Monday, May 01, 2017

Enrollment Updates

Many, many of you - both here and at the Soup for Teachers Facebook page - have expressed concerns over the enrollment trends for next year.

It appears that 10+ schools that have been underenrolled, will continue to be underenrolled and will lose staff over that fact, also have waitlists.  That does seem odd unless the goal is to force people to go to their neighborhood schools.  But if a school has been underenrolled, doesn't it help to have it fully enrolled even if it's with people not in that neighborhood? 

I wrote to the Board about this and heard back from Director Rick Burke:
Enrollment. I share many of the community's concerns. Staff is taking a deeper look at waitlists today and has been asked to provide updates and supporting data this week. I expect it to be a topic of discussion at Wed Board meeting.
Also, reader Just FYI reports that there are updated waitlist numbers put up this morning.

I checked out the waitlist and found some interesting trends.

- popular programs like dual-language at Beacon Hill/JSIS/McDonald as well as Montessori at Daniel Bagley have significant kindergarten waitlists (interestingly, Graham Hill's Montessori program only has one student on the waitlist)

- Ballard/Hale/Chief Sealth have modest waitlists, there are large GenEd waitlists at Garfield, Franklin, Roosevelt, at 68, 50 and 69, respectively at 9th grade Gen Ed.  Ingraham has large waitlists for GenEd and HCC: 26 and 44 students for the 9th grade.  West Seattle High has 22 students on its 9th grade waitlist.  Sealth and Rainier Beach have virtually no waitlists. 

- Center School has a 9th grade waitlist of 8 students for 9th grade. 

- Hazel Wolf has an astonishing 90 students on its kindergarten waitlist and 53 for first grade with 55 for 6th grade.  Pathfinder has 35 students on its kindergarten waitlist. Salmon Bay has a waitlist in several grades (interestingly, a large one for 3rd grade).  South Shore K-8 also has small waitlists in nearly every grade. STEM K-8 has large waitlist at most grades, with 57 students for kindergarten.  Thornton Creek also has a large kindergarten waitlist.  Jane Addams has a 6th grade waitlist of 25.

- New Schools - Cedar Park has very small waitlists, RESMS has its largest waitlist (13) at 6th grade.  Meany has no waitlist.

- Thurgood Marshall has a waitlist of 26 for General Ed and 1 for HCC in kindergarten.  Cascadia has no waitlist for kindergarten and small waitlists for a couple of other grades.

- Nothing too dramatic in middle school except Whitman has 26 on the list for 7th grade and 25 for 8th grade.  The exception is Mercer with 35 for 6th grade.


HCC parent said...

Cascadia doesn't have kids in K, the program begins in 1st grade. Interestingly, it is being split into 2 schools this fall, as Eckstein area kids will go to Decatur. Both schools have waitlists at several grades even though they both have room. Families were told we could opt into the other school through open enrollment. So far, they are forcing students to stay were they are assigned.

ZannyDu said...

Melissa, you seem to have left out of your post that Washington Middle School has 79 (!) non-HCC kids on its waitlist. Largest numbers of course are rising eighth-graders who would like to stay and not go to Meany, but there are also kids trying for non-HCC spots in six and seventh grade as well.

kellie said...

Thanks Mel for day-lighting this.

A $50M budget gap is a big deal and I completely understand that downtown is under an amazing amount of pressure.

That said, now is not the time to be alienating families over something as basic as open enrollment. The tenants of what open enrollment is supposed to be were laid out clearly in the Student Assignment Plan. It was expected by the board and by families choice would be limited to space available assignments.

Everyone was disappointed when the capacity issues depleted the 10% set-asides at high school. People didn't like it, but folks understood that an over-crowded school should not be taking extra students.

This situation where schools with waitlists are losing teachers?? Schools with space are actively not allowing sibling to stay together??? It violates the core tenants of the choice plan.

Anonymous said...

Broken promises from SPS? Who woulda thought? If it isn't in writing, consider it just another empty promise. Perhaps the only reason the HCC/IHS waitlist moved last year was due to written info on the AL website (which has since been modified).

What does "space available" actually mean? I'd push the Board to ask for more clarity on how Enrollment makes the determination - in a way that's more transparent to parents.

-same old

Anonymous said...

@ kelly, so true. It does violate the basic tenets of a choice-based plan. Why do they even bother with open enrollment, if nearly everyone ends up where they are told to go?

pointless exercise

Anonymous said...

Has any parents heard back from a single one of our school board members on restoring the districts promise to allow Whitman students to remain at Whitman and not forced to move to Robert Eagalstaff?


Anonymous said...

"Nothing too dramatic in middle school except Whitman has 26 on the list for 7th grade and 25 for 8th grade. The exception is Mercer with 35 for 6th grade."
I beg to differ, from the 4/24 report, Washington has a total of 90 on the waitlist across the three grades. 39 total for 8th grade, 22 for 7th and 29 for 6th. I don't know of any student who selected WMS during open enrollment got assigned to WMS. Is it because the Meany numbers are lower than expected?
-Waiting for WMS

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, I'm sorry I missed Washington. It was an error.

Anonymous said...

Relating personal experience...For at least the last two years Enrollment Planning has been telling parents a school is "Full" if the school enrollment is at the projected numbers. This has been the practice even in years where there was not a "budget crisis."

If the projections call for a cut in staff, there does seem to be a hell-bent determination to stick to that projected staffing level, no matter what the actual enrollment numbers are.

Elementary schools with enrollment of 20-30 students more than projections, with kids on the Wait List, still experience staff cuts. Instead, of retaining current staff levels split grade classes are created with 28/29 students per class.

And there is something wonky about the projections. Our elementary projections for next year predicted 20 students currently enrolled in K would not return to the school for 1st grade next year. What gives?


Anonymous said...

Whitman, Director Burke returned my message and let us know he is working on the situation. His timely response and diligence is much appreciated. I've received no response from anyone else at the District or at Whitman. Given the complete turn around from what they were told us just weeks before open enrollment began, this is just maddening.

-Losing hope

Anonymous said...

@StepJ--could it be they set enrollment projections based on budget projections and not on student projections? This seems like a devious way to say they didn't cut as many costs at the school level, understanding there is great pressure to cut costs downtown instead. Who is driving this covert culture? Nyland? Flip Hernan? Tolley?

Not Okay

Anonymous said...

@Losing hope

Good for Rick. I think he and Pinkham should be able to show the district the merits in restoring good faith.


Anonymous said...

Probably the reduction headed into 1st grade is HCC kids mostly,

eighth grade

Anonymous said...

The StepJ described situation may be students identified as HCC through testing and with the district making a bet they'll move to Cascadia or Decatur for 1st grade.

One Guess

Anonymous said...

@one guess--even Bryant doesn't send 20 kids to HCC for first grade. I think they are conducting sneaky budgeting shenanigans to try and fool families into thinking teacher cuts are due to lower than expected numbers.

Not Okay

Anonymous said...

Isn't this exactly what executive directors are supposed to cover. Working out regional and school level issues. Shouldn't the executive directors negotiate the wait list for their areas???

- waitlist watching.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Waitlist Watching, apparently not.

Eric B said...

I think it's pretty telling that Tolley got up to talk about waitlists at the last board meeting, not Herndon since Herndon is nominally responsible for the enrollment office which controls the waitlist. To me, that indicates the problem with moving waitlists isn't really in the Enrollment office.

I was told that waitlists should start moving this week, and more moves will happen about weekly after that. Another parent was told that the HS waitlists would only move if they could find a pair of waitlist #1s that could swap. For instance, if the #1 on the Sealth waitlist was currently assigned to Franklin, it would only move if the #1 on Franklin waitlist was assigned to Sealth so they could swap. Once that was done, there would be no more HS waitlist moves. That means that a single student could block up a lot of other students behind them. In the example above, if the remainder of the students on the Sealth waitlist were assigned to West Seattle, and everyone on the West Seattle waitlist was assigned to Sealth, they would let that one student block a few dozen from getting the assignment that they want. A more rational system would be to let that blocking student in to Sealth, since one student isn't going to make or break either school.

Pinkham and Harris are very interested in this issue, although they have not made any promises.

Anonymous said...

ten·et /ˈtenət/

noun: tenet; plural noun: tenets
a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy.

not tenant

Anonymous said...

Stevens is scheduled to lose TWO teachers due to projections. However, there are 23 SIBLINGS on the waitlist. By simply admitting the siblings, then only one teacher, not two teachers will need to be displaced. Instead there are 23 families that all need to consider other options.

Do I want split siblings? How do I get two students to two schools that start at the same time? Do I move my older student? If I am going to move the older student anyway, maybe I should go somewhere else?

- madrona mom

kellie said...

@ Eric B,

I trust your reporting of this issue and that is indeed not rational, particularly for high school. The high school waitlists move in pretty predictable ways and the waitlists tend to reflect the out of area population already at a school.

Moving the Ingraham waitlist might move 1 or 2 students from Rainier Beach or Cleveland, but the vast majority of the students would be moved out of extremely over-crowded Ballard and very over-crowded Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad no one is making promises, because we are done with those.


Anonymous said...

I believe the methodology of a 1:1 trade between schools may be required at all schools, which doesn't make sense since their early projections were clearly low and potentially damaging. The Board needs to dig in and figure this out.

Fix AL

kellie said...

I concur with StepJ. Enrollment has been getting less and less family focused regarding the choice system, over the last two years.

During Tracy Libros's tenure, enrollment went to great lengths to keep siblings together and to move the waitlist whenever possible. Those days seems to be long gone.

The current waitlist make it clear that families are not the customer.

Anonymous said...

If you are trying to get in to WMS you may want to think twice. Behavior is out of control in non HCC classes and inthe hallways/common areas. Students swear at teachers on a daily basis, tell teachers to F off, call teachers bi*****. Fights are common in the halls, students ignore teacher requests to put phones away, stop running/screaming in the hall. Many students don't feel safe, and those that do follow the rules think it is a joke how the inappropriate students get away with anything with zero consequences. There are NO consequences for students who are inappropriate. Staff has requested multiple times for admin to help and little that has changed. I can't wait til my 8th grader is out of there and there is no way in hell I would send my younger child there.

Anonymous said...

Fix AL -- I think the key is coming up with a defensible rationale for how many students a school can admit (for example, up to capacity).

Though I see why everyone is saying that it doesn't make sense to let one kid block the wait lists for many others who could be relieving capacity issues at their assigned schools, I actually agree with the district's procedure in this case. Otherwise, the district would essentially be telling kids in the AAs of wealthy, highly waitlisted schools (such as Ballard) that they are free to among other schools, but kids in the AAs of poorer, non-waitlisted schools (such as Rainier Beach) that they are not free to choose among other schools. I don't see how they could defend such a procedure.


kellie said...

@ JvA.

The "indefensible" situation you are describing is what is happening. The "block" on the wait list is Rainier Beach, not a "wealthy" school. The district does not want to let "too many" students leave the RB area. This is what is blocking all the high schools.

This policy then means that both Cleveland and Franklin are capped at artificially low numbers. This then extends to "options" like Nova and Center. And so forth.

Additionally, when Garfield was the most over-crowded school, there was a Garfield AA specific tie breaker. If you lived in the Garfield AA, you were one of the few folks that would get a choice seat, in order to free up space. This is the exact scenario you described. This tiebreaker went away when Garfield's capacity had normalized a bit.

kellie said...

The bottom line here is that Enrollment is essentially saying "Trust us. We know the intricacies better than anyone else, so you should trust us." This is not an unreasonable point of view. However, trust is maintained by the willingness to admit a mistake and repair that mistake.

Here is just a few quick highlights of the many times, the "trust us" card was used.

* We have a huge financial crisis. The only way to fix this is to close schools, trust us. Oops. Many of us lived through three rounds of school closures that never needed to happen based on bad data. (2003-2008)

* In the new Student Assignment Plan, we don't have enough capacity to promise seats for both attendance area students and the siblings of current students. While we can't promise a seat, enrollment will do everything in their power to grandfather siblings. (2009) Because of the great work of people like StepJ, that promise was kept for a few years.

* We need to open schools and we need to set the boundaries and feeder patterns now. Don't worry, we included an amendment that instructs staff to change the boundaries if the data changes. Trust us. (2012)

* Oops. Enrollment did not match projections and the middle school feeder patterns are incredibly uneven. We know the middle boundaries are based on old data. We can fix that via open enrollment, trust us. (2016)

Parent have good reasons to be skeptical when Enrollment says trust us. That trust can be rebuilt but it requires that someone actively attempts to rebuild public trust.

The lack of willingness to even admit that some schools have been artificially capped is not a good strategy to rebuild public trust.

Anonymous said...

Has the HWK8 waitlist moved for Grade 6 at all? I know thru conversations that at least one current 5th grader is leaving, but withdrew after open enrollment, so that should be one spot on the waitlist. I'm curious if the list moved - if that spot has been filled - or not.

-- curious cat

Patrick said...

Kellie, thank you for your work.

I actually would not agree that "Trust us, this is too complicated for you to bother your pretty little heads about, but we know what we're doing" would be a reasonable position even if there weren't many breaches of trust in the recent past. Enrollment darn well should be a procedure that is written down and followed and possible to explain.

Anonymous said...

Option schools like Center, Nova, Licton Springs K8 and more have lost students for years due to downtown staff's non-support bordering on downright undermining of enrollment. When a school like Center now has a waiting list despite no promotion or help from downtown and other schools continue to overflow and need an outlet valve for bodies, that Center waiting list darn well better move. Downtown canceled Center's arts programming and teachers because they said Center didn't have the enrollment to support it. Now they have enrollment. Is downtown a help or a hindrance? Center parents need to get loud. It's a Choice School. Give people the Choice.


Anonymous said...

Generally I agree, I don't trust enrollment without them making the procedure more transparent.

I do wonder what the best policy is when the the waitlist is less than a homeroom worth of kids. Letting them in means either pushing class sizes above the optimum level, or hiring staff and having some under-enrolled rooms. On the other side, it may leave the school(s) where they would have gone under-enrolled as well with a net cost to the district.

I'd like these kind of calculations day-lighted (i.e. net cost in extra staffing) as well as a policy that says what to do in each case.

- transparency

HP said...

I think the district is eager to cull the weakest couple of teachers from as many schools as it can. It would be in the best interest of the students to get rid of the weakest of them.

Realist said...

“Policy” only goes so far. Not only are their many situations where policy is not sufficiently detailed to define what should happen, but District staff members have also proven to be masters are twisting policy to fit their objectives.

But I believe in many cases the bigger issue is workload and prioritizing staff interests over parent/student interests. What’s less work and less disruptive for the district? Allowing waitlisted students to go to school A even if there is room, if it would require moving a teacher from school B to School A, and all of the associated work involved? Or just telling parents to deal with it? The districts actions may be justified. Or it may be that everything can’t get done, and it’s Friday afternoon, so that’s the way it is. We all like our nights and weekends.

Anonymous said...

When did I say that?

HP since 2012.


Anonymous said...

It is not the weakest teachers it is those with the least seniority which are often the best teachers.

Anonymous said...

I registered my children this spring for enrollment at Garfield and Washington, our Seattle zoned schools, and am curious about the wait lists. I registered my 9th grader via email in early March and my 7th grader in mid-April in person at the main Seattle Public Schools office. Would I have been informed immediately about placement on a wait list, and if I was not is it safe to assume we have guaranteed spots? My Garfield kid has received a course enrollment packet but my Washington kid has received nothing. We are currently out of state.


Lynn said...

You are guaranteed placement at your attendance area schools.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. In our current city there can be wait lists even for attendance area schools, with kids bused elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
HP-It is not the weakest teachers it is those with the least seniority which are often the best teachers.CCC"

Not according to this recent study:
For their study, forthcoming in the Journal of Public Economics, the researchers looked at a set of some 200,000 student test scores linked to about 3,500 different teachers from an unnamed urban district. They analyzed those data using three different methods, each of which relies on different baseline assumptions about how to capture growth in teacher effectiveness as teachers gain experience.

Under all three of the models studied, the researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond the three- to five-year mark. While the teachers did make the most progress during their first few years in the classroom, teachers improved their ability to boost student test scores on average by 40 percent between their 10th and their 30th year on the job, the study shows.

The improvements were seen in both reading and math teachers, but were stronger in mathematics.
Beyond Test Scores

What's more, teachers with more years of experience are better equipped to boost more than just test scores, according to a second new study, released as a working paper by the Washington-based National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.


I guess the "obvious" isn't always obvious.

experienced teacher

T. A. said...

Remember this guy?!. Seems like the district is bending over backward trying to avoid a situation like that again. That's what all the wait list craziness is, right? An attempt to not piss people off by taking away their teachers in October?

I feel like the district has almost figured out how to handle the 2015 issue. Now if only they realized that the way they were handling that issue was causing new problems!

kellie said...

@ Patrick,

Thank you! I don't disagree with your statement. Hopefully this clarifies things.

Most people that do very technical work that requires a lot of "inside baseball type" knowledge tend to get defensive when someone outside of that technical field says "why don't you just ...."

So I do think it is understandable that Enrollment has the point of view that this is complex stuff and not everyone understands it. That said, I do not think complexity removes the obligation to attempt to explain it and make it more transparent. Washington State has the most aggressive Sunshine Laws regarding public disclosure in the country. As such, it would be prudent for any Washington State PUBLIC department to adopt the point the view that communicating information and that information clearly is a part of their job description.

For example, the Post Open Enrollment Information is "confusing." For some schools, the post open enrollment number is a very accurate reflection of the October 1 enrollment number. However, for a large number of schools, the post open enrollment number is misleading. Because these schools enroll most of their new students in August and September.

This is why Enrollment is so particular about the distinction between the Post Open Enrollment Number and the Enrollment Projection Number. Someone in Enrollment Planning takes the post open enrollment number and then projects it into an October 1 projection. Without this, there would be a huge temptation to reduce staff at schools with highly mobile populations.

So not all schools are the same. What do you do? It would be straightforward for Enrollment to simply note this information on the Post Open Enrollment numbers. Make a footnote that says, this information does not accurately reflect October 1 enrollment projections. There. Transparency.

If anyone then wanted to actually build confidence or trust, it would be pretty straightforward to classify schools based on last minute enrollment. You could make ranges. Less than 10, 10-30, 30-50, 50-100 students are enrolled in August and September. This would then create a "conversation" between Enrollment and the community that Enrollment serves.

I don't believe "don't worry your pretty little head about this" is an acceptable answer for any PUBLIC agency, particularly in this State.

kellie said...

@ TA,

I think you are correct and that "all of this" is about not displacing teachers in October. That said, it is my opinion that this practice actually INCREASES the number of teachers displaced in October.

Families that get their "choice school" are very likely to attend that school in September. Families that do not get their choice school are less likely to attend that school in September.

For the last several years, enrollment has fallen short of projections by hundreds of students. 100 students is about $1M dollars in the total budget. As such, 100 families that could have been assigned to a school but instead choose "no school," creates an even bigger problem of dollars that could have been in the system being removed.

Moreover, teachers have been removed at schools that met their enrollment projection to help ameliorate this total budget shortfall.

Waitlisting student at schools that have the desire, interest and capability to serve those students ... benefits no one and creates multiple unintended consequences.

kellie said...

Board testimony this evening was filled with parents from many schools highlighting the lack of transparency around the budget and enrollment decisions.

Flip Herdon explained that it was important to protect the budget allocations and that waitlists were started once a school reached it budgeted number.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what happened to the wait list info? The link above doesn't work, and a Google search turns up the same broken link.



Anonymous said...

Don't they have to wait a certain amount of time to let neighborhood kids in before moving waitlists? I'm confused by the timing and process and angst. Maybe they should just illustrate their methodology and clarify expectations?

Reduce Anxiety

Melissa Westbrook said...

RA, stop making sense, it only confuses some.

Anonymous said...

On a whim, and also out of concern about the lack of transparency, I emailed the Public Records Officer of SPS for enrollment numbers, asking for the number I am most interested in, Ballard and Ingraham. I got a very fast response, with exactly the information I requested, which is current enrollment number for the 2017-18 school year, by grade, for each school, and the total capacity for each school. Kudos for the service provided. Getting movement off the waitlist for Ingraham, where my son wants to go next year is another story. But I'll take the progress.

Here is are the numbers:

School Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12
Ballard 552 502 477 432
Ingraham 389 367 301 338

So, current total enrollments are Ballard (1963) and Ingraham (1395).

Total Capacity, per Capital Planning, are Ballard (1607) and Ingraham (1194).


Anonymous said...

Wow. And we still have another two years before Lincoln and the IHS addition open.

just wow

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