It's no surprise that the Seattle Public School district is now talking about effectively closing Rainier Beach High by merging it with Cleveland. The specter of a possible closure has been looming over Rainier Beach for years as its enrollment has dropped ever further and its academic performance has lagged behind the district average. While a merger seems to make sense given the extra capacity in both schools, it's nonetheless fitting to give Rainier Beach some respect (as a commenter to a previous post demanded) before it potentially goes away. Although its performance on the WASL has generally lagged behind the district average, its writing scores -- with 91 percent of students passing last year -- is actually higher than the district average. Among African American students in particular, its scores across the board are higher than the district average. And among all students and all subjects, Rainier Beach beats Cleveland hands down (Rainier Beach's low score on the math WASL, with 28.6 percent of students passing, still surpasses Cleveland's passage rate of 12 percent.)
This despite the infusion into Cleveland of Gates Foundation capital during its "small schools" obsession.
There are good, dedicated teachers in both schools. Despite the current craze to hold teachers "responsible" for their students' academic performance, doing so ignores a wealth of complicated issues that affect children's achievement. Before Rainier Beach gets trashed in ensuing discussions, however, it's worth noting that the idea to move Rainier Beach's population into Cleveland, and not the other way around, is undoubtedly due not to the schools' relative academic performance but the fact that the district just built Cleveland a gorgeous and expensive new building.