Friday, December 30, 2016

January '17 Open Thread

Note: I've reverted back to default blogger comments.

Welcome to the new year. I hope everyone had a good break. There are a lot of district wide forces that may affect HCC this year. Chief on my mind is the impending levy cliff. In the meantime here's a few things I've been watching.:

  • The Cascadia split vote is coming up soon.
  • The feeder patterns for REMS are about to be finalized. I haven't written much on this subject. But an unfortunate situation has been setup where its likely the 8th grade cohort will be mostly just HCC students. Given the numbers at Hamilton and its need for relief and the numbers at Whitman where anyone can opt to go back there during open enrollment there's no great solution. There's also likely to be little to any money to mitigate low enrollment classes given the overarching budget situation. This could come to play in extra curricular offerings, language options, advanced math etc.
  • The ongoing honors for all English/History classes at Garfield and the blended Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall.
  • The roll out of HCC at Madison Middle School and coming West Seattle pathway changes.
  • Middle School Math. This year only Hamilton Middle School offered the AMC 8 test and registered for Math Counts. When you look at the overall stats for the area as expected Odle Middle School and Lakeside Middle School stand out. In theory the pool of talent here is much deeper than the results we're getting. Anyone who's interested in the situation at JAMS please email me. This is the one MS I'm probably going to work most directly at affecting.

Quote for thought from  Prof. Wayne Au:
There are at least three things I would like folks to consider here:

1. None of the tests are objective, unbiased measurements. They never have been in the 100 or so years that standardized testing has existed in the U
nited States. On the whole, our standardized tests have always reflected race and class-based inequalities. Even the very concept of IQ was originally constructed around these kind of inequalities and in those same origins was deeply rooted in the burgeoning eugenics movement. Now, of course everyone will argue, "But those are the old tests. It isn't the same now." The answer is yes and no. Different tests, but, again on the whole, the tests we have now actually reproduce the same race and class based inequalities as they did 100 years ago. I would argue that testing everyone will not equalize selection and will ultimately continue to reinforce the existing inequalities.

2. I also think it is important for folks to take the time to understand all of the factors that go into "educational achievement." It may be simply the case that kid A is considered for HCC and does well on a test over kid B simply because kid B might have been exposed to lead, or not had access to good health care, or lacks stable housing and food, etc., etc. Now these problems may feel too big to take up, BUT, if you are going to say, "Well we can't fix that, but we can make sure kid A gets access to a 'high' track, HCC program with special resources to meet their needs," then I think we have a problem of promoting a system of differentiation that ultimately privileges one group of kids over another based on factors that are socially and economically determined. I raise this because, no matter how one feels about tracking/HCC (for or against), empirically speaking it has perpetuated race and class inequalities, hand in hand with the testing. So if you're going to be an advocate for tracking, then you better be a fierce advocate for a whole bunch of other things that other kids need too, because if it all becomes just about your kid and your kid alone, then you buying into a system that is perpetuating inequality writ large.

3. I would also caution folks to assume that teaching, learning, and knowledge do not contribute to the lack of kids of color in HCC. Teaching, learning, and knowledge are strongly connected to culture, race, and/or class (or gender, for that matter). No set of knowledge or curriculum is neutral in terms of ideology or culture. What we choose to teach or not to teach are choices based on constructed norms. The same goes for how we teach. It is all imbued with different norms of communication and presentation of materials, as well as norms for interacting with kids. Since there are so few low income kids and kids of color (particularly Black and Brown kids of color) in HCC, then we cannot empirically say that the curriculum and instruction are not part of the problem. Indeed, folks should talk to the kids of color who've left HCC to see what they say. One issue in the educational literature on tracking is that the few kids of color in "high" track classes feel alienated from their mostly white peers and they have, in some cases, felt alienated from Eurocentric curriculum (mostly in humanities and social sciences, where those things are more easily felt).

I've hesitated to weigh in on the threads here because I feel like a lot of the conversations have been largely off-the-cuff, based a lot on individual experiences and without much attention to the equity issues that are well known in the areas in the research literature. I've posted here because the tone of the OP seemed open, and I thought it was a good space to challenge some of the assumptions that were laid out."

Slide deck for Carol Burris's talk on detracking at Garfield:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Director Burke withdraws his amendment to delay the split of Cascadia

Dear Cascadia Staff and Families,
At the Dec 7h School Board meeting, I introduced a potential amendment to the Student Assignment Plan directing district staff to remove the geo-split to Decatur and maintain the Cascadia cohort intact at the new site, located on the Wilson Pacific Campus.  The core values behind this amendment are steadfast for me – fiscal responsibility, long-term planning for the HCC program, and cohort stability, all within a commitment to student learning.
Since the posting of this potential amendment, I have received a wide range of feedback from families and educators.  Respondents have highlighted academic, scheduling, and safety challenges related to the current over-enrollment, concerns about students in portables, and also worries about starting up the Decatur site quickly with a high level of services, while addressing the looming potential budget deficit.  Ultimately, families and educators both share concerns about the educational experience of their students.  Feedback from stakeholders on the "best" district-wide action regarding Cascadia has been varied with no consensus.
My role as a School Board Director is to listen closely to the community, our staff, and make the best decision possible for our students and district.  At this time based on the data I have received and engagement with the community and staff, I believe the least disruptive path is to proceed with opening an additional HCC site at the Decatur building.  This will relieve pressure at the new Cascadia building and address many of the concerns I have heard from families and educators.  I am requesting that Amendment 3 to the Student Assignment Plan (SAP) be withdrawn.
I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for those who offered their feedback and time, e-mailed, and visited my community meeting.  We have a shared responsibility to nurture strong and positive learning communities and candid, respectful discourse is a critical component of that.  We have a lot more work to do at the district level, and within our buildings to minimize disruption and maximize learning for students.  I look forward to further conversations, even the difficult ones, along that journey.
Wishing you all a relaxing and enjoyable holiday,
Rick Burke

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cascadia Staff Letter on the Split

Dear Dr. Nyland and Seattle School Board,
The teachers at Cascadia Elementary are deeply concerned about the upcoming school board vote regarding the future of our school and the possible negative impact on our students. Through a joint school district and PTSA survey we have already expressed the only reasonable option is to geo-split the current school and create two schools. One school located at the Wilson Pacific site, the other site located at the Decatur.
Recently the staff learned about the amendments proposed by Directors Burke and Peters that proposes to keep our school together at the Wilson Pacific site or make Decatur an option site. Our staff is strongly opposed to these ideas.
Our decision is based on:
Negative impact on students receiving Special Education services
Health and Safety issues
Negative impact on student/teacher/parent community
Changes to current curriculum and community programs
Here are the anticipated negative effects of keeping the school together at the new site:
Negative Impact On Students Receiving Services
We have many students with high anxiety who benefit from having close proximity to the counselor and Resource Rooms. We are concerned about these students being so far removed from the main building if their classroom is in a portable.
Collaboration with support staff is more challenging when students and classrooms are spread over a large campus like the Lincoln site. Portables would present even more challenges for students receiving these services. Coordination and scheduling of services for each student at the most impactful times would be significantly more challenging.
We are very concerned about the lack of safe spaces to “take a Meta Moment�? outside of the classroom. At our current site we use the hallway, resource rooms, and nearby partner classrooms. For students in portables, none of these would be a realistic option.
We have many students with sensory issues who are already challenged at our current site due to the size of our school. These challenges will be exacerbated by a larger school population in a smaller and therefore less accommodating space.
Health and Safety Issues
Extensive use of portables at the new site creates many safety issues.
oStudents in portables will need to pass through the recess yard to use the bathroom.
oIndividual students will be largely unsupervised during transitions to the bathroom and other resources.
oClose proximity to Aurora and proposed homeless camp presents worries for students during unsupervised transitions.
oOur playground space will be reduced due to the location of portables which creates a number of safety and supervision challenges.
oTeachers and students will be separated from the main building and communication will be difficult during incidents of a lockdown or shelter in place, which will likely occur more frequently due to our location.
The lunchroom and recess space was not built to accommodate a school of that size
oDue to space concerns, it is likely some classrooms will need to eat lunch in their rooms. Students who get hot lunch will then have to travel back and forth between their classroom and the cafeteria. Students in portables will need supervision during this transition.
oCoordinating adequate lunch and recess times will be extremely challenging and result in suboptimal schedules (e.g. very early or late lunches, limited access to the school yard for recess)
oBehavioral problems at recess would be impacted due to having more students in a smaller space because of portables on the recess yard.
oSupervision around portables at recess is extremely challenging.
Negative Impact On Student/Teacher/Parent/Community
If the school does not split this year, it will need to split the following year; this means current 1st-3rd grade students may have to transfer schools 3 times in elementary school. Six years ago, our program came to the Lincoln site with 420 students. We now have over 750. We know that 400 north end students are qualified to receive HCC services and have chosen not to come to our current site. We anticipate that many families have waited for our transition to the new building before enrolling in our program. It is clear that the predictable and continued growth of the north end HCC program will make it physically impossible to accommodate our student population within 1 year at the new site. This means a future school split and another possible move for some 1st-3rd grade students.
Collaboration between teachers and classrooms will be heavily compromised by the size of the school and the use of portables.
Portables limit students’ opportunities to connect with other students within their grade level.
Physical proximity to team members and other staff members impacts collaboration. This has been a challenge at the Lincoln site, and will prove to be even more so at the new site with the use of portables.
Students and teachers in the portables will be isolated from the other classrooms. This will make casual collaborative experiences extremely challenging and lead to changes in our curriculum and the removal of cross grade level activities.
We will not be able to do all school events. There will be no room to accommodate 750+ students during field day and other whole school events.
There will be increased turnover amongst staff. Teachers and staff have communicated through two surveys and through this letter our concerns with keeping our school together. It is likely we will see a much higher than normal turnover if the decision is made not to split the school. Making a decision that goes against the interests of the students and the teachers who serve these students communicates a lack of understanding regarding the process we have undertook to build the strong learning community our staff currently has. It is reasonable to assume that many staff members will seek out a more stable learning community given the severity of the impacts to our school both this year (if we stay together) and the following year when we inevitably have to split anyway to an unknown location.
Changes To Current Curriculum And Community Programs
No instrumental music for 4th grade students. This will be huge shift for our school. At the new site, there will be no space to host more than one instrumental music teacher. This means we will have to reduce the number of students that can take it. If we stay together, this will likely mean the 4th grade students will no longer have this as an option. Currently, we have approximately 230 students in instrumental music spread across 4th and 5th grade.
No Theater program for 5th grade students. There will not be enough space to accommodate all 5th grade classrooms if we stay together.
No Reading Room. There will be no flexible space to use for this alternative to outdoor recess for students who benefit from a quiet space during their day.
No iLab. Even though this space is designated already, this will be used for additional instructional space if the school stays together. Many grade levels have projects connected to the use of this space. These projects will need to be reduced in scope or eliminated.
No space for intervention teachers. Many students currently benefit from the use of designated spaces for our math and writing specialists. If we stay together, their only option will be to push into the classroom. Our intervention teachers are currently serving over 200 of our students.
Many schools with two PE classes at a time will teach one in the gym, and one in the cafeteria, or one outside if the weather permits and the teachers just rotate weekly or daily for who is teaching where. This is a high possibility for what would take place at Cascadia as the new gym is smaller than our current one. Teaching 60 kids in one class at a time does not work for their learning, safety in movement, classroom management, and skill development. Since dividing the new gym will be challenging due to its smaller size, we would likely have to teach some classes in the cafeteria.
Reasons to create a Geo Split at Decatur
Creates Stability-The new school will have more predictable enrollment.
Location is close to where students live-a large number of HCC students live in North East Seattle. Some of our students on the east side currently have over an hour bus ride to the Lincoln site.
Lower Transportation Costs-With budget cuts next year, cutting transportation costs will help the district. This year we have 16 buses, which is too many to fit at the new school. This many buses will also affect the commute time for many of our students, who already have long bus rides.
Teachers want to work in their community-Many teachers are excited at the prospect of working at a smaller school that is closer to where they live and building community with the new school.
Our teachers and staff love our community. A decision of this magnitude, that would be going against the interests of the educators and families of our school, communicates that the school board is only listening to the vocal minority and does not care about the stability of the HCC program or our school. Voting on an issue that will impact HCC students and never talking to the teachers and staff who work closely with this population is concerning. We are also stakeholders in the community and we expect our voice to also have a place in this decision.
We urge you to consider the impact your decision will have on our students. We would like to extend an open invitation to speak with Cascadia staff about our concerns.
The Cascadia Teachers and Staff
Gary Bass
Abbey Buchert
Anya Rifkin
Jennifer Daffara
Erica Gregory
Zach Warren
Ellie Kim
Sean Hamby
Emily Thilo
Nathan Wheeler
Kate Sayles
Kendra Rohrabaugh
Jim Clithero
Allie Orme
Cheryl Adams
Lauren Fuller
Beth Lee
Sage Kleinhanz
Barbara Ford
Sarah Watkins
Mary MacDonald
Maureen Newton
Katie Holman
Kimberly Erickson
Eric Eddy
Eileen Gray
Daniel Morford
Shelly Landschulz
Shirley Briones
Brandie Absher
Josh Hill
Jeremy Drollinger
Josephine Cross-Whiter
Elizabeth Savage
Matt Perez
Camille Paul
Ashley Toney
Nathan Brown
Allison Underdahl
Melanie Voytovich
Christy Smith
Ashley Meyer

Editorial: Support the split of Cascadia to Decatur

The final decision over whether to split Cascadia between the new Cascadia Elementary School and the Decatur Building is going to be voted on during the January 4th Board Meeting about the student assignment plan.

There are currently several proposed amendments including:
  • One to keep the community in one building. Ammendment 3
  • One to make Decatur on an option site when its opened for HCC students. This would be similar to how Fairmount Park operates. Ammendment 4
My position is that the split is the best option on the table at this point and delaying would not serve the interests of the program.

I've sent out the following letter to board directors:

"I thought that I'd write one combined email to express my opinions about the split before the final vote. I don't really want to to go through a split but I'm motivated by the belief that the numbers really don't workout. Looking at the demographics there was a slight dip this year in the lower grades. but I believe that the general growth in the student population will continue to increase the HCC cohort size if nothing else. Anecdotally, I've heard that some families deferred joining the program so there may be a bit of pent up demand that explains last year's choices.

Even at the current size of 750, the ability to fit on the Cascadia campus is marginal. It definitely sacrifices common spaces, especially the playground which would likely be consumed by the portables themselves. And its also impossible to get the classroom student / teacher ratios into alignment with the state goals at those numbers. This more than anything else directly affects the quality of instruction for all the kids. I consider the 2e population to be particularly vulnerable to larger class sizes.

The next point is whether it makes sense to defer another year or not as Rick has floated. Based on what happens during open enrollment we might always completely exceed the site's capacity no matter what. But assuming that doesn't occur overall, I think this also is not in the best interest of our program. There's a huge risk of the Decatur site being taken before next year and having no obvious overflow sites available at that point. We've also now gone through most of the deliberation process. If we defer, we'll merely repeat this process again and I don't see any improvements in the roll out from that timeline. The district will still hire a principal about 6 months ahead of time and all the work will occur in the late winter / spring.

Finally, I also think its less risky to open as geosplit vs. an option. From the time the vote is taken to the end of open enrollment is about 6 weeks. That's a really short time frame to ask families to commit to an option and there will be very few details they can base a decision on. Its possible that the numbers would just workout that way anyway, but there is a risk of not moving enough people over to form a viable cohort. I believe, once everyone knows their site, people will rally around making the roll out go as well as possible. Also after Decatur is established I think that risk diminishes and that decision could be revisited. As has been pointed out elsewhere, assuming the split occurs, Cascadia E.S. will actually have some open seats that a family could access through open-enrollment even if in the Decatur catchment zone. That would provide a small amount of flexibility around the fringes.

In sum, I look at this as medium-short term least worst alternative. I'm hoping in the context of BEX V we can find a more palatable solution. Thanks again for all your hard work,"

Signed Letter from what appears to be most if not all of the Cascadia Staff:

Staff Letter of Support

I urge everyone who is concerned to contact the board prior to the vote. Your voice needs to be heard.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Equity Updates from the AL Office

Stephen Martin, the director of advanced learning in the district,  forward two items:

1) This is the PDF of Matt Okun’s presentation to the HCSAC from last night:

Disportionality Presentation Slide Deck

There's a great deal of data in here which I haven't had time to digest yet.

2) This opportunity may also be of interest to the community. SPS is one of the partners in the Equity Summit on Gifted Education coming up at UW onFebruary 9-10. The event is free, but registration is required.

December '16 Open Thread

HC Advisory committee meeting schedule

Future meeting dates (all Tuesdays at 6:30 pm) include:

January 3, Jane Addams Middle School Library
February 7, Washington Middle School Library
March 7, Cascadia (Lincoln) Library
April 4, Garfield High School Library
May 2, Hamilton International Middle School Library
June 6, Madison Middle School Library


DURHAM, N.C. -- A new, comprehensive analysis of a century’s worth of research shows that grouping students by ability and providing opportunities for students to progress at a more rapid pace can increase overall student academic achievement.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) and Northwestern University.
This latest study examined the equivalent of nearly 300 original research studies and found that both educational techniques work.
“After looking carefully at 100 years of research, it became clear that acceleration and most forms of ability grouping can be powerfully effective interventions,” said study co-author Matt Makel, research director at Duke TIP. “They help increase academic achievement for both lower- and higher-achieving students. 
“Moreover, these practices can yield significant academic benefits without being expensive and can even save schools money.”   

UW Robinson Center Information Session

The University of Washington's Transition School/Early Entrance Program has been providing college early entrance for students after 7th or 8th grade for over 30 years. Our program provides students with a one-year college prep program here on the UW campus before they are subsequently admitted as full undergraduates at the University. Students who thrive in our program tend to be very advanced in one or more domains, able to navigate (with help) a relatively adult world, and in need of more acceleration than K-12 can provide. We will be having an information session for this program on Thursday, December 8th on the UW campus. You can learn more about this event here:

We’re also hosting an all-programs information session on Saturday, December 10th from 1:30-3:30 at El Centro de la Raza in Beacon Hill. This event will cover information about our Saturday Enrichment Program, Summer Program, Online Program, Transition School and UW Academy. I have attached a flyer for this event. Interested families can register here:
I hope everyone has a great holiday. What's on your minds?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

SEA Center for Race and Equity survey

I've been informed there's a survey going around inside the teacher's union from an advocacy group working on Race and Equity. One of the questions is whether to focus on ending tracking which is clearly aimed at HCC.

If you happen to be in the union and care about advanced learning please take the time to fill out the survey and advocate for the program and students within it.

Garfield PTSA notes on Honor For All

There was a discussion on "Honors for All" at the recent PTSA meeting:

"Honors for All Update - Mr. Simoneaux, (History) and Mr. Zimmerman, (Language Arts)

  • No plan to extend Honors for All to 10th grade
  • Same rigor and challenge as previous 9th grade honors classes 
  • Goal is to create same opportunities for all students. Very little movement into Honors or AP classes from Gen Ed students in the past
  • Teacher collaboration: same units, grade norming, support. All classes now uniform, no differences from teacher to teacher. Teachers meet Thursdays at lunch, all meet after school Fridays to collaborate 
  • History lessons all linked to AP World History standards 
  • English Language Arts writing rubric is now aligned: quarterly essays, 6 traits of writing, annotating texts 
  • First time core academic classes reflect the complete student population 
  • Don’t see much difference between HCC and Gen. Ed. students’ performance in class 
  • Complex instruction make students interdependent, working in small groups, discussions, taking on different roles  
  • Language Arts is a skill-based course, History is content-based. So pedagogical goals are different
  •  Interpersonal skills are developed, the ability to listen to others 
  • Students may feel less academic anxiety and pressure over these classes"

Check out the links for the full transcript. Again I'd be very interested if any parent's have some direct experience to add.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

11/15 Cascadia PTSA Meeting on the potential Split

The new Cascadia Elementary building layout. Note: as built even with flex spaces there are 29 rooms because of the Kindergarten wing.

Overall last night was very interesting. A lot of the staff took time to be present including Stephen Martin from Advanced Learning, Ashley Davies from Enrollment planning, someone from operations whose name I didn't catch, Jon Hafaker the Executive Director for the region and Rick Burke from the school board. Also, the format with the PTSA asking a series of pre-selected questions covered a lot of ground in an hour which I think was a wise use of time.

What follows are my notes (pardon the lack of organization)

  • The PTSA will follow Cascadia if a split occurs and a new one will have to be formed. Any reserves left will probably be split in a pro-rated fashion based off the school sizes.
  • On that note, the current drive is 100,000 behind target. So if you're able to, please give if you haven't already. 
  • The top choice off the surveys was to geosplit by between 40-60% between the 2 versions.
  • The district's decision remains unchanged and it will recommend the split at the operations meeting. This will come up for a Jan 4th vote.
  • Why rush?  Ashley didn't add any new color to the question but did add this was a typical timeframe (6 mo) for starting a new school up.
  • The staff are using the survey results to partly justify the choice now as well.
  • There was no desire from either community to merge with Thornton Creek and run both buildings as a single unit so that is off the table for now.
  • There was no data on the relative costs of portables vs. running the Decatur building.
  • If the levy cliff occurs the district will be in a 71 million dollar deficit and that limits the budgetary planning here i.e.  don't expect mitigation funds and rather look forward to staff cuts.
  • There was a promise to involve parents in any principal selection which would probably occur right in January. Based on the timelines I assume this would be a fairly rapid process.
  • The feeling from the staff was that the logistical challenges on the Wilson Pacific site with as many as 2000 kids were greater than 900 on the Thornton Creek one.  Different starting times was mentioned as one obvious adjustment.
  • The split will be done by middle school attendance area. All of the Eckstein feeder schools which makes about 240-260 kids would go to Decatur.
  • Dir. Peters has introduced an amendment to alter this and make the new site an option. Although its hard to predict all the implications of such a change.  This would allow a cap on enrollment but also make planning more unknown  and potentially lead to under enrollment or unbalanced enrollment per grade.  
  • The staff considers the Decatur site a permanent rather than temporary solution unlike the portables. Of course, everything is subject to change if enough growth continues to occur.
  • The teachers split would be governed by the collective bargaining agreement. Essentially, the teachers get to volunteer first and then its done by seniority and category.
  • There is no answer on money for the initial gym and library although the staff wants to provide that due to equity. 
  • The physical plant is currently being seismically upgraded and will recieve new paint and carpeting. In addition, the plan is to tear down the annex and develop a new playground there. This like all the other question depends on available money.
  •  Several rumors were mentioned (black mold, condemned building) and  called out as false.

The bottom line is that while there are more details here we're still on the same path. Budgetary and space constraints really limit the choices. The staff wants to do the split. The board sounds like its considering holding off a year. And if we do kick the can down the road there is still some risk that even the Decatur site will be spoken for by that time.

Friday, November 4, 2016

November '16 Open Thread

Now we're 2 months into the school year, how are things going?  I'm especially interested in hearing from those at Thurgood Marshall and Garfield H.S.

An interesting piece of data from the district on potential portables per school site:

Robert Eaglestaff planning Meetings:

Coming soon: Robert Eagle Staff MS Community Meetings-Beginning in November 2016
Posted on 09/08/2016
Robert Eagle Staff Middle School
Upcoming community meetings where you can join Principal Campbell and the Robert Eagle Staff Middle School community to learn about the new school, share your ideas, and celebrate learning.
Interpreters provided: please
November 17, 2016, 6:30 p.m.Meet Ms. Campbell at the Daniel Bagley Elementary PTSA meeting
November 22, 2016, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Broadview Branch Library (12755 Greenwood Ave. N.) 

Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting  
November 29, 2016, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Loyal Heights Elementary at Marshall (520 NE Ravenna Blvd)

Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting
December 3, 2016, 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m
Location TBD
Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting
December 8, 2016, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Loyal Heights Elementary at Marshall (520 NE Ravenna Blvd)

Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting
January 5, 2017, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Broadview Branch Library (12755 Greenwood Ave. N.) 
 Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cascadia Split Briefing Paper

The Friday memo from last week contained the most official explanation of what the staff is thinking about the split.

[As an aside: I was really glad to see this published. This represents a significant step forward in terms of transparency  for the central staff]

You can read the whole paper which is interesting but I wanted to dig into a few key parts. First
a look at the enrollment information.

  • As can be seen in 2012-13 when the planning process occurred the number were not too out of whack for a 650 capacity building and it wasn't until last year that tipping point occurred.
  • Enrollment stayed basically steady this year BUT the largest grade is 3rd. There are small drops in 1st and 2nd as well as 5th.   5th grade doesn't matter much for future projections. The key question is how many more kids will join below 3rd?  Are the 3rd and 4th grades anomalies or will the cohorts behind them end up as large?
  • Note: also uncertainty as to the program location and overcrowding may depress numbers. On the other hand, a split may also affect numbers in either direction depending on how attractive it looks to prospective families.

District Wide Enrollment Data for comparison.  Cohort sizes continue to increase :

Also interesting from this data is the current teacher/student ratios and the class size reduction targets which are supposed to be fully implemented in 2018.  To put this in context Cascadia has always had the highest ratios in the district i.e. the most crowded classrooms. 

1st  - 3 homerooms 21:1     vs. WA state target 17 
2rd - 6 homerooms 21:1     vs. WA state target  17
3rd - 8 homerooms 24:1     vs. WA state target  17
4rd - 7 homerooms 27:1     vs. WA state target  25
5rd - 6 homerooms 28:1     vs. WA state target  25

Capacity (details to be confirmed):

  • Current plans show 27 homerooms in the Cascadia building. So we start with a deficit of 3. 
  • According to the document the maximum portables on the site is only 4 a reduction from the previous number reported (What happened to the other 2?). 

Official Analysis of the site:

None of the stated reasons is completely compelling.

  • The MUP is not binding. The district routinely exceeds them in other buildings and the capacity is changed as portables are added.
  • The gym situation is no worse than the current one at Lincoln and probably a bit better.
  • The long term capacity issue doesn't mandate immediate action. Is this an emergency next year?
  • Fully utilizing buildings like Decatur seems neither here nor there.

However, the two biggest problems remain unanswered:

  • The core space is only for 660. With 4 portables would the school fit all the students for even 1 year?  We won't completely know the true enrollment numbers until this spring.
  • Are there any portables available given the other needs in the district and can the district afford them? Its quite possible there are cost savings to the split.  You balance the extra staff  needed vs. the portable costs and the additional state funds for lower class sizes that the split would earn.
And finally even if the we could wedge all the kids in next year if they won't fit within 1-2 years more should the district be proactive now or delay? The biggest risk of delaying is that the options may be much worse by then. There are alternate proposals for all the buildings being discussed. Its entirely imaginable they could all be claimed.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

October '16 Open Thread

Brain Power Event at UW Robinson Center

"On Sunday, October 30, the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the University of Washington Robinson Center are co-sponsoring a one-day event featuring fun, hands-on learning opportunities for academically advanced students and engaging discussions for parents and educators about pressing issues in gifted education ranging from curriculum to college readiness to the unique challenges faced by advanced learners.
This event is designed for academically advanced students in kindergarten through 12th grade and their families, and educators of all backgrounds. Join us for this opportunity to hear from leaders in the field of gifted education and to learn more about helping your child shine.  
Space is limited. RSVP
CTY Talent Search
Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth"

What the end state of Equity looks like in San Francisco

"San Francisco’s mayor, spurred by city supervisors, has sided with parents in a math war waged against the school district, setting aside city money to help motivated students accelerate through Algebra 1, officials said Wednesday.
The school district’s current sequence of math courses makes Algebra 1 a ninth-grade course, even though private schools and many other public school districts offer students the option of taking algebra in middle school, putting them on a track to take calculus senior year.
Frustrated parents have accused the district of dumbing down math, leaving advanced students bored and behind their peers enrolled elsewhere. Parents petitioned the district last year, submitting more than 1,000 signatures to restore Algebra I to the middle school curriculum."

What's on your minds?

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 5th Board Work Session on Advanced Learning

This Wednesday the board of directors will having a working session on Advanced Learning:

Calendar Item:
Agenda Location:

Updated Official Agenda:

  • Work Session: Advanced Learning 5:30pm* 
  •  Mission 
  •  Excerpts from ‘Equity’ Policy 0030 & HCC/Advanced Learning Policy 2190 
  • Research 
  • MTSS 
  • Enrollment/Testing/Notification 
  • Data 
  • Discussion
If you follow the agenda link above, there is some racial demographic data at the end of the slides.

This is both an opportunity and a risk given the current climate and the as always tepid support for the program. In advance of the meeting I thought I'd set out a framework of areas that I'd like to see the board consider:

  • Goals - What is the purpose of our HCC program within the context of what the state law mandates?  Do we have multiple populations we want to reach with different needs? Does highly capable mean intrinsic ability or current achievement levels?
  • Testing And Identification - How can we simplify and improve the current process? Can we do universal screening? Can we return to testing in school?
  • Curriculum - How can we find funds and a structure to make this a reality? If its not possible what do we see the program offering? What do the current participants think at the various grade levels?
  • Delivery Models  - What does the research say is most effective? 
  • Governance structure - What can we change in the way the entire program is run to more effectively improve it?
I'd like to open this up to everyone else's ideas. What do you think should be discussed and what directions do you want the program to go?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cascadia Capacity Scenarios

I'm going to try to assemble all the data, pros and cons of the various scenarios here. I'll add on whatever we find out. There are lots of hard choices to be made here unfortunately and some of them affect other groups in the district.

Official SPS Link

"Seattle Public Schools is excited to open three schools at the Wilson-Pacific site in 2017-18, Cascadia Elementary, Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, and Licton Springs K-8. Cascadia is temporarily located in the former Lincoln High School building with Licton Springs K-8 and serves students in the Highly Capable Cohort.
Cascadia’s new building is planned to have a capacity of approximately 660 seats, which is not sufficient to serve all of the students currently at Cascadia given the growth the school has experienced.
The district is reviewing potential options for serving all of the current and future students who will attend Cascadia. Representatives from Capital, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, Advanced Learning, and School Supports have met to discuss potential options given available building space across the district and the capacity challenges across the district.
The District’s Capacity Management Task Force will be discussing this topic at its next meeting on September 14, 2016, 12-1:30 p.m. and there will be additional community meetings to review and share possible options for meeting the needs of the current and future Highly Capable identified students and their families.
Decisions on an additional site to accommodate all of the students at Cascadia will be made prior to Open Enrollment, which begins in mid-February 2017. The district currently anticipates the following timeline for Board review on this decision.
Board Timeline:
November 17, 2016: Board Action Report presented at Operations Committee. 
December 7, 2016: Board Action Report presented to Board for Introduction.
January 4, 2016: Board Action Report presented to Board for Action."

Currently Cascadia has an enrollment of 750 (30 homerooms) and its projected to grow into the 800's.

Growth: 5 year growth projections
Heat Map: Eligible MapEnrolled Map  (About 120 are eligible but not enrolled in the NE)

Status Quo

Cascadia was built with a capacity of 660 under the old classroom size standards and 550 under the new ones. It has space for 6 portables. The current cohorts are largest in 3rd grade (8 home rooms). If this continues there will need to be at least 2-4 more classrooms even at current student/teacher ratios.

Total Seats (assuming 25/portable):  810 or 700. This assumes no portables are needed for the other programs on the site.

Cons:  Strain on core facilities including child care spaces, bathrooms, lunch room, playground similar to at Lincoln but in a much smaller building.  Also if a split occurs, the classroom sizes at Cascadia will be smaller and some of the special-ed flex spaces will be used as intended rather than as classrooms. This may be a significant improvement in the educational experience for many students especially 2e ones.

Blue prints:
(look towards the end of the slide deck)
Note: Rina has said there are 27 homerooms currently designed in the new building.

Most of my thinking is predicated around the assumption that the number of students will totally overrun this site and a split will happen no matter what so we need to find the most orderly least-worst alternative.

That said, starting a new program in a building is hard and requires a lot of parent effort to create all the supports that exist in the current ones, like after school programs, a PTA, muscial instrument instruction etc.  For reference our smallest HCC site at Fairmount Park has about 164 students but the recommended cohorts size is 2 classes per grade.

Cohousing has its own separate issues with integrating populations and sharing resources.

Decatur Building

This is the official staff preferred alternative. Originally the proposal was to move 150 students over
to the site.

History:   "Stephen Decatur Elementary School opened in September 1961 with a K-5 enrollment of 326."  Note despite rumors it appears to not have been built as a K-2. 


Homerooms: 13-15 Its unclear if the 15 includes the library or not. Bear in mind at least 2 rooms need to be used for PCP (art/music) and a special ed resource room.
Condition2014 Assessment (See page: 716)   There are a set of improvements like replacing windows/door/sprinkler systems that are recommended. I can't find any evidence of it ever being condemned but given that money has continually been invested that's probably a moot point.
Capacity:  At 20-25 per room somewhere around the 200's.
Staffing: At this size:   .5 secretary. .5 librarian, .2 nurse etc.  (see: WSS formulas on page 30
Principal: Could this be run by John Miner (principal of Thornton Creek) jointly? That would raise the school size and allow pooling of resources like the nurse or library.
Neighborhood Opposition: I'd expect a fair amount given the previous resistance to building the new Thornton Creek building and how this would drive traffic and students on the site up even higher.
Limited Expansion: I have to confirm this but I doubt any portables can be added to the site.

Cedar Park/Olympic Hills

Either of these two buildings have been floated as possibilities in the past. Last June I asked if they were still on the table and was told no. As currently configured the extra space exists at the Olympic Hills site. This could easily be shifted to Cedar Park depending on how you draw the attendance zones. 

Note: The NNE community is concerned about the current Cedar Park catchment zone since it draws a mostly FRL population and are pushing for the district to reconsider it.

Capacity: 300 seats are unused. Cedar Park has space for around 340 officially but  that requires 8 portables. It appears to have about 12 homerooms from the blue prints. 
Busing: Either building is in the far NE corner of the city and less centrally located.  This somewhat mitigated by pulling students only from the Eckstein or JAMS reference area.
Facilities: Cedar Park is a landmarked building and is being renovated without a dedicated library:  Olympic Hills is bigger and more full featured. Either one is going to be in better condition than the Decatur building.
Long Term Viability: This would likely not be a stable scenario at Olympic Hills given rising school age populations in the reference zone. There's a good chance of another migration within a few years. Cedar Park probably has more viability.

Thurgood Marshall

I've heard scenarios floated with Queen Anne and Magnolia being switched to Thurgood Marshall.
Capacity: May 2016 enrollment: 516.    Official SPS Capacity: 534   

So this is realistically only possible if you added portables on the site or shifted students. The building is essentially full.


This is the back to the future alternative since the program was housed there from the 1970's through 1997.

Capacity:   Enrollment May 2016 (294)  Official SPS Capacity: 352. This cap limit one seems off based on historical population at the school which has been around 450 without portables.

Cons:  Any move of the north end population will likely depress enrollment based on how the program grew when moved closer.  Not even on the official table.

Other Capacity Adjustments to decrease population size:

  • Serve only 3-5 in self-contained classrooms.
  • Tighten requirements. This usually tends to cut against efforts to increase diversity.
  • Provide a compelling alternative on site in the reference area schools like what Spectrum  provided.  Some quick practical considerations: the district just worked hard to dismantle self contained Spectrum classrooms so this would represent a huge reversal. That doesn't make it impossible but all the institutional pressure against is still there. Secondly, I'm not sure if  space exists given the rising enrollments to exactly recreate the old system. Its also unlikely families would transfer back in such cases vs. less families joining initially.  So it would take longer to alleviate the immediate Cascadia issues.