On Friday, 10/29/15, the district published a Board Action Report proposal that would overhaul the Student Assignment Plan, eliminating the existing HCC pathways and allowing staff to make all future HCC assignment and pathway decisions without Board approval. The proposal would also eliminate grandfathering guarantees for all district families, meaning HCC kids (and all other kids) could be kicked out of their schools for the following school year.
As the mom of a Thurgood Marshall HCC student, I am strongly urging all HCC parents to write the School Board and ask them to vote no this coming Wednesday, 11/4/15, on this huge and sudden overhaul. (I also encourage you to let any K8 school families you know that this sudden overhaul would eliminate their access to their attendance area full-service middle schools, which I imagine would have a crushing effect on their enrollment.)
As usual, Melissa Westbrook has provided timely, cogent, and thorough coverage of this issue here (http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2015/11/dear-directors-say-no-to-assignment.html) and here (http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2015/10/mayday-mayday-sos-sos.html). Many huge thanks to commenter WSDWG for alerting the district-watching community to this change on Melissa's blog as well as this one.
I know that many in the HCC-following community believe that no one should be surprised by this change, and that the current system is not sustainable. I will not argue those points, but instead make an appeal for transparency, engagement, and accountability. If the district wants to dissolve the cohort, that's a discussion that should happen at the School Board level, not behind the scenes without notice at JSCEE.
Below is the School Board letter that I wrote -- please steal as much of it as you like. Melissa also invited readers to steal liberally from her letter here.
Copy-and-pastable list of email addresses of School Board directors and relevant senior staff:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Sample letter to School Board:
Dear Seattle School Board Directors:
I'm the parent of a Highly Capable Cohort student, and I'm writing to urge you to vote no on the 10/28/15 Board Action Report about the Student Assignment Plan (http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/15-16agendas/110415agenda/20151104_Action_Report_Student_Assign_Plan_Packet.pdf) for 3 main reasons:
1) Less predictability:
The opening sentence of the Student Assignment Plan reads: "The Student Assignment Plan was approved by the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Board of Directors in 2009 to provide greater predictability for families while still offering opportunities for school choice."
However, the proposed changes would result in LESS predictibility for HCC families. While the HCC pathways are clearly documented in the current version of the Student Assignment Plan, the new version would remove that assurance, referring families to "the Superintendent’s Procedures for Student Assignment or other supplemental documents for additional information about program and service offerings and locations." (As a side note, an SPS website search for "Superintendent’s Procedures for Student Assignment" yields 0 results.)
2) Lack of equal opportunity for engagement:
Removing the HCC pathway list in the Student Assignment Plan means that HCC parents would no longer have equal opportunity with other parents have to engage with their elected School Board representatives about school pathway assignment changes before a Board vote, as occurs with general education attendance area changes. The new proposal would eliminate that requirement, allowing such changes to occur without Board review.
3) New confusion over whether HCC is a cohort or a fungible service:
The proposal lists the Highly Capable Cohort with a list of services, cryptically stating that "There will continue to be a limited number of programs or services that are unique enough, and that serve such a limited population, that they cannot be offered in every service area or attendance area." Understandably, this change has introduced confusion among HCC families about whether the district now considers the Highly Capable Cohort a fungible service rather than a cohort program. The extent of the HCC community's belief that the program's strength is dependent on the cohort is evidenced in the name itself, which was recently changed from "Program" to "Cohort."
It doesn't matter whether the intent of these changes was to allow for the dispersion of the Highly Capable Cohort cohort and the dissolution of HCC pathways without Board approval. All that matters is that is the effect. Please vote no on this proposal, and let HCC families continue to have the same transparency, predictability, and engagement opportunity as other parents.