Wednesday, April 18, 2012

School Assignment

A few weeks ago we sent in our forms to enroll Iris in public school for the 2012-2013 school year.

Let me back track a bit and explain how SPS (Seattle Public Schools) works. The year Iris started Kindergarten (2009) was the last year SPS used a "choice" based model. Children weren't guaranteed a spot at any particular school in your reference area (each reference area has, I would guess, about 10 schools or so), even the school that was closest to your home. You had to fill out an enrollment form and list your school choices in order and send it in, then the district would use some crazy formula for deciding what school your kid would go to. By the time Eloise started school the district had switched over to a model of guaranteeing all children a spot at their reference school. Boundaries were drawn and if you lived in the boundary of that school, your child gets in, period. You could ask to have your child assigned to another school in the area and were allowed to go there if space permitted.

There are good and bad points to this system. The best point being that you now knew where your kid was guaranteed a spot and if you live in the reference area for a school you want, you are golden. There are lots of negatives, however. Many families who had enrolled older children in schools that didn't end up being their reference school (by choice or by force) are now having younger siblings in the awful situation of not getting a spot at the same school as their older sibling. Siblings get priority, but they are still only allowed to enroll after all of the kids who are assigned to that school. My friend, for instance, just found out her daughter is number 11 on the waiting list to get her in to her older daughter's school. The younger daughter was assigned to the reference school, instead.

Now, the one thing is that if a family finds themselves in this situation they can pull the older child out of their established school and send them to the reference school. Not ideal, at all, but at least your kids have a chance of being together. Last year my other friend went through agony waiting to hear what would happen with her youngest of three being waitlisted for her two older children's school. Luckily her child got in, eventually. But the wait and stress is, well, incredibly stressful. If I recall, she wouldn't have pulled her older kids out and moved them. Her oldest was in her last year of grade school!

So, here's the other thing. My first friend, with the daughter at number 11, has her older daughter at one of the most sought-after schools in our reference area. Her younger daughter was assigned to another one of our sought-after schools. If she moved her older daughter, it would result in over-enrolling of that school (a school which is already over-crowded in the first place!). The insane thing is that they would over-enroll my friend's second choice, the school her older daughter isn't at, but they won't over-enroll the school her daughter is established at. Well, let me back-track. That school, as far as I have heard, is also already over-enrolled. That is kind of what is happening with this new model of being guaranteed a spot at your reference school-- schools have to enroll these kids, even if it crowds the school.

That sounds a little jumbled, so how's this: Older kid is at over-enrolled school A. Younger kid is assigned to school B. Older kid can switch to school B, but younger kid won't be allowed to enroll at school A. Both A and B schools are over-enrolled.

Let me get to why I am writing this in the first place, which is that we filled out an enrollment application for Iris to get in to her sister's school. Since Eloise doesn't go to our reference school, we knew it would be a nail-biter as we waited for the assignment. That came Monday and guess what? Iris is waitlisted. Number one on the list, but still waitlisted. It's a little bit different in that Iris is applying for an older grade, where I think there isn't as much movement as there is for incoming kindergartners, but it's a similar dilemma. Remember school B, from the scenario above? The popular over-crowded one? Well, that's our reference school, too. Instead of putting Iris in Eloise's school, even if it means over-enrolling that classroom, they put her at over-enrolled school B. We can pull Eloise from her school to send her to school B, too. Of course that would result in even further over-enrolling of school B. BOTH of my kids would be put in to classrooms where they were no longer in control of the numbers.

It just doesn't make any sense to me. I know SPS needs to have a plan in place, but so many families are being affected by this. Children should be allowed to go to the school where their siblings are, period. End of story.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve about how to proceed with all of this, but none of them guarantees the outcome we want. For that, the most we can do is sit and wait and cross our fingers that a family leaves the school. If that happens, Iris will get that spot.

A lot of people around me are quite optimistic about the situation, but me? Not so much. I am stressed beyond belief by all of this. Continuing to home school Iris is an option, but not our favorite. Iris is ready to go back to school. *I* am ready for her to go back to school, but I wouldn't just send her to any school over homeschooling. I don't yet know if school B is a viable option for her. I jokingly considered it when I thought there was no chance she wouldn't get in to Eloise's school, but now I have to be more serious about it. I won't switch Eloise. Eloise has the best teacher in the world and I am not  moving her! I could enroll Iris at school B and wait for a spot to open, but at that point, do you switch a kid-- again? Iris needs to be in a situation where she can establish herself. Clearly I have a lot to consider, all while keeping my fingers crossed.

MAP Testing

Last week Iris took the MAP test for the first time. MAP stands for Measurement of Academic Progress and it is a widely administered standardized test given to students. I know the Seattle Public School district uses this particular test. I *think* they do it twice a year, but don't know for sure.

The reason Iris had to take this test was that the virtual public school, CVA, that Iris is enrolled in requires each child to take some standardized test. I chose MAP since that is what she will be doing when she is a public school student.

Iris took the test from home and we had to specially set up our computer to be able to take the test. At a pre-aranged time we logged on and the proctor set it all up and Iris worked at her own pace. We were given an hour and I think Iris each test in about 20 minutes, which is true to fashion for her. The first day she did math, the second day she did reading. Taking the test at home has some pros and cons, the first day was nice and quiet and she worked at the kitchen table. The next day I had two people at our house doing fix-it jobs and I was running around like a lunatic trying to get ready for a trip I was going on. Not the ideal working conditions!

When I got the results I was actually surprised that they were completely in line with the results of Iris's intelligence testing. When they do the intelligence testing a lot of it is kind of abstract, so I didn't know how it would translate to a test of actual questions about information Iris had learned. THAT kind of testing is more about what I had taught her and what amount of information she had retained! Alas, the scores completely made sense, so I was relieved. I am also relieved knowing that Iris is at or above what she is supposed to know for her grade level, phew! I haven't ruined her this year! Ha ha.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reports and updates

Okay, keeping up over here is clearly not happening this year. Phooey!

As usual, much has been going on. I'll start with Eloise.

Last week Eloise was sent home with her second report card. I wonder if it is this way for other schools, but instead of getting graded A, B, C, etc, she gets 1, 2, 3, etc. As I sit here I am thinking that 1 is low and 5 is extremely high. Eloise got mostly 3's and then a couple of 4's. Since she isn't really graded on things being right and wrong, she is more graded on how well she is grasping material, how well she is moving along as she should, how well she gets along with other kids. Her first report card landed her a 2 in "Civics" which is basically understanding and following the classroom rules. We are happy to report she has moved up to a 3! ha ha. So, basically, zero concerns. Eloise has such a love for learning, it is crazy. The other day she said to me "I just want to learn how to read so bad!" (or something like that). She is working so, so, so hard to learn to read. And she loves math and science, and, well, pretty much everything. She has a lot of enthusiasm and that, more than anything, is going to get her places in life.

I also found out that last November Eloise took a MAP test (Measures of Academic Progress). I was a little annoyed that this was the first I had heard about it, but luckily the teacher knew it was a pretty poor judge of how much these little guys really know. It was more about just learning to take a test.

One afternoon when Iris and I were volunteering in her classroom we got to help with a science unit about ramps and balls. The kids were working in groups of three to make their own ramps out of cardboard tubes and other odds and ends. One boy in her group designated himself as being in charge of the scissors. Since scissors weren't once needed, he spent the whole time goofing off with another friend. Eloise and another girl worked so well together on their ramp. They problem-solved, shared ideas, collaborated, celebrated their successes and overall had a really fun time on the project. It was neat to see all of this coming out in her. It doesn't seem like that long ago she was overcome with frustration and acting out over every little thing. Of course, at home? Still blowing her fuse. But she is doing so beautifully at school and it is awesome.

Iris is also doing really well!

The past month brought with it a huge amount of stress over what the right school program would be for her next year. We went around and around and finally decided on applying for her to get in to Eloise's school. We will find out in a couple of weeks if she gets in or not. If she doesn't, I honestly don't know what plan B is.

Homeschool is fine. We are plugging along and mostly enjoying it. I think more than anything we are just bored. I still haven't quite figured out how to manipulate our current curriculum in to something challenging for Iris so we often slog through things that, while interesting, aren't really sparking that much interest. The social studies piece of the curriculum is really boooooring. I am having flashbacks to how much I hated social studies in grade school and I see now that it can really be quite dry. If I were a more imaginative teacher I would figure out a way around this, but alas, I am not. If I were to do it again I would buy a separate social studies curriculum.

We also have a lot of other things going on every week, like appointments, classes, and the babysitter being here, so luckily we don't spend very much time every day laboring over books and worksheets at home.

Every 20 lessons in Iris's curriculum she takes a test and then submits some writing samples to an advisory service that is provided with the curriculum. She also gets graded on a 1, 2, 3 level. Overall she is doing perfectly in everything. The one annoying piece is that Iris has tremendously sloppy handwriting . . . when she doesn't care very much about what she is writing. I wish I could submit random pieces of things she has written because when it is HER idea her handwriting is fine! Ugh! One of the annoyances of being a teacher is knowing how much more a child is capable of, I suppose. Last week Iris had an idea to write a play because a picture book we got from the library was written like a play. It was so beautiful! I know that those bits of writing are likely so much more important to her education than random stuff she is forced to draw for her composition lessons, but I still wish she could carry her attention to detail over in to her school work.

Next week Iris will take a MAP test from home. It is required through the online school she is enrolled in and I don't really care very much about it either way. It might be nice to know where she is at, but I am not sure the results will really be that interesting one way or another. Just feels like another hoop to jump through, mostly. Of course, in public school she will be required to take this test every year, so it is definitely a good thing to practice.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to share on this post, so that makes it pretty boring. I wish I was better about documenting things! Some day.