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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

SAP - Option/Alternatives

Open Thread

29 comments:

Unknown said...

Old Hay is on the map as an alternative... I wonder what it will be?

Laura said...

have they talked about a "geographic zone" tie breaker for admission to an option school. Will it be the walk zone, something larger, nothing at all? Any geographic zone maps?

Maureen said...

I didn't hear it myself (got here late), but someone here told me that Old Hay will be a K-5 Montessori school.

Central Mom said...

One blow to the idea of keeping cohorts together...Thornton Creek doesn't appear to have the option to preference its grads to Salmon Bay as in past years.

Robin Pierce said...

Apparently there are boundaries for option schools...but it makes little sense to me. I typed in our address and got Laurelhurst, Hamilton, Roosevelt. No surprise here. However, our option school is Salmon Bay. (5.7 miles - 1 hour bus ride) Why not Thornton Creek? (2.7 miles from our house)

Robin Pierce said...

I should add that I think Salmon Bay has a fabulous program. I am just upset about the distance.

Maureen said...

Robin: Laurelhurst is in the Hamilton attendance area. That attendance area doesn't have their own option school. It sounds like they linked that area to the Whitman area so will transport you to Salmon Bay (you can choose any Option school in the city--but would only get busing to Salmon Bay.)

Maureen said...
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dj said...
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Central Mom said...

My first reaction here is that Option schools have gotten shorted (again, sadly) in complexity of District mindshare as opposed to the assignment schools. Where are the option school draw areas (guaranteed transportation in those areas predict a bigger draw from those areas.)

Where are the geographic zone enrollment preferences around each school?

Where is the programmatic thinking linking elementary options to continuing programs in middle and high schools. In this question I include Montessori at the middle school level and language immersion at the high school level.

Central Mom said...

Also, for the Central Area, does this mean that Mary Bass's suggestion to turn Madrona into an Option school is DOA? If the district says it's making enrollment boundaries not meant to change before 2015, it appears so.

Anyone have other thoughts/insight here? Madrona is the school that stands out to me as having one of the largest shifts in demographics/focus if it becomes an area assignment school.

dj said...

Central Mom, that was exactly my read of the SAP, and was what I thought would happen. With the TTM closing, MLK closed, and Thurgood Marshall newly full, there just isn't anywhere else to send kids in the Madrona neighborhood, and the neighborhood enrollment numbers suggest that Madrona K-8 as an option school on the current model will attract only a modest number of neighborhood kids. I don't see any way you can take that number of seats in the area offline and still have enough room for all of the kids -- look at the elementary school map (even without the new SAP lines), take Madrona out, and view just how big of an area would go without an elementary school.

I can't even imagine the boundary reshuffling that would have to go into making Madrona an option school, which tells me that's not the plan.

Charlie Mas said...

Madrona wouldn't work as an option school because it would not draw enough students to make good use of the building.

Since Madrona is under-enrolled, any student who chooses it gets assigned to it. Consequently, it is already as full as it would be as an Option school, which isn't full enough.

The attendance area for Madrona (from Cherry to John and from 23rd to the water) includes a good mix of income levels. If the school actually draws from this area and if the program is going to be responsive to the needs of the population, then the program is going to have to change. Of course, there is no reason to believe that the program will change to meet the needs of all of the students in the school. The school leadership may choose to continue to focus their attention, service, and program on the needs of a portion of the students and not on the needs of the rest of the students. In that case, I'm not sure what action - if any - would cause the District to intervene.

reader said...

I'm really not sure how the "options" assignment works. Can somebody explain it? What is the status of Salmon Bay? What area gets preference to Salmon Bay? And, at what point? Do QA/Mag residents have a preference at Salmon Bay for middle school? ... preference at New Hay for elementary school? ... Center School for high school?

ParentofThree said...

I too am very confused by options schools at each level. K-5, 6-8 and highschool.

ParentofThree said...

"Any student may also apply for assignment to any option school, with assignments determined by tiebreakers."


What's the tiebreaker?

Unknown said...

"Additionally, there is to be some kind of advanced learning in every elementary school by next school year."

Is this going to apply to Option schools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Option geographic areas aren't out yet so there's no telling who gets what. Something to press at the meetings. Tim, also a good question on advanced learning at Options schools. I don't know for sure.

southend girl said...

Can anyone tell me why Southshore became an option school? I think it was founded with a mission to address the needs of the kids in the surrounding neighborhood. I don't think there is anything alternative about the curriculum. Someone asked the Superintendent at a coffee hour at Aki Kurose and she would only say that the Board had made that decision and so it stands.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Southend Girl, first South Shore was alternative, then regular and now we're back to Option. I think Dr. Goodloe-Johnson may be wrong on the decision; staff probably pushed the Board to do it. No way they thought of it on their own.

South Shore WAS created to serve the neighborhood. It has something of an alternative feel (see their website) but frankly, I would call it alternative light.

Central Mom said...

Southend girl, you're raising many good points on the blogs today. It's great to hear the South End perspective. Urge your cohorts to join the chorus.

One word of advice: When a superintendent points to the board and says "because they said so" and likewise when the board points to staff and says "because they said so", take it as the thinnest of excuses. If it's something you question or feel passionate about, push back via facts and community input. Those thin excuses can fall apart given a compelling argument and the dedication of A LOT of EXTENDED involvement on your end. But it is worth it, IMHO.

Charlie Mas said...

There's a problem with SouthShore being an Option School.

There is no geographic tie-breaker for enrollment and assignment to Option Schools. So any student from any part of the district has an equal chance for assignment to SouthShore.

The New School Foundation, however, specifically wants the school to serve students of a certain demographic and from a certain community.

So far, the numbers have worked out, but if all of the families who reject Aki Kurose want SouthShore, they will all get an equal chance at it. And if a family living in Mount Baker or Capitol Hill wants to sent their child to SouthShore - they get an equal opportunity as well.

Central Mom said...

Well Charlie, I keep waiting for the District to really get its feet held to the fire for a failure to give greater thoughtfulness to the definition and role of Alt schools. Perhaps this will finally be the fire.

Melissa notes that Dir. DeBell said at the workshop that definitions need to be worked out.

Montessori is another fire being created. If it isn't a special pedagogy, what is? It simply isn't going to be OK much longer for the District to skate by on its recently overused explanation of an Option school being "A School without an Assignment Zone."


PS: How you can have Graham Hill as an Assigment School Montessori and Old Hay as an Option School Montessori makes no sense to me.

southend girl said...

Back to Southshore...from what I understand, Southshore families do not consider the school to be 'alternative' and did not want it to become an option school.

I cannot understand the reasoning behind which schools have been deemed option schools. It seems more geographic convenience than anything else.

I am a proponent of educational choice. But what is the definition of an 'alternative' school in Seattle anyway? It seems to me that much of what was once 'alternative' has been adopted as best practice in general ed. Does a school culture (i.e. no rules, emphasis on social justice (which is hopefully the norm everywhere!) etc. constitute alternative education?

Just curious.

Megan Mc said...

I plugged in random addresses near the 9 middle schools and here is what came up for option school locations:

OPTION SCHOOL FEEDER PATTERNS BASED ON MIDDLE SCHOOL ATTENDENCE AREAS
Eckstein – AS#1 K-8, Thornton Creek K-5, Jane Addams K-8
Whitman – Salmon Bay K-8
Hamilton – Salmon Bay K-8
Mercer – Orca K-8
McClure – Old John Hay K-5
Washington – Tops
Aki Kurose – South Shore K-8
Denny – Pathfinder
Madison – Pathfinder

How does this provide equity in access? Ecstein families get to choose from 3 schools while McClure has no access to any true alternative. There is no way that Orca, Salmon Bay and Pathfinder could serve all the families in those geographic areas. They would fill up too quickly. Meanwhile, Jane Addams, AS#1 and Thornton Creek are set up to compete against each other for students in the overcrowded N/NE region but what happens when McDonald and Sandpoint come online?

Why is it that South Shore and Jane Addams are designated option K-8s but Madrona, Broadview Thompson, and Cathrine Blane are not?

The school district shows their ignorance for alternative schools with the new SAP as well as what parents are looking for in choices. All non-traditional programs (IB, Montessori, Language Immersion) should be option schools and there should be no geographic tie breaker or every attendance area should have a school within a school option for one of those. Alternative schools are different and they should have a separate, all city designation If transportation is the issue than they should open it to the public to brainstorm solutions to the problem. The fact that we only have one true alternative high school is a major equity issue.

Central Mom said...

Megan...to clarify...the SAP lets *any* student in the District apply to *any* option school. This is new, as right now some alt schools didn't accept enrollment from certain clusters.

The "gotcha" is that students will only be eligible for bussing from certain locations. Usually within a middle school service area, or a linked service area if one area has no Option school. Obviously, this puts practical limits on many families' enrollment choices.

As for the lack of definition around alt schools, or lack of a roadmap to place popular programs in all corners of the district, I have no insight. Many parents have been asking for years.

PS: Despite wording in the board policies around Option schools, the administration is currently working with this definition of Option: Any school that doesn't have an attendance area. Add an attendance area and presto, you're not an option school. Take it away and presto, now you're an option school. If you think that's wacky, join the club.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm starting to see why the District doesn't want to make more Option schools - including the language immersion programs and the Montessori programs. The presence of Option schools really complicates the work of right-sizing the attendance areas.

When setting the size of the attendance areas, the District starts with the functional capacity of the school. For high schools they start with 90% of the functional capacity. Then they add the number of students from the area that they expect to be assigned to service schools, the remaining Special Education programs, and APP. Then they add the number of students from the area that they expect to choose Option schools or out-of-area schools. This can be a big variable. What if they expect 50 kids to be assigned to Option schools but, for whatever reason, only 25 actually are? They have to find seats for the 25 students they didn't expect. The more Option schools, the greater the volatility, the harder to estimate. This could lead to some big variances resulting schools that are either over-crowded or under-utilized. It really complicates their capacity management work.

Of course, this is yet another example of operational preferences driving decisions that should be based instead on academic priorities.

Central Mom said...

Charlie, Interestingly, if the District could be as "cookie cutter" in alt school program definition and placement as it is with assignment schools, enrollment wouldn't be much of a problem at all, I think.

1) Language Immersion (full or close to it)
2) Montessouri (full or close to it)
3) Experiential...look at Thornton Creek's/AS2's enrollment numbers on what kids attend from the service area. Put the same program in the South End and figure on equal or more interest.

4) TOPS K-8 school 2 with arts and social issues focus and expected heavy parental involvement including tracked volunteer hours. Put the same program in the South End and figure on equal or more interest.

These are not hard to track. What's hard to track are new program ideas, schools defined as "option" schools by the district for reasons other than programming (South Shore, I think, or schools whose future is uncertain due to district discussion about other use of their facilities (AS1, Jane Addams).

ParentofThree said...

Can we bump this thread up, I am concerned about how students have access to option schools and the future of them in general. First, alternative has been dropped. Second, seems like small geographic areas will be drawn around each school, and transportation will be restricted. This is essentaially turning our alternative schools into neighborhood schools or what the district is calling attendance area schools.