Garfield packet

My daughter, an 8th grader at Washington, brought home a Garfield High School registration packet yesterday. It included a welcome letter from the principal, a ninth grade course options sheet, a registration calendar showing dates for next week, a sign-up form for Garfield music, a sign-up form for Garfield choir and vocal jazz, a sign-up form for double period math, information on the summer bridge program, and a registration guide and course description book.

It was a lot.

Only thing, my daughter has no intention of enrolling at Garfield. Garfield was her default assignment, but she opted for Open Enrollment and did not name Garfield on her list of school choices.

The folks at the Enrollment Office say that Garfield is just trying to get out in front of the curve and that this neither indicates that my daughter has been assigned to Garfield nor does it put students who will enter Garfield through Open Enrollment at any sort of disadvantage. The person at the Enrollment Office said that the high schools all have their own schedules for doing these sort of things.

I just wish I could be more confident about all of this. I have this horrible feeling that students who will get assigned to Garfield through Open Enrollment and who did not get this packet will be at some sort of disadvantage. Likewise, I wonder if my daughter isn't being put at some sort of disadvantage compared to other incoming 9th graders at Sealth if they are getting a packet like this and she isn't.


SolvayGirl said…
I've heard from friends that other schools are sending out "Welcomes" of various degrees of complexity. The big question is WHY? Why waste time and money sending packets to kids who may not be attending? Why not wait until Open Enrollment is settled and assignment letters go out?

Why don't ALL of the high schools (and middle schools) do this as a matter of course? Why do some send complex packages with course descriptions, etc. and others don't?

It's this type of disparity that makes some schools look "better" than others. Garfield's 9th graders get a package that's similar to a private school's welcome (or college for that matter). Rainier Beach's 9th graders got a bland letter without a lot of "meaty" info. Same with the disparity of websites. Roosevelt has full course descriptions; other schools don't even list the electives offered.

The District would go a long way in convincing people that "all schools are quality schools" if they could somehow make the information that goes out consistent in quality and quantity. I do not believe this should be a school by school decision.

And as Charlie noted...will this put kids who opted for Open Choice at some sort of disadvantage? Why couldn't/didn't the schools just wait until Mid-May?
ttln said…
Sealth and WSHS counselors are coming to register kids next week at Madison. I raised the same questions and concerns. Our head counselor told me that the HSs were instructed to do so by the district. Listening to Libros last night at the board meeting, it sounded like notification letters would be going out in June. I might have heard wrongly, but came in an answer to the board about when actual enrollment numbers could be expected to help stave off rifs.
Which brings me to another question: how come they cannot know how many kids are signed up for next year? Why isn't there a data base recording enrollment forms, in put when received, so all one has to do is call up a report of total numbers for the district with school based totals broken down? Why cannot directors have direct access to such reports on their laptops at the meeting? Questions like that shouldn't take three months to answer.
SE Mom said…
Interesting. My kid is assigned to Franklin, but we having received NOTHING from them. Not too worried about that as she won't be enrolling there, but it does serve to clearly illustrate the disparity in high schools.

We have appied for choice seats (Sealth being number one) and Charlie has a very good point about those kids being at a possible disavantage for receiving school and registration info. Also puts those kids at a disadvantage for the math pathways assignment (which by the way we have not gotten in the mail but was to have be received by April 20th.)
SE Mom said…
Makes me think that if my kid gets an open enrollment choice seat, we should be calling that school and checking into whether she'd be at a disadvantage for registration before we accept that choice seat over our private school fall-back. We'd definately be disinclined to go with the public school option if we thought our kid could not register for the classes she needs.

Who would be the right staff to address this possible issue with at district? Tracy Libros?
SolvayGirl said…
Correction: the RBHS letter did include the courses the child would be taking.

But again, how can a school be making decisions about class placement, etc. if they're not certain how many students will be attending? Sounds pretty bass-akwards to me.
Sue said…
My incoming 9th grader got a welcome packet as well at our attendance area high school, which we will be attending. Registrations are completed May 4.

I was worried about this issue as well but then thought about it a bit. If you are going to attend the school, and you have been assigned, you fill out the forms, and you are done. They cannot schedule 400 freshman into a school in June. The logistics simply don't permit it.

The amount of open choice seats available at schools are what -40 at the most? That is all the school has to worry about in June, when those kids are assigned. I would assume the kids who are assigned but go elsewhere will be a wash with the kids coming in. And I think some schools are expecting more freshman anyway, so are prepared to fit them in. They have to, with the new plan.

Of course, I am probably missing something big here...anyone have other ideas?
seattle said…
What a waste of time and money to mail these heavy registration packets out to kids that are not even going to be attending a school. Why not wait until after open enrollment and just send the package to enrolled kids?

BTW Hale has an enrollment guide and course description page online too. They also send out packets to students (only enrolled students) which includes a course catalogue with descriptions and prerequisites, and all necessary registration info. Not much flexibility in 9th grade, with the exception of math, and electives. Hale also has a huge freshman open house where all new families are invited. At the open house there are booths set up for each clubs, and each sports team, and various other opportunities. Children can also check their schedule requests on that night and make sure there were no errors. And, they even throw in a free spaghetti dinner for all. Pretty cool.
TechyMom said…
Charlie said his daughter brought the packet home. It sounds like it was handed out at school, so mailing expense. They probably handed out a few to kids who won't end up at Garfield, but I doubt it's very many. Most families will happily accept an assignment to Garfield, so the cost of a few extras might outwiegh the cost of mailing them after the end of school. The same calculation would come out differently at a less-popular school.

The only concern I'd have is whether assignment-area kids will fill some classes, like accelerated math or popular electives. As long as some provision has been made for Option Seat kids to get classes, this does seem like a reasonable way to spread out the work of regsistering the freshmen across a longer time period. That probably also saves money (overtime, or school staff working into the summer) and certainly saves stress on the school's office staff. Maybe they really are trying to be efficient.
Lori said…
I've never understood why the enrollment letters that come out each spring don't request a response. For example, the letters that went out in March could have included a return envelope and tear-off section with a question that says "Do you plan on attending your assigned school in September? Please choose one of the following answers:"

1) Yes, we accept this assignment and will be there in September

2) No, we will not be attending Seattle Public Schools in September

3) Maybe, we will be participating in Open Enrollment and hope to receive an assignment elsewhere

I would think that principals would love to have some of this preliminary information in March.
Josh Hayes said…
This just raises a question I've never gotten an answer to.

Schools have already been told how many kids they're going to get next year, via the budget process. So SPS MUST know who's going to what school, right? How else could they tell the schools?

I suspect they have no idea and are just pulling numbers out of their nether regions.
Charlie Mas said…
There are a lot of things that get done in an odd order.

1. The District makes a prediction about the enrollment at each school. In many cases this prediction is made without much data behind it. At attendance area schools they might know the number of students who got a default assignment to those schools adjusted for the number of students they expect to be assigned to service schools, the number of students they expect to choose Option schools, the number of students they expect to choose other attendance area schools, and the number of students from other attendance areas that will choose each school. There is only thin basis for these expectations. The algorithms are not disclosed nor are they subject to appeal.

It is worth noting that these early predictions are often wildly wrong. For years they predicted that the incoming APP sixth grade at Washington would be so big that there would be no room for general education students. That never happened.

2. The District sets the staffing and budget for the school based on the enrollment prediction.

3. The schools make their budgets based on the District's enrollment prediction and the accompanying budget.

4. Open Enrollment.

5. The schools start to draft their schedules and hire staff at least a month before they see the results from Open Enrollment

6. The results from Open Enrollment become known.

7. The District revises all of the school budgets.

8. The schools all revise their budgets.

9. The students register.

10. The schools revise all of their schedules.

11. The first day of school. The actual enrollment numbers become known.

12. The District revises all of the school budgets.

13. The schools all revise their budgets and schedules.

It's crazy.
SolvayGirl said…
Some schools DID mail their packets (RBHS for one) so there was expense there and the people I know who got packets from RBHS are NOT planning on attending, so it was definitely money down the drain.

There will be plenty of time between June 1 and Sept.1 to enroll kids—as some have noted there's not a ton of choice in freshman year. I still think it would be prudent to wait until ALL assignments have gone out. I would also agree that a "reply card" of some kind would be helpful to all of the schools and the District in general.

To me the idea of trying to determine a budget, etc. without knowing exactly how many students will be attending is just insane.

Hale's system sounds perfect; it's too bad all of the schools don't do something similar.
Unknown said…
I think a significant issue is the need to figure out class schedules, something that's actually a pretty complex process. Putting that off until the summer would gum up the process of knowing whether the school had teachers with the right credentials to teach the classes that are being requested.

Some schools decide in advance that they will offer only X seats in X classes. (The lottery to get into the BioTech academy at Ballard, for example.) Others decide that they will make sure that all the students who, say, want 9th grade honors social studies have a seat. (Ingraham's approach.) I prefer the latter, and that's really only possible if schools get a sense of how many students want which classes in the spring.

I do agree that it could be more efficient, and I suspect that once we get a year or two of the new SAP under our belt, these things will start to work themselves out.

I'm a big fan of posting materials on line, but I also recognize that not all families have and use the internet as much as ours does. So mailing home may make sense at certain schools. I think the funds for something like this are part of a school's discretionary spending, and if a principal wants to spend her/his money this way, who are we to second guess?
owlhouse said…
Sully asked- "... Why not wait until after open enrollment and just send the package to enrolled kids?"

Why indeed. Nova and Cleveland principals asked specifically that either:
A- this process to be put on hold until open enrollment is complete/confirmed
or B- HS open enrollment be prioritized, completed before High Schools reach out to their incoming middle schoolers.

They asked jointly, the question was kicked all the way to the top, the answer was "no"- we're going with what we've always done, even though the enrollment process is different this year.

So, the district knew that this was going to be problematic and confusing. They didn't have/didn't pursue a change to reflect the NSAP and open enrollment process. It's a shame. How stressful to families unsure of where they will be assigned. How inappropriate to encourage 8th graders to begin planning for a school they will not attend. What a pain for all the administrative staff that will have to answer phone and email questions.

Huge, entirely avoidable, snafu.
"Huge, entirely avoidable, snafu."

After all the time and money spent on the new SAP, this should not happen. If it does and the Board does not hold the Superintendent accountable, then we all should be thinking about next steps.

Our district can't keep going on this way. We are pawns and guinea pigs in some plan and it has to stop.
wsnorth said…
There is no regard nor respect for the students, is there. It is terrible for them to have to wait until June to find out their assignments. Perhaps one good thing could come of this, though. People who are leaving the district could be encouraged to let the district know, thereby freeing up a seat at popular schools. It IS so bizarre that the district doesn't even ask for a response to the "area assignment" letters.
Charlie Mas said…
wsnorth wrote: "It IS so bizarre that the district doesn't even ask for a response to the "area assignment" letters."

I don't think so.

I think that there is an intentional design that encourages people to do nothing at all and accept their default assignment.

I'm confident that the District would be delighted if nearly everyone just accepted their default assignment. So they make that the absolutely easiest thing to do. All you have to do is... nothing.

If the District were to require people to take action to accept their default assignment, that would open the door to people taking other action.

In the old days of Open Enrollment it was just as easy to request a school OTHER than your reference area school as it was to request the reference school. Now, when no action is required for the attendance area school, it takes infinitely more effort to request some other school. In fact, it can be done negligently.

If you have to send something back, then you might as well send it back asking for some other assignment. It's no more effort.

I truly believe that the District intentionally allows people to do absolutely nothing to get their reference area school and they don't want to mess with that. I think it was one of their primary goals of the new assignment plan and process.
SolvayGirl said…
You're probably right Charlie. I believe that intentionally having the recipient "do nothing" also fosters the concept that you're supposed to go to your assignment area school (though I believe the paperwork does mention Open Enrollment—haven't seen it so can't be sure). That definitely puts children of ESL parents and others who are not savvy to the procedure at a disadvantage if their assignment school is less than desirable.
Charlie Mas said…
Again, I know that the folks in Enrollment have told me that kids who didn't get this packet but who will enroll at Garfield are at no disadvantage, but there just isn't the trust there that would allow me to accept that answer without doubt about its accuracy.
Unknown said…
I really don't understand why families have to wait so long to find out choice assignments. During the old system you had to register by Feb 28th and found out the first week of April where you were going ~5 weeks. Now families have to wait 8 weeks or more. There should be alot less students involved as the district only has to deal with the choice applications.

I wouldn't be surprised if the district already have the assignments made. However maybe they want to plan on spending the month of May weighing all the different options. The district should really do everything in there power to speed up the process. It would make life easier on everyone including the schools to determine their budgets.
Unknown said…
Good point... shouldn't the vax run faster now?
ParentofThree said…
"I'm confident that the District would be delighted if nearly everyone just accepted their default assignment. "

Except that would leave Cleveland empty. So I don't think that is the intention, but do not understand why it is taking so long this year since 80% of the sutdents are probably go to go.
Charlie Mas said…
Let's think about this for a moment.

There are about 45,000 students in Seattle Public Schools, but only about a quarter of them are entering K, 6, or 9. Maybe there's 10% of students changing schools in a non-entrance year, so there would be about 14,000 that should have participated in Open Enrollment in previous years. But we also know that only about 70% of eligible students participated in Open Enrollment, so it would have been more like 10,000.

This is the first year in which students accepting the default assignment would not participate in Open Enrollment. The District reckons that to be about 90% of students. So there would only be about 1,100 (instead of 11,000) of those in K, 6, and 9 plus the 3,400 or so changing schools - a total of 4,500.

It should have taken them LESS time to process those 4,500 than Open Enrollment EVER took before.

So what's up with that?
whittier07 said…
I've heard that schools will get their "lists" at the end of April ... why do parents have to wait until the end of May to find out where their kiddos have been assigned?
seattle said…
I got an enrollment packet from Eckstein today and they ***did*** ask for it to be returned.

One question on the form was: Do you plan on attending Eckstein for the 2010/11 school year: yes/no
Charlie Mas said…

What do you know. It is EXACTLY as I had feared.

From an email from a friend:

"I also called and talked to 9th grade counselor Krista Rillo at Sealth this morning about how this process will affect kids that are hoping to get assigned at Sealth through Open Enrollment.

It's likely this process will be slightly different at each school, but there will be some similar issues.

Sealth will handle it just like they handled kids in previous years who come off the waitlist. Once the school is notified, they will individually contact all students who get assigned from Open Enrollment. Students are welcome to contact the school and complete the registration as soon as they get notice from the district. The timing of when the school district does actually notify both those students and the impacted schools will have some impact on class availability.

Right around the end of May is when Sealth, like most high schools, will be running all the student registration data they've entered in order to prepare the master class schedule. If registrations come after this process is substantially completed, those kids will be added in to the scheduled classes where there is room. Students will get all their core classes, but some elective class choice may be more limited at that point. Sealth is adding more honors sections of core classes next year, so they don't expect that this delayed registration timing will limit that option for any freshman registering at Sealth.

We need to let the School Board know this asap.
Okay, wait a second. Upon reflection, what are you saying Charlie?

I mean, Enrollment may know they have X number of kids in the attendance area but because they don't ask for a reply to that assignment, they have no idea how many will take those spots.

So don't they have run the attendance area acceptances with Open Enrollment picks at the same time?

But on the other hand, weren't we saying that the district WON'T know the attendance area student numbers into way into summer as they didn't ask people to let them know and so have no real idea who is coming?

Maybe I got up too early but I'm confused.
SolvayGirl said…
I think the issue is that MS/HS kids in the attendance areas will get their registration packets sooner than the kids who opted for one of the 10% Choice Spots. So attendance area kids will get first choice of electives, honors, etc., possibly leaving just the dregs for Open Choice kids. This definitely makes it less desirable to try for an Open Choice seat. Kids who try for one of the Option Schools with no auto-assignment kids (Cleveland, The Center School, NOVA) won't have this problem as all kids will find out their assignments after the choice algorithms are run.
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
wsnorth said…
This is dispicable and stressful for the students. The first thing my entering 9th grader said when looking over the packet with us was "even if I do get into Sealth (our 1st choice school) all the GOOD CLASSES will be full!' She knows she'll be a second class citizen even if she gets her first choice!
Dorothy Neville said…
I agree this is a problem. I just want to point out that this is not new. We've had people bring this up before, that some kids -- depending on their middle school -- got math placement tests in the Spring whereas others didn't get it until September. So harder to get into the class you want and also harder to do your best on the placement test after summer break. Kids going to RHS from Eckstein (and perhaps others) had an advantage over kids coming from less common routes because the counselors would go to Eckstein and get 8th graders their course selection sheets. I imagine other schools have had similar procedures.

RHS has current students (9th to 11th graders) fill out course selections in February.
Thanks Solvay.

Okay, so we all need to make sure the School Board understands this is happening.
Charlie Mas said…
It's true that at the upper grades, students already in the school have this advantage over students coming in from another school - even if they enroll on time.

That's also unacceptable.

Of course students who enroll late cannot be included in this process and may see a smaller menu of options, but there's no helping that.

Students who enroll on time, however, should all be treated equally.

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