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Monday, April 26, 2010

Call for Your Assignment (but take it with a grain of salt)

(Update: 9:10 am - Nevermind. I guess the district staff really does visit us (that was fast). The numbers are not giving out information now except to tell you to call Transportation. Question is: why were they live in the first place and will the information given be valid for people who did call?)

Apparently some folks have tried calling automated enrollment numbers and have learned their child's assignment. You can try one of two numbers according to our readers.

206-252-0410
OR
206-252-0760

However, here's a caveat which is don't give it 100% credibility until you get it in writing in the mail.

43 comments:

dan dempsey said...

For next fall how any 9th graders are enrolled at Cleveland High School school?

Sue said...

Actually you can't call. They took the number down this morning - you no longer have access to the automated system.

As I commented on the open choice thread, apparently the district gnome who reads this blog panicked, and they pulled the number.

Hippy Goodwife said...

Right at this moment I am so angry at SPS I cannot think of any words to use that are not foul. Liars. All of them.

Apparently assignments have been made but the families affected by them are not allowed to know what they are.

Push, push, push, SPS, you are pushing us right out of the district.

Charlie Mas said...

I have a report from a family at Mercer that a lot of Mercer families have chosen STEM.

I'm not sure what "a lot" means in actual numbers, but that was the report.

Lori said...

My gut tells me that the assignments are not yet final, which is why they took it down. What else could explain why they aren't sending letters until the end of May?

Seems to me that they must run the algorithms to get a first set of assignments, but perhaps some locations then require time-consuming manual review of the lists. In the NE, decisions have to be made about whether some schools will be adding K classes, etc. They can't sort this all out until they get a sense of where people want to be, so maybe they give this first round of "placeholder" assignments to see how it all shakes out.

This reminds me of homeroom assignments. Those get made in the spring, or at least prior the school year ending, but you don't find out the homeroom until September. We didn't have our child vaccinated against hepatitis B the day she was born (we'll do it at puberty along with the HPV vaccine), so we get a letter from the district early in the summer about our noncompliance. That letter includes the homeroom assignment for the following year. So thru a fluke or technicality, we get that information months ahead of other people, but we've been told not to rely on it because things are still fluid right up until the first day of school. Seems like the same situation to me; they've made a non-binding, temporary decision that isn't final until a much later date.

Anyway, it's all conjecture on my part, but for those who called and got an assignment this morning, I would indeed take it with a grain of salt.

Sue said...

Lori That was my thought as well.

They have to make sure everything works before they finalize in a letter. So, those who called, and got an assignment might not want to count on that.

I would imagine though that maybe we will know before end of May? I think there are a lot fewer requests to process, so that should speed things up.

Steve said...

I can't find it now, but a few weeks ago, there was a tool available on the SPS site that allowed me to sign in with my child's student number and find out his school assignment for next year. Our son is going to the APP program at Lowell, and that's what the school assignment was (I did this to make sure that the registration hadn't been messed up). So at least a few weeks ago, the data was available at least for this program.

Hippy Goodwife said...

I expect that you all are correct about the current assignments as "placeholders" while they figure everything out. Letting it go live and then aborting it when discovered here is just one more level of district incompetence. I know there must be plenty of smart hardworking employees at JSC, but they are sure hiding them well.

cascade said...

After lurking for a long time, the Vulcan post made me get active, so bear with me on this rant. I have a lot of them built up.

*********************************

Is this post really only going to get 8 comments? I am looking for more general outrage and not because we cannot see our assignments yet.

Outrage because it is clear once again that internal operations within the district SUCK. Where was the cross-office meeting of enrollment, IT, customer service, transportation and perhaps most importantly COMMUNICATIONS to roll out assignment announcements. There wasn't one. This automated system snafu shows it loud and clear. DETAILS, people. DETAILS.

You KNOW this is going to be a difficult notification process because of the SAP. You KNOW parents are on edge. You KNOW the public and press and city government is watching you. And STILL you cannot pull it together?

How can we trust you to do wise, major, program planning when you cannot pull the details together on this rollout? You, the District, have a very very bad rep for putting a powerpoint together and never following through on the details. This is yet another example, and we haven't even seen the hard work that will have to be done when inevitably there is overcrowding and underenrollment ramifications next year.

I get it that you lost people to RIFs. I really do. But so has everyone else. It is no excuse for not being able to execute. Do you need remedial...or perhaps first time...Project Plan training? Do you not understand that every "small" slip up is a big slip up in the Internet age, and that your pattern of small public slipups are now a big fat snowball gathering speed downhill? Do you not get that you have to be experts in more than Education as part of Central Administration? And, my favorite, do you not understand that a PUBLIC APOLOGY when you make a mistake, big or small, goes a lot farther than stonewalling? What is the point of Communications anyhow, because from this vantage point it looks a lot like protecting the superintendent and not a whole lot like figuring out what parents, students and the public need and then getting it done.

Rant over.

Charlie Mas said...

So I was at Steve Sundquist's community meeting on Saturday and there were two Somali women there. Between them they have five kids in Spectrum at West Seattle Elementary and they had a laundry list of concerns and complaints.

1. Now that Spectrum at West Seattle is closed they applied to Spectrum at Lafayette. But if they don't get in, then what will become of them?

Answer: If their chidren do not gain access to Spectrum at Lafayette, they will be defaulted back to West Seattle which will offer an ALO in the coming year instead of Spectrum.

2. Do they have no other alternative? They ask because they reported that the Spectrum program at West Seattle was horrible. Their children are literally getting exactly the same instruction they got last year. They get two one-hour pull-outs a week for challenging work - that's the Spectrum program at West Seattle.

Answer: They could try the new Spectrum program being started in the coming year at Arbor Heights.

3. Will Arbor Heights be better than West Seattle? Will it be as good as Lafayette?

Answer: There's no telling what Spectrum at Arbor Heights will be like, but the change was made in an effort to improve the quality of the program available to families in the Denny Service Area.

They were pretty frustrated and disgusted but full of fight.

I spoke with them afterwards and advised them on steps to take. Then I advised them that none of the steps would have any effect, but that they had to take the steps anyway. I advised them to speak with their children's teachers, but that it wouldn't help because the teachers have bigger issues. I advised them to then speak with the principal, but that it wouldn't help because that principal doesn't care about Spectrum. I them to then speak with the Ecucation Director, but that it wouldn't help because that Education Director doesn't care about Spectrum. I advised them to then file a written complaint, but that it wouldn't help. I advised them to continue up the food chain with their complaint to the Chief Academic Officer, but that it wouldn't help because she doesn't care about Spectrum. I advised them to then continue on and complain to the superintendent. This would have a chance to help, not because the Superintendent cares about them, their children, or Spectrum, but because the Superintendent will be outraged that she had to talk to a student family. That will make her angry at everyone down the food chain who didn't stop these people before they got to her office.

These women were totally ready for all of their efforts to be futile and they were still full of fight.

I admire them tremendously. I wish I had time and opportunity to work with them and be their advocate at every one of those meetings.

I wonder if Steve Sundquist would like to take that role?

Charlie Mas said...

The FAQs on 9th grade registration have been posted here.

Charlie Mas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

I just called the registrar at the school where my daughter will be next year and requested a registration packet.

Charlie Mas said...

I've said it so many times before...

I don't mind that the District lies to me. I'm used to it. But they insult my intelligence when they tell such tissue-thin lies.

The FAQs say:

"Open Enrollment applications indicate that a majority of students plan to go to the
attendance area school assigned in February, so it makes sense to complete as many course sign-ups
as possible at this time.
"

So they come right out and say that the schools will COMPLETE course sign-ups. As many as possible at THIS time. That means now, not later.

Then, in the very next paragraph, they talk out the other side of their mouth and say:
"Final class assignments can’t actually get made until the student data for ALL assigned students (initial assignments AND Open Enrollment assignments) is electronically transferred and schools can access the information for their incoming students." So what's the difference between COMPLETE COURSE SIGN-UPS and FINAL CLASS ASSIGNMENTS? In addition, I don't see how the inability to make final class assignments - whatever that is - in any way precludes them from filling sections with attendance area students before the out-of-area students have a chance to register.

This document does not address the concern. Not at all.

SE Mom said...

Charlie:

Were the staff at the school you called for a registration packet cordial and did they accept that you know of the registration assignemnt from calling the automated enrollment line? Do they care if you know the actual assignment or not?

Unknown said...

I would like to suggest to the district that they let High School students know their assignments if they are complete. Let every single student have equal access to classes. If the majority of students are really attending their attendance area schools it shouldn't involve too many students.

Central Mom said...

Cascade:

Bingo.

The District will want to minimize the importance of the early release of names snafu and call it chatter amongst over-eager parents. But this is about a continued demonstration of lack of ability to carry out cross-departmental projects, whether because of lack of skills or politics or both.

Wasn't that motto "Everyone accountable?" Who exactly, and I do mean *who exactly* is in charge, by department, of the public rollout of next year's SAP.

Who is charged with supplying the best possible service to incoming students and their families (with the constraint of fiscal prudence for local taxpayers.)

I'd like a District insider to supply names, and then we can all ask what their individual Matrix of Success, as supplied by the Superintendent, looks like in regards to this 2010 enrollment rollout.

Sahila said...

Me being a conspiracy theorist and all, as well as someone with a lot of experience watching bureaucracies manage their processes in such a way as to bypass resistance, thought that the refusal to notify assignments early is a strategy to try to thwart angry parents taking action to get assignment changes...

Strategically, if you leave it to the last minute, many many people are likely to swallow the bitter pill because they wont think they have a chance of success in getting things changed and they'll decide its better to do what they can to support their student in the school they dont like, than to spend time fighting something they dont know how to/think they can win...

And again, within SPS the left hand doesnt know what the right hand is doing, and someone forgot to tell the plan to whichever department put the phone number up... I dont know - were people able to ring in for their assignments last year? If they were, then for this department maybe it was just normal practice to put the phone number up now....

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cascade, hold that thought. This will all be leading up to something soon that may address some of that frustration.

owlhouse said...

I knew this would happen, access to info pulled soon as the right hand knows the left hand made it available. Hitting head on wall.

Rhetorical question, but, how do they manage to screw up sooo often? And we want to focus on teacher quality? Seriously, how much more energy would teachers have to dedicate to their classrooms if they didn't have to navigate a dysfunctional system? How much more time would principal have for students and building leadership if they didn't have to point out the obvious, advocate for practicality, to district staff? How about parents, how much more inclined/available would we be to lend support if all you school energy weren't zapped trying to navigate the administrative failures?

I heard it this morning, "Nova Alternative"- beautiful words I expect to see printed ASAP.

Melissa, I'm ready for the "something soon". Let's do this already. Everyone accountable.

Lee Iris said...

It's really easy to be a conspiracy theorist, and I agree that SPS can make it awfully tempting at times. But there's also the reality that running a very large, highly complex entity of any sort under any circumstances is a slow and cumbersome process. Add a huge amount of change into the mix and, well, the fact that it will take until late May to report out on final school assignments can't come as a huge surprise to anyone. That's what they told us it would take. Frankly, the idea that those assignments would be done now, 26 days after the close of the enrollment period, is complete wishful thinking.

Maybe it would have been best to throw the entire system into chaos -- change the enrollment process for classes this year, too along wiht do everythign else each person here has suggested that would make things perfect for their particular student(s)/family. But I certainly can see the logic of trying to hold some/many processes steady when there's so much other change going on.

I appreciate the passion of the commenters on this blog, but sometimes the armchair quarterbacking seems a little unrealistic. This is a huge entity -- 45,000 student, thousands of employees, 88 schools, $500,000 million operations budget, $180,000 million capital budget. I don't know any bureaucracy of this size that is particularly nimble, overly responsive, and able to immediately answer the personal questions in the way that folks on this blog expect.

Yes, SPS could do better. A whole heck of a lot better. And yes, there are some spots that begin to look a lot like incompetence. But most of the people I have interacted with at the John Stanford Center seem genuine and trying to do their best under trying circumstances. I would want to be given the benefit of the doubt if I were in their shoes, and so I start from a place of giving that to them.

So I'm suggesting a little bit of toning it down. When people are practically spitting in their anger and derision, no one is going to be particularly inclined to listen. Some of the commenters at the last Board meeting -- and I hesitate to say it but one of the authors of this blog included, were so angry in tone that it was all I heard. The substance got completely lost.

Unknown said...

Lee, I agree, and thank you for your words. There are many justifiable feelings among members of our school communities-- yet if the biggest thing that comes across is anger, we lose our audience before we start. I too have been impressed by the many passionate people -- doing their best for kids-- who I have met at the downtown school office. These are people that get real fired up about how to teach x, y, or z to kids. They WANT our kids to do well, and want to help that happen. If any of you went to the family symposium you maybe noticed the same. Susan Enfield did a great, passionate presentation, and seeing her I could not help but think, she got into this for the right reasons.

Sahila said...

Lee -
its not like the District hasnt had years to get it right, and its got less students, more staff and more being spent on administration now than it ever has had before...

And under MGJ's supervision over the past three years, it hasnt gotten any better... perhaps she ought to have started with the efficiency and accountability measures within her own bureaucracy - millions to be saved and more timely, accurate and effective outcomes to be had, rather than taking out of the hides of our children and the community...

Thats what gets people so mad... if SPS was doing better than other similar sized organisations, people might be more lenient... but its not - either in the education field (see the audit results) or when compared to other non-profit or for-profit organisations....

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lee, I would assume you are referring to me. I didn't yell, name call, nothing. I was firm and direct in my words.

I pointed out how we had been told, when we needed more space at some schools, that portables were $200K and yet they purchased the ones for Hale for $108k. That's just pointing out a discrepancy in what the district has said at different points.

I asked for the Board to have some kind of public action to get input from parents about the teacher negotiations.

And, I pointed out the very obvious flaws in the budget meeting. That I singled out the Superintendent, well, she's the top of the heap.

If that's too angry, I don't know what to say.

But I will say that I have heard this for years. "If only we worked with the district" or "Give them some credit for a hard job". I have tried to work with the district, over and over. It's not really worth it. I DO give them credit for a hard job but when the same mistakes get made over and over and no, not just "spots" of incompetence (they just closed a brand-new $65M+ building, displacing and separating an entire K-8 community for heaven's sake), you have to wonder.

And I do wonder. I wonder why the same mistakes happen over and over. I wonder why the Superintendent doesn't seem even remotely interested in any opinion parents might have. I wonder if maybe our district is too big; maybe we would be better off with smaller districts if this one is so unwieldy and large.

gavroche said...

What's wrong with a little righteous anger, anyway?

Seems like some visitors to this blog want to perpetuate "Seattle nice" -- that passive/aggressive facade of civility that stifles healthy and lively discussion, difference of opinion, true feelings and passion. (See: "Seattle's 'niceness' problem" http://crosscut.com/2009/03/03/seattle/18886/)

There's plenty to be angry about in SPS, especially when you consider who is hurt the most by bad SPS decisions, irrational timelines, poor distribution of information, and misallocation of resources -- our kids.

So yes, some of us -- a growing number, it would seem -- are ticked off about how SPS is run. Better to speak up and act up -- which many of us are doing, by the way -- than passively accept all this and do nothing.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

--Frederick Douglass

gavroche said...

Speaking of SPS communication methods & effectiveness....

"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint"
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?hp


(here's an excerpt):

Published: April 26, 2010

WASHINGTON — Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

(continued on NYTimes)

gavroche said...

So NOW we know why SPS is so fond of Power Point!

(This is from the end of that NYT article, bold is mine):

Senior officers say the program does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters.

The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations, Dr. Hammes said, are known as “hypnotizing chickens.”


FROM: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?hp

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree; PowerPoint can be deadly and lull you into a hypnotic state. What I do is read it through before they start presenting it and write down questions so as they go thru it, I listen for any answers. Then if I don't hear them, I write the Board. But I've seen twice now where staff goes over their allotted time to speak and it makes me wonder if they do this on purpose to make it harder to ask more questions.

Central Mom said...

Cascade, hold that thought. This will all be leading up to something soon that may address some of that frustration.

Melissa, can you please clarify and also let us know whether this is something that would need parent action?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, this will need a LOT of parents but really not much action. I'm trying to get the PTSA and CPPS on board with a parent action but I'm still waiting to hear back. Even if they decline (for whatever reason), I will likely go ahead on my own.

Don't mean to be cryptic but we do have district staff reading the blog.

Stu said...

But there's also the reality that running a very large, highly complex entity of any sort under any circumstances is a slow and cumbersome process.

I think another thing that gets some of us so angry is that it's unnecessarily complex for what they're doing. They've been "upgrading" the computer system for something like 10 years and are STILL using the VAX for this stuff. You say it's large; I say it's only 47,000 students and that you could have hired monkeys to enter the information into a new system, for 1/100th of the millions they've spent, by now. You know what? Hire two temps to enter 500 names a day, and you'd still only need 3 months or so to have everything on a new system. It's gotten to the point I honestly believe they don't want to migrate 'cause it gets rid of one of their best, all-purpose, excuses. The thing is, Lee, it's NOT rocket science, it's database management. Lastly, while I think it's ridiculous the way they work the enrollment, waiting isn't the issue; it's that some of the students don't have to wait to sign up for popular programs and, therefore, new or late-assigned students then don't have as many options. In addition, they already know the bulk of the assignment . . . they started telling people. It's starting and then stopping that's annoying.

The problem isn't the dedication of the staff -- many of us do believe that there are some really hard workers down there -- but the district does seem to go out of it's way to keep parents out of the loop.

stu

SolvayGirl said...

I would like to add to Stu's comment. It's also the fact that SPS's costs for Central Administration have grown while enrollment has declined, and are higher than for similar districts elsewhere in the state (not to mention MGJ's huge salary) that make many of us "angry" when we see such a mess. There is really no excuse for the continued missteps and snafus.

Anonymous said...

Was just told by Ballard High School that they are accepting, but not processing course request paperwork from currently-enrolled SPS 8th graders. They will wait until they receive packets back from the open enrollment crowd by the June 8 deadline before making any assignments. All students who meet that deadline will have an equal shot at popular classes. June 8 is also the deadline to apply to the Biotech Academy at Ballard.

They also told me that if you ever had your child enrolled in SPS the student ID number remains the same -- so if you can find it anywhere, it could help in attempts to find out enrollment info from the district. If you can find a phone # or link that works!

SE Mom said...

I just received a call back from a 9th grade counselor at Sealth who was terrific in providing useful information.

She stated that all 9th grade registrations will be held and not processed until all assigned students can fill out paperwork (including those assigned via open enrollment).

She was also very helpful in giving info about how to get a student into advanced math and science classes.

It was encouraging to be able to speak to her in person and get information directly from the school rather than the FAQ on the district website.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks folks for that follow-up and follow-thru.

I would like to hear a blanket statement from the district that the high schools have been directed to take those scheduling requests and are holding ALL of them until the Open Choice seats have been filled and their requests taken. Really, the only people who should get last choice are those who come in late, not those on time.

Charlie Mas said...

I spoke this evening with Tracy Libros and she confirmed for me that schools cannot assign students to classes before the District flips a switch on the eSIS system to allow it. And the District will not flip that switch until the schools are able to get the registration information back from Open Enrollment students. She assured me, in a much more convincing way than the FAQ, that students who are assigned to a school through Open Enrollment will have an equal opportunity for classes as attendance area students.

Schools are able to do school-level planning, to get a general sense of how many sections they will need of each class, with the registration packets they get back this week, and they will be able to do the work necessary to review those packets and clean them up (make sure that students requested the right number, combination and level of classes), but they will not be able to do any student-level planning with the paper-and-ink forms. That work has to be done on the computer and can only be done after the data is entered. Until the district flips the switch the schools won't even be able to do that data entry.

So, rest assured, it appears that the Open Enrollment students will not be at a disadvantage.

Charlie Mas said...

I will say that I sure wish they had explained it that way in their FAQ, instead of the confusing and apparently contradictory way it was explained.

And it was very unfortunate that the counselor said that Open Enrollment students would get classes on a space-available basis like late enrollment students in previous years.

ttln said...

Now, someone make sure that the people in charge of flipping the switch know when it is okay to do so, and the registrars know not to request it to be flipped on so they can get started on their scheduling. I cannot tell you how many times IT has scheduled and done work on eSIS or EGP during a grade reporting period making our ability to prepare grades impossible. No one told IT the grade reporting schedule- they created their own calendar. There have also been several occasions where we wanted an adjustment in the eSIS timelines to accomodate snow days, move the semester end to make up for the days missed instead of increase the next semester by eight days. IT told us it was not possible.
So someone downtown, please make sure all pieces of the process are on the same page.

SE Mom said...

Related to high school registration: Yesterday several high schools came my kid's K-8 to register students for 9th grade. My kid is not going to be accepting her neighbhorhood assignment but she registered anyway with the Franklin counselor.

Our household had never received any registration materials prior to yesterday. As a parent, I expect to be able to see the course guidelines and discuss with my kid BEFORE a school counselor provides registration. If I knew my kid was going to Franklin, I would have been pretty steamed because there were some strange course choices made and plenty of unanswered questions.

In contrast, my kid related that students going to Roosevelt and Garfield had packets with alot of info they had received prior. A much better system.

I am assuming that changes could have been made to my kid's course selections, but again, surely not the best of systems. And, does not do much to entice families to all high schools.

Maureen said...

SEMom, it might make you feel better to know that two years ago when my kid registered, none of the HSs provided advanced packets and, in fact, parents weren't even notified that the registrars were coming (at our school at least), so some things have improved!

Does anyone have any info on the implementation of the Seattle Math Pathway? Have recommended placements been reasonable? Have requests to skip an additional level been accomodated? I emailed Anna Maria delaFuente with some questions (which she answered). It sounds like she plans to post a FAQ at some point.

Phernie said...

Just posted this elsewhere but thought I should do it here, too.

The district explains the automated assignment information line snafu:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/letters.pdf

SE Mom said...

Maureen,

Re, math pathway: Sealth counselor told me that current math teacher should send letter of recommendation to district math dept and also to school. No other specifics offered about what would happen after that. I don't think the schools really have any idea how this is supposed to work.

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