Thursday, April 02, 2015

Seattle Public Education Updates

From the "there goes that idea" - Expedia is moving its corporate headquarters  to the Amgen campus.  Several readers had thought that might be an ideal spot to share space with a business and an SPS high school.  (This is considered a huge win for Seattle as Expedia is leaving Bellevue.) 

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D) and Senate President Pro Tem Pam Roach (R) will lead a bipartisan press conference Thursday afternoon followed by an exposé of the Common Core educational standards adopted by the Legislature in 2011.

The senators will meet with reporters at 4:00 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 3 at the Capitol prior to a discussion that is scheduled to last until 6 p.m. and will include participants from the local, state and federal levels. “Our state’s Democratic and Republican parties have rejected Common Core as being bad for kids,” said Roach, R-Auburn. “Someone has to stand up for the students.”

“Common Core is uniting liberals and conservatives like no issue I have seen. Our conference Thursday is about building momentum toward a legislative repeal of Common Core in 2016,” said Chase, D­Shoreline.

Chase and Roach are the lead sponsors of Senate Bill 6030, introduced Feb. 18, which would have the state withdraw from Common Core standards and return to the Essential Academic Learning Requirements that preceded Common Core.

There are several high-level speakers Skyping in like Diane Ravitch and Wayne Au.

Op-Ed from the head of WEA, Kim Mead, on testing
Administering the tests dominates school calendars from March to June, in many cases, locking kids out of libraries or computer labs for the duration. Instead of being a place of wonder and learning, the library becomes a stressful place for test administration. Adding complication, elementary schools as dispersed as Richland and Mukilteo are reporting that third-graders were sent the wrong test, with some kids having to take it twice. 
In younger grades, districts use them to determine placements in programs like Advanced Placement classes, determining kids’ educational path very early in their academic careers. 
Uh oh, I wonder what districts are going to use SBAC results for placements in AP classes (or maybe Advanced Learning programs).

Politicians and others pushing for more  funding for the IB program at Rainier Beach High School.  One of them is Senator Pramila Jayapal who is asking the state for $250K for two more years of IB.  In addition, the Times reports that about $10K in donations have come to the school for students to attend the IB World Conference in Barcelona. 

So I had thought the Charter Commission was writing a letter to First Place Scholars to let them know they were about to be closed.  It appears the letter is some kind of 10-day reprieve.  The Commission says First Place has 10 days to clear up yet another issue - services for ELL students.  The school accepted money for them but it doesn't look like any services were provided. 

It appears that the Commission is seeing little in the way of results from their concerns about the school. 

Interestingly, First Place's Board President Dawn Mason is again saying it's the Commission's fault for allowing the school to open too quickly.  She said:

Granting a contract to begin as a charter school was a decision thtat came from the lack of the Charter Commission knowing the depth and breadth of a public school structure."

I would disagree with that statement.  Many of the people on the Commission are in education and know the ins and outs of creating schools.  But I do think the Commission was under tremendous pressure to open First Place (especially as the first charter school in the state).  I don't know if the charter proposal had just an outline for serving all kids and the Commission either believed it or didn't check that proposal for real legs.

The Commission says it will take action if they don't see real progress on the issues they have raised to First Place. 


Anonymous said...

Wow, some extraordinary things happening. I am surprised that the press conference isn't getting more attention (or maybe it is and I'm not seeing it)--I did see the Op-Ed in the paper today. Thanks for the update!

North End Parent

Anonymous said...

Why is it a huge win? It going to add loads of traffic to our already
stuffed roads. I can tell you driving from the east
side to the Amgen site is a very tough commute any EAST-WEST commute it terrible just look at 45th , 50th or nickerson at rush hours. Maybe it's time for a real EAST-WEST raised freeway, just have Bretha make a hard right at the needle.

Seattle isFULL

Unknown said...

Wow, yes, lots is happening!

My first thought about Expedia moving to Interbay was the likely movement of families to the North end to have a better commute. Reportedly there will be 10,000 new Amazonians in South Lake Union coming soon too. What sort of impact will this have on our school capacity? We are already bursting at the seams.


Unknown said...

And, about special temporary $ going to various schools that do need it, instead of the Legislature fully funding education with more stable and fair revenue...

We need stable and consistent funding, not temporary 1 off special grants. Rainier Beach, according to Pettigrew yesterday at a press conference, was given $1 Million a few years ago and they are trying to give them another $400K this year. This is great, but at the same time The teacher who spoke essentially said, "Thanks! And we need the funding every year."


Anonymous said...

Looks like a great time to split this pig in two. North end is going to explode while the south needs to bullet proof their buildings, how sad. Think of the shock if you move your kid from Bellevue school district to Seattle, You would be going from one of the top 10 districts in the US to one of bottom districts. I would expect families to go private school.

Buy your Ballard town home now for $660K because they are about to rise to $850K - just watch.

Pack it.

TechyMom said...

Our open enrollment assignment result has been posted, but not waitlist info that I can find. We've already decided on a private school, and getting our 3rd of 4 choices cements that choice.

TechyMom said...

One of the reasons tech companies are moving into cities (mostly SF, but here too) is that the workers already live in the city and don't want to commute to the 'burbs. I'm sure Expedia looked at commutes before making this choice. If they didn't, that would be a major management failure.

Patrick said...

Pack It, Seattle is not one of the bottom districts in the state, let alone the country.

ElemParent said...

TechyMom, would you do us a quick favor and let us know which schools and grades your child DID NOT get into? The reason I'm asking is that Seattle Public Schools has a record of artificially capping enrollment. Without telling the principals. We had a half-full kindergarten with a waitlist.

And for anybody else who's not getting into the school you want . . . would you please contact the principal so they're aware?

Anonymous said...


Are you sure that your actual school assignment is posted? It's my understanding that folks who requested a school that isn't their reference school would be notified towards the end of April. I could be wrong, but I think that right now they are posting reference school assignments.

North End Parent

Po3 said...

I would guess that many Expedia employees already live in Seattle and the move will actually help ease traffic, especially across the bridges. Those living in Ballard, Magnolia and parts of QA will be able to use Metro to get to work.

I don't think the sky is falling with this news.

TechyMom said...

Well, it's not our neighborhood middle school, which is what was on the site a couple days ago. It is one of the choices we put on our form. I'm willing to accept that it's just a data entry error or something.

Kid did not get into 6th grade at TOPS or Hazel Wolf.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't make it clear - the Mayor thinks Expedia at the Amgen campus is a win. I don't really have an opinion (except you are right about the traffic).

Eden, yup. And yet you can ask Flip about high school and get a "we'll get back to you."

The dumb thing about that $1M for RBHS is that they had to spend it all in one year. That might sound like a dream but if you want to stretch the dollars out, not so great.

Pack it, bottom districts where? In the state, because that's not true. Regionally, I doubt it. What's your source?

Techy, sorry about that enrollment outcome.

Anonymous said...

Techymom, I looked up the child I have moving schools, who shouldn't have a problem moving, and their assignment is still the same as last week. Is it possible you got into your third choice automatically (no lottery required), and they have not yet done the other school lotteries to see if you would get into those?

Not that it matters if you are definitely going private.


Benjamin Leis said...

@Po3 - according to the articles 75% of the Expedia employees live on the east side. I doubt most will pull and move even if they stay with the company at least initially.

David said...

So how many people worked at Amgen vs Expedia? Wouldn't the traffic be a wash, mostly? Or am I missing something...

Anonymous said...

@ Techy Mom: Don't know what number you are on the waiting list for Hazel Wolf or TOPS but even if you are waitlisted to say #35, you have an excellent chance of getting in at 6th grade in the K8s. There is one key and you have to be prepared the year before on strategy: Start at one school and prepare yourself and your student to move after a month. Every year a couple enrolled kids don't show up at 6th, a traditional time of school upheaval. So almost always there are opportunities in the fall. The list moves extremely rapidly because families have given up and started somewhere else. Eventually a family gets in. It happened to a school friend this year in fact. Student's wait list number was in the 30s and got into the K8. The parents think a move after four weeks is a big deal but it really isn't. School has barely gotten into full swing especially this next year with a very late start. Hazel Wolf and TOPS would both offer you a 'private school' curriculum at less than $30K the cost. Go for it.

Never Giveup

Joe Wolf said...

Regarding the Amgen campus:

- Total building square footage is over 700,000. Our comprehensive high schools are around 200,000. What that means:

- SPS would have had to both (a) determine if there was a good way to use about 30% of the campus as a high school.

- Persuade Amgen to "subdivide" the campus, and sell as two properties.

- Persuade Amgen to sell SPS its share at cost that pencils out re. a public high school, not Class A r&d office space. For reference the campus cost Amgen about $800M total to develop.

- Persuade Amgen to agree to a "layaway plan" that matches SPS' ability/timeline to come up with ~$100M.

- Access. IMHO it's problematic for any large institution/employer.

SPS staff is doing preliminary investigation/scoping work around a new comprehensive high school on the Memorial Stadium site that preserves the current stadium function as well. See the new campus for Union City (NJ) High School for an example of this co-use on a tight site.

Anonymous said...

I think this year there was an unusual amount of movement at least at Hazel Wolf as many kids had hoped to go JAMS, and didn't figure out the forms, with all the movement and everything, so accidentally stayed enrolled at Hazel Wolf. I doubt that will happen this year.

But it is always the case that there is a lot of movement at first. People keep their public school spot in case private school doesn't work out for whatever reason, and when those shake out there is room! I'd be nervous about moving into a big program with all the scheduling woes 4 weeks in, but not something like Hazel Wolf, with 3 classrooms of kids at each grade.


Anonymous said...

Bellevue has been ranked 1st in Washington state for the last 5 years with other east side district following close behind. Seattle best ranking has been 11th and I think they are being generous. Seattle gets some slack due to its size and challenges.

Personally taking into account the SPS budget, demographics of Seattle, job opportunists and low crime rates it's very difficult to explain why SPS isn't doing better than 11th in the state.

Nationally when you factor in other districts with similar attributes mentioned above I would give SPS a below average score. If you add in SPED issues that adds even more negative weight to the ranking.

I can pull out several individual Seattle schools that are probably in running for the list of the worst 100 schools in the nation and again considering all the positives about being located in Seattle, these schools can't seem to perform as expected year after year.

Calling Spades

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are missing a lot, Amgen vacated the site many moons ago and only had about 600 people there. They sub leased the labs to various other entities. It was all part of the Bio-Tech scram Seattle leaders swallowed hook line and sinker.

Once those labs are gone they will never return, maybe they are going continue to sub lease lab space, but it's risky from a security perspective. Travel seems to be more lucrative in the short run than Bio-tech. What happens when oil jumps back up to 150 per barrel?


Anonymous said...

Back to the public ed updates: As I said earlier, I watched the public hearing on SB5748 on the Internet. I thought yesterday was move it out of the House education committee or it dies time, wasn't it? So 1) is it dead? and 2) How does the status of SB5748 tie in to the Roach/Chase press conference today?


Longhouse said...

"You would be going from one of the top 10 districts in the US to one of bottom districts."

Seattle ranked 61st out of 220 districts in Washington state: http://www.schooldigger.com/go/WA/district/07710/search.aspx

Washington state schools ranked 8th in the nation overall: http://www.alec.org/publications/report-card-on-american-education/

Not exactly the bottom. Not bad considering we're ranked 47th in class size ratio and 40th in per-pupil spending.

Don't bother learning any facts before you speak. It's the sort of talk we've learned to expect from knee-jerk teacher haters, the legislature and the Times.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


I agree with your points, but your citation of ALEC made me cringe. ALEC grades states on such things as whether they allow charter schools, whether they have policies which promote private school choice such as vouchers, the degree they regulate homeschooling (apparently less is better), and the degree to which they promote "high quality digital learning." These privatizing, union busting initiatives are not exactly the kind of criteria most people think about when they want to talk about how well states provide public education.


Anonymous said...

If you look a little closer at that ALEC rankings page, there are two grades. One for conservative policies (WA does quite poorly), and one for academic achievement and statistics, where WA does well.


Anonymous said...

SPS budget divided by student population combined with outside funding, PTA monies and grants puts the average cost per student over $18,000 per year which is nowhere near the bottom in the country and well above the national average of $12,000.

Do some fact checking before you start whining.
Your problems seems to be driven by high administrative cost combined with poor management. Most businesses with that combination usually go bankrupt fast.

Other people

Melissa Westbrook said...

"SPS staff is doing preliminary investigation/scoping work around a new comprehensive high school on the Memorial Stadium site that preserves the current stadium function as well."

Really? Because that's not what Flip Herndon said at the BTA IV meeting at Hale. I asked him. He also got it wrong saying that the district can only use Memorial Stadium for sports. That land is the district's as long as it is used for SPS purposes. That would include a high school. (I did the research and it's in the district's archives.)

Ed Voter, I believe 5748 is dead but as I reported, the amendment on tying teacher evaluations to test scores has been tacked onto yet another bill (1345). Roach/Chase press conference is about Common Core.

The number I last read about Washington State vis a vis other states in public education was about 23rd. And again, considering how underfunded this state is - not funding to even the national average - that's something. Seattle is totally different from any other district in the state.

Other people, I have no idea where you got those numbers. Could you let us know? But you're right - it's management-based and, by that I mean JSCEE.

Anonymous said...

If Joe Wolf is correct, then the Memorial Stadium site might be an interesting choice for a high school.
SPS could fold in the Center School and give it an arts and humanities focus. Jon Greenberg would be a great choice to head up the staff.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Gah, it's sad that they're going to do convoluted planning for a high school at Memorial Stadium site, cramming it in there, when they could have build an amazing high school at Wilson Pacific but they got welded to the idea they had, instead of being nimble/flexible when the enrollment came in differently.

And then there's Oak Tree - that's a huge flat lot. SPS owns it. So they go through a mess of trying to put a high school and get permits and everything down in Seattle Center? Huge hassle. How is that better than building on Oak Tree/99 site that doesn't have all the layers of bureaucracy that come along with sneezing at Seattle Center? And how is it going to be done faster?

And also Memorial stadium vs. dealing with city over trying to build at Discovery Park/Fort Lawton, where the current unused military buildings are? Again, shouldn't maybe doing the easier build thing be wiser?

Signed: whatever

Anonymous said...

40 acre Amgen campus went to Expedia for $228 millions. Anyone remember the cost of Garfield reno? $104 mills. One HS rennovation with no seat gain. Cost overrun? Never mind. Back to the voters for the next building levy. You notice tax $ never stretch as far as private ones. It's like there's a different exchange rate going on. And goody, now we get Sally Clark on UW payroll for $150K. No doubt higher ed will improve markedly now.

Anonymous said...

Better bus access to Seattle Center. Good relationship with Seattle Rep for drama focus. More restaurants for the students to choose from. An athletic field already there. The Gates Foundation, Seattle Children’s Museum, EMP and Science Center nearby for internships.

Parents from Q.A. and Magnolia would love it. Parents in north Seattle who want Ballard H.S. would also love it.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Oh4:39 PM was from - dream on

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what if SPS is good at anything so, I don't see any reason not to sub out every function of SPS.
First, we should turn over all infrastructure to private companies and pay per head on tiered basis. Second, we have an established transportation provider in Metro and they should be required to provided transportation services to all schools at a steep discount.We the tax payers all ready subsidies the existing Metro service so economy of scale should work here very well.

Now SPS is left with educational task and if that doesn't improve we should start subing that work out.

Geter done

Melissa Westbrook said...

Whatever, the claim is that Oak Tree is too small for a high school. What I find fascinating is the district can make any spot fit when they want to (or not, if they don't want to put something somewhere).

And S, you are right - QA/Magnolia parents (not to mention downtown parents) would be very happy. There are a couple of us who believe that it only took a couple of key things to send this district's capacity planning out of whack. One of them was never getting around to giving that area a high school. It's called the ripple effect.

Geter Done, you're talking Charlie's language. He always thought that those infrastructure items should have been farmed out.

Anonymous said...

Q.A. and Magnolia parents did the best we could with the existing choices. My sons really enjoyed the Center School (and its arts focus) and Ballard H.S. (with the Biotech Academy).

Now it is time for a comprehensive high school for Q.A. and Magnolia. At the Seattle Center, SPS could build upon its existing relationship with the Seattle Rep. Adding a rich humanities curriculum would be a perfect response to the Gates testing mania and could be a model for the entire city.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

S parent, I absolutely support you in that belief about having an high school for QA/Magnolia.

Anonymous said...

Interesting who was on the panel for that press conference tonight. For one, Sue Peters was on it. Was it taped for general viewing?


From Dora Taylor's blog:

Moderator: Dora Taylor, League of Women Voters Education Committee and President, Parents Across America

Diane Ravitch, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, under President H.W. Bush and National Assessment Advisory Board, under President Bill Clinton; historian of education, and educational policy analyst

Rashelle Holland, Parent, award-winning National Board Certified educator, teaching coach and professional development trainer

Karen Larsen, Concerned mother, administrator of the WA State Against Common Core Facebook network that has a membership of over 3,000

Wayne Au, Associate Professor of Education, UW-Bothell

J.R. Wilson, Parent, citizen, taxpayer, voter, educator, past executive committee member of Where’s the Math?, and Truth in American Education co-founder

Doug Edelstein, Teacher, Nathan Hale High School, Seattle

Sharon Hanek, Education watchdog, researcher, and local/national presenter on education issues

Director Sue Peters, Seattle School Board

Gad$ said...

"Better bus access to Seattle Center. Good relationship with Seattle Rep for drama focus. More restaurants for the students to choose from. An athletic field already there. The Gates Foundation, Seattle Children’s Museum, EMP and Science Center nearby for internships. "

Why would anyone think it is a good idea to put our schools any where near the Gates Foundation?

The Gates Foundation could teach our children how to influence pubic policy by throwing vast dollars into LEV and Stand For Children- which promotes ALEC--I gue$$

Anonymous said...

@ Joe Wolf

People have been posting suggestions that SPS should look into placing a high school at Fort Lawton/Discovery Park.

Was this ever investigated by SPS? Is it feasible? Are the buildings landmarked? Is this something that could be worked out with the City/Parks (shared space)?

- North-end Mom

Patrick said...

Better bus access to Seattle Center. Good relationship with Seattle Rep for drama focus. More restaurants for the students to choose from. An athletic field already there. The Gates Foundation, Seattle Children’s Museum, EMP and Science Center nearby for internships.

Bus access is good, and a relationship with Seattle Rep could be good. But Gates Foundation is a big "who cares", the Children's Museum seems to be aimed at younger kids than high school, and what high school students have long enough lunch periods (and enough spending money) that they can go to off-campus restaurants?

Maybe the District can cram a high school onto the lot, but to do so would require a lot of compromises. The land would fetch a lot of money. I really wonder if they District wouldn't be better off selling it and buying a better site elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The Center School kids use the Armory building for restaurants and lunch space. They already have excellent ties with the Seattle Rep, or at least they did when my son was there some years ago.

One argument for this space is the existing athletic field. A drawback for the Center School is that it does not offer many sports. If a larger new high school did, it would be an all city magnet.

Maybe SPS could continue to lease the existing Center School space for an elementary school — smarter than trying to rebuild the empty, run down school on top of Magnolia. The downtown crowd would love this.

There would be a nice irony in having an elementary school and a high school near the Gates Foundation. Have them both offer a rich and creative arts and humanities curriculum instead of endless testing.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

District Watcher, I believe the press conference was taped but I haven't seen a link yet.

Patrick, the district cannot sell the land at Memorial Stadium. Th use of the land was deeded to them for educational uses and if the district doesn't want the land for those purposes, I believe it reverts back to the City. They could swap with the City (as they have previously discussed) but they need the stadium because it serves as the home field for several high schools for football, soccer and graduations.

S parent, now there's some interesting thinking - create a downtown high school, include Center school, and use that leased Center space for a elementary. Unfortunately, there's no place for a playground and I'm pretty sure you have to have some outdoor space for an elementary.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, there are grassy areas around the International Fountain that might work for play spaces. I bet if they did go there the Center might accommodate them.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

S Parent, that could be and creative minds could figure it out. Trouble is, I don't think there are many of them at JSCEE.