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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Have You Read the Assignment Plan Document Yet?

Charlie, in his most recent post, susses out some of the nuances of the final assignment plan to be introduced at this week's Board meeting. Consider this an open thread on the plan; what do you see (or not see) that could be problematic? What are you happy about?

Here are Charlie's thoughts (the bold-faced is mine so key areas are highlighted):

"Regarding the New Student Assignment Plan, the Action Report states: "It is assumed that a majority of students will attend the school designated by their home address." Really? Is that what our current data shows?

I see that The Center School and South Shore K-8 (formerly The New School) will both be classified as Option Schools. This throws enrollment at them open to all students throughout the city equally - except for those residing in the narrowly defined geographic zone around the school building.
Cleveland's status - as an Option school or an attendance area school - is to be determined later by the Board. Yet another sign of the Board defending their area of authority from the staff.

I notice that: "All of the programmatic changes, including service delivery changes for advanced learning, bilingual, and special education services, will not be in place for the first year of implementation. Many of these changes will be implemented over a period of several years."

I think that will apply most to Special Education, but this statement will also be used as cover for advanced learning and bilingual.

Look for the Facilities Management Plan, due in the fall of 2009, to include some language about setting capacity to meet demand for these services as well as general education services. I know that Special education families will be looking for that language, but north-end Spectrum families should look for it too.

The transition story on siblings is interesting.

"Entering siblings of current students are not 'grandfathered' but are eligible for the sibling tiebreaker, which is the first tiebreaker for available seats after assignment of attendance area students. The sibling tiebreaker is applicable for assignment to a school, but not for assignment to a specific program within a school."

So if the Bryant attendance area is drawn around your house and you have a second-grader at Laurelhurst, that student can continue at Laurelhurst through the fifth grade. A younger sibling, however, can only get into Laurelhurst if the school is not filled with Laurelhurst attendance area children. So it will go: attendance area, then siblings, then everybody else.

Neighborhood students will take precedence over siblings.

Another interesting point that has not been talked about much:
Neither service area nor distance will be factors AT ALL. So a non-sibling student from Rainier Beach has just as much chance of getting into Laurelhurst as a non-sibling student who lives across the street from the attendance area boundary line. Students living in the service area will get transportation while the long-distance student will not, but geography will have no role in assignment.

I think this could be a big deal if some of the schools don't fill up with neighborhood students.

Note that: "After all Open Enrollment applications have been processed, students may apply to attend any attendance area school with space available during a designated time period. Deadlines for Open Enrollment, waiting list assignments, and 'real time' reassignments to space available will be published annually."

So after Open Enrollment the District will publish a list of "space available". What then? First come, first served? It will be like a land rush!

There is specific mention of Jane Addams. It is shown as an attendance area K-8, but: "Based on continued enrollment growth in the Northeast area, the School Board may reconsider its November 2008 determination that the Jane Addams building should house a K-8 rather than comprehensive 6-8 middle school, and if additional elementary capacity must be created to accommodate the present and anticipated K-5 population. This issue would be addressed by separate School Board Action, considering capacity management and capital levy planning activities."

The Student Assignment Plan dictates that: "ALO will be offered in every elementary school, and is available to all students enrolled in the school." The District is making one of two mistakes here. They are either biting off more than they can chew or they are going to re-define ALO into meaningless mush.

I didn't see any discussion of how they will provide equitable access to the international schools.

104 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

So, if Center School is an Option School, does that mean it's NOT a comprehensive high school? (Personally , I don't consider it one since it has limited offerings due to its small size and specialty courses). But the determination is very important for its future. Up until recently, I think it was considered a comprehensive school as it has never had official alternative status like NOVA or Summit.

The District has promised it won't close a COMPREHENSIVE high school next year, but still has some serious capacity issues in unpopular schools (esp in the southend and West Seattle). By designating TCS an Option School, do they open it up to the possibility of closure? Or, is the "option" status ONLY about assignment? Is NOVA an Option School? Do they still have "alternative" schools?

Semantics is everything here. Does the new SAP give definitions of "option" schools? South Shore used to be a neighborhood school and very alternative in it's delivery. Now it's an option (sort of all-city draw??). What about TOPS?

WV: DEVIESS...what this plan seems to be?

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Center School was a "non-traditional" school. It was never comprehensive because it wasn't big enough to have the offerings and didn't have sports. Somehow the district had this classification "non-traditional/alternative" which go missed a lot.

I still have to read through but I think everything non-traditional is an option. Option status is about assignment (and, I hope, not about who might get closed).

I am quite surprised about South Shore as they had in their MOU that they would be able to somewhat guarantee that they served kids from that neighborhood. So that's a puzzle.

SolvayGirl said...

Thanks for the clarification Melissa. I questioned TCS's status because at the tour this January, Principal Lisa Eskobar used the fact that the District said it would not close a comprehensive high school as an indication that TCS was out of the closure sights. She also stated the terms of the lease between SPS and the City were that the space had to be used for an arts-based HS (which may have more of a shot of keeping TCS safe from closure than anything else). Neither truly reassured me.

Moose said...

Personally, I was surprised that middle school kids would be transported via Metro. To be clear, I am talking about general ed kids who opt to go to a middle school outside of their service area. (Yellow bus service is still being provided to kids who need services that they can’t get in their neighborhood service area and for APP.)

Right now however, the new plan is for those general ed kids going to a "choice" middle school or going out of their service area for a traditional program (i.e. a Ballard resident going to Eckstein rather than Whitman) to be transported via Metro bus service.

This surprised me for the obvious fact that having middle schoolers on Metro (many would likely need to transfer, right?) seems like a less than perfect solution. Because of brain physiology and development starting right about sixth grade, many kids at this age don’t always make the best of choices. And then there is the safety factor…the PI recently reported an increase in violence on buses. (Here's a link; I don't know how to do fancy hyperlinks: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/406020_metro10.html). I wouldn’t put my sixth grader on a Metro bus, but maybe that’s just me.

It also surprised me because the stated intent of the assignment plan is to go to a neighborhood service model, and to reduce transportation costs. I also heard Michael DeBell state that the unintended consequence of the current system is that some parts of the city are over-enrolled, while others are emptied out. But providing a Metro bus pass (though admittedly cheaper than yellow bus service) does neither.

zb said...

I read through it, and it's what I was looking for, attendance area schools, to which one is guaranteed admission (in an entry grade now, but hopefully eventually everywhere), plus choice spots if schools aren't filled, plus option schools.

I think grandfathering siblings would have seriously slowed the process, and am glad to see it not there. I see some inequitable situations -- a family in the bryant "attnedance" area, whose elder child was assigned to john rogers being unable to find a slot in either school for both their children.

I'm also wondering what they'll do for assignments to children who move into/enter the district (either from private or home schooing) in a non-entry grade. Did anyone find info on this in the document? For example, a homeschooler who decides they want to go to 3rd grade in their attendance area school?

zb said...

Moose, you shouldn't find the metro bus plan that surprising, because the goal is not to provide easy transportation to option/traditional non-attendance programs. Would you be less surprised if the school district had just said no transportation offered for middle-school students in non-attendance area schoosl?

zb said...

I think parsing statements like "we won't close any *comprehensive* highschools" as tough they were a legal promise is foolish. Comprehensive doesn't have a definition, and saying that doesn't prevent the school from closing any particular school, especially one like Center.

I personally would not be surprised to see a push for closing central whe they draw the assignment boundaries for high schools, if they decide there's excess capacity. I think Nova is a little bit more immune, because it will be in a district building & is more "obviously alternative" in teaching style. But, it might end up depending on which is perceived as underenrolled or which is more expensive (assuming that there is excess capacity).

nacmom said...

Following up on Charlie's comments:

Yes, #1 attendance area, #2 siblings. interesting that is is very hard to determine this ordering as siblings are listed #1. HUH? Oh, "after attendance areas students are assigned"...(head scratch)

Current plan:
1) sibs
2) ref area
3) program preferences
4) distance
etc...

New plan:
1) siblings
2)lottery

where's the attendance area? OH, well, it's really:

True new plan:
1) attendance area
2) siblings
3) lottery

Why not just tell it like it is?

Funny you should ask. Turns out, in the board approved framework for the new SAP, from 6/2007: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/newassign/app_framework.pdf, the following curious language appears:

"Sibling priority is currently applied as the first tiebreaker for assignment to every type and level of school. There are valid reasons for this. For example, sibling priority supports family engagement, allowing families to be involved with fewer schools; and allows families and schools to build long term relationships. In addition, transportation can be provided more efficiently.

• Sibling priority would be continued as is in the revised Student Assignment Plan. "

At the 5/19 work session, the board and Dr. Libros decided to strike the words "sibling priority" from draft 2, as it (paraphrase) "no longer exists, they are simply a tiebreaker".

Hence, the curious absence of attendance area as #1 and the subsequent striking of the words priority. Also, the first paragraph above, appeared in draft #1, but was gone from draft #2.

Anyone know if the board is bound to the framework?

I realize I may have actually been the ONLY person who did this, but I actually read this framework in spring of 2007 while I was deciding whether or not to place one of my children at a school that is not a our reference area (she qualified for a program not at our ref. school). I was reassured that her younger sibs would be able to gain entry at K, and, off she went.

Listen, I realize this is not an easy problem to solve and due to insufficient capacity, the plan currently sets up an either/or - attendance area OR siblings? REALLY? We can't do better than that?

How about grandfathering those families curently enrolled, and promised, via this framework doc, that sib priority would continue/ Yes, I absolutley realize this will delay full implementation and require a longer phase in/transition period. But this "sibling problem" is better termed "our currently enrolled families compromise" . These SIBLINGS are our families. Hundreds, thousands of them. Families.

I am on my 2nd year of 3 kids in 3 schools, and it is a grind. Not good for the kids, family or the schools - really!!, and it was my choice. For most families, this would not be do-able, not sustainable and for most, this will be a surprise, and will result in outrage.

Be patient, phase it in, phase out transporation, etc on a reasonable timeline.

Also, this plan needs to be more clear. A lot of people think #1 means #1, not #2.

Anonymous said...

nacmom said: "How about grandfathering those families curently enrolled, and promised, via this framework doc, that sib priority would continue/ Yes, I absolutley realize this will delay full implementation and require a longer phase in/transition period. But this "sibling problem" is better termed "our currently enrolled families compromise" ."

I totally agree, and our family is not (currently/likely) affected by this change. Yes, it would take time to flush siblings through the system, but it's only fair.

To do otherwise would be adding yet again to the growing set of broken promises to parents.

suep. said...

Re: Center School. Michael DeBell recently told a group of QA/Magnolia parents
that the lease arrangement the school has at Center House is actually a great deal for SPS -- $80,000/year is cheaper than the cost of running a standard SPS school bldg.

But he also said Center wanted to grow, and implied it would need a new space for that. Lincoln came up as a future possibility for that (somewhat surprisingly, since the school would lose its proximity to the theaters if it moved that far). He said Center could NOT be QA/Mag’s reference HS school because it is an Option school.

He seemed supportive of the school.

He also said the idea to move Center to Rainier Beach had been shelved. He said that Supt. Goodloe-Johnson and admin. mistakenly thought it was purely an arts school, when in fact it has a strong science/math? component as well.

This seemed to reveal that Supt.G-J and admin staff (& Board?) are not necessarily familiar with all the different schools (yet are willing to move/close/change them anyway -- something many of us have concluded the hard way).

(One of the potential problems with an out of town Superintendent who doesn't know the local community and schools.)

I would recommend that anyone whose school is ever threatened by closure or drastic change be assertive in informing the Board Members and District and media all about their specific school and not assume the District knows anything at all about the value, strengths and basic purpose of our schools.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I am having a difficult time seeing the new assignment plan as a substantial improvement over the current system. Somebody help me!

suep. said...

I should add that even though DeBell seems to support Center School, there are numerous indications that Goodloe-Johnson does not value or support any alternative or 'non-traditional' schools, even if they are performing well academically or are serving a deeper, crucial need of their students -- to wit, her decision to summarily abolish Summit, uproot NOVA and place it in an unsafe building (Meany), her threat to close AS1, and the split of APP. So I think it's a good bet Center is at risk in her grand schemes, unfortunately, and should be prepared.

The Spruiters said...

If this plan is supposed to be built around the middle school service areas, how can the maps be drawn without a decision about Jane Addams (as a K-8 or a comprehensive middle school)? We live in the far north end - with no comprehensive middle school nearby. If Jane Addams becomes a comprehensive middle school, it would certainly be our service area. If not, we'd be in either Eckstein or Hamilton. Each middle service area would give us a considerably different selection of schools to choose from (assuming there is any real choice at all anymore).

Anonymous said...

The Spruiters said "If this plan is supposed to be built around the middle school service areas, how can the maps be drawn without a decision about Jane Addams (as a K-8 or a comprehensive middle school)? "

A good question.

Anyone else think as the SAP started 'hardening', it pushed the JA issue forward sooner than originally anticipated?

It seems pretty clear that the panic of wrapping up the closures and moves in time for enrollment took a HUGE amount of the staff's time and focus over the past few months. Away from the SAP.

So now they're back to focusing on the SAP and realize that they really screwed things up with JA. What's the best thing to do at this point? Panic? Announce an immediate reversal? Wow, think of the pissed off parents. Announce a change in the works for 2 or 3 or 4 years from now? Can't do that, you'd have pissed parents AND a school that would wither away over the next couple years to nothing. Start asking around for ideas from other staff and principals? Hey, there's a good idea, but now the word starts leaking before you even know what likely scenarios are possible, let alone what the final proposed solution will be!

This is of course just speculation, but am I alone in thinking this is how it went down?

Major screw up.

TechyMom said...

Still no real discussion of specialized programs that don't fill a whole building. It's not covered at all for k-8. How will Montessori and language immersion be handled? Are they only available to people who happen to live near the building that houses them? These should be treated as separate option schools (as Montessori is now). For high school, they've made the wrong decision here. First you get assigned to a school based on address, then you have to apply to specialized programs. Again, these should be treated as separate option schools.

Also no metion of APP or Spectrum. Advanced learning will be available at most attendance area schools? It would be great if every school offered "walk to math" sorts of services. However, that's not going to be enough for a lot of kids. Will there still be APP? Will every kid who tests in be guarenteed a place? What about Spectrum? Will there be enough Spectrum seats in every service area? Will kids be guarenteed a spot in Spectrum?

I'm ok with the address trumps all. It goes against my insticts, but I can see the value of its simplicity. However, I think it only works if attendance areas are drawn such that there are about 10% of seats left over for choice. That would also make things work out for most siblings during the transition period. I don't know if this can be done in the north end, but I think it's vital to the success of the system. It will probably require opening a building or two. It might also work to draw the service areas so they reach across current cluster boundaries, pushing south and west and north. For example, if some part of the Stevens and Montlake reference areas were moved to Lowell and McGilvra (or a reopened TT Minor), perhaps the Stevens or Montlake attendance areas could include the southern part of the U district. I doubt that will be enough in the long run, however, and they'll need to open McDonald or Sand Point or University Heights.

anonymous said...

Yes, the proposal to change addams from a k-8 to 6-8 was definitely driven by the new SAP. As they begin to draw the boundaries they see that there is not enough MS capacity in the NE.

The problem is they have already made JA a k-8 and enrolled over 300 families. So, what now?

I say make it a 6-8 this year, or else trash the idea and commit to leaving it a k-8. Don't procrastinate and beat around the bush. 300 kids education is at stake. Make a decision and stand by it.....for once.

Shannon said...

I am concerned that for the initial period the area school will only guarantee admission to entry grade children (someone else posted this).

How does that tie in with the promise that while siblings are not grandfathered into current schools they can all attend the 'neighborhood' school?

I am still quite opposed to any push on the grandfathering kids because I have seen the other side of the equation from new families. Sure, many current SPS families will be affected what a mess if capacity is insufficient to implement the system due to sibling numbers and this whole things drags on and on.

If the cornerstone of the system is kids going to neighborhood schools (all of them not in choice schools if possible) then they need to get there quickly.

zb said...

As I've said, I like the assignment plan, and to answer Jon Calcogno's question, what I like about it is the predictability. I found the unpredictability of the old system deeply troubling. In addition, one of the deepest attractions for me in the public school system was a *neighborhood* school, where my children would go to school with our neighbors. But, when I talked to others before making our decisions, I was told, don't do it for that reason -- because too many other people could be non-neighborhood. I'm not trying to avoid non-neighbors, but my desire in a neighborhood school was that my kid's peer group would be people we would also see walking in the neighborhood, and in the park, and at the extra-curricular activities.

I think people are raising three issues that should be addressed by the board, and that parent's input might produce different outcomes:

1) Sibling grandfathering. I'm against it, because I'd like to see a more rapid move to a neighborhood school, but I was surprised about its inclusion, because I also thought the district had said that sibling assignment would be included in the new assignment plan. And, though I disagree, I can see the arguments in favor of the sibling assignments. Those of you in favor should definitely advocate for this.

2) I like the idea of 10% choice slots that could be used by siblings during the transition period, but would be phased out. They're planning on choice slots for highs schools, but not MS, and K-5. But, remember 10% is pretty small. And, I'd annoy most of the commenters here by making those choice slots available based on an economic tie breaker.

3) I agree that they haven't addressed the special programs housed inside schools. I think they do plan that the accident of placement would determine access to these programs (as it does with the international schools). I think they'll apply the same rule to Montessori, and other "voluntary" programs. They'll treat spectrum/APP differently (because they'll fall in agray area as a "special need'). And, they state in several places that special needs programs will still exist (even in the inclusion model). I wouldn't be shocked if I saw a move away from self-contained spectrum in favor of ALOs. I'd also guess that you should expect "voluntary" special programs in schools that have capacity for them.

Charlie Mas said...

Shannon raises an incredibly important point: the option to have an OLDER sibling join an entry grade student at the attendance area school could be very hard to accomodate.

Let's say you have two kids, one who entered kindergarten in 2007 and now in 1st grade, and one that will enter kindergarten in 2010. Let's say that you live in the reference area of a popular school (Bryant, View Ridge, JSIS, McGilvra) but not close enough to the building to get in. So your first grader is now at another school.

Fast forward a year. Now let's say that under the new SAP your home, once again, falls within the attendance area of the popular school. Your 2010 incoming kindergartener would be guaranteed a seat at the school.

Not only that, but the older sibling, now at another school, would also be guaranteed a seat in the third grade of your popular attendance area school.

How are they going to squeeze your older child into an already full third grade?

Charlie Mas said...

Also, as TechyMom pointed out: where is the discussion for how they will handle the enrollment of specialized programs?

How will Montessori program enrollment be done? How will they create equitable access?

How will international program enrollment be done? How will they create equitable access?

They say that all of the elementary schools will have ALOs, but does that include the Option schools and the K-8's? Does it include the international schools? Does it inclue the Montessoris?

Why is it crtical for all of the elementary schools to offer ALOs but not at all necessary for any of the middle schools to offer ALOs?

What assurance will there be that Spectrum capacity will match the demand?

What quality assurance will there be? There is a grave disparity of quality between Spectrum programs and ALOs. Some of them are not much of a program - if anything at all. Is it equitable access if the programs are not equitable?

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

Seeing I havent read the new plan in its entirety, I might be showing my ignorance and lack of understanding here, but ...

It sems to me that under this new plan, it will take years of current students streaming through the system before boundary changes and transportation savings become a reality...

If you wanted to be real about all this change (otherwise why bother and inflict all of this uncertainty on us all), why wouldnt kids already ensconced at one school need to be shipped back to what will be their new 'home' schools, no matter what grade they are in?

That would solve the problem of sibling attendance - 3rd graders could probably join their kindergarten siblings in the new home school, because logically non-neighbourhood kids would be moved out of the school at whatever grade they're at...

A huge game of musical chairs in the first year, but you ought to get stability plus the savings from year two onwards and everyone in the district gets to share the 'pain'....

I'm not advocating this as a plan - I'm just saying that if SPS was serious about saving money and being fair to all students, this would be one way to do that!

And of course, underlying my thinking is complete faith in the District that along with such a drastic change comes the resources and money and support to ensure that all schools, whatever style, whatever location, are fully functioning and giving each of their students the highest quality education available in the western world!!!!!

Charlie Mas said...

Where is the discussion of how many seats will they leave open at every school for students who miss Open Enrollment?

After open enrollment closes and they announce the "space available" at each school, there will be a land rush for any seats deemed "available".

Here's what the draft document says:
"Any student requesting assignment to an attendance area school other than the designated attendance area school must submit an application during the annual Open Enrollment period. If more students request a school than can be accommodated, tiebreakers will determine assignments. Applicants not assigned will be placed on an ordered waiting list based on the same tiebreakers used to make assignments.

After all Open Enrollment applications have been processed, students may apply to attend any attendance area school with space available during a designated time period. Deadlines for Open Enrollment, waiting list assignments, and 'real time' reassignments to space available will be published annually.
"

The attendance areas will be drawn to capture approximately the number of students that can fit in the building, but the District has to be ready for students to come out of private schools or home schooling. So there should be some open space at every school. How many of those open spaces will they leave open for people moving into the neighborhood? How will they decide who gets the ones they allow to be filled?

Seriously, it sounds like it's going to be a land rush.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I often wonder if staff does a lot of forecasting, on paper and with computer-generated data, about scenarios for the SAP. I trust Tracy Libros but here we are extrapolating out what might happen under different scenarios and there are long-term ramifications. Charlie is especially right in seeing the land rush problem after Open Enrollment ends.

I just think that the district's bottom line sometimes clouds their ability to see the problems that will come our way. It can't always be about money.

Sue said...

Sahila In anser to your question/suggestion about having all kids change enrollment to their attendance area school in one year, that was proposed by Raj Manhas a few years ago, and the uproar from parents was more immense than anything I have ever seen in my 10+ years in Seattle Public Schools. So, I see the point of your suggestion (and I remember Raj's propsal let students grade 3 and up stay in their school), but, am just letting you know the reaction when it was tried in the past may be why it is not being proposed now.

SolvayGirl said...

Melissa said...

"I just think that the district's bottom line sometimes clouds their ability to see the problems that will come our way. It can't always be about money."

And there's the rub. Sometimes what they do clouded by incompetency. Other times, it's just them not putting themselves in the shoes of the students/families they are trying to serve. And as noted many times on this blog, serving one population can mean chaos for another.

Now...let's all go outside!

Phernie said...

Sahila, I mentioned the same thing over at Harium's blog. Hey, why don't we just force-assign all students to their new assignment school and forget about grandfathering students in their current school?! That would sure speed things up!

I think this would be just as chaotic to many families as not grandfathering in siblings is going to do.

My child attends our reference school now, but I think we have about a 50/50 chance of remaining in this school's assignment zone once boundaries are redrawn. When my youngest enters K in 2010 we could A)get lucky and stay in the same assignment zone, B)get drawn into a different school's assignment area but youngest gets into older sib's school on a tiebreaker (not likely, and we wouldn't know until spring 2010), or C)my kids are assigned to different schools in different directions. Maybe I could get older sib into younger sib's school. Maybe not.

How is this situation good for children or families? I'm already stressing over this, and youngest won't go to K for over a year!

I wish we could get a sneak peek at the boundaries they're considering since I think that will make all the difference for many families in our situation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm going to try to cross-reference some things that were said at the last Work Session with the newest draft. These might seem random but I'm just going to go straight thru my notes.

Part 1

-It was made clear that the transition plan would come AFTER the Phase I SAP is approved. I find that somewhat problematic for the various reasons that we have all found. The devil may be in the details but the implementation will determine if the plan is a success.

-So the latest draft of the SAP explains that the factors in determining the boundaries:

"These factors are
not weighted, since multiple factors must be balanced."

This was a question asked repeatedly at many community meetings by parents. At some level, staff will "weight" them as they work this out. One issue will likely weigh out another issue in staff's thinking and it would be nice to know what they are. Maybe this will become more clear when we see the initial maps. However, by that time, they will be in such a rush that they might not be concerned about explanations.

- at the bottom of page 12 there is an interesting footnote (9) which says, in part:


"There will continue to be a limited number of programs or services that are unique enough, and that serve such a limited population, that they cannot be offered in every service area or attendance area. In those cases, students will be assigned based upon individual needs."

I don't know what this means in terms of unique programs. If you felt a program would benefit your child, how could you get an assignment based on "individual needs". I'm not sure if they are referencing high school programs but since it is not specific you surely could make the case it does.

Additionally, the footnote (10) at the bottom of the same page was added since the Work Session but it wasn't discussed during the Work Session. That would also surely be reflected in my notes (and several of us compared notes afterwards). Something else triggered that footnote.

-I note that the Open Choice seat issue is STILL not defined. How many or what percentage of seats? And what does it mean for specialty programs? The paragraph says you aren't automatically in such programs just by getting in the school (which is true now anyway) but it also doesn't say that there will be any mechanism during assignment. Again, that footnote 9 may be important.

- the tiebreaker info on page 14 about program tiebreakers is new.

-These two items below about transportation are new to this draft (and seems to point out that some areas don't have an option school):

• School bus transportation is provided for elementary and middle school students to an option school in a linked service area if their service area does not have an option school.

• School bus transportation is provided for elementary and middle school students to a school in a linked service area to access necessary bilingual or special education services not available in their service area.

-The section "Assignments to Option Schools" says no attendance boundaries but one of the tiebreakers IS a geographic zone boundary. Something of an attendance boundary but different wording.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm going to try to cross-reference some things that were said at the last Work Session with the newest draft. These might seem random but I'm just going to go straight thru my notes.

Part 1

-It was made clear that the transition plan would come AFTER the Phase I SAP is approved. I find that somewhat problematic for the various reasons that we have all found. The devil may be in the details but the implementation will determine if the plan is a success.

-So the latest draft of the SAP explains that the factors in determining the boundaries:

"These factors are
not weighted, since multiple factors must be balanced."

This was a question asked repeatedly at many community meetings by parents. At some level, staff will "weight" them as they work this out. One issue will likely weigh out another issue in staff's thinking and it would be nice to know what they are. Maybe this will become more clear when we see the initial maps. However, by that time, they will be in such a rush that they might not be concerned about explanations.

- at the bottom of page 12 there is an interesting footnote (9) which says, in part:


"There will continue to be a limited number of programs or services that are unique enough, and that serve such a limited population, that they cannot be offered in every service area or attendance area. In those cases, students will be assigned based upon individual needs."

I don't know what this means in terms of unique programs. If you felt a program would benefit your child, how could you get an assignment based on "individual needs". I'm not sure if they are referencing high school programs but since it is not specific you surely could make the case it does.

Additionally, the footnote (10) at the bottom of the same page was added since the Work Session but it wasn't discussed during the Work Session. That would also surely be reflected in my notes (and several of us compared notes afterwards). Something else triggered that footnote.

-I note that the Open Choice seat issue is STILL not defined. How many or what percentage of seats? And what does it mean for specialty programs? The paragraph says you aren't automatically in such programs just by getting in the school (which is true now anyway) but it also doesn't say that there will be any mechanism during assignment. Again, that footnote 9 may be important.

- the tiebreaker info on page 14 about program tiebreakers is new.

-These two items below about transportation are new to this draft (and seems to point out that some areas don't have an option school):

• School bus transportation is provided for elementary and middle school students to an option school in a linked service area if their service area does not have an option school.

• School bus transportation is provided for elementary and middle school students to a school in a linked service area to access necessary bilingual or special education services not available in their service area.

-The section "Assignments to Option Schools" says no attendance boundaries but one of the tiebreakers IS a geographic zone boundary. Something of an attendance boundary but different wording.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Part 2 (sorry about the double entry above):

-There is a new footnote at the bottom of page 17 about Cleveland becoming a STEM school and whether it would be an option school. My recollection is that there wasn't much discussion on this issue at the Work Session and the assumption was that it would be. Hmmm. Also, it states that it will be "coordinated with capital levy planning". So that means in a new building, Cleveland, we will pour more capital dollars to try to pump it up. I don't know if this is good or bad but there should be some real thinking about balancing these capital dollars and how much goes to one school.

- Charlie noted that it might be problematic for kids who might be changing schools at a non-entry point. There is a footnote at the bottom of page 18 that says:

"This will be applicable for students at all grades when the plan is fully implemented, but is not assured for non-entry grade students during the transition period."

This is for middle school enrollment but would it also be for elementary? I may have missed something somewhere on this.

-the bottom of page 19 talks about the geographic zones used for Option Schools. It mentions diversity which is an interesting point as during the Work Session Mary Bass asked if the district has a definition. Tracy said it was race/poverty/ethnicity. However, the question was never really answered if either the Board or the District has an embedded definition of diversity.

- so at the bottom of page 23, there is a notation (again) about unique programs/services not being offered at every high school except this footnote doesn't say what the previous one does about "students being assigned based on individual need". (This will probably all go away now that I've called attention to it.)

-As may have been previously noted, Spectrum is now to be at all middle schools. It will be interesting to see what Madison offers.

-in the International Schools section, JSIS still mentions having a "linked" attendance area school but doesn't say which one. My guess is Day.

- A paragraph has been deleted from the Work Session draft about high schools and international studies. I think one reason is because they mentioned the IB programs at Sealth and Ingraham which are NOT international studies programs. But there is still no path for these students for high school. The district simply doesn't want to face this fact (too much added work which I get) but instead are pushing it off on the high schools to figure out on their own with no added resources. It is (was) a mistake to proceed in this fashion if there was no linked plan to high school.
-there was a whole section in the Work Session draft about the SE Initiative that is gone. Board members had felt it didn't need to be there as it wasn't about assignment and wanted the SAP to be just about assignment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Part 3

Work Session notes (that may have some bearing): these might seem sort of random -

-Staff did express deep concerns over having the resources to get all the pieces of this work (SAP (Phases I and II), BTA III and BEX IV) done.

-two Board members expressed concerns over foster kids and homeless kids not being addressed in this plan

-there was a question about whether kids could get guaranteed assignment to either a K-8 or an attendance middle school. There was some concern that it sounded like a guarantee

-there was concern over access to option schools for some areas; is it equitable? Tracy said that is a substantive change that the Board has to okay. Michael stated that under the current plan there is equity but there wouldn't be under this plan. There was talk that they hadn't had the alternative school audit yet so there was not a lot of data on directions to go in. Tracy said every student had access to a K-8 but not necessarily an alternative school. This was an interesting interchange as Tracy seemed to feel this came from left field and the Board seemed to believe that there would be access to alternatives. Harium also said he wished there was a map available so that Board members could look down and get a clearer idea of what was being proposed. I find it interesting that this wasn't a step that staff took.

- some members got close to asking why there is access to APP and that there will be an ALO at every building but not Spectrum. Tracy admitted that Spectrum fills classrooms and that they can't meet demand. No one challenged her on that point.

-there was some discussion about no international high school feeder pattern. Carla said it would be hard to do and mentioned Sealth/Ingraham's IB programs. (But, as I said, that paragraph got deleted from the current draft so I think that idea is dead.)

- there was an interesting discussion about having the SE Initiative info in the SAP. Cheryl said that word had to get out about this and this was a good place and she urged them to think about context and the big picture (I did not get this and as I said previously, it has been taken out of this draft.)

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

RE: Programs/services not being offered at every school foonotes.

This idea has been discussed at Work Sessions. The examples given were the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program because there are not enough deaf students in the district to spread them out and still have a cohort of students who share the same method of communication (sign langauge) and the medically fragile kids who need specialized equipment/therapy/dedicated nurses. The rest of the group of students outside the general rules were identified as students who are getting out of jail for violent or sexual offenses, who would not nieghbborhood schools with younger kids and onsite day care.

The explination was given by one of the lawyers, so I will bet against you on that it will go away, as it seems like a necessary legal caveat.

NE Parent said...

As someone noted, this draft (like recent drafts) does not include any geographic tiebreaker. So geography is only considered in the initial assignment decision. I see the logic of this for option schools or unique schools, like language immersion. But I find its absence particularly odd at the elementary level.

This District is going to re-draw each area to be able to provide a predictable assignment to each resident. It will be "under-drawn" so that kids moving in during the summer, etc. can get into the school. But what if there are some seats, say 10%, available. This will lead to the land rush problem noted above. Say siblings don't fill the school and it goes to lottery. Those lottery seats could be, apparently, from anywhere in the District. They would more likely be from the same "service area," as those are the only people that can get transportation. But people across the street from the attendance area have no preference. This seems especially wrong at the elementary level, as these are young kids, ideally, walking to school in their one-mile walk zone. By not giving a geographic (or walk-zone) tiebreaker (after siblings), the District is likely increasing transportation costs. It also increases the likelihood of future disruptions when the borders are "right-sized" in the future. Say Laurelhurst draws its borders too small and then decides to make it larger. If there were a geographic tiebreaker, some of those kids just outside the border likely would already be at the school. Under the proposed lottery plan, those people are just as likely to be from a much greater distance.

I just don't see the logic of this at the elementary level. Including this would actually help the District because, seriously, does anyone believe there will be no mistakes (too big, too small) on the size of the borders drawn? Past demographic "surprises" make this highly, highly unlikely.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay so it may not go away but the way it is worded, a person could make the case that, in lieu of specifics, it could mean any program or service at a school.

Johnny Calcagno said...

zb said:

...to answer Jon Calcogno's question, what I like about it is the predictability. The current system does in fact have a high level of predictability, i.e. the vast majority of families throughout the city are already getting their first choice.

If anything, the new SAP seems more chaotic and unpredictable, and amazingly enough after all this time and effort, not fully baked in the details. There are numerous instances in this comment thread alone.

Even if the new system does somehow result in seamless predictability, is it really preferable for more families to have predictable access to a school that don't work for them?

Anonymous said...

NE Parent said: "Say Laurelhurst draws its borders too small and then decides to make it larger. If there were a geographic tiebreaker, some of those kids just outside the border likely would already be at the school. Under the proposed lottery plan, those people are just as likely to be from a much greater distance."

I was thinking the exact same thing. Geographic proximity, at least at elementary, really should have some weighting.

The boundaries ARE going to change over time (as they should), and how those changes will affect current and future students MUST be taken into consideration now, as the rules are put in place!

An example: what are the specifics around students/siblings grandfathering status when the boundaries change? There are quite a few scenarios to consider.

It's really sad how "unbaked" the plan seems to be right now for the amount of time it's been in-progress. If the staff hadn't been forced to spend thousands of hours working on the closures (prematurely, IMO), I'll bet this plan would look a lot better right now.

zb said...

"Even if the new system does somehow result in seamless predictability, is it really preferable for more families to have predictable access to a school that don't work for them?"

It really does result in predictability for one group of parents -- those who find their neighborhood school acceptable, and will be entering an entry grade. I had a chance to chat with a big group of such people over the weekend, and, that part of the plan makes sense to them. The rest is irrelevant, if you're happy with that plan, and don't have sibs in another school. It's also a familiar idea -- both because it's done in other places, and because many of us experienced it as children.

Under an attendance area plan, unpredictability becomes a voluntary choice, because you are choosing to attend a non-attendance area school (including an option school). Predictability still isn't guaranteed for non-entry grades (I think), and that's still something they need to work out.

Quality issues still need to be resolved, but that's what "Excellence for all" was supposed to be about. And, if it doesn't work, people can still produce *predictability* by moving into the neighborhood to get access to a school.

I think people who liked and were attached (both practically and psychologically -- I know that some like the psychology of choice, while others don't, and the research on it is mixed) to the choice system will need to rearrange their mindset under this new plan. But, I certainly find it much, much less confusing than the old assignment plan, which I found mind-boggling enough when I encountered it in the library when my daughter was 6 mo old that I actually started considering private schools then.

Anonymous said...

I know I am an outlier here, but . . .

I am still confused about the broad acceptance of a plan whose central organizing principle is to tell parents whose closest elementary school is lousy "Sucks for you. Maybe you should move."

We live in a large urban area with a diverse population, decent public transportation, more families with cars than most big cities, and a large number of school buildings located fairly near to each other. It seem to me that if we develop a variety of different programs at the elementary level and then design and manage an intelligent school choice program (including outreach and assistance in navitgating the process for low social capital parents), we will achieve excellence for all a lot faster than if we throw up borders around our neighborhood schools.

Charlie Mas said...

I think the central theme of the Strategic Plan is supposed to be: "We will assure you of some minimal standard of quality - set no lower than adequacy - so that you have no motivation to choose a school other than your attendance area school."

The problem, of course, is the timing. It's going to take them about four or five years to get there, and your children may have to attend an inadequate school in the meantime. Of course that's no different than it is now.

I know that there is a perception that there will be reduced choice under the new Student Assignment Plan, but I'm not seeing it. Yes, students will all have a default assignment at their attendance area school, but they have just as much freedom as ever to choose another school. The competition for popular schools will be no less. The number of people trying to escape low performing schools will be no less. People will be just as free - perhaps freer - to choose a school other than their attendance area school. What is the source of the belief that choice will be reduced?

Moose said...

ZB -- yes, I was surprised that there was going to be transportation at all for out of service area students. That is not what I heard at the community engagement meetings I attended.

I like the predictability of the new SAP -- but then again, I live in the QA/Magnolia cluster, where there has been zero predictability for high school, and the elementary schools have become so packed that students moving into the cluster and located within the walk zone of a school cannot get a seat there.

Unknown said...

amsiegel - whose local elementary school is "lousy"?

and pls don't quote wasl scores -

anonymous said...

Charlie is right....

Why do people keep saying under the new SAP they will have no choice, that they will be forced into their neighborhood schools? That could not be further from the truth. Nobody is being forced anywhere. It is true that the district will automatically assign you to your attendance area school, but you don't have to go to it. You are free to choose to be re-assigned to any school that has space. How is that any different than the current plan??

Under the current "choice" plan you can apply for any school you want in the entire district, but you're not going to get in if it's a popular school and you don't live in the schools immediate neighborhood. If you live in SE Seattle, you are not getting into Bryant or Eckstein or Roosevelt or McGilvra or Whittier or Montlake, or?

If anything, under the new assignment plan you may have MORE of a chance at getting into popular schools via the set aside seats. Isn't that's MORE choice.

Someone please explain their rationale of choice being more limited under the new plan....I'm not seeing it. It looks about the same to me.

SolvayGirl said...

EVAN

Perhaps amsiegel used a poor choice of words. Lousy is, after all, somewhat in the eye of the beholder. But there are huge differences between many of the schools in this District—elem, MS and HS—that can make them either good or bad fits for any particular child.

On the elementary level, some have no or minimal recess, uniforms, art, music, etc. The atmosphere at the school might be lose or constrained...get the picture? The same holds for the upper level schools. Offerings and quality of classes/rigor can vary drastically from school to school.

Lousy is just a word to mean "not good for our family/child."

But as many have noted, there isn't going to be much different for most people under the new SAP. Popular schools will still be bursting at the seams and unpopular schools will probably still be under enrolled. People will continue to lie about their addresses to gain access to the perceived "best" schools. Others will continue to flee to independent schools.

Personally, I don't see how the District can guarantee anyone space in a school under this plan or the existing one—unless they just plan to have huge classes or add portables.

Maureen said...

I actually haven't heard people complaining about a lack of K-8 choice under the new draft plan (I did hear people worrying in advance that the new plan would reduce choice -- and it looks like their concerns were addressed). I do hear some remaining concern about HS choice because the percentage of set aside seats has not been defined.

I am actually surprised at the level of choice that remains and wonder how long they can allow it to last. In particular, I expected that transportation would only be provided to three (or so) "attendance area" schools and one "option" school. Instead they propose to transport K-5 kids from one end of a service area to another, with the added complication that, since distance no longer is a factor in assignment, those kids won't be clustered in a ring around the school--now they'll be scattered randomly through out the service area--I don't see how that will save on transportation.

I also have an issue with "Geographic Zones" for Option schools. I thought one of the major goals was simplicity. The Zone tiebreaker introduces a complication that only applies to a small number of families and gives those families choices (effectively a double guarantee) that are not available to everyone. The only current neighborhood set aside for alternative schools supposedly exists because the Eastlake families live too far from their reference school to be sure they will be assigned there every year. The new draft plan solves that sort of problem (by guaranteeing everyone a spot at an attendance area school). What is the point of giving some families two (effectively) guaranteed seats? Alternative schools already face enough pressure from the District to conform, why give a chunk of their seats to families whose only interest in the school is that it is in a more convenient location for them? Also, if the school is popular, the District will face pressure year after year to expand the boundaries of the Geographic Zone, reducing opportunities for families who really value the "Option" school's program to enroll there.

TechyMom said...

Madrona and Leschi are "lousy" and it's not about WASL scores (though they also have low WASL scores).

Madrona reacted to low WASL scores by eliminating anything that doesn't directly relate to improving those scores, including recess. It refused parent offer to add back some of those things (art, spanish, gardening, etc) in PTA-funded after school classes.

When I toured Leschi, I saw kids marching with their fingers on their mouths, a kid sitting outside almost every classroom being punished, a dead fish in the Kindergarten fish tank, and a Spectrum teacher yelling "shut your mouth" at a group of students. I have some hope for this school with the Montessori program and a new principal, but right now, it's lousy.

Those two are in my neighborhood. I'm sure there are plenty of others in other neighborhoods.

Roy Smith said...

If Madrona and Leschi (or any other schools) are "lousy" in that people don't see how they could be acceptable for anybody, then that is a quality control problem for the district, not an assignment plan problem.

I don't understand the mindset that refuses to take on the problem of bad schools head on and instead wants to jigger an assignment plan to maximize "choice" which seems in this kind of case to be code for "our neighborhood school sucks, but instead of demanding that it be improved, we are demanding that our students be assigned to some other neighborhood's school". If you want a reference area school, but your local reference area school is not good enough for your child, then whose child is it good enough for?

SolvayGirl said...

Roy...See my recent response to Evan. Leschi and Madrona may be "lousy" to Techymom (and probably to me as well), but there are some families who like the intensive all-WASL prep–all the time approach at Madrona, or want their child in a program that stresses discipline.

Trying to rally a neighborhood to "change" a school doesn't always work. Just ask the people who tried at Madrona.

As long as the District has site-based management and a union policy that makes it difficult/impossible to remove ineffective or downright bad principals, our schools will never be equitable. Hence, we need "choice" to allow us to move to a "better fit" when necessary.

There's a reason Seattle has some of the highest attendance at private schools in the country—and it's not because we're all rich and/or snobs.

Anonymous said...

There are some good substantive comments in response to my comment and I will happily look at the details of the plan to see whether my fears of reduced choice are overblown.

But . . .

Come on, Evan. Has Seattle's forced civility gone so far that we can't all agree that there are some "lousy" schools in the district? You can substitute some bromide like "doesn't work for my family' if you want, but I prefer to speak plainly.

We can fight over the merits of individual schools, but that is only a side light. There are schools with too many poor teachers. Schools with poor leadership. Schools with discipline policies that violate every piece of child development literature out there. Schools that do not provide the well-rounded programs necessary for the academic and creative development of their students. Schools that intentionally imbue students with low expectations. Schools with no recess. Schools with poor facilities. Schools with over-crowded classrooms (well, that's all of them actually). Schools that fail to produce substantive results on the tests that we, rightly or wrongly, use to measure school quality. Any one of these things by itself does not make a bad school. But put enough of them together and you have a school that meets any conceivable definition of "lousy."

zb said...

"If you want a reference area school, but your local reference area school is not good enough for your child, then whose child is it good enough for?"

I think, in fairness, that some people actually do believe that there could be a style (for example, no talking in hallways, uniforms, and walking in straight lines) that works for some families and children, but not theirs. Yelling "shut your mouth" to a classroom, presumably should be unacceptable to everyone, but even at that extreme, we know that there are families who would not find that as offensive as, for example, mine would. But, I think getting rid of the most egregious of these differences should be a part of raising the quality of schools for everyone, and that people trying to maximize sometimes are happy with a solution that just gives their kid the spot they want.

And, although I understand the difficulty of the transition, I believe that for a lot of neighborhoods, the concept of choice beyond their neighborhood schools was often an illusion, and one that's become more and ore illusionary as *more* people became sophisticated enough to know what all the choices were. People have talked about the no mans land of Eastlake's reference school assignment, but as school populations near popular neighborhood schools have grown, as people realized that they needed to move close to their neighborhood school (with close being an unpredictable physical dimension), more and more no man's lands have developed (no man's land meaning areas that where access to their reference area is unpredictable). For example there are regions in Magnolia/Queen Anne, in NE, and in various parts of central where school access is unpredictable, but is also getting predictably worse.

Because of this gradual change, people in areas like Leschi/Madrona mostly just had the illusion of choice (useful, perhaps, for real estate agents). And, the problem has been getting worse, so relying on the experiences of parents from 5 years ago is probably inaccurate.

But, I would like to hear more from the people in the areas with neighborhood schools they are unhappy with, and what choices they believe they had under the old plan that won't be present in the new. I know that siblings are one concrete example. In the old plan, if you lived in what will become the Leschi attendance area, and had lucked into another attendance area school you preferred, you would be able to bring the rest of your children in, and under the current version of the plan, you won't. So those people have lost something.

zb said...

"There are schools with too many poor teachers. Schools with poor leadership. Schools with discipline policies that violate every piece of child development literature out there. Schools that do not provide the well-rounded programs necessary for the academic and creative development of their students. Schools that intentionally imbue students with low expectations. Schools with no recess. Schools with poor facilities. Schools with over-crowded classrooms (well, that's all of them actually). Schools that fail to produce substantive results on the tests that we, rightly or wrongly, use to measure school quality. Any one of these things by itself does not make a bad school. But put enough of them together and you have a school that meets any conceivable definition of "lousy.""

Well, if that's your definition, then, it really can't be good for any child, and a plan that gives spots at that school for other children, but not yours isn't one that I'm going to support. Particularly, because, I (disinterested in this case; that school doesn't describe mine) would rather weigh in whatever extra resources I have to try to help out the kid whose being assigned to the "lousy" school, and doesn't have a parent to advocate for them.

If there are lousy schools, lousy like you describe, rather than "not a good fit", they have to be fixed. If choice helped to fix them (and that was supposed to be one of the benefits of choice, that people would leave the lousy schools, resulting in those schools having to change to improve), I'd listen to that option. But, I think the evidence that choice helps the lousy schools is pretty much blown out of the water. If, instead, what we're arguing about is whether the plan helps any particular individual avoid a school they think is lousy, well, then, that's a battle you have to fight for yourself. It doesn't help with an argument that the fixes will actually help others.

zb said...

"There's a reason Seattle has some of the highest attendance at private schools in the country—and it's not because we're all rich and/or snobs."

I'd take the contrarian position that I think that the high private school choice is an affect of public school choice, and the desirability of housing all over Seattle, rather than anything to do with the absolute quality of the schools. The (false) choice system allowed schools to become more variable, increasing the probability that a neighborhood school would contain unacceptable features to some (uniforms are my favorite target). Needing to go through a choice process meant that you might as well throw private schools into the mix (that's what pushed us in the direction of private school). And, Seattle geography, which produces views all over the place, sometimes within narrow regions, creating housing patterns where multi-million dollar houses could be mere blocks away from valleys containing poorer housing, meaning that people would choose their housing independently of the school neighborhood, and default to private schools.

Maureen said...

Every single kid at our school is there by choice. It is a school that often has wait lists for K and 6th grade that approach 100, but every year families leave because the school is not a good fit for them.

Choice doesn't have to be about escaping lousy schools. If every school was a good school (whatever that means), we should still support some level of choice because we are all different and value different things and we live in a city and it is really no more expensive to provide people with a range of options than it would be to create a District full of carbon copy schools. (which would be impossible even if we wanted to because we live in a city and we are all different.)

SolvayGirl said...

ZB said...

"I'd take the contrarian position that I think that the high private school choice is an affect of public school choice, and the desirability of housing all over Seattle, rather than anything to do with the absolute quality of the schools. The (false) choice system allowed schools to become more variable, increasing the probability that a neighborhood school would contain unacceptable features to some (uniforms are my favorite target). Needing to go through a choice process meant that you might as well throw private schools into the mix (that's what pushed us in the direction of private school). And, Seattle geography, which produces views all over the place, sometimes within narrow regions, creating housing patterns where multi-million dollar houses could be mere blocks away from valleys containing poorer housing, meaning that people would choose their housing independently of the school neighborhood, and default to private schools."

Exactly! But right now, we're stuck with some schools that are undesirable or uber-desirable to a huge group of people.

To me the new SAP doesn't really do much to address the problems—except perhaps help the families in the no-man lands.

Capacity, assignment, etc. are not islands and cannot be dealt with without looking at WHY some schools are more popular than others. As I've noted before, it's a true conundrum that I certainly don't know how to fix.

zb said...

"If every school was a good school (whatever that means), we should still support some level of choice because we are all different and value different things and we live in a city and it is really no more expensive to provide people with a range of options than it would be to create a District full of carbon copy schools."

This is a fairly new idea, and it's ontogeny (choice came around the same time as court-ordered desegregation in many districts).

I disagree that providing choice is costless, mostly because providing choice at the same cost, requires perfect knowledge of people's choice preferences. Otherwise, you need to provide more of each choice than the minimum required. Alternatively, you can provide choice, but not extra capacity. Then, some people get left with whatever's left after the choices have been made.

Think about it with respect to ordering multiple pizzas for a party. If we assume that everyone will eat one piece of pizza, and buy exactly as many pieces as necessary to feed the crowd, and then add in choice, people who come late to the party will be required to eat whatever is left over after others have made their optimal decisions. Alternatively, we could order additional pizzas, to have enough for everyone to have some possibility of having every choice available to them (though, of course, we can't make every choice available to everyone). Finally, we could all offer the same kind of pizza to everyone. Clearly there's a loss of value in that case, but it's hard to tell which will result in optimal outcomes. With kids, of course, you just order the cheese pizza and be done with it.

Charlie Mas said...

I just have to say this about predictability.

Families in Seattle already have predictability. Choose Hawthorne, Aki Kurose, and Rainier Beach and you can be certain of access. There's your predictability.

The fact is that no one wants predictability. What people want is a predictably good outcome. The only way we can provide that for all families is to make every school a good school.

For that to happen, we need to define what a good school is. We we also need the District to take action and intervene in those schools which are not good schools. This is the purpose of the Performance Management System, and it will work for us to the extent that the criteria and benchmarks that it sets for measuring school quality are right and to the extent that the District constructively intervenes.

From my perspective, a good school is one in which struggling students get the help they need to meet the standards and all students are taught at the frontier of their knowledge and skills. It would include not only he core curricula in reading, writing, math and science, but also social studies and the arts. It would be a welcoming and supportive environment for students and their families.

The District can assess for these factors and can measure for these factors. The question is whether the District can positively intervene to enhance these factors.

zb said...

"To me the new SAP doesn't really do much to address the problems—except perhaps help the families in the no-man lands."

But, I think it does. First, I don't think it takes anything away, because I don't think that next year, families in Leschi will have any fewer choices than they did under the old plan (except for those with siblings enrolled elsewhere; they're an exception to my comment). Second, I think that automatic assignment will homogenize some of these differences among schools. I'm less confident about the second, especially with respect to the significant variability that exists in Central. In NE, schools have actually diverged because of the choice option (Nathan Hale/Roosevelt are examples), but the elementary schools have also developed differences, I think, because of choice, that will be diminished as families are automatically assigned to their neighborhood schools.

Actually, there's some analysis of choice and it's affect on the creation of homogeneous communities with respect to geography. I think the same thing is playing out with public schools, with choice.

I know I'm writing really long comments -- but, I am still hoping for some substantive analysis of how some people's choices will be diminished by the new plan. I honestly don't think it's going to be an issue in NE, except with respect to siblings.

Dorothy Neville said...

FWIW. A gentleman who works for the Alliance and whose business card calls him Community Engagement Manager has a fourth grader at Leschi and is very happy with the school. (At least he told me that he was very happy with his son's school at the event at JSCEE a couple weeks ago.)

dj said...

My position is this (and I am dj, not capital DJ -- I may need to change my handle).

To the extent that the new assignment plan will provide less choice, what you are doing is swapping having kids in schools that aren't good (however you want to describe them) because they have parents who aren't good at school choice for having kids in schools that aren't good because they live near the schools. My thought is that the school district is thinking that what making it more likely that you will attend your neighborhood school is going to do is get more invested parents back into the neighborhood schools that they have for whatever reason rejected, and that this will improve the neighborhood schools. I don't personally think that the stick approach will work without the district putting a lot of good faith effort into improving those schools, which I have no evidence that they are going to do.

Charlie, I think the diminution of the sibling preference is actually exactly the mechanism that will reduce choice. I know many families that have multiple kids who apply year after year to places like Stevens, and once one kid cracks his or her way in, uses that kid as a sort of anchor to get the rest of the kids, over time, into the school. If the reference areas are right-sized and the sibling preference is subsidiary to neighborhood preference, you'll see much less of that.

zb said...

"I don't personally think that the stick approach will work without the district putting a lot of good faith effort into improving those schools, which I have no evidence that they are going to do."

But, the question is, does that work any less well than "choice" in improving the quality of the "lousy" schools? 'cause, if it doesn't, choice only works for the few who luck into better options.

"I know many families that have multiple kids who apply year after year to places like Stevens, and once one kid cracks his or her way in, uses that kid as a sort of anchor to get the rest of the kids, over time, into the school."

I think this is true, and thus, changing the sibling preference system does really have a significant impact on choice. The lack of guarantee of a sibling into a non-attendance area school (that isn't an option school) also diminishes the value of that option. That's the one issue where I can see that the people who benefit from the choice system would see a change. And, as dj points out, it might be much more frequently used than we imagine (and, to cite to charlie, it's the one other place where there's near certainty under the current system -- if you have a sibling in the school, you are guaranteed admission to that school).

Charlie Mas said...

Let's consider the step down in the tie-breaker order for siblings.

The tie-breakers had been: siblings, reference area, distance, lottery. The new tie-breakers are attendance area, sibling, lottery.

The most obvious change is the removal of distance as a tie-breaker. This has some interesting consequences. It means that students from the Leschi attendance area have just as much of a chance to get into Bryant as students from the View Ridge attendance area. I would say that looks like more choice for students who aren't geographically close to their first choice school.

The second change is the flipping of order between attendance area and siblings. So what do siblings lose? I don't think they lose very much at all.

If, as dj points out, the reference areas are right-sized, there won't be any room for out-of-area siblings. That may be true, but think what else would have to happen. Say the school has a functional capacity of 350. So the District draws the attendance area perfectly to include 350 school-age children. Now let's remember that about 70 will not choose public school. Then remember that about 35 will choose an Option school. Then consider that about another 70 - at the least - will choose some other attendance area school. There will be plenty of room for siblings. And, since siblings come before the lottery, they are not subject to it. Only about 40% of elementary students are enrolled at their reference area school. Even at a famously popular schools like Montlake, only 49.4% are from the reference area. It's only 49.6% at McGilvra.

Despite what the Draft Assignment Plan suggests, the majority of Seattle public school students do NOT attend their reference area school.

All of the liquidity favors the siblings because it creates available space for them and gives them the first claim on it.

I think it will be the rare case that a sibling does not get enrolled at an out-of-area school.

Roy Smith said...

Keep in mind that the sibling preference works against those who have an only child, who have children who are too far apart in age to take advantage of it (this would be my situation if I were continuing in SPS - my children will be 8 years apart), or who for whatever reason do not want both children in the same school (for instance, one in a reference area school and one in an alternative school).

If I lived in a reference area and wanted to send my child to the reference area school, but the child ended up not there because all the spots were taken by those with sibling preference, I think that I would be legitimately disgruntled, particularly if some of those siblings were from outside the reference area. I don't know how often this happens under the current system, but I have repeatedly heard anecdotes that it does happen from time to time.

Maureen said...

I think it makes sense to put sibs after attendance area--that (combined with getting rid of distance as a factor) will help prevent the problem we currently see at Montlake where, once every six years or so, there are not enough spots in the kindergarten for Eastlake residents. This change is part of what makes the 'Geographic Zone" tiebreaker for Option schools unnecessary.

Maureen said...

zb (from way back at 10:52!):

I like your pizza analogy--but I think you are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the better. SPS numbers are large enough and tastes are diverse enough that I believe we could offer 25 each of plain cheese, vegie and pepperoni and 5 each of goat cheese, vegan, hawaiian, anchovy and a bag of carrots and make everyone at least as well off as if we ordered 100 plain cheese!

zb said...

Charlie - I would expect the 50% from the reference area to change with the new assignment plan for a variety of reasons (including the lack of a guarantee for siblings, and a guaranteed assignment reducing the school "shopping", and the greater homegenization of schools with similar demographics, like Laurelhurst & View Ridge, and, even, people moving into attendance areas).

Charlie Mas said...

Right now, only about 40% of Seattle public schools elementary students are enrolled in their reference area schools. That's just a fact. Some of them may have wanted it, but couldn't get in, but since 60% of all students last year got their first choice for assignment, that can't be the case for the majority.

There can be no doubt that this is clearly a result of people exercising their choice. So why would they exercise that choice any less under the new system?

First, if their attendance area school is pretty good, but they want to try for a better one, they will be totally free to try. If they get it, great! If not, they will get their attendance area school with certainty.

Second, if they don't like their attendance area school, why wouldn't they go ahead and exercise their choice just as they do now? There is no reason not to.

While there would be no guarantee that younger siblings would also be enrolled there, as I have calculated, it is very unlikely that they would not. I don't believe people will "shop" any less, whether they like or don't like their attendance area school.

The big change will come for those "no man's land" neighborhoods that are not close enough to their reference area school to gain access under the current plan. They will have certain access to some nearby school, so they might shop less. Although these are the most publicized cases, they really are not that common. There are only a few schools where reference area students cannot get in.

I have little reason to believe in greater homegenization of schools. There isn't anything driving this. School leadership will take the school wherever they want.

There may be some relocation into attendance areas, but I would figure that there aren't many folks who would really do that anymore than they already do - particularly when the District says that they will periodically adjust the boundaries.

Honestly, I can't see any reason that choice would be diminished or less exercised under the new plan. I don't know where anyone, including the staff, gets that idea.

The one thing that might reduce the use of choice would be the sudden increase in popularity among schools that are under-subscribed. If the Southeast Initiative worked and were duplicated and worked again. Right now, however, there is little evidence that the Southeast Initiative is working. What are the enrollment numbers for Rainier Beach, Cleveland, and Aki Kurose? I'm sure that closing the AAA had to boost Aki's numbers a bit.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Would the general feeling here be to advocate for sibling and attendance area to be flipped? I mean it's all good and well for us to discuss this (and bless you all for a great discussion) but should we be saying we should write to the Board and say this is better and why?

anonymous said...

"Say the school has a functional capacity of 350. So the District draws the attendance area perfectly to include 350 school-age children."

Charlie, I doubt the district will do this.

They are more likely to use the same figures that you used (49.1% enrolled at their attendance school) to come up with a more realistic number of students to expect to enroll at the school, and then use those numbers to draw boundaries.

They already do this. Here is an example. Eckstein currently takes 372 students at 6th grade. But the district assigns them 427 students because they know 15% of students assigned to Eckstein won't show up. Only after Eckstein gets their 15% of no shows do they move their waitlist.

Surely, the district will do the same for attendance area schools. If the data shows that only 49.4% of students go to their attendance schools, I would almost guarantee they will widen the attendance area until that number is close to the functional capacity of the building.

I highly doubt that they will have 50.6% of a school available to students from all across the district.

This would be a great question to ask at the next assignment plan meeting.

dj said...

ZB, I am not advocating at all that choice is better than neighborhood school assignment. I'm just not persuaded that neighborhood school assignment is better, and I think upheaval always brings costs. Were the plan coupled with a clear vision for improving undesirable neighborhood schools, I might feel differently.

Perhaps I am more anecdote-driven than data-driven, but this is how I see the new plan changing things. Take Stevens. To my understanding (and this is all based on talking to other parents, so bear with me), it isn't uncommon at the kindergarten level, in years without the extra kindergarten class, that you have to be thisclose to Stevens to get into kindergarten, because sibling preferences pull in so many kids; you could have Stevens as your reference school and not get in, because siblings had priority over your child. The new plan will change that. Not totally, because some of those kindy students will be both in the attendance area and will be younger siblings, but at least some. And I think parents of older kids will be less likely to transfer knowing that they won't be able to consolidate their kids.

Melissa, I actually don't know what I think of sibling preferences and am open to arguments. I do think, for the reasons that I outlined above, as well as for the practical reason that it is hard to support two schools, that changing the sibling preference will make parents less likely to exercise choice. I'm just not sure whether or not that's a good thing.

whittier07 said...

I agree that reference area kids should have space at their reference area school BUT I think the school district should be honest and state that we are moving to a system of LIMITED choice. I think most elementary school parents will use the safety of their reference school to make sure that siblings end up attending the same school. I don't know too many parents that would risk having their children at different schools. The new plan will be great for only children ... they will have their pick of schools.

What about programs like Spectrum? My student is currently in Spectrum (which isn't available at our reference school) and Whittier is a pretty popular school ... I'm pretty sure my other children will be assigned to our reference school.

What about the Autism Inclusion Program @ North Beach? With this new plan, 'out of reference area' parents will be forced to pick between a good program or having their children attend the same school.

What about APP? I thought one of the only good things about the North/South split was that, with the addition of a general education program, families would be able to have their APP & general education students at the same school.

What about the families that are "right sized" out of their current reference area? They didn't do anything but go to their neighborhood school and they may end up having their children assigned to different schools.

Sorry to whinge ... I'm just really frustrated with the thought of my children being assigned to different schools! Even though it might take longer for the SAP to be implemented, I still think CURRENT students SIBLINGS should be grandfathered.

word verification: FUGTH ... sounds like something I can't say around youngsters.

Roy Smith said...

I wouldn't be surprised if exercise of choice falls dramatically with this system since participation in the open enrollment system will no longer be required to be assigned to a reference area school. Currently the level of effort is the same to get the reference area school or to get any other school, and most parents get educated on the choice system (and thus shop around for schools) out of necessity because everybody has to participate in it in order to get a chance at anything reasonable. However, when it becomes like other school districts where you move into a neighborhood and then are assigned to the local school automatically, many, many parents will not go any further than that. Most of the ones who participate in the choice system will be ones who either want an option school or who are assigned a reference area school that is truly a problem for their children.

Remember, the people reading this blog mostly represent the very active, heavily involved parents. Lots of otherwise good parents don't get all that involved in the education of their children beyond registering them for school, making sure they have lunch, and helping them with their homework, and for many of them, they will accept automatic assignment to the reference area school unless it is truly intolerable.

Exercise of choice for the readership of this blog might not drop much, but district-wide, I suspect it might drop a lot.

StepJ said...

I actually don't believe you can have an assignment area plan that works if you reverse the order in the plan of attendance area and sibling. That is the same priority that exists now -- 1. Sibling 2. Reference Area.

If you live near oversubscribed school(s) and you are enrolling your oldest you have no clue where you might end up.

I do think a defined phase of sibling grandfathering - say five years - would be a fair and decent way to ease all of us pesky families with more than one young child out of the old plan and into the new. You would definately need to put limits on it though - the sib. preference would only apply to those currently enrolled, and only to the current school they attend.

As the plan is worded now you are only guaranteed entry to your new assignment area school at the entry level grade during the phase in period (the, as of yet, undefined phase in period.)

I say five years as under the current rules of Sibling Preference that would be the max. time for a younger sib. to qualify for older sibs. that had enrolled under the last year of the old plan (2009-2010) for elementary.

I say five years, as the true culprit as to why the 'Choice' option listed in the new plan will not work to keep siblings together is lack of capacity. Perhaps five years is enough time for the district to resolve that issue?

Then all new enrollees can take the 'Choice' option knowing fully what chance they are taking - if keeping their family together is a priority.

If the capacity issue is resolved so much of the new plan would work so much better.

Unknown said...

Why all the fuss about choice? Are comparably sized districts worse off with less choice?

I think I am like a lot of people - I never would have considered private schools for my kids if I didn't live in a city where the district encouraged me to choose. I think it is one of the things that makes Seattle have such poor enrollment stats compared to other places.

What I would choose is hard to find within the past plans - a community school where most kids live in the immediate area, and all the families on a given block go to the same school. Assign my kids to a school, and I get closer to my choice.

It has to be better for schools, even if only from the point of view of the PTSA involvement. They are each other's neighbors, and have a better chance understanding each other's needs and schedules. Fewer families will be isolated from each other by geography.

And isn't that better for communities too? Everyone knows each other and their kids, because they see them all the time at the various school events, on the street, at the store...

For most families the choice was a bit of an illusion. Those that could afford it had the only real choice - private school. Everyone else had a chance at choice - in a difficult to run, hard to make transparent process that required research, visits, open houses, tours and forms and deadlines. Why was that better?

And think of the countless hours staff spent with the process downtown, the staff in the buildings doing the open houses and tours, selling their school. How many tours are offered in the district? Open houses? How many do they need in other places? Many fewer that I have seen...

Give me less choice and fewer complications. I will spend my energy helping my kids with homework instead of agonizing over which school is "best" from January until April or May.

Charlie Mas said...

There can be no doubt that a lot of people would not "shop" for a school if the District's system did not essentially require them to do so. So under the new system, it is probable that more kids will end up at their attendance area schools than are now enrolled at their reference area schools. The point that I wanted to make is that the opportunity for choice will be no less under the new system than it is now under the current system.

Choice also made much more sense when schools were encouraged to make themselves distinctive. Under the current regime, the schools are becoming much more standardized. Choice makes less of a difference when all schools have adopted standardized curricula, standardized texts, standardized pedagogy, and standardized lessons.

So, while it is probable that people will exercise the choice option less, I want to assure people that the opportunity for choice will be no less.

SolvayGirl said...

Tim's observations are pretty on target in many ways. But I don't see things changing very drastically with the new plan.

If you live in an attendance area with a great school, more than likely you'll go to that school; that's the way it's always been. But if your attendance school is lacking something your child needs, or unacceptable for any reason (from not offering music to having serious discipline issues and everything in between), you will try to exercise your choice.

Schools will still need to have tours and tout their programs. Parents will still feel like they are making decisions that will affect their child's entire future. And at least some people will end up disappointed and disillusioned with the system.

I don't see any of that going away under the new system. The only thing that would create Tim's version of utopia is mandatory assignment with all schools being spectacular and offering everything to everybody—not going to happen in a school system as large and diverse as Seattle's.

If the District can somehow create schools that have offerings for all areas of the spectrum—from AP to at-risk students, then yes, eventually the majority will attend their neighborhood school. But there will always be children who need something more, or different. The District would need to find ways to accommodate them, or not.

I honestly don't think new borders and the flipping of tie-breakers will fix many, if any, of the District's current problems.

WV: crywa...

Yes we do about the state of public education in this state and across the nation.

TechyMom said...

If the attendance area schools are all about the same, then assignment by address makes sense. However, there are a lot of kids for whom the standard approach to education used in America doesn't work very well. They may need something more self-paced, hands-on, more integrated subject matter, etc. For the kid who will excel in (for example) Montessori and languish in a 'traditional' classroom, that option needs to be available, and not only to those whose parents can afford private school. It's also very useful to have places where new approaches, such as language immersion, can be tried. It is possible to have strong neighborhood schools and also options for those kids who want or need something else. This plan seems to strike an acceptable balance. Of course, I'm assuming that the option schools are actually allowed to be different than the attendance area schools, which is not at all a safe assumption.

(Oh, and we decided to go to Lowell for K next year. We'll give it a year, and if it doesn't fit our child's needs, we'll move to the private school that we're fairly certain will meet them. We'd be shopping anyway, even if we knew what our default school was. But then, I went to independent schools, as did about half the kids on my block, so I haven't ever experienced the neighborhood-school model.)

zb said...

"If you live in an attendance area with a great school, more than likely you'll go to that school; that's the way it's always been."

Not true, I like Tim definitely spent the time to consider private schools mostly because I knew from the beginning about the choice system (and, as I've written before, it freaked me out). We ended up in a private school because of that, in spite of having what is considered a great private school. But, we're not the only ones making that choice. Up and down our immediate neighborhood, only about 1/2 the kids go to the local school. That's changing now, but, we chose private because we liked the private school better (but only by a bit), because there was more predictability and greater resources, but also because we couldn't get what we wanted out of a neighborhood school, which is a school where our neighbors would go to school with us. And, we live in a "hot" school area.

Mind you, I think this is changing, but the insecurity still leaves people shopping. I thought we were crazy when we considered the possibility that siblings could close us out of the school that was 3 blocks away, but others worry about it to, and, I guess, that fact pattern even excludes some.

zb said...

"I honestly don't think new borders and the flipping of tie-breakers will fix many, if any, of the District's current problems."

I'm pretty confident that it will fix the problems in NE. I suspect it will mostly fix the problems in N & NW, too.

I think Central & South are more complicated, and I don't know what will happen there. But, I'm pretty confident it won't be worse than what's there now, if we include the education of all the children. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the shifts there. I hope there will be neighborhood buy-in, and you guys will get to experience the joys of neighborhood schools, too.

It's my one regret in being committed to an otherwise fabulous private school, not having a neighborhood school. People I know who are enjoying this model really love it, and their kids are thriving with the other benefits that come with the neighborhood model.

Roy Smith said...

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why international schools were not designated as alternative (now option) schools right from the start with only a lottery to determine enrollment. For me personally, that was my sorest point with the old assignment plan (which resulted in me having precisely no chance of enrolling my child in a language-immmersion program), and it looks like exactly nothing is being done to correct that glaring deficiency.

The saddest part is that it seems like making the international schools option schools with a lottery to access would be one of the least controversial changes that could be made, yet there seems to be zero discussion of it.

momster said...

Solvaygirl1972 said "If you live in an attendance area with a great school, more than likely you'll go to that school; that's the way it's always been"

and others have said similar things - what people rarely talk about is the not insignificant incidence of people choosing a school in their cluster > 1 mile away that is not their reference school...in order to get yellow bus transportation.

from what i have heard, given two schools they consider equivalent, some working parents will choose the one for which they're transportation-eligible - so they can leave for work well before they would be able to if getting their child to the reference school.

my data is only anecdotal - heard from principals (mostly in the south end), enrollment center people, enrollment planning people, and acquaintances who've made that choice - but i would bet it accounts for a chunk of the 60% of kids who are not in their reference area school that charlie cites above.

like the later start times, i suspect this will offload childcare cost from the district to families - which does not seem unfair to me (assuming families living in poverty can get subsidized morning and afternoon care - which offloads the cost again to non-profits, donors, other government agencies, etc)

BL said...

I agree that Language Immersion and Montessori should fall into the Option Category with assignment by lottery (or sibling, then lottery.)
To me, these programs seem less traditional than any of the Alternative Schools I toured this year.

SolvayGirl said...

Momster: I have heard the same thing—especially here in the southend. I think you're on to something.

dj said...

ZB, "it won't be worse" isn't to me a good reason to put families through change and upheaval. I can only speak for myself here, but I suspect I'm not completely on an island. I am a big public school booster. I never considered sending my kids to private school. But my daughter is about to be on her third elementary school in three years, and if the assignment plan actually does make it harder not to attend your neighborhood school, I have a younger child slated to attend a school that would not suit his needs at all (and I would not send him there in its current form, period). It's a lot of upheaval and uncertainty, and my kids are small. Charlie may be right that noone wants stability for the sake of stability, but instability without a clear benefit is worse.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me be clear. There are people who want stability for the sake of stability. A lot of them.

That's not what I wrote.

I wrote that people don't really want predictability. What they really want is a predictably GOOD outcome.

Elizabeth W said...

on 6/1/09 at 5:26 PM StepJ said...

I actually don't believe you can have an assignment area plan that works if you reverse the order in the plan of attendance area and sibling. That is the same priority that exists now -- 1. Sibling 2. Reference Area.
...

Not true.

Almost any ordered set of priorities will allow an assignment plan that meets its guarantees, if capacity can be adequately managed.

There is nothing magical about the proposed reversal of the sibling and attendance area priorities which makes the proposed plan work.

The new plan implies a commitment that capacity will be increased and/or boundaries will be re-drawn whenever all the children in the local attendance area no longer fit. The district could have made the very same guarantee, even with siblings as first priority.

If the district were to guarantee both siblings and attendance area children a seat, there would be no practical distinction between the sibling and attendance area priorities. This could have been done in the old plan and could be done in the new plan by adjusting capacity to always include both groups.

Drawing boundaries to accomodate both the two highest priority classes (in our case attendance area and sibling) will generally be more difficult than making a projection to accomodate only one. Given how much upset there will be every time the boundaries are re-drawn, it should not be a surprise the new plan only guarantees it for one group -- the attendance area kids.

The question we should be asking ourselves, IMHO, is whether the district really will be able to live up to a guarantee that all children whose families so desire will be placed in their attendance area school. As I see it, the most likely options they have to adapt to changing demographics are as follows.

(1) Add portables and/or take away "extra" rooms to add capacity at a school. Families desire this to get entry to popular schools, but already-enrolled families generally don't like it.

(2) Redraw boundaries. We already know how much angst the upcoming redraw is causing folks. This will be *real* fun should it happen every five years.

(3) Open schools to add capacity. In addition to the upfront financial costs, this also forces a boundary re-draw. You can bet that should this happen there will be plenty of parent complaints about new boundaries and assignment to an untried school.

All the worries, opinions, complaints and demands that parents have about assignment cannot undo the fact that managing capacity on a tight budget is simply full of pain. The best practical solutions cannot be painless; they can only hope to spread that pain equitably.

StepJ said...

Elizabeth,

I very much respect your opinion. What do you mean by/what is equitable pain?

rugles said...

Some interesting things I have read here...

1.If there was less/no choice more families would choose public schools over private.

2.There is just as much choice in the new plan as the old.

Not quite sure what to make of #1. Since it's not truly a neighborhood school, I am going to send my kid to a private not truly neighborhood school instead?

And if #2 is true, then why bother? Is the new plan that much clearer or easier to administrate. We have always been guaranteed a neighborhood school. We just haven't always wanted our kids to go to it.

adhoc said...

No, we have not been guaranteed a neighborhood school. Families that live 10 blocks away from Bryant are being bused up to John Rogers and Jane Addams because they couldn't get in.

Eckstein is the closest middle school to my house. It's 1.2 miles away. Almost all of my child's friends are going their. We didn't get in. Our choices were bus all the way to Wallingford, far away from our neighborhood for Hamilton or Whitman.

Ask folks that live Madison Valley if they get into their neighborhood school, McGilvra? How about Whittier - I hear you have to live 1/2 mile or closer to the school to get in.

You don't always get your neighborhood school. What's worse is that you may be just to far away to get into your neighborhood school but to far away to get in the next closest school. Then you wind up getting a mandatory assignment to an unpopular school.

It's ugly.

The new assignment plan will at least lend some predictability to Seattle families. Then if you don't like your neighborhood try for another one.

Unknown said...

i'm a little late to the game here - but i'll comment just the same.

solvaygirl1972 6/1 9:15 - "Lousy is just a word to mean "not good for our family/child"? i'm reminded of my childhood neighbor doug popp's c. 1968 characterization of his bike as "lousier than your bike" to mean his was really really good - but no, lousy does not mean 'not good for our child' and amsiegel did not mean it that way.

techymom @ 6/1 8:19 - the only issue i had with any of your "lousy" evidence for madrona and leschi was a teacher saying "shut up" - having children be quiet in passing is not an unusual request of schoolchildren; and i could go on. but as i recall, you are certain your child will not learn multiplication in public school, so i think i probably would not rely on your characterization of much to do with schools, especially because you are just entering sps.

amsiegel @ 6/1 10:18 - please provide a list of the lousy schools by your definitions, with the specific evidence you've gathered. there are many in this city and this blog who are quite happy to lob generalizations which often, when pressed, they can't substantiate - i am hoping you are not one of them.

zb @ 6/1 @ several - thanks for your thoughtful discussin of this topic here and on other threads

zb said...

"Not quite sure what to make of #1. Since it's not truly a neighborhood school, I am going to send my kid to a private not truly neighborhood school instead?"

Yeah, really, this describes exactly the decision we made. The reasoning: one of the significant benefits of a public school was that it would be a neighborhood school, without that benefit, the benefits of a private school (including, for example, the smaller class size, more predictability) outweighed the benefits of public school (including, for example, cost, and distance).

I do think there's a difference between the reaction of folks in N v South/Central. People in the north like our neighborhoods & our neighborhood schools. We're largely displeased right now because of the lack of access to our neighborhood schools, and the unpredictability, even for those with access. This plan fixes those things.

In south, people either don't like their specific neighborhood school, or their neighborhood? I can't tell exactly which, and want access to other choices. In the past, they have had access to other choices, including TOPs, and with luck, Stevens, McGilvra, and Montlake, and occasionally north end schools. I think this choice has been steadily diminishing, anyway, as more folks closer to those schools filled them up.

Hence, when I say it's "no worse", I mean "no worse" for people in south/central, and better for those in north. Hence, a net positive.

zb said...

"Hence, when I say it's "no worse", I mean "no worse" for people in south/central, and better for those in north. Hence, a net positive."

Oh, and I should say that I really hope "no worse" and potentially better. I am hopeful about the ability of the new general ed programs at both Thurgood Marshall & Lowell to attract students. I don't know the ins and outs of Leschi/Madrona, but one of those will get a Montessori program, about which I'm hopeful. So, I do honestly believe that there is the potential for improvement in Central, as well.

Elizabeth W said...

On 6/2/09 4:40 PM StepJ said...


What do you mean by/what is equitable pain?


...

Bear with me here, this is not a subject I find amenable to terse discussion...

If one takes the parent comments on this and Harium's blog at face value, every child in Seattle must surely be entitled to attendance at a neighborhood school within walking distance, where class sizes are modest, test scores are high, siblings are kept together and where there is enough space for separate music, art, gymnasium, and science rooms. Additionally the school start and end times must suit every family's sleep habits, extracurricular activities and work schedules.

It should be clear that not all desires can simultaneously be satisfied for all families. For example, there will be early risers and late risers living on the same block, so there is no perfect time for a neighborhood school to start each morning.

Other wants are realizable only when there is money to open and/or build schools. A Kindergartener living in the far NE corner of Seattle would need to walk 1.9 or 1.8 miles and cross NE 125th Street to get to John Rodgers or Jane Addams, or walk 1.4 miles and cross Lake City Way to Olympic Hills. I think only a very small number of families would consider those choices walkable, neighborhood schools.

I hope we all realize that while the things parents clammor for as listed above are healthy desires, we will not get them all within the next decade. Therefore some families must be disappointed.

The pain I refer to is whatever physical, emotional, or financial stress families experience when they don't get whatever they want from the list above. Given the intensely personal and never-wholly-rational nature of needs and desires, I know of no way to measure this pain and allocate suffering to each family. Thus, when I refer to "equitable pain", I'm not talking about something we can measure, optimize, and make fair by making perfectly equal.

Instead I'm suggesting that managing enrollment will always require compromises. Because of this, I don't think talking about what we don't like about the plan is useful if we don't simultaneously discuss what those disappointments buy us.

For families in the NE cluster, I think the key compromise is this: can we ask a small but not trivial fraction of families to be put at risk of having their children simultaneously in different elementary schools so that all can know well ahead of time what their "worst case" assignment would be?

For families in other parts of Seattle, the question is very different: will guaranteeing each child a spot at her attendance area school result in mass movement and further stratification or will it encourage all families to work to improve the schools they live closest to?

These are not simply operational questions, but moral dilemmas of varying magnitude. (Yes, I know that there is a huge moral question as to why there should be any quality difference among the schools available to any pair of children, no matter where they live. However, given that city-wide bussing is dead as a doornail, this cannot be effectively addressed by any assignment plan.)

The new assignment plan takes away one keen source of pain: not knowing ahead of time what the worst possible school you could be assigned to is. By guaranteeing families their attendance area school, parents can choose to opt out of the choice process. Those who prefer another school can use the choice process, but they need never list a school they like less than their attendance area school.

In regions of growing demand, as in the NE cluster, the new plan will require the district and board to balance three (or more) sources of pain: boundary redraws, adding portables, and increasing class sizes. When the population served by a school grows, they will have the inenviable task of deciding whom to disappoint. There is no "everybody completely happy" here.

In short: "equitable pain" means more people suffer a little instead of a few being very badly served.

Roy Smith said...

Elizabeth, I appreciate your reasoning, and think it makes a great deal of sense. The practical difficulty that I see arising is that different people react differently to different kinds of pain, so "equitable pain" is a rather elusive concept, not to mention the fact that pain that one is going through usually looks worse to that person than the pain somebody else is enduring.

For instance, I think that the compromise on sibling assignment that is offered in the new SAP is pretty reasonable: you can guarantee that your older child may continue on in the school they are currently at, or you can guarantee that both (or all, as the case may be) of your children attend the same school. What you are not guaranteed, however, is that you get both of those (known in other venues as having one's cake and eating it too). Annoying? Perhaps. Intolerable? Not as far as I am concerned. Of course, I'm not in the position where it will affect me, so my bias in this instance is for removing a potential obstacle in the path of success for the new SAP.

That all being said, there are likely some families that are going to be in the position where they have to make that choice, and some of them will regard themselves as being subject to a disproportionate amount of pain to make the new SAP work for everybody else, who they perceive as not bearing any of the pain.

Also, as an aside, people have related anecdotes (and I have heard similar things elsewhere) that not all parents regard a school within walking distance as desirable. They like having a long bus ride for their children to serve as de facto before and after school care - an attitude that I frankly don't understand, but it is definitely out there to some extent.

Elizabeth W said...

On 6/3/09 at 3:58 PM Roy Smith said:



Elizabeth, I appreciate your reasoning, and think it makes a great deal of sense. The practical difficulty that I see arising is that different people react differently to different kinds of pain, so "equitable pain" is a rather elusive concept, not to mention the fact that pain that one is going through usually looks worse to that person than the pain somebody else is enduring.


...

Indeed. This is exactly my point. Simply because equitable pain is an elusive concept doesn't mean it shouldn't be what we are trying to approximate.

...


For instance, I think that the compromise on sibling assignment that is offered in the new SAP is pretty reasonable: you can guarantee that your older child may continue on in the school they are currently at, or you can guarantee that both (or all, as the case may be) of your children attend the same school. What you are not guaranteed, however, is that you get both of those (known in other venues as having one's cake and eating it too).


I agree with you and made the same point some time ago on Harium Martin-Morris' blog. In fact, you sound eerily like me.

BUT, at the moment parents are *not* guaranteed this choice during the phase-in period. I believe that this is what most of the folks who have protested have been most upset about.

Personally, I'd like to see the district guarantee that during the phase-in period you can keep siblings together, but allow the district the choice of whether it would be at the old or new school. This would give them some slack to work with as the grandfathered children work through the system.

zb said...

"They like having a long bus ride for their children to serve as de facto before and after school care - an attitude that I frankly don't understand, but it is definitely out there to some extent."

Interesting factoid that I would certainly not have thought up myself. But, I think, not one that the school district has to support, allowing transportation (with it's costs, both monetary and environmental) to be used as daycare. If people really are doing this, more available (and I guess cheaper) after/before school care would be the way to go. Would it cost more than transportation?

Roy Smith said...

Elizabeth, the way I read the SAP, what you are proposing is exactly what will happen. From the SAP, page 9, last paragraph under the Siblings section:

If the parent/guardian indicates that the priority is to have the siblings attend the
same school and space is not available at the older sibling’s current school (or
for both siblings at any other schools requested), the siblings
will be assigned to
the new attendance area school.
(Emphasis mine).

That indicates pretty clearly to me that if the parents want the siblings to be assigned together, they will be assigned together - somewhere. The somewhere is up to the district, however.

Roy Smith said...

zb, I concur that transportation as daycare is not something that the district has any obligation whatsoever to support.

TechyMom said...

However, I think 1 mile is pretty long way to expect people to walk with a Kindergardener. My closest school is .9 miles away up a big hill. It's a few blocks from our preschool, so I've tried to walk there with her quite a few times. I can walk there (one way) in about 20-25 minutes. With my daughter, it takes the better part of hour, and 20 minutes for me to walk back. That's 80 minutes twice a day, way more time than I can add to my commute. Sure, when she's 8 or 10 she can walk or bike there by herself, but not before that. We drive to preschool, and we'd drive to that school if we were assigned there.

hschinske said...

I've never heard anyone say that they chose a long bus ride on purpose to sub for daycare. I have heard some people say that the bus ride turned out to make their work-juggling easier, so they didn't mind it as much as they otherwise would. Seems quite different to me.

Helen Schinske

Sahila said...

I'm not a computer programmer but I work with a bunch of people who are....

I dont understand this whole assignment plan - old computer thing...

Someone talked about the computer being this large cabinet sized thing....

What are we doing, living in the 1950s, 60s and 70s with huge mainframes locked in a room?

I would guess this is a software issue.... I would also guess there are other districts around the country who have had to deal with this issue and have software we could be using to solve this problem...

If there's not, or the argument is our situation is so different that we need something customised to our circumstances, then we need a programmer (developer) to write new code for a software application with all the algorithms incorporated that will allow transfer of data from the old system into the new...

If that cant be done, then write code for the new system and hand enter the old data into the new format...

Time consuming yes... costly maybe... insurmountable and a reason to delay movement forward on the SAP and working out/modelling all the permutations of the problem (siblings, no siblings etc)I dont think so....

I watch programmers handle this kind of challenge every day.... and right now Seattle is full of programmers who would be grateful for the work...

slim said...

i just clued into the changes around sibling priorities and the elimination of location as a factor in determining who will get a coveted spot at a sought after school and I have got to say those are two of the most non sensical decisions an organization could make. wow - aboslutely rediculous.

I followed some of this conversation mostly just to confirm I was reading the new plan correctly, and I am impressed with how thoughtful it is. But, as someone with two kids who lives very close to but on the wrong side of the current reference area for mgilvra (and no doubt in what will be the new reference area for Madrona) I gotta say I am one of the losers. Make Madrona better then you say - I would if I could. Apply to Lauralhurst or view ridge then you say since my chances are as good as anyone elses - thats a bit of a hike, and my kids will want friends in a school that is close to him.

The problems with the sibling change are obvious and people are trying to make arguments for it but I just dont buy it - its a sacrifice made to accomodate the hardfast rule that if you are in the reference area you are in. Its a necessary evil of giving the reference area people a sure thing - but I think everyone can agree its a bad consequence.

sorry for dredging up old and obvious observations that folks have already beaten with a dead horse on this - but man, I gotta say these are strikingly bad decisions, but I dont pretend to be a nuetral observer.

Elizabeth W said...

On 6/4/09 at 8:24 AM Roy Smith said...


Elizabeth, the way I read the SAP, what you are proposing is exactly what will happen. From the SAP, page 9


...


Thanks, Roy!

I missed this when I scanned over the latesst SAP. This has not been present in all drafts. Hooray for responsive changes from SPS!

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