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Saturday, April 02, 2011

McDonald Elementary Meeting on Monday Night

Didn't see this posted at the SPS website but over at the Wallyhood blog there is notice of a meeting on Monday night to discuss options for parents who don't want foreign language immersion at McDonald. 

The McDonald Elementary PTA and the District are seeking feedback from families who do not want to attend McDonald this fall because of the language immersion program.  A meeting with Seattle School Board Director Sherry Carr and Bree Dusseault, Executive Director for NW schools for SPS, has been scheduled for April 4, 2011 from 6:30-7:30 in the library at Lincoln. (4400 Interlake Avenue N.)  This meeting is an opportunity to present concerns and potential solutions to district personnel.  Please try to make this meeting if you are, or are considering, not attending McDonald due to the immersion decision. The district needs to see just how many families are affected by this decision.

The two languages to be used at McDonald are Japanese and Spanish (just like JSIS).

From the article:

Seattle Public Schools has a projected enrollment this Fall of 133 students:  75 kindergartners, 35 first graders, 9 second graders, 8 third graders, 5 fourth graders, and one fifth grader, so there will be combined class levels for grades 2-3 and grades 4-5.  All of the classrooms will be looping, which means that children in kindergarten will have the same teacher in first grade.  Second graders will loop with their teachers in third grade, and fourth graders will loop with fifth grade teachers. For the kids in older grades, the PTA and Principal Grinager are looking into incorporating some sort of language component, though it will not be immersion.

McDonald currently shares its PE teacher with Queen Anne and so they’ll be hiring a replacement for the 2011-12 school year.  Currently, all students have PE five days a week for 30 minutes a day.  The PTA has formed an Arts and Music subcommittee to start a standard Art curriculum, and an Art Docent program with the Seattle Art Museum.  They are also looking into starting a music program and hire a music teacher for students to have music class every other week.

40 comments:

Jet City mom said...

I am glad they are having a discussion- but a shame that the district isn't informing parents about it. How hard is it to put something on a calendar?

I am all for 2nd language exposure- but putting in my $.02 as a parent & as someone who has tried but has not been able to learn a language other than american english- I would like to say-

I would like info about the teachers available & strategies they use elsewhere in the district & the region. As the parent of two kids who have learning challenges including dyslexia- learning a foreign language can be VERY difficult & I would want to insure that elementary school children are still having an enjoyable & productive school experience-
that the work is being primarily done in the classroom & that it is just as much of an exposure to other cultures & ways of communication, as it is grammar ( although that is certainly important- if you struggle with that- learning another language could be overwhelming- I would love to see ASL being considered as an alternative as well- something that some students who are not able to learn something as complex as Kanji for example, have been successful with ASL)

I have to say- I think looping is a great idea. It cuts out so much of the transition time lost for both teachers & students.

I also like looping with mixed grades. I have mentioned before that when we chose Summit K-12 for our youngest ( & our oldest), it was mainly because the K-8 classrooms encompassed more than one grade ( mostly).
While our older daughter didn't get in, we did find a private school that used a K-2 & 3-5 arrangement.

Our youngest did attend Summit, but for some reason, she was always assigned the single grade classroom & IMO, this negatively impacted her experience because like many kids, she had widely varying interests & abilities and fell well outside the middle.

It is much more challenging for the teacher to have 2 or more grades, but that seems to be lessened when you have the same students for more than one year.

WenD said...
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WenD said...

Would a legal challenge overturn this newly designed fidelity to feeder patterns? Making language immersion attendance area-only denies access to programs that can't be found anywhere else. SPS knows this.

My kids wanted language immersion. One child was learning Japanese on her own, with just a Saturday class for support. The other was learning Spanish at a home schooling class, but wanted/needed more. When we moved back to Seattle, I told them about JSIS and they were excited about going back to school. (We'd been home schooling, living in Kirkland.) This would've been perfect for them. We were just outside the attendance area, which in theory didn't matter, but it did, and we weren't one of those families who rented an apt in Wally to get in.

(For newer readers, this isn't an urban myth. People with the extra $ really did rent a place for the fake address to get their kids into JSIS. I always wondered if some of the kids in my daughter's Japanese class got there because of that home away from home.)

When I told a friend we were wait-listed for JSIS, how unhappy my daughter was after attending immersion for only half a year (we enrolled in March when we moved, she got the last seat in the 2nd grade Japanese class), she looked at me like I really wasn't from around here and said, "Unless somebody's kid dies, you're not getting back in there." Brutal.

Karen Kodama went on record bragging that one of the measures of JSIS success was the 100+ student wait list. She crowed about denying access as a point of success. More brutal.

Japanese and Mandarin immersion are almost impossible to find. SPS is ramping up their offerings, and it's great that they're doing this, but to my knowledge, they're the only game in town. Spanish, I'm not sure. "If you build it, they will come" totally applies to programs this unique and hard to find. The kids who attend should have a desire to be there, with families who will get them there. I'd car pool or chaperone a group of kids on Metro if I had to. We would've made it work. We're not private schoolers and never will be.

Just open up the program, please.

W/V is a profiling tool? imoolost

dj said...

I don't think it is a matter of opening up the program. Clearly based on the wait lists and interest, there are far more students in SPS who want language immersion than there are slots. All making JSIS an option school would do is change the group of people who want in who arn't getting in.

Make more programs, please. People want them.

GreyWatch said...

@ dj - opening up LI programs as option schools would at least ensure most people who opted in really wanted the program being offered and were prepared for the long haul (e.g. not going to your neighborhood high school, cross-town transportation should you move out of the neighborhood).

I have several friends whose kids are/were in JSIS who didn't necessarily want immersion or think it was the best fit for their kid, but who didn't want to miss out on the benefits of a neighborhood school - walking to school with your friends and neighbors, community building, etc.

I know one who left, and others who considered it but opted to stick it out. One child was a curious academically oriented boy who felt like he wasn't able to get into anything deeply given the limitations of doing science and math in a language he hadn't yet mastered. The others are parents of boys who are less academically oriented and who zoned out or acted out as they really didn't know what was going on.

Granted most folks love the program, that is for sure, as is reflected in the real estate values of adjacent homes.

wsnorth said...

The meetings they should be holding are with all the parents and families who DO want immersion, but do not have it offered locally.

Poor MacDonald Northies. Whine whine whine.

dj said...

Greywatch, I am really skeptical that the majority of families drawn into JSIS don't want the program. That there are some families that might prefer another program, but not so much that they would choose another school, isn't that persuasive or compelling that the answer is to make the couple of immersion schools option schools. Plus it would just make more churn that will alienate families - you bought a house by JSIS? Psych! We're sending you elsewhere!

Many more families want immersion than there are seats. So we need more immersion schools. That is the sensible solution. Not fighting over the scraps.

Stu said...

DJ said: "All making JSIS an option school would do is change the group of people who want in who arn't getting in."

That's true but at least it would be a fair distribution of haves and have nots. Right now, they are automatically denying a large group of students the right to take something offered in the public school system. At least if they were option schools, the every child would have the same opportunity to get language immersion. It's a ridiculous system and someone should challenge it in court.

By the way, I know that someone's gonna jump on me for suggesting another lawsuit; this is quite a bit different than disagreeing with a curriculum choice; this is flat out exclusion of a significant number of students. It's discrimination against those who can't afford to live in that neighborhood and, while I don't believe the district is legally obligated to have every program available at every school, I do believe that, as a publicly funded system, the district IS legally obligated to see that every student at least has the same opportunity to participate.

stu

anonymous said...
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GreyWatch said...

@ dj - I'm not saying that the majority of families don't want LI. I'm saying the current model is unfair on many levels.

I understand why the district is going down this path (the one of least resistance), but I am concerned they are making this stuff up as they go along. When asked, their response is similar to yours - something along the lines of "we hope to create more of these successful programs throughout the district making them accessible to more students." I don't think they have a clue how to go about doing this, not to mention the funding. Finding qualified teachers to expand is another challenge.

Charlie Mas said...

Changing the way that access to the Language Immersion programs is determined won't change the number of winners and losers, just their names. Only creating more programs will increase access.

Let's be clear.
The District's New Student Assignment Plan didn't promise more access to quality programs and services, it promised more equitable access to quality programs and services. It has failed to deliver.

I don't chirp at the District for failing to do what I want them to do; I chirp at them for failing to do what they said they would do.

Changing the language immersion programs and the Montessori programs to option programs won't increase the access to them - no one ever said that it would and the District never promised they would do that - but it will increase the equity of access to the programs and that is what the District promised to do.

Unknown said...

Charlie, I agree with you and I think it is important that the parents understand the district's motives are seldom (if ever) aligned to what the public expects or wants. Quality could also mean a measure of class size or what students bring into the classroom, not necessarily curriculum or effective teaching. 'Successful' immersion programs are notoriously difficult to replicate and very expensive. Success does not advertise its failures.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, I think the easier path that the district could do more easily and would like make many more parents happy is to start having foreign language available starting in elementary. Not immersion but a regular class 5 days a week.

It certainly would be a shift at the schools but not the huge, more difficult change that immersion brings.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Two of the ten lowest performing elementary schools in your state last year were Spanish immersion programs (funded by state grants). One of the districts involved was caught in a larger financial scandal involving the city and local developers. I see the same parallels that Seattle is facing and I think Bellevue is trying to avoid.

Robinswood, now closed, started its downward trend as an immersion program. I thought the goals of the program were extremely cynical and predicted it would close within ten years. I spotted it by accident while doing graduate work on Title I programs in your state.

anonymous said...

It would be fantastic to have foreign language instruction in all elementary schools, but in addition to, not in place of, our immersion schools.

The JSIS was rated one of the top schools in America. Let's support it, replicate it, and make it an option school so access is equitable. And at the same time, work toward all of our neighborhood elementary schools including foreign language instruction in their day.

I know that we are in a budget crisis and this is probably not possible right now, but it is something that we can work towards.

In the meantime many elementary schools offer foreign language classes before or after school for a fee (and most offer scholarships to those who can't afford it).

none1111 said...

Changing the way that access to the Language Immersion programs is determined won't change the number of winners and losers, just their names.

If families are placed into this program based on address that don't want language immersion, then this assertion isn't true. Each of those children represent a "double loss" because they are not getting a program they want, and they are also taking a seat away from someone else. Switching LI to option status would literally reduce the number of "losers".

I have no idea how many families this would be, but the fact that there's a meeting tomorrow to discuss this very topic, I'll hazard a guess that it's non-zero. I hope someone reports back here on that meeting.

The problem, of course, is that the building was not opened because of demand for LI, but rather, it was opened because of capacity management needs. If a program is popular, like LI, one could easily imagine algorithms that give preference to those closest to the school, but that doesn't help the district manage their enrollment numbers in a well defined way.

Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe any significantly non-standard program, like LI, should be Option, but I understand why the district doesn't want to do that.

none1111 said...

Melissa's idea: I think the easier path that the district could do more easily and would like make many more parents happy is to start having foreign language available starting in elementary. Not immersion but a regular class 5 days a week.

This makes so much more sense! Many local private schools manage to offer foreign language, why is it so hard for SPS? I'll attempt to answer my own question: because it offers even more challenges to implementing standardized curricula across the district. For example, I think most of us reading this blog appreciate the benefits of a 2nd language, but do we really think it would be a good idea to take away 30 minutes every day from kids who are struggling with their basic reading and math?

Adding foreign language to buildings where there are high numbers of kids struggling with the basics just wouldn't fly. Especially where they are adjusting the school day (or year) already, just to cover basics. So we would end up with a mish-mash of language offerings from school to school, and probably little to nothing offered at most high FRL buildings. Personally, I don't see that as a terrible outcome because I like to see kids challenged (and supported) at the forefront of their abilities, but it doesn't fit with the Seattle (and SPS) mindset.

none1111 said...

Also, Mel said:Not immersion but a regular class 5 days a week.

Remember, a standalone language class can still be taught using immersion methods. That's relatively easy. It's the teaching of math/science/social studies in another language that's programmatically challenging (and something I would not opt for, personally, for my kids).

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of language classes at all the schools, but considering schools now only have art and music if the PTA is willing and able to fundraise this seems just as pie-in-the-sky as a large number of new immersion schools.

If we are wishing, I wish for language, art, music, counsellors, and fully-funded P.E.

Also, I'm not sure what the general experience is of private schools that offer the 1-class-week model, but at the preK-8 school my son attended very few students entered high school able to test out of Spanish I. So after 2-9 years of Spanish instruction, depending on the student, only 1-2 of 20+ was proficient enough to move ahead in high school. Food for thought on this model.

GreyWatch said...

@ Lisa - we were in a k-8 private school for several years that had two languages, Japanese and Spanish, each taught 2x a week (they also had art, music, etc.). When the kids get to grade 6, they choose one of those to focus on and I believe they have it 4-5x a week.

From what I've seen, both in public and private, language classes one or two days a week, don't get you very far in terms of fluency. Not sure if I'd say it's better than nothing though.

I'm not a fan of the before and after school language classes as I think in elementary school, kids need to play more. Seems like some kids are there because it gets the parent to work a little bit earlier. Not intending to cast judgement with that observation -- I've been trying to juggle the work/school schedule equation for 8 years now, rarely with great success.

Syd said...

Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of second language learning not only on student's linguistic abilities but on their cognitive and creative abilities as well. So instead of saying language is just good for high-performing kids, I will counter with perhaps we should start with the kids who have more challenges.

Jet City mom said...

my oldest attended a school that had an after school singing class- in mandarin.
I assisted with that- even though- I don't speak it & in spoken language I could not hear the ending sounds which are so critical to accuracy.

But music accesses a different part of the brain & I still know the few songs that I learned.

I wouldn't say separate out the kids who have more difficulties- but allow different paths to exposure of a 2nd or third language.
In grade school it should be fun- not a chore.

Fremont Mama said...

Our daughter's school, B.F. Day does offer Spanish as part of the regular curriculum. They alternate PE one week and 3 days Spanish / 2 days art one week. They have music just one day per week. Do any other elementary schools offer this? I still don't really understand how schools can offer different subjects - is there a specific set of requirements (math, reading, etc.) then schools just fill in the rest with whatever they want?

sixwrens said...

We also have "Spanish" at our school, similar to BF Day - 2 days a week, I think. It is my children's least favorite class. They aren't learning much spanish. I'd rather have extra time for reading, math, art, PE... almost anything else.

Anonymous said...

Fremontmama, do you feel it is acceptable that your kids only get PE every other week? At our school, Bagley, the kids get PE 3x, Art 2x half the year, then the reverse the other half. There is no music program until 4th grade instrumental music, but usually the PTA hires someone for the lower grades who comes into the classrooms to sing with the kids about once a week. The other "extra" class is library 1x per week.

It is interesting to compare what the various schools offer and how they manage it.

Fremont Mama said...

sixwrens - my daughter had learned lots of vocabulary in Spanish class, but not much else. I wish she had more art instead.

Lisa - I would prefer my daughter had PE everyday and am surprised it is not required. She is going to Lowell next year and from what I understood at the tour, they only have PE every third week! - one week art, one week PE and one week music.

Like I said before, I am curious what the requirements are...

Susanne

Fremont Mama said...

Lisa - forgot to say that their music class is singing, not instruments which also doesn't start until 4th grade.

We also have a combined library/computer class(15 minutes in the library and 15 minutes in the computer lab) once a week.

Anonymous said...

To answer re: PE requirements. From WA gov site.

(1) Grades 1-8. Pursuant to RCW 28A.230.040, an average of at least one hundred instructional minutes per week per year in physical education shall be required of all pupils in the common schools in the grade school program (grades 1-8) unless waived pursuant to RCW 28A.230.040.

There is no enforcement of the PE requirment as we do not have the $ to support it. So it is up to each district and each school.

At our school, we fundraised and the staff/PTA choose to fund PE x3, music x2 (voice or recorder) each week. We have no foreign language. We have occassional "artisit and writer in residence" visits for a week once or twice a year. There is instrumental music for (have to pay for it in 4th) 5th graders.

The school describes these things as "enrichment opportunities". So what your school offers depends on how each school decides to spend their WSS doallars (PCP coverage) and how much school can fundraise for these things.

-One family's experience.

nw mom said...

Someone who recently toured McDonald for an incoming K told me that during the tour they said they needed to raise $80-100k by summer to implement the language immersion program. Is this true? How are folks supposed to fill out enrollment papers if this is not a rumor.

Melissa Westbrook said...

NW Mom, their website says it is a go and I believe the district wants this so yes, fill out your enrollment form knowing this. However, where they found the money is another question.

sailorgirl said...

The 80-100k is to support assistants in the language immersion classrooms. These assistants are helpful because they provide the students with a chance to hear the immersion language modeled between two fluent adults and provide some extra assistance in the classroom. John Stanford has these assistants through their fundraising efforts as well. The McDonald community is hoping to have these assistants but are facing a large fundraising challenge. They do not have the money yet but are beginning to work on fundraising. If you are interested and coming to McDonald next year, there is information on the mcdonald pta website.

Bird said...

There will definitely be a immersion program at MacDonald.

They are trying to raise funds from the families, not the district, to pay for instructional assistants.

They will offer Japanese and Spanish whether or not they meet their fundraising goals.

Anonymous said...

I think this whole thing is just ridiculous. McDonald and JSIS are just blocks from each other. Why don't they just stop trying to reinvent the wheel and split this down the middle. Make one building Spanish and the other Japanese. Or make one building K-2 and the other 3-5. The schools are so close that drawing boundaries was almost silly and the boundary is right down the middle of a residential street.

If they just collapsed this, it would save money and drama and keep all the siblings together and have enough space for everyone that wants to get in and have enough of a community base to make things work.


Frustrated Fremont Parent!

Anonymous said...

JSIS is currently in the middle of their Annual Fund raising effort. Each year the school needs to raise at least $180,000 to pay for the IAs for the immersion classes for the next year. It costs $200,000 per year to pay the IAs, and the school is responsible for getting this money; it is not provided by the district or the state. Since each immersion class at JSIS has at least 28 students, the IAs are absolutely essential, each class gets a Japanese or Spanish IA to help the teacher with this fund.
I do see the inherent unfairness of having the immersion programs as non-option schools. However, the cynic in me does not think that making them option schools will open them up to equitable access to all students. With Transportation's recent drastic cuts, only those children whose parents can drive them twice daily to school and back will be able to go there if they do not live within the 1.25 miles surrounds. And then there is that huge $$$ Annual Fund need for IAs. If parents at the school cannot give this amount each year, and the IAs are not funded, then the program would not be as successful as it has been at JSIS; and then, the students at the school, even though they might have been able to get in, would still not be getting the same education that is there now. So realistically, having JSIS as an option school would only open it up to a very similar demographic in the North end, I doubt that many kids in the SE or West Seattle would be able to attend because of the distance and lack of bus transportation.

I do not know how Beacon Hill is paying for their IAs; JSIS had grants to pay for IAs the first few years, so perhaps Beacon Hill is still receiving those grants. The Mandarin program is there though, so perhaps they can get some funding from the Confucius Institute when the current grants run out. Otherwise, the school would need to raise the $180,000- $200,000 from parents each year.

Anonymous said...

OOPS, the post about JSIS is from me, so sorry, forgot to sign it.

SPS Parent

dj said...

SPS parent, that is not you being cynical. All of the option schools have rings drawn around them that give neighborhood kids a number of slots, so even if JSIS were an option school, probably a number of the seats would be off-line. People outside of the cluster don't get transportation, so it wouldn't be an "option" for everyone. But finally, and most saliently, under the "new" choice algorithm, only parents who find their neighborhood schools a good option anyway would dare "waste" a first-choice bid on a school with a 100-kid waiting list. It's not a very robust version of equity, so I am not persuaded.

Maureen said...

Can anyone report on the meeting?

GreyWatch said...

In response to the pro-neighborhood school comments:

I think those of us who feel strongly that LI (and montessori) should be option programs also want to see one of these programs in each of the geographic zones. Families from SE and Central would have Beacon as an option so no worries that they'd be trying to drive across the ship canal to get to JSIS. South Park is sort of its own little world, but in theory that could be opened up to the SW part of the city.

$200k/year in fundraising makes for a pretty exclusive club. I'm sure there are several elementary schools in the city who draw in similar amounts, even in this economic climate. However, if this is what the model requires to be successful for the long term, it will be pretty hard to replicate in other neighborhoods unless it is opened up to a wider geographic zone.

Sorry, I'm still not persuaded that option isn't the most equitable and sustainable approach.