Tuesday, February 12, 2013


STEM schools - Where's the Art? on the Nature Consortium blog.


Anonymous said...

Right on! And then the question becomes, "How is STEAM different from plain old plain old?" I guess the only different thing is that STEAM an option school, and you can really weed out all the pesky students you never really wanted to educate and ship them out to Ranier Beach.


mirmac1 said...


You are not too far from the truth there....

You forgot the free transportation thing (correct if I'm wrong).

Anonymous said...

Observer,you are right on!!!! I had to write the check for my child's language classes today- it's always a good reminder about how inequitable this district is. If only I had the right address.

All kids deserve a WHOLE education!!!


Nick Esparza said...

Awesome Waste of Money so when will the next The financial scandal Happen?

TechyMom said...

Plain old plain old doesn't have technology and engineering. It often has weak science and math as well. We need an arts school too, something like Oakland School of the Arts. General education is good for a lot of kids, but many already know their passion. Its time to provide them a place to follow it, and not make them wait until college.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Techy Mom in many ways, but would really love to see schools have all options. In 9th grade, my daughter would have chosen an School of Arts and probably would have thrived. Since we didn't have that option, we went with an independent school that had a strong arts program (2 classes of arts required for grades 9–11, with one year each of dance, music, visual art and drama to graduate.
The school also has an excellent academic program with incredible math & science. Fast-forward 4 years, and my "arts kid" is now accepted to five colleges (so far) as a Chemistry major! She's still artsy (vocal choir and graphic design/illustration/B&W photography), but she's also taking Advanced Chemistry, Calculus and Physics this year.
The arts are an essential component of a whole person. Schools need to offer a wide assortment of courses to all kids. We need the funding and the will to do this—not just churn our the job-skill du jour!

Solvay Girl

Maureen said...

The problem I have with public schools trying to be all things to all people is that our HSs only offer a six period day. So if students take the core four classes and a language, they can't have four years of music or drama and visual art for instance, let alone that and take two sciences at once.

I'm trying to get around that for my artsy (but academic) kid by signing her up (and often paying) for classes that would be electives if SPS had a seven period day (writing, painting, choir.) I guess, in theory, I could sign her up for language or science outside of school, but that seems more difficult to do. (And paying for two or three classes a year is much less expensive than private school.)

Charlie Mas said...

My high school was about twice the size of Seattle high schools. We had an enrollment of over 2800. My graduating class was 749.

This size came with some serious benefits. One of them was a broad range of class choices. Imagine if Roosevelt and Hale were one school with all of the choices of each of them.

The range of classes available is dependent, to a significant degree, on the size of the school.

Anonymous said...

My passion in high school was girls, MTV (when it was all music), sports and fast cars. And I don't regret it one bit.

Schools need to produce well rounded citizens. They aren't job or career training academies, and I wish we'd get off that bandwagon and broaden our minds on the subject.

If you want to push your kids into STEM or have them there because they like, or more likely, do better academically in math, science or computers than with reading & writing, that's fine. But they have to learn to function within a greater society that may have no interest in their passions, but still share the planet with them.

We all want our kids to get great jobs someday, and with a good education, and perhaps even more important, the ability to be good, functional, productive citizens in ways other than making and spending money, I think they'll be better adjusted, happier, and wiser than most of us.

We should not be encouraging and fostering too narrow a life experience for our kids. They need to know how the other side lives, and, btw, isn't that called "diversity?"

And what's with this WV "analyrem152" - I beg it's pardon. WSDWG

Maureen said...

Charlie, how many periods did your HS offer? My kid graduated from Roosevelt last year. RHS used to offer a full range of LA electives, but they have been cut to the bone because the school is requiring all kids to take an AP LA class as a jr or sr. The District has standardized the HS science sequence so all 9th graders are supposed to take physical science--that means they have trouble offering AP Physics and AP Chemistry -- no time to take them. Maybe a mega school would help with that--there might be 30 kids who take an extra LA or science class over the summer or skip music/art/language and double up on LA/science/math whatever. But I think the real issue is the six period day combined with increasing standardization of the HS course requirements.

Ingraham and the other IB schools can get around this to some extent because getting the IB diploma lets you off the hook for some District and state graduation requirements, but at the standard comprehensive HSs it's now harder to fit elective advanced classes in unless you come in from APP and have taken some of your HS credits in MS.

Maureen said...

Of course the IB diploma has very stringent course requirements, so it isn't really any easier to take elective courses at an IB school. It's just perhaps easier to skip lower level less academic classes. And Theory of Knowledge is generally offered after school so it's like getting a seven period day for two semesters.

TechyMom said...

I don't think we shouldn't have general schools, just that we shouldn't expect everyone to want to go to one. Offering different options to different people is how I see diversity. Trying to pretend everyone will be happy with a little of everything isn't respectful of the differences between people.

I think Charlie and Maureen are onto something with larger comprehensive schools with more options and more periods during the day. That's ideal for the kid who is still finding their passion. But a kid who knows what they want to do should be allowed to pursue that while they're still motivated. One size fits all is not diversity. It's quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

TechyMom: Don't we have what you want in Seattle? Isn't that what our alts, acadamies, and special programs are designed to do?

Aren't we really suffering from narrowed options because of poor capacity management? If we weren't so crunched for space and dealing with overcrowding, we could be expanding our offerings all over the place it seems to me.

The problem I see in such a crammed, poorly managed environment is that, instead of expanding offerings, we have to trade one for another, creating winners and losers. Imagine the effect on all our high schools if Lincoln was open today, for example.

The WS Stem folk are pushing for a STEM HS at WS High, when Cleveland is right across the bridge. I dont' want to see the neighborhood kids forced to go to a specialized school if they don't want to. As I see it, that's what alts and option schools exist for. Wouldn't you agree? WSDWG

Boy-O-Boy did we need this levy.

Jan said...

I tend to agree with SolvayGirl, I think. I don't want to wall off techies from art classes (or the kids who are art oriented), and I don't want to wall off the art kids from math/engineering kids -- especially since many kids are both -- and as WSDWG pointed out -- some kids are neither, at least in high school.

Now that so much is available through the internet, I do not understand why we cannot offer much more (at least in the way of languages, engineering, math and sciences) to all kids -- at all schools.

I DO agree, though, that it is time to get rid of a lot of the baggage that we require of high school kids (health, PE requirements that prevent some from fulfilling that requirement outside of school), oc ed requirements, regardless of whether you need those class hours for AP physics and chemistry, etc. And as many have pointed out -- with such a wealth of opportunities and so little time -- we desperately need to STOP wasting our kids' time with testing (to the extent it is meaningless, which certainly includes MAP), class days with 20 minute periods that deliver no academic value, but require that kids slog through them when they could be reading, practicing an instrument, learning Latin, taking a computer class, etc. Not all kids are ready in high school to be really serious learners (and that is not the end of the world-- there is still time). But many are -- and we insult their, and our, intelligence by squandering their (and our) time, energy, and passion with academic drivel.

You want to see tomorrow's kids really rise up and take the future by its horns? Treat them like their time, their dreams, and their hard work matters.

TechyMom said...

I don't think we need a second STEM school, no. If we did want another one, it should probably be in the north end. I do think we need a School of the Arts. I also think we need more career and vocational programs for kids who want to start working at decent jobs right out of high school. Not every kid enjoys academics, and many who don't find their strength and competence in a more hands-on field.

We don't really teach citizenship now at our high schools, and there's no reason it couldn't be covered at least as well in a more specialized school.

And, yeah, we need more space and/or more periods, and I'm very glad the levy is passing.

Maureen said...

Can someone tell me why The Center School isn't a school of the arts? I thought that is what it was supposed to be, but it doesn't seem to have turned out that way. (I'm actually not quite sure what it is and we have close friends who have graduated from CS.)

mirmac1 said...

Frankly, every school a STEM school, a STEAM school, a comprehensive, excellent school!

Crap! I didn't have to declare my major until end of my sophomore year in college!

What?! We'll ask the grandparents to pick what their children will pick for the grandchildren?!

All I can say is, poor math preparation (due in part to my misguided aspirations in HS) meant college was more painful, but not undo-able. Let today's children get a broad education....

Anonymous said...

I also think all kids should have STEAM. Our child's school doesn't narrow the focus to STEM since all SPS schools still have the standard requirements. We also have music, and hopefully art next year as designed. My child loves the science and engineering, they make learning fun and interesting and he is now finally engaged in school. I don't think there is such thing as an "arts" vs "STEM" kid at the elementary level, and strongly believe that every public school kid should be exposed to the full range of subjects. STEM is just another way to be creative, build things, and use one's hands, akin to the arts. We call it STEM b/c we want our kids to see the beauty and fun in what were once considered dry subjects, and to prevent a fear of math that so many kids seem to develop. But it definitely does not pigeonhole a young kid into a career track.


Anonymous said...

@K5STEMMOM: If you listen to the rhetoric from the tech industry pushing their agenda in every way from our elementary classrooms to special tax exemptions for Amazon and Microsoft (as if they need them), their consistent fear-based messaging is that if our kids aren't tech savvy, they'll be left behind, dominated by Indian and Chinese techy overlords, and relegated to meaningless jobs in the future. Hyperbolic characterization on my part? Absolutely. But you should hear the politicians and the titans of tech speak! They all panic and decry how much we lag in science - as a nation - as though we won't be competitive if enough of our kids don't specialize in science and tech. That historically our engineers and scientists have tended to be conservative plays a large role in this, btw. But the clear message is, that without a serious focus on tech, all our jobs will go to "foreigners" and our kids will be left out. Balderdash.

The truth is that, when we account for poverty, our middle-class and above kids are on par with the world's best. And do you really think China is honest about it's numbers, participation rates in testing, and other aspects of it's educational system?

I know plenty of unemployed tech folk who have been replaced by outsourcing, or importation of cheaper labor. Hence, my constant warnings about the Grapes of Wrath scenarios.

That said, I think STEM is great for the kids who want it, and the families they come from. I'm glad we have it as one more logical choice for families in West Seattle. But I don't want it to be sucked and manipulated into the district's age old games of picking winners and losers, where "demand for STEM" becomes a club against another school community. A STEM academy within a comprehensive school, or a pathway to a particular school? Fantastic. But a decentralized STEM HS displacing a comprehensive, take all comers HS, like some WS STEM parents are pushing for? We don't need that. And be careful what you wish for, too. Remember: The primary reason WS STEM got started was to relieve pressure from overcrowded schools, not from careful planning. That's its going well, just like the APP/IB at Ingraham, is a testament to the families and staff at the school doing excellent work, not SPS brilliant planning. (But they'll take credit).

As with many other special programs, MS and HS are the place where all those backgrounds can come together and thrive. Maybe the first serious arts some kids might get is in MS or HS. But most kids will get tired of being with only like-minded folk by 7th or 8th grade, and will want to diverge off into other areas, watch or play sports, engage in music, etc.

As for WS High, there is no reason it is not one of the top two or three schools in the district, but for mismanagement and the wrong leadership, often at odds with it's surrounding community. Heck, if WS High was as good as it should be already, it would be full and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But always be careful what you wish for with SPS. If folks get too hot on the idea of an all STEM HS, the next words you might hear from SPS are: Welcome to Rainier Beach, or Cleveland! That may be fine for some, as Cleveland is close, but I'll bet many families would balk at that, not wanting their kids to go outside WS.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with many of your comments. Several countries, and even U.S. cities are way ahead of Seattle in STEM education. Our jobs are more likely to be outsourced if we don't have a skilled population. STEM education in no way means the exclusion of arts. The way math is taught in this district is ridiculous and we have limited science and technology. No engineering. STEM is essential, and if we don't jump on board as a city, we will either lose our designation as a tech hub or be displaced by graduates outside of this city for the highest paying jobs. All kids need basic literacy in STEM. To deprive them of this is limiting their options in the future.