Highland Park Elementary Discussion

 Update:  there was this new comment at the West Seattle blog:

As a HP resident and a parent who sends her kids elsewhere I’d just like to point out that the creation of neighborhood schools and the lack of available busing to get away from failing schools has only further segregated poorer kids and families. Segregation by income is just as wrong as segregation by race.. The district needs to change the policies that only exasperated the income inequality issues at HPE. If not, parents with the financial means to make other choices will just continue to do so.

Actually, parents at failing schools always did have the ability (with busing) to get away.  Under NCLB, parents were supposed to be notified of this option (along with tutoring options).  I would be fairly sure the district did send those letters but many parents may not have realized what it meant.

If your child was enrolled at a "failing" school, you could request being moved to another non-failing school within your region (maybe district).  I know some kids left MLK, Jr. (in its old location) to go to McGilvra under this option.
The irony for the here and now is that with Washington State not receiving its NCLB waiver, all the districts have to send out "failing schools" letters that say nearly every single school is a "failing school."  So you could ask to transfer but now, there are virtually no schools to transfer to under this new designation.

end of update.

 A couple of West Seattle parents let me know of discussions over Highland Park Elementary and its struggle to right itself.  The school is a very low performer and has issues over discipline and bullying.  But, the good news is that the community wants to support it and help move it in a positive direction.

To that end, a member of the Highland Park PTA asked the Highland Park Action Committee, a local community group, if they could work together to raise money and awareness for their neighborhood school.  The community group agreed and the meeting was held last Tuesday.

The great West Seattle Blog covered it in depth.  That was some frank and illuminating discussion that included information about other schools I had not heard before.

According to the district reportcard on Highland Park, it is very diverse school, with 16% black, 29% Hispanic, 27% Asian/Pacific-Islander, 17% white, 3% Native American and 8% multiracial.  It is 78% F/RL with 27% Sped.  Highland Park, along with Emerson, are the only two schools in the district with the label of "intervention school."  Only 56% of neighborhood children attend HPE.

Academically, for example, only 33 percent of third graders are proficient test-wise, compared to 79 percent district-wide, and there is high teacher turnover because of a contract they were required to sign. She also mentioned high bullying rates. “They need more help.” 

I'm not sure what this contract is about but I know that the new Seattle Teacher Residency requires those in that program to be in a high-needs school for at least three years.

Interestingly, this was said:

Vela described the “re-commitment letter” that was circulated among staffers, and said that it wasn’t meant to come off as a “commitment letter.” It allowed teachers to be “displaced,” and 12 teachers at HPES “decided to displace,” he said, so hiring has been under way since June to fill the positions they vacated. A few teachers were in the room, Vela noted at that point. He added that substitutes are a role that they have trouble filling, for the southwest and southeast regions, not just this school. 

I wonder why the substitute issue is a problem for that region.  Anyone?

  • The district sent new principal, Chris Cronas (lately from Wedgwood) and Executive Director for the region, Israel Vela.  To my surprise, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and City Councilman Tom Rasmussen were also in attendance (kudos to whoever got them to come).
  • It was stated that one of the goals was more community involvement in our schools.  I know that activists in the Central Area are putting together just such a forum about how neighborhoods can give more support to schools AND involve schools in their neighborhood planning.  More on this event to come.
  • Cronas said Wedgwood was "an incredibly successful school" now but it wasn't always "because of an unhealthy climate" that he worked on and he made changes that weren't always well-received.  Let me guess: he dismantled Spectrum.  (He also mentioned that he had personal issues in that his wife had been ill and they have two small children under the age of 3.)
  • Principal Cronas apparently is going to take a page from KIPP for discipline: “We have a plan for that, and it starts day one,” he said. Those changes will include how kids line up, how they move throughout the building, avoiding shoving 400 kids through two doors, language regarding behavior, teaching kids about boundaries. “This is not going to happen overnight – this is going to take time,” Cronas stressed. “The first month is going to be a little bumpy,” but once routines and procedures are set, that “bumpiness” will ease,” he said. 

  • In response to a question from a teacher about meeting the social and emotional needs of students, Cronas said that there had been training for some kind of program called RULER.  Vela said that 10 schools in the district are starting the use of RULER.   Looking at the RULER website (this is thru Yale University), it looks like a three-year phased in program.  I'd be interested to know the funding source for this program as it is not inexpensive.
  • However, one person stated that RULER doesn't really cover race/equity issues so the district would need to address those issues as well.  
  • Cronas also warned that the low test scores could be even lower with the advent of Common Core testing.  (I was surprised that neither Cronas or Vela mentioned that with the lack of a NCLB waiver, families would be eligible for tutoring.  This is just the kind of community where tutoring might be helpful.)
The comments at the WS Blog were interesting.  A sampling:

HP Gal - Until people that live in Highland Park start sending their kids to Highlsnd Park School, things are not going to change. Currently, my neighbors with school age kids go to STEM and Pathfinder. Though I respect their choices, I know that the our neighborhood school would be a better place if their kids were students there, and the parents went to HPE monthly PTA meetings.

Connie Wolf - I am a part of an assemblage of families with toddlers here in the Highland Park neighborhood that founded the “Future Parents of Highland Park Elementary” this past May. Our goal is to build community and excitement around our neighborhood school.

http://www.facebook.com/groups/FPoHPE/ http://www.futureparentsofhighlandparkelementary.blogspot.com

Jeff - “Send your smart kids to the worst school in the district so that hopefully some of it rubs off on the kids that make it the worst!” I’m not in that school’s boundary, but I wouldn’t send mine there if I was. If I have to choose between doing the best for my kids and using them as pawns in some sort of social experiment, I’ll choose the former every single time.

WS Mom - Personally I don’t think there should be a STEM or Pathfinder. Send your kids to your neighborhood school and make those schools better.

Jeff -
Blame away! I’ll take that over deliberately disadvantaging my own kids.
When it’s better I’m sure there won’t be trouble getting local parents involved. The analogy is a stretch, but pioneers get the arrows, settlers get the land.

Lolapop - If I lived in the boundaries of HPE I would not send my child there either. Why would I choose to put my child in a school that has a publicly known bullying problem? Why would choose to send my child to a school that has high teacher turnover? Luckily it’s not a decision I have to make.

Christie - HPE has a high population of ELL (English Language Learners) and special needs kids and we need all the help we can get – so instead of making statements that you or your friends would never send your kids here – Help the school get better by volunteering – or donating school supplies, or coming to the events.

HP Gal - HPE has a free and reduced lunch rate (aka poverty rate) of 81%. There is absolutely no reason why the Highland Park community school should have a poverty rate that is so much higher than the community itself. Poverty is the best predictor of success in school. 

vs - 
Well, first of all, a lot of the people who live here in HP do not have the latitude to move to whichever neighborhood they think will provide the best schooling. Assuming that all people have the resources to move to more affluent areas is offensive. That being said, we may also live here because we love it, regardless of concerns about schools. 

Also, to people who think we can or should insist that every child go to a neighborhood school–I felt deeply committed to doing this when my first child went to K (not HP, but local, title 1), to contribute my resources to our local community. That changed when I was essentially told that they would not provide the education that my child needed. Unfortunately, trying to accommodate really divergent needs frequently stretches limited resources much too thin to do anyone justice.

Also, many schools with the highest poverty focus on discipline and/or remediation in a way that many parents will not want for their children. I, personally, don’t think that’s the right way to inspire young learners from any background, but it is certainly not the schooling I want for my own kids. HP is a great neighborhood, and I do hope that HPE will soon reflect the vibrancy we have here.

That last one is a comment you see a lot about KIPP: people think it's good for some kids but usually not their own.  


dw said…
Cronas said Wedgwood was "an incredibly successful school" now but it wasn't always "because of an unhealthy climate" that he worked on and he made changes that weren't always well-received.

What a crock. Wedgwood was an incredibly successful school in the years before Chris got there (though it was up and down) and he destroyed not only Spectrum, but the community as well, pitting families against families, teachers against teachers. All in the name of flattening out their classrooms by ability, and against the recommendations of a GiftedEd expert they brought in at the time. He made the teachers' work harder and destroyed educational opportunities for all the kids there, from top to bottom achievement-wise. Many families that were either APP-qualified, but happy at Wedgwood pre-Cronas left for APP. Other families with kids were on the edge worked to jump that gap as well. APP ballooned unnecessarily in recent years, and while Wedgwood isn't the sole reason for that, it was indicative of the problem.

Chris, get over yourself. I wish your wife the best with her illness, and I hope you figure out how to help HPE, which is a very different environment, but don't even pretend that you did anything good at Wedgwood.
SusanH said…
This same kind of rallying is going on here in Rainier Beach around Emerson school. Parents of toddlers having meetings on how to make the school more successful. It's like what the Columbia City crowd did for Hawthorne, and I've heard that school has become much more desirable and successful, thanks in part to their efforts and rallying.

As far as getting substitutes, absolutely! I think a lot of Southend schools struggle to get subs. South Shore certainly does. It's just a hard gig to go into some of these high-poverty schools with more ELL students, more behavioral issues, more challenges overall. The regular teachers have to work really hard to maintain good classroom management, and from what I've heard from my kids, sometimes these poor substitutes are eaten alive.
Anonymous said…
Ugh. I've read this blog for years and have a ton of respect for you. However, that last comment was mine, and not only did I clearly say that I *did not* think it was good for other people's kids, I also mentioned earlier in the comment that I'd enthusiastically sent my kids to title 1 schools, so really, what you said is a total misrepresentation, which I hope you'll correct
Anonymous said…
Why do Danny Westneat and Madrona come to mind?
I reprinted your entire comment. I don't think I took anything out of context.

But you did say that "many schools with the highest poverty focus on discipline.."

That's exactly what KIPP does. So I don't believe the connection was a "total" misrepresentation. I didn't say you thought it was not good for your child but that some people do.
Anonymous said…
Remembering Madrona a few years ago. We had lots of long earnest threads about the culture clash there when the neighborhood got involved.

-HS Parent
Transparency Please said…
The city's preschool plan calls for hiring the following administrators:

PfaDirector $200K, Assistant Director $170K, Financial Administrator $170K, Financial Manager $156K, Senkor Financial Analyst $115K, Contract Manager Supervisor, Contract Specialist, Data and Evaluation Manager $169K, Database Administrator, Data Analyst $156K, Management systems analyst, community and outreach coordinator $156K, Quality assurance manager $156K, Strategic Advisor $144K, Operations Manager $156K, Human services coordinator, early ed. specilists, planning and delivery specialist,Permit specialists, Policy Planning Manager,, planning and development specialist,Administrtive staff, Administrative Specialist, Personnel supervisor $156K.

Total administrative costs are approximately $3M per year. Very generous salaries.

The City of Seattle is expecting to collect dollars from taxpayers, Head Start, State and other entities. SPS needs to maintain support to their core function of K-12.
transparency Please said…
I'm sorry for breaking the topic. I"d intended to put the above post on a different page and I don't know how to delete.
seattle citizen said…
How come all those management positions pay twice as much as the top pay of a teacher? Really? A "Strategic Advisor" works twice as hard as a teacher?
seattle citizen said…
What IS a Strategic Advisor? Is that like a Flapper in Lilliput, who flaps the Director's mouth when it's strategic to talk?
Anonymous said…
Since you brought it up,Ms. Westbrook,,Spectrum is a sailed ship and we need to get ALL schools up to serving high and low kids as well as everyone in between. Is it going to be optimal for every kid, for any kid? probably not,but the academic achievement of self-contained classrooms can be replicated in mixed classrooms with proper techniques and skills.
Let's see what Mr. Cronas does with his new school. Since he knows the psyche of the more affluent Seattle parents, he may be just the man for the job of getting more neighborhood kids to go to Highland.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
And sometimes in schools with Spectrum, Gen Ed kids get left behind learning nothing except that school is terrible and boring. Happened to my kid.

Gen Ed Mom
Anonymous said…
Gen Ed Mom,

I've read your story months ago and I agree - the situation with your daughter and her school was handled very badly. But just because one Spectrum program had a serious problem does not mean that all Spectrum should be eliminated. Fix the problem and make it work for all students.
I don't want a Spectrum program - or an APP program - that causes the other classes to have less or be less than they should. Most Spectrum and APP parents I know work for the improvement of their whole school (of course you can find exceptions, like with any other group).
But don't say that having Spectrum classes is having "better" classes. It should be just teaching the kids at the level they are ready for, just like all classes try to be.
Anonymous said…
Oops, realized that I didn't sign my 8-18-14 11:27 pm post.

Anonymous said…
Yes, that's how it should be. It's been argued that it's too hard to do that. One solution is to move your kid into a classroom with other similar kids. But where does that leave the other kids? Still in a situation where it's "too hard" to differentiate to serve them? Then your program serves your kid but fails the others.

Gen Ed Mom
Anonymous said…
Transparency Please

could you provide a link to your information? I think it is critical, and, I know my audiences will want proof - thanks for

"I don't want a Spectrum program - or an APP program - that causes the other classes to have less or be less than they should."

And there's a big fallacy. APP/Spectrum kids are not getting more than other classrooms. You'd have to show me that proof because it was not my experience nor have I heard parents say it is a current experience.

ALink, I will write a separate thread with that link.

mirmac1 said…
I'd like this thread to get back to discussing what's the best way to help Highland Park students. The time and energy that went into the K-5 STEM experiment could have just as well made HPE a magnet school. Yet again political "reformy" decisions downtown leave others in the dust.
Anonymous said…
I can't speak to why it is difficult to get substitutes at all southwest/southeast schools but as a a Denny MS parent I can tell you what I have heard and experienced. Subs have said discipline is the biggest issue with one stating she would never return to the school and another saying she would never send her child to the school. My child regularly hears students telling teachers to "f*** off", kids are afraid to use the bathrooms, a report of an assault on a teacher was mysteriously changed to disruptive behavior on the report to the district (Mr. Vela explained to parents that "sometimes safety personnel are confused about the proper verbiage to use in reports" I find that hard to believe but I am a skeptic). Students are regularly shoved and tripped in hallways, bullying is rampant (with one student being told by teachers there was nothing they could do to help him), kids roam the halls unsupervised, pot smoking happens in the bathrooms and on campus. In a number of my child's classes it is normal to spend 30 minutes of every class period dealing with discipline issues.Parents have met with Jeff Clark and with Israel Vela an investigation was done with the conclusion that Jeff Clark is doing a great job. I also a parent of a Center School graduate and lived through the Jon Greenberg botched investigation. I don't think the district can be trusted to investigate anything properly.

Fed up parent
Josh Hayes said…
Getting off topic here, but Roberta says:

"the academic achievement of self-contained classrooms can be replicated in mixed classrooms with proper techniques and skills."

I assume you're talking about the ideas collected under the "differentiated instruction" aegis, right? I would love to hear from you the proper techniques and skills that would allow a classroom teacher to meet the needs of all 32 students, when about six are dealing with IEP and 504 designations, probably another six COULD have that designation, and six are sufficiently advanced that normal pacing bores the crud out of them, leaving a dozen or so "average" students.

Lay it on me! I'm always looking for instruction in how to improve my teaching!
Anonymous said…
by your math, pulling out the six advanced would bring in, statistically, three more of the average and three more of the more time-consuming to teach. so that helps you the teacher? The kids?
Techniques cover things like walk-to's and pull-outs. you've never heard about district schools that use those methods? Training can also help teachers as well as administration to understand the gifted student. It's really about knowing what kids need and finding a way to do it. if self-contained is effective and doesn't harm other students... but that's an important and hard to quantify question. By your math of an (average?) classroom, things could be a lot worse for the remaining students after the removal of the gifted ones.
Anonymous said…
SPS is setting themselves up for the North-end version of Highland Park with the 2017 opening of Cedar Park as a neighborhood school. Pretty much every low-income and immigrant housing area in Lake City (both East and West of Lake City Way) will be drawn into the Cedar Park attendance area. This includes the Little Brook neighborhood (currently in the Olympic Hills attendance area) and Lake City Court (80-something units of low-income family housing - currently served by John Rogers).

Olympic Hills is getting a brand-new building, complete with a health clinic, but the poorest families will be drawn out of Olympic Hills and assigned to Cedar Park.

The Growth Boundaries Plan called for a target enrollment of 400 at Cedar Park. This is with the addition of 8 "modular" classrooms to augment what is a very, very small landmarked building (only 12 classroom-sized spaces, but with no space set-aside for a library).

Even with the 8 portables, to get 400 kids at Cedar Park they essentially have to chose between having space for computers, a library, or a SpEd room. Preschool? Not room for that or much-needed before and after school care, either.

There are some more-affluent areas within the Cedar Park attendance area, and I would love to think that Cedar Park residents will support their neighborhood school, but I think many will continue to chose nearby Shoreline Schools, or option schools like Hazel Wolf K-8, rather than have their children attend a very high FRL school, which will, in turn make Cedar Park an even higher-needs school.

- North-end Mom

Ed said…
Vela is simply a flak catcher and has no idea about security personnel. He (as well as the other Ed Directors) is a creature of the thin air in the Executive Wing to whom much is given and little is expected.

Paid to say whatever changes the subject.

Its the state of "Waldo's" legacy.
Melanie said…
Hey North End Mom:

Where's the playground at Cedar Park?
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Melissa, for highlighting this meeting and for including: "...the good news is that the community wants to support it and help move it in a positive direction." I am focusing my comments on that emphasis from your post.

As a Highland Park neighborhood resident I want to throw a huge "thank you" out to those who organized the meeting (HPAC and HPES PTA) and those who attended. There are obviously many, many challenges to be dealt with at HPES. This meeting was one small step toward finding some solutions. I feel the meeting was important in two major ways:

1) Letting the district (and city) know that there are people who care about this school and they are now raising their voices. I think this group is going to grow in numbers and in strength. Just because of this one meeting, the awareness in the wider district community of HPES's challenges has increased hugely.

2) This was a neighborhood coming together to support its school. Most of the people in attendance didn't even have kids at the school--or even kids at all! These people want to be a part of strengthening their neighborhood--and recognize that the school is an integral part of that neighborhood. Melissa, you wrote, "I know that activists in the Central Area are putting together just such a forum about how neighborhoods can give more support to schools AND involve schools in their neighborhood planning." These kinds of grassroots community/school partnerships are exciting--I feel that they are a key to positive outcomes for our schools--and, most importantly, our kids!

HP Mom
Techniques cover things like walk-to's and pull-outs. you've never heard about district schools that use those methods?

Roberta, he's a teacher. I'm pretty sure he has.

In fact, pull-outs used to be big in the early '90s but guess what? Parents and teachers both complained. The parents because they thought the kids leaving the classroom were getting something better AND it was too obvious to the kids who remained behind. The teachers complained about chopping up lessons.

There is no perfect way to handle differentiation.

North-end Mom, good analysis. I don't support how Cedar Park is being set up or rolled out.

Good for you, HP Mom.
mirmac1 said…
HP Mom,

I will be working on your behalf, given the opportunity. My child's EEU instructor long ago is now an HPE parent. She told me about the dearth of leadership last May. Vela was very weak in his response to my queries (probably wouldn't have said a word except I cc:d his boss). I find it disturbing that the Shadow district officials in City Hall were there to lend their BS presence.

In any case, please keep us informed as to developments. I will gladly help.
Anonymous said…

As far as I know, the plan is to have some sort of shared-use arrangement of the Cedar Park playground, adjacent to the school building. I think there may be plans to have an additional small play space adjacent to the kindergarten classrooms.

From what I've heard, the public is supposed to have access to the park during non-recess times. I don't know how they plan to orchestrate that.

The parks department (or parks district, whatever it is now called) currently leases the park space from SPS. The park was built by a huge neighborhood effort several years ago, and has a multi-age play structure, a basketball area, and a grassy field with walking path. The playground equipment is being upgraded/replaced, and ADA improvements are in the works as part of the parks levy improvements.

- North-end Mom
Ranting Parent said…
Hey Fed up Parent

You have described Denny perfectly, I have been trying to get them to listen for the last few years and NOTHING. It is absolutely disgusting the way that school is run. Clark is a JOKE and none of the students respect him in any way. Vela just tells you what you want to hear just as all the administrators do, smile and nod! Well it wont be so funny when someone is seriously hurt and that is what it will come to!
Anonymous said…
I thought NCLB allowed for parents to receive NCLB funds directly that can be used for out side services for struggling students?

Parents have the option of transferring their child to a non-failing school. Failing schools will be required to offer tutoring to eligible students.

So are failing SPS school offering the tutoring?


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