Thurgood Marshall / Social Studies
Most of the meeting revolved around a discussion of minority representation in the program. The staff rep from Thurgood Marshall volunteered to extemporaneously talk about what's going on in the building and in addition a parent who participated in the Race and Equity Committee came and added some thoughts. There have been a series of race and equity conversations that have been ongoing since last year among the TM community. First, kids in the 4th/5th grade student council complained about being labeled. In addition, during what was described as an uncomfortable meeting, parents from the building also expressed dissatisfaction that HCC was elitist/racist. Side Note: if you were following the recent Blanford/Peters exchange see: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2016/04/highly-capable-work-session.html#more this is very relevant. So the Race and Equity Committee was formed to explore how to better integrate the student body and also to explore the HCC qualification process. Apparently, PCP's i.e. gym/arts/music were too logistically complicated to joint schedule and so the proposal moved to Social Studies which has a non-differentiated curriculum i.e. the 4th graders study the same material in gen-ed and HCC classes. There are still several practical issues here. Social Studies becomes much more academic in nature in 4th-5th grade moving from exploring the local community to WA state history. The HCC kids outnumber the gen-ed ones in the building 3:1 and Social Studies is the most short-changed of all the core subjects in terms of actual time devoted to it. Interestingly, already the 5th graders are doing a UW Philosophy department led class in a blended environment. The teacher mentioned that the principal was very committed to making a blended class happen so he thought this was likely to occur.
At this point, Janine Madaffari the AL representative present pointed out that the policy governing HCC 2190SP explicitly states that all the core academic subjects including Social Studies will be self-contained. I'm not sure on review if I can find this particular language. The closest I see is the "service model is self-contained in Grades 1-5"
Then the parent who was active on the committee by coincidence arrived and spoke a bit. She reiterated the harsh impression of the program from the other members of the building. They apparently are very interested in out reach to minority communities to increase participation in HCC. She explicitly mentioned trying to get parents to the kindergarten orientations at individual schools to give out information and trying to have members of minority communities reaching out to prospective families who have been identified to encourage them to opt in. Most of the speakers present were sympathetic to these goals. There are various restrictions on who can talk to parents and under what conditions. But I see this as the least controversial element of the evening. One interesting statistics mentioned by the staff. Apparently: White/Asian and all other minorities are all admitted at almost the same rates in the initial process ~8% but the appeals process which has an over 50% success rate skews the numbers towards the White/Asian students. It was fairly easy to infer this is driving part of their push to limit them.
Editorial Note: I'm still reserving judgement on whether this affects the integrity of the curriculum or not until I find out more. This along with whether a heterogeneous environment would serve all students well forms the crux of the issue for me. The program's weakness in terms of defining a distinct curriculum particularly in the humanities sadly make these discussions harder to have.
There was also a discussion of the future of the IB program at Ingraham. The recent grant to Rainier Beach (Seattle Times Story) to help out their IB program does not provide a systemic funding solution for the program as a whole. The Ingraham staff rep pointed out all the surrounding districts directly fund their programs and don't rely on parents to raise several hundred thousand dollars or short change the whole school several staff-positions to run the program.
There was some confusion why enrollment was being capped this year even among the staff present. So at this point two issues are still outstanding:
- If a spot Ingraham is not guaranteed there is no clarity on the default pathway if you don't get a spot. AL feels this is governed by enrollment. There needs to be clarity here before the next open enrollment.
- Secondly, We don't have any insight into what is driving enrollment caps.
I believe both functions fall under the heading of the Operations Committee. If you're interested in advocacy this along with the sorry state of the funding would be something to lobby the school board members to improve.
I did a little bit of personal lobbying to see if the HCS advisory committee would send a letter advocating for a minimum cohort size if any splits occur. The response was that a previous task force had already made recommendations. I'm hoping that the committee will still send a letter referencing the previous recommendations during this current decision making process. If you agree you might also talk to your building representative on the committee and make the same request.