Option Schools

This is from the Board work session on the Student Assignment Plan on Wednesday afternoon, April 8.

The latest proposal for determining access to "Option" schools (what we now call Alternative schools) would be: 1) siblings, 2) geographic zone, 3) lottery.

The Geographic Zone would be a defined area in proximity to the school. So students who live close enough to TOPS to be in the TOPS Geographic Zone would practically be assured of access to the school (presuming there's room left in the class after siblings enroll). It is unclear, or, more precisely, undetermined, how large the geographic zones would be.

First question: what is your reaction to granting students who live nearby preferred access to option schools? It happens now at TOPS and I believe the Center School has or had a distance tie-breaker.

These are the Option schools:
Jane Addams, AS #1, ORCA, Pathfinder, Salmon Bay, South Shore, Thornton Creek, TOPS, The Center School, Cleveland High School, and NOVA.

Yes. You read that right. Cleveland High School would become an Option school. That's the proposal. It would become a STEM school, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The District intends to duplicate the Ballard Bio-Tech Academy there. There is a belief that this will make Cleveland more attractive to a larger population.

Second question: Would Cleveland be an attractive choice for you if it were a STEM school?

The District calculates that they now have a surplus of about 1,100 seats in the comprehensive high schools. They expect this surplus to grow to about 1,400 next year and to 1,800 in five years. Surely this indicates an excessive surplus that would recommend closing a comprehensive high school, wouldn't it? Yet the recommendation from the staff is to keep all of the comprehensive high schools open.

Third question: If this level of over-capacity would trigger the closure of elementary schools, K-8's or middle schools, shouldn't it also trigger the closure of a high school?


MoneyPenny said…
Charlie: I noted that the excess capacity was projected to be at less than a thousand in ten years, and that was without considering a single student who is currently in a safteynet program. Perhaps the difference is that high schools and elementary schools are not apples to apples. At the elementary school, you are not worried about drop outs. At the elmentary school, you are not worried about building a master schedule to ensure that all students can take required courses for graduation. Michael Tolley is one of the most impressive folks at SPS, and yes, I think he knows this area better than you, me, or any arm chair quarterback.
anonymous said…
Wow, so much going on.

Charlie is "geographic zone" a new word for "region"? TOPS current "region" spans 5 clusters. Their geographical tie breaker is "region". Distance doesn't play a role at all except for the small handful of set aside seats they offer to Lake Union families.

Or, does "geographic zone" literally mean how close you live to a school? In other words are TOPS and other alts moving to a "distance" tiebreaker just like neighborhood reference schools?

I'm OK with alt schools serving certain "regions", even if the regions shrink in size (for tran$portation purposes) but I wouldn't want to see alts enrollment based solely on distance to the school. That won't go over well in the alt community where one of the main guiding principles is to foster a diverse community, which in Seattle translates to an expanded draw.

Regarding Cleveland, where are my pom poms. I want to cheer! And, yes, I would consider sending my child to Cleveland under certain conditions.

First of all the "STEM" program would have to be established and sound, and I would have to determine that it was a high quality program with high quality teachers. If the district truly replicates the bio-tech program at Ballard, that would be FANTASTIC! And it would show the districts commitment to strengthening south end schools. It would be equitable.

Second, I would have to be assured that the principal and powers that be were committed to tackle, and eliminate, school violence, and any and all gang affiliation and gang activity.

I can't say enough how proud I am of this administration for finally rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done. Haven't we all been asking for south end schools to be "reinvented" for a long long time? Well, the district listened. This (Cleveland) is a huge opportunity! And it is in addition to 2 new international schools in the south end, a new science and math magnet (addams), a new IB high school (Sealth) in West Seattle, and the middle school split of APP reducing kids bus rides (convenience and $$$ savings). This administration is moving in the right direction, and though I have my beefs with many things, overall I am very pleased.
anonymous said…
And MoneyPenny brings up a good point, drop outs. If south end families have a viable HS choice in Cleveland, and the school is able to attract families that would have otherwise chose private school, the dropout rates will reduce, drastically. Same for Sealth.

Could that have been a consideration?
TechyMom said…
What about Option programs? Montessori, Language Immersion, IB, etc? These need to be handled separately from the neighborhood schools where they are housed.

JSIS should be an Option school.

Cleaveland with STEM... Maybe. Will it have traditional Math? I'd have to see how the safety issues currently at Cleaveland play out with it being an option school. I've got 10 years before I have to pick a HS, so I'll be watching this one.

So, um, with the huge bubble of kids entering elementary school now, we're predicting falling enrollments in high school? Ok, maybe in 5 years, but in 8 years enrollment should be up, right?

I don't want to see a distance tie-breaker at Option schools. Option schools are about teaching style, subject matter and fit, not about geography. I get that people who can see TOPS want to be able to go there, but so does everyone else. I could live with a compromise like the current 20% K thing at TOPS. If, however, geographic zone just means that people within a (large) boundary have preference, this seems similar to what we have now. Clusters are going away, so I assume this replaces the cluster draw areas. It doesn't need to be the same as the middle-school draw area, and probably shouldn't be.

Oh, and will there mandatory assignments to Option schools? Wasn't the reason for kicking out Summit to make it possible to do mandatory assignements to Jane Addams? Do we no longer need that?
Rose M said…
How is a math-focus school different from any other school when they use the same curriculum and follow the same daily pacing guide?
anonymous said…
Rose M, I asked the principal at Jane Addams, our new math and science school, the same exact question. All he could say was that on top of the mandated EDM curriculum and pacing guides, they were adding an extra 15 minutes a day of computational time for all kids at all grade levels.

Charlie Mas said…
I wouldn't put much faith in ten-year projections and I would caution anyone else from over-investing in them. The ten-year projections of five years ago predicted growing elementary enrollment in the south and shrinking elementary enrollment in the north.

The District promised us a data-driven policy or procedure for Capacity Management. If the excess high school capacity of this year, next year, and the next five years is not enough to trigger a closure, then what is? How is it hat less excess capacity in K-8 demanded closures and the this level of excess capacity in high schools does not?

While I acknowledge that constructing master schedules makes the administration of a high school trickier, these capacity numbers are driven by functional capacity, which takes schedules into consideration.

What has Michael Tolley done that is so impressive? We would all like to hear more about that. What significant improvement in our high schools is attributable to his work? Please tell us because we are thirsty for good news like that.

If MoneyPenny feels that, as an arm-chair quarterback, he or she has nothing of value to contribute, then I won't try to convince him or her otherwise.

The geographic zones will NOT function as attendance areas. No one will have either a default assignment to an option school nor a mandatory assignment to one. I understand that the geographic zones around the option schools will be much smaller than the attendance areas. And yes, they literally mean how close you live to the school.

So it would go like this: If there are more people who want to enroll at AS#1 than the school can accomodate, siblings of current students will be enrolled first. If there is any room left after that, students living in the geographic zone around the school will be enrolled. If there is any room after that, students will be selected for enrollment by lottery.

The lottery is done without regard to the student's home address. That isn't a factor in enrollment, but transportation will only be provided for students living within the transportation zone for the school. It has not yet been determined, but for AS#1 it is likely to be the service area for Eckstein.

The story will be the same for TOPS, ORCA, and all of the other Option schools. First the siblings, then the applicants living very close to the school, then a lottery of all other applicants regardless of address. For the K-5s and the K-8s, transportation is likely to be only for students living within one or two middle school service areas.

I didn't hear the workshop address option programs within schools, such as Montessori, but I do recall some portion of the access to immersion programs being reserved for option-type enrollment. I don't know if that option-type enrollment includes the use of geographic zones for those programs within schools. Mel was there longer than I was, so maybe she could speak to that.
seattle citizen said…
Cleveland as STEM: Yea! But what happens to the regular-ed population who goes there now? Since it wouldn't be a regular school, would students be assigned to it? If not, would they go to Beach? Sealth? What about students who don't WANT to go to a STEM school? (I'd imagine the number would be few, but still...)

My belief is that having regional alternative schools is a good idea. Ideally, a K-12 for each region, but if not, at least a K-8 for each region. This means that any student could have some chance of getting into an alternative, but it wouldn't have as much of a transportation issue. Also, if a student really wanted to go to some alt across town, they might get in on a lottery basis or some other basis, but have to provide their own transpo.
The disadvantage is that alts are different: no two are alike. So to have regional alts, you'd expect there to be some degree of similarity, for equity's sake (maybe the alt checklist could serve this function.)

On excess capacity, if they repurpose Cleveland to a STEM, this might serve to reduce capacity in the gen-ed high schools, but you still have the same amount of HS student...maybe some good work there, and at other schools, can increase the "market share" students and rebuild that 1000 student deficit?
Dorothy Neville said…
"I don't want to see a distance tie-breaker at Option schools. Option schools are about teaching style, subject matter and fit, not about geography. I get that people who can see TOPS want to be able to go there, but so does everyone else."

I don't want to see a sibling tie-breaker at Option schools. Option schools are about teaching style, subject matter and fit, not about who you are related to. I get that people who have older siblings at TOPS want to go, but so does everyone else.
Dorothy Neville said…
Charlie, the 1400 figure. One difference is that high schools are so much larger. Each high school is about 1400 kids. So wouldn't closing one make us way too close to full? I don't know. Is there a "best practices" for how close to capacity schools ought to run?
anonymous said…
closing smaller k-5's or k-8's with say, 200-400 students, is probably much easier than closing a comprehensive HS that could serve upwards of 1500 students or so.

That said, couldn't an under enrolled school be closed temporarily? What if RBHS closed and had their 300 or so students dispersed to neighboring HS's? The building could remain empty, but well maintained. Then, if there were a need for a new HS, the building would be ready and waiting, and the school could open and be "re-invented".
seattle citizen said…
adhoc, what's the "neighboring high school" to Beach if Cleveland is repurposed into an Option school?
anonymous said…
"Cleveland as STEM: Yea! But what happens to the regular-ed population who goes there now?"

Maybe it's modeled after Ballard High School's Bio-tech program which is an Academy within the school. Those students that are in the academy study bio-tech, and those that are not in the academy are in the general ed program.

Charlie, did they mention how the STEM will be configured? Is the entire school going to be STEM, or will it be an academy type model?
seattle citizen said…
Since it was included in the list of "option" schools, I assumed the entire school would be reconfigured to this.
anonymous said…
SC, Franklin maybe? Franklin is only a mile or two away from Beach and it is under enrolled too. There are only 300 or so students at Beach, I would think they could easily be accommodated between Cleveland and Franklin.
reader said…
Charlie, what happens if you enroll in an "option" school (or other school for that matter) and then move of the geographical zone after some amount of time at the "option" school? Do you get to stay enrolled? Do your siblings have priority because they are siblings even though you've moved away from the area where you had preference?
Maureen said…
Re Geographic Zones: So people who live close to 'option' schools will have a guaranteed spot at their 'attendance' area school AND first in line at the 'option' school?

I really don't like this. I want people to chose the 'option' schools because they value the program, not because the building is in a convenient location for them. Alt schools now face so much pressure from the District to standardize and do exactly what all the other schools are doing. They really need a population that supports the Mission of the school. I also think this violates the goal of SIMPLICITY that Tracy keeps repeating. Now, people will have to figure out if they are in a "Geographic Zone" or not and people will be treated differently depending on where they live.

If they are doing this to save on transportation costs, the Zones should be defined so that only people who could walk to the "Option" school, but can't walk to their "attendance area" school are included in the Zone. For TOPS this area is two square blocks. For Salmon Bay, the whole area N of 65th is in Loyal Heights and Whittier's walk zone, and the part S is in Adams zone--so I don't see it saving any transportation money there at all. It doesn't make sense to me to complicate the plan for savings of this (lack of) magnitude.

(As an aside, the Eastlake neighborhood families at TOPS who I have met are fabulous, but so are the SE cluster families, and NW...)

(Word Verification 'minetric'-- the science of measuring the tiny savings "Geographic Zones" will create.)
reader said…
I hope the geographic zone for Center School includes all of QA/Mag... since nobody's doing anything about the high school situation there. It's the least they could do. Probably not that many would choose it, but it would at least be an "option".
seattle citizen said…
Franklin is considerably further north of Beach...If Cleveland was ALL "option," there would be no south-end HS, really. North we have Ingraham at N. 130th, Franklin is only at about the equivilant of South 30th (McClelland)

Techymom makes a good point about how other programs are "options." My guess is that enrollment and transpo would be dependent on need: Montessori is not "necessary," so if some chooses it, and can get in, they might have to provide transpo...

Ideally, there would be programs such as this in each cluster?
anonymous said…
The other very interesting thing is that Adamms is named as an option school. That's a new one. I thought the district wanted Addams as a traditional neighborhood reference school so they could do mandatory assignments there. The NE needed the new school at Addams to alleviate the over crowding in the cluster. I sure hope Addams becomes a popular "option" school, because otherwise, the NE will remain in capacity H*ll.
Maureen said…
Dorothy says Option schools are about teaching style, subject matter and fit,

I see what you mean, but I think they are also about an overall culture that fits (or doesn't) families as a whole--not individual children in a family. I think the sibling tiebreaker makes sense for the current alt schools, and maybe for immersion, not for APP and maybe not Montessori?
reader said…
But Maureen, most people select TOPs because so many middle schools suck. It's not like they're picking TOPs because they care about some great alternative education. They're picking it because it isn't: Mercer, Meany, Mclure, Hamilton, or Aki. (Hamilton will now be off that list because it won't be an open choice for many families) People may have varying opinions of those schools... but they're so-so at best. You can pick very good... or you can pick so-so and/or "on the rise". I'd pick "good already" over "on the rise, might be ok depending" any day.
seattle citizen said…
APP would, I think, be considered differently: It is not an "option" school, per se, as the students who are in it are having special needs served. The the idea is that these students are very "bright", the top two (or three?) percentile, and as such are "special education" students: they have a need and the district meets the need.
So in that sense, I wouldn't see APP being an option school as much as a necessary program such as the various forms of Special Ed, teen parent, Safety Net, etc.
Dorothy Neville said…
"I see what you mean, but I think they are also about an overall culture that fits (or doesn't) families as a whole--not individual children in a family. I think the sibling tiebreaker makes sense for the current alt schools, and maybe for immersion, not for APP and maybe not Montessori?"

OK, Option school is about an overall culture that fits some families but not others. So two children from families that both equally value that sort of culture want to attend. Why should the one who just happens to have an older sibling there get in automatically while the other child must compete in a lottery?
reader said…
They're never going to get away with Addams as an "option" school. It's painfully obvious that there's going to be forced assignments there. How else will it be filled? Or at least, how else will it be filled any time soon. Nobody's going to choose that over Eckstein or Hamilton for middle school. It's too bad they did away with the Thornton Creek K-8 idea. That school already has lots of momentum, people would have stayed for middle school. Then, they could elliminate automatic assignment of TC grads to Salmon Bay, which already has lots of momentum too. Lots of people would then be happy to choose Salmon Bay. Now, the district is forced to convince people about this new Addams middle school thing... which may or may not be good... and in what year? It seems like a lose lose all the way around.
reader said…
Well, I guess Addams could be filled with a bunch of families that list it as their third or fourth or tenth choice. Perhaps it will get assigned that way.
ParentofThree said…
"There are only 300 or so students at Beach"

As of Oct 1, 2008 there are 453 students enrolled at RBHS, there were 361 enrolled as of Oct 1, 2007.
anonymous said…
SPS mom where are you getting your numbers from? I know you can look at 10 different docs and get 10 different numbers, so I'm curious. I used the districts most current first choice and assignment document. You can see it here:


Per this document, here are some startling figures for Cleveland, RBHS, and Franklin

Functional capacity: 928 total or 232 per grade.

9th gr students who chose Cleveland as their 1st choice in 2008: 81

9th gr students assigned in 2008: 116

Functional capacity: 1015, or 254 per grade

9th gr students who chose Beach as their 1st choice in 2008: 116

9th gr students assigned to beach: 33

Functional capacity: 1447 total, or 362 per grade.

9th gr students who chose Franklin as their 1st choice in 2008: 201

9th graders assigned in 2008: 294

All of these schools are grossly under enrolled. RBHS had a shocking 33 students assigned to 9th grade this year, and contrary to beliefs, their enrollment is declining (see the pdf that I linked above).
seattle citizen said…
Wow, an increase of 33 percent at Beach! Go, Beach!
Thanks for sharing that, SPSmom.
anonymous said…
Big oops!

9th graders that chose Beach as their first choice in 2008: 20, not 116 as I posted above.
TechyMom said…
Adams should be an attendance-area K8 school, like Madrona and Blaine. There's nothing special about it, and it needs to be full to relieve over-crowding at both the elementary and middle school level.

JSIS should be an Option school.

How will Spectrum assignment work?

Oh, and I disagree that no one "needs" Montessori. There are certain personality types who do much, much better in a self-directed and self-correcting environment like Montessori than they do in general ed classrooms. Just like there are for every other teching style.
ParentofThree said…
Info coming from the demographic summary reports posted for each school on the SPS website and was crossed referenced with their annual report. Also posted for each school, on SPS website.
seattle citizen said…
Demographic surveys, Rainier Beach:

The data below suggests that while first choice dropped, returning went up. Returning might not mean much, as this is highly variable due to students moving, dropping out etc. First choice suggests, perhaps, diminishing expectations of the school. Increase in total students might suggest more are being placed there; they might not have access to other HSs due to other enrollment capacities...

From 2008-09 survey:
Total students: 453
returning students: 68.6 %
First Choice: 13 %
From 2007-08 survey:
Total: 361
Returning: 66 %
First choice: 17 %
seattle citizen said…
Here's the story about Cleveland, from today's online edition:

Cleveland High's future in math, science?

Seattle Times staff and newswires


Cleveland High may become a magnet school for students throughout Seattle who would like to study science, math, technology and engineering.

Seattle Public Schools leaders on Wednesday proposed enhancing Cleveland's existing classes in those subjects, and infusing the math-science-engineering focus into all the school's subjects.

Under the proposal, Cleveland would become an "option" school under a new assignment plan that is under development. That means students would apply to attend, rather than be assigned because they live nearby.

District leaders said they hope to find outside support to help pay for the project. They also hope it would boost interest in Cleveland, which now is far from full. They mentioned the possibility of opening a biotechnology program there, too, modeled after one at Ballard High.

The School Board will be voting on various pieces of the new assignment plan starting this month and into the fall.

WV tell's us why the new tech school: it's FOROBI (wan kanobi)
anonymous said…
The question remains. Do you keep RBHS open when their total capacity is 1015, and their total student body (using SPSmom's figures) is 453?

In 2008, Beach had 254 seats available for 9th graders, yet only 20 students chose it as their first choice? It's not very popular.

The district obviously does not need the capacity that RBHS has to offer as they only assigned 33 students for 9th grade in 2008.

If Beach continues to enroll 33 students each year, in 3 more years, their total # of students will be 132 - In a building with a functional capacity of 1015!

They have double the district's average for suspensions, and 6 times the district's average for Expulsions. They have a reputation for violence and gang activity.

And all this is WITH the SE Initiative, added AP classes, extra busing, etc.

With all of this effort, Beach is still not a popular choice. Furthermore, Beach is geographically sandwiched right between two other under enrolled schools (Franklin and Cleveland) which could easily accomodate all of their students.

It seems to me that RBHS should be closed, even if temporarily. Or, reinvented in an effort to attract back the families who live in the neighborhood that are choosing other SPS schools or private schools.
TechyMom said…
What about Kimball? Aren't there some other small k-5 alt schools? Shouldn't these be option schools?
seattle citizen said…
Adhoc, not to be argumentative, but Beach is NOT "sandwiched betweeen" Franklin and Cleveland. Cleveland is in the 5500 block of the south. Beach is in the 9000 block, and far to the east. Franklin is far to the north.

It's the same, generally configuration as, say, Ingraham at 13000 block, and Hale and Ballard in 6500 blocks.

Your other points bear some conversation, but your insistence that Beach is somehow near the other schools, isn't born out by the geography.

WV: Is stingspu the truck that the Police use to haul around their instruments?
seattle citizen said…
Rainier Beach HS is in a particularly terrible part of town, yet a part of town that is home and hearth to many people. While the area has seen its share of trouble, trouble lurks everywhere, and does not hesitate to cross economic lines. My old HS was quite hoighty-toighty, yet I remember standing in the smoking area ( ! ) watching a young girl being carried out of the library, stabbed by a lonely boy who wanted her, and evidently thought he couldn't get her any other way. More recently, in a local middle school, two affluent young kids, eighth grade boy and girl, were caught in flagranto delecto in the boys room. Evidently, the big deal was for young girls to "perform" for young boys to be admitted to the elite circle. Crime? Yes.

There are all sorts of crime. Most of the crime around Rainier Avenue and Henderson occurs outside the school. The school itself, I'd posit, is a bastion of safety, an island of succor in the middle of a violent neighborhood.

Yet even other nieghborhoods suffer the curse of violence and evil: A mad man in South King County killed his whole family, in Ballard thirty years ago two young people, in "love", ran their car into the HS gym wall in a double suicide pact, and sixteen years ago a lovely young woman was killed by a drive-by. Standing outside the HS, she was innocent, murdered by "accident" by two young men, students themselves...

Rainier Beach suffers too much from the slings and arrows of injustice. its neighborhood is perhaps tougher, yes, but there are drugs everywhere, there is violence everywhere...Yesterday we see an article about a bar in Lake City where one can buy crack at any time of day or night. The bar is run by an ex-DEA agent, who evidently might have known this was going on the whole time.

Don't be too hard on Beach: it might be an island of peace in the middle of a violent world.
anonymous said…
Beach is 3 miles away from Cleveland, and 4 miles away from Franklin. That's pretty darn close, no matter how you slice, or compare it.

If middle school kids in Lake City can be bused up to Hamilton because there is no closer school that can accomodate them, and elementary APP kids can be bused from the north end to the central area, I think it totally appropriate for high school kids in Rainier Beach to bus 3 miles to Cleveland or 4 miles to Franklin. Don't you?

And, SC, perhaps you are right that RBHS is a "bastion of safety" in a horrid neighborhood, but evidently only 20 kids thought it safe or attractive enough to choose it last year. Twenty! That's not good news. And that's not enough students to make a thriving high school community.
Charlie Mas said…
There are accountability requirements in the Southeast Initiative that, in essence, say that if the school doesn't increase enrollment the District will close it.

Will they? Really? If they did, it would be the first display of accountability that we will have seen since the accountability mania started.
h2o girl said…
Charlie, perhaps that's one of the reasons the Southeast Initiative is listed as "not started."

seattle citizen said…
Adhoc, you make some valid points about RB. There are also those who think that it is improving.

My thought is, what happens when the choice system is modified to assignment to the neighborhood school? Then, the "first choice" issue would be largely moot: Students would routinely be assigned to RB. The impetus behind this change, I believe, is not only to improve transportation efficiency, but to require all schools be good.

The current system seems, to me, to create a situation where some schools get better, some get worse, merely at the notion of the families: They send students to whatever school they think is "better", and the neighborhood school suffers when they go.

With a more stable population, we can hope that the district will pay attention so as to make all schools worthwhile and productive. Some faith and effort goes a long way torwards changing perceptions.

WV, I've never tried smuffolo, but I hear it tastes like chicken.
anonymous said…

The new assignment plan guarantees access to ones neighborhood school. The families living closest to RBHS will be guaranteed access to RBHS. But, they already have this guaranteed access as RBHS is under enrolled and anyone who wants to go there can go there.

The new assignment plan will allow families who don't like their neighborhood school to opt out and choose another school, space permitting. The current assignment plan does the same thing.

The new assignment plan gives families more predictability. It works in favor of families that live near over crowed neighborhood schools (Eckstein, Garfield, Roosevelt, Ballard, Bryant, etc.) These families want a guarantee into their neighborhood school. They want predictability. They will get it.

The new assignment plan won't really make much of a difference in neighborhoods that have under enrolled schools. Their families already have guaranteed access. With the new plan they can still opt out and go to another school that has space for them. They will, with the new assignment plan, have the same exact choices as they have today.

Right now a family that lives near RBHS can easily get into Ingraham, Hale, Cleveland, Franklin, Sealth, West Seattle. They can't get into Ballard, Roosevelt or Garfield.
That won't change.

So, why would RBHS all of a sudden become popular with the new assignment plan?
ParentofThree said…
"It seems to me that RBHS should be closed"

But the district thinks that it should remain open, and I think we need to respect that decision and give them some credit for realizing that a school can always be closed, harder to reopen.
Central Mom said…
I completely support both sibling and geographic tiebreakers for option schools (although I note the geographic tiebreaker needs more definition and that it may differ from the current walk zone idea).

Want to see families abandon alt schools? Tell them that sibling preferences don't apply. Want to see neighborhoods fight to turn their alt schools into an assignment school because they want access to the facility in their neighborhood? I've lived through this one for a bunch of years and it was really unfortunate for both the community and the school.

Both tiebreaker items will create more advocates for the alt schools, which need all the advocates they can get in this current environment of not-entirely-supportive-of-alt-schools-at-the-district-level.

And neither tiebreaker will force families not in support of an alt school's culture to attend.
beansa said…
Does anyone know if, under the new assignment plan, we will still be able to list a first, second, third, etc., choice school?

Or do you just get to apply to one other school and if you don't get in you get your reference school?

I ask because I remember seeing something about a change to the way applications are processed - no longer re-processing lower-ranked choices as first choice if first choice isn't granted...
Well, there are a couple of other options to reducing high school capacity. One, from the Work Session, is for them to do a better job tracking the re-entry kids and make sure they get back to their high schools when appropriate (they mentioned this as a goal). Another is closing/moving Center School.

I know, I know. But look, it is pretty indefensible to lease space when we are closing schools and excess space at high schools. Would it mean the end of the program at Center? No, but yes, it would change but if they were at RBHS with a focus on performing arts some of what they do would continue. (And no one really knows what the City might do when they finally redo Seattle Center. They said Center School could stay but at what cost? The original move-in cost was $5M.)

Moving Center to a district space, preferably with another high school, plus getting more re-entry kids back to regular high schools would close that gap without the need to close a comprehensive.

(I still wonder how they will divey up the QA/Magnolia kids - what boundaries will determine which high school is "their" high school. I suspect the high schools may be Franklin, Ballard and Roosevelt but who knows?)
Maureen said…
Does anyone know if, under the new assignment plan, we will still be able to list a first, second, third, etc., choice school?

I don't know but from what Tracy said at the Ballard meeting, I got the impression that you could choose multiple 'option' schools, but if you didn't get in to your 1st choice and your 2nd choice filled in the 1st round,...too bad.

In other words, your choice order would matter (unlike now). This is how it worked about ten years ago (but then it applied for neighborhood schools as well as alts).
seattle citizen said…
ad hoc, you said it:

"over CROWED neighborhood schools (Eckstein, Garfield, Roosevelt, Ballard, Bryant, etc."

hee hee.

Seriously, tho', schools CAN be "over crowed": Reputation is amorphous. Needs differ. Over-CROWDED schools might be so because people just think, wow, I hear that's a good school, my kid is going there...

Maybe if we crowed about Beach's successes, supported needed changes, there would fewer crowds (and crowers) at other schools.
seattle citizen said…
and the INTENT of changes to assignment is partly to strengthen neighborhood schools. Even is people choose to try and go elsewhere, it seems the direction of the district is to bolster neighborhood attendance.
ParentofThree said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
"Over-CROWDED schools might be so because people just think, wow, I hear that's a good school, my kid is going there..."

True, but let's also remember that the schools that I listed (Eckstein, Garfield, Roosevelt, Ballard, Bryant) also receive some of the top test scores in the entire district. And the three high schools that I listed offer the largest array of AP classes and specialty programs (drama, jazz band, bio tech) in the district. When you look at other "hard to get into schools" you find the same high test score pattern (Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens, Whittier, North Beach, Center School, New School).

It appears to me that parents WANT high test scores, and want all the extras like AP, drama, art, jazz band. The schools that provide these things are popular. The schools that don't fall to the wayside.

I don't think simply changing the assignment plan is going to be enough to make RBHS a popular choice. Though I hope I'm wrong.
ParentofThree said…
"there are a couple of other options to reducing high school capacity"

It was made pretty clear at the workshop meeting that the district does not have excess capacity at the high school level. Hence the decision not to close, move or merge any (more) highschool programs. Seems that their goal to simply better utilize the seats they have open, not to take any more seats offline.
And honestly I am surprised by that decision, but very happy about it.
SPS Mom, were we at the same meeting? Because the chart I saw showed excess capacity for years to come. Nothing I heard made that go away with the exception of getting more re-entry kids back into their regular schools.

What did you hear or see that makes you think differently?
seattle citizen said…
"It appears to me that parents WANT high test scores, and want all the extras like AP, drama, art, jazz band. The schools that provide these things are popular. The schools that don't fall to the wayside."

Exactly. So a school that has some of these things attracts more students, so it gets more. The school that has fewer of these things loses students to those that have more, so it gets less. It's an equation for over-filling some schools while draining others.

Beach has fewer students partly because students (parents) hear the crowing going on about, say, Garfield. Students then choose Garfield. Beach gets fewer students, so it gets less money, so it gets fewer students, so it gets less money...

Yes, WV, my celestial, well-intentioned, contemplative thoughts and words evince a certain puriess.
TechyMom said…
This is probably a bad idea, but I'll throw it out there... What about moving Center School to Old Hay? I used to live near Old Hay. It's not far away from the Center (certainly closer than RB) and there's a direct Metro bus to the Center.

Or what about cohosing it with Seattle Centeal Community College? Central has a strong drama program and there are many arts organizations around broadway. Or move it to TT Minor.
anonymous said…
RBHS, would probably protest Center school moving to their building anyway. Just as they protested TAF moving into their building.

TAF would have been a way for RBHS to reinvent itself, and maybe even become one of the most popular high schools in the south end. But, even though TAF would have only utilized half of the school building, while the other half remained general ed, the RBHS community protested loud enough that they ran TAF out.

Now look at what they are left with. A 9th grade class of 33 students.
seattle citizen said…
adhoc, do you have ANYTHING positive to say about RBHS? It seems like you have it out for them. This is the third or fourth time you've shared the freshmen class number....

What do you like about RBHS?
seattle citizen said…
Not incidentally, Adhoc, the number of students in 9th grade is not a mere 33, but is in fact 128

anonymous said…

Per this district PDF, 33 kids were assigned to Beach this year, only 20 of those listed Beach as a first choice, unless I am reading it wrong. Please correct me if I am.
seattle citizen said…
"TAF would have been a way for RBHS to reinvent itself, and maybe even become one of the most popular high schools in the south end. But, even though TAF would have only utilized half of the school building, while the other half remained general ed, the RBHS community protested loud enough that they ran TAF out."

This is a contradictory statement. By your own words, these would have been separate programs. How would having TAF take up half its building make the RBHS part, the existing school, the most popular in the south end? These would have been two different programs, completely separate, as far as I can tell, and yet you indicate that somehow TAF would make RBHS great? Maybe the building...

And Center School is not TAF. We have no idea how RB would react. Center School is a SPS program, not an ancillary, private (non-profit) venture like TAF. Totally different animals.
anonymous said…
As for something positive about RBHS, Michael Rice!

He's a rock star teacher!
seattle citizen said…
I tried your link, but it didn't work. That's a link to the PI; mine's a link to the District survey. I'd believe the district survey.
anonymous said…
The document I looked at is a district document, in PDF form. the PI wrote an article on it and referenced the document. It is official too. Try the link again, I just did, and it works. if not, go back through the blog archives, Melissa or Charlie posted it a couple months ago too.
anonymous said…
Here's the link for where it was posted on this blog:


once on this page, click on historical data. The document was made by SPS enrollment planning.

And, sorry it was Beth Bakeman who posted it not Charlie or Melissa.
seattle citizen said…
So how does that correlate(or not) with the number on the Demo Survey? I'm confused...

I mean, if there were four classes of 33, that's 132 students total...
anonymous said…
As I've posted before, you can look at 10 different "official: district docs and get 10 different numbers. This particular doc was prepared by enrollment planning so I would think it accurate......but you know how that goes....
Maureen said…
ad hoc I think this is it?
Historical Enrollment

Maybe the problem is that it lists on time enrollments, and alot of the late enrollments are sent to RB? (See small print at the bottom of the pages)
Maureen said…
I think this is citizen's link:
RBHS Demographic Summary

It lists total 9th grade enrollment (2008-2009) as 128. I'm guessing about 95 of them enrolled late.
seattle citizen said…
Yes, Maureen, my guess is that the larger number (128) is from the October Count, the "official" count that is (was?) used to determine how many students, and hence how much money would be given.

WV's shorthand for some of the dialogue in here: confro
seattle citizen said…
Sure enough, it's the October 1st count, see line 6, below.
Here are all the stats on that Demo Survey PDF. Very interesting stuff. I find the 100 students transfering in interesting: why did they transfer in? From where (inside district or out?)
Note the 5.5 percent white population
Note the 65 percent FRL, which fifty percent more than the district average of 42 percent

Annual Reports
Seattle Public Schools
Rainier Beach High School
2008–09 Demographic Summary
Current Year (2008–09) Demographics Oct. 1, 2008
2007–2008 Final Demographics
Enrollment & Assignment
Total Enrollment 453
Returning Students 68.6%
First Choice 13.3%
Female 52.5% 238
Male 47.5% 215
Asian 23.6% 107
African American 56.3% 255
Hispanic 12.4% 56
Native American 2.2% 10
White 5.5% 25
Special Groups & Programs
Free or Reduced Lunch 64.5% 292
Not Living with Both Parents 63.6% 288
Non-English Speaker 27.8% 126
Bilingual Eligible & Served 14.1% 64
Bilingual Eligible 17.0% 77
Special Education
Total Special Ed. 13.9% 63
Level 2 34.9% 22
Level 3 42.9% 27
Level 4a 20.6% 13
Therapy 1.6% 1
Grade 9 28.3% 128
Grade 10 20.5% 93
Grade 11 24.3% 110
Grade 12 26.9% 122
Total Enrollment During Year 497
Average Monthly Enrollment 374
Attendance 76.4%
Total Transfers 200
Transfers In 121
Transfers Out 118
seattle citizen said…
I wonder what percentage of students, overall, list "first choice" on enrollment at all: do some just take whatever comes their way? I suspect that the more knowledgable the parents, the more apt to list choices.
Maureen said…
Interesting (to me at least!) if you compare the same two numbers for Garfield (468 assigned, 460 enrolled) it looks like no one who enrolled late got in there.

It seems to me (we did the HS forms last year) that you have to list some school if you go through the regular process, and that would be your first choice. I think that as long as you are enrolled in a Seattle M.S. or K-8, they have a counselor or teacher walk through the process with the kids (of course that doesn't mean the forms actually get mailed in). I don't know if there are kids who just show up at a building on the first day and ask to be enrolled, I expect there are.
TechyMom said…
If the district needs the space at Latona for a neighborhood school, they should move JSIS to a central location, make it an Option school, and put a neighborhood school at Latona. TT Minor and Madrona jump to mind as good locations. Gazert might work, since the EBOC is moving there. There are probably others further south.
Techy, I would concur with your idea. I totally understand that every neighborhood needs a neighborhood school. But they created (at the time) a one-of-kind, very popular program and then called it a reference school which made it difficult for anyone outside that area to get in. Again, I have no idea why the district does these things. (I'm sure they probably didn't know how popular JSIS would be but if you put a speciality program in a school, yes, more people tend to get interested.)

If the international schools are so popular, they should be Option schools. (But, JSIS has a nice building and, if the district were to move them, I'm sure they would be upset.)
TechyMom said…
Madrona is a nice building :-)
Central Mom said…
I am chuckling because the JSIS thing is exactly what I was referencing during the suggestion period during the closure process. Despite its seeming complexity, it was actually not that complicated and hindsight shows more families (though certainly not all families) could have been satisfied. But it was too complicated for district staff and families to digest, I guess. Parts of it still make sense, though.
>>JSIS cohort to the bigger Lowell building. Status changed to Option school. More students able to enroll.
>>Former JSIS home (Latona) becomes regular program and enrolls Montlake too.
>>Outdated Montlake facility closes.
>>TT Minor stayed open
>>APP to Old Hay, which is a shorter trip for many of the North Enders. Other half of Old Hay used for predicted QA/Mag regular enrollment growth.
>>SBOC still to Meany. Accompanied by its promised facilities funds.
TechyMom said…
Mine's simpler (so there ;-)
Move JSIS to Madrona as an Option school, and grow it to a K8 over 3 years
Disperse Madrona students to their neighborhood schools
Make Latona a neighborhood school

Add an IB program at Cleveland or Franklin, and you've got a centrally-located International K-12 Option School pathway, no more step 5 Madrona, and room for neighborhood kids in Wallingford.
Central Mom said…
Yup, yours is simpler for sure.

Madrona will change now or later and sure wish it were now. The problem w/ JSIS there is that it would really really displace the current cohort geographically (since most of the current cohort is neighborhood-based), while Lowell would have been a much more minimal move. I think the District might have been able to sell the Lowell location, but I seriously doubt it would attempt Madrona.

Lowell also remains a better central location for multi-cluster busing than Madrona.
seattle citizen said…
I know the district has said it won't open closed buildings, but there are two in the Greenlake area:
Macdonald at 54th and Latona;
John Marshall on Ravenna Blvd and 66th

Macdonald is a bit small, but bigger than Montlake. Marshall is quite large, but currently lacks a cafeteria (but if food is centrally prepared...) In the cafeteria space is a fine auditorium with stage (and there used to be a good sound system and lighting, if it's still there).
Marshall lacks an elevator for its three floors, alas.
dj said…
The number of families putting Madrona as a first choice has been steadily declining over the past five years. Huge segments of the surrounding neighborhood simply will not use it in its current form. Certainly it would be nice to do something to make the school more attractive when the district changes the assignment plan, and it seems to me that a school with steadily declining numbers of families choosing it, but with a nice facility, would benefit from some district dedication to improving its programming.

A better neighborhood school program? A more specialized program? Frankly I'd take either.

Just as an aside, I think it does make sense to have sibling preferences. It's difficult enough to be as involved as you'd like with one elementary school.
reader said…
Just because RBHS didn't want TAF, which came with a lot of private overhead, doesn't mean it won't want a merger with the Center School. I'm not sure if they would or would not. The TAF thing was completely different complete with it's own requirements. I can't see that many schools wanting to participate. The Center School is simply another public school.
anonymous said…
Tacoma accepted TAF, with all it's "private overhead", and TAF is doing very well there. It's been a huge success. I feel like SPS, the south end communities, and RBHS lost out when they ran TAF out.

Maybe RBHS will accept Center School, but I doubt it. They are both public schools, but serve very different communities. We'll see...
ParentofThree said…
Adhoc, you stated, "Maybe RBHS will accept Center School, but I doubt it."

I was under the impression from the presentation that the two schools will not merge, do you have additional information and if so any idea when this will be made official? Several of us have middle schoolers and will be looking for highschools this fall and it would be good to have solid information going into this process.
SPS, as I stated previously, there has been no specific district talk about Center School moving or closing that has been made public since the last round of closures.

At that time, the Superintendent made it clear that the high school capacity still needs to be addressed. However, at this last Board Work Session they said "keep all high schools open" but had a chart that showed, for this year, 1,186 extra high school seats with the trend continuing (albeit their call 10 years out is only 714).

I'm not getting this sudden "keep all high schools open" given their drumbeat of "too many schools for too few students". I also don't know how, if they closed schools, they can afford to continue to lease space for a very small school (Center School) that does not really address the problem it had been created to solve. It seems a little disrespectful to schools that closed to say we can afford that luxury. (And yes, the district could get out of the lease if they wanted to.)

So, maybe the issue has changed for district administration (and that's a fast turnaround)but it would make sense to consolidate Center School into another building (doesn't have to be RBHS) with another program (they are doing it for NOVA and Secondary BOC so it wouldn't be something new).

Ask your Board member, e-mail Michael Tolley (high school director) and ask them. Keep in mind that Board members don't always know what staff is thinking and, of course, staff thinking can turn on a dime.
anonymous said…
No, SPSmom, I don't have any information that suggests Center will be moved. I don't want any rumors to get started. I was simply adding to what Melissa suggested in an earlier post, which was co-housing Center with another HS. It seemed like a reasonable suggestion given that Center is so small. And they lease their space at Seattle Center while SPS has plenty of excess space in nearby (under enrolled) high schools
Maureen said…
A friend just forwarded the below email to me re. The Center School, so they don't seem to be moving:

Date: Sat, 11 Apr 2009 19:12:36 -0700
Subject: Center School Special Blast: Good News About The Center School!
From: TCS CSCA centerschoolcsca@gmail.com
To: centerschoolcsca@gmail.com

After months of speculation, rumors and anxiety over TCS closing, moving or merging with Rainier Beach ....

Merging the Center School with Rainier Beach High School is no longer under consideration. The Seattle School District recently presented their high school capacity proposal to the Seattle School Board, in which the District states that it will not move to close or relocate any high school. The School Board supports this decision. In addition, Cleveland High will become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school and will most likely have the same "school category" as Center and Nova. The proposal is to call these high schools, "Option" schools," meaning that students select the school versus being assigned to the school.

You can read the complete proposal at:

In support of Principal Escobar and her great team of teachers, the CSCA can now begin proactive efforts to help move Center forward. However, we need additional support from Center School parents to make this happen. Please contact centerschoolvoice@gmail.com for more information on how you can help.

We are all looking forward to a great future at The Center School!

anonymous said…
I thought the proposal said they would not move, merge or close any comprehensive high school?
brown206 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said…
Hey Charlie,

If the directors actually accept the Discovering Math series, there will be even more empty seats in high school.

Bishop Blanchet High School may need an expansion program. Do the directors have a clue as to why Seattle has one of the highest private school attendance rates in the country?
Apparently not.


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