High School Issues

There was a request for this thread to discuss both high school issues especially around academics as well as around enrollment numbers. Below are some of the comments that started the discussion.
Enrollment numbers are still in flux, but it's not Just Garfield and Ingraham. Ballard and Roosevelt are also well (1800-1900) over the April enrollment projections, and my guess is so are some other high schools. This is even with Lincoln opening and Lincoln's numbers also higher than projected. But they knew this was the case in June. I am guessing the conservative budget will get/has gotten sorted out as these kids need teachers? It does seem like a poor strategy of planning.
HS Parent

@ HS Parent,
To the best of my knowledge, all of the high schools were short staffed. This was well known in April, June and over the summer. Every time this issue was pressed by the board, the answer was that SPS needed to be "conservative" and that it would be easier to add teachers in October, rather than move teachers due to over-staffing.

The option to work with schools to get the numbers are accurate as possible, seems to have never been on the table. When that question was asked by the board, the response from now-retired Deputy Superintendent Neilson was that Principals could not be trusted to provided accurate information, because Principals would naturally want to protect their staff and they needed to save principals from that unpleasant task to over-committing to staffing, that might potentially need to be moved in October.

This entire process has been utterly maddening. High School teachers were RIF'ed in May, for no good reason.

This will get sorted out, but it will be sorted out differently at each high school, depending on how savvy the principal has been in planning the master schedule and their ability to place long term subs into slots.

Because Running Start begins three weeks into the school year, students have options. And because of this, downtown may or may not add any additional staffing at high school before the Running Start numbers are final.  

Kellie La Rue 

Thanks for the information Kellie. Can you also believe we have all these students in the high schools? I am not sure about the trending declining enrollment narrative as it does not seem present at the high school level, at least in the schools mentioned. I was floored to hear that those schools are still full even with Lincoln opening.
HS Parent

AnonymousMy son is so excited about starting running start. He is still going to play sports at his assigned HS and he will have 2 days off per week for his online classes. I think this will be the future for students who want to skip the goofiness of HS.
Running Start should be open to 10th graders that meet the entrance requirements.  
Pro RS
Hearing of many high schoolers not getting full class loads again. My senior and many friends found schedules with 4-5 classes. Sad that this happens at the same time the district is limiting online options and only allowing Pass/Fail grades for online classes. Is this happening all over the city? We are at Roosevelt.
I'd bet that a lot of the scheduling problems are due to the fact that there are fewer teachers than the students enrolled. Whether purposefully or not, the system is forcing/encouraging students to look into Running Start. But it really is not for everyone. Isn't there a better way to figure out which students will do RS?
These were 9th graders who were wanting to accelerate math science (but not ready to jump to Chemistry). According to Roosevelt, they can still be ready for college with 9th grade (physics/chem general science <-- where many were placed), 10th grade biology, 11th grade chemistry, 12th grade physics. But this decision then may preclude those students from taking other types of more advanced science options that roosevelt offers. This has to do with crowding and the fact that Lincoln did not help fix the overpopulation issues at Roosevelt, thus limiting choices. It sounds like from @kellie that this was a preventable situation.

Roosevelt mom

It turns out that approximately 20 kids at Roosevelt who wanted to do biology were not able to due to capacity issues. This is a major miss in terms of science placement! 
Overcrowding High Schools 

- Roosevelt mom
"It turns out that approximately 20 kids at Roosevelt who wanted to do biology were not able to due to capacity issues. This is a major miss in terms of science placement!" Isn't biology the 10th grade required science course under the new(sh) science scope and sequence? 10th graders aren't allowed to do Running Start, so how are they going to get their required science? Will they be forced into a science elective they don't want now, preventing them from taking more advanced science later on?

Also, remember that current 9th, 10th, and 11th graders are all subject to the new 24-credit graduation requirements. If they can't get the courses they need, the district is risking their on-time graduation.
@ Roosevelt Mom,
Thanks for the clarification. I'm glad to hear these were 9th graders who were at least assigned to the official science pathway courses, as opposed to being older students completely left in the lurch by SPS (which would not surprise me). With SPS moving ever-nearer a one-size-fits-all approach, I doubt they want students skipping ahead in science. To be honest, if some students were allowed to do so on a space available basis, that would surprise me more.

While I do not support the new science sequence, it's my understanding that these students can still take AP science classes starting in 11th grade if they want. It also doesn't seem like the end result is all that different than before, where the typical high school slate of classes included physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics. I think the only difference was maybe that some high schools (like Roosevelt, I believe) allowed students to skip physical science, whereas others might not? Most competitive colleges are going to want to see chem, bio, and physics on a transcript, so I'm not sure this changes things too much. Hopefully some of these kids will be also be able to take an "elective" science class as well if they want something in another science field, at school and/or via Running Start.

But yes, it's a shame the district is doing everything it can to reduce science options for those who have an interest in science.

Similar issues at Garfield with kids not getting important courses. Lots of kids who wanted French or Latin either got placed in a different world language or got no world language. This includes kids who already had one year of French being placed in the first year of a different language. And Garfield is not offering AP Physics.Fed Up@Garfield


Anonymous said…
This a city where science and math drives the economy. It has since we were only a Boeing town and has only grown in importance since then. It angers me that science pathways are limited and constricted. There is more than one way to learn and succeed in science - we should allow our high school students to travel down the path they most enjoy.

Thank you to all the science teachers that persevere. It is because of you that I am where I am. I trust my kids will say the same one day.

Anonymous said…
Re: Running Start,

I didn't realize RS classes could be online. Is that really the case? Does it depend on the college or class or something else?

Also, someone mentioned that online classes could only be taken P/NP. Does that include online classes via RS, or only other online alternatives?

Anonymous said…
If students want to take Biology, they can take it online, but SPS policies for online coursework are now much more restrictive. See Policy 2024, OUT-OF-DISTRICT CREDITS AND CREDIT RECOVERY (adopted May 15, 2019). Pretty sure online courses through Running Start are not part of Policy 2024 and should receive letter grades.

RS parent
Anonymous said…
We have a 10th grader at BHS. No issue with getting a full schedule of requested classes this year or last year. But we have overheard some kids mentioning holes and/or conflicts in their schedule. It sounded like it is something that occurs that is part of the start of school routine and worked out. I thought when it happens it is some sort of computer glitch.

BHS parent
Anonymous said…
How does a P/NP online class affect a transcript etc. versus a letter grade taken at high school? Is it viewed as more negative in any way by colleges? My kid may have no choice but to take a health class online.

A parent
NE Parent said…
High School Waitlist Numbers as of 9/4/2019

Cleveland Stem 09 = 107
Cleveland Stem 10 = 2

Franklin 09 = 36

Garfield 09 = 61
Garfield 09 HCC = 6
Garfield 10 = 6

Ingraham 09 = 30
Ingraham 10 = 1
Ingraham 11 = 1

Lincoln 09 = 45

Nathan Hale 09 = 1
Nathan Hale 10 = 0
Nathan Hale 11 = 1
Nathan Hale 12 = 2

Rainier Beach 11 = 1

Roosevelt 09 = 79
Roosevelt 10 = 29
Roosevelt 11 = 9
Roosevelt 12 = 5

Roosevelt 09 = 79
Roosevelt 10 = 29
Roosevelt 11 = 9
Roosevelt 12 = 5

West Seattle 09 = 40
West Seattle 10 = 9
West Seattle 11 = 0
West Seattle 12 = 1
Anonymous said…
Flash news! Nobody could have foreseen this: tons of GHS classes with 32+ students! (40 is the max reported by my child).
Confused said…
I thought waitlists dissolved on August 31. How can there still be a waitlist?
NE Parent said…
Those were the final waitlist numbers per the run date of 9/4. I assume they won't change.
Stuart J said…
To Core24 and other parents: yes, the community colleges do have online classes, and also, they have hybrid classes where students need to be on campus a lot less than in a regular class. The community college web course catalogues have a filter. For Seattle Central, click here:
Then click on Course Type. You will see several options, including online and hybrid. These are college credits, so one quarter (12 weeks) is going to count as a full year of high school.
I have been looking at several different community colleges. Some tips:
1. the course numbers are not always the same at the various CCs.
2. the course offerings vary.
3. just because a course is full at one CC doesn't mean it is full at others.
4. these CC grades will likely be included in a college GPA. How will people from a specific department consider these? It is hard to know. The UW has 49 capacity-controlled majors that students need to apply to. Some take applications from high school seniors, but others take them when students are in first or second year. So, let's say a department has a minimum cutoff for admission. If the CC grade pulls the overall GPA down, then possibly the student could be denied because of that CC class. Or, maybe the department ignores it. It is hard to know but worth thinking about.

There are also a lot of other online options, such as WAVA, BYU, etc that are approved as high school classes by OSPI. There are pros and cons to each of these approaches. Getting some college credit done in high school may make it much easier to graduate in four years, especially if the major is very intense , such as engineering or pre med.
Anonymous said…
For UW, I believe RS grades are not part of the college GPA (when entering as a freshman). Students start fresh. It may be handled differently for transfer students.

RS parent
Anonymous said…
@ A Parent, If a HS student takes a health class online for P/NP, I doubt a college would look down on that. I think they often focus on grades just for core academic classes anyway if they recalculate a GPA, and I doubt health would be included. Plus, if the online health was done outside in order to take an additional class during the year, that could look good—particularly if the extra class was a challenging one. :)

Online onslaught
NESeattleMom said…
My GHS 11th grader got the six classes he wanted. He feels very lucky because many of his friends are in way overloaded classes (like 44 students), and some have been placed in a class called Occupational Education because no real class exists due to the RIFs. I know everyone is trying their best, but I hope it gets fixed very soon.
Anonymous said…
The counselor at our high school mentioned that schedules are extra tight this year because of "Lincoln opening". This explanation did not make much sense to me, as I know enrollment at BHS is still high, over 1800. That would mean they only lost a hundred or so students I believe. But from what I have read on this blog it sounds like a disproportionate amount of teachers were riffed at multiple high schools, based upon loss of funding, as well as artificial low projections for the district. My kid is wondering if a favorite Spanish teacher is gone, as her room was taken over by a Social Studies teacher. That would be very unfortunate.

BHS parent
Anonymous said…
"Similar issues at Garfield with kids not getting important courses. Lots of kids who wanted French or Latin either got placed in a different world language or got no world language. This includes kids who already had one year of French being placed in the first year of a different language. And Garfield is not offering AP Physics.Fed Up@Garfield"

Just wow. That's REALLY terrible. Don't Seattle kids need to take sequential language courses for competitive entry to their state colleges? This type of stuff should not be happening to public school kids in this city. Where did the money go? Is this how they afforded the teacher raises by riffing needed staff?


Garfield Parent said…
I feel for the 9th grade kids at Garfield shut out of French (no lower level sections offered this year) after being shut out of language at Washington. I continue to not understand why we seem to go into the same pattern at high school every year - RIF a bunch of teachers in the spring then be overcrowded in the fall.
Anonymous said…
My Garfield 9th grader did not get placed into any language class at all after signing up for AP French, and also did not get a chosen elective. By last night we got into French 3 (AP French is full and a 9th grader has lowest priority) which is a relief, even though it adds a repeat year in French and dashes hopes of taking three years of Latin starting in 10th grade. This kid also dealt with scheduling issues both years at Meany.

(Like NESeattleMom, my GHS 11th grader got all the requested classes, for a third year in a row.)

We are lucky in that my 9th grader arrived to SPS already advanced in French, as I feel like the District or school is trying to shut down French altogether. With no lower levels of French being offered this year, that artificially constricts demand for next year's French 3 and higher, and when those won't be offered staff will shrug shoulders saying well too few kids requested upper level French... Sigh.

I know the counselors are working very hard and I'm grateful, but it is all just so predictable and cruel (the intentional short-staffing of schools).

NE Parent, do you have the stats on the waitlist for Ballard High?

I was astonished to see Hale's numbers almost the same as RBHS.

I'd have to look at capacity but I suspect Cleveland could fit more students but they want to cap it.
StringCheese said…
42 students in my 9th grader’s “physics” (don’t get me started) class at Chief Sealth. Apparently this is the largest 9th grade cohort they’ve had in a long while (over 425, I think) and they were not prepared. She, along with many others sat in the Commons during the end of day “mentorship” period because they didn’t have enough teachers to assign all the kids to. Does anyone else have this mentorship period a couple of days a week? My understanding is that it is basically a study hall built into the schedule so kids can make up/retake tests, consult teachers, etc... Not a horrible idea I suppose.

It is also a bit frustrating that although there is a great cohort of 9th graders taking Algebra 2 this year, rather than keep them together, they’ve spread them out so there’s only 1-2 in any given class. That means a couple of 14 year olds in a room full of sophomores and juniors. She’ll be fine, but it seems like the wrong call.
NE Parent said…
Final High School Waitlist Numbers run as of 9/4/2019 (Per district website, waitlist disolved August 31)

Ballard 09 = 52
Ballard 10 = 26
Ballard 11 = 0
Ballard 12 = 0
kellie said…
I have posted this same information many times over the last six months and it is just as true now.

Downtown truly has no understanding of high school capacity issues and how they are mediated via the master schedule. The high school budget for the 2019-20 school year was deliberately shorted in the name of a "conservative" budget.

In other words, the projections for K-8 behave one way and the projections for high school behave in an entirely different way. The projections are simply not sensitized for the basic fact that high school is different from Kindergarten.

The Kindergarten cohort enrollment began to increase in 2000 and then started to increase rapidly in 2004. These larger cohorts started to hit high school starting in 2009 and by 2013, there were serious enough high school capacity issues to warrant the plan to open another high school.

The chaos at high school this year is MANUFACTURED problem, created in the name of a "conservative budget." Multiple sources provided information that SPS was RIF'ing high school teachers that they would need to re-hire and yet, downtown cried that they just didn't have enough staff in the budget department to update the projections after open enrollment.

And the real problem is the same problem that I have blogged and submitted testimony regarding for 5 years now. When high school students are NOT provided the coursework that they need, they leave. There are three weeks from the time SPS starts and Running Start begins. That gives three weeks for a great game of musical chairs to commence.

And then in October, after many student have left, downtown is vindicated because the projections were right after all. The projections were never correct. The process of short staffing high school pushes students out of the system.

This is even crazier when you realized that the State of Washington only funds high school by the class. (aka in .17 increments) So SPS is incentivized to continue this madness, because then the high schools are working at peak efficiency, once many of the students leave.

Remember the "justification" for the low projections was an expectation for a "sharp increase in Running Start enrollment."

kellie said…

The high school projection methodology issue impacts all schools. And South Seattle has an additional problem.

Franklin and Cleveland have had artificially low enrollment caps placed on their schools. This is deeply problematic and beyond inequitable.

The claim is that these artificial enrollment caps are required to "protect Rainier Beach" but that is simply not accurate. Instead, this process pushes students who would otherwise enroll at Franklin and Cleveland into other districts and charter schools.

These artificial caps also prevent any out of district or out of are students from enrolling at Franklin and Cleveland because those schools are "full." There are students who "move" addresses who would like to continue their education at Cleveland and Franklin and those students are unable to continue because the school is "full."

The irony is that those "full" schools are RIF'ing teachers and have over-all declining enrollment, despite ample student interest. AND Rainier Beach is once again over-projections and short-staffed.

Anonymous said…
@StringCheese, I think many other high schools already had or added a similar mentorship period. While some students might find is useful as a study hall or consultation opportunity, I suspect that for many it's just a waste of time. Unfortunately, it's more minutes NOT going toward instruction.

Anonymous said…
@kellie "The chaos at high school this year is MANUFACTURED problem, created in the name of a "conservative budget." Multiple sources provided information that SPS was RIF'ing high school teachers that they would need to re-hire and yet, downtown cried that they just didn't have enough staff in the budget department to update the projections after open enrollment.

Based upon what I am hearing it seems they did not allow schools to re-hire.


Outsider said…
We think of Pres. Trump as our liar in chief, the man who can make anything true with the help of a Sharpie, but it seems like the phenomenon is more general. Mendacity seems to be the standard M.O. of nearly every institution these days. When is the last time anyone with power told you the truth about anything important? SPS certainly seems to fit the pattern. This bizarre exercise in bogus budgeting must have an underlying rationale. Something other than "conservative budgeting" LOL.

They must be trying to get rid of certain people, programs, or courses. If and when SPS restores staff, it will be different people teaching different subjects, right? So the whipsaw action magically changes the staff and programs of the high schools, without the need for a messy fight with parents over any plan to make those changes on their alleged merits. So now wait for the work-out ... what will be the long-run changes that result? From the comments above, one target seems to be French, which has no heritage constituency and probably attracts too many white students. Alas, monitoring the changes and writing the post-mortem is hard work that probably no one will do. The local press does not cover education. (OK, they occasionally pretend to, but not really.) It will all disappear down the memory hole.

There is an old aphorism, Hanlon's razor, that says "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." But bureaucrats are clever, and could easily exploit the concept to disguise their malice as incompetence. With SPS, the opposite of Hanlon seems to apply most often.
Anonymous said…
@ Outsider "From the comments above, one target seems to be French, which has no heritage constituency and probably attracts too many white students"

I don't believe it would be as clear cut as that might assume. The district tells the principal they need to cut x amount of money, but it is the principal at each high school who decides how the cuts should be distributed. This in turn leads to overcrowded classes example 42 in physics at Sealth, but also students not getting into the foreign language class they need or chose. Regardless these cuts sound devastating and likely many staff and parents are unaware of the reasons.

HS Parent
Anonymous said…

Can you please explain what it means to "protect" Rainier Beach? Is the actual rationale that Rainier Beach enrollment would collapse if the district let Franklin and Cleveland enroll to their capacity rather than artificially capping their enrollment below capacity? Because the assumption is that the majority of Rainier Beach families would opt to send their high schoolers to Franklin or Cleveland instead?

If Beach is such a problem, what is the district doing to make that school "better" or more attractive to families and students?

For a district that espouses equity nonstop, this seems like an incredibly inequitable strategy: Forcing largely kids of color and/or low SES to attend a school they don't really want to attend and cutting off their other SPS options. Not to mention a self-fulfilling prophecy: Pushing more students OUT of SPS and into charters and other schooling options (and leaving in Beach the students whose families don't have the ability to pursue other options.)

Thanks, Kellie, for any light you can shed on the Beach situation.

Concerned Parent
Anonymous said…
My 10th Grader is in one of the new "physics" classes at Ballard...but has no official teacher yet. The school was unable to hire for this position in time. Fun.
Ballard Parent
Concerned Parent, I think one issue is that the Cleveland STEM program is costly and they want to cap the number of students. That it helps RBHS is a bonus.

RBHS now has an IB program and will getting a new building.

I agree that more parents will consider charters because of the lack of focus on helping all the SE high schools.
juicygoofy said…
Where does one find SPS high school master schedules?
Anonymous said…

The IB program at RBHS is minuscule and has the chicken and egg problem of very few students, which means very limited course offerings and therefore, not so attractive to potential students.

Has the district come out and said they are capping enrollment @ Cleveland because the program is expensive? What's the rationale for capping enrollment @ Franklin?

Has anyone publicly said that they are "protecting" RB? And, again, what does "protecting" RB even mean?

Concerned Parent
kellie said…
@ Concerned parent,

The district started to cap enrollment at Franklin and Cleveland 7 years ago. This process was started by Michael Tolley. The stated reason of "protecting Rainier Beach" was stated publicly and regularly over the last 7 years.

The theory was that since the waitlists at Franklin and Cleveland are comprised mostly of Rainier Beach attendance area students, by preventing RB students from choosing Franklin and Cleveland, then Rainier Beach would magically become full and no harm would be inflicted on Franklin and Cleveland.

Reality is always different from theory.

When Cleveland was switched to an option school, the plan was for cohorts of 300 students per class. SPS has capped the cohorts at 225. Cleveland has at least 75 students on their wait list every year and could easily fill.

SPS has completely ignored the fact that families that want Franklin or Cleveland can easily pick a charter school or go out of district. Total enrollment in SE Seattle has dropped during this policy, despite Rainier Beach's enrollment increasing every year and significant increase in school aged population in SE Seattle.

The greatest irony in this process is that the increased enrollment is attributed to this policy and is therefore NOT attributed to the hard work done by the Rainier Beach community.

Just to be clear on what Kellie is saying about Cleveland; they have the space for more students.
Stuart J said…
My hunch is Cleveland could easily attract out of district students if Seattle wanted to boost enrollment. Cleveland is very close to some neighbor districts.
Anonymous said…
My kids tell me of a new district policy that has students donning orange vests to go to the bathroom, to make it clear to surveillance cameras that they are authorized to be in the halls.

This is creepy and gross on multiple levels.

Anonymous said…
@FNH: That is creepy and gross, and for kids with social anxiety (hello, teenage years) most likely a deal breaker for bathroom needs. Does the district not understand kids?

Just asking, why is it creepy and gross? I mean why those two words to describe it?

I would guess the idea is to let whoever is monitoring the cameras to see that that kid has permission to leave class.
Anonymous said…
Gross is having to wear a garment shared by hundreds of students using the bathroom, thousands of trips between washings which I assume would be almost never.

Creepy is the explicit reminder that students are under constant surveillance now. Is being in the hallway without permission really such a crime that merits immediate detection and response by security monitoring the cameras? Is everyone presumed a school shooter now?

Let's also add ineffective, because anyone with evil intentions could simply add a $5 orange safety vest to their arsenal supply.

Anonymous said…
@Ballard Parent Is this the new hybrid Chem/Phys class or the same year long physics class? A superstar physics teacher (Mr Muhs) retired.

Another BHS Parent
FNH, good point on the washing of the vests.

I don't think anyone thinks kids are school shooters. I think there's a lot of wandering the halls and they want to distinguish who is rightfully out and about and who isn't.

Another BHS parent, yes, Muhs was a superstar and all the SPS BS drove him out.
Anonymous said…
@ Melissa

Since we've moved to a neighborhood school model, wait list numbers are probably not a good indicator of the enrollment (or popularity) of our attendance area schools, as they are obligated to take all who show up from the attendance area. The wait lists are generally kids who live outside the attendance area. A school can be over-enrolled (with neighborhood kids) and not have a wait list. Cleveland, as an option school, is the exception. Also, the high wait list numbers at Roosevelt and Garfield are probably due to the opening of Lincoln and boundary/assignment changes.

Also, I'm not surprised that high schools are still over-crowded, despite the opening of Lincoln. SPS recently opened/reopened three middle schools (JAMS, RESMS, and Meany), plus two very successful K-8s (Hazel Wolf and Boren STEM) have opened in the past decade. JAMS, for instance, opened in 2014, and is now over-capacity. I believe we've only added high school seats at Lincoln and Ingraham. So, roughly 3500 seats have been added for grades 6-8 (a three year grade span), and only about 2100 seats for grades 9-12 (a four year grade span). The numbers don't support RIFs or "conservative budgeting."

Any idea if Running Start has enough capacity to take the overflow?

-North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Melissa, Kellie:

Has the school board demanded coherent rationales, evidence, explanations for the
"conservative budgeting" and student assignment/projections? I don't hear the budget office explaining to the public why we have RIFed teachers and now, after all the best candidates have already been hired by neighboring districts, we are scrambling to fill spots with bodies.

Not a great strategy for excellence in education.

Where is budget director Berge?

Concerned parent
Anonymous said…
Re the orange bathroom vests, I should have added initially that the school shooter scenario was the rationale for them as explained to the students.

Anonymous said…
But if a school shooter is one of the students, can't they just say they need to use the bathroom and get the vest first? I'm not seeing how the vest helps.

There will also often be kids in halls--legitimately--without vests, won't there? Such as kids who arrived late or are meeting early, who have an appointment with the nurse or a specialist, who are running an errand for a teacher, etc?

Before you know it, they'll make all kids wear orange jumpsuits once they enter the building, so they'll know who is supposed to be there or not. Staff could wear blue jumpsuits, and official visitors could wear yellow. But they'd have to keep the colors secret, so outsiders didn't find out and try to disguise themselves.

kellie said…
@ Concerned parent,

Apologies for the delay. Very full week.

Here is the challenge. A "conservative budget" is generally a very good thing. The opposite is an ambitious or aggressive budget, where you have committed expenses without confidence in corresponding revenue. That is really not good and leads to RIFs in October.

So the rationale / excuse of a "conservative budget" is effectively unassailable.

Now that said, the real problem is that building level staff was not a priority in the BUDGET PROCESS. While there is lots lip service to "staffing stability" and "equity" the bottom line is that the "conservative budget" was THE ONLY PRIORITY. Prior to Jolynn Berge and Steven Neilson, the budget was much more flexible and the PROCESS prioritized staff.

The old process gave schools an initial allocation in Feb. Then an adjustment post-open enrollment and then another adjustment in June and a final big adjustment in August. In addition to the four major adjustments, there were minor staffing adjustments in the middle.

IMHO, the priority should have the most accurate possible projections. When the board raised this issue, it was bushed aside as an impossible task.

Everyone has to remember that the process of projecting enrollment and matching staffing is an impossible task. The goal is to have an accurate enrollment projection for over 100 schools with 13 grade bands. It is never going to be perfect. But this year, the process was fundamentally flawed and utterly myopic.

This year, there was an allocation in February and then no adjustments.

It was clear long before the May RIFs that the high school projections were way too low at all of the high schools. That said, downtown dug in their heels and refused to make any changes.

kellie said…
Now here is where the real issue starts.

This myopic process hurt all high schools. Rainier Beach and Roosevelt were both short staffed by this process. This is really not a north vs south or rich vs poor schools issue with regard to the budget and allocation.

Now that said, the universal rule of operations everywhere is that shit rolls downhill. Folks try all kinds of creative processes to make shit roll uphill but it never happens.

So while all high schools were deliberately short staffed, it will be easier for some school to hire in October than other schools.

IMHO, accurate enrollment projection have always been the number 1 equity issue in the district. Because enrollment projections is the foundation of how teachers are hired and placed in the classrooms.

Hiring and retaining educators is the foundation of running a school district. RIF'ing teachers in May only to rehire in October will always hurt students and it greatly damages SPS reputation in the long run as an employer. Some staffing chaos is always going to happen. It happens at all jobs in all industries.

But this year, the chaos was created on purpose and the chaos was created in the name of a "conservative budget." At the May enrollment and budget meeting where this was discussed, the stated reason was "not enough staff in the budget office to do this work."

Seriously? I know I am a budget and policy wonk but I can't imagine a more important job than hiring the right number of teachers in a timely fashion.

Anonymous said…
Teachers that have those classes with more students than can fit in their classrooms are heroes in my book.
They are accepting a heavier load to make room for one of our children. It is greatly appreciated, but it isn't fair for them either.
Kellie, I know you've tried numerous times over the years, but who should we contact regarding this enrollment/budgeting issue to add our voices to yours?
kellie said…
@ LM,

I really don't know how to advocate on this any longer.

Director Mack and Pinkham abstained on the budget vote, due to concerns about enrollment projections. In 17 years, I have never heard of anything other than a unanimous vote on the budget.

I get it. The intersection of the master schedule, enrollment projections and the budget timeline is a near impossible task. It will never be perfect.

That said, the last time I saw this level of obstinate was during the 08-09 closures. Hundreds of parents submitted detail information about how Seattle was actually growing and closing schools was myopic. How do you advocate on myopia??

Hundreds of people saw this coming. Nobody realistically expected the opening of Lincoln to alleviate the capacity problems at Roosevelt, Garfield or Ballard but yet ... it was ok to manipulate enrollment projections to show that there would be 300 less students at each of those schools?

The only thing anyone can really do, is document the shortfall at each high school and not let this problem be silo'ed to each school.

Because high school really matters, students are going to start to make other choices. Students who were enrolled on the first day of school will no longer be enrolled for the October adjustment. This allows a significant part of the challenge to vanish.

The building level staff do a Herculean job getting kids what they need. That said, this excellent work can mask how unnecessary the staffing shortfall was in the first place.

kellie said…
Part of the problem is that staff members that push back on the crazy enrollment numbers then have other problems.

In theory, the Executive Directors should be fixing this. The Executive Directors should have been able to push back and explain the on the ground reality is completely different from the projections that bordered on complete fantasy.

Since staff can't advocate on this, that leaves parents, documenting, precisely how the chaos is impacting their family.

it would be much better if there was a way for all of the total shortfall to be documented, but SPS does way too good a job of silo'ing schools against each other. The Seattle Times just ran an article about the shortfall at Rainier Beach. Naturally, the story was about rich schools vs poor school.

When your school has just taken an unnecessary blow, it is natural to assume that some other school was benefitting. The entire notion that EVERY HIGHSCHOOL was short-staffed, seems unimaginable.

Anonymous said…
Thanks, Kellie.
It is disheartening.
kellie said…
Based on Information that I and several other parents prepared, we had expected that there would be 1700 UNFUNDED high school students come September.

Ballard 159
Chief Sealth International 107
Cleveland 101
Franklin 194
Garfield 348
Ingraham 138
Nathan Hale 160
Rainier Beach 55
Roosevelt 267
The Center School 28
West Seattle High School 143

Total 1,700

There was an ops meeting this week and they presented some enrollment information. Because they no longer publish the handouts, I don't know the current public data. But if folks contact the board office, you can get a copy of the most recent data.

But once again, this was an entirely predictable problem.

kellie said…
The numbers I just posted was a raw analysis that highlighted the difference between the post open enrollment information and the budget information. 1700 was the total number of enrolled students who were not in the budget book for 11 schools.

If my numbers were even close to correct, that represents at least 55 high school teachers across 11 high schools. I only included the comprehensive school, but Seattle has a total of 19 high schools.

How is anyone supposed to hire 55 high school teachers in October? Is there some magical pile of awesome teachers just waiting somewhere???

It is one problem to hire elementary school teachers, where the instruction is homeroom based. While hiring elementary school teachers in October is also challenging, a second grade teacher can teach a 4th grade class.

However, high school is specialized and subject matter credentials are required for many classes. It is already hard enough to find science teachers during the traditional hiring window. How are you going to find qualified staff in that quantity on that timeline?

Also keep in mind that teachers were RIF'ed in May based on these projections.

To make matters even more complicated ... (Yes, it is always possible to make something bad, worse) Because of another change in budgeting, almost all PT staff were RIF'ed in the Spring.

Typically high schools are incredibly dependent on PT staff. PT staff will often "add a section" or even move to full-time at the last minute when there is need. PT faculty are already in the system and known in their school communities. The flexibility of PT staff is one of the hidden components that really make a master schedule work.

However, the budget department made a unilateral decision last year to charge the building discretionary budget for the health care benefits for PT staff. That is a huge cost to a relatively small building budget. And naturally, principals made the hard decision to RIF PT staff, rather than decimate their very limited discretionary dollars.

So now most high schools have a huge double whammy. Even if the Budget department acknowledges their error quickly and restores the budget and hiring authority to the high schools, hiring authority is not the same thing as a qualified teacher with appropriate credentials!!

Anonymous said…
And, unlike elementary school where adding a teacher impacts some students in one grade band, adding a teacher in high school will effect hundreds of students. If they actually restore to the WSS promised level- every high school student in the city will see a schedule change in October. A month into school.

Anonymous said…
Who do we hold responsible for this gross mismanagement of the district? Isn't it time for families to demand accountability from the superintendent and board? (Did the board really just give Juneau another raise?!!) Like Kellie said, this degree of SPS dysfunction recalls the Supt Goodloe Johnson era of closures (and the MAP test and Silas Potter debacles.)

Juneau is looking like Goodloe 2.0.

The list keeps growing...

Wildly inaccurate enrollment projections
Science curriculum adoption debacle
Dysfunctional principal at Wash Middle school
Dysfunctional principal moved to Licton Springs
Native American program booted from Licton Springs
Strategic plan that only focuses on some students
Advanced learning dismantled
Option schools under attack
Expensive ed directors doing nothing
Expensive ed directors doing nothing
Expensive ed directors doing nothing
Rinse & repeat

Goodloe Redux?
kellie said…
Who do I hold responsible for this particular round of dysfunction? - The Executive Directors.

The bean counters are supposed to be bean counters. Every CFO, everywhere in the world likes to run a nice "conservative budget." My old mentor used to tell me the secret to be an outstanding finance professional was to say NO in the mirror, 100 times in the morning before coming to work. She said it was important because everyone has lots of ideas about how to spend money and you want folks to really put some time and thought into why you should spend money on their behalf.

The theoretical job of the executive directors is to ADVOCATE for resources on behalf of schools. When a principal pushes back too hard, there are lots of unintended consequences. Therefore the "theory" of the ED job is that the ED can take the political hits and also notice patterns, when things happen at more than one school.

Seriously? Every. Single. High School. is short staffed. The EDs should have noticed and they should have been able to get finance to budge.

Frankly, the union and SCPTSA should be screaming the loudest right now.

kellie said…
There is one other issue and that is a "mythology" issue.

Somebody in HR has decided that we need to hire in the same manner that other districts in the area hire, to be more competitive in securing quality teachers. This is not an inherently crazy idea. Other districts give their buildings an allocation in February and then the building is authorized to hire to that February allocation. The central office, in other districts, protects this allocation and building level changes are rare.

Because of "open enrollment" SPS has typically done their primary allocation in April after the post open enrollment information can be baked into the budget.

The mythology here is confusing cause and effect. Open enrollment is getting the blame for late hiring cycle, when that is just not the case at all. So there has been this unfortunate idea that SPS' downtown is "committing" to their Feb allocation, just like the surrounding districts.

The fact that SPS kept their promise about the Feb allocation is kind of a good thing. Sort of, kind of.

The problem is that the Feb allocation was unrealistic to put it mildly. Bat shit crazy is likely more accurate. And a ouija board could have hit better numbers is a tad extreme.

I strongly suspect that when the final enrollment numbers are analyzed, this is the biggest miss in the last 20 years. Unless, of course, a mass exodus to Running Start obscures the data.

Anonymous said…
Roosevelt lost 30 students. Not the 300 that was projected.

- RR
kellie said…
I have a few final thoughts for those considering emailing the board about high school budget and staffing issues.

The Board really needs to hear about how these staffing shortfalls have real world impacts on students and teachers. In particular, they really need to hear about families who are looking at online classes and Running Start in order to access appropriate coursework.

It is deeply ironic that in the midst of the planning to roll out Advanced Learning at all schools, the first courses to be cut at high schools are always the advanced classes. It is absolutely required that graduation requirements come first, so anything advanced is technically extra and the first to go.

This is important because SPS is ONLY funded for the classes that high school students are enrolled. In other words, the State of Washington only funds high school in fractional increments. When a student goes part-time either via online classes or Running Start, SPS only received part time funding.

All this fractional accounting masks the real work impact on families and teachers and the board needs to see the human side of this. I have argued the math for five years now, to no avail.

Downtown typically discusses the budget and enrollment information as the "aggregate" number. In other words, the budget department really cares about the TOTAL number of students across all grades. That is not unreasonable as the total enrollment = the total budget.

However, school operate in grade bands. Downtown is most likely going to argue that the extremely conservative enrollment numbers were absolutely necessary because, while enrollment has grown, it grew less than expected. That is not an unreasonable point of view. But that point of view causes a lot of unnecessary harm when staff also refuses to acknowledge the needs of already enrolled students and RIF's already hired teachers.

kellie said…
The board also needs to hear from teachers and how this impacts you and your profession.

They need to hear about teachers with unreasonable class loads, particularly at higher poverty schools. I have posted for many years now that enrollment, budget and staffing is an equity issue because this how teachers are matched with students.

They really need to hear about how hard it is to hire high school teachers, particularly at higher poverty school, or in specialty subjects. At Garfield a few years ago, the Spanish teacher was RIF'ed in the Spring. SPS then had to do a nationwide search for language teachers and finally hired a teacher around December. I suspect there are similar stories at all of the high schools.

Hiring qualified teachers is challenging under the best of circumstances. SPS needs to hire over 400 teachers a year just for attrition. When there is mis-management of this scope, it impacts hiring all year round.

The board needs to hear about this from teachers, if there is ever going to be any changes to the staffing process.

Anonymous said…
Kellie, thank you so much for your insight and analysis. Would you consider writing an op-ed for the Seattle Times? Parents are outraged but feeling helpless. I have personally written so many emails and made so many calls about multiple SPS issues over the years; rarely do I receive any kind of response. We need community-wide awareness and focused, righteous anger to ensure this mismanagement does not continue unabated.

kellie said…
This doesn't paste terribly well into a blog post but for those that are still following, here are the high school numbers as presented at the Operations Meeting last week.

School - 2018 enrollment - official budget enrollment - 2019 first day count - official shortage.

Ballard 1,971 1726 1866 (140)
Chief Sealth 994 1007 1165 (158)
Cleveland 848 847 895 (48)
Franklin 1,178 1144 1297 (153)
Garfield. 1,658 1488 1812 (324)
Ingraham 1,346 1386 1524 (138)
Nathan Hale 1,137 1099 1228 (129)
Rainier Beach 740 685. 806 (121)
Roosevelt 1,877 1635 1847 (212)
The Center 233 242 263. (21)
West Seattle 960 991 1,157 (166)

Totals 12,942 12,250 13,860 (1,610)

Naturally, these numbers will shift a bit over the next few weeks but the budget number is the official number, from the official budget, voted upon by the board every July.

Anonymous said…
These high school budget numbers are insanely poorly forecasted. What other job allows this kind of inaccuracy. Garfield has 324 more students than projected and now it appears they will only get 4 FTE to mitigate this problem. Shouldn't it be closer to 8 FTE to cover additional students? Are other high schools being similarly shafted? Insanity.
Anonymous said…

So, these numbers mean that Ingraham HS is funded for 1,386 students but actually has 1,524 students and in other words is not being funded for 138 students?

And the staff has been allocated based on those 1,386 students. So teachers have been RIF'ed, class options constrained (this is a fact at Ingraham, as the automotive program is either out or on its way out), and now students scrambling for appropriate classes may actually get pushed out to Running Start, hence making the undercount a self-fulfilling prophecy as high schools do not get fully funded for Running Start students.

This all correct interpretation?

What, if anything, is being done to correct these ridiculous undercounts? And where in the heck is the district supposed to get highly qualified, great teachers in October?!!

Beyond absurd. Where does the buck stop with this?

Concerned Parent
kellie said…
@ Concerned Parent,

I wish it was that simple, but as always, it is vastly more complex than that.

You are spot on, with your "Running start as a self-fulfilling prophesy." These Day 1 numbers are very likely to be a high water mark for many schools. Student who really need a specific class will start to find online options and Running Start options. These numbers will just vanish.

Now that said, I have no way to know about Ingraham's funding/staffing situation. According to the "official budget" Ingraham was shorted staffed by at least 4 teachers. However, Principals have some wiggle room to apply "Principal Magic" to the budget.

The "unofficial budget" is what happens when the principal is able to convert part of their budget into extra staff, or takes a big risk and hires staff over and above the "official budget." Because the numbers were just so unrealistic, the budget department offered many principals the option to hire outside the official budget, with the caveat that those positions could easily be RIF'ed.

So the impact at Ingraham really has to do with how well Principal Floe worked the system in order to protect students.

kellie said…
"Where does the buck stop?"

Ultimately this is Superintendent Juneau's budget and she is accountable for it. This is her first budget and it just does not bode well.

There is one thing that is crystal clear in this process. Nobody from the downtown budget office truly understands the complexities of operating a master schedule at high school and therefore protecting building level staff and ensuring appropriate course work for high school students was NOT a budget priority.

High School IS the Master Schedule. High School is not a random assortment of teachers and students. There is a tremendous amount of complexity in matching student needs and subject matter credentials for teachers. An English teacher is not interchangeable with a physics teacher. The budget needs to be sensitive to this basic reality.

This just does bode will for the work of Advanced Learning or Core 24. If the budget office can't manage to count already enrolled students, there is little to no hope that downtown will be able to provide a budget that ensures access to Core 24 or Advanced coursework at ALL schools.

kellie said…
@ Flummoxed,

Thanks for the shout-out.

I think you have summarized things nicely. Everyone I have spoken with is both outraged and helpless. This year's seniors started Kindergarten in overcrowded and unprepared schools.

Many parents have been writing emails about enrollment projections for 13 years now.

Thanks for writing one more!
Stuart J said…
One number to look at will be Running Start enrollment. But, there are constraints there too. For kids signing up in Sept, many of the preferred classes may be full. Or, the times simply may not work.

A lot of times, one class in Running Start will overlap with at least two class slots at the high school. The high schools may or may not provide a space for students to take online classes. I hope parents can let the State Board of Education know about how this is all playing out too, not just the local school board. SBE sets the ultimate policies, and if the policies are unimplementable, they need to know. SBE is here.https://www.sbe.wa.gov/
Anonymous said…
Meantime, I'm hearing that Lincoln HS opening has been rough (e.g. locker rooms not ready, so kids sent in batches down the hall to bathrooms to change for PE; one soccer ball allotted by downtown for PE class; teachers without needed books etc.)

Any Lincoln parents to chime in on how the opening has gone from their students' perspective?

Concerned Parent
Anonymous said…
@Kellie "According to the "official budget" Ingraham was shorted staffed by at least 4 teachers." How did you figure out that number, was it based upon the 140 (not budgeted) count? I understand some principals can make magic with their budget versus others. However would this be different for different Tier schools?

Example, Ballard was also underfunded by the district around the same amount of students as Ingraham, but is a Tier 4. They also have a higher overall enrollment. I have no idea how many total teachers may have been lost. Counselors are stating schedules are very tight "due to Lincoln opening", which we know is not the reason. I suspect a wonderful experienced Spanish teacher may have been riffed because she is gone. Also, BHS lost 3 science teachers, 2 excellent ones retired leaving 3 vacancies. I don't think they have replaced any of them yet this year, but I don't know for certain.

BHS Parent
kellie said…
@ BHS Parent,

There is a lot to unpack in your questions.

I have no clue how the various tiering system impacts the final picture. I don't know if anyone really understands the tiering system.

My estimates were based upon the 1 full time teacher for every 30 student ratio. It varies some, with sped, so that is a conservative guess, that can be used by all schools.

Ballard was also shorted 140 students, off of the official budget, so that means Ballard was short staffed by at least 4 teachers. As you so quickly surmised, this means that there are 4 teacher positions, that could have been filled last Spring, that were not filled.

Ballard may or may not have had RIFs based on those numbers, due to retirements. However, it does mean that Ballard was unable to fill those four positions last Spring, when it would have been far simpler and not caused so many challenges for this school year.

kellie said…
Counselors are stating schedules are very tight "due to Lincoln opening"

I want to address that comment separately for the pure and utter BS that it is.

That is a very compact and lovely little untruth. It is very close to the capacity issues during the recession due to families "leaving private school." Not one private school closed during the recession. In fact, many private school expanded. Yet, SPS clung to that narrative to explain why there were so many extra students, right after they asserted the urgent need to close schools because of declining enrollment.

What on earth does the "opening of Lincoln" have to do with Ballard COUNTING the number of students who are enrolled and submitted their request for classes.

Everyone knew well in advance, which students would be geo-split from Ballard to Lincoln and per all the documents I read, that number was about 100. During the entire boundary conversation, there was extensive discussion about how Ballard would only lose 100 students and still be over-enrolled.

If anything, the "opening of Lincoln" should have given everyone great confidence, that Ballard would lose about 100 students. And low and behold, The Sept 2019 count is 105 students fewer than the Oct 2018 count.

I call BS on this.

Counselors are between a rock and a hard place. You don't become a high school counselor because you "don't care" about students. So Counselors have to shoulder this burden of knowing that there are not enough classes for everyone and doing their absolute best to try to make the best of a bad situation.

If you need an excuse to write the board, write them about how this mess creates an unfair burden on our counselors. Best practices states that HS Counselors should be funded on a 1:250 student ratio. SPS only funds based on a 1:400 ratio. They are already over-worked and under-appreciated.

Anonymous said…
Where does the madness stop? I honestly feel completely powerless as a parent at this point. There is no transparency in decisionmaking in this district. No evidence given to staff or public. No discussion of tradeoffs being made and why. How can we push the system to be transparent and to walk the talk of putting students first? I'm truly at a loss.

Concerned Parent
Concerned Parent, here's one thing.

Go to a candidate forum or even contact all the candidates (most have a Facebook page you can message). Ask them, "What are you going to do about this mess in our high schools that was predictable and is hurting all students including "those furthest from educational justice."

Tell them you want concrete promises and/or solutions. If they refuse or use platitudes, tell them that, regretfully, you cannot vote for them.

As for the current Board, I'll gather all these comments and send these to them. I think many of them are on to other things but this needs addressing now.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds

Anaylsis of Seattle School Board Decision to Bring "Student Outcome Focused Governance"