Is this how it is for all the reopening schools?

The Queen Anne & Magnolia News has a pretty interesting article from Feb. 4th that basically seems to imply that the parents are going to decide what program is at their school. Good for them but my question, after reading the whole article - is this what is happening at all the reopening schools? (And note, there is a link for 3 of the 5 reopening schools at the schools page at the SPS website but none describe any program.)

The opening header says "Decision on QA Elementary curriculum halted after parents voice dissent." There doesn't seem to have been anyone from the district there so I'm wondering if the reporter got the impression that the parents have more sway over the the final decision than it would seem likely (given that we know the district will have it).

From the article:

Though Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson announced Queen Anne Elementary would have a Montessori program a couple weeks ago-a decision that caught many by surprise-that decision is no longer final.

At a Monday night meeting, the QA Elementary Design Team informed community members and parents that the program for the school could still change. And since Goodloe-Johnson's decision two weeks ago, the Design Team was presented with an entirely new possibility to relay to the community-opening the school next year without a definitive program in place.

Well, that would be in line with what is happening at the other schools. No one seems to be opening with a specific program. But the article goes on:

The question posed by the design team was: Would you be willing to attend a school in which the curriculum is not designed yet and be willing to be a part of picking and developing that curriculum in the first year?

The school district will also consider Montessori, a language immersion program and other program options, such as an expeditionary or dual-model curriculum, the design team said.

Be willing? Geez, that doesn't seem to be what is being asked at Sand Point or McDonald. Maybe they pose that question because it's an Option School but it almost sounds like they will decide their program.

Next steps:

To help gauge the community's preference, the design team will be distributing a curriculum survey until Feb. 13. Results will be collected and analyzed in the last two weeks of February to inform the final decision before enrollment applications are due March 31. The QA Elementary open house is March 6.

Again, I have no idea if this is what is happening at the other schools. I'd hope so.

If the survey comes back and not enough parents are willing to take the chance on QA Elementary without a predetermined program, the district will lay out concrete options to choose from-though what those might be isn't entirely certain either.

So the district is opening an Option school where the design team can come back and say not enough parents will come if you don't have Program X? Well, considering it's an option school, anyone can come. How come one area of the city determines what the program is for an Option school? (I must be missing something.) I think that even if parents in Queen Anne don't want Montessori, that doesn't necessarily mean the school wouldn't fill from around the region/city with those who do. (I understand that transportation would only be for those students in the McClure area.)

It almost seems like the attendance area reopens would have more control of their destiny than an Option school given that the parents who would have students assigned to that school could say, no Program X, we don't come. Meaning, the district really needs a solid core of students to operate a new school and if enough parents were able to escape (either to other schools or private schools), what would happen?

There was one other interesting part to the article:

The design team plans to take all the questions to the district and disperse information to the community as it comes. As answers are discovered, the design team will post them to its jargon group, The design team also encourages residents to send questions, comments and concerns to them directly, rather than to the district, at

I think it is really great that they will keep the community updated and I know McDonald and Sand Point also have groups. But it's interesting that they ask people to contact them and not the district. Maybe the district wants them to be the conduit for all information so the district doesn't have to gather information themselves. Or would people be more likely to write/call a design team than the district?


Carolyn said…
I'm on the McDonald Design Team. The design teams include the community, the principal and a couple teacher reps. McDonald and SP definitely can not enter this fall with a "program" other than the traditional curriculum elements already proposed. No international/language starting this fall, or any other 'alternative' programs. Rather, this next year will be devoted to exploring possibilities, and the 2nd year will be the planning, with 2012 being the earliest to implement. That's pretty firm from SPS, much to the dismay of many.

QA has always been different as it was to be an option school in order to draw the overload kids from the other QA elem schools.
So then, if the purpose of opening an elementary on QA is to draw kids in, then it would seem that the article is probably correct in that parental input will have a big affect on what decision the district makes (because they want the draw to work). That would be new for this district - creating a school that parents want.
seattle said…
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seattle said…
I agree with Melissa in that it's a good thing that the district is asking parents WHAT THEY WANT the program to be at the new QA option school. But they should do this before they expect parents to commit to the school.

I think it's to late to start over again from scratch in deciding the program for the new QA option school if they expect to open the school this fall. I mean the school has a scheduled open house but they don't yet have a program? Doesn't this seem backwards? It causes undue chaos and stress, and causes parents to run in the opposite direction.

I doubt anyone would commit to an option school that has no program. Why would they? Suppose the program that the school chooses after a year of community input is not a program that is appealing to the family that committed to the school? They would have to transition their kid out of that school.

Who would sign up for that?

Not me.
Dorothy Neville said…
Who would choose such a school? Perhaps those with an agenda. Those who have strong feelings for a particular program model. Of course, different parents will be pushing for different models. Shouldn't that all happen before the kids are there? What a divisive plan.
Maureen said…
Does anyone else see the irony in QA/Mag families being allowed to choose their curriculum when teachers and parents at established Alternative/Option schools (Thornton Creek/TOPS) have not been permitted (respectively) to choose their math curriculum or have a voice in the hiring of their principal?
Chris S. said…
The experience from Jane Addams was that parents get asked what they want, then either it's impossible (language immersion) or there's no money, so the program is little more than wishful thinking. Note JA was originally an assignment school, then an option school, then kids were assigned there, now it's an option school again. The bright side there is they got a really great principal, so she will make something good happen. Spectrum helps too.

Now there is even less money for new programs, what with the budget and STEM. If it were me as a parent, I'd take a careful look at the principal and disregard any other promises.
dan dempsey said…
"Now there is even less money for new programs, what with the budget and STEM.

There is that Cleveland STEM funding shortfall again. Perhaps the board needs to go back and read or reread:

The original approval of the Cleveland option school plan required certain deliverables. It was approved on July 1, 2009.

The following are deliverables for the team:
a. Identification of the appropriate STEM program model
b. Development of a project budget and long-term costs for the program (note: this project team is not charged with identifying the funding source but rather with identifying the costs)
c. Creation of a communications plan, including a plan for stakeholder engagement
d. Identification of the necessary instructional skill sets to ensure staff are ready
e. Creation of an implementation plan, including a readiness plan for the 09-10
Cleveland 9th graders, in preparation for a 2010-2011 continuation at CHS STEM
f. Creation of a transition plan for those students who chose not to remain in the program
e. Creation of an evaluation tool for the first, second and third years of implementation

The project team work is ongoing, in preparation for a Fall 2010 rollout of the STEM program. The School Board will receive regular reports on the progress.

Also of interest is that the SE education initiative is ending August 31, 2010 but it seems everyone failed to notice this as it is assumed to be providing on going funding to Cleveland STEM.

The vision of the "SE Initiative" is to:
• Ensure that local secondary schools are the “schools of choice” for residents of southeast Seattle by providing targeted and sustained resources that will enable each school to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for school transformation. {Did not work did it?}
• Schools will include Aki Kurose Middle School, Cleveland High School, and
Rainier Beach High School.

The District will make a three-year commitment to be focused in the following areas:
• Commitment to staffing mitigation {STEM encourages certain staff to migrate .. Opposite of SE initiative thrust}
• Provide planning support in 2007-08
• Invest in targeted academic resources
• Expand Flight support and seek external funding for school environment, family support, and other “wrap-around” initiatives

Each school will develop transformation plans that should address:
• Increased rigor in core academic subject areas
• Expansion of academic & elective offerings
• Development of a research-based signature program { using real research ??? }
• Community engagement to identify high priority issues for students and families { like starting a STEM school while consulting No one, not even the Principal until after the STEM decision. Princess Shareef was informed about the decision not consulted }

The District will establish an accountability framework {there is that idea again (how rich)} with the following components:
Joint decision-making between central and school leadership
• Clear three-year program goals for each school with a summative program evaluation
• Annual evaluation of interim benchmark data for each school

It sure is tough running an Oligarchy with stuff like the above ongoing commitments easily accessible.
dan dempsey said…
It looks from here that the Cleveland STEM program as currently devised violates Article IX in a whole variety of ways.

Article IX:
"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste*, or sex."

#1.. SPS is the extended agent of the state and responsible for the above provisions.

#2.. All children is hard to grasp when those going to Cleveland STEM are favored over others in the use of resources.. Perhaps the District feels the STEMers deserve special compensation since the selected NTN model produces such pathetic results elsewhere especially in regard to math.

#3.. Seems that of all the new schools especially the reopening ones over the next few years Cleveland is more paramount than all those others. Yes Cleveland is more paramount than all the other schools, more paramount than all 90+ other schools.

#4.. Seems that of all schools receiving title I or LAP funding Cleveland is more Paramount than those also. Cleveland gets the pile of all carried over money, while those schools get ZERO... as in start over new game for all schools except Cleveland in this new school year (2010-2011). Even though Seattle is not India this is an apparent "Caste*" violation.

#5.. with liberty and justice for all MGJ style. Long live her Oligarchy.
I apologize for my misuse of the word "paramount" in the phrase "more paramount".

"Paramount" = Of chief concern or importance: tending first to one's paramount needs. Supreme in rank, power, or authority.

Cleveland STEM is #1 and clearly "Paramount" and the other schools all 90+ of them are not paramount.

Initially Seattle gave "ZERO" percent "Hail Mary" status chance of success to the appeal of the high school math adoption filed on June 5, 2009.

Did the board really carefully examine all the evidence in making a reasonable decision? {see next comment below}

So do we have any odds makers on an appeal of the Feb 3, 2010 $800,000 NTN contract approval if filed on or before March 5, 2010?
dan dempsey said…
{next comment below is this one}
Director Maier also seemed very concerned about the current under enrolled condition at Cleveland, which he described as two-thirds full. The Staff has put forth a plan for 1000 student enrollment with 250 at each grade level. There are no NTN schools above 400 students and typically the 11th grade classes are 70% or less than the original 9th grade cohort class size. The Chief Academic Officer said New Tech Sacramento has a 98% graduation rate, but failed to explain how that number is computed or why it is so different from what most people would think a 98% graduation rate to indicates.

In explaining his vote to approve the contract director Peter Maier stated that: ”In my view a STEM program using Problem Based Learning will provide a strong high school program in the Cleveland neighborhood and that alone is a good and sufficient to go forward with this proposal. Additionally it will also provide an opportunity for students throughout the city to attend this program”. Director Maier did not address all the evidence, his statement may indicate he did not see the need to do so, and in particular he did not seem to understand that Seattle has served educationally disadvantaged learners poorly especially in mathematics. With the requirement of Calculus for all at Cleveland, it appears that the district has almost no plan to serve the current population of many mathematically under prepared students in the Cleveland neighborhood.


Director Carr focused a large part of her explanation for voting for the proposal on explaining that the NTN model was the best one for a Project Based Learning STEM school. She did not address, through the use of evidence, whether the New Tech Model was adequate. It appears that the district failed to address whether project based learning was appropriate for improving student performance and in particular as to whether it would be appropriate for educationally disadvantaged learners, which is a sub-group of the student population often poorly served in academic subjects and particularly under served in Mathematics.

Director Sundquist stated in his visit to NT Sacramento that he was impressed that students were engaged and poised. He understands that students are graduating at a high rate, are representative of students throughout the city, and are pursuing STEM fields at a substantially high rate after graduation. He presented no data to verify those two rates. He said there are concerns about the academic achievement at some NTN schools especially the new ones. NT Sacramento is not a new school, it is a demonstration school, and its academic achievement in both API ranking and End of Course testing should be a great concern for everyone but this was not addressed by either director Sundquist or the other three directors voting for this proposal.

dan dempsey said…
Director Martin-Morris visited New Tech Sacramento. He cited two pieces of information as part of his reasons for voting to approve the contract:

#1.. Thornton Creek uses Project Based Learning and they have good math scores with 63% placing at level 4 (above standard) on the 5th grade math WASL. While this is a good score and Thornton Creek is a project based learning school, Thornton Creek doesn’t use Project Based Learning for math. Originally Thornton Creek used Project Based Learning for Math but found it to be unsuccessful and abandoned that approach to teaching math. Also Thornton Creek is 8% Low Income, while Cleveland is 70%. Thornton Creek is 81% white, Cleveland is 5%. Whatever is happening at Thornton Creek is irrelevant to making a decision about math for Cleveland because the data is not relevant.

#2 Director Martin-Morris made reference to New Technology Hillsdale High School in the Durham School District in North Carolina. He believed this school to be an example of a successful New Tech School that had started recently but he had no hard data to confirm his impressions. He talked about how many students were going to enter into Calculus next year and said all seniors will be in Calculus and some juniors. He mentioned that the school Hillsdale New Tech was 91% African American.

Unfortunately when the statistics are examined from the State of North Carolina this school looks similar to other New Tech Schools, as it ranks in the bottom 20% of North Carolina schools.

Hillsdale NT did not make adequate yearly progress and was classified as a priority school placing it in the bottom 20% of North Carolina schools. The Durham district has 49% Low Income. Hillsdale NT has 44% Low-income students.

Interestingly the Regular Hillsdale High School is in the same situation did not make AYP and is classified as a priority school. It has 56% Low-income students. Here is some relevant data from School year 2008-2009 from the North Carolina End of Course tests. Percent of students at or above grade level.
........AlgI : Geom : Algebra II Low Income %
Hillsdale New Tech 19.7% : 58.1% : 40.0%
Hillsdale Reg. HS 35.5% :47.2% : 43.4%
Durham District 46.8% : 46.8% : 51.6%
State of North Carolina 67.7% : 73.3% : 73.3%

Here again the Seattle District and the Directors are failing to examine all the evidence and have made a decision based on what they would like to have work rather than what the evidence shows is very likely to happen.
dan dempsey said…
Table redo for NC:
for End of Course testing, which will be coming to Washington State.

.................. AlgI : Geom : Algebra II
Hillsdale NT 19.7% : 58.1% : 40.0%
Hillsdale Reg 35.5% :47.2% : 43.4%
Durham Dist. 46.8% : 46.8% : 51.6%
NorthCarolina 67.7% : 73.3% : 73.3%
Dorothy Neville said…
Dan, and also don't forget that Thorton Creek is a K5 school and Cleveland is high school. Project based learning would be very different with the different ages, developmental stages and learning goals, even if they used PBL for math.
dan dempsey said…
"Dan, and also don't forget that Thorton Creek is a K5 school and Cleveland is high school."

Fifth grade math success = Calculus for all ( on what planet?)

Thanks Dorothy... I made that very clear in the letter I sent to Harium after I thoroughly researched his statements.

My question is .... Did Harium come up with that Thornton Creek idea on his own or did Central Admin's TEAM feed it to him?
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
My kids went to Thornton Creek starting in 2001. They were not using project based learning then, nor are they now. They used Terk for years, and now use EDM. Just like every other elementary school in the district.
I, too, was surprised by Harium's off-hand comment about Thorton Creek. The two schools have nothing to do with one another. There was nothing fleshed out with that remark and I thought, "This is a reason?"
Karrie said…
The QAE survey is now out ... As one who completed the survey and is familiar with SPS tendencies to say one thing and do another, I am holding out hope for the input to be considered but not counting on it.

I didn't get the impression that the survey was only open to QA/Mag parents - not sure how the word will get out to others.

Maybe there is an assumption based on transportation (only McClure reference area) that the majority of students will come from the McClure area? Not sure. If I lived in a new reference area that I was supremely unhappy with, I'd do my best to find a way to get my child to QAE.

And to Chris's point regarding principal, as QA parents with an entering kindergartner, the only "for sure" reason we are currently considering QAE is the new principal.

In either case, the timelines are very tight. A March 6th open house is right around the corner for QAE - they are going to have say something, right???
I also wonder about the ability of the communities of these reopening schools and whether they are censoring themselves in order to not appear "negative" or whiny or pushy. I would think it would be okay, since 4 out of the schools are attendance area school and therefore, assigned, to advocate for what they want. But I can see biting your tongue in order to look like you are working with the district and not be agitators.
owlhouse said…
I'd like to hear from any families involved in opening QA Elem. We have an event coming on 3/13 and would like to connect with a parent base from the new school.

Anyone from the new STEM at Cleveland?


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