Okay, Which Language Would You Choose (If Your Neighborhood got Yet Another FL Immersion School)?

Look, I know it was NOT McDonald Elementary's decision to have foreign language immersion. That the district reopened several new schools and now finds them underenrolled is their fault. I get that putting in foreign language helps shore up McDonald and will likely help fill it (drawing students out of more crowded schools).

But that doesn't change the fact that McDonald and JSIS are relatively close to each other (although I think B.F. Day is closest to JSIS) and so that region doesn't even get the benefit of spreading this programming out.

Now, McDonald PTA is having a survey about which languages they should have (it's closed now). I'm trying to remember if they did this for Beacon Hill or Concord and I don't think so. The choices were Spanish and Japanese (as JSIS has) or Chinese. I have to say that if McDonald takes on a different language route than JSIS, then Hamilton will then have to add on a third language to their curriculum.


dj said…
Who cares if they ate close to each other? If they're neighborhood schools they might as well be on Mars for the rest of us, as they are equally inaccessible regardless of their proximity to one another,

In unicorn land, I would choose Spanish followed by Mandarin.
anonymous said…
Yup, dj is right. What does it really matter which neighborhood they are in? Only a handful of people have access, so why would it matter which handful it is.

They need to be option schools.
kellie said…
The schools are close enough that there is no reason why they shouldn't be one school. You can either move one of the languages to one building or split as a K2 and the 3-5.

It would be much less expensive to run it that way and is what they should have done in the first place. Much less expensive as they wouldn't have needed to house them at Lincoln and have another principal. But now you have these families that invested in the new school, spent time at Lincoln and won't get the benefit of the immersion program.
wsnorth said…
Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese is so 1980. Spanish, 1880.

These should be option schools and spread out across the city, not just the north end, where there are already a lot of good school options.
McDonald Parent said…
I'm a McDonald parent. The district never asked us to conduct the survey. We wanted to get a sense of what the community wants, just to see if there'd be stronger demand for something else.

This was completely a parent effort, don't blame SPS. They told us from the start that it'd be same 2 languages as JSIS. We just wanted to see if that's what parents wanted.

As to the decision to make the school an international one, that was very much a district led decision, though there was a lot of community self-mobilizing (no district involvement back then) prior to the opening of the school.
Josh Hayes said…
Just FYI, McDonald is about 0.8 miles from JSIS, and BF Day about twice that.

In the world to come, I have to believe that Spanish and Mandarin are the two non-English languages most likely to be important to our kids, FWIW.
I guess I just meant that geographically, why not spread it out? That's all.

I did say it was the PTA and not the district. I blame the district for not making them Option schools and I suspect it will be a bone of contention for a long time until they do.
none1111 said…
As others have said, it's ridiculous that the immersion schools aren't option schools. All of them. I've only heard excuses from Board members, nothing remotely substantive to support their current stance at all.

Qs that others probably know: What happens if/when there aren't enough kids in a particular grade that don't want to do immersion? Do they start combining grade levels? More than 2 grade levels in a class? How fair is the entire process when it's not opt-in?

I definitely value the exposure to foreign language, whether it starts in college, high school, middle school, or elementary. But I would be furious if my kids were forced into an immersion program in elementary school just because we happened to live in a certain neighborhood. It doesn't meet our needs, nor desires.

I'm amazed there hasn't been enough public pushback to force the district to make these buildings option schools. It would be a little harder to change JSIS at this point, but there's no excuse at all for McDonald.

Oh, FWIW my preference would be to stick with Spanish/Japanese.
zb said…
In an NPR report on languages in American schools, they highlighted the role that foreign governments play in language programs. Turns out that a fair amount of money for language programs come from other countries. So, it could well be that language programming decisions are going to be based on who can front the funds. And China has been aggressively for more Chinese.
Anonymous said…
It should be Spanish and Chinese, but it has to be Spanish and Japanese because the whole point of making McDonald immersion was to have a critical mass of kids in a given language feeding into Hamilton. SPS made the decision in 1998 and now the McDonald parents have to live with it. So cute that they think it's worth finding out what parents actually want.

Really, JSIS should have two Option classes of Japanese each year, McDonald should have two Option classes of Spanish and both should have however many English classes the neighborhood needs for the rest of their kids. The Geographic Zones can start as the current neighborhood boundaries but adjust over the next few years to allow access to more and more families from outside the zone. Should be the same with the other immersion schools (with possible variation in the number of classrooms depending on size of building and access to other nonimmersion schools)

(blogger seems to be blocking my google login, I haven't been able to post for the last few days.)
Anonymous said…
I guess I disagree slightly with McDonald Parent in regards to the decision by the district. Last year, after the announcement the school would be reopened, the parent community in that neighborhood organized quickly and there was a strong push to make it a language immersion school. They organized a meeting with Karen Kodama. Some even started calling it McDonald International School. And when immersion didn't happen for this year, they organized before school Spanish classes.

That said, it seems to me that the for the parents who actually ended up sending their kid to McDonald this year, immersion is not a priority.

I think the district decided to go forward with LI, knowing the parent community would largely welcome it, and because they realized how many JSIS siblings live in the McDonald attendance area. Considering how packed JSIS currently is, they need a way to relieve some of the pressure off this school. There were other ways to do this (i.e. make it an option school) but that never seemed to be on the table.

And while a strong case can be made to teach Mandarin over Japanese, I doubt it will ever happen. The survey put out by the McDonald PTA was bizarre to me.

At McDonald
Bird said…
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Bird said…
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Bird said…
Qs that others probably know: What happens if/when there aren't enough kids in a particular grade that don't want to do immersion? Do they start combining grade levels? More than 2 grade levels in a class? How fair is the entire process when it's not opt-in?...I would be furious if my kids were forced into an immersion program in elementary school just because we happened to live in a certain neighborhood.

I suppose this might be a problem in a hypothetical world where there a lot of people who don't want immersion.

In the real world, very, very few neighborhood families don't choose the immersion program (at least at JSIS).

There are always a small number of kids for whom it is a genuinely a bad match. Often those kids have special needs because of language delays or other disabilities. This hurts the diversity of the school and is a real problem for the program.

Those kids are guaranteed a seat at a neighboring "linked" school. For JSIS this is BF Day.

In practice, JSIS has had an exceedingly high rate of retention of neighborhood kids, the highest of all neighborhood schools.

If you look at this report 93% of all Kindergarten students who live in the area enrolled at JSIS.

If you are worried about families being forced to attend schools they don't want, JSIS should be the last on your list of worries.

Worry about West Woodland (81%), Green Lake (63%), Alki (66%), Blaine (64%), Hawthorne (41%), Madrona (33%) or Greenwood (53%).

McDonald had 44% K students in the attendance area attending the school. Want to lay any money on whether that will go up or down next year when it's an immersion school?

That said, the immersion schools should be option schools for numerous reasons. That there would be a lot of folks in the neighborhood that don't want the program just doesn't happen to one of them.
ParentofThree said…
With reduced transportation, and priority to students living in the newly created geographic zones for current Options schools, aren't all Option schools just neighorhood schools now anyway?

It woudn't matter if they added the Option label to McDonald, only kids living w/in 1.25 miles would get a bus.

What we lost this year was the all city draw concept, where a student living in the south end had the same chance as a north end student to get a seat a TOPs, Salmon Bay etc.

I think that is the bigger issue in play here as it really puts the final nail in Alternative Schools coffin.

(I also think that the reason AS1 was put up for $$$ is to force them into "transforming" into the generic school model being imposed on every school.)
WenD said…
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WenD said…
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WenD said…
@ParentofThree: Makes sense. AS #1 no longer has an advocate for a principal. They have Roy Merca, a key player in Team Failure at Summit who has been installed to run out the clock at AS #1. (He's the reason we didn't enroll there.) This is especially sad because in its day, AS #1 was an outstanding example of a unique and successful school. It had a national reputation.
Kelly said…
It is truly disheartening to me that the all-city draw scenario is going away. For Salmon Bay to have an 80+ kid waitlist at 6th grade for many years in a row to a 0 kid waitlist this year really does seem like a nail in the alt-school coffin. Plus, SB's funding got cut enough this year that they had to lose a middle school teacher, which meant that the 6th grade 2-period literacy block with 20 kids in a class (one of the reasons I picked it for middle school) is gone now, as is the keeping the same homeroom teacher for 2 years in 7th & 8th grade (another reason I chose the school). They are still doing great things at the school but it's looking less and less "alternative" I must say.
GreyWatch said…
As I've posted twice before in the past two weeks, I'm still waiting for the district response to my request for policies and other rationale for LI and Montessori programs being neighborhood based.

Kay SB has responded to me three times. Once to say their goal is to have LI schools in all the districts which would make the programs more accessible. I replied that access will still be limited to those who live in the neighborhood boundary, so while there may be more programs, there really isn't equitable access. She has checked in twice since to see if staff has followed up with me (they haven't). She asked Tracy Libros to contact me (twice).

Sherry responded to one question I had regarding cost. She said both LI and Montessori programs had higher start-up costs than regular programs and relied on parent support to maintain these programs. She asked Susan Enfield to contact me.

The other concern I raised was the immersion pathway to Ingraham. If they are committed to keeping these as neighborhood schools, both McDonald and JSIS kids are walking distance to Roosevelt. Why not send the kids there. Instead, they will now have an automatic in at both Ingraham and Roosevelt. While Ingraham was not considered all that hot of a ticket in the past, I expect that to change given the enthusiasm of the 8th grade APP kids at Hamilton for the new APP/IB. Getting into the school is one ticket, getting into the IB program is another. If the regular IB program becomes popular (which would be great), access will be more difficult for kids who didn't start kindergarten or 1st grade at JSIS or McDonald, or who didn't test into APP before grade 8.

My memory of JSIS when it first opened was that a certain number of seats were set aside as option seats for district wide draw. Each year that shrunk and it eventually went away altogether with the NSAP or before.

I think there were so many issues during the NSAP planning and implementation process that LI and Montessori got little attention. Now that things have settled down a bit, you may hear more. At least I hope to get an answer from staff sometime this year!

I would encourage people to contact the district and your board members, maybe a few more questions will kick them into developing a policy, as I'm pretty sure they are just winging it now.
none1111 said…

Thanks for pointing me to that data.

I knew JSIS was popular, but 93% is a little surprising even to me. Sounds great for the building, as well as the district. It's nice for the local community aspect, and means less transportation costs (in theory) for SPS.

I will throw out some conversation fodder, not to argue that your points are wrong, but just as other things to consider.

What does it mean that while 93% of kindergartners in the area choose JSIS, that drops to 74% in 1st grade, and all the way down to 39% in 5th grade? K is a special consideration this year across the district, and many schools have some decline over the grades like this, but JSIS is especially pronounced. And from the charts farther down on the link you sent, it looks like very few are leaving for option schools, but instead for other attendance area schools.

If I saw nothing but these charts, it would look to me like families like the immersion program for their kindergartners, but more and more find that it doesn't work for them as their kids progress through elementary school. I would love to understand what's really behind these numbers.

Just as important, when looking at these particular numbers you need to consider what the alternatives are in a given area. If you live near Eckstein, what are your easy alternatives? View Ridge, Wedgwood, Bryant, ThC., maybe Laurelhurst. All great choices, but with different flavors that appeal to different families for different reasons. There has traditionally been a lot of mix-and-match within the area among these schools. But prior to McDonald, what have the nearby alternatives been for JSIS? BF Day, Green Lake, maybe West Woodland. Not bad schools, but I don't see any of them as desirable enough to draw lots of kids out of JSIS (at least in the younger years, by these #s).

none1111 said…

JSIS also has great parental support, and IAs in every immersion classroom (according to their web site), which is awesome. This alone may have a lot to do with school selection among locals. I still wouldn't choose it, because my personal view is that math and science fundamentals in the very early years are far too important to be hampered by language barriers. I know there are people that disagree with this, but I'm not uneducated on the matter, and we can respectfully disagree. I am very happy the program(s) exist for those who do want them.

Last thing, you said: "McDonald had 44% K students in the attendance area attending the school. Want to lay any money on whether that will go up or down next year when it's an immersion school?"

Of course it will go up! It's a new, unproven school, in a temporary building, with virtually no kids in the upper grades. It will continue to go up over the next few years regardless of whether it's immersion or not.

One thing we can absolutely agree on though, is that McDonald (and ANY immersion or alternative-type program) should be an option school. It's complete BS that the district is making them attendance area schools to manage capacity.
Bird said…
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Bird said…
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Bird said…
my personal view is that math and science fundamentals in the very early years are far too important to be hampered by language barriers.

Just out of curiosity, do you really think the early elementary science program is good?

My impression of the NSF science kits for K and first grade has not been positive.

My kid, who is crazy for science, absolutely sags when I ask what science is going in class. I think my kid finds it neither inspiring nor informative. My kid does have big, big love the after school Pacific Science Center classes however.

I, myself, also haven't been impressed by what's been related to me by teachers about what's being taught. And when I look at the results of the state testing for science, I notice that schools with very high percentages of FRL kids have exceedingly low pass rates.
I may be wrong, but I've always taken that to mean that the kids who are passing are probably doing it on what they learned outside of school. If kids who have limited opportunities for learning science outside of school are almost all not passing the state test, probably the curriculum is not giving them what they need at all.

I have limited experience, and I'd be interested in hearing otherwise, but my current opinion is that the state of early science instruction in SPS is very grim.
Bird said…
What does it mean that while 93% of kindergartners in the area choose JSIS, that drops to 74% in 1st grade, and all the way down to 39% in 5th grade?

Prior to this year, students weren't guaranteed a seat at the school. In previous years, the school fixed enrollment at 2 classes per grade (except for last year, which had an extra K class).

I'm told in prior years a child was unlikely to get a seat at the school unless they were something like .4 miles away. Lots and lots of kids in the reference area weren't getting a seat at the school, although they were putting JSIS as their first choice.

It was actually a pretty awful thing to be in the reference area because of the high probability that you would have to scramble to find another school to take your kid.

This limited access to the school probably accounts for the bulk of the difference in the percentages in higher grades. It's not that neighborhood families weren't choosing the school five years ago, it's just that they weren't allowed to attend.

I doubt there is any disaggregated data publicly available that would absolutely confirm this however.

You could, however, take a look at the data about how many children chose JSIS as their waitlist school to at least get a flavor for the school's long standing popularity (although this would be district-wide data).
maureen said…
In addition to Bird's points, upper grade kids at JSIS also were eligible for transportation from anywhere in the city so once they got in for K families could move wherever and still get a bus. Also if spots did open up in upper grades fewer people were willing to fill them, so those kids probably came from further away (I live in Greenwood and a kid up the street got into 3rd or 4th grade there a few years ago-with yellow bus transportation.)
Okay, the IB track at Ingraham is open to anyone (for that matter, anyone can take an IB class). You do fill out an application but I've never heard of anyone being turned away.

Now, once the APP kids come in with their IB track, I have no idea what will happen.

You can send your kids to Roosevelt. It will just not have the same kind of foreign language instruction as you had at JSIS, McDonald, Hamilton or Ingraham. It's a different way of teaching.

You can't have every program at every school.
Aaron Fields said…
There has been a backlash. As a parent of a kid going to McDonald, I have serious reservations. I am bilingual and value that within education, if it is for everyone. These schools cannot be neighborhood schools, it is unfair to everyone else.

As a guy who grew up going to the "wrong" schools in Seattle this rubs me raw.

There has been enough of an uproar that there is a meeting in the works. Who knows what will come of it, but it needs to be said. A conversation must be had, at least.

Finally the "survey" sent out by the PTA was very unscientific. The numbers being thrown around as "overwhelming support" are not spot on to say the least.

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