A Decent First Draft (But a Draft I Think)

What a long, long meeting. I am tired and I have many, many notes. Sorry, I can't blast it all out right now but I'll try to get off some major points tonight.
  • This one is big so hence the boldface. The high school boundaries are LIKELY to shift especially in the north. DO NOT assume the map is correct at this time. This is because Tracy said that the enrollment numbers used for them are "not well-balanced". Not sure what this means but I do know it means that they don't have it quite right at this point. Maybe by the first community meeting on Saturday but stay tuned. This is not my supposition but very much what was said at the meeting.
  • No transition plan (and that includes grandfathering siblings) until AFTER the boundaries are approved.
  • Quote "Proposed boundaries are data-driven and based on a set of assumptions about how to apply data." So to read these maps in a vacuum is probably not a good idea. There is data/assumptions for many decisions (although not all and there's where some wiggle room may be).
  • The Directors asked many good questions which I will try to put up tomorrow. They seem to understand some of the issues with these boundaries especially in terms of geographic issues (Director Sundquist was particularly on point with his knowledge of WS and SW).
  • High school open choice seats are going to be 10% at all high schools based on functional capacity. Unfortunately, they chose to use an entire school capacity as an example but then later went on to say they didn't know yet if it was 10% of the entire school or the freshman class.
  • Enrollment is up and we are at nearly 46,000 students.
  • There are 5 schools to reopened: Sandpoint, McDonald, Viewlands, Old Hay and Rainier View. Old Hay is to be an Option School, K-5 Montessori. Sandpoint, Old Hay and McDonald will open in September 2010. Old Hay will open first in Lincoln for 2010-2011 and co-house with McDonald which will be at Lincoln until 2012. (They both need extensive repairs.) Viewlands and Rainier View won't open at all until Fall 2011 (neither region seems to need the space until then). And oddly, there was discussion to find more money for these reopening beyond the $34M in BTA III. (Boy, that's some fix-up.) So that's what they're doing with Lincoln.
  • There will be a Spectrum program at Madison Middle School. Additionally, there is to be some kind of advanced learning in every elementary school by next school year.
  • Mercer will become an International Middle School to feed from Beacon Hill.
  • Option School areas ARE NOT the same thing as middle school regions. Option schools will have their own distinct geographic regions. It is unclear to me when this info will be available.
  • New e-mail for comments - newassign@seattleschools.org
  • There is also a survey at the SAP webpage. I don't have any idea what it's about.
That's all for Mr. Small.


Lisa Keith said…
Sorry, the following comment is a copy of one I made on the WS Blog, but I'm feeling the need to vent. Just checked out the “school finder” tool. When I entered our address, I find that we are now in Lafayette Elem.’s reference area. I know it is a great school, but REALLY? We’re in Delridge, by the library. How can that possibly be our “neighborhood” school? My eldest attends Sanislo (a little over a mile from our home) and my youngest may be automatically assigned to Lafayette (over 3 miles from my home) unless some sort of grandfathering comes through or the draft map is altered. I guess my family living on a single teacher’s salary is part of the economic diversity SPS is trying to foster?

It appears that the Lafayette Elem. reference area was drawn in such a way as to pull students from an historically lower economically-advantaged neighborhood to integrate a more-advantaged one. I’m all behind diversity—-that’s a big part of why I live in Delridge and I’m at Sanislo—-but the current maps have families in our immediate neighborhood attending a school 3 miles from home, rather than the one a mile and a bit away. Why put families who, in theory, may already face struggles to be engaged in their school (transportation, poverty, work schedules, language barriers, cultural differences, etc.) further from a closer, neighborhood school?

This draft map also implies that many of those families displaced from Cooper Elem. this year will face yet another possible change next year—-the area gathered into Lafayette’s reference area is (if I read the map correctly) largely the area that used to attend Cooper last year and now attends Sanislo this year. Can’t SPS give those folks a break for once?
Sue said…
OK, I have been following this all evening, and all I can say about the high school boundary lines is REALLY? They are not set yet? One of the most hot-button, highly anticipated boundaries of the whole darn thing, and even this is not right? How could they mess this one up already?
Billy said…
So when would or how would we find out who would be the principal at Viewlands....and are the really going to re-open this school or is this just being thought out and there is a possibility....
Unknown said…
Anyone notice that the Denny/Sealth boundaries don’t line up? Wasn’t the benifit of the colocation continuity? It doesn’t make sense to have kids walk to Denny/Sealth for middle school, then take a bus to WS for high school
Unknown said…
I posted this on another thread but I don't want it to get missed: The density data in Appendix F - is it as flawed as it looks? How can there be such a high density of students over a closed school (Wilson-Pacific) and why wouldn't they adjust that data flaw?
Go to page 2.
wseadawg said…
I can guarantee an explosion of hoo-rays will go up at Lafayette Elementary, where for the past decade everyone started testing for APP in the 2nd and 3rd grade, because Madison's principal REFUSED to host a Spectrum program, despite Lafayette's thriving one, and Madison, and West Seattle High all being located within a mile of each other. Too late for my kids, but better late than never.

Now its time to clean the malignant deadbeats from W.S.H.S., and keeping the WS North kids from heading South to Chief Sealth, or East to Garfield & Franklin, or North to The Center School.

At last the middle school starts to reflect the community in which it sits.
MoneyPenny said…
Re: "The density data in Appendix F - is it as flawed as it looks? How can there be such a high density of students over a closed school (Wilson-Pacific) and why wouldn't they adjust that data flaw?"

I asked. Turns out Wil Pac is the address that is used for homeless students and students in address confidentiality programs.
Pamela said…
Thank you so much for going to the meeting and providing this information. The following is the text of an email I have sent to the school board. If any readers feel inclined please cut and paste and send to your rep or the entire board... thanks!!!

"Concerning a family who has a child or children who currently reside in and attend their CURRENT reference area school:

If the new boundaries would move this child and his or her siblings to a different reference school and/or cluster, that child, and his or her siblings will be able to continue to attend the historic reference school and cluster; essentially the family would be "grandfathered" to the previous reference school."

I feel that it is very important to distinguish these families, like ours, who consciously and deliberately purchased a home within a certain reference area so that our children, and family, could actively participate in the neighborhood school community. We worked hard to find a home that would ensure us the greatest opportunity to attend our neighborhood reference school. It is dissappointing (to say the least) to think that our hard work to accomodate and honor the historic reference area boundaries may be overlooked with a blanket policy elminating the grandfathering of siblings.

I am sure that there are a limited number of families who are in the overlap areas where boundary lines may shift a few blocks. Please give us the opportunity to continue our lifestyle (home, school, and community) that we have worked hard to establish and grown to love and cherish. We are obviously not families who would require complicated transportation strategies. We just want our children to be able to continue to learn together at their neighborhood school.
another mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
sixwrens said…
I see your point about wanting to keep sibs together, but disagree about special treatment for your kids. We played by SPS rules and selected a school of choice. It was not our attendance area school.

We were drawn out of our old attendance area. We are 2 short blocks from the school our older sib attends (and 2 blocks from our old attendance area school). There was no way we could predict how SPS would draw the new lines.

We played by SPS rules and having children at 2 different schools would be a big hardship for us. Our older child is very attached to her school community, and we've spent lots of volunteer time there (not that that is relevant).

Why should your family take priority over ours?
Unknown said…
Did they say if they adjusted the data at all and forgot to change the map? Did they take it into account when making the boundaries or computing the demographic changes in the schools? Bagley's FRL jumps from 15% to 45% under the new boundaries in that appendix...would they really have assumed those students with the Wil-Pac address would attend Bagley? It makes me wonder how many other "hot spots" are due to some hiccup like this.
I'm new to the district, can you tell?
wseadawg said…
It seems many of the reference areas in the SE, and Central clusters are odd, but make some sense. As for the NE & NW, I wouldn't know where to begin.

But what the heck is going on with WS North? Lafayette and Schmitz Park pulling in kids all the way from Delridge? Huh? Anyone from the Central office walked the neighborhoods or made those drives yet?

And what's with McDonald grabbing kids East of U Village? I don't get those two configurations at all.
NE Parent said…
I looked at the district's survey, and it may be the lamest I have ever seen. There are only two statements/questions:

1. Under the proposed plan, a student will have an initial assignment to an attendance area school based on his or her address. When students attend schools closer to where they live, it makes it easier for families to get involved in schools, reduces transportation costs, and supports the District’s delivery of specialized services—including advanced, bilingual, and special education—closer to home.

How important is it to you that students attend school closer to where they live?


2. The attendance boundaries for each school were created by analyzing a variety of data sources, including enrollment, population, proximity to school, safe walk zones, and bus / transportation routes.

How important is it to you that attendance boundaries are developed through a data-driven process?

Then there are options to answer "very important," "important," etc.

I'm not sure how this adds any value to the process, other than that the District may want to use this data to say "look, we did what the public wanted." I mean, is anyone going to say it's not important to develop boundaries by looking at data? Of course not.
Elizabeth W said…
On 10/6/09 at 10:23 PM MoneyPenny said...

I asked. Turns out Wil Pac is the address that is used for homeless students and students in address confidentiality programs.


Did you also ask whether the current address database was the sole or primary data source for the student density projections? Without using any school district data, I can come up with a pretty good argument in support of the "Elementary School Student Population" graphic in Appendix F.

Take a look at City of Seattle's population density map (http://www.cityofseattle.net/dpd/cms/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/dpds_006728.pdf).

It shows that census tract 13, which overlays the "hot spot" in the new Daniel Bagley reference area, is not sparsely populated compared to the rest of the area North of the ship canal.

At the U.S. Census Bureau's web site (http://factfinder.census.gov), you can explore the census tract maps for 2000, and discover that tract 13 has:

* slightly more than the average proportion of children under 5 years old (4.8% vs the city's average of 4.7%), and

* is second only to the University District (tract 53.01) in percent of families in poverty.

To me, this says that there are plenty of children there and most of them are not going to have options other than public school.
zb said…
Clearly a push poll. Funny though. I like the plan, as I thought I would. I can live with the boundaries. So, I answered "very important" to both questions, the answer they want to hear
ArchStanton said…
Can I be a little flabbergasted, here? They want to open five schools (Viewlands, McDonald, Sand Point, Old Hay, Rainier View), three of which they closed within the last two years?

Furthermore, they don't have the *ahem* "fortitude" to stand up and say that because of capacity issues they need to open schools in the north at the same time they close schools in the south, but figure that if they close southend schools one year and open northend schools the next (buried in the SAP), few will notice and they can avoid cries of racism or classism?

Bold leadership, financial stewardship, and careful planning, my *ahem* "keister".

(and that's without mentioning my own desire for a north APP site)

From the Seattle PI 30 Jan 2009:

But reopening a closed school building is costly and time-consuming.

Last year, parents urged the district to reopen the Sand Point Elementary building to ease overcrowding in Northeast Seattle schools. What seemed like a simple enough solution, though, was impossible, district officials said; it would cost an estimated $6.8 million and take two to three years to renovate the building and bring it up to current code.

Parent and education blogger Charlie Mas doesn't buy it. "It didn't take them three years to rebuild Garfield (High School), and it's not even going to take them three years to build a new Denny (Middle School), from the ground up," he said.

"If you're never going to reopen a school ... why keep them?"

Sand Point is leased out to North Seattle Community College through June 2009, English said, and money also is a major factor.

Sand Point, which is more than 50 years old, would need significant repairs and updates, and a certificate of occupancy.

"You wouldn't want to put the kids in the building just to get them into the building, you'd want to make it the right building, with the right features that a modern elementary school has," he said.

There's no extra money lying around to devote to spur-of-the-moment renovation projects, he said.

The $490 million Building Excellence III bond measure voters approved in 2007 already has been doled out for major construction and renovation projects, so work would have to stop on one or more of those projects to divert funds to renovate Sand Point, he said.

If money is to be redirected from the BEX III bond, there are plenty of projects to spend it on -- the backlog of maintenance and repair costs for the shuttered buildings alone is estimated at a staggering $90 million.

Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but these are the schools that have been closed recently:

2009: Genesee Hill, Mann, T.T. Minor, Van Asselt, Old Hay.

2007: Viewlands, Fairmount Park, Rainier View, Columbia, Hughes, John Marshall, Martin Luther King
Jet City mom said…
I tried the school finder- are they on crack?
We live TWO blocks from West Woodland- our address indicates that if we had an elementary aged child, they would attend a school 1.6 miles away, BF Day.
ParentofThree said…
"•Option School areas ARE NOT the same thing as middle school regions. Option schools will have their own distinct geographic regions. It is unclear to me when this info will be available"

I have an option school attached to my address, New Hay. Am I to assume that I cannot apply to TOPS for K-5? Can I apply for 6-8? And if not, then does that mean that I have no options choice for middle school.

Also, will the Option highschools becoming "online" as part of my address soon? And if I have Center school as my option highschool does that mean that NOVA and Cleveland are not an "option" for us?
dan dempsey said…
SPSmom ....WOW
The term option seems a lot more restricted if only certain options are OK.

Option implies choice .. if only one option school is available ... it looks like more of a bailout than an option.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Roy Smith said…
I am struck, looking at the maps of the north end (I don't really have the familiarity with the geography to comment about the rest of the city) at how little there is to really instigate controversy.

Those north of 85th on Crown Hill may be upset that their attendance area is Ingraham, not Ballard, but really, Ballard is probably going to be full or overfilled as it is, and who can they realistically propose to be displaced from Ballard (and where would they be displaced to?) so they can be in the attendance area for Ballard?

I'm a little surprised that Hamilton doesn't have one or two more elementaries as feeder schools. The north-end middle schools seem unbalanced.

Some of the elementary school attendance areas are awkward shapes, and result in some students living close to one school and being in the attendance area for a school much further away, but that happens in every school district (look at the elementary attendance area maps for Edmonds, Everett, Shoreline, Mukilteo, and Highline school districts, for instance - in every district, there are strangely shaped attendance areas, some a lot more odd than anything SPS has proposed). There will be some complaining, I'm sure, but I will be surprised if very much changes.
southmom said…
You know, this is only a "decent" plan is you in fact have a DECENT school your kid is assigned to. Guess what? We got Aki Kurose and Rainier, which very little realistic hope of even making it to Mercer or Franklin. I don't doubt at all the dedication of the staff at either, but both schools have awful test scores, high discipline rates, and, in the case of RB, incredibly limited course offerings, let alone extracurricular activity or sports, esp. for girls. Not even a swim team, with the Rainier Beach pool up the street! So how terrific, ordered to schools that are languishing before any attempt is made at improvement. Meanwhile, it's a little hard to work up much sympathy for the gnashing of teeth over the Ballard borders.
Stu said…
The district also announced Tuesday that it wants to reopen five closed schools over the next few years, including Viewlands Elementary in northwest Seattle and Rainier View Elementary in the southeast, which closed just two years ago. It also plans to reopen Sand Point Elementary in northeast Seattle, Old Hay on Queen Anne (as an "option school" for grades kindergarten through five), and McDonald Elementary, south of Green Lake.

The district always planned to reopen some of those schools fairly quickly, but the others, the district says, are needed because enrollment is increasing even faster than anticipated in those areas.

OK. Keeping in mind that I've become extremely jaded over the years . . .

I've never been a big fan of the Seattle Times Education reporting. It always appeared to me that the PI looked at the issues a bit more, and tried to get the story from all sides, while the Times basically takes the staff/district/superintendent/board at face value.

The thing that leapt out at me when I read the Times this morning, and again I might be reading more into this than necessary, is how quickly the "political" angle was covered and how quickly the paper propped up the district as knowing all along that they'd be opening buildings.

First, political. It was obviously very important to the district, and I'm sure it was fed just this way to the Times, that the very first thing mentioned about opening schools was that they were opening one school in the NW and one school in the SE. See? We're one big happy, and entirely fair, district. Never mind that the next four schools listed are in the North . . . they even managed to get the word "south" in there again when listing Greenlake. (That one might be a stretch, even for me, but I wouldn't put it past them.)

And then there's the "of course we were going to open schools again" stuff . . . I don't have to reprint the "ArchStanton" quote from a few posts up but, as we all know, everything last year was about "surplus capacity" in the South and plenty of room in the North.

Of course, The Times never calls them on this stuff and, as the "we planned this all along" mantra gets dropped into every press release for the next few years, it'll end up looking like the district is really on the ball.

OK. Mini-rant over.

For Options schools, my notes reflect you will get at least a K-5, alt K-8 or K-8 in your middle school region (or a linkage to one). So SPS Mom, you can apply to Catherine Blaine, a K-8, for 6-8 if you don't want a McClure. You may get TOPS if they draw you in its geographic region. I will ask on Saturday for clarification on the Option School regions.
Unknown said…
"Additionally, there is to be some kind of advanced learning in every elementary school by next school year."

Anyone know if this statement is intended to exclude or include alternative (Option!?!) schools?
Jet City mom said…
I'm a little surprised that Hamilton doesn't have one or two more elementaries as feeder schools. The north-end middle schools seem unbalanced.

Yes they do. McDonald has been closed for 25 years-without it Hamilton would have four feeder elementaries while Whitman and Eckstein have nine & is Latona a traditional elementary school?

I imagine those in Laurelhurst rather than sending their kids to Hamilton, will just send them to Uprep/Bush ( if they don't already)
Stu said…
Everyone here knew that there were going to be some compromises along the way but, in general, I agree this is a good first draft. We'll see, in the next month or so, if there's any flexibility or if they back away from some of the more controversial things. Obviously, one of the biggest chuncks, the grandfathering of siblings and sibling placement in general, is something that's going to really have an effect on all of this but, again, most of this was predictable.

There are still a few major issues that haven't been addressed and that really concerns me. Obviously, many of us have been pushing for some sort of APP North program which, though I didn't expect in one year, I really thought might be addressed. Lowell is going to be at capacity pretty soon and they're still spending so much on busing over there. They also didn't address the incredible inequities in accessibility. I'll say it again and again; EVERY student deserves and equal opportunity . . . and I'm not talking about option schools which, I understand, might have more limited appeal and/or seating. No language immersion program should exist at an assignment school unless all assignment schools offer language immersion. I don't understand how you can say, on one hand, that JSIS is one of your top programs but that 75% of your district can't have the same thing. (I'm also concerned that "option schools" now seem to apply to only one option per cluster.)

Once again, I think that equity is going to be the Achilles Heel in all of these plans. Until the district can find a way to offer equal access to special programs, there's going to be problems.

Michael said…
Frustrating is to be on the edge of the Sand Point attendance area ( the border runs down the middle of our street). We can walk to Bryant but Sand Point is a trek across a steep hill AND Sand Point Way...grrr...
Michael said…
And Laurelhurst is a feeder for Hamilton?
Roy Smith said…
Maybe SPS is being intentional about not converting Jane Addams to a comprehensive middle school immediately. Maybe they figure that enough overcrowding at Eckstein, combined with an influx of families from Laurelhurst to Hamilton, a shiny new building for Hamilton, and APP at Hamilton, will be enough to draw families from the Bryant, View Ridge, and Sand Point neighborhoods to Hamilton, making it in fact the new "mini-Eckstein".
southmom said…
Once again, Stu, Melissa and others, this is only a "good" first start if your schools are adequate to begin with. Others of us are outraged about mandatory assignments to FAILING schools. Where is the equity? Where is the outrage? Is is a case of the north end is okay we're just tweaking around the edges? Honestly, it's a little hard to get worked up about crowding at Ballard or Roosevelt when you don't even have the most basic of educational resources.
another mom said…
Roy your logic works in a choice system. Oct. 1 enrollment numbers for Eckstein 1148 (without adjustment). The new plan only squeezes 65 more into the building by 2015 and it will be at functional capacity of 1210. Based on the functional capacity of Hamilton and the 2015 projected enrollment, Hamilton will only have room for about 50 more. When I looked at this last night, it seemed a no brainer to repurpose Jane Addams as a middle school. But unless the Board objects to Eckstein the Enormous, it seems likely it will be allowed to remain as is.
Roy Smith said…
Under this plan, will Hamilton continue to draw 1/4 to 1/3 of its student population from SE Seattle?
SolvayGirl said…
If the High School options are regional than, once again, families in the south-end are left wanting.

The OPTION High Schools are all very different.
• Cleveland is developing a STEM Program—science & math (we won't even discuss it's viability at this point).
• The Center School is a non-traditional program with a selection of arts-based electives.
• NOVA is a true alternative with a program that suits self-directed students.

How is it fair or equitable for a student to be shut out of an "option" that suits their needs just because of their address? Of the bunch, my child would be best served by TCS; she's NOT a math/science kid. But as I'm understanding it, Cleveland is our only "option" school, leaving us with no options at all (RBHS is our reference HS).

I too have little patience for the whining coming out of the north-end. South-end families have been enduring Herculean commutes and/or hefty private school tuitions for at least a decade in order to secure their children a quality education.
another mom said…
Roy, no those students will be going to middle schools in their neighborhoods.
Charlie Mas said…
SPS Mom - The Option school that shows up for you is only the one to which transportation will be provided. You can still choose any of them.

More than that, you will have just as much of a chance to be assigned to any Option school as most other students. Except for the immediate zone around the school, there is no geographic tiebreaker. So a family in Seward Park has just as much of a chance to get into TOPS as a family in Leschi. The difference is that a student in Leschi would be provided with transportation and the student in Seward Park would not.

South Mom - I'm not going to pretend that things are better than they are, but let's not pretend that they are worse than they are either.

"awful test scores, high discipline rates, and, in the case of RB, incredibly limited course offerings, let alone extracurricular activity or sports, esp. for girls. Not even a swim team, with the Rainier Beach pool up the street! So how terrific, ordered to schools that are languishing before any attempt is made at improvement."

Awful test scores - you're right. Now consider this: If a lot of the students who come into these schools come in severely below grade level, then to what extent do the test scores reveal what's happening at the schools and to what extent do they reveal only who has been enrolled at the schools? What is the experience of students who come into these schools working at or beyond grade level? Are they well served or are they given the same remedial lessons that many of their classmates need?

Also think of how the demographics and performance characteristics of Aki Kurose will change when the high performing students aren't drained away.

Aki Kurose purportedly has Spectrum. Since they don't have enough district-identified students to form a full class at each grade, would your child be selected by the teachers for participation in the Spectrum class? Might that not be good for your kid?

At Rainier Beach the District is spending a lot of money to support AP classes that don't really have the enrollment to support themselves. If your child enrolled in these classes they would be in a very small class getting a lot of personal attention. That sounds good, too.

I think that the limited course offerings at Rainier Beach are a direct result of the low enrollment. If the enrollment rises the school should be able to offer a wider variety of classes.

Please don't say that the District hasn't attempted to improve these schools. They did try. They just did a really, really bad job of it.

That brings us to my last point. You are not ordered to Rainier Beach. 10% of the seats at every other high school will be held open for students from outside the area. You can still try to enroll your child at another school, such as Franklin, and your chances of getting in shouldn't be too bad. It depends entirely on how many other people are trying to do the same thing.
ParentofThree said…
"10% of the seats at every other high school will be held open for students from outside the area."

Yes, but if there is no criteria for entering the "lottery" it will be flooded with families bordering attendance areas. If there is a criteria like FRL, then the lottery pool becomes much smaller and these families would then have a better chance.

And thanks for the info on the Options schools. If I get into TOPS for 6th grade, I can go, but no bus because it is not my assigneed option school. Which means really I have no 6-8 option school with transportation.
another mom said…
Solvay and southmom- the District decided that predictability is better for all and choice is too expensive. That decision was not made in a vacuum. But once made, planning for the S/SE schools failed to ask those communities what it would take to make those schools successful. I think that most on this blog will agree with you. I do. Charlie and others have said numerous times that the SE initiative is an utter failure.
SolvayGirl said…
Charlie asks "What is the experience of students who come into these schools working at or beyond grade level? Are they well served or are they given the same remedial lessons that many of their classmates need?"

I don't have personal experience, but do have friends who tried to send their kids to Aki. Their at/above-grade level kids were not well served at all. They got As for showing up, turning in homework and being respectful in class. Expectations were low and the overall culture was not geared towards academics. The kids were not challenged and had to endure difficult social situations (fights, sexual harassment).

Yes. an influx of higher-performing kids COULD help the school, eventually. But our kids' lives are not served by eventualities. Middle School is only three years--not much time in a school's lifetime, but epic in the life of an adolescent. If it takes two years for the school to really improve, how much education has been lost for the individual student?
adhoc said…
Roy, I don't think Hamilton will be able to "draw" families from Bryant and View Ridge, etc. They will be full just accommodating the families that now find themselves in their attendance area. What everyone is forgetting is that Hamilton is smaller than Eckstein, even with it's expansion and rebuild. When completed the school will hold about 970 students. Take away the 280 set aside seats for APP, and the capacity for Hamilton regular ed drops to about 690 students.

Compare that to Eckstein which has a capacity of about 1200 students.

That's why Hamilton only has 4 or 5 schools in their attendance area and Eckstein has 9.

As for JA, time will tell how the school fares. Will JA relieve the pressure on Eckstein?? My guess is not very much much. This year the folks that chose JA (for middle school) are almost all Lake City, Cedar Park, and Olympic Hills families. Families that had no chance of getting into Eckstein. They were choosing between JA K-8 in their neighborhood or Hamilton a comprehensive MS out of their neighborhood with a two hour roundtrip bus ride. Many chose Hamilton. Only a handful chose JA (the JA middle school is about 100 kids large). Those same families will now be choosing between JA K-8 or Eckstein which are both nearby, and in their neighborhood. My guess is the majority will now choose Eckstein.

And, at the elementary level many families are at JA because they got mandatory assignment. Now that JA is an option school, and the district can't do any more mandatory assignments, it will be interesting to see what happens with JA's elementary enrollment. Will enough families choose it??

This should be a very telling year for JA.
southmom said…
Charlie, honest to goodness, I hardly think it's too much to ask for genuine comprehensive high school serving the south end, nor an adequate middle school. Sure, small classes are nice, but what about music and performing arts? Sports? Languages? Innovative classes? Are those just for the northend? IB? My daughter is getting Mandarin classes at her elementary - so that opportunity should just end?

And by the way, I do speak with some authority here: I went to Rainier Beach and Aki.
Dorothy Neville said…
I just looked at the Sandpoint map. Funny the way it snakes around to include BOTH of the large low-income housing complexes in the area. I haven't looked at the supporting documents though to see if that is mentioned.
southmom said…
And once again, Solvaygirl is right: My kid is supposed to spend her three short years of middle school turning a failing school around? It's up to us, people with jobs and other commitments, to do this? I already give a ton of time to her school, and served on the PTA for years. Now I, who am not a professional educator/social worker/schools expert am supposed to do accomplish this?

My response is, if this is a such a good path, send your children there and let me know.
Jet City mom said…
So if I " accepted" that while I live in the West Woodland neighborhood- have been voting at West Woodland for decades and it takes three minutes to walk on level ground to walk there- my kids would have to walk up and then down Phinney Ridge to get to BF Day- which is a fine school, just much farther away.

Then my kids would attend Hamilton in Wallingford.- I don't really see what option school there is- I don't understand that part yet.

But while they would attend Hamilton with their friends who attended Laurelhurst. JSIS & the reopened McDonald school, all THOSE kids would then attend Roosevelt, while my kids attended Ballard.

Now I realize half of you would then be saying " oh boo hoo", the choice between Roosevelt or Ballard wheras we have between RB or Cleveland.

But it isn't an us or them situation- I just feel kids should have a high school which has clear feeder middle schools.
Phernie said…
Does anyone know the answer to this question: Will the new elementary schools, such as Sandpoint and McDonald, begin with just the entry level kids (kindergarten), or will they be full K-5 schools on the day they open?

Also, my 2 cents on sibling grandfathering: My family is in the same situation as Pamela's in that my oldest attends our current reference school and the boundaries have been drawn differently so that my youngest may end up going to a different school despite our best intentions and strong desire to attend our neighborhood school. However, as much as I would like to claim priority, I also know neighbors who through no fault of their own could not get their kids into the reference school and were placed elsewhere. Should they be further disenfranchised and put yet again at the bottom of the list when it's time to enroll their younger children? It also penalizes parents for making a school decision years ago when it was widely assumed that siblings would always be tightly linked together for school.

I'm not sure how this sibling grandfathering issue will play out, but I would hate to see parents judging each other and dividing among themselves on this.
SolvayGirl said…
emeraldkity: I hear you and the desire for and common sense of keeping kids together. It's definitely a problem and is not an ideal situation for you and your family. But to me, it just illustrates even more the inequity of the problems faced by the north and south ends.

The issues for the north-end include geographic logistics, cohort cohesion and, at the upper school levels, school philosophy and course offerings.

In the south-end, the problems are lack of academic rigor, quality and quantity of course offerings, school culture, and, to some degree, safety.

Both geographic regions have complaints with the District and this new SAP, but they are like comparing apples to oranges.

As I've noted before...I believe the District is very dysfunctional, but I also am aware that many of the problems faced in the south-end, at least, are similar to those facing every major city school district in the nation. I don't have the answers—as Southmom stated, we are not educators or school experts—but I do know I will do what is necessary to get my child the education she needs and deserves. I couldn't consider myself a good parent if I did anything less.

WV: grappas (I could use some of my grandmother's right now)
Rose M said…
It is interesting that the new Sand Point will have 25-29% FRE while View Ridge, Bryant & Laurelhurst will have less than 10% FRE. (Bryant & Laurelhurst decrease FRE) Then looking at the funny shape of the SP reference area, I wonder how that fits with the effort to increase economic diversity with the new boundaries.
reader said…

It turns out, you are in luck. Aki is the one and only failing middle school which is also Title 1! Bad for them, good for you! It means that you must be given an option to attend another middle school with transportation, if you don't get into your school of choice. It might not the perfect school, but it will be better than AKI. My guess is that you'll be sent to TOPs or Addams. TOPs, because that's where they've been sending everyone... even though it is also failing. Evidently, people don't complain about that fact, they're happy. OR, they'll be sent to Addams because it isn't failing yet.
Anonymous said…
Jaybird, I don't know the answer about older children in the NE moving to new schools, but I hope that that is an option for families who might want to do it to keep their children together.

I have my selfish reasons, and right now, class sizes are out of control in the NE. My daughter is one of the 108 children in 1st grade at Bryant. Last year, this cohort had 5 teachers; this year, there are 4 teachers, and by 2nd or 3rd grade, there will be only 3 teachers (based on historical patterns at the school). I don't really want my daughter in a class of 35, but with budgets where they are, I don't see how we are going to avoid it down the road here.

I feel misled by the district at this point because when we entered K and they added the fifth class to meet the enormous demand, we were told that that bubble cohort would be accomomdated moving forward. The promise was already broken this year, as we were told all last spring that we'd have five 1st grades this year. Imagine my surprise the day the class lists were posted and there were only four classes.

So, this is certainly an issue I'm going to raise at the community meeting this weekend at Eckstein.
SE Mom said…
I stand with southmom and Solvaygirl:

Trying to normalize enrolling in certain south end middle and high schools is patronizing. It's hog wash!

It is not my job to enroll in failing schools so that academics and climate improve. That job belongs to the school district.

At this point I just don't have any trust in the district that the high school option seats are really going to provide true access to desirable schools.

Couple that with a new system for sorting and enrolling families who opt for different schools and it seems less than promising.

I have to say, I would have more faith in the option seats if they would continue to process applications in the same manner they have been. At least we'd have more than one chance to get into a high school option seat. Pick the wrong first choice for next year and that's it! No other choice but the assigned reference high schoo.
Okay, so south end parents, what to do? You are in a hard place because although Cheryl Chow did raise some questions last night, is she going to fight for your issues at this point? FYI, I did see Wilson Chin at the Work Session yesterday.

What would make this work for you? Access to Mercer (or it may be filled already) or Orca or South Shore? What if, in their drive to open schools and, in essence, create new schools, if you advocated for Aki to close and reopen next fall with an all new team? Would that give you any more faith?

I am trying to figure out how a transition period might help you but we have to think of things they could do (rather than we wish would happen).
Maureen said…
reader Doesn't it matter what categories the schools are failing in? I'm not sure if Aki is failing in all categories. TOPS is failing special ed kids in Reading, so my understanding is that special ed kids from schools not making AYP can't be sent to TOPS, but all the other kids can be (and have been).

Regarding what Option schools you have access to: Charlie got it right--the 'school finder' currently just lists the option school you get transport for. Tracy Libros is aware of the error--it's on the list of things to fix. About Middle School transport--MS kids will get a Metro pass for Option schools even if they are outside of their MS Attendance area (p. 34 of the assignment plan).
Roy Smith said…
The plan is not perfect.

That being said, I am not seeing any overarching theme in the complaints that looks like it might even have a chance of derailing this process or causing major changes in the maps or policy.

The most substantive widespread complaint is (still) that the south end middle and high schools are of unacceptably poor quality. That doesn't seem like an issue that the SAP can fix, though.

I am interested to see how SPS addresses the overcrowding that seems almost inevitable in Eckstein, Roosevelt, Ballard, and some of the more popular north end elementary schools. Given Seattle's size and population density, it wouldn't take a very large demographic shift for 3000 high school age kids to live in the Roosevelt reference area, for instance. Will SPS continue to honor the guaranteed enrollment for students from the attendance area if the overcrowding gets really severe? I don't think we'll know the answer to this question for another year or two, though.
adhoc said…
Southmom, Reader is right when he/she said in reference to NCLB students being able to transfer out of Aki, possibly to TOPS or Jane Addams.

However, the district did not provide yellow bus transportation this year to the NCLB opt out middle school students. They got metro passes.

If you live in SE Seattle, it will be a long Metro ride up to Addams which is close to the Shoreline border. And, TOPS may be closer, but there are many busy arterials around the school, so not sure how convenient or safe metro would be for an 11 year old 6th grader.
SE Mom said…
Good questions, Melissa. I appreciate your positive point of view.

How about having a transition period with how applications for high school option seats are processed so that students don't get aced out after their first choice.

Could there be some way to increase access to certain high school programs? IB at Sealth should be equally accessible to all students in SE/SW Seattle. Was that not the point of putting IB at Sealth: having a very rigorous program to not only improve Sealth but give more choices to families in SE as well as SW Seattle?

Would the district really make an exception for the southend?
Sue said…
I have a question about the numbers they are using, that I will ask at a community meeting, but want to ask here as well.

Have they accounted for private school students in these counts at all? You may see a larger than normal influx to Ballard and Roosevelt from the private schools, if those people know they have a guaranteed assignment. Couple that with the economic downturn, and it makes me wonder.

So, my question is, have they factored those students in at all?
SolvayGirl said…
On the selection process for option schools...

I agree with SE Mom, but would like to take it a step further.

Since 10% Open Choice school assignment uses a lottery, perhaps the selection of an option school should not count against a student in the grand scheme. Here's how it could work:

Mary Smith lives in the RBHS area. She would prefer to go to Roosevelt because of the jazz band, so she tries for one of the 10% Lottery Slots.

Her second choice would be Franklin, a school she may be able to get into.

It would make sense for the District to fill the "choice" slots first using the lottery. Then, anyone who did not get a choice slot would not be penalized for trying and would end up with their "second choice" as their first choice. They still may not get that second choice because of space constraints, but at least they have not thrown their chance out the window by trying for one of the "golden tickets."

Does this make sense? Otherwise many people will not risk trying for a choice slot if they don't want their reference school.
TechyMom said…
What about ORCA K8 and South Shore K8? You might be able to get an NCLB transfer to one of those for middle school.

For HS, you now have more chance at Center School and Nova than you did before, because there isn't a distance tie-breaker. I suspect that fewer people will do choice now too, which might make it easier to get into option schools.

Oh, and I agree that the south end schools are not up to snuff and need to get fixed. I liked the old system better. I'm just trying to offer some suggestions that might help in your particular situation.
SE Mom said…
SolvangGirl, that does make sense. Here is another example of how that could work:

A student's "real" first choice is Garfield. They put Garfield as choice number one, but they don't get a seat.

The students second choice is Sealth. They are not penalized for
having put Garfield as first choice and are able to get a seat at Sealth.

Without some sort of system as this, families will have to go through some sort of bizarre guessing game to figure out what should be a first selection for an open choice high school seat.
Because unless they choose a less desirable school, they will only have one shot at a choice seat.

And is that not the point of having open choice seats - so that students can apply to a popular school that really fits their needs?
Central Mom said…
Still trying to get a handle on Aki. So...any parent can request out based on failing NCLB? If yes, then if an organized effort within the community were made to leave en masse, wouldn't it force the issue of turning Aki into a different program sooner rather than later for those families now "assigned" to that service area? Seems powerful.
SE Mom, I think it worth a shot to ask if there could be a transition period for Open Choice seats i.e use F/RL as a tiebreaker for a couple of years.

Everyone, keep in mind, the Open Choice seats are a lottery until they are overchosen. Then they will be using tiebreakers with sibling #1. Depending on how many out of attendance kids are in a building for a special program, then their sibs would get the Open choice seats first. For the first couple of years, that would also include sibs of current students who are not in their attendance area high school.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm afraid that the serial lotteries wouldn't work.

Let's say that you named Garfield as your first choice and Sealth as your second choice. Let's say someone else did it the other way around (Sealth 1 and Garfield 2).

All of those who named Garfield as their first choice enter the lottery. You aren't picked. Now you go into the Sealth lottery. Hoo-ray for you! This time you are chosen, but the other family isn't.

So now what? Does the District re-run the Garfield lottery for them? What happens to the results of the first Garfield lottery?
zb said…
I think the suggestion of not being penalized for putting a popular school as a choice is a concrete suggestion that those of you who want to use the choice system could suggest to the board. It creates, particularly, inequities for people who have several good choices -- say I want to go to Garfield, because I like their jazz band better than Roosevelt's, but live in the Roosevelt reference area. I can put Garfield down, with the reassurance that my backup is Roosevelt. Those of you who have long complicated lists don't have that option, and it's a reasonable request to ask for it.

And, although it is certainly not the job of any child to fix failing schools by their presence and eager participation, the schools cannot be fixed without that cohort. Nothing the school district can do can fix a school without the cooperation of the families and students. Those of you living in Aki & Ranier Beach's area don't have an obligation to fix your school, but your schools can't be fixed without you.

For example, if Mandarin classes would make Aki or Ranier Beach acceptable, well that's something you can adocate for. And, I in the North End will join you. I'd like to see classes in the south end that would make families happy to send their children there.
Charlie Mas said…
The previous Board - one that is looking better and better each day that this Board serves - knew that the gravest problem with the new Student Assignment Plan was the disappointing academic situations at Aki Kurose, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland. That's why they made the Southeast Initiative part of the framework of the Student Assignment Plan.

The current Superintendent had full control of this effort from the start. She failed.

I believe that the accountability elements of the Initiative say that if the schools don't meet their benchmarks, the District may close the schools, hire a completely new team, and re-open them.

From the Framework:
"Not Meeting Program Goals – If after three years of sustained investment a particular school is unable to meet the program enrollment and academic goals, collaboratively developed by administration and staff, the District should strongly consider applying accountability standards and options based on the goal or goals not met. The District fully appreciates the impact of such decisions but believes that these are critical elements of a comprehensive accountability program. In the event of reconstitution or repurposing, the District will provide sufficient resources to ensure a successful transition for students, parents, families, staff, and the broader community. In making any such changes, the District will work with each of the affected Unions to ensure that contract language is applied correctly."
SE Mom said…
So, if serial lotteries will not work, why can the district not keep the current system for processing seats? Why do they think they need to change the system with the new SAP?
Charlie Mas said…
What they would have to do is enter every student in the lottery regardless of their choice ranking and then order the lottery results.

So the name of every student who named Garfield - whether first or fifth - goes into the hat. Then the order in which they are drawn from the hat is recorded.

Then we assign all of the students who got their first choice. If any of them also got picked for a later choice their name is removed from that list and everyone below them moves up one step.

Then we assign all of the students who didn't get picked in the lottery for their first pick but did get picked in the lottery ofr their second choice. After assigning them their names are removed from the list of any other lotteries they won and everyone below them on those lists moves up one step.

Repeat as necessary.
Michael Rice said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said…
zb is right that a school cannot improve without the active cooperation of the families and students. Now if the District would just take one step in an effort to gain that cooperation... if the District would just offer some cooperation in return...

But that isn't their nature.
Michael Rice said…

I would like to invite all the south end parents who are up in arms about the possibility of attending Rainier Beach to please come visit.

We offer all the rigor your child can handle and it will be in a smaller, more supportive and inviting setting than your child will get in any other school in the district. We offer all the AP courses that a child could want, including: Human Geography, US History, Government, English Language Lit,
Statistics, and Calculus. We are in the process of adding some AP Science courses (biology and chemistry), we just need to figure out some scheduling issues.

We also this year have started a Shakespeare Academy, which as far as we can tell, is the only one in the country. It is team taught by a LA teacher and our drama teacher. It is an amazing class. It is WAY more than just reading Hamlet. Student directed study where the student can choose 19 different credit options depending their interest.

We also have a growing music program. We are offering band, drum line and choir. This is on top of a great drama department that is partnered with Seattle Theatre Group and Seattle Childrens Theatre. We will be putting on 3 or 4 productions this year. The Big Friendly Giant is our first production. I believe the performances will be in mid November.

Do we still have problems? Oh, yes. But I would like to do away with the myth that we are a failing school. I know a failing school would not have the rigor and expectations and achievement that we have at Rainier Beach.

We do have too many students that come to us significantly below grade level and unprepared for high school, but that is really a district problem. Please stop social promotion. However according to the district, RBHS does a better job at raising the achievement level of lower performing students than any other school in the district.

I will once again restate my invitation to all readers of the blog. I am in room 266. I teach periods 2 - 5, which is basically 9 - 1:30. Please stop by any time. Just check in with the front office and come on up. I will be honored to have any (and all) of you in my classroom.
Central Mom said…
The *Good* part of blogs is that you can't impulsively reach over and thwack somebody on the head when you strongly disagree with a viewpoint.

The *Bad* part of blogs is that you can't reach over and give a hug or arm around the shoulder to somebody who deserves one day after day.

Right now I'm thinking about that *bad* part because I want to hug Michael Rice. He's such an enthusiastic, hopeful voice...esp. in the absence of effective District public efforts to boost RBHS.
reader said…
No Maureen, it is the school that is failing... not the individual categories. It is true that all demographics must be factored when calculating AYP for a school. So, you are to be granted assignment to a school meeting AYP if your school is failing. A placement at TOPs might be acceptable to most parents, but the TOPs is still a failing school. And perhaps, nobody would bothering challenging the re-assignment to TOPs... because they'd be happy with it. Interestingly, some places are even doing out of district placements to meet AYP requirements.
Maureen said…
Melissa you say Option School areas ARE NOT the same thing as middle school regions. Option schools will have their own distinct geographic regions. It is unclear to me when this info will be available. And something similar in another post, where I think you use the term 'geographic region.'

Are you talking about the fact that the 'geographic zones' haven't been defined yet? It's my understanding that those 'zones' are supposed to be small areas very close to the Option school buildings. People who live in those zones get preference to attend their closeby Option school after siblings and before lottery.

My understanding is that Option schools don't have 'areas' at all--anyone from anywhere in the city has the same chance of getting into any Option school (except for the 'zone' people, who are pretty much a shoo in). However only those who live in the MS attendance area (or a linked one) will get yellow bus transportation to the Option school. (MSers outside the MS attendance area would get a Metro pass).

Of course, it is completely possible that these 'geographic zones' could end up being weird and huge and variable since the plan seems to count on them to balance any capacity issues they face in the attendance areas. Has anyone heard when they expect to publish those 'zone' maps?
SolvayGirl said…
You need to talk to your principal and office staff about school tours. Last year, when a friend showed up at RBHS on the appointed date listed on the website, there was no official "tour" in place. The office staff was clueless (and my friend said seemed annoyed) that anyone would be expecting a tour. They finally rounded up a student to take her around. There were no hand-outs, no official greeting, and she never met the principal. There was also no evening Open House for working parents to attend (that's why I wasn't there).

She said the student was very nice and the teachers she spoke with enthusiastic, but they kept emphasizing what they were doing for the kids who were below the bar. It was all about passing the WASL. I believe one of them said, "We're like parents to these kids." My friend came away with the impression that the school was doing a great job for the population it was serving, but that it would not be what her child (a Spectrum student at Washington) needed.

Perhaps much has changed since last year. If so, that's great, and perhaps there is hope after all. But if RBHS wants to attract the middle and upper class families (of all colors) in the neighborhood they are going to have to do more outreach to the community.

They'd also go a long way if they encouraged the students to be a bit more well-behaved when they are hanging out at SAARS at lunch-time.

You sound like a fantastic teacher, and I'm sure the kids in your honors math classes are great. See what you can do to get the entire staff and principal pointing in the same direction. You're going to have to work harder than Garfield or Roosevelt to attract students; go for it!
Maureen said…
reader Thanks, I had no idea. I still don't see how TOPS can even be on any list of available schools since we are failing AYP. I can see that people wouldn't complain--but how are they even given the option?
Elizabeth W said…
Charlie, SE Mom, zb, SolvayGirl1972, and others suggesting new choice algorithms:

I haven't read with careful attention, but my gut reaction is that you are discussing variants on the pre-2010 assignment procedure -- essentially the Gale-Shapley "stable marriage" choice algorithm as applied to school admissions.

One of that algorithm's nicest features is that it allows families from the "worst" school reference areas to ask for their most favorite school first without reducing their chance of getting some assignment better than their default.

The proposed algorithm for choice assignments forces these families to choose: list a school they love first and very likely keep their unsatisfactory default assignment, or list an unpopular but better school to get some improvement.

For families now facing this unpleasant reality, the inequity of the system is now evident. Unfortunately, most families didn't like the pre-2010 algorithm, didn't understand it, and complained bitterly that it didn't match their expectation that first choices should always have priority over second choices.
Ditto on Michael for being a stellar teacher and all-around good person.
hschinske said…
Elizabeth, I think you have it right. I have always thought the Gale-Shapley algorithm was the best part about the old choice system, and I hate to see it go.

Helen Schinske
Elizabeth W said…
Helen -- I amuse myself by believing that if more Seattle parents had had "new math", Gale-Shapely would have been an easier sell. Sigh.

wv: "riese" (a "giant" mistake?)
old salt said…
I remember what a relief it was when Gale-Shapely algorithm was instituted. No more playing the odds as you ranked your choices. I hated to see it go & still don't understand why the board was so quick to vote it out.
Maureen said…
The downside of the Gale-Shapely algorithm was that people who listed every popular school they could think of could get assigned to a school they picked 4th or 5th and bump someone who picked it first. That seemed counter intuitive to many of the people I talked to.
StepJ said…

I was at the Board Workshop on Tuesday night.

From reading the new SAP and hearing what was said on Tuesday night...

Geographic Zones around Option Schools will likely be small. Just the immediate neighborhood surrounding the school.

They also said on Tuesday that these Geographic Zones would be determined as a part of the Transition Plan. Final details not available until after the boundaries are approved. So late November/December time frame.
Elizabeth W said…
Maureen -- it is counter-intuitive, but there's no intuitive system that isn't subject to greater inequities and/or "gaming the system". There are a few key points to think about when considering this:

* had the district simultaneously implemented Gale-Shapely and guaranteed placement in one's reference area school, it would have greatly reduced the number of families ranking multiple schools,

* there really is no way to compare the Abernathy family's first choice against the Baker family's fourth choice -- the Abernathys might only slightly prefer their choice application schools over their default assignment while the Bakers may be desperate to get any of their top seven to avoid a bad default placement, and

* as many folks have mentioned before, giving first choices higher priority of assignment encourages families to lie about their first choice if it will help them game the system.

In my opinion the Gale-Shapely approach is better, but is only feasible in a district willing to do the appropriate education and outreach.
reader said…
Maureen, imagine if they implemented NCLB... by failing subgroups alone. Lots of white kids would never be allowed to leave their failing schools. The "white" subgroup is passing in lots of failing schools. Minority kids in failing schools... would have no school to go to, or very few schools to go to, since many minority groups are failing in most or all schools. Imagine the uproar over a race based assignment scheme like that. Why is TOPs listed? Probably because people in failing schools are psyched at the oppotunity to attend TOPs, it is centrally located, and relatively easy to bus to. The district can solve it's problem. I know somebody who left Madrona and requested Orca, another famously failing school. No problem, her kid got into Orca.

I think lots of people will also be requesting New School, which is meeting AYP for now. Not much of a middle school track record.
ds said…
It’s probably too late but, with regard to waitlists, why not use a straight lottery system (especially for high school, but I suppose it could work for elementary and middle school, too)?

Rather than having a complex school-by-school waitlist, kids who want a school other than their attendance area school would be assigned a random district-wide lottery number. There would be a separate set of lottery numbers for each grade level. So, say there are 900 ninth graders who rank schools other than their attendance area school; those 900 kids would each get a lottery number from 1 to 900.

Kids with sibling priority would be flagged and would always have first priority if there was an opening at their sib’s school. Otherwise, kids with better lottery numbers would have priority for ANY of their choices. After the first iteration, a kid with a good lottery number might get into their third choice, but after subsequent iterations, the kid might get his/her second or even first choice. Kids maintain their place on the list until they get their first choice or until the lottery/wait list is dissolved in the fall. Other than sibling priority, it’s simply luck of the draw that determines whether someone will have a shot at non-attendance area schools.

With this approach, there’s no reason for families to game the system. Their default school would be the attendance area school, but if they prefer any other school over their attendance school, they should rank it. If they get a good lottery number, they’ll have a shot at the schools they want. If they get a bad lottery number, they’re probably out of luck (unless they select a low demand school as one of their choices), but they would have been out of luck with the current system anyway.

It seems like this system would be similar to what they have currently proposed because the choice seats are open to anyone in the district. But instead of encouraging in-the-know families to game the system, the district-wide lottery would put everyone on a level playing field and make it possible for some kids to get into second and third choice schools.
dj said…
DS, I think that system would take too long. Under the most recent choice system, you would non-strategically list all of your choices and hope for a match, but would be waitlisted only at one school, which, when it has openings, moves right down its waitlist. Your system might mean that several schools are waiting on the same person to make up his/her mind about which school to attend before being able to move down the waitlist.

I do think using the Gale-Shapely system is preferable for those of us south of the shipping canal where a lot of the neighborhood schools are not able to meet the needs of the kids who live in the neighborhood. But I think the superintendant is well aware that the Gale-Shapely algorithm makes it easier to leave your neighborhood school, and the plan evidently is -- without any assistance from the district proposed, whatsoever -- to have parents who live in the neighborhoods magically "improve" neighborhood schools. Even where they have tried very hard to do so, and failed.
ds said…
DJ said, "Your system might mean that several schools are waiting on the same person to make up his/her mind about which school to attend before being able to move down the waitlist."

I'm probably missing something, but in my conceptualization of the lottery system, this wouldn't happen. Let's say your reference school is school A and you put B down as your 1st choice, C down as your 2nd choice, and D down as your 3rd choice. And let's say that in April you get into school D...this is the school you go to if the list doesn't move. The district doesn't wait for you to make a decision, as you have already decided that you prefer school D over school A. If you get into school C in August (say because a family at school C has decided to go private), you would then be notified that you are at school C. Again, no decision to be made and, therefore, no waiting for the list to move.

Once the initial assignments are done, the only time the list moves is if kids leave full schools (move, go out-of-district, switch to private, decide to take a spot at an open school).

Families could decide at any time to remove themselves from the wait list.

The procedure might change slightly once school begins. I'm not sure what the best solution would be, but some possibilities are that: 1) the system would continue as it did in the spring/summer so that families would continue to need to actively remove themselves from the list if they didn't want to automatically be moved to a higher-priority choice, or 2) the system would change so that families would stay at the school currently assigned to them unless they actively indicated (online or automated phone system?) that they wanted to continue on the waitlist.
reader said…
But that isn't how the lottery works. You are on exactly 1 waitlist, waitlist B(in this case). So, it doesn't matter that a spot opens up at school C. Somebody on waitlist C will get that spot. The district isn't going to keep 25 priorities for each student, and wait around for all those people to make their choice and maintain all that.
adhoc said…
With the new SAP will waitlists still dissolve on September 30th, three weeks after school starts??
Roy Smith said…
Any counter-intuitive choice system (such as Gale-Shapely) is, regardless of its other merits, bad public relations unless there is substantial and sustained public outreach to communicate why it is in fact fairer than a "more intuitive" system.

And even if you do that, there will always be a subset of people that finds the notion that somebody else's third choice could possibly override their first choice to be offensive.
TechyMom said…
That's true, but I wonder if it would be less of an issue when most people will be going to their attendance area school, and not using the choice system. Right now, everyone, even people who don't really value choice, have to go through the choice system. A lot of the people I heard complaining about the 1st choice vs. 3rd choice issue were also complaining that they couldn't get into "their" school, usually Eckstein. I predict that in the new system, the people who don't value choice won't use it, and therefore won't know or care what the algorithm is.

I also believe that being actually fair is more important than possible PR issues. The new system double-penaizes people who live near schools they find unacceptable. Not only do they not have an acceptable default school, they also can't risk applying to popular programs. They have to settle for their 2nd or 3rd choice, the school that's acceptable but not likely to be full. That is fundamentally unfair, and fixing it is worth taking some PR heat. Though, as I said above, I think a lot of the PR heat will go away once the people who don't like the choice system aren't required to participate in it.
SolvayGirl said…
I agree with TechyMom. For those of us with unacceptable reference schools, the Choice Lottery may be our only hope to wind-up in a desirable school (desirable being more than just acceptable). If applying to Roosevelt or Garfield (desirable) might knock my child out of the running for The Center School (acceptable+), then I probably won't take the risk.

The result serves my family poorly, and, perhaps more importantly, does not let the District know which types of school I most prefer. At least under the old system, the District knew very well which schools were most desirable (by the number of first choice picks). Now they will only know which schools are acceptable/attainable by various neighborhoods. I don't see how that serves anyone—especially the District's planning department.
dj said…
I don't see how anyone can make assumptions about what "people" generally think of the current algorithm when it isn't as if the district has taken polls or canvassed communities to find out what people think of it. Certainly I'm sure some people live in communities where "people" think the current algorithm is unfair. I don't, but then, I live near one of those reference schools that much of the neighborhood considers unacceptable, and "people" here like the current algorithm, which maximizes your chance to avoid your reference school, just fine.
SE Mom said…
I am planning on attending some community meetings with the hope of asking about enrollment algorithms and high school choice seats.

This seems to be an issue that might have some traction. Would any other parents, especially southenders, be interested in banding together to make a more impactful presence at a community meeting?

I am not suggesting anything remotely distruptive or negative, but having several parents presenting the issue and some possible solutions could be helpful.

Other concrete and solution focused ideas most welcome.
Roy Smith said…
Anecdotally, my impression is that a lot of the same people that didn't understand and/or didn't like the choice system were the same ones that just to be able to send their kids to the neighborhood school, no questions asked. So, as has been pointed out, the PR downsides of the Gale-Shapely algorithm that I mentioned may very well disappear when the choice system becomes an opt-in system, not a system that everybody has to go through whether or not they want it.

But even if they go to that sort of algorithm, having a finally tuned choice system does absolutely nothing to help turn around the schools that people are fleeing from. I would rather see staff time and effort put into fixing failing schools rather than have them perfect the system by which concerned families can avoid those schools altogether and leave them without a constituency that is demanding improvement.
Unknown said…
Roy, I don't think this is just a matter of failing schools - though there is clearly an element of that. It may just be a profound mismatch between the programs/style of a reference school, and something that fits your kid to a T at some other school (option, or one of the choice seats at a reference school). It seems to me that the choice system would work best if parents could try for at least ONE choice option while still preserving their ability to get into a reference school if that option doesn't work out. For example, if my reference school would be Garfield (and if I lived 3blocks away), but I have a child very interested in Ballard's biotech academy, what do I do? I would love to be able to try for a Ballard "choice" seat and still know that if I don't get selected through the lottery, she can still go to Garfield. (The same thing could be true of a Hale child interested in STEM, etc.) Maybe what we need to do is have one (earlier) date for applying to all of the "alternative" programs (NOVA, TCS, Cleveland STEM, etc.) When those lotteries are filled, the students are "removed" from their area assignment schools, and a second enrollment date comes, the remaining parents apply for regular schools (including choice seats at those schools). Once the school district knows how many assignment seats there are (and how many choice seats that leaves), they can fill those schools. There are probably all sorts of problem with this that I am not seeing. But I would like to see a system that supports the alt models (and choice) as much as possible. We wouldn't all be clamoring for immersion and Montessori schools (and TOPS, etc.) if we hadn't had a system in place for the last 10 years that permitted alt programs to start and thrive. What is the next great alt idea? Who knows? But we will never find out if we make every parent who wants to support alt/option schools take risks with their kid's educational choices every time they want to choose. If one of the big plusses of this new plan is supposedly predictability, I think the district should at least TRY to see what can be done to preserve some predictability for parents who want to try for a lottery spot in something other than a reference school.
dj said…
Roy, I'd rather see schools improved as well. But that's not part of the SAP, adjunct to the SAP, or in any way being articulated by the district, that I can see (other than literally, by saying "all schools will be excellent," which I know isn't what either you or I mean). Had that been adjunct to the SAP -- had the district been engaging communities in south and central to find out what it is that those communities want for the schools the district intends for them to attend -- I imagine there would be more buy-in. But they didn't, and still aren't.

But it's not just a matter of failing/non-failing schools. It's also a matter of poor fit between some of the schools and their surrounding neighborhoods. Under the new SAP, for example, my kids are assigned to Madrona. The Madrona PTSA has proposed to the district that the school become an option school on its current WASL-prep model aimed at underperforming kids. That's in my view not going to happen for various reasons, but what would it mean for neighborhood families to enter and "improve" the school? On its current model, whatever you think of it, it isn't a good fit for much of the neighborhood that is going to be assigned to it, but the current administration there wouldn't conceptualize what that much of the neighborhood wants as "improvement." What is a parent to do in that case?
TechyMom said…
Jan, as I understand it, you do keep your spot at your reference school if you don't get into a choice school. The trouble comes when your reference school is unacceptable to you for whatever reason. Some examples:

You're in the Garfield attendance area, and try for a spot at Roosevelt. You don't get it, and you're assigned to Garfield. Garfield really was your second choice, it's accpetable to you, and you're ok with that.

Now take someone else who's in the RB attendance area. RB is unacceptable to them (Michael, don't flame me, it's an example). Roosevelt is a perfect fit for their drama kid. Center School is their second choice, Garfield their third, then Franklin, then private school. In the old system, they listed these choices in order. In the new system, 2nd choices aren't processed until after ALL the 1st choices are processed. They have a hard choice. Do they try for Roosevelt, the perfect fit? If they're not lucky, they're back at RB or private school. Or, do they pick a safer option further down the list? Which option is safe? Will it be easier to get into Center School or Franklin? How do they weight the chances of getting in against the best fit? There won't be any data at all for next year, and not much for several years.
Unknown said…
Techy Mom: Thanks for the clarification. I hadn't realized that the default was back to the assignment school. I really want to keep access to choice (what is left of it, given the shift back to assigned neighborhood schools). Part of my problem is that I sort of (but don't entirely) "get" the current algorhythm -- and I keep seeing stuff to the effect that they can't really use it for the new system. So that worries me, but I can't address it very well because I am over my head.
Does it help the scenario that you cite if the school district does the following:
1. Process applications for option schools first (and allow parents to list multiple schools, in priority order, like now, fill the schools (or not) and set up waiting lists, the way they do now. Notify those parents of assignments (and waitlists).
2. Subtract those families from assignment schools (whatever they want, their first choice obviously wasn't their assignment school), and compute how many choice seats each school has.
3. Process applications for "choice seats" (and here, the option school parents whose REAL first choice was a choice seat at say Roosevelt are back IN the mix; assign those seats (here, any kids already assigned to option schools through #1 get subtracted from the option schools (moving the wait lists) and wait lists are created for the choice seats, if applicable.
4. All remaining kids get assigned to their schools by address.
Just thoughts, but the negative effect on choice if we can't make it safer for parents to "choose" really concerns me.
Elizabeth W said…
on 10/8/09 at 12:33 PM dj said...

I don't see how anyone can make assumptions about what "people" generally think of the current algorithm when it isn't as if the district has taken polls or canvassed communities to find out what people think of it.


When I make observations of what people think, it's based on several years of holding informal workshops on the process for families from my children's daycare. Their addresses are skewed to the North end, but otherwise these families are fairly representative of Seattle's population.

I don't remember her name, but there is a local woman who did a masters degree thesis on how families navigate the choice system. Presumably she can speak with some authority on the subject.
Elizabeth W said…
on 10/8/09 at 4:04 PM Jan said:

Part of my problem is that I sort of (but don't entirely) "get" the current algorhythm -- and I keep seeing stuff to the effect that they can't really use it for the new system.


There is absolutely no reason why the old "Gale-Shapely" algorithm cannot be used in the new system. The computer it runs on needs to be retired, but it could be coded for a new platform. Changes would need to be made to handle the new requirement that folks be guaranteed their reference school if they want it. These changes are not particularly sophisticated. The proposed new scheme is substantially easier to code and verify, though.
reader said…
Coding up an algorithm like that is a typical Microsoft new-hire interview question. Perhaps we could just ask Microsoft for the trash on interview day and improve the computer staff at SPS.
dj said…
Elizabeth, "their addresses are skewed to the north end" is exactly the point.

I live in central and have informally counseled countless people about the school choice system (because you'd better believe people down here are looking for a choice). To a person, they were initially confused and thought they needed to be strategic about how to rank their school choices, and were incredibly relieved to find out that they could just list their choices in whatever order they truly wanted them. If your goal is to avoid your reference school, that is the system you logically prefer -- the one that maximizes your chance of getting out of it.
Elizabeth W said…
dj: I don't think we disagree. You say folks were "initially confused", which is in agreement with what I've reported.

However, with the way you've responded above, I feel as if you're tying to call me out into a North vs. South fight. Given how hard I've worked to promote the understanding of how well the old choice algorithm works, and that its problems are a function of capacity and demand problems, I'm both surprised and a little hurt by it.

While most of the parents I've spoken with have been in the enviable position of having highly sought-after schools nearby, some were not, and many were confirmed alternative school types, including those who felt a traditional school would be injurious to their child.
dj said…
Elizabeth, I apologize if I misunderstood you.
Elizabeth W said…
Thanks, dj, your apology is much appreciated.

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