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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weird ambiguity

The assignment plan, as currently proposed, includes a number of program placement changes. Among them are:
Creation of a Spectrum program at Madison
Creation of a Spectrum program at B.F. Day
Creation of a Spectrum program at Hawthorne
Creation of a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights
Closure of a Spectrum program at Leschi
Closure of a Spectrum program at West Seattle Elementary
Creation of a Montessori program at Old Hay

Here's a simple question:
Are these program placement changes described in the new student assignment plan proposals or are they decisions? For example, has it been determined that Hawthorne will be the Spectrum site for the elementary students living in the Mercer middle school service area, or is that merely a proposal that will be discussed and decided in the Program Placement Committee?

The person at the District with administrative responsibility for program placement is Courtney Cameron. I sent her an email asking this simple question, but I didn't get a simple answer. Instead, I got copied on an email from Ms Cameron to Holly Ferguson, the District lawyer who takes the lead on policy matters, asking how to "approach this given the policy issues".

Policy issues? What policy issues? The only time we have policy issues is when someone violates policies. What policies could they be violating? The program placement policy, of course. That policy really only calls for two things:

1. Program Placement is supposed to follow an administrative procedure written by the Superintendent.

2. People are supposed to be allowed to make program placement proposals.

There's a lot of other stuff in there, but it policy is so squishy that the other parts are un-enforcible.

So I now have three questions:

1. Are they planning to short-circuit the administrative procedure for program placement - in other words, were these program placement decisions made outside of the written procedure?

2. Are they planning to deny people the opportunity to submit program placement proposals?

3. Are they planning to do both of these?

I have written back to Ms Cameron asking her what policy issues there might be and asking her, again, to clarify the status of the program placements mentioned in the new Student Assignment Plan.

This isn't fun.

57 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said:
"This isn't fun."

But it sure is typical.
Fits right is with all the other funny business.

The undisclosed results of the PSAT given one year ago. "Hello Dr. Vaughn?"

The ongoing failure to provide the interventions specified in D44 and D45 but the coming $1,000,000 for Sylvan.

The k-8 math program without mastery of skills.

The administration's attempt to produce meaningless diplomas rather than educating students in an effective way. .... If they can't get that right NOT much hope for much of anything else coming from Downtown.

Hats off to all the great SPS teachers that are forced to deal with Downtown's miserable nonsense plans.

Charlie perhaps your next question about policy needs to include:
"Does it take a huge bloated Bureaucracy to come up with this much nonsense?

If so perhaps it is time to end administrative bloat. Way past time.

North End Mom said...

Charlie,

There is a new capacity management policy that will be introduced at this evening's Board meeting. In it, programs may be relocated, added or removed in order to manage capacity.

See the appendices in this report:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/09-10agendas/102109agenda/capacityreport.pdf

This is probably one of the "policy issues?"

wseadawg said...

Closing Spectrum at Leschi?

So no Spectrum anywhere in the Central Cluster? I thought we were spreading advanced learning to each cluster. And why close it at Leschi? Because of a principal who didn't support it up until now?

North End Mom said...

Pages 27-30 of this SAP document gives the proposed location of services, including schools with Spectrum (and a general reason why the services are where they are proposed to be located by 2015).

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/newassign/NSAP_ProposedBoundaries_
Sections_I_IV.pdf

Is Spectrum now considered a service? There are changes in special ed service locations, and also lots of ELL and EBOC changes.

TechyMom said...

The Elementary Spectrum program for the Washington Service Area will be at Muir. There is no more central cluster. Not the most central location in the service area, but given how poorly Leschi's spectrum program has performed, not necessarily a bad thing. I think Muir had one before didn't it? Does anyone know if it was a good program (or at least better than Leschi's)?

North End Mom said...

Maybe there isn't room for a montessori program at Leschi, AND a spectrum program (at least not enough room for both based upon projections for 2015 enrollment)?

Any idea of how and when the changes outlined in the Services table are going to take place?

CCM said...

I don't believe that the Spectrum program at Muir will serve the Central District -- I don't know of any parents that would send their children that far when many families at Montlake, Stevens, Lowell and McGilvra are happy with the in-house programs.

I do think it is sad that they aren't giving the new principal at Leschi a chance at making the program successful there before making this decision. New leadership can be all it takes in some cases to turn something around.

Maybe some of the southern central cluster schools will be happy at Muir - I've heard good things about that school - maybe that is where those kids are already since the Leschi program is pretty much empty.

Maureen said...

Thanks North End Mom! If you read through the links at the end of that doc you can see Peter Maier's report on the proposed policy from the Operations Committee.

At the end, he says:
One Committee member has reservations about the Policy, principally because that member believes it does not sufficiently address issues of school programs. The Committee majority notes that the Policy’s "purpose" description does include the monitoring of "program demand" and includes "adding, relocating, or removing programs" as one of the possible "actions to be taken."

So I guess they feel like they have dealt with the program placement issue?

Note that this proposed policy is one more indication that SPS intends to use Option School 'Geographic Zones' as a way to balance capacity--not (as was initially implied) just to allow access to Option Schools from their walk zones.

dj said...

Techymom, you are right. The reason that the district is proposing (or whatever you want to call it) closing the Spectrum program at Leschi is because John Muir will now be in the Washington service area and John Muir has a Spectrum program. Anecdotally, parents like the John Muir program well enough (at least, well enough to use it, which doesn't appear to be the case with the Leschi program to the same extent).

Unrelated point, if there is going to be specific language about moving these various programs around in the future for capacity management purposes, that tells you quite a bit about what the district's commitment to those programs comprises.

TechyMom said...

Central Cluster Mom, you're probably right that not many parents at Montlake, Lowell, McGilvra, and Stevens will bus their kids down to Muir for Spectrum. I'm not sure that's a problem, though, since those schools all seem to do a pretty good job of differentiating to serve above-grade-level students. Marshall's ALO seems to also be doing a good job.

Spectrum-eligible students in the Leschi, Madrona, Muir and Gazert attendance areas will likely be happy to have a program that works better than the one at Leschi. If the goal is to reduce transportation costs while improving the average quality of schools, this proposal seems likely to meet that goal.

North End Mom said...

What qualifies as a program?

Wasn't Summit considered a "program" and not a school (and hence Summit was not given a public hearing on its closure)?

Would there be any community engagement or public input if a "program" was slated for relocation or removal under the new Capacity Management policy?

Maureen said...

Techymom I don't pretend to have an answer here, but, as I see it: Part of the problem with placing a Spectrum program on the boundary of a service area, especially if that area has some strong schools, is that it could prevent a critical mass of families from joining the program. Then the qualified kids who do sign up won't have enough of a peer group and the program might never reach full potential.

On the other hand, maybe the numbers will be sufficient for quality and it will also be able to accomodate everyone who wants in. I would feel better if I thought someone had run the numbers on it and not just shoved Spectrum into whatever building had space.

dj said...

Maureen, they're not shoving the Spectrum program into whatever building has space. The program already exists at John Muir. They're just not planning to move it. I don't see that as quite the same decision. Moving programs is not costless.

As for the central location, there are not that many candidates. Montlake and McGilvra pose the same not-central problem, and there is no way to shoehorn more kids into Lowell and Stevens, really, since MLK and T.T. Minor are closed and you have big swaths of the central area that no longer have a neighborhood school. I think Madrona is the only school that arguably is both more centrally located and likely to have space. In my own self-interest, sure, I'd love to have a well-functioning spectrum program a block from my house. But I am actually not sure, given the history of the program at Leschi, that moving Spectrum into a school unlikely to be supportive of Spectrum is good for the Spectrum program itself.

TechyMom said...

Muir already had a spectrum program, so really they're combining the programs at Leschi and Muir, and making the Muir program available to the former Central Cluster. My guess is that WA SA is big enough that it will fill, even if the north half of the SA doesn't use it. Put another way, I would expect that if there were a Spectrum program at Muir and another at Stevens, that both would be full. I don't have the answers either, but my gut tells me this one will be ok.

If it isn't, they can move the program to Madrona in a few years when they finally get around to replacing the principal.

Maureen said...

I hope Muir's Spectrum program does work well. It does seem a little odd to me that Hawthorne has been proposed (selected?) as the Mercer SA Spectrum location, since it is really close to Muir (and also on an edge of it's SA). Does anyone have a sense as to whether the Muir Spectrum kids who now live in the Mercer (or Aki) service areas will have transportation grandfathered for awhile?

ParentofThree said...

Can anybody name one accomplishment in MGJs two plus years that has either a proven cost savings or has improved the quality of our children's education?

Just one.

h2o girl said...

Speaking of Peter Maier, there is a community meeting with him next Tuesday night. This was in our school bulletin:

Attention NW/N Seattle Community – TUESDAY OCTOBER 27th 2009, 7pm

Loyal Heights PTA, SCPTSA, and CPPS members would like to invite you to a lively evening of discussion and coffee with Peter Maier. Learn what you can do to influence capacity/boundary issues, address I-1033 and the upcoming levies.

Loyal Heights Elementary Cafeteria 2511 NW 80th St

Connect with your local PTA/CPPS people. We would like to involve every school in our region so all kids and communities have a voice!

RSVP is appreciated.
Questions? Concerns?
Carmen Hudson
cell 206-310-9576

TechyMom said...

SPS Mom asks
"Can anybody name one accomplishment in MGJs two plus years that has either a proven cost savings or has improved the quality of our children's education?"

Well, sitting here in Central, things are better for elementary than they were 2 years ago.

Two years ago, we had 4 good schools, 1 ok school, and 4 bad ones. We had a Spectrum program in name only (10% of the class failed the WASL). Now, we have 2 new ALO programs that have moved the OK school and one of the bad ones into the good category. We have a new principal at another of the bad ones, moving it into the ok column. It looks like we'll have access to real Spectrum program next year. That means 7 good, 1 ok, and 2 bad schools next year. That's actually a pretty big improvement.

I do wish Meany hadn't been closed, and had instead been used for kids near the ship canal (on both sides of it), and that Nova had been left alone, but for elementary, things are much better.

TechyMom said...

To be more clear...

Before:
4 Good (TOPS, Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens)
1 OK (TT Minor)
4 Bad (Leschi, Madrona, Marshall, Gazert)

After:
7 Good (TOPS, Montlake, McGilvra, Stevens, Lowell, Marshall, Muir)
1 OK (Leschi)
2 Bad (Madrona, Gazert)

dj said...

Techymom, I actually don't know how well the ALO is working at TM, or to what extent the general education program there has changed. I don't know if it is working, I don't know if it's not working. I know that 2-3 kindergarten students transferred to Leschi, and I know some parents (APP) have had complaints about what they have viewed in the general education classes, but that's 100% anecdotal and I know that at least one of the issues (discipline methods) is one that Julie is working on, so I'd expect to see improvement there.

Do you have access to information about how well the general education program there is functioning? Embarrassing that I don't, since my kid is in the building, but I really don't.

André said...

TechyMom,
questions...

How do Marshall and Lowell suddenly become "good" schools? APP? That helps the students in the traditional programs how? And wasn't Leschi already "ok" according to AYP? Can you explain the benifit of the new plan for any of the kids who weren't already succeeding? The only benefit I see is in the opportunity for growth of the Montessori program at Leschi. And under the current plan that is only for kids in the Leschi reference area since it's not treated as an option school. I'd love to be wrong here but... Thoughts?

Unknown said...

My anecdotal experience with Central area Spectrum is several years old. When my oldest child tested into Spectrum MANY years ago, other Spectrum parents we spoke to said that the lower Spectrum grades at Leschi were ok, but there was one upper grade that was severely deficient -- and that neither the school nor the district was inclined to hear or respond to parents' complaints. So -- we enrolled our child in a DIFFERENT Spectrum program (also in our cluster but much further away). Several years later, when looking at Spectrum for another child, we knew of one family (and heard there were others) who used Leschi's spectrum program in the early years, and then switched to Muir to avoid what they perceived as the upper year Leschi problem. (I am pretty sure all this happened before Jo Lute Ervin's watch -- because I think she was still an assistant principal at Washington then, and I have no knowledge of Leschi since then). But everything I heard about Muir's Spectrum program at that time was very positive and encouraging.
If they improved Leschi's program (or its reputation, if the program is now better than people think it is), that would be great, but if they have to consolidate (especially so every middle school attendance area has at least one Spectrum program), I guess I would have to agree that it is probably better for Leschi's to be eliminated than Muir's -- especially if it frees up the Leschi principal and staff to really concentrate on integrating the Montessori program into their school.

TechyMom said...

First off, I should say that I don't consider AYP to be a valid measure of much of anything. It is about getting as many people as possible over a very low bar, often at the expense of everything else.

Here's how I was evaluating schools, based on tours, web sites, and word of mouth during open enrollment last year.

1) A culture that encourages every child, including those who are quick learners or above grade level, to work at the forefront of his or her academic abilities. This includes opportunities for both accelerations and deepening of material. The Motessori at TTM seemed pretty good on this, but I heard mixed reviews of the general ed program. Madrona is the opposite of that. Leschi was the opposite when I toured, but I have heard that the new principal is working to change that. The Montessori program also brought the average up at Leschi. The ALOs at Lowell and Marshall address this issue. The presense of APP has created an environment where this is encouraged, and where teachers have support for doing it. That alone is almost enough to push it into the 'good' category for me.

2) A warm and welcoming culture, where students are encouraged to express themselves. TTM was pretty good on this, Madrona, Leschi, and Marshall under the previous administration not so much. Montlake and TOPS were the best on this. Lowell has been great in this respect.

3) Availability of a well-rounded curriculum including languages, technology, art, music. Personally, I think the state should be funding this, but it currently doesn't, so this requires that a school have enough affluent families to fund and support this by hiring teachers or providing after school classes. Stevens, Montlake, TOPS, and Lowell do a great job of this. McGilvra does OK (no language was a big deal for me). TTM was pretty weak here as far as I could tell. If these programs existed, they were not advertized. Madrona, Leschi, and Gazert were awful. Marshall had some after school clubs, but was also pretty weak. I beleive this has changed with the APP merge, and is one of the things that pushes it into the 'good' category. Same with the ALO program at Lowell. These general ed kids now have access to the excellent art and music programs, and to the wide variety of after school classes. This and #1 were why we picked Lowell.

4) An absense of severe discipline problems and bullying, and of programatic elements designed to combat them, such as silent passing and uniforms. TTM was sort of in the middle on this one. Leschi was quite bad, but is changing.

5) Plenty of opportunities to move around. Lowell is actually not that great on this one. There is morning recess, but PE is only one week out of 3. I don't remember where TTM was. Madrona, Leschi, Marshall did not have recess.

6) Racial and economic diversity. A mix of all types of kids, not a high concentration of any. McGilvra (my reference school) failed on this, as did TTM, Madrona, Gazert, and Leschi. Not above a 'tipping point', around 30-40%, of FRE students, largely because of hte impact it has on #3.

SPS parent said...

"Madrona, Leschi, Marshall did not have recess. "

Is this really true?

How depressing.....

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

They had recess for kindergarten students, but not 1-5 students. I don't know the current status of recess at Leschi and Madrona.

One thing, those before-school and after-school programs, parents at Thurgood Marshall have to pay to enroll their kids. My daughter goes to before-school activities three days a week and after-school activities three days a week -- five separate activities (one meets twice). She is under the impression that there is only one child in any of her activities who is in the general education program at Thurgood Marshall.

Our experience so far at TM has been just fine. My daughter misses a lot of her Lowell friends, but otherwise has no issues with the school, and certainly the facility is in better shape. I just haven't seen a lot of evidence one way or the other about whether or not the general education program has improved, and there hasn't based on my daughter's reports been much formal mixing of the APP and general-education populations.

TechyMom said...

Marshall has recess now, Madrona still doesn't, I don't know if Leschi changed this year.

André said...

TechyMom,
TT Minor had an excellent music program, math club, tutors, and one of the top chess programs in the state. Leschi continues to have the music program and a very good choir. Your evaluation seem pretty thorough, though I guess the jury is still out. I unfortunately am now in the Gatzert area and have no guaruntee of being able to have my five year old join her sister in the Leschi Montesorri program. There is still a lot of work to do but I can understand how some will be happy with the changes. I'm still not convinced that anything has really been done to close the gap for struggling demographics. Overall scores will probably be up, but that can be somewhat attributed to the redistribution of kids. I really do hope that we see some real progress.

TechyMom said...

I should add that I think the Montessori and language immersion programs should be Option programs. It also seems like Gazert, with the PBOC there, would be a natural location for language immersion, which could potentially encourage more middle-class and affluent families (and there certainly are some in the attendance area) to choose the school over Option and private schools.

reader said...

TechyMom, why are you so hot on elementary schools with foreign languages? I haven't seen a single school anywhere that the "foreign language", usually Spanish, amounted to a hill of beans. (immersion schools excepted of course) They are really more like Spanish appreciation. As a K parent, it seems wonderful... but then, you realize at the end of 5th grade... the kids have all learned amazingly little. (And my kids go to schools with supposedly awesome Spanish... same result.) These language classes are really just a little prep time for the regular teachers. It's a common misplaced priority.

SPS parent said...

Sadly, Reader is right.

SPS parent said...

With a few exceptions, like Stevens Spanish program.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the insidious problem with these pre-decisions.

Let's say that Hawthorne is a DREADFUL choice as the elementary Spectrum site in the Mercer service area. I'll say it. There is no legitimate reason to place the program there. It is not central to the service area, it is not particularly accessible by transit, it is a small school, and it is the only school in the service area with a really poor reputation for academics. I find it very difficult to believe that the program will be successful there. It is essentially a repeat of the mistake the District made when placing a Spectrum program at High Point. The only reason they put the program there is because the school has space. The school has space because it is the last choice for assignment in the area.

So... let's say that Hawthorne is a poor choice - because it is. But the District has gone ahead and placed it there in violation of the program placement policy and outside of the written administrative procedure. Right away people start asking to have the program moved to another school - say Kimball.

Kimball is a large school centrally located in the service area, close to transit, and with an excellent reputation for academics.

Only the District will say that they can't move the program to Kimball because the Kimball attendance area is right-sized for the building's capacity. The Spectrum program won't fit unless they redraw the boundary smaller.

In short, once these boundaries are drawn, all of the program placement decisions will be cemented into place.

Really, the program placement decisions need to come BEFORE the boundaries are drawn.

and they have.

These are not proposals. These are decisions. That's the policy issue. That's the policy that was violated. That's why the District has removed the program placement procedure from the web site.

Once the Board votes on the boundaries, these program placements will be cemented into place. There won't be any possibility of moving them.

Magua said...

Policy issues? What policy issues?

Respectfully, there is another "policy issue" that you're not factoring into your analysis. In short, SPS needs to cover its @55 to show progress at underperforming schools and avoid getting in deeper hot water under NCLB. It is easy to say that the rules should not allow this, but the rules will be interpreted to serve the more immediate agenda, which is to demonstrate progress however possible. Viewed in this light, it's no surprise that Hawthorne is the proposed new location for Spectrum.

SPS is not solving a Spectrum problem at Hawthorne; it is addressing a Hawthorne problem using Spectrum. Moving Spectrum in shuffles the deck and confounds the evaluation of performance & improvement. It will buy a few years -- even if the general ed performance does not improve, SPS can point to steps taken to enrich Hawthorne, e.g. slapping an ALO designation on the general ed program alongside Spectrum, as we have seen at the new Marshall & Lowell programs.

This isn't the first time this has been tried. SPS tried to solve the Hawthorne problem last year with the initial idea to move half of elementary APP in there. (Remember that the initial closure proposal was to close Lowell and blur the performance issues at both Marshall & Hawthorne by adding APP + ALO -- in its own cynical and cost-oblivious way, there was a certain briliance to it as seen from the bunker mentality at the Stanford Center.) When that plan got shot down the need to find a different answer for Hawthorne became more imperative. Leschi got its own shot in the arm this year from receiving Minor's Montessori program, and to be frank its Spectrum has been a joke for years, so moving it out of there was both viable and practical. Problem solved.

I think you're right that these are decisions more than they are proposals. At the least, the Hawthorne issue has been skillfully bundled with less controversial issues, e.g. the new Arbor Heights Spectrum program is going to pass through without much fuss or scrutiny after it was highlighted repeatedly last year that there was no Spectrum anywhere in WS-South. I am skeptical that these decisions can be challenged in a significant way on procedural grounds alone, however.

Charlie Mas said...

But the Spectrum program at Hawthorne WON'T raise WASL pass rates there. It won't because no one in the Mercer service area is going to send their Spectrum-eligible student to Hawthorne. Not even the families in the Hawthorne attendance area will send Spectrum students to Hawthorne - they will go to Muir.

Every other school in the Mercer service area has a pretty good or improving reputation for academics - EXCEPT HAWTHORNE. The Spectrum program at Hawthorne will fail for the same reason that the Spectrum program at Leschi failed: families will reckon that their student is better served at their neighborhood school.

Kimball general education is a more appealing option than Hawthorne's fake Spectrum. Same for Beacon Hill (with the language immersion program), Maple, Dearborn Park, and Van Asselt. Hawthorne is - far and away - the weakest school in the bunch academically.

The end result is that the Spectrum program at Hawthorne will fail because no one will choose to participate. Consequenty, their evil scheme to use Spectrum students to raise the test scores at Hawthorne will fail.

This program placement does not fulfill any of the considerations that are supposed to be factors in the program placement decision. But it doesn't have to because it isn't going through the program placement process. No rationale is going to be required.

reader said...

Maybe the district doesn't want Spectrum, and is making it unattractive for that reason.

zb said...

"TechyMom, why are you so hot on elementary schools with foreign languages? I haven't seen a single school anywhere that the "foreign language", usually Spanish, amounted to a hill of beans."

I'll second this, even including in a private school. It is indeed "Spanish appreciation." Not a bad thing, if it doesn't take away from something else. The kids have fun, and learn a bit of diversity, and about another culture. But, they certainly don't learn Spanish.

I've seen other results with immersion, with a cohort of native speakers (and by this, I mean speakers who speak the language at home, and whose caregivers speak the language). I've also seen a bit more success in schools that offer *more* languages so that you can up the ante by having native speakers in the classroom (i.e. spanish, mandarin, and french, with a probability that 2-3 kids in the classroom will speak the language).

Now, I still think the foreign language is nice, but it really is like music in school, as opposed to music lessons. So, I can still see someone wanting it. But, it's not learning a foreign language any more than a music program is learning to play an instrument.

anonymous said...

When my son was in K and 1 at Spruce Street school they had an art teacher who was was a native Spanish speaker. Instead of having formal Spanish classes the art teacher taught his class in full immersion. Since the kids had art for an hour every day, they had a lot of exposure to "Spanish" and they had a great time! By 5th grade most kids were speaking basic conversational Spanish, and were more than ready for the more formal middle and high school Spanish classes. It was fantastic! Any public school could do the same, and it wouldn't have to be limited to an art class, it could be a PE class, music, or????

Josh Hayes said...

that's an excellent idea, adhoc: we had a fluent Spanish speaker at AS1 a couple years back (he left to get a specialized degree, darnit: he was really good) and he did exactly that: taught a PE class in Spanish. We only had him for a couple of years, but going forward it would have been a success, I think.

(WV: PE class? Blych!)

Moose said...

It is a good idea...however, is not terribly easy to find certificated specialists who are bi-lingual. Our school looked into this when hiring a new PE teacher. Perhaps that will change as time goes on though.

Adhoc, I am envious of a full hour of daily art class! My public school elementary kids get 40 min of art once every three weeks.

TechyMom said...

I travel a lot. Abroad, Americans and their lack of language skills are a bit of a running joke. I feel that it is an important skill, the duty of a global citizen, and one of the marks of an educated person. An educated person should be able to speak at least 2 languages (including their native language) reasonably well, and get by in 2 or 3 more. I realize that in the US, I'm an outlier on this particular topic, but my opinion is pretty mainstream in Europe.

Numerous studies have shown that kids are much better at learning languages before puberty, and yet the US system starts teaching language just as students stop being able to absorb it easily. If it's true that most of the elementary language programs are not good, that's a reason to improve them, not to say 'oh well' and choose a school that doesn't even give it lip service.

I'll add that when I was in school, there were 5 equally weighted 'solids': English, Math, History/Social Studies, Science and Foreign Language. None was considered more important than the other. OK, that was private school, but I still think it's correct, and that the reason it's not done in public school is primarily because we're too cheap to fund a proper education for every citizen.

</rant> (you did ask)

Magua said...

Oh, I agree completely that Spectrum at Hawthorne won't produce real results.

The appearance of activity is valued over effectiveness. SPS defend its activity ("At least we *tried*.") and that it's hard to fairly evaluate the results. ("The basket of apples was going bad, but we've added some oranges now, and you can't compare apples and oranges. Sure, the apples are still going bad, but they're in a different context now.")

reader said...

Adhoc,

I know many, many Spruce Street fifth graders, perhaps all of them. None of them speaks conversational Spanish. Yes, they have the same Spanish teacher and program. But, turns out, that still isn't enough to really learn Spanish. (Seems good in K, though)

Yes, TechyMom, I think lots of people would like a foreign language option at their school. But since none of the schools are really teaching it, what difference does it really make? Do you really value Spanish appreciation so much? So much as to place that ineffective education above something else?

TechyMom said...

Well, we'll have to see. I may end up suplementing language on weekends too. But, I'd really prefer to avoid that. I don't want to have to provide core subjects during what should be family time, as that's what school is for.

The Lowell offerings seem decent. The class my child is taking is age-appropriate, and there is a 'continuing' class, which I would expect to be more structured. The Chinese class, in particular, is rumored to be fairly hardcore. I'm also of the opinion that improving an existing offering, in an environment where parents have already committed to it, is easier than starting up a new class from scratch. And, if the classes at our school aren't strong enough, that's just what I'll do.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, so there's this, from the FAQ on the New Student Assignment Plan:

"How will you determine the schools where the Spectrum program will be located?

Decisions about the location of advanced learning services will continue to be addressed through the program placement process. The number of students living in an attendance area and service area who are eligible for the Spectrum program will be one of the factors taken into consideration.
"

So how will they be able to address this through the program placement process if the attendance areas are right-sized to match capacity?

G said...

The fact that they were introducing a new capacity management policy last night allowing programs to be relocated, added or moved in order to manage capacity, sends up a huge red flag for the APP cohort placement at Garfield. The new SAP boundaries around Garfield are very large, much larger than this years very large freshman class came from. If everyone within the boundaries gets a guaranteed freshman spot, I can very easily imagine the district proudly waving this policy to deal with "capacity management" at Garfield come spring.

We shouldn't let them capacity manage Garfield into another RBHS. Garfield may not be perfect, but it is working on many levels for many students and tearing it apart would be devastating. Replicating the diversity at Garfield in other high schools, as the district is trying to do with IB at Sealth and possilby STEM at Cleveland, is the right path. Deconstructing Garfield would be backwards motion.

"Capacity management" policy seems like giving the MGJ a blank check to move programs and kids wherever she wants them to go. It will be "policy". The Garfield boundaries seem huge - perhaps they need to be reviewed before a new capacity management policy is put in place. They keep saying that there is no plan to move the APP high school cohort, but this policy would seem to put all programs into play.

SolvayGirl said...

Another huge issue with moving programs willy-nilly is the Principal Factor. Principals have to buy-in to a program at their school for it to be successful. If programs are moved strictly because of capacity issues then it only follows that some programs will land where the principals and possibly the school community don't want them.

It really does seem that the District is taking a very bass-ackwards approach to this. Am I surprised? Sadly, no.

A friend and neighbor who's child is an 8th-grade APP student at Washington is very concerned that the Garfield option will disappear before her child enrolls. I've been trying to reassure her that the language all keeps talking about keeping the APP HS cohort at Garfield, but now I have no clue what they'll do. It might make some sense to have the Hawthorne 8th-grade APP matriculate to Roosevelt—but there's certainly no room there either!

h2o girl said...

I also wonder when these new Spectrum programs will be introduced. I didn't see that in the charts in the assignment plan. Did you, Charlie?

For instance, in the Hamilton svc area it says that BF Day will have a Spectrum program by 2015. If it doesn't have one until then, are Spectrum kids in that area just out of luck? I can't imagine there will be room for them in the programs at View Ridge or Wedgewood, or Whittier. So when will it start? Same with Hawthorne - when will it start?

And then in the Whitman svc area, there will be Spectrum programs at Whittier and Broadview, but no longer at North Beach, so those kids will have to try and get into Spectrum elsewhere as well.

My kid was eligible for Spectrum at Whittier for 5 years and we never got in, and I know of at least 4 other kids in her grade that were in the the same situation. It seems that there will be (again) many kids citywide not able to participate in the Spectrum program.

anonymous said...

"My kid was eligible for Spectrum at Whittier for 5 years and we never got in, and I know of at least 4 other kids in her grade that were in the the same situation."

How can our district allow this to happen? It is outrageous.

Unknown said...

G -- I had the same concern when I saw the Garfield boundaries. This issue also exists with the boundaries for other overenrolled schools (Roosevelt, Eckstein, etc.) but with Garfield, I am afraid it will be much "easier" for the District, if they have blown it with forcasting the Garfield attendance area, to jettison the APP kids, rather than try to fix the error in the boundaries (since they are not supposed to change until 2015.
It seems to me that maybe what they need to do is "provisional" boundaries for the first year or two -- to see whether their forecasting models are correct. If NOT -- if the entering 6th and/or 9th grade classes in some of these schools are 30 or 40 percent higher than forecast, they should go back and redraw the boundaries immediately, using the new assumptions. I realize this further complicates sibling preference issues, etc., and so I think that they might need to give sibs of anyone who gets in for the 2010/11 school year some sort of sibling preference -- but IF there are errors, the sooner they fix them (before a SECOND overly large class enters), the better.
So -- here is my list:
1. "Provisional boundaries" for the first year, in case they have made errors in forecasting.
2. Make all of the immersion and Montessori programs option programs, and redraw the boundaries accordingly (I know this is a lot of work, but the current situation is inequitable, and makes no sense -- and once they draw the boundaries, it will be extremely hard to ever change.
3. Site other programs (Spectrum) according to the policies, in a manner that will facilitate their success -- and take THAT into account in the boundary decisions.
4. Move Lowell APP to one of the newly opening buildings -- so the northend APP program is in a northend location. (If it can be delayed a year or two to grow the Lowell ALO program -- all the better).
5. Make South Shore an attendance area school, and maybe reconsider the Rainier View building decision, if applicable.
6. Either make the District come up with a "Plan B" for the possibility of a levy failure so parents know what to expect when they enroll, or postpone the new SAP enrollment until we know whether the levy has passed (Plan A sure doesn't work in northend schools if the building levy fails).
7. Keep the current algorhythm for option schools/choice seats -- so that there is not a penalty for trying for a choice seat.
8. Come up with a genuine "fix" for RBHS BEFORE enrollment -- specifying the numbers of extra teachers to reduce class sizes, the solution for books, music/drama/art programs, etc.
9. Publish the specifics of the Cleveland STEM program BEFORE enrollment deadlines -- and it needs to NOT be required to use Discovery Math, unless that is what all those technology/engineering/math teachers really want to use. (NONE of the bogus reasons urged on the board for adoption of Discovery math are relevant to a STEM school seeking kids who want an intensive math/science/technology/eng education.

All of these things (except 1) are within the District's reach and can happen, if the District is willing (or the Board has the will) to make them happen. The ONLY thing outside District/Board control is the building levy.

I realize I have left out things like Sandpoint, odd boundary issues that need to be fixed, and the issues that parents have with Ingraham/Hale/Roosevelt/Balland -- because I feel like I don't really know what the "right" solutions are. I tried to stick to issues (other than the provisional boundary thing -- which just occurred to me tonight and may be a horrible idea and I just haven't figured that out yet) that seem to have found common ground among lots of posters here.

Melissa Westbrook said...

G - thanks for the alert on the passed capacity management. That flew right by me and it's huge. It deserves its own thread.

Excellent, Jan. I agree with the provisional boundaries idea; it fits right in with the idea of a transition plan. We're all in this together including the district so nothing should be set in stone.

GreyWatch said...

Jan - this is a great list. Practical, doable and it makes so much sense.

Provisional boundaries are a great happy medium as there are so many unknowns in the equations.

#2 is the one the district will be least likely to address as it requires the most work. Interestingly, this is one that I think will help them most in the long run. Take these out of the mix and make them true lottery. Assuming there is one immersion, montessori and alternative school available in the N, S and C regions, equity is addressed (as much as it can ever be), the neighborhood school concept is still intact, and these become true alternative options -- however that is defined.

Charlie Mas said...

The Capacity Management Policy is in direct conflict with the Program Placement Policy. The Capacity Management Policy says that they should move programs around for capacity management reasons. The Program Placement Policy says that they should not.

Dorothy Neville said...

"The Capacity Management Policy says that they should move programs around for capacity management reasons."

At one of the forums in the Spring, Tracy Libros explicitly said they would do this. I asked about how the elementary --> middle school feeder criteria would cause added issues for creating appropriate maps and she said that they would use programs to make it work. They'd shuffle around programs with different functional capacity into each school so that they could get the right numbers of kids in each elementary to feed into middle school capacity. I thought you were there, I thought we'd discussed this, but maybe not.

ParentofThree said...

I agree about GHS. It is going to be changed. What I suspect is that they will only assign WMS APP students to GHS, the Hamilton APP kids will go????

The BHS boundry will change and go further north, QA students will go to GHS.

That's how I see where this is headed.

TechyMom said...

So, does the Capacity Management Policy replace the Program Placement Policy? Or, do we now have two policies in force that are contradictory?

Charlie Mas said...

I have another email from Ms Cameron. Again, she says that she cannot yet describe the status of the decisions.

Here's the whole thread, put into the correct order:

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
From: Charlie Mas
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 5:57 AM
To: Cameron, Courtney J
Subject: Program Placement Proposals

Ms Jones,

I have sent in three program placement proposals. Can you confirm receipt of them?

Last year the program placement process was disrupted by the capacity management project. As a result, some program placement proposals were not considered or discussed. This year the new student assignment plan appears capable of disrupting program placement as well. The assignment plan, as currently proposed, includes a number of program placement changes. Can you clarify for me if the program placement changes described in the new student assignment plan are proposals or decisions? For example, has it been determined that Hawthorne will be the Spectrum site for the elementary students living in the Mercer middle school service area, or is that merely a proposal that will be discussed and decided in the Program Placement Committee?

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Subject: RE: Program Placement Proposals
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 11:57:30 -0700
From: cjcameron@seattleschools.org
To: charliemas@msn.com

Mr. Mas,

I have received your three proposals.

I will provide a more lengthy response when I have more information to respond to your questions.

Thank you,

Courtney Cameron
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
RE: Program Placement Proposals‏
From: Charlie Mas
Sent: Mon 10/26/09 1:48 PM
To: Courtney Cameron
Cc: schoolboard@seattleschools.org

Ms Cameron,

I don't understand why the status of the program placements referenced in the student assignment plan isn't known to you.

Either they are final decisions or they are not. Either way, I would expect you, as the person responsible for program placement, to know. I can't even imagine what could be the source of any ambiguity.

The FAQs page of the New Student Assignment Plan includes this statement:

"How will you determine the schools where the Spectrum program will be located?
Decisions about the location of advanced learning services will continue to be addressed through the program placement process. The number of students living in an attendance area and service area who are eligible for the Spectrum program will be one of the factors taken into consideration."

It simply isn't credible to me that you don't know if these decisions have been through the program placement process or not. Either they have or they haven't.

Whatever the truth, I don't think it could possibly be as disturbing to me as your inability or unwillingness to answer.

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas