Sunday, November 1, 2015

Student Assignment Plan Proposal Eliminates HCC Pathways

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 ( and here ( 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:,,,,,,,,,,,

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 ( 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.

Thank you.


Unknown said...

There's some great context in this comment from Kellie at Melissa's blog:

"IMHO, this plan is a disaster. It completely and totally removes all board oversight from the parts of the plan that matter to families and matter to work of education, inside the buildings.

By taking all education programming out of the assignment plan and into a superintendent document, there will be NO oversight of the work of education. This new process presumes that every seat, at every school in every program is identical and any detail that makes a seat different is a central admin decision ONLY, with no review by either the board or the public.


The cold-reality here ... is that this will remove all board oversight from the work of education.

Simply having program placement as a purely Superintendent procedure has already caused the inability for the public and the board to provide input and oversight into the work of education - think the closure of middle college. Historically, the reason the growth under the choice plan was NOT visible to the board and to the public was because the continuous movement of special education "programs" from full schools to less full schools, kept it off the radar.

This new "plan" institutionalizes that process and makes it so that staff can move any part, at any time, with no process from either the board or the public.

It took YEARS to migrate from the old choice plan to this plan. While a too-lengthy process has its own problems, it should not take MINUTES to completely revokes the remaining elements of the choice system. "



Anonymous said...

Along with a former APP/HCC parent and numbers expert Meg Diaz, Kellie is a verifiable expert in numbers and capacity matters in our district. I first came to know her in '08, during the initial closures and APP splits, and would vouch for anything she says as well-researched, well-grounded, and as objective and stone-cold real as any stats or figures you'll ever here about in our district.

Kelli also understands extremely well how gimmicks and tricks are used to balance capacity in SPS, particularly using the HCC cohorts either to fill up a school as a magnet program, or free up seats in a school by splitting or moving the program because of some falsified criticism of the program as unfair, elitist, etc.

The only certain thing about changes to HCC programs is that they have nothing to do with reality. And you can take that to the bank.


Anonymous said...

A Cascadia parent told me that on Sunday the Cascadia PTSA sent a Call To Action to families yesterday with this example letter:

Dear School Board Directors and Dr. Nyland,

The SPS community deserves to have sufficient time to process and discuss significant changes in the redlined Student Assignment Plan (SAP).

I am writing to request that you remove "Approval of the Student Assignment Plan" action from the School Board's action items on the November 4 agenda. The redlined version that SPS staff just released highlights drastic changes. This redlined version of the changes were not discussed in SPS's public meetings, which were advertised as "Growth Boundaries Community Meetings" and not assignment plan meetings. The meeting notices talked about boundary changes in West Seattle and nowhere else.

These redlined proposed changes will affect all Seattle public school students. The school board, operations committee, and the public have not had an opportunity to give input on these drastic redlined proposed changes. I request that you remove it from the agenda and send it back to the appropriate school board committee for review and discussion, and hold the required and appropriate public meetings.


Benjamin Leis said...

There is a new updated version of the assignment plan at: