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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Open thread

How are things at your school? My kids are having a phenomenal year which proves to me that their school can handle just about anything the district throws at them and still thrive.

39 comments:

owlhouse said...

Nova News!
Open House, Thursday 2/25, 6:30p
300 - 20th Avenue East
SEATTLE, WA 98112
Come on out and meet staff, students and families... learn about life and learning at Nova.
Fashion Show, Friday, 2/26, 7p
@Nova
A fabulous fundraiser displaying Nova art and talent.

owlhouse said...

I got all excited at the opportunity to share and forgot the preface...
Nova absolutely rocks. My student had a mini-crisis heading into break and it's not only resolved, he spent the day doing homework and inventing work related to his classes. Really, the respect and inspiration between students and staff continues to amaze me. Glad your school is feeling strong, Megan.

Fremont Mama said...

We are in our first year at B.F. Day and are happy with it. We live in Fremont and the school unfortunately has a bad reputation. I believe it stems from the fact that many, many years ago it was the "homeless" school. This has not been the case for at least 8 years, but that rumor is still out there. It does not have a huge PTSA and fundraising isn't very syccessful which makes after school offerings pretty non existant.

Now comes the part I am frustrated with - Spectrum. B.F. Day has been designated the Sprectum school for the Hamilton attendance area. Great, because our kindergartener just tested into Spectrum for first grade. When I contacted our principal about the new program, she told me that it would really be in name only. Apparently SPS doesn't think enough parents will want to move their kids to B.F. Day even if they are Spectrum eligible. So, there will be no Spectrum classes, and the Spectrum kids will be treated as ALO. This is not a good option for our daughter as she really needs someone to push her to get the full potential out of her. We are going to apply to Whittier, but since it is out of our attendance area, chances of getting in our pretty slim. The principal did say that if enough people requested the Spectrum program at B.F. Day they would add a class. But, why would parents request the program if right now there is no plan to add a Spectrum classroom? Argh - so frustrating!!

Charlie Mas said...

Funny, the District was so determined to make sure that the new ALOs they were forming would not be "in name only", but they don't have any trouble with their Spectrum programs being "in name only".

Contact the Board. Contact them immediately and tell them that if they will not provide a Spectrum program in your service area that you fully expect them to provide you with access and transportation to the next closest one.

It is an equity issue. They are supposed to be committed to providing equitable access to quality programs, and that includes Spectrum.

zb said...

Although words may have been used poorly, I'm guessing the principal ws saying that she didn't think there would be self-contained spectrum at BF Day (when last I checked, self-contained spectrum at View Ridge didn't begin until 4th grade). So, even popular schools don't always have self-contained Spectrum classes.

Charlie -- are you arguing that every middle-school area should have a self-contained spectrum classroom at every grade? Or alternatively that every student should have access to a self-contained spectrum class (out of their middle-school reference area, if need be)?

Fremont Mama said...

Based on the advanced learning section of the SPS website, yes Spectrum students should have access to a self contained classroom. The third core principle states:

Cluster district-identified students to form classroom rosters...Students who are academically gifted present different learning styles, learning pace, and curricular needs that require daily and systematic modification to a general education curriculum and classroom experience to achieve educational benefit.

The fourth core principle states:

Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted

According to our principal, Spectrum students will be in regular classrooms, but will have Spectrum progress reports. There will be one Spectrum teacher that will be shared by the 5 new Spectrum schools. Meaning each school will have the teacher for one day per week to work with all Spectrum kids in that school.

The district absolutely needs to offer Spectrum classrooms for all grade levels at one school in each attendance area. Maybe View Ridge doesn't have self-contained classrooms until 4th grade because Wedgewood also has Spectrum. If you combined the Spectrum kids from both schools there would be enough for classrooms at all grades.

If they aren't going to offer this, then they need to re-write the core principles of the Spectrum program.

Stu said...

are you arguing that every middle-school area should have a self-contained spectrum classroom at every grade? Or alternatively that every student should have access to a self-contained spectrum class (out of their middle-school reference area, if need be)?

ZB - I don't know about Charlie but I'll put in my two cents, if that's all right.

What's the point in testing kids into a program and then not offering it? With this district, it's all about equity. The numbers don't always support having self-contained Spectrum classes in every grade in every school but I believe that, if a school can not offer Spectrum to a student, that student should have the right to go to the closest school that CAN offer that program . . . and I do feel the district should supply the transportation.

We're not talking about an alternative choice, or language immersion -- which is also inequitable, by the way -- but a district-wide program that identifies a certain type of student who is supposed to be getting a certain type of education. Telling one kid that they're smart and can take a class while telling another, who's equally smart but in a different neighborhood, sorry you can't take it . . . it's just wrong.

stu

dan dempsey said...

Singapore Math and Schmitz Park are in the Seattle Times

dan dempsey said...

Charlie what ever is the matter with you? Did you forget to drink your koolade and chant the mantra ...

Every school is a quality school

ohmmmm ohmmmmmm

Every school is a quality school


....ohmmmm ohmmmmmm

All better now?

WallingfordMom said...

I think not having a spectrum school in the Hamilton service area stinks and feels really unfair. I have no doubt they would have enough students in the area qualifying for spectrum to create a class. Of course by saying parents won't be interested in moving to BF Day to create a spectrum class is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I toured BF Day and liked the school. I really really liked Susan McCloskey. But I could tell she didn't think much of self contained Spectrum classes -- she basically said as much during the tour.

zb said...

"But I could tell she didn't think much of self contained Spectrum classes -- she basically said as much during the tour."

This was also true at View Ridge when we toured (though that was a number of years ago). The principal didn't think much of self-contained spectrum. And, at that time, View Ridge didn't have self-contained Spectrum, and not because there weren't enough students who tested into the program -- the principal said she thought a good 25% of the students at View Ridge tested into spectrum. She also said that there would be "spectrum progress reports" in 1-3.

So, I don't follow the details of the wording of what the Spectrum program is supposed to be, but I do know that affluent, desirable schools have also made the decision not to support self-contained spectrum. I'd be interested in knowing whether this will change in the future. Will there be a standard Spectrum model (there isn't now, as part of local control of schools)? As with other local variability, theoretical justification was available on the grounds that students could just choose another model at another school. The neighborhood schools plan decreases that flexibility. So, it's worth pressing the school district on what "standard" offerings will be available (including self-contained Spectrum).

Melissa Westbrook said...

My take is that Dr. G-J wants to phase out Spectrum. You either qualify for APP or you have an ALO at your school.

Lori said...

I agree with Melissa that a long-term goal appears to be phasing out Spectrum and just ensuring that every school has some sort of formal ALO program. Once every school has a formal ALO, there will no longer be a need to transfer a child to a further-away school for Spectrum because it will be claimed that their needs can be met locally, at the neighborhood school.

I'd even go further to say that I wouldn't be entirely surprised if APP were phased out in the long-run, in the name of cost-savings (ie, no more busing children from all over to the two centrally located schools). If they can force special ed kids back into their neighborhood schools without adequate resources, why not APP, which is also a type of special education?

Unknown said...

Our son is in K this year and has tested into spectrum for next year. We are (just barely) in the Hamilton service area. I emailed the Program Manager of Advanced learning and expressed my frustration at not having a Spectrum school in my service area and probably not being able to get into Whittier. He responded by telling me that BF Day was going to have spectrum next year and encouraged me to go there as I would have transportation provided. I emailed him back and said that if they want a strong cohort at BF Day then they should communicate the fact that BF Day would have spectrum. It is not posted on the SPS site. He said there would be a special meeting to talk about the BF Day spectrum program.

Fremont Mama said...

Mum o 2 - wow, I am very interested in any more information you get. I emailed Robert Vaughan over a week ago about what was happening regarding Spectrum in the Hamilton attendance area and he has not replied back to me. We definitely need to get the word out! I, too am ready to apply to Whittier. Since distance plays no factor anymore once you are out of an attendance area, chances for families who are close (like us) are the same as those who are on the other end of the district. Please keep me informed of anything else you hear. My email is jas2000 at comcast dot net.

Thanks!

dan dempsey said...

Fremont Mama,

Good Luck with Dr. Vaughn. It took almost a year after I wrote him for PSAT results to appear and as Melissa well knows I was not the only one writing.

The eventual output was nearly worthless only mean scores no medians, not much of anything worth while. A quality product from Brad "Broad" Bernetek.

Dan

Fremont Mama said...

Well - maybe Robert Vaughan is reading this thread because he just replied to the second email I sent him after posting my last comment. I asked for clarification on the type of Spectrum program that B.F. Day will offer next year. I don't know what the protocol is for reposting email conversations, but he basically said that they very much want to provide self-contained Spectrum classrooms at B.F. Day but doubt that people will want to leave John Stanford or West Woodland (since they are very popluar). He also thinks that families in the new McDonald community will want to see what happens there instead of moving to B.F. Day. He went on to say that this is all preliminary and that if we could get a group of people together, he would have a meeting with us and the principal to discuss what can be done.

Bird said...

So how does Spectrum work with the new SAP?

Isn't Spectrum in demand beyond capacity elsewhere in the north end?

Can't those kids go to BF Day?

I would think they could fill the program with kids who can't be served by the nearest Spectrum school.

Charlie Mas said...

Spectrum-eligible students can enroll at any Spectrum program. They will get in if the program is not filled with students from the school's service area. Transportation, however, will not be provided for students coming from outside the service area.

There have always been a lot of South and Southeast Seattle students in the Spectrum program at Lafayette, including my own.

Sue said...

I do have a question - didn't the district decide to keep the sibling tiebreaker for Spectrum? In other words, you cannot get in from your service area, if there is an out of area student who gets the sibling priority.

Therefore - a spectrum qualified out of attendance area child who is coming into say, Eckstein or Whitman, and has a sibling in the school already, can displace an attendance area student right out of the Spectrum program at that school.

Am I reading that correctly in the transition plan? If so, it stinks.

Fremont Mama said...

Bird - in theory that is what should happen. However, what the district is saying is that families at popular schools won't want to move to B.F. Day even if that means staying in a regular class. PTSA funding does not even compare between B.F. Day and the other elementary schools in the area. We have a high rate of FRL families so finances are tight for lots of folks. Therefore, we don't have before or after school programs like lots of other schools do. While I do really like B.F. Day, I can understand why parents might not want to move their kids to the school. What we need to do then is make sure parents of Spectrum kids know that a self-contained classroom can be created if there is enough interest.

gavroche said...

Blogger Lori said...

I'd even go further to say that I wouldn't be entirely surprised if APP were phased out in the long-run, in the name of cost-savings (ie, no more busing children from all over to the two centrally located schools). If they can force special ed kids back into their neighborhood schools without adequate resources, why not APP, which is also a type of special education?


Lori -- Your prediction is based on the false premise that APP costs more for transportation. In fact, because APP kids are categorized as 'special needs' this qualifies the District for extra transportation funding for them. Consequently, the District actually runs on a surplus when it comes to APP transportation.

This point was made to the District by APP parents when the District/Supt. proposed the APP splits as part of its allegedly money-saving "Capacity Management Plan." In fact, Lowell Elem., for example, was one of the most cost effective schools in the District in terms of per-pupil expense (in part because the building was so full). So closing or splitting that school made no sense financially.

I haven't seen any evidence that APP costs any more than any other option school.

Also, there are now 5 APP locations -- Lowell, Thurgood Marshall, Hamilton, Washington and Garfield -- not 2. And arguably, they are not all centrally located.

On a related note, if the District moved North-end APP to a truly North-end location instead of keeping it at Lowell in Capitol Hill, that would probably make many North-end APP commutes shorter and might save the District even more money.

Jet City mom said...

We live in Fremont and the school unfortunately has a bad reputation. I believe it stems from the fact that many, many years ago it was the "homeless" school. This has not been the case for at least 8 years, but that rumor is still out there.

Sorry- I couldn't let a few points go by.
BF Day has had a good reputation for years in north Seattle, especially because they have had longstanding working relationships with the local business community.
( B.F. Day is also the Seattle school districts oldest continually operating elementary school)

My daughter as an Americorps member, worked at BF Day in a 5th grade classroom- especially to provide needed support for the children whose families were struggling and possibly in a shelter.
She has great respect for the school and after she graduated from Reed College she is entering a masters of ed program, inspired in part by the community at BF Day

The decision to disperse students without a permanent address throughout the district, instead of assigning them to a school which had the structure and support in place so they could be successful was a bad one, IMO.

Why is it important for Spectrum students to be assigned together, but not for homeless students?

WallingfordMom said...

emeraldkity -- My understanding is that somehow the NCLB act made it impossible for school districts to have "homeless schools".

Also, BF Day has suffered for many years with having a bad reputation. Very few parents selected it as their first choice, and I know many people who moved rather than send their kids there. It's really too bad, since it is a great little school with a really strong staff.

Fremont Mama said...

emeraldkity: I really like B.F. Day and am happy we ended up there. But, out of the 7 1st grade and kindergarteners in the few blocks where we live in Fremont, no one put down B.F. Day as their first choice. It does have a bad reputation around the neighborhood. It is a great school and we love the diversity. I am not saying that the school needs to change, I am saying that if it is going to be the designated Spectrum school then it needs to provide the resources for it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Emeraldkity, don't pit Spectrum kids against homeless kids. I know that was a great program and I think there should be one "home" base school for these kids but Spectrum didn't push them out. One is an enrollment program and one is an academic program.

I love BF Day. It is such a homey, warm school, both the building and the people. I think if Dr. Vaughn made sure there were strong Spectrum teachers there that some who don't get into JSIS and West Woodland would go to Day.

seattle said...

I don't know.....

If I were homeless child I doubt I'd want to be sent across town to a designated "homeless school", with all the rest of the homeless kids in Seattle. That just seems so wrong to me. I understand that doing that could provide pooled resources into one building, and create a strong support system, but the tradeoff would be such a stigma for children attending.

Isn't it better for homeless kids to be closest to home (wherever that may be), and blend in as a normal child? Not shipped across town to the "homeless" school.

And if I wasn't homeless and lived in the BF day reference area and it housed the homeless program, I don't know that I would be so happy sending my kid there. It wouldn't feel like a neighborhood school (because a large cohort of kids wouldn't live in the neighborhood), playdates would be difficult, fund raising would be difficult, having advanced programs like Spectrum might have less of a chance of happening. There would be many bits and pieces that I would need to consider before sending my kid to a designated "homeless school", and I'd consider the same exact things if I was the homeless kid and was being sent there.

Unknown said...

We are strongly considering moving our son to BF Day for the new spectrum program. A lot will probably hinge on the 'tour' we go on in March and how challenged we feel our son will be by the curriculum. If we feel that the principal is behind the spectrum program then that will go a long way with us.
So it may not have all the bells and whistles? We have just accepted that we will need to supplement our son's public school experience with outside classes in language and art. It is a sad reality.

Fremont Mama said...

Mum o 2: just to clarify, B.F. Day does offer language (Spanish) and art as part of their curriculum. What they don't have is all the after school programs thaat some other schools have.

TechyMom said...

FYI, after-school programs can be self-sustaining, and not require PTA subsidy. The people who teach the classes charge the students tuition (and you can ask them to build in scholarships). Usually, these classes cost the same or less than taking a similar class a gym, dance studio, language school, etc., but are much more convenient for parents.

Maybe all BF Day needs is for a couple of enterprising parents to start the ball rolling.

Bird said...

When I toured BF Day last year, I thought it had plenty of good after school programs. It also has onsite child care which I'm sure a lot parents would love. I don't think anyone would have rejected the school for lack of after school activities.

The distinguishing factor on the tour between BF Day and the other schools in the cluster was not the quality of instruction or after school choices.

There were only two noticeable differences. One, there weren't very many parents touring. I take it that many in the reference area never even bothered to look at the school. And two, there weren't any parents helping with the tour.

The principal and the librarian did a fine job of conducting the tour, but it was notable that there wasn't a parent community supporting the school. Other than that I was impressed with the school at the time. I liked that they seemd to have a genuine commitment to their ALO program, unlike some schools I visited.

That said, if you are part of the BF Day community and you want the school to be more attractive for incoming families, I'd strongly recommend being there for the tour. I think that makes a big difference.

Lori said...

gavroche, thanks for the clarification about APP and transportation. That's interesting and good to know.

Fremont Mama said...

Thanks TechyMom for the info. I was under the impression that after school programs at other schools were free (paid for by PTSA fundraising). B.F. Day does offer some workshops, etc., but you have to pay for them. Maybe I am totally off base with all this.

Yes, with a big popluation of kids communting by bus (and living far way) it is hard for parents to get involved. You are right that participation is lacking. I saw this firsthand when there was a playground clean-up. There were only two families out of the whole school that showed up to help. The PTSA board tries really hard to get parents involved, but it is hard. I think now that neighborhood kids will be assigned to B.F. Day, parent involvement could pick up.

Joan NE said...

TechyMom - would you explain how an afterschool provided can build scholarships into their fee, and then how the excess fee gets passed on to students as a scholarship?

SolvayGirl said...

There are programs like Powerful Schools that organize and facilitate after-school programs at elementary schools. They do charge a fee and offer some scholarships. One of the biggest prohibiting factors with after-school programs at elems is transportation for bus-riders.

TechyMom said...

Sure. The classes are taught by private individuals or companies. They decide the minimum they need to make to make the class worth their time. Let's say it's $1000 for easy math. They would normally charge each $100 and have a 10 kid minimum. Instead, they charge $110, and one kid can get a scholarship. Parents ask for financial aid when they sign up. At our school they have to be frl to get one. We limit it to one scholarship per kid per quarter, so there's enough to go around. We also have some donations to the scholarship fund.

TechyMom said...

Oh, and if there are more kids than scholarships for a particular class, the social worker at our school helps decide who gets it. You could use something that parents could manage, however, like first-come-first serve, lottery (draw a name out of a hat), preference for kids who haven't had a scholarship before, or for continuing in the same class, etc.

hschinske said...

I don't offhand know of any free after-school programs for elementary school kids (if I'm wrong about that, I'm sure someone will chime in). The two middle schools my kids have attended have both had free after-school activities.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

I believe that the middle school after school programs (and transportation?) is paid for by the Families and Education Levy. That's why they are free.