Questions Remain in Final School Closure Recommendations

APP students might be moving to Thurgood Marshall Elementary

Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson made her final recommendations for school closures last night. Probably the most unsettling idea that remains on her list is the splitting up of elementary and middle students in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP). Half of those students currently placed at Lowell Elementary will move to Thurgood Marshall, and half of Washington Middle School's APP students will move to Hamilton. APP families have long opposed having these cohorts broken up, believing that a stronger program results from having a big pool of high-achieving kids. Goodloe-Johnson explains her move by saying that moving some of these programs into new schools will improve access to them. There are some workability questions she has not addressed however.

Among them: How will the district avoid the have and have-not scenario at Thurgood Marshall by having mostly white, middle class APP students in a program that is separate from the mostly minority, low-income students that are there now? This has been a problem that has plagued other schools-within-schools like Garfield and Washington. (Moving half of Washington's APP cohort to Hamilton doesn't seem to solve that problem for Washington, but it doesn't create quite the same kind of problem at Hamilton, which already has a significant middle class population.)

Thurgood Marhall has struggled academically, with only 36 percent of last year's 4th graders passing the reading section of the WASL, compared to 76 percent of 4th graders in the district at large. It is in the first stage of sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law (although as my story today points out, those sanctions are not as threatening as they seem). And students there wear uniforms. Will the APP students placed there? That would be a cultural shift.

It will be interesting to see what happens to APP enrollment. The terrible economy might have more private school families thinking about their public school options. But the upset to the program might also make them uneasy.

In any case, the School Board still has to vote on the recommendations January 29th.

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