Monday, March 14, 2016

Choosing a Middle School

We've done a High School and Elementary School Thread. By request of a parent, this is a thread for Middle School for those still struggling to make a decision.

We are trying to decide where to send our daughter for Middle School . She qualified for HCC in Kindergarten but we have kept her at Wedgwood. We live walking distance to Eckstein and many of her friends will go there. However, two of her closest friends will be at JAMS and the teachers seem to be universally great there. I have not heard the same of Eckstein. She may do music but that is not certain. She is very into reading, writing and drama.
Any advice for the parent from those who know either or both of the schools? Feel free to add any other MS questions here as well.

29 comments :

NE mom said...

I'm curious about your daughter's experience staying at a neighborhood school while being HCC qualified. Could you share your experience on how rigorous it was academically. Once they start middle school, she will be automatically placed in HCC. Are you concerned about the jump to now being two years ahead?

Anonymous said...

We had a very similar situation, child stayed in View Ridge through 5th grade, and we chose between Eckstein where the majority of friends were, and Jane Addams, with a couple of friends and great teachers, more advanced math. There were bumps from being a brand new school last year, but this year everything is very smooth. He now is very glad we chose how we did, but is still considering rejoining the neighborhood friends at Roosevelt.

JAMS mom

Wedgwood Mom said...

Thank you for your replies. We have had varying degrees of challenge for my daughter at the neighborhood school. This year has been her best year yet. The Principal at Wedgwood tried something new this year and has all three 5th grade classes rotating for between three teachers for all subjects. My daughter has a small cohort that she travels with during the rotation. She is very happy and seems adequately challenged. She is in Spectrum Math but Math is not her strongest subject so one year ahead seems fine.
I know others who have moved their kids from Wedgwood Spectrum to JAMS HCC and they have been successful and able to keep up with the work and the level of learning expected.

So, Anonymous, do you think that if Math is not my daughter's strongest subject, Eckstein would still be a good choice for her? I communicated with the principal at Eckstein and they do still offer Spectrum Language Arts, despite rumors to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

I honestly think you have two very good choices, and I'm guessing your daughter will do well in either. Is the option to follow the HCC path in high school important? It seems unlikely that the Garfield path will be open for our 5th graders, but at the moment you have to be in the HCC middle school to access it.

JAMS

Anonymous said...

We're trying to decide between HCC at Hamilton and shifting to private with UPrep or Seattle Academy. We've been in APP/HCC since first grade, and have been happy at Lincoln, though wish we saw more math challenge. We're in the NW so we'd be at Hamilton only one year and then move to Eaglestaff, under the current plan. Concerned about consistency and challenge in curriculum and large classes if we continue with HCC. Also with possibility of getting pulled midstream into Lincoln when it reopens. On the other option, concerned about whether either of the privates will do a good job for advanced learners. Happy for any input, especially to hear about relevant experience from others.

--- NW 5th grade mom

Anonymous said...

Reading, writing and drama are stronger in Eckstein. But in the end, it all boils down to which teacher you get.
-MS parent

Anonymous said...

If the problem at Lincoln was really lack of challenge, UPrep and SAAS will be worse. Especially SAAS- it is a great school for a lot of things, but STEM challenge is not what they are trying to do there. The extra curriculars will be much better, obviously, and it may be well worth it for the individual attention your student can get in specific subject areas. We were in one of those for middle school, and decided to come back to public for high school. We did know some APP families who were very happy, but I think it's good to know you're making a trade off.

Oldie

Anonymous said...

@NW 5th grade mom,

Also know that Hamilton is likely to be VERY overcrowded next year. It's already beyond capacity--overfilled classes, not enough lockers (and no space to add more), etc.--but they expect to have an additional 100 or so students next year. The district is looking at various options to deal with it, including the possibility of putting portables on the already-small blacktop (and the school does not have a field), moving a cohort of HCC kids (possibly those who will be Eagle Staff-bound), etc. There aren't any great solutions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this feedback. It confirms what we've been thinking. The overcrowding and (from what I can judge) the lack of any clear sense of an HCC curriculum at the middle school level is what has us worried. Yes, we do think it's quite possible we would return to public for high school (though I think we'd have to re-apply then to get into HCC…. is that right?). Just worried about structure and churn in middle school. As for the challenge, it has only been math that has really bugged my kid. In general, Lincoln has been good. Engaging but never too much work or too hard. (In case anyone is wondering about the obvious, we applied to Lakeside but were not accepted.) So we are trying to weigh the trade-offs.

--- NW 5th grade mom

Anonymous said...

If your child wants to do IBX for high school they will have to test in again during the 8th grade. If they want to do the typical IB (11th and 12th grade) or attend your neighborhood high school of course no testing would be required.

pm said...

NW 5th grade mom--

Post your question on the Cascadia Facebook page and I'm sure that you will get responses from parents of UPrep and SAAS students.

Anonymous said...

Curriculum at UPrep is amazing after being in SPS with very little "curriculum". Language arts and science have been great. Math isn't pushing my kid, but b/c the other things definitely are, it's been nice to have a year that math wasn't the most mind-expanding thing ever. Also love that kid can take an elective, PE and foreign language b/c the schedule is more flexible. We were feeling down about losing PE in middle school if kid took other electives.

Esp. given the turbulence and instability in HCC, I'd go w/UPrep. Much easier than crossing downtown to SAAS by the way. My sanity is much improved too.

Anonymous said...

What about the Catholic middle schools? Or Lake Washington Girls Middle School? I'm curious to know how those schools compare to HCC? They are significantly cheaper than Prep and SAAS.

Janet said...

6th grade math at UPrep was mostly a repeat of what was learned in APP math, but 7th grade math has been much better because high-performing 7th graders take algebra. Most other students take algebra in 8th grade. My son absolutely loves the school, has developed some strong friendships, and has enjoyed the emphasis that school places on social justice. Classes are small and teachers respond quickly to any issues/concerns.

Anonymous said...

We are another family that went from Lincoln/Cascadia to U prep for middle school, and we have also been very happy. We appreciate the depth and intentionality of the curriculum, the improved communication, and the way the school emphasizes academics but also community, social awareness/justice, physical health and the arts. You will not get a specific emphasis on acceleration there but we have no regrets about opting for a much richer overall experience compared to APP/HCC. Good luck with your decision.

Anonymous said...

Funny, this describes our experience at TOPS for middle school -

"The way the school emphasizes academics but also community, social awareness/justice, physical health and the arts"

But they also have the best science around and an amazing language arts teacher.

Anonymous said...

How is that helpful? There are no openings at TOPS.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how difficult it is to get into Hazel Wolf in 6th grade as a spectrum student? Without geozone/sibling priority?

-hw_prospie

CLS said...

A few quick thoughts...
My kid also stayed in our NE neighborhood school and is HCC qualified. His little brother is at Cascadia so I have both vantage points of "ALO" vs. HCC.

Went to open houses at both Eckstein and JAMS. I didn't hear the teachers speak at Eckstein as they didn't structure the presentations like they did at JAMS which was very well organized. But knowing so many families who have gone to Eckstein, I have a decent sense of the consensus--everyone I talk to about Eckstein seems happy with the program. The teachers seem to admire/respect the new principal very much. There are all levels of math there that can handle HCC kids evidently. With the decrease in crowding since JAMS opened up, people are much happier as well. At JAMS, I was able to hear the teachers give their spiel at the open house and, like others have said, was deeply impressed. I wasn't the only one as a number of friends who went there that night all came out of talks with their eyes shining. You just know quality when you see it. The math teachers, who were all women, explained that kids not at Cascadia typically would skip 6th grade math and immediately start 7th grade math, then skip 8th grade math and do algebra in 7th grade. Depending on 5th grade teacher recommendation and test scores. Sounded like sort of an accelerated skipping ahead but they said it worked really well. Also the electives at JAMS are fantastic. I'm going off memory here but I believe there are 5 levels of band, 3-4 levels of orchestra, 2 of choir, drama, journalism, sculpture/painting type arts, a stem/engineering class, 2 world languages -- spanish and french which is available to 6th graders, and I'm missing some more. Also was told that the teachers love their JAMS principal. The place had a great vibe. So overall I don't think that there are bad choices at all, HCC gives you more choices for high school pathways and a different cohort.

CLS

WedgwoodMom said...

In answer to HW prospie...my son is a 7th grader at Hazel Wolf. I was told by the principal that there will be 15 spots for 6th graders in the fall. First priority goes to siblings. I know of some incoming siblings but don't know how many there will be. I don't think the Spectrum has much relevance any more there but I could be wrong. There is one up or two up math but the LA classes are all mixed Spectrum and non. Your child can elect to do honors but it is not much more than what the other kids are doing. My daughter was adamant about not wanting to go there (too small for her) so we are now trying to choose between JAMS and Eckstein, hence my previous posts:-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the topic. My daughter's K teacher requested that she be tested also but we have kept her at our neighborhood school. She's in 4th now, so next year we will have to make a middle school decision. She is just now starting to say that she is a bit bored and would like more of a "challenge". I told her we could check out the HCC middle school choice next year. I'm not thrilled about the idea because it is much larger and more crowded than our neighborhood middle school- and not as close to home.
Her older brother has been at neighborhood middle school and we have been very happy with it.

Anonymous said...

I was just doing some research on the SPS site and did notice, which you all probably already know that in order for her to go to HC high school she has to attend HC middle for 8th grade. So there's that to consider. I was not aware of this. When is the enrollment period for us next year if we decide to attend our HC middle?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:11, that's partially correct. You are correct that you don't have access to the Garfield HC pathway in that case, but you CAN apply for the HC (IBX) program at Ingraham even if you don't go to a HC middle school. It's a separate application process, with different criteria and requirements.

But in reality, high school is a long way off for your daughter, and much will likely change by then. Most suspect that the Garfield HC pathway will be eliminated before long, due to overcrowding. By the time your d starts HS, the new Lincoln HS will be open and Ingraham will have added 500 spots, so high school zones and pathways may look very different across the entire district.

Re: middle school HC enrollment, first you have to first apply for testing. The applications are usually due in early October. Then you go through the required testing process and, if you get in and get word prior to open enrollment (usually Feb.), you indicate your HC middle school then (although you can also delay your decision a bit and still get in).

Anonymous said...

My daughter has been tested, she qualifies for HCC but she has been at our neighborhood school.

Thanks for the information about changes coming down the road.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is HC eligible, but has been reluctant to leave Wedgwood. Recently she expressed a desire to change to Cascadia HCC as her best friend is going. It is after open enrollment. How does it work? Is she guaranteed a spot or will she be on a waitlist because we would be enrolling after the open enrollment period?

Would appreciate any comments from anyone who has been in the same situation. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's not too late! According to SPS, "Open Enrollment (February 17-March 1, 2016) is the best opportunity to request a different school or program for your student. However, school choice applications for 2016-17 may be submitted through May 31, 2016."

Anonymous said...

I believe HCC placement is guaranteed through May 31st.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! She's in 4th, so it's not a decision we need to make until next year. It's nice that we have that long to make it.
The neighborhood middle school is McClure, which while also crowded is about half the size of Hamilton.

Wedgwood Mom said...

I am in the final throes of making a decision and wonder above all what the social climate is for girls at Eckstein vs JAMS? From what I have heard, it seems that JAMS is a kinder place, especially for a girl who stands out as different. But I have also heard that JAMS has an element of bullying by tough kids that I have heard not heard of at Eckstein.Does anyone have any feedback on this?

Also, I am trying to uncover the difference between HCC Language Arts at JAMS and Advanced Learning Language Arts at Eckstein. Is there much difference? Do the projects go much deeper at JAMS? Thanks in advance!