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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Aki Kurose SAP Boundaries Meeting

Open thread for anyone who attended.

34 comments:

SolvayGirl said...

Thanks Melissa.
I am especially concerned that Dr. GJ was not in attendance. This issue is just too important for her to miss any of these meetings.

CCM said...

I agree SolvayGirl - the issues in the southend deserve the attention of the sup without question.

By her not showing up - it makes it obvious that the district's only solution to improving the southend schools is to force attendance at currently failing buildings. She has no other plan - so why take the time to answer additional questions from parents?

I agree that increasing neighborhood attendance at failing schools could help in theory; although it would be difficult for me to send my 6th grader to a failing middle school (a time when things can go horribly wrong in even the best situation) and trust that he/she would magically receive the support they need when the district hasn't changed anything else about the school.

Without additional assurances of a "success" plan, I believe southend families will find alternatives to their attendance school (Option, Mercer Island, Renton, private) instead of blindly following the SAP.

CCM said...

Just so you know - I realize that all (most) of Seattle's middle schools are "failing" based on NCLB - however, some (most in the southend) obviously have far greater problems than their testing data.

Full disclosure - our kids will go to WMS - a technically "failing" middle school but with a very diverse population, dedicated leadership staff and a very successful music program. It's not perfect - but I have far fewer complaints than if our kids were slated for Aki (no offense to current staff or student population - but I don't believe that they have ever had the district support that they need to succeed - especially based on their extremely high FRL%).

southmom said...

Cheryl Chow did attend, and to her credit, she acknowledged to a group of families that the district has neglected southend schools for several decades. But obviously, she didn't have answers to our questions, such as why should we send our kids to middle and high school that don't even come close to the quality of north or central schools. Or why we don't have a genuine comprehensive high school (music? band? performing arts? languages? for a start), or why the SAP is being forced on us without any kind of a sweetener, such as an IB program at Rainier Beach). No one questioned the dedication of the staff at Aki or RB, but repeatedly questioned the supreme lack of offerings and dismal test scores. We were told to ask the district for languages, etc. But no answer to our response of why we should have to beg for what schools in the other parts of the city get.

dj said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The district would have gotten a lot more buy-in from families south of the shipping canal had they, as an adjunct to the SAP, had canvassed communities and created concrete plans for ensuring that the schools parents have fled become acceptable. But it is clear that the district's "plan" is to assign people to schools and hope that (1) those people magically attend and (2) as a result, those schools magically improve.

southmom said...

DJ is correct. There was much talk of how the SAP put the cart before the horse in the southend. Not one whisper from the district on any new initiatives. We told the district officials at Aki last night that three years of middle school is a big chunk of a kid's life to place as a bet as big as they're asking. We all get that kids in poverty aren't going to score as high as others. A lot of us belong to elementary schools with high free/reduced lunch rates, and it's not scary. But the quality/comprehensiveness/discipline rates of the middle and high schools here ain't there yet.
Only problem was the district folks who were at Aki, I think, have no policy making power.

southend girl said...

It seemed like SPS is just going through the motions, not truly "engaging" the community. SPS officials leading the meeting came across as very defensive and weary or our tiresome questions and complaints. It appeared that the questions answered in the first segment of the meeting were the questions SPS wanted to answer, not the questions we asked.

Tracy Libros did attempt to answer some of the actual questions at the end, although some of her answers were unsatisfactory.

I found Ruth Metzger(?) to be dismissive and offensive in addition to defensive and disingenuous.

I am encouraged that Aki's principal seems to be making headway at that school. I hope she gets all the resources she needs.

In the end it seems like the new SAP will appease north end families at the expense of the south end. Promises of equitable schools are empty unless the schools are made equitable before the new SAP is put in place. I suspect that inequities will be magnified and schools and the city will become further segregated.

gavroche said...

I think you all have stumbled on the District’s Stealth Southeast Initiative. Yes, SPS expects YOU to turn around any faltering schools in your neighborhood. You and your PTSA funding, that is.

A clue to the District’s Pass-The-Buck Strategy can be found in the Capacity Management Plan that proposed the APP split. When District told APP parents at Lowell that their kids were to be split up and moved to Thurgood Marshall and Hawthorne – two under-enrolled, under-enriched, high FRE elementary schools in the central/SE part of town, the District also told these parents:

"We anticipate that the strong interest of APP students and parents in music and fine arts will likely extend that opportunity to everyone at Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall, as will the tradition of an active, resource-enhancing PTSA." (p. 35, http://www.seattleschools.org/area/capacity/preliminary_report_and_appendices.pdf)

In other words, the District expects parents to provide for and equalize all the schools the District itself has neglected.

Which brings us back to Meg Diaz’s Report: “Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools” http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=0AVRHgOkrxGL8ZGhta2I4cXJfMGZqbjZqampz&hl=en.

Imagine what we could do for SE schools with the money being wasted on unnecessary staff in the John Stanford Center.

And here's another cautionary tale about local families trying to invest in their neighborhood school:
"Race, class splinter Madrona School" http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003639256_madrona28m.html

Moose said...

The Supt was not at the north end McClure SAP meeting this week either. I am interested to see if she shows up at the one being held tonight at Ballard HS.

southend girl said...

Gavroche, sadly I know you are right. Madrona K8 came up at our table which was being "assisted" by Ruth Metzger. She claimed that she would love to send her kids there (although they are in the Lake Washington school district.) She chided us for suggesting that north end schools with more homogeneous populations and wealth and involvement in PTA would have advantages over the schools south end kids are assigned to. She as much as said that we should be ashamed for considering that south end schools might not be good enough for our children, implying that the lower expectations for children of color, etc. is our fault for not wanting our kids to go to such schools. Wow, the nerve. We all send our kids to diverse south end schools by the way.

Most of us live where we do because we value diversity and we do send our kids to south end schools. There are great choices for elementary now, but that is just it - right now we have some choice but no longer.

Prove to us that there is a plan for improving schools. Show us a real plan. We couldn't even get an update on the SE Initiative. Most of us would love to send our kids to middle and high closer to home. But we're not going to sacrifice our kids education or safety. Most of us don't believe that a small group of parents can turn around the culture or academics of any school. Nor should we have to. Some are willing to try and I applaud them for their faith.

Those who can afford to may move or choose private. But we don't want to have to make that choice and feel guilty for those who can't.

Again, differences will be magnified. It isn't right.

Meg said...

I may be missing something, but can't NCLB gum up the SAP?

Isn't the district required to offer families the choice to send their child to a school that isn't, by the provisions of the law, considered failing? It seems like that's a gigantic loophole... or maybe I don't fully grasp all of this.

southend girl said...

Hi Meg,

Good question. Anyone know?

I asked that question about Aki last night and didn't get an answer, rather a proclamation that all middle schools in Seattle are failing NCLB at some level. Hurray.

To continue my sad rant (sorry) I'll add that part of the reason the south end gets the short end of the stick is that it isn't a homogeneous community. There are so many people who are single parents, working multiple jobs, new immigrants, all of the above, etc. So many without the time or resources, or even knowledge to get involved. We can't have a singular unified voice. The few of us who are fortunate enough to have the ability to squawk get burnt out. Not asking for sympathy, just understanding of how different things are in the south end.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, the District is playing all of their old games.

Next time you get this sort of lip from Ruth Medsker - or anyone else - about how the South-end schools are just as good as they need to be or good enough for the likes of you, you should ask these people what they are using as a measure of school quality.

They say that the schools are good schools? By what measure? Where is the school scorecard that shows the school quality is just a high as the schools in the north-end? How do they measure school quality?

Without a measure of school quality in mind, any talk about the relative quality of schools is all yadda yadda yadda.

Where is the data to support her contention that the schools are good schools? Is it the WASL pass rates? Is it the suspension and expulsion rates? Is it the portion of students who are taking advanced classes? What is the measure of school quality that she is thinking of when she says that Aki Kurose is just as good as Eckstein? What is the measure of quality that she is thinking of when she insists that Rainier Beach is just as good as Roosevelt?

And - if Aki Kurose and Rainier Beach are so good - why does the District continue to pour money into them to improve them?

Whenever you are talking to these people you must always always always insist that they define their terms and use data to support their statements. In this case, Ms Medsker should have been made to define quality and provide data to support her contention that the south-end schools are quality schools on a par with north-end schools.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, with Ms Medsker in particular, it is a good idea to get her to be very clear about what she tells you. Later she may deny having said what she said. It's not too much to ask her to put it in writing. If you have to, you write it and have her sign it.

Karrie said...

FYI - A summary document plus the raw comments from all of the community meetings so far (except McClure) have been posted on the SPS website.

seattleschools.org/area/newassign/commenthome.html

I will be attending the Ballard Meeting tonight - it will be interesting to see if MGJ attends.

The reports from Aki Kurose dismay me ... please know that not all "north end" parents are ignorant or indifferent to the very real impact of the new SAP on the "south end" community.

adhoc said...

I do not discount the problems that south end schools face at all. But I can tell you that there are huge disparity issues in the north too.

Did you know that RBHS has more honors classes than Nathan Hale does. It also has more AP classes than Hale. And it offers kids more "seat time" than Hale does.

Did you know that Hale does not offer one single stand alone honors class in any grade. Not one. And they only offer a few stand alone AP classes in 11th and 12th grades. Hale's philosophy, which supports inclusive/integrated classrooms, where students are not separated by ability level, does not allow stand alone honors classes, and minimally supports/tolerates the few AP classes that they have. However, Ingraham, our neighbor high school offers a full IB diploma program in addition to a full array of honors classes, and 7 AP classes. Roosevelt, our other neighbor HS offers 9 honors classes, and a full array of AP classes.

Another issue with Hale is that it offers the least amount of "seat time" of any comprehensive HS in the entire district. Hale gets a waiver from the district to have a late start (10A) every single Tuesday all year long - this is in addition to the district approved early release days. While Hale offers the lowest amount of "seat time" of any high school in the district, Roosevelt, our neighbor high school, offers the highest amount of "seat time" of any HS in the district.

Next, Hale has a tiny, struggling band, and no orchestra at all. Hale has had a new band teacher every couple of years, and try as they might, they just can't seem to get the band program off the ground. Roosevelt on the other hand has a full orchestra, and several tiers of band, including a nationally award winning Jazz band. Ingraham also has an orchestra, and has an award winning drum line and marching band.

The fact is that Hale is an alternative school in many ways including it's use of "project based learning", the same model proposed for STEM at Cleveland. With all of these differences shouldn't Nathan Hale be an option/choice/alternative school too?

I know that many families embrace Hale's unique philosophy and project based learning, and I respect that. It works for some kids and families. But it does not work for the majority of families as is evident by the the fact that Roosevelt had a 200+ kid waitlist this year while Hale only had 7 kids on their waitlist. Every student that applied to Roosevelt listed it as their first choice, but only 160 of the 280 kids assigned to Hale listed Hale as their first choice.

Instead of addressing this issue, correcting it, and coming up with an equitable option for families living in the furthest north part of our city, the district is just going to force families, like it or not, into Hale via the new SAP.

It has to be one way or the other. Either Hale is classified an option/alternative school and people choose to be there, or Hale should be an assignment school and the district should oversee that it becomes a traditional HS with all of the offerings that other traditional schools have.

Parents should not be forced into an alternative type school.

Sahila said...

Not sure where to put this so that people will see...

Does anyone have contacts with the native american community? I was phoned late yesterday (6.45) about a meeting the community was having (at the Native American Heritage School @ Wilson Pacific?)to discuss major issues they are having with SPS and/or something about history curriculum content...

The person who called me is an interested bystander and didnt have any more information... he was going to the meeting and asked me if I could (he knows of my shamanic connection with natives here and my activism)...or anyone else I knew could....I couldnt and everyone else I know is busy with SAP boundary meetings...

I did say many of us are looking to link up with other communities unhappy about what's going on in the District and would be happy to liaise with them and he could use me as a contact... but sometimes its hard to cross those cross-cultural barriers and I wondered if anyone here has a more direct link?

north seattle mom said...

I also don't want to discount the real problems that the south end has with this plan but please don't think that this plan appeases, supports or give something great to the north end.

The district has done just a fine job of completely ignoring schools and parents up here with the big difference being that PTAs have picked up the slack. I recognize that this is a big difference in that there are effect PTAs but it is not a district resource issue.

PTAs used to supplement but now we provide core services that the district does fund in the south but not in the north. From back in the day when Olsefski used to say that he could educated a kid in the north end for $2K and that he wasn't going to give anything more than that, PTAs have been required to fundraise for basic education. They have stuffed classes with 28+ kids and stuffed buildings past fire codes to the point where there are so many students in the building that they have three lunch periods and only offer physical education as an elective for part of the year.

These extra buildings are not some form of special treatment, it is yet another too little too late on the part of the district. At last week's board meeting when the board asked why these building had to be opened so quickly, Traci Libros answered because they can't roll up the classrooms that they already have in the buildings. It was not to relieve over-crowding, it was because they literally could not stuff in one more kid and the can't do this new SAP without forcing families to go to a brand new school of undefined anything.

So again I sympathize with the south end issues and I know that this is unfair that folks are now forced to a failing neighborhood school but the new SAP also forces families into schools they don't want up here and splits up their families as there will not be any space for sibling in the over crowded schools.

The new SAP seems to not solve the real problems. Not enough space in the north and not enough quality in the south.

southend girl said...

North Seattle Mom,

What is it that you think the district is providing more of in the south? Are you referring to Title 1 funds? I think that is Federal and not all S. end schools qualify.

It is clear that there are loads of problems district wide, more than enough for everyone. But this thread was created to discuss the SAP meeting at Aki Kurose in the south end. I don't think an "us vs them" mentality is helpful.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems more people in the north are pleased by the new SAP. Perhaps a better way to say that is those with strong attendance area schools are pleased. It just happens that there aren't very many of those in the south at the moment, especially for middle and high.

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah... everyone loves diversity... until they have to go to school with it. Then somehow, they love it a lot less. Oh yeah, it's that "can't do attitude" or that "my kids can't go to school with people who dislike academic acheivement", or something. It's pretty tough to swallow that you love your neighborhood, but can't stomach the idea of attending the same schools as those people who struggle. It isn't about the schools... it's about those who are served by them. The district is obligated to counteract this attitude. And if you want your kid in a special rarified environment, go private... public school is not obligated to support you.

That said, there are a couple of middle schools that are meeting AYP: Addams and New School. If your kid is assigned to Aki, you can at least request to be sent to one of these schools with transportation. Aki happens to receive Title 1 funds, so they have to let you out, especially if there are actually schools meeting AYP to select.

dj said...

There are several kids at Madrona K-8 from out of district, and there is room in the building for more. If Ruth Metzger is eager to send her kids there, I am sure she can be accomodated.

Less sarcastically, whatever she claims to think of the school, the community that surrounds the school largely has rejected its program. It can't be that the response to this is, "well, you're going to go there and like it anyway." At least not if they are expecting to actually fill the building.

zb said...

I am a north-ender, and I'm pleased with the new assignment plan. But, I'm with you all the way in addressing issues in what is offered in the south end.

And, Charlie, that'd be the score card I'd want to use. The schools can only do so much about pass-rates, graduation rates, expulsion records, etc. Those things depend on the school population, more than they depend on the school.

But, when we're talking about opportunities that aren't offered (be it a music program, art program, AP classes, language classes, etc), I'm willing to fight just as hard to have those available to those of you assigned to Aki Kurose, as to those of us assigned to Eckstein. And, I think you should have those opportunities even if there's just one kid to take advantage of them.

uxolo said...

The superintendent in not in Seattle a good deal of time. Not sure how to share her attendance record or if we ask Steve Sundquist for a copy of her expense account. He is the chair of the Finance Committee.

adhoc said...

"In the end it seems like the new SAP will appease north end families at the expense of the south end. "

Southend girl it is you who started the us VS them discussion. If you don't want north end families to fire, then you shouldn't shoot at them.

Syd said...

There is a lot of good research out there that indicates there is a tipping point for % students who meet FRL criteria and school success. The FRL population cannot be the majority of the students. How do we spread out FRL more over the district? I think that goes back to city planning, but I think what the SAP plan is trying to do in the southend is get those schools closer to the right proportion. I am just not sure it is going to work if there is not some changes in programming as teasers for parents who are either opting out or getting lucky with SPS assignments.

GreyWatch said...

Nathan Hale does have a great frisbee team. As does Aki from what I saw at last Saturday's game against Hamilton. They were quite impressive.

dj said...

Syd, if that's the plan, it sure isn't obvious from the demographic charts. In both the Mercer and Aki Kurose service areas, all of the schools are now, and will continue to be, not just over the "tipping point," but over 50% FRE (mostly in the 60-80% range). Some schools go down a little, but some schools go up a little. I would be hard-pressed to argue that the FRE percentages down there are overall improving appreciably under the new plan.

southend girl said...

Dannie,

Touche. Perhaps my perception isn't correct. However, I don't think there is anyone who would perceive the reverse to be true.

SolvayGirl said...

To Reader:

This was posted by a parent of RBHS students on the KUOW thread:

"For example, RBHS needs text books, at least enough for each student to have one. Teachers are using their own money to repair instruments, buy equipment or classroom supplies. With some class sizes over forty (and even forty-five), smaller class sizes would be very nice. Often security is called in or must sit in to keep a semblance of order. Since troublemakers are returned to the same classes, disciplinarian has become a major part of the “teacher” job description, something I’m sure that they did not sign on for. Combat pay may attract great teachers, but it is probably not enough to retain superior teachers year–after-year. A policy to farm out those who continue to cause trouble into independent study somewhere other than campus instead of funneling them back in with a slap on the wrist. An example, just recently in my younger son’s math class, more than a dozen teens were texting, talking, laughing, playing music, waving to friends, at the same time brazenly ignoring the teacher’s attempts to restore order. Security was unavailable, the kids would not leave to go to the principle so the only choice left was to instruct those who came to learn, in spite of the obvious show of no respect for authority. Without district intervention now, all of the hard work invested in schools like RBHS – especially RBHS – will not matter."

Please explain to me why parents are out of line to not be happy about their children having to put up with this sort of stuff in their classrooms? I am so tired of being labeled because I expect my child to be able to sit in a classroom where the majority of the students are there to learn and the teacher has control over their classroom. These aren't kids "who struggle," these are kids who don't give a s#@t.

I also do not understand your logic here: "The district is obligated to counteract this attitude. And if you want your kid in a special rarified environment, go private... public school is not obligated to support you."

So public school is obligated to work with the kids who don't care, but NOT with my child who is eager to learn? Since when?! I don't consider a classroom where students are prepared and willing to learn a "rarified environment."

southend girl said...

Solvaygirl,

Ultra touche!

adhoc said...

You rock, Solvaygirl!

wseadawg said...

Solvay & Southend: You're a breath of fresh air! Amen.

Reader: I can't believe your cynicism. If those of us in the South didn't value and embrace diversity, we wouldn't live here. Duh!

Everyone wants what's best for their kids. This is a classic battle for resources from what may, or may not be, a shrinking pie.

CCM said...

Reader said: "everyone loves diversity... until they have to go to school with it."

Well - give me diversity over a homogeneous population that never is required to get along with people who are different than they are.

Ever heard of Columbine? - why don't you check out the demographics of that school at the time of the shootings...I attended a rival high school in Jefferson County, CO and I can tell you that 95% of that school was/is upper-middle class white.

Which is the major reason that we live where we do and are more than fine about the diversity of the schools that our kids will attend.

The SAP is placing kids into their neighborhood schools - which will also reflect where the parents have chosen to live. A good thing in some respect because it will minimize transportation and bring predictability - but it is also creating these homogeneous populations of kids that, in my opinion, will not benefit them as they move into a "global world" after SPS.

The southend is not "whining" about diversity - they chose where they live because they value diversity. They only want and should receive a quality education at their assignment area school. That is not being guaranteed to them - or in many cases not even suggested that it will happen.