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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Want Change in SPS? BE that Change

Someone requested a thread about talking about how middle school might now work in the NE region.  (Frankly, this will actually have a reach over to the NW where the new Wilson-Pacific will affect Whitman enrollment.  As well, a decision will have to be made on APP middle school and that will affect all regions.)

Key questions (but chime in):

- what is the district's plan/timeline for JA MS? 
- should the new JA MS have a focus or be a solid middle school a la Eckstein?
- languages?
- electives?
- arts?

- what about APP?  My thought is that the growth seems off to me and maybe APP needs to have a stricter incoming requirement (or the bar set higher). 
- basically, ALL of Advanced Learning needs an overhaul because again, their programs affect every school in the region.

- what about Pinehurst?

- middle school is three (short) years (honestly, it flies by).  What about high school?  Do we have room even with Lincoln coming on-line? 

- we now have IB in both the north, southwest and southeast plus a STEM school in the SE.  Enough?

Lastly, look folks, I hear from you that you want to help figure out these issues.  You want to be part of the solution.  We have folks with good expertise out there and frankly, the more ideas the better. 

I honestly believe that President Smith-Blum and Superintendent Banda are a good leadership team.  Smith-Blum is being very positive in her remarks and always acknowledges the hard work of staff.  For your purposes, as parents, they also listen.

BUT you have got to want to do more than stand around.  You have to be willing to unite, find solutions, and present them and pressure the Board and the City to work together.  

I have said this before - if parents in this district truly united, they would be almost unstoppable.  No Alliance, no Stand, no LEV, could possible match their numbers and firepower.  But, of course, people have lives and are busy. 

But we are truly at a crossroads with a district with a history of making less-than-great/successful decisions.  Help staff and the Board make better decisions because it could make all the difference to where we are in 5,10, 20 years.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Historically a lot more APP qualified people have chosen Spectrum, which allowed families to self select for the intensity/pressure/distance of APP or not, but now Spectrum is all but dead and ALO is only an eligibility retention program. Having any differentiated options at local schools would solve the "growth" problem completely. Raising the bar causes equity problems(much bigger deal for kid at low performing school to get higher scores than say View Ridge with all the supports. But to really fix for that you have to dig so deep into personal stories; impossible); since the test is not perfect ends up keeping out kids who really need it while still certainly letting in kids who don't. We should err on the side of inclusiveness if we have to err, and we do because no test is perfect. The percentages of qualification are the same as they have always been (well, since it stopped being a top .1 % program), but district wide growth on top of more opt in escapees who aren't being served at all locally makes it seem like it's exploded.

Keep the bar the same; just offer differentiated options at neighborhood schools. That would fix it in one year, I guarantee it. Not everybody wants to bus across town to an APP program. They just do because at so many places it's their only option.

I have been thinking that one thing the district could do to attract students to JA k-8 and support JAMS at the same time is start some sort of attractive music program- string, maybe?- which would stay with JAMS when it opens there, though maybe JA k-8 could start a smaller version/seed one of its own when it moves. Or science- a fieldwork program for middle school science students? Something to both attract families this year and give a THERE there to JAMS next year. Right now all JAMS is is not-Eckstein.

Fed up too

Anonymous said...

Enough with the focus schools. Please make the new middle school a regular comprehensive middle school like Eckstein, with basic electives like art, languages, etc. Please.

NE parent

Anonymous said...

I don't mean a focus, just a program like is at any school. Eckstein has a great music program for example, which lots of people know about and draws them to the school. Show the shape of the programs offered at JAMS so that people know what they are getting since they are not getting Eckstein. Right now it is "well developed music program with 3 levels of competitive concert and jazz programming which feeds from the elementary level in X way" versus "music." Eckstein isn't a focus school, but it does have a particular way it offers its programs like every school. Of course families going to JAMS would feel they are getting the shaft, but that's only because what "music" means for them hasn't been planned. It in no way has to be inferior, but it will sound that way until someone starts something. Music is going to mean something in particular, so I think we should flesh that out ASAP, and this is one way to both do that and boost JA k-8 enrollment this year at the same time, PLUS offer a potential bridge to families who we need to stay to help start JAMS after going to the k-8 for a year.

I don't mean to harp on music. It could be lots of things. Just an example.

Fed up too

mirmac1 said...

Fed up too

I appreciate your willingness to brainstorm. We love a music program, plus Madison is building on a STEM pathway in WS. There are LOTS of ways to distinguish a school, not all purely academic. I, for one, greatly value an inclusive culture free of bullying.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Fed up too. I do tours at Lincoln and so many parents talk about how they wish they could stay at their neighborhood school. A cheap and easy fix would be to make ALO and Spectrum actually mean something.

I was speaking with an APP parent who is hugely involved with the district and with volunteering on various capacity committees. She said the growth of APP proportionally lines up exactly with the growth of the district as a whole. The district is growing quickly, so it makes sense APP would also grow.

-fool me once

Anonymous said...

People need to take the time to find out about JA K-8 and I think they will be pleasantly surprised. They have an environmental science focus, instrumental music, art, drama, and at elementary, if you need walk-to-math two years ahead - you get it, unlike many alleged ALOs. No languages yet, but with some increase in enrollment, more electives will be offered. Until then, enjoy the small class sizes!

sidneyd

Anonymous said...

@sidneyd-

Jane Addams K-8 has more than just instrumental music, this year elementary music was added, and there is a middle school choir as well. We also do have a language, Spanish, for middle school, and there is certainly the desire to add a second language for next year to assist in attracting more middle school students and helping to alleviate capacity issues.

However it's not the case that all students who need math 2 years ahead receive it though I'm hopeful that will soon be true. All students who need math one year ahead (whether they test into Spectrum/APP or not) do receive it, which is great.

~ne mom

Anonymous said...

ne mom

My observation was based on knowing several 2nd graders who do walk to 4th grade math. Plenty of schools don't even do any walk to math. Glad to hear about Spanish.

Mostly I was responding to the suggestions of "fed up", some of which are already happening. And tangentially, to people who dismiss JAK-8 as a viable MS choice without visiting and getting to know all it has to offer.

sidneyd

John Kennedy said...

Don't ask what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school.

Don't expect the district to be all things for all people. Parents have the ability to change schools. I"m aware of a particular school (not Roosevelt) that is offering a latin program during lunch. This was set-up by a parent volunteer.

Do you think there isn't as much differentiated instruction? Get involved. It really helps.

Anonymous said...

This is a question for the likely JAMS families specifically - how you define a comprehensive middle school? What do you feel is vital, important and nice to have to get you to a good place both next year and when the JAMS opens up in 2014?

I've asked a number of parents this question over the last few months and I hear music, electives, advanced math - what sort of music program? Which electives? JA K-8 is a spectrum program and does already do advanced math.

When I've tried to get more information about what a comprehensive middle school looks like, I haven't found that parents are able to articulate it - essentially I've heard that they'll know it when they see it. We have to get down to what these JAMS families want for their kids 6 months from now.

This is the conversation I want to start having.

~shifting into planning mode

Anonymous said...

I can give you a few things that would be on my wish list. A music program that entails 2-3 levels of band, as well as jazz band and orchestra. Electives that include keyboarding, other computer/technology classes, basic business class, art (drawing, painting, ceramics, photography), architectural drawing, PE (maybe some choice here like racket sports, gymnastics, etc), drama, speech and debate, journalism/newspaper, video production, yearbook, world languages (Spanish, Japanese, French?), self contained Spectrum core classes, strong science, health and math, all the basic after school athletics, as well as other after school activities such as chess club. That's off the top of my head.

-brainstorming

Jet City mom said...

When I was in middle school, ( jr high) music program was section of chorus- boys choir- girls choir- 7th gd music- including vocal & beginning recorder , & a section of band and one of orchestra.
Instrumental music is often limited to students whose parents were interested in elementary school, and could afford to not only rent the instruments, but pay for lessons when the elementary school could not offer them.
For that reason I prefer classes that offer equal access to students, as the steel drum program at Summit K-12 did.

Benjamin Leis said...

One of the things that I thought that seemed to work well with rebooting Hamilton Middle School was shifting the APP program there. That brought a group of parents that pushed for music, core curriculum etc. One random thought that occurs to me is what if all Spectrum was shifted to JAMS in the NE? It would probably help to equalize the racial and socio-economic differences between the two schools as well. What's everyone else think?

Ben

Anonymous said...

Barf.

-reader

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can have a comprehensive middle school period without Spectrum. So I don't think you can take it away from Eckstein anymore than you could take away music. I do think you need it at JAMS, too, though. And I agree generally with the lists above.

Fed up too

n said...

@fool me once:

What do you mean make "APP and Spectrum really mean something?" I'm curious. How would you fix Spectrum? Why do you think it doesn't mean something now. There are still several self-contained classrooms across the district.

n said...

I posted before refeshing the site and I see the talk is mostly about middle school. My experience is that in elementary schools, we are asked to differentiate and it sounds good in theory but is very difficult given the amount of curricula we are expected to teach. "walk to" anything helps a lot and I think should be a given at any school.

Anonymous said...

@brainstorming - I think that is a great list for a comprehensive middle school and it helps me to understand. Could you help me understand which of those things should be first implemented? With the first JAMS cohort being between 200-300 kids at most, which of these electives, programs, activities do you see as vital at start-up and which will develop as the school develops? I have a better sense of the goal but I'm trying to flesh out the path to get there now and it needs to start with thoughts of what is important for year 1 of the program.

~shifting

Anonymous said...

N:

You quoted: "APP and Spectrum really mean something?" I actually said: "make ALO and Spectrum actually mean something"

The district has allowed each individual school to decide what ALO and Spectrum can look like at their school. The district will also allow schools to change the programs at any time with (at least so far) the full backing of the AL department. Parents can't be expected to trust in these programs if they mean absolutely nothing. As parent after parent has posted, stability is huge and the school district is not providing that for any of the AL programs right now.

The district absolutely should make concrete definitions and rules for how to run ALO and Spectrum and should hold schools to those rules. Until that happens, many won't choose those programs and will opt for APP. As I mentioned before, I know from running tours in elementary APP that many parents would actually prefer to stay near home. I think APP wouldn't be nearly so large if the district improved ALO and Spectrum.

-fool me once

sixwrens said...

I want to pick up a great idea posted by APP Alum @ 2/1/13, 8:50 AM regarding the board vote.
“since the World School and Nova are being evicted from Meany and it is being turned back into a middle school, I think Meany should become the permanent home of the entire APP middle school cohort, both north and south end.”
It seems like this could solve overcrowding problems at Hamilton and keep APP together as a cohort. APP Alum also noted it would free up seats at Washington, but there hasn’t been discussion of overcrowding in south Seattle middle schools. Would such a move also help south Seattle middle schools?

Anonymous said...

Meany is to serve the central neighborhood, according to this:

Anticipated Central Seattle Middle Schooler Boom

a reader

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a 3rd grader at John Rogers, who will be assigned to JAMS in 2015, I am both excited, and at the same time a bit scared, about the prospect of opening a new middle school at Jane Addams, especially not knowing how it will be implemented (6th grade roll-up, grade 6-8 split from Eckstein, co-location with the K-8 program, etc...).

That said, I am glad there will be time for community input into the design process, and a JAMS planning principal in place for next year.

There are plans to have a JAMS PTSA in place before students are assigned to the building, which I feel is a great thing, in terms of community support, and as an advocacy group for the new middle school.

I think JAMS has the potential to become a lot more than just "not Eckstein," but it will take support from the community to pull it off.

-JR Mom

Anonymous said...

I think if ALO or Spectrum meant

1) appropriate language arts instruction- right now in many/most schools kids only read up to 1 grade ahead on guided reading levels for in class work. Say up to O in second grade. For 4 or 5 kids in each class I've been involved with this has been wildly inappropriate(not just APP kids, of course, just strong readers), and the have not been able to progress in reading during class time, but nobody's going to do anything because they are "on grade level." If an ALO meant something, grade level could be moved up for them.

2) more appropriate math instruction- 1 to 2 grades ahead all the way up should not be hard for any school anywhere to manage. Walk to math should be standard, ALO or not.

Seeing no(and I mean- no- backwards) classroom progress in either reading or math makes people feel they have no choice but to go to APP even though the kid is ahead but not so out of whack with their peers that they couldn't easily be served in their neighborhood school, they just...aren't. I don't know what proportion exactly that is of the APP population, but it's some. Spectrum used to be more widespread, rigorous, and possible to get into, which was plenty for many kids.

3) this one is optional, highly politically unpopular, but I know would keep a lot of kids at their neighborhood school- try some clustering instead of spreading higher performing kids exactly equally among classes. I think this is the one benefit of Spectrum, that it happens in the classes, but everybody needs some academic peers for group work. This way when they are doing writing projects in the older grades they have a partner editor who is working at a similar level so it's mutually beneficial.

This skips the question of depth/allowing ALO students to move on more quickly if they have mastered something early, or maybe small pull outs- ~2 hours a week for in depth projects- but those are obviously pie in the sky wishes in our pretty anti- advanced learning district (though de rigeur in most other districts with any size/population for it). But the first 2 alone would make a big difference. I know the schools with walk to math retain a larger portion of their APP qualified kids, and that's just half of it.

Also I have not heard of any actually organized anti levy movement, and I am pretty sure I would be on at least the long e-mail list if it was that organized. I think it's got to be venting. Maybe there are some secretly super organized and powerful Eckstein service area parents I am not aware of, but then I also agree with the "laughable" notion that Eckstein parents are not very powerful, especially compared to the JA k-8 ones. They're middle school parents, generally less organized and vocal than elementary, over a huge area, and only bound by geography, not philosophy. How on earth would Eckstein still look like it is and be so crowded 10 years later if they were so powerful?

Fed up too

Anonymous said...

Fed Up Too

The e-mail that was forwarded to me was started by an APP parent, not an Eckstein parent. That parent lives in NE Seattle, so it is going to many Eckstein parents.

I respect this person and her passion, but I am not voting no as I strongly believe it will cause more harm than good to our kids. I have e-mailed the district and board members about my concerns though.

NE Parent of 3

Melissa Westbrook said...

JR, my thought is that there is a wonderful opportunity to create the middle school that your area WANT. It should have the fine kind of staff and push for excellence that Eckstein has but certainly, does not have to be Eckstein Junior.

You can make your own community.

I absolutely believe if Spectrum/ALOs were stronger, we would not have the APP mes that we have. Banda needs to do something about this and soon.

NE Parent, yes, I know this person as well and I feel the same. I do worry that if this becomes a reality (a public fight over BEX), well, it will backlash against APP and Eckstein. Not good.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious why, with the popularity of IB these days, nobody is raising the possibility of JAMS starting as an IB-Middle Years Program. Doing that would render the Spectrum debate to be the anachronism that it is. Just provide a rigorous program for everyone.

Emile

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of an IB middle school! Admittedly, I don't know what it would entail, but it sounds like something that could be a draw and could be a great fit at JAMS. There is not a ton of overlap between what will likely be the new JAMS service area and the Ingraham attendance area, but there is some. The Jane Addams building also has an amazing auditorium, so JAMS should certainly have a strong selection of performing arts options.

I've been wondering if it might help things at Hamilton for next year if the district suspended the APP matriculation requirement for entrance to Garfield for a few years? So APP eligible students who hadn't entered the program before 8th grade could still have access to Garfield. Would that help keep APP middle schoolers in their neighborhood schools to make things more manageable at Hamilton next year? Would that create too much of a problem at Garfield down the line?

- IB fan feeding to JAMS and Ingraham

Anonymous said...

Parents have also been moving into APP because principals of overcrowded elementaries have been encouraging them to move.

One thing that makes a great instrumental music program is having string teachers teach strings & choir teachers teach choir, etc. Taking a band teacher & putting them with stringed instruments that they cannot play themselves limits the quality of the program. So asking Eckstein's string teacher to teach a couple of periods at JAMS would support a better program. Sharing between schools a choir teacher who is trained in voice development would help.

Also Eckstein offers beginning instrumental music so that kids who didn't start in elementary school have the same opportunity in the program.

-middle school music parent

Anonymous said...

What is the expected capacity of JAMS? And what is the expected capacity of the new middle school at Wilson-Pacific (which is still part of the BEX plan, right?)?

With respect to Meany, yes, the district's plan that I have read says that Meany will be used as a Capitol Hill middle school, which frees up space at Washington for APP South and the central district neighborhood students at the middle school level. Currently, all of Capital Hill students and Central District students plus south end APP are at Washington. I am suggesting that we do something different than the district's plan: assign APP in its entirety to Meany. This means Washington no longer needs room for APP to grow there, because APP will no longer be at Washington. Washington would then have the capacity for Capitol Hill and central district students. I believe in putting APP in its own building, so it no longer must compete for space and resources in its building with whatever program it is colocated with. Having attended IPP/APP when it was colocated with neighborhood programs, I saw how it was hard for the school to figure out how to make one school community out of what is basically two self-contained programs. It is hard and in my opinion it is not worth the effort when APP is so enormous now that it can fill its own buildings. The other upsides to a single APP location are that it moves 400+ kids out of overcrowded Hamilton, and that a large APP cohort allows for even more differentiation for kids who need to work way above grade level. The downside is, now APP families have to go through the process of building a new school, with things like a music program. But APP parents tend to be a pretty engaged group and I think they can pull it off as well as Capitol Hill families could.

The data also looks to me like Mercer is about to face some serious overcrowding, on the same order of magnitude that Eckstein is currently experiencing. I am not hearing any discussion of Mercer and I am worried about what the plan will be to put out that fire when it happens, which it will before BEX V can happen. Perhaps boundary changes coupled with the new capacity coming online by 2018 will make this problem not so dire, but we need to talk about what feeder pattern or boundary changes will need to happen.

APP Alum

Maureen said...

Re the possibility of putting an International Baccalaureate program at JAMS. I can see the appeal, but I really hope they don't do that. JAMS will be right across the street from Nathan Hale. If SPS is interested in MS level IB in the north end, it really should be located at the new Wilson Pacific school, or possibly at Whitman. That would create a more logical feeder pattern to Ingraham.

I think IB at JAMS would just mess up enrollment at Hale and Ingraham. I think many of the JAMS kids wouldn't bother going to IHS for IB and that kids who will end up being routed to IHS wouldn't be able to access IB at JAMS.

Anonymous said...

@Maureen

I'm in total agreement with you on the IB program possibility at JAMS. JAMS will obviously feed into Hale, and I think building on that potential partnership should be explored, rather than trying to set up a feeder pathway to Ingraham.

One idea that has been put out there by some future JAMS parents is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)approach/focus.

-JR Mom

mirmac1 said...

Madison is implementing a STEM pathway. It's quite exciting and I'm encouraged.

That's a possibility

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is all great thinking out loud. I love the idea of IB at Wilson-Pacific (I see those points about doing it at JAMS versus where those students would feed into, namely Hale). In fact, they should try to coordinate what is offered at Hale with what happens at JAMS to create a very cohesive transition.

Anonymous said...

JAK-8 is already looking at having 7th and 8th graders attend Nathan Hale for advanced math. I think it really makes sense to think about where these kids will be going for high school and have the programs be complementary.

HP

Patrick said...

I thought Jane Addams 8th grade advanced math already went to Hale for math. That's something that will need to be addressed when JA moves.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Hale, JAMS and IB - My student is a freshman at Hale. Hale is a member of The Coalition of Essential Schools, and has a Ninth Grade Academy with a specific block class curriculum for 9th graders. Our feel of the school has been that it is a place dedicated to all students learning, with no one "falling through the cracks." Honors options are available for extra work and higher levels of performance in my son's classes, but not separate advanced track classes for the core block classes. Of course, students enroll in whatever math class is appropriate, foreign language level, etc. and there are AP offerings for several different things. I don't know that IB (from what little I learned of it, touring IHS last year) would be a good fit with Hale's existing curriculum...which, although not IB, is proving to be excellent for our family. I wouldn't want to mess with a good thing.

Another Hale Parent

L said...

I can speak to JA K-8 middle school math. I have 2 boys there a 7th grader in 8th grade math and an 8th grader in 9th grade math. They had enough students for the 8th graders in 9th grade math to have their own class at JA. It is taught by a JA math teacher. My son loves his math class, however the teacher isn't certified to teach high school math and therefore, they don't get high school credit for the class. They will get to start high school in a higher level math class though. That is my understanding of it at least. When I asked my son if anyone walked to Hale for math, he said there was one student. (2 years ahead).