Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seattle parents fighting school closures

Please post your thoughts on the below in the comments section:

Dear Kate,
I came across your school blog as I was doing some research to help fight the proposed closure of my son's school in Seattle, and I wondered if you might know of any parents who could offer their thoughts on the GATE program in San Francisco. I'm the mom of a 7-year-old in Seattle who has been attending the public elementary that draws gifted kids from around the city. Now that school is slated to close, and I'm trying to gather as much information as possible about what parents think about the public gifted programs in their own cities. I'd be grateful for any information you might be able to send my way.
Cam Zarcone


  1. Cam, You would do better to speak with parents in NYC. In SF there is a sense that there are no inherently gifted kids, just some who are more advantaged than others. We do not have any separate schools for gifted kids as does NYC. We do have one academic high school, Lowell, that draws high achievers. A separate school for "gifted" kids would be a non-starter in SF.

  2. BTW, I hear from my SIL in Seattle that the identification of gifted kids there is far more rigorous than in SF and involves 1-on-1 IQ testing with a district psychologist. Our GATE criteria in SF are much looser.

  3. How about the Bill and Melinda Gates (no pun inteneded) Foundation?

    I believe their foundation believes in supporting education, not just for those on the bottom rung, whether disadvantaged or not naturally gifted, as well as those who are gifted and need a more challenging environment/curriculum.

    Just curious what the Seattle alternative is for these kids -- would it be to set up GATE program in each school or to do away with the whole idea altogether, sort of like SF - we don't want to spend money on the Gifted ones because they'll just cause a bigger Achievement Gap problem.

  4. just a factoid: There used to be separate GATE classes in some SFUSD schools starting from kindergarten. I have no idea how many schools; I know Lakeshore had one, as of the late '70s I think.

    To me that seems a bit early to ID who's gifted and brand those who aren't.

    I'm sorry Seattle is having this troubling and stressful controversy!

    That said, here's a generic comment on the issue of school closures. I have no idea what the issues are in Seattle, of course.

    There are times when closing a school is the fiscally prudent -- even necessary -- thing to do, mainly when enrollment drops and all the kids at all schools are sacrificing to keep a school open when there aren't enough kids to fill all the schools. That's one of those times when being a school board member is even more hellish than usual (sorry, Rachel...)

    Determining which schools to close is a huge controversial issue. In SFUSD, these criteria have been applied: low and dropping achievement; low and dropping enrollment. Seems like it makes sense. Yet that means that schools in low-income neighborhoods are the ones to be closed, disrupting the lives of the most vulnerable kids. But the alternative is closing schools that are successful by the above measures -- so what's the answer?

    Again, this is a generic comment since the topic came up; I know nothing about the Seattle situation.

  5. The missing criteria in the last go-round of SF closures was geography. The school board needs to ensure that every neighborhood has a school(s) even if they are not as successful as other schools.

    If I remember right, Rosa Parks was on the last list, but was given a reprieve because that would leave a large part of Western Addition with no school (since they were also closing John Swett.) Instead they transferred JBBP West there, and now the school seems to be on the upswing.

    Is the problem in Seattle that the GATE magnet school is underenrolled, or is it a philosophical equity issue? That would make a big difference in the outcome. Possibly merging two programs, or moving the GATE program to a different site might be persuasive. Lots of SF schools have turned around by bringing in a language immersion program, etc.

  6. My understanding is the gifted program in Seattle is being moved to a different location (actually to two different locations), not shut down.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. The term Gifted in SF should only be spoken in a hushed tone. Some people say "All children are gifted." I came across this post after my hundreth search for a school for one of my children who happens to be profoundly gifted. It is frustrating that all children are not given the same opportunities to learn at their own pace and gifted children are definately left out in the cold in SF.