We have two IB programs, north and south. That would leave the jazz bands at Roosevelt and Garfield (and maybe the drama program at Roosevelt as it is an actual academic program). They could have auditions for the jazz band.

So, I'll do the Charlie thing? Do you value diversity in your child's school and how far do we go with it?

Also, lottery for Open Choice seats or an income tiebreaker?

Option Schools

They just didn't get to this issue and I was disappointed. They ran out of time.

Just as a point of clarification from Charlie's post, Blaine, Broadview-Thomson and Madrona, are all classified as attendance area schools. Why the new Jane Addams K-8 isn't, I don't know. Why New School is an Option school, I don't know especially as they have taken pains to say they are a regular school. Oh wait, that's right, their MOU says they get to have a geography enrollment preference.

If you look at the list of schools that are Option schools, it's all over the place and as some have noted, where's the international schools?


There is a timeline for this process in the handout. The next public meetings are May 5,7,9 with two Board Work Sessions before that on April 23 and 29th. It was verified that there will be no maps with boundaries until the fall.


Unknown said...

Unintended consequences is kind of an understatement. I can't support any income tiebreaker that isn't tied to individual incomes/circumstances. Imagine for instance a wealthy strip of waterfront next to a poorer neighborhood. Kids go to private k-8, then get preference to go to Roosevelt. What about very poor children that live in the 11th from poorest area? It's a ridiculous proposal.

TechyMom said...

I could support a tie-breaker based on FRL status. The proposed one is goofy, for the reasons Jamie sites. I also would not support a tie-breaker based on income levels other than FRL status. The kid with $50K family income and a stay-at-home mom is in many ways more "priviledged" (I really dislike that word) that the kid with two working parents and an $80K family income.

But, honestly, lottery seems a lot simpler. Fewer variables makes it easier to understand for families with less education and less English. It also seems more fair to middle class people, which means that it will be politically more viable (whether or not they're right that it's more fair).

ARB said...

Starting with what should be an unchallenged premise--that Seattle schools are extremely segregated:*
1. We need to value diversity to the fullest extent of the law.
2. This means that the district need to be creative.
3. Income/class is generally a good "stand-in" for race, but all options should be considered.
4. Regardless of actual family income level, under the new plan all people living in the low income area will be assigned a low-performing (or at least a perceptively "undesireable") school.

*the district website shows racial enrollment at each school, check the figures for all of the SE schools, for example.

Central Mom said...

I believe the district is skirting the Option label for International schools by proposing to put a "regular" course of study alongside the immersion classes...at least that's the last I heard about JSIS. (Don't remember Beacon Hill, Concord offhand.)

My guess is that they are doing everything to not call the school an Option school because they're counting on the seats to handle "regular" enrollment in that part of Wallingford. As usual, though, this just complicates things. Will the whole school be labeled an assignment school or will part of it be an option school. I'm guessing the former, in the way they're handling Montessori, but whole-school regular classification in both cases doesn't make much sense to me.

anonymous said...

Good point on Addams and New School Melissa. Why aren't they option schools? Addams has gone out of their way to market themselves as a "traditional" school. Maybe it's because of the environmental science focus? And how about New School? They used to be unique in that they had extended hours and an extended year, but not any more. So why are they an "option" school?

And by the same token, why is JSIS not an option school?

Why is what's good for one school, not good for another?

anonymous said...

What about the middle class? What do they get?

The poorest families would have access to the best schools by this tie breaker.

The richest families would have access to the best schools because they can afford to live in whatever neighborhood they want to, move, etc.

The middle class get nothing. They don't get a tie breaker, and they can't afford to buy a house in Bryant or Laurelhurst or Montlake or Roosevelt to get into these "good" schools.

Maureen said...

Did they explain why they are using this proxy for income instead of using FRL status? It seems to me that it would just give the relatively higher income residents of poor neighborhoods a way to escape to better schools, leaving the truly poor behind (because they would be less likely to know the process and apply for a choice seat.)

SE Mom said...

I vote for lottery as a tie breaker for high school seats.

The economic tiebreaker is complicated and it actually defeats the whole point of offering some sort of choice of schools.

Lottery would mean that a family could apply to a high school because that is the school they want to attend. The idea of having kids from the poorest attendance areas have tie breakers to schools with the least poverty is ridiculous. It is crazy because we probably live in one of the 10 poorest reference areas but we have no desire to apply to Roosevelt or Ballard! How does that increase our access to choice?

Also neighborhoods can be very mixed income-wise in Seattle. We live in a very modest home but less than 2 blks away are multimillion dollar homes.

Jet City mom said...

I think socio economic is a great idea and I have been advocating it for decades. However as someone whose house taxes have skyrocketed to cannot afford it anymore- I know that our zipcode includes houses that are very deluxe to- well, ours.

Lottery would not address disporportionality in the schools because those who have money for it- already have more choices. They can pay for private- they can move to the burbs, they can supplement their childrens education with travel and tutoring.

Students without means, learn to have higher expectations when they attend school with students whose families are from a different background.
Families can learn from each other.

But I am wondering- if the low economic neighborhoods are south end & the low poverty schools are in north end, sounds like the $$$$$ transportation all over again.

I also agree that the play for pay has gotten high school students to submit FRL forms.
We didn't bother for many years- my daughter wasn't going to eat the school lunch anyway- and I didn't like the way the forms were presented- however- it is now presented as " fill out these forms and the school will qualify for additional funds", that makes sense to me, but otherwise, just to qualify for school lunch?

TechyMom said...

Emeraldkitty, what do you mean "those who have money for it"? Money for lottery assignment? Why would lottery assignment favor those with money? I'm not being snarky, I just don't understand. Can you explain please?

seattle citizen said...

I like the idea from the Board's Vermont trip: Parent/Guardian educational level.

This would be very hard to document, but is an interesting way of looking at things, one I've not considered usable, but if Vermont is using it, hey...

Jet City mom said...

^ I think Vermont also opted out of NCLB.
PRetty radical out there-

RE: Lottery would not address disporportionality in the schools because those who have money for it- already have more choices. They can pay for private- they can move to the burbs, they can supplement their childrens education with travel and tutoring.

I wasn't saying that you can buy your way into the lottery-although I doubt that any school would be a complete lottery- there has always been tiebreaker criteria. Sibling/distance, etc.

I have never liked lotteries, because those who are invested in the process don't have any better chance than those who don't give a hoot.

Because it is a complete luck of the draw, you have no idea about the chances-and if the lottery school is a great fit, it is really difficult to put a lot of energy into finding an alternative placement.

Say Lottery neighborhood has two schools- one for the left brained and one for the right brained.

The Sliderule family finds their kids are assigned to the fingerpainting school. They like their house/neighborhood and they don't want to move to the suburbs where their school is determined by where you buy your house- although they have that option as being good with a sliderule, their skills are sought after and they are well paid. ( enough to also have the option of private school)

As they are well educated, they ramp up their involvement with the kids education to make up for the perceived lack of structure at the creative school. This is impossible to do on your own if you don't already have the education background or have money to hire someone to help.

The artist family are creative- but they only have enough money for their kids to have the box of crayons with eight colors. Although their kids are assigned to the left brained school, they are quickly left behind as their previous education didn't give them the foundation to succeed and the emphasis on the logical brain, doesn't give them a chance to excel in their stronger areas.

Lotteries can only work if alternate choices are good enough so that families don't have to leave the pool altogether and they are given assistance to identify appropriate alternatives- .

A big factor with Seattle school lotteries in the past has been it does not occur early enough so that families who " won" the lottery, even know about it.
They may be researching their alternatives before hand, and be invested in them emotionally and financially by the time SPS has their draw.

With a lottery, you can't get involved emotionally because you don't have any control or influence on outcome, but that doesn't stop you from bonding with other choices that use different criteria for the acceptance process

( as you can probably tell- I have had a bit of experience with lotteries-
one was as a parent of a child in a co-op, that did not have enough spaces for all the children to move to the next year. Oddly enough, all the children of the parents on the board of the school, were able to continue I was also on the board, but it
took away from the continuity)

Another experience was when a very small school had lottery for application. It was a niche school, and I had looked very , very hard to find it & when I did I was very relieved as I felt it would support my daughters special needs in a way that other schools did not.

Unfortunately, she did not get in, and it was difficult to know that we had to keep looking- as niche schools by definition fill a small niche and there isn't a lot of duplication.

While I could reassure myself that as a lottery- it wasn't ruling against us, it was luck of the draw, but as my previous experience with the school board had taught me- it didn't feel like a complete random process.

TechyMom said...

Ok, that makes more sense. But, what about something like this? I think it's closer to what SPS has in mind.

Based on their address, both the left-brained and the right-brained family are assigned to a neighborhood elementary school that has some left-brained activities and some right-brained activities. It's not stellar at either, but exposes kids to both, and kids who are really good at one and not so good at another will find that they are able to progress in both, and to pass.

There are also a right-brained school and a left-brained school, but no one is assigned to those. People can apply to them. If there are more applicants than spaces, lottery is used to decide who gets the spaces. The right-brained family applies to the right-brained school and the left-brained family applies to the left-brained school. If right-brained family doesn't get in to the right-brained school, they go to the neihborhood school that is a little bit of both.

That seems like an ok outcome to me. Does it to you?

It seems more fair that giving one of them an extra chance at one of these schools because of where they live. It seems more fair than first-come-first-serve, which causes problems for people who don't have time to wait in line all night. I suppose an application process that looked at "fit" could work (what private schools do), but that seems hard/expensive to administer, hard to make objective, and subject to challenges and accusations of bias.

If the neighborhood schools are "good enough" for most people, then perhaps people won't be trying to get into the left-brained school just to get away from a generally bad school, and there will be room for the truely left-brained students who apply to it. I realize that's a big if, but I think it's what the district is trying to achieve. And that seems ok to me.

TechyMom said...

Oh, and one more thought...
Students who are in underperforming low-income schools already have a preference for better schools through NCLB. A school that is low-performing and title I will be in some step of NCLB sanctions, and students there have the right to transfer to any public school with space, and to get transportation. Under the new system, there should be more decent neighborhood schools with space. Do we need another tie-breaker beyond that? That's a question, not rhetorical. I don't know the answer. Has anyone in the district even thought about that?

zb said...

"Did they explain why they are using this proxy for income instead of using FRL status?"

I'd guess that they're considering this version because it doesn't depend on the individual, but depends on their address. That's easier to administer, but does raise the possibility that it would give the option to more savvy parents who live in higher poverty neighborhoods. Don't know how this would play out exactly, because I don't know what the outcome would be for the pockets of wealth in the south end (i.e the mount baker/madrona/leschi areas along the lake front).

I believe a CA court ruled on a similar scheme (perhaps for UC admissions?) and said it passed constitutional muster. Don't remember if it was a state court or a federal court and whether they were ruling based on the CA or US constitutions.

I suspect (though I am not a lawyer) that this scheme would pass constitutional muster, because it isn't explicitly race based.

zb said...

"A school that is low-performing and title I will be in some step of NCLB sanctions, and students there have the right to transfer to any public school with space, and to get transportation."

The critical variable is the "school with space." I believe that this lottery/economic tiebreaker option is being designed for some "choice" slots within our high schools, which would otherwise have geographically based reference areas. So, say, Roosevelt would have 80% of it's seats allocated based on a neighborhood boundary (seems like they're thinking of elementary based feeder schools). The other 20% would be available for "option" students, and would have tiebreakers, including an economic tiebreaker. The goal would be to bring economically disadvantaged students to economically advantaged neighborhood defined schools (like Roosevelt), and vice versa.

(BTW, I made up those proportions).

TechyMom said...

Right, but you could do something like this (also made-up proportions)

Roosevelt attendance area sized to fill the building to 80% capacity. NCLB transfers allowed during a fixed period. Remaining seats assigned by lottery.

Would that be simpler? I don't actually know, but it seems like it could be.

anonymous said...

Techymom would the title I transfer only apply to kids enrolled at a failing title I school, or would it apply for all families living within the boundaries of the failing school? I think your idea sounds great if it only applies to kids enrolled at the school. If it would apply to kids living within the boundary of the school but not enrolled then there would be things to consider such as the great diversity in Seattle neighborhoods. Take for instance the neighborhoods around Thurgood Marshall and Leschi elementaries. On the west side of the schools there are some of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods in the district, while on the east side of the schools there are million dollar water front homes. Both would likely be in the reference area of these schools. Would we want to give kids living in million dollar homes the same benefit as kids of poverty? Not saying we shouldn't, just something to consider.

TechyMom said...

I'd have to check the nclb rules, but I think it only applies to kid enrolled in those schools. Though I do know that you don't have to be low-income to use it. Some of the disgruntled white families used it to transfer from Madeona to McGilvra a few years ago.

reader said...

Techymom, NCLB sanctions don't apply to middle or high schools. They do not receive title 1 funds. And it doesn't apply until well after school starts (since that is when it is calculated... after WASL scores are reported in September). So, all lottery and tie-breaker seats at elementary schools are given out out. Schools starts. THEN, NCLB status is figured out and students are allowed transfers.

reader said...

And one more point. Under NCLB, students attending failing, title-1 schools do not get to transfer out to anywhere. You only have the right to transfer to school that is not failing. So, you might like to transfer out of Madrona (which does receive title 1 funds) to TOPs. Guess what? TOPs is failing too... so you have no automatic rights to transfer to TOPs. I happen to know that people transferred out to Orca's (also failing). Perhaps the district is nice enough to allow people some choice. I bet it would be more expensive to send them somewhere making AYP, than to send them to Orcas. As the list of schools making AYP shrinks, so does the availability of using the transfer sanction.

Danny K said...

It's annoying that they've just rearranged the schools for hundreds of kids to reduce transportation costs, and now they're creating a system that, by design, will increase transportation costs by sending kids across town.

I think everybody in Seattle supports diversity as a concept, but are people willing to make sacrifices for it? Not so much.

And some folks will assertively fight against a diversity-enhancing program if they feel it's harming their child's prospects. Remember Parents Involved in Community Schools?

I think a transparent system that can't be easily "gamed" is best. And all this talk is getting away from the underlying problems in the schools:
Seattle public schools are highly uneven in quality.

Assignments will always be controversial as long as some kids are going to nice schools and others get the lemons.

TechyMom said...

OK, crummy idea.

I guess what concerns me is the idea of a tiebreaker, where FRL eligable students have priority for all choice seats. Since 40% of SPS students are FRL, it seems like that could effectively cut out all choices for middle-class families in the South End. Yes, yes, we could all move to the north end or to Bellevue, but I don't particularly want to live in the North End or in Bellevue. I've lived in both places, and I like my neighborhood better. Besides, do we really want neighborhoods with no middle-class families in them? That doesn't sound like a good idea either.

I'd like to see a system with some advantage for FRL kids, but not at the cost of all choice for middle class kids.

So, what about something like this (proportions made up)...

Roosevelt's assignment area is set to fill the school to 90% capacity. 2% of the seats are reserved exclusively for FRL-eligable kids, with a lottery if there are more applicants than seats. Another 7% is assigned by a separate lottery, open to all comers (including FRL and not) with no tiebreakers. Students could apply to both. 1% is left open for students who move to the assignment area during the year (maybe too much?).

reader said...

You could always select Madrona, and of course you would get assigned there because nobody else picks it. And then in September, when the NCLB failing title 1 list is published, you could request a transfer to a non-failing school... which would now be your right. At least you'd narrow your list to schools making AYP.

If you simply choose a bunch of schools you like... you could wind up getting assigned somewhere you don't really like... and somewhere that doesn't have an NCLB sanction attached to it.