NCLB Opt out letters

Thanks to Deirdre at NE Cluster schools blog for the link

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and School Choice
Quick Overview – August 2009
If you got a letter saying that you can choose to send your child to a different school, it means that overall your child’s assigned school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in gains in student achievement on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). AYP is defined by specific state and federal requirements in particular predetermined categories. If a school misses even one of these categories, then it does not make AYP overall, even if the school as a whole has made gains.
Many people want to know if they HAVE to change their child’s school. The answer is NO, your child does not have to change schools – that decision is up to the parent or guardian.
If you want to transfer your child to another school, we must receive your application by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21st. You can use the return envelope we provided, fax the application to (206) 252-0816, or drop it off at the John Stanford Center at 2445 Third Avenue South (located south of Safeco Field and two blocks east of Sears).
If you submit an application by the deadline, we will contact you before changing your child’s school assignment. We’ll try to reach you by phone and complete an assignment change with you at that time. The goal is to get the NCLB transfer assignments done as quickly as possible.
We prioritize applications based on achievement level and free/reduced-price meal eligibility. (If this information is not available individually for your child, achievement data and free/ reduced meal eligibility for the assigned school will be used.)
If you rank order all of the schools listed on your child’s application, you are guaranteed assignment to one of those schools. If you don’t rank order all of the schools, we will process the request assuming that you prefer your child’s current school to the other (unranked) choices.
Transportation will be provided to all of the schools on your child’s application.
If your child is eligible for a transfer because of AYP status, your request will be processed before transfer requests of students who are on waiting lists.
Call the School Improvement Department at (206) 252-0190 or (206) 252-0818.
NCLB Public School Choice Options for 2009-10
OPT-OUT schools have provided information about the steps they are taking to ensure excellence for all students. If you received a letter about transferring your child to a different school, please refer to the letter you received for this information.
Aki Kurose*
Dearborn Park*
Highland Park*
Olympic Hills
South Lake*
Thurgood Marshall*
Van Asselt*
West Seattle Elementary*
Wing Luke
* These schools must also offer Supplemental Educational Services (SES), such as free tutoring, due to being in AYP Step 2-5. Parents can choose either PSC or SES but not both (that is, students cannot transfer and also receive SES). Information on SES will be mailed to families after school starts.
Specific OPT-IN schools from this list are offered based on where each student attending an OPT-OUT school lives and on which schools offer bilingual services, if applicable. If you received a letter saying that you can choose to send your child to a different school, the specific schools offered for your child are listed on the application you received.
Beacon Hill
BF Day
Catharine Blaine
Daniel Bagley
Green Lake
Jane Addams
John Muir
John Rogers
Loyal Heights
North Beach
Salmon Bay
South Shore
The Center School
Thornton Creek
View Ridge
West Woodland


Megan Mc said…
I wonder how many schools, like AS#1, who were on the opt out list last year got bumped off because of the increased Title 1 threshold.

What did the district gain from doing that? All of those schools loose out on Federal $.

Olympic Hills was listed as an opt in school for AS#1 last year and now it is an opt out school. How the heck does that happen?

I'd like to know how many other schools could go from 0 to LEVEL 4 status if their FRL numbers change or the district lowers the threshold again.

How is it that there are no comprehensive middle schools available? WHy is the Center School listed as an opt in school?
anonymous said…
Students attending schools that do not make AYP who choose to "opt out" get assigned to their new schools in mid to late August, and if the new school has a waitlist they JUMP it.

In the very over crowded NE cluster there are 7 schools that have been identified as NCLB receiving or "opt in" schools this year. The 7 schools are: Bryant, Jane Addams, John Rogers, Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Wedgewood and Thornton Creek.

Last year Eckstein was an "opt in" school. They received 26 sixth grade NCLB transfer students at the end of August. The NCLB students jumped the 150+ student waitlist at Eckstein, and as a result Eckstein was unable to move even one 6th grade student off of their waitlist last year.

Don't get me wrong , I think it is great that students from failing schools are being offered a better opportunity, and I think they must have options and that we must accommodate them. But I have a problem with the last minute, late August, jump the waitlist, assignments. Parents that go through the regular enrollment process research, gather data, and choose a school based on the probability that their child will get into that school. If their child doesn't get in and they are placed on a wailtist, it hardly seems fair that a group of NCLB students jump the waitlist at the last minute and get assigned ahead of them. So why not assign NCLB students first? Before open enrollment even begins for the general public. Then parents applying for schools during open enrollment would have that data and be able to make informed decisions. The District has had to wait until late August because that is when WASL scores were released and NCLB schools were identified, but beginning this year we have a revised WASL or whatever they are calling the new test. Can the district place the NCLB transfer students earlier now?
Robert said…
not to mention ttm tm that were t1 last yr prior to the app split a lot of money was lost in that exchange.
StepJ said…
How can Jane Addams be an opt-in school when it has not even started yet?
Robert said…
wow so top 5 on the wl for stevens means ... not gonna happen. we did not know that... what a game
Megan Mc said…
I heard somewhere that Seattle high schools don't get Title 1 money so they are not sanctioned under NCLB and therefor not eligible for opt outs. This seems like a ridiculous situation since it leaves hundreds of kids behind at high schools like Rainier Beach.

I wonder how many RBHS students would take the opt our option.

I wonder how many kids who were forced to take an assignment at Aki Kurose and jumping at the chance to get into TOPS.
My brain hurts. My son went to Olympic Hills until he started sixth grade last school year. It's always been held up as a great example of a small school in the district (and it is, or at least was). Why in the heck is it an opt-out school this year? I'm going to have to go talk to some people.
Megan Mc said…
Weren't Olympic Hills and Northgate both identified as spill over schools for NE capacity management? What happens now that all those families can Opt into the schools they were denied placement in the place (Laurlhurst, Salmon Bay, WEdgewood, Thornton Creek, etc.)?
anonymous said…
Megan, that is exactly what happened to a friend of ours last year. They applied for Eckstein 1st choice, Salmon Bay 2nd choice, AS1 3rd choice. Their son was assigned to AS1, and was placed on the Eckstein waitlist (he was 93rd). Then they received the NCLB letter from AS1 offering them a transfer out of the school to either Eckstein or Broadview Thompson. They chose Eckstein and were placed there.
Josh Hayes said…
So, wait. Kids from NCLB crap-list schools can simply jump the wait-list on schools in their reference area? What does that mean about the reality of waitlists in the first place? If a school is full, isn't it full? Or are there places held for a handful of legally required transfers?

Mind you, I have no interest at all in putting either of my kids into Eckstein. My mental image is of a giant shoe-horn shoving struggling kids through a door... but I would be interested to know what this'd mean for the Salmon Bay wait list.
Stu said…
If your child is eligible for a transfer because of AYP status, your request will be processed before transfer requests of students who are on waiting lists.

Wow, I don't mean to sound jaded here but it seems to me that there are a lot of families who didn't get into Bryant, Wedgewood, View Ridge, etc., who are going to be awfully excited this week!

Ananda said…
Folks are forgetting that the issue is not the district, it is federal and state law. Federal and state law set the Title 1 FRL threshold, not the district. Federal and state law say that capacity can't prevent a school from being an opt-in school, which is why opt-ins can jump waitlists. And, federal and state law look at WASL results, so of course it is after the WASL results come out in August that the opt-out/opt-in process happens. These are just small pieces of the NCLC problems.
anonymous said…
I'm not sure where the capacity comes from to accomodate the NCLB transfer students in over subscribed/popular schools. I don't know if schools get over booked and have to magically add capacity to accomodate these students, or if the district reserves some spots at popular schools since they know they will have to accomodate NCLB transfers?

What I do know is that Eckstein generally moves their 6th grade waitlist 25-30 spots each year. Last year was the first year they were asked to be an "opt in" school for NCLB transfer kids, and last year was the first year (according to their registrar) that they were unable to move even one kid off of their 6th grade waitlist. It appears to me, and I may be wrong, that the NCLB transfer students took the attrition/no show spots that would have ordinarily been offered to the waitlist students.
Charlie Mas said…
So, to sum up:

For those looking to game the system, if you think your chances of getting into your school of choice is poor, the smart thing to do is to name it as your first choice and to name a school under sanctions as your second choice.

If you are assigned to your first choice school, great!

If you are assigned to your second choice school, wait for your opt-out letter, and then opt in to your first choice school. You will get assigned there.
Sue said…
I am confused , along with Josh and Diedre. I know many of these opt-in schools have wait-lists already, indicating to me, that that they are at capacity. So how are they expected to accommodate more students? Do students who choose to "opt-in" displace students already assigned?

Is there information about how many students actually take advantage of this program? For example, is it 1 or 2 per school?

That would be helpful to know. I also think it is interesting that the high schools are not on the list, because I can see that could possibly cause some capacity problems as well.
anonymous said…
I don't have the numbers for all schools, but I know that Eckstein took 24 NCLB transfer students at the end of August last year.
Robert said…
I thought there was previous discussion that some of the schools crammed in students initially with the idea that a few places would open up. Was that to game NCLB?
Unknown said…
For NCLB, do you have to pick an opt-in school in your cluster? Can you pick any on the list or do they put kids where there is the most room? Will they provide transportation from anywhere?
Sahila said…
You only get the choice to move your child out of your AYP failing school if your school is Title 1... the website doesnt make this clear (I talked to them about this yesterday)...

So, AS#1 for example, chose to take Title 1 funds for last year because it had 47% FRL...taking Title 1 money AUTOMATICALLY put it into Step 4 of NCLB...

We live in the north end; last year my son was slated to start kindergarten at AS#1 - we were offered a place at either Broadview Thompson and Northgate, I think... both schools had failed to meet AYP but had not taken Title 1 funding... we chose to stay at AS#1 because I wanted an alternative education experience for him and I didnt see the point in changing him to another 'failing' school...

This year, because the FRL threshold making a school eligible to take Title 1 funds was raised to 55%, AS#1 is no longer Title 1 (and yet is still in Step 4 of NCLB) and we are not being given a choice to move out...

But that's pretty much a moot point, because kids in 'failing' schools are not necessarily being offered slots in any more 'successful' schools... you'll have noticed that hardly any schools in the District (and on the list available for Opt In) made AYP...

And I think that the two school choices being offered people are pretty much 'in cluster', so some people are caught between a rock and a hard place... with the option being offered hardly better than the placement they have now...

Not a very effective way of dealing with quality issues...
katweb said…
You only get the letter to opt out if your child was actually at the school the year it failed. You cannot opt out by simply being enrolled for this year.

Therefor you cannot put down a school that might fail in hopes of getting into an opt in school.

I had three daughters at Madrona when we got the letters a few years ago. Since my youngest was just entering K she did not qualify, only my two oldest that attended the year it failed.
Anonymous said…
I think people may be getting worked up unnecessarily about NCLB families potentially jumping NE cluster waitlists.

The link says: "Specific OPT-IN schools from this list are offered based on where each student attending an OPT-OUT school lives and on which schools offer bilingual services, if applicable. If you received a letter saying that you can choose to send your child to a different school, the specific schools offered for your child are listed on the application you received.

I would be surprised if the over-subscribed NE cluster schools were offered widely as a choice for families wanting to leave their current "failing" schools in West Seattle, or South Seattle, for example. If for no other reason than transportation costs, I would think that SPS would list a few nearby schools in each of these AYP letters so that children are not moving to schools miles and miles away from home.

It goes on to say: "If you rank order all of the schools listed on your child’s application, you are guaranteed assignment to one of those schools. If you don’t rank order all of the schools, we will process the request assuming that you prefer your child’s current school to the other (unranked) choices."

So these families cannot chose the one school that they want. They have to rank all of the schools offered to them, and they will be assigned to the first one that has space. If they try to pick just one school from the list, they get nothing! They have to stay at the current school.

Honestly, this may be why many families don't opt-out. You have to be willing to accept an assignment to any one of the schools that they offer you (based on your address). Maybe some people don't want to take that chance.
anonymous said…
I think IAK367 might have a point. There are no NE cluster schools on the NCLB opt out list,and there are only two schools on the list from the N cluster (Olympic Hills and Northgate). My guess, and it is only a guess, is that students from Northgate and Olympic Hills will be offered space at JA, maybe even Greenlake, but probably not at the over crowded NE cluster schools.

But it did happen last year at Eckstein. And, why did the district list Bryant, View Ridge, Wedgewood,Laurelhurst, and Thornon Creek as opt in schools?

And for the Central South clusters I bet it will be a very different scenario. Nearby TOPS, McGilvra, Montlake, Stevens, New School might seem like very attractive options to kids from Aki and other very low performing schools.
Maureen said…
I believe the contractual maximum still holds for opt in schools. So for a school like TOPS that fills every class to the contractual max during the assignment process and has wait lists in every grade, the only spaces that will be available for opt out kids are those that have opened up since August. Opt in kids can jump the wait list, but only for those limited spots (maybe one per grade level).

I'm curious about the contradiction between what Sahila (and Deidre's friend) experienced with an incoming kindergartener vs. what happened to katweb. It sounds like the policy isn't applied consistently?

The letter says We prioritize applications based on achievement level and free/reduced-price meal eligibility .
What exactly does that mean? Do kids who have low (high?) grades and are poor get assigned first? What if there are multiple poor kids? (or do they mean achievemnet level of the schools?)What exactly are the tiebreakers?
reader said…
Sahila, you are confused about AYP and steps of failing. AS1 has been in various steps of failing, for many years. Go look at the OSPI records, it was in step 3 failing the in 2006-2007. There just haven't been any sanctions until it accepted title 1 funds. If AS1 decides again NOT to take title 1 funding.... there won't be sanctions, but the school will still be in step 4 failure. The school district offers you some other choices, but you could definitely reject those placements... and request an assignment at a school making AYP. Most people would be extremely happy with the some of the choices like Eckstein or TOPS and may not wish to press the issue. I'd know I'd be pleased enough not to worry that those schools are also "failing". Further it's not true that "hardly any schools are making AYP". Lots and lots of elementary schools are making AYP.
reader said…
PS. The contractual maximum is another myth. Teachers simply must be compensated for overloads. And, there must be extra assistance in the classroom. That doesn't mean nobody will be added to TOPs. It means there might be an aide in the classroom and the teacher will get an extra $50.
Maureen said…
reader Of course you are right about contractual maxima. There were 31 kids in my 1st grader's classroom (with NO aid, that was supposedly because the teacher didn't want one--let's hope she got more than $50 in compensation.)

In practice (at TOPS) it does seem that the classrooms have maxed out at 32 in recent (10) years (since the 34 4th graders debacle). Of course we have a new principal for next year. Do they have any power over how many they have to accept?
Sahila said…
Reader - not the story I heard from several AS#1 parents and the former principal when we had this discussion... and this so-called 'failure' was because many parents choose not to let their kids do the WASL - used to be almost 100% non-participation, I believe its around 50% now...lots of zeros for non-participation bring down the stats.... take out the zeros and we dont do so badly...

We dont get to DECIDE to take Title 1 funds this year because eligibility is based on the FRL percentage - the threshold is now 55%... last year AS#1's FRL number was 47%...

And you dont get to decide/choose whatever school you want on the list - its cluster based (last year's letter offered my son two choices in our cluster and they were both schools not meeting AYP) many of us wouldnt be offered a 'successful' school...

As to there not being many non-AYP schools - that's not true... there are very many; I dont have the time to go through every school report and pick out the data - I think Dan Dempsey or someone posted a list on one of the other threads in the last couple of months... it was a long, long list...

and I found a report which I worked off in creating an anti-closure position paper for AS#1, for our public meeting on Dec 15 2008, which report listed all the non-AYP schools in the District...there are many, many, including SALMON BAY (I know)and OLYMPIC VIEW (I think)and other schools you would think are doing well... cant find the report on the SPS website now, lost my hard-drive a few months ago so dont have my copy... it was a large spreadsheet showing every school in the District, with data as to building scores, what step of NCLB they were in, if any and AYP status...

Anyway... not much good saying its so without being able to point you to the proof, so I'll leave it at that... maybe Dan or Charlie or whoever published that list would be kind enough to find it and post it again...
reader said…
Sahila, LOOK at the link I provided in the last link. It shows... YES INDEED... AS1 failing, step 3 the year before last. Failing every other year too. AS1 has horrible test scores.. for those who took it. No, almost every year, most students took the WASL. True, 1 year, half didn't. It's all a matter of public record. In fact, some years everyone took the WASL. It is very simple to look it up yourself. You don't need to rely on, "I heard from a parent in the yard."

If you'd like the list of "AYP" schools... that too is unbelievably simple. LOOK at the AYP list. You don't need to rely on "what I heard from Dan Dempsey".

Alki, Day, Bryant, Concord, Bagley, Greenlake, Coe, Hay, Lawton, Muir, Stanford, Lafayette, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights, McGilvra, Montlake, North Beach, Salmon Bay, Schmitz Park, Stevens, Center School, New School, View Ridge, THornton Creek, Wedgewood, West Woodland, Whittier ...

All making AYP, to name a few.

You may have to get a lawyer, but you can assert your rights to a passing school, if that's what you want. The district may have to place you out of district or provide other compensatory education... and you will have to fight for it.
Sahila said…
Reader - did you check the 2008/09 AYP list? There are 95 schools (elementary, middle and high) listed - 65 didnt make AYP, 30 did... I counted... 2/3 of schools in the District are 'failing'...

I'm not going through the whole list again pulling out the elementary/middle schools that did... they are a fraction of the total, and none that did, have room for kids to transfer in from Title 1 Non-AYP schools... they're already full and have waitlists - it wont make a difference if you frog leap to the front of the waitlist - there is no room, especially as the District has dumped many hundreds of kids into the pool by closing so many schools...

Have you ever gotten a letter offering you the option to switch? Were the schools you were offered out of cluster or not? Did they make AYP or not...

I got the letter last year, we were not offered places in schools that were succeeding, we were not offered places in schools that were out of cluster, we were not offered a place in another alternative school...

And while I didnt go through AS#1's WASL stats past the last two years, I checked the 'no score for' and 'unexcused absences' numbers and they make up at least 50% of the total for each grade enrolment... AS#1 has consistently refused as a school community to do the WASL - only in the last two years has the percentage of kids doing the test crept towards the 50% mark... and taking out those zeros for non-completion, our scores are pretty much the average for the District...
anonymous said…
Here is the OSPI link that shows every Seattle Schools AYP status.

You'll note that out of 94 schools (EM, MS, HS and K-8), only 29 Seattle Schools made AYP last year.

If a school fails to meet AYP in even one small area the school goes on the OSPI list of schools not meeting AYP. This can be deceiving. Consider for instance Eckstein MS, which is one of the highest performing middle schools in the district, has a 160 kid waitlist, and the highest WASL scores of all SPS middle schools, but failed to meet AYP in one area, ELL.

You might also be surprised to know that several of our districts top performing, most popular, over subscribes schools are also on the list of schools that did not meet AYP, Roosevelt, Garfield and Ballard, TOPS.

So a school not meeting AYP may not be what you think. You would have to do more research and find out in what area/s it did not meet AYP.
reader said…
I think we all realize that virtually all middle and high schools fail AYP... and for a variety of easily ascertainable reasons. Some for participation, some in various groups like ELL or special education. May or may not be important reasons to any given family. The point is that lots of elementary schools, DO in fact make AYP. Since title 1 funds go almost exclusively to elementary schools, that gives a lot of choice to people seeking elementaries meeting AYP. If the district is indeed making only "failing" schools available for transfer, then parents must press with legal firepower... unfortunately.
Charlie Mas said…
Making or not making AYP is not a particularly good indicator of school quality. As was noted, if a school fails to meet the requisite pass rate in any of the multitude of categories of students - such as ELL students or Special Education students, then the whole school is marked as failing to make AYP.

If fewer than 10 students in a category are tested, then that category isn't reported.

So a school that makes AYP more likely did it by not having enough ELL students to include in the consideration than to do it by getting the ELL students to pass the test in sufficient numbers.

In addition to having high enough pass rates, there are other means for meeting AYP. It can be attendance rates or graduation rates.

Rainier Beach High School advocates love to brag about how RBHS met AYP last year. They did, but not with their test scores. It was through the alternative method and, even then, on appeal.

In short, I wouldn't use AYP or NCLB sanction steps as any indication of school quality. It would be just as misguided as using the that stupid list of America's "best" high schools that is based entirely on participation in AP and IB classes.
anonymous said…
If the district is indeed making only "failing" schools available for transfer, then parents must press with legal firepower... unfortunately."

The district is not making only "failing" schools available to NCLB "opt out" students. That would be against Federal Law.

Here is an example of how, when and why the district might reassign a NCLB opt out student to a school that did not meet AYP. Student A is attending Aki Kurose a NCLB "opt out" school and the student is not an ELL student. The district could offer that student a transfer to Eckstein, as Eckstein meets AYP in every area but ELL.

Eckstein is on the OSPI list of schools that didn't meet AYP, but it is not a "failing" school in any category but ELL. Eckstein is one of the highest performing middle school in all other categories in the entire district. So if you didn't have an ELL student you'd be getting offered a GREAT placement. If however, student X was an ELL student the district could not offer him space at Eckstein.
reader said…
If the district makes schools which are "failing to meet AYP" available... BUT students and families are happy with those so-called "failing" choices... Great! Nobody would care or press action. Salmon Bay (passing) and Eckstein (failing) would probably be terrific for somebody assigned to the failing Madrona or Broadview Thomson. On the other hand, Sahila says some families are only offered other failing schools (in prior years given a small list of all-failing schools some non-title 1). That would be illegal... and require action, unfortunately. It wouldn't be sufficient to simply offer a non-poor, non-title 1, but failing school as an option unless the families were happy with that as an OPTION.
reader said…
PS. Never assume that the district follows the law. They count on the prohibitive expense of legal action to deter families from holding them to legal requirements.
wseadawg said…
Can we all now see how NCLB is nothing but a trojan horse for privatization of public schools by creating a pretext (failure) to siphon away federal funding from all public schools? Could we find anything as arbitrary and capricious as measures like AYP to determine how many schools the feds can kill via starvation? Can anyone with a straight face argue that NCLB is a good thing? Good grief.
wseadawg said…
P.S. You have to hand it to the privatization crowd. They can turn almost anything into a mini 9/11 while the rest of us take things at face value, or at least in good faith. They don't. The joke is on us.
reader said…
How is NCLB "starving the public schools"? Those schools aren't losing a dime of federal funds. They are losing students that never wanted attend them. And if you don't care about AYP, or think the test is capricious, you're free to stay at that "failing" school. That seems good to me.
Maureen said…
Charlie, you say: So a school that makes AYP more likely did it by not having enough ELL students to include in the consideration than to do it by getting the ELL students to pass the test in sufficient numbers.

Are you saying that if a school has nine or fewer African American kids (or ELL or whatever category) at every grade level, they will always meet AYP in that category regardless of the kids' test scores? (I assumed the scores were just not reported to the public, not that they weren't accounted for in AYP.)
dj said…
Katweb, is that true? Because I got a letter offering my daughter transfer; she is going to Thurgood Marshall this fall but wasn't there last year. We're not taking advantage of it because she is in APP, but we definitely got the letter with the options (Montlake, McGilvra, JA, John Muir, and one of Wedgewood or Laurelhurst (can't remember which).
anonymous said…
Dj, Katweb is mistaken. The District must offer any student assigned to an "opt out" school a transfer out. It doesn't matter whether the student attended the school the previous year or not.
Charlie Mas said…
Maureen asks: "Are you saying that if a school has nine or fewer African American kids (or ELL or whatever category) at every grade level, they will always meet AYP in that category regardless of the kids' test scores?"

Yes, Maureen. That is exactly correct.
katweb said…
We were in the first group that the district had to deal with for the opt out. We didn't even get the letters until the end of September and they moved schools in November. Only my two oldest (3rd and 5th grades) received the letters. I spoke with Tracy Libros at the time and she confirmed that I did not receive a letter for my kindergartner because she did not attend the school when it failed.

At that time the district was scrambling around to meet the NCLB requirements and some of the schools that were listed as options were having emergency PTA meetings to deal with the fact that they had waitlists and we would not only jump them but be enrolled. They were not happy.

I believe that was the first year anyone actually used the option (that was because of the principle there - but that's a whole other story - oh, and she's still there and the schools still failing) We had received the letters four years previous, but never thought of opting out (Ricky Malone was principal back then and raised them off the list).

I can't say if they changed the policy, but the whole point is that if the school your child is attending isn't meeting the needs of the kids (WASL scores), you can go somewhere else. Not just play the game of put down a school that is pretty sure to fail and wait for my letter to get into the school of your dreams....or maybe that is the competition that the district wants? Charters anyone?
Charlie Mas said…
Let's remember that Seattle Public Schools has the equivalent of Charters in our Alternative Schools.

The problem is that the District will not take it upon itself to create an alternative school. Instead, it takes a dedicated cadre of families to create an alternative school and they then have to sell the District on the idea.

So let's say you think that Thornton Creek is simply wonderful and you notice that it has a waitlist up the wazoo. So you figure that there's an unmet demand for Thornton Creek-style alternative education. --I chose Thornton Creek for this example because it has a distinctive and documented educational perspective that is part of a significant movement and because it does have a waitlist from here to Kansas City--

Let's say that you also notice that the Southern part of West Seattle - the Denny service area - lacks access to an alternative school for K-5. That area also has a vacant elementary school building: E.C. Hughes.

So you might think that there would be sufficient interest and demand to support the creation of a school like Thornton Creek in the E. C. Hughes building. Now what?

The District's process would be for you to make a Program Placement Proposal, in the Fall for the following school year.

But it's going to take a lot more than that.

First, regardless of the demand, the District is going to need some time to get the building ready for occupancy. So your program is going to have to meet somewhere else at first - at either Fairmount Park, Genessee Hill, or Boren.

Second, you're going to need about 200 families to commit to the program or there's no way that your Program Placement Proposal could possibly be successful. Let's be real - even if you had the people, there is little chance that the Program Placement Proposal would be successful. The District staff who decide on those things has absolutely no interest in approving new alternative programs. It doesn't serve their interests. Moreover, they will hate the idea simply because it isn't their idea. You will need at least one Board member - probably two - to champion it for you. Even then, they will not approve it the first time it is proposed. They will need a year or two to get used to the idea before they will even begin to seriously consider it.

You will have to recruit people who say that they will enroll their children in such a program - three or four years from now when the program is up and running.

You will have to sustain pressure on the Board first to create the program and then you will have to sustain pressure on them to fund the program's facility for years and years.

Think of how long Pathfinder went without a decent building. Think of how long ORCA went without a decent building. Think of how long AS#1 has been in an inadequate building. Think of the condition of Lowell when it housed only APP and Special Ed. Think of how long The NOVA Project was in the Mann building. Think of the John Marshall school in their building and now at Wilson-Pacific. This District will not spend a dime to improve a building that houses an alternative program.

You're supposed to be so grateful that you are allowed to exist that you're not supposed to ask for a decent place to exist.

The only alternative programs to get buildings are those with significant political clout: the money behind The New School, the African-American Academy (and they had to wait a long time for theirs), and TOPS. The only other way that alternative programs get buildings is following a closure. ORCA gets Whitworth, Pathfinder gets Cooper. Poor NOVA and SBOC get moved into a closed school - Meany - but it is still in poor condition.

Under these conditions, it is no wonder that there hasn't been a new alternative program for years and years.

We don't need charters. We just need to make it easier to create a new alternative school.
reader said…
Uh. No. Alternative schools are NOT charter schools. Alternative schools have no "charter". A wimpy little mission is something every school has. Alts have to hire based on all the rules of the union... eg they're forced to hire people not on board with the "charter" and based on seniority. The alternatives have no agreed upon assessment methodology... and are measured the same as everything else. The point of charter schools now days is usually to reduce the acheivement gap for groups at risk. The so-called popular "alternatives" don't serve particularly many at-risk students, let's just use FRL as a stand-in for that measure. The alts that do serve many FRL are those that perform poorly by the agreed upon measure. And, they have all been on the chopping block or threatened with closure: Summit, AS1, AAA, etc.

Using Thornton Creek as your example. It has 7.7% FRL. Although that may be a good school, that is why it is both popular and successful. And, that is why there is no replication possible. Why would we even want that? "Hey let's replicate the alternative schools that don't serve any poor kids." You're really asking to replicate demographics... which isn't possible.
To use Thornton Creek as the example once again, TC did start with a "charter" back in the day. Also TC serves the highest percentage of IEP students in the cluster and has a very successful Autism program. The FRL numbers are not a stand in for an inclusive community.

Finally TC, uses a very proven educational methodology that could be replicated and has been replicated all across the county.
reader said…
As to whether or not the TC "autism" program is successful, it's up for debate. Students so far haven't had any choice in being assigned to those programs. So, what is the measure of success for them? You can't really say their education is part of the "alternative" philosophy, it's required. EG. Do they go to camp and participate in that part of the alternative environmental education? Really, FRL is a much better measure of "at risk".
Now wait - TOPS did have to wait for years for their building (although, sadly, it was originally promised to Summit K-12 which begs the question of what if those two schools locations HAD been switched?). New School (now South Shore) bounces in the district between being regular or alternative (it has been labeled both ways on many district documents). I think they are currently a reg ed school.

FYI, a grand opening is scheduled for the new South Shore (New School) building on Sep. 3rd. This is one school I absolutely want to tour so I'll be there.
The IEP numbers for Thornton Creek do not include the self contained program. So excluding the self contained program, TC still has the largest number of IEP students and does a great job. FRL is not the only number.

As for the self contained program, my neighbor's daughter has been in that program for years. They rave about it.

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