Snoqualmie Valley, Is A 9th Grade Campus The Only Solution Or Possibly Part Of A Broader Solution?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about education in the valley.  I’ve progressed to a point of regularly attending school board meetings; something I never thought I’d do amidst the chaos of raising 4 kids.  Somehow I find myself here – one of “those moms” as some lovingly refer to us.

For the record, it wasn’t intentional.  I don’t see myself as a School Board Member.  I’ve never even been a PTA Board Member.  When it comes down to it, I believe I am just a mom; a mom who wants this school district to keep moving forward, challenging itself, setting goals to provide  kids the rigor that will propel them onto successful futures.  Most research states that from an early age children rise to meet expectations.  I like to believe this.

For the first time since I’ve called Snoqualmie Valley home, our school district is talking about progressive change at the high school level.  That change would come in the form of a separate 9th grade campus.  Our new principal says freshman are different from 10th – 12th graders, having unique development needs.  I’ve heard multiple presentations stating how we need to meet this unique need and help 9th graders succeed.  I’ve heard warnings that if at-risk 9th graders don’t have a successful freshman year, we may lose them later in their high school careers to the drop-out phenomenon plaguing our nation.  Our new principal is openly talking about the Mount Si High School dropout rate  – roughly 12%.

I understand what our district is saying.  I commend them for wanting some type of rapid reformation to solve the high school’s dropout problem and boost education.  Yet, I continue wondering if a separate 9th grade campus (something only one other state school district has) is a broad enough solution.  Experts agree that although a small percentage of well-performing middle school students will develop academic problems during their first year in high school, many at-risk 9th graders show signs of needing academic intervention well before high school.  I recently read an article in which one education expert compared the high school dropout problem to a company’s failure during its final year of business.  It’s too simplistic.  Sometimes you have to look at the prior years to see when problems started surfacing.  If those problems are detected earlier, they can often be solved before the company fails.

So I keep wondering, is a separate 9th grade campus the only strategy needed to curb the MSHS dropout rate and boost education?  If a separate 9th grade campus means limiting foreign language opportunities for 9th graders how can this be true?  Many colleges now require 3 years of foreign language.  Schools and advisors say to be in the competitive college applicant pool students should take 4 years of foreign language.  In an ever-increasing global economy, should we not as a district encourage students to become conversation proficient?  It usually takes 4-5 years of foreign language study to achieve this goal.  What if honors and regular classes are forced to combine on a 9th grade campus?  What happens to honors students, many whom require a different learning pace to progress?  Are they slowed down?

What if the solution lies with reassessing our Long Term Facilities Planning Committee’s solution adopted 2 years ago?  That committee’s study ranked a MSHS expansion 24% higher than the SMS annexation under its decision making criteria.  What if we go back to that MSHS expansion solution and extrapolate just the portions now needed to meet our reduced capacity needs?  Two years ago the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee thought we would need a high school expansion that added space for 800-900 students.  That need has since decreased to approximately 550 students.  Based on the committee’s report, an expansion adding a second floor to one MSHS wing would provide the needed capacity to incorporate a Freshman Learning Center on campus, at a cost roughly $20 million less than building a new middle school to transition Snoqualmie Middle School to a separate FLC.

Most 9th grade campus feasibility studies show they work best when located on site of the high school they serve – or much closer than the half mile distance (door to door) of MSHS and SMS.  The closer proximity allows freshman to remain separated, yet still an integral part of their high school.  Keeping MSHS freshman on campus but in their own area also applies the same successful education strategy our middle schools currently use – different grade levels in different school wings.  The building design of CKMS and TFMS exemplify this practice.  SMS works the same way, even in a less than desirable building design.

Should we close a high-performing middle school and make it a 9th grade campus if that school is preparing students better than ever to succeed in high school AND there is no school to replace it yet?  Since SVSD moved to three middle schools, away from 2 over-crowed schools, test scores have risen.  Additionally, last year the number of 9th grade F’s dramatically decreased by half at MSHS.  Some say these statistics show our three middle schools are preparing 9th graders for high school success.  If students perform well freshman year, studies show they are more likely to stay in school and graduate.

Ask yourself Snoqualmie Valley, is a separate 9th grade campus the only solution?  Or could it be part of a broader one that focuses on interventions throughout the entire K-12 system?  One that starts in the early education years and then progresses during middle school.  If students enter 9th grade better than ever prepared to learn and succeed, do they need a separate school?  Or do they need a little of both?  Better prepared with a little separation, yet integrated into Mount Si High School.  Maybe we can combine the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee’s top two solutions, compromise with voters and make it work in a way best for all SVSD students.

Comments

  1. Danna,
    Thank you for writing this article and for pointing out that there are other options besides annexing Snoqualmie Middle School. I agree that having a 9th Grade Campus at Mount Si High School would be much better than having a 9th Grade Campus a half mile away from the High School. It would not only benefit 9th Graders who want to take foreign languages, but also 9th Graders who might want to take math, science, or any other courses that would be offered at the main high school – but not at a separate 9th Grade Campus.

    I also agree that our kids have benefited greatly from having three middle schools – as is shown by their test scores. It would be a huge mistake to go back to a two middle school model. I know many parents in North Bend that will want to recall all the school board members and fire the entire school district administration if they ever try bus half the kids from SMS to Twin Falls Middle School. We love the kids at SMS, but Twin Falls is maxed out.

    I am also glad that you mentioned the high school drop out problem. For several years, our 9th Grade Class has averaged 440 kids. Yet if you follow these 9th Graders for four years, only 330 actually graduate. To me, this is a drop out rate of 25% – much higher than admitted by school district administrators – and the highest grade cohort drop out rate of any East King County School district.

    Finally, I like you analogy to a failed business with the cause starting years earlier. I think the most important thing we can do to reduce the drop out rate is to provide our children with a better school experience while they are in elementary school. This is why I have long advocated for a second elementary school on Snoqualmie Ridge. This would reduce over-crowding at all five of our existing elementary schools and allow small children to attend elementary school closer to their homes.

    I think that over time, kids who attend school closer to their homes will have a better attitude toward school which will increase their success in school and eventually lower the high school drop out rate.

    Keep up the good work.
    Regards, David Spring
    Parent, North Bend

  2. Doug Henderson says

    The only problem is, expanding Mount Si High School, or getting a second Elementary School on the Ridge, would require passing a bond, and the voters of this district don’t pass bonds. We came close a year ago, but the anti-bond sentiment whipped up by David Spring and Carolyn Simpson and others has a way of perpetuating itself.

    • Yes, the voters of this district have had a recent history of not passing bonds – only 1/6 have passed since 2007. Historically, though, the valley does have a strong record of supporting bonds. Does that mean you just stop trying? Or maybe continue looking for the right compromise. I think, if I heard David right, he said he supports my idea…

  3. Doug. You are correct that bonds are hard to pass. However, I doubt that one or two or even three people had anything to do with the failure of the last bonds. In fact, no one really knows who tipped the late vote during the first try; and many more tipped it the second.

    Rather than continue to point fingers and place blame on what has happened, I think it is time to look toward the future and figure out what should happen. There are some good ideas being circulated around right now that merit some further exploration. I have tried diligently to ascertain where the decision was made to continue annexation without a replacement school. I have yet to receive a solid, concrete answer. I also have spent a great deal of time at board meetings and have spent too many hours to count on researching the pros and cons regarding 9th grade campuses. It is interesting to read the various studies and opinions of educators regarding these issues. I would highly recommend spending some time looking into this situation and helping come up with some viable solutions that may serve to make more people across the Valley happy. Only then, when the majority of people feel satisfied, will the “buy-in” you seek to pass bonds begin to occur.

    Just my 2 cents. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  4. I am a mom, and was co-founder and president for two years of the original parent booster group at MSHS, the Wildcat Inspiration Network (WIN). I spent a lot of time over 7 years in the high school. Under Dave Humphrey’s tenure and with the addition of several postive role model instructors as well as strong parent participation, many achievements were made at Mount Si. Not the least of these are that the dropout rate was reduced, more students not only graduated but also went on for post-graduation education, and we became known throughout the region for our talented artists, academics, and athletes.

    There were problems. I created the Fine Arts Showcase, and worked as a parent volunteer in the school throughout the year. I witnessed bullying, intimidation, threats, ridicule, and other negative actions of upper classmen over freshmen students. This occurred in the hallways, the restrooms, on the playing fields, in the school bus line — you name it, it happened.

    Many engaged teachers and I (as a parent) would intervene to break up these interactions. Yet many teachers and parents do not see this as their role to play.

    Since “graduating” with my kids in 1998, I have been in the high school off/on, and have been shocked really at what I see. There’s just too many kids crammed into this school and way too few folks to safeguard them.

    If I were a freshman, I would not want to be in this high school. I really would be scared to death that I would be stuffed into a waste can, or have hair spray or worse sprayed in my eyes, or have my stuff taken from the locker, or be bullied by an upperclassman.

    I would welcome having an academy all to our own, to get acquainted with my peers and build relationships over the course of the year that I can draw upon when I do move into the high school. When the school board announced their review and decision to create the freshman campus, I applauded it.

    I feel freshmen need this year to transition from middle school, meet their peers, mature, get a better sense of who they are and who they want to be, and hit high school with these ideas and relationships cemented in their minds.

    I also feel that without freshmen at MSHS, there will be fewer instances of bullying, detention, fighting, picking on younger students, and dealing with disciplinary actions. This just might free up teachers’ time to do what they do best — teach and mentor.

  5. Thanks for your insights, Karen. I have two students at MSHS right now – 9th grader and 11th grader. Neither of them are/were scared in the least. I actually worried my 9th grader might be, but she loves it – her classes, her friends, being around the upperclassmen who are nice to her.

    I hear from many students there is a big change in attitude at MSHS this year under its new principal. In fact, student school board reps did a big presentation at the last board meeting about all the successful programs happening at MSHS. The PRIDE initiative is having a HUGE positive impact on students and their attitudes toward each other and their school.

    I took the Focus on Education Tour of MSHS in November and was very impressed with the school and the leadership – on both student and staff level. There are great things happening in our high school.

  6. Carolyn Simpson says

    I had children at Mount Si from 2004 to 2010. They loved it, even during the crowded years prior to 2009’s introduction of the portables and the Wildcat Court. They both were also involved in before school and after school classes and activities and spent significant time there mixing in various groupings of students. I also have spent significant time in the school building during my terms on the Learning Improvement Team, Band Boosters, and the Controversial Issues Task Force. The kids are great!

  7. Karen,
    If all 9th Graders were the same, then a separate 9th Grade Campus far from the Main High School would be fine. The problem is that all 9th Graders are NOT the same. Some want to take foreign languages, some want to take math, science, technology, band, whatever. All of these kids would be deprived of the opportunity to excel if they were forced to attend 9th Grade far from the main campus. This is why separate 9th Grade Campuses failed in the Snohomish School District and the Issaquah School District. I personally talked with hundreds of parents in Issaquah who complained strongly about the HARM their 9th Grade Campus inflicted on their children.

    This is why I and thousands of other parents opposed this plan. We warned the prior school board that we would actively oppose any plan which harmed our children. All parents have a right to protect their children and that is what we did. Sadly, the prior school board ignored our concerns and went ahead with a very harmful bond proposal.

    The question now is how to move forward? I have heard about at least five different options that I and hundreds of other parents could support. I agree with others who have said it is hard to pass a bond. But it is much easier to pass a bond which actually helps our kids instead of harming them. My hope is that the new school board will do a better job of listening to the concerns of parents and come up with a plan that more of us can support.
    Regards, David Spring
    Parent, North Bend

  8. Anne Stedman says

    **Friend who is not on FB asked me to cross post my responses to this same article from the FB LS site to this blog. I will add a few more after this.
    ______________________________
    I was on the HS Study Committee that was comprised of teachers, administrators, citizens and students. We met for 7 mths and talked to experts across the state to explore different ideas surrounding what curriculum would work in the SMS building when it was annexed. When we all first met, we did a brain dump of what would be progressive ideas regarding curriculum that could occur in that space. Of the 20+ people on that study committee, when it came to a vote at the end, it was unanimous. And I’ll tell you that one of the most important groups we talked to, and that really opened our eyes, was the High School students. We talked to kids who were in their 5 year of HS, seniors, Juniors, Soph, Two Rivers students etc. They all said that the 9th grade year was pivotal in their engagment and connection- or lack thereof – to school. It became really clear very quickly that if that year went poorly, it created a ripple effect that impacted the rest of their high school experience. One of the speakers we heard in the process was also the Principal of the 9th grade campus in Issaquah and if anything, she cemented for our committee every reality that those kids on the panel shared with us. 9th grade matters. And I just wanted to clarify cuz I think some are under the perception that this grade is intended to be isolated from the HS. The recommendation from the committee is that they ARE Wildcats in every way shape and form. The space simply allows a unique opportunity to connect them to each other, to the HS experience and help them grow in their independence and leadership abilities. I’m sorry that the last board meeting went so late because the best information on this topic came around midnight from MR Belcher, members of the HS study committee and the principal from that 9th grade campus who believes enough in the model that she stayed until 1am to share her thoughts.

  9. Anne Stedman says

    Here is a link to the part of the mtg where Mr Belcher addressed the enhancement of programming at the high school – at all levels. http://www.svsd410.org/districtinfo/E-Meetings/EP… – his part starts around 16 min.

  10. Anne Stedman says

    This comment is in response to a post that the campus is meant to address only under-achieving at risk students.
    ________________

    the 9th grade concept is not focused on any particular “kind” of student. Students of all strengths and needs will benefit from this model. There are many things to consider and work out but it takes time and money. The district does not have those resources to expend prior to getting the go ahead from the board. I highly suggest you look on the district web site – i’m leaving town so don’t have time to find the link but the HS Study committee laid out a dynamic list of possibilities for the entire HS.

  11. Anne Stedman says

    The reason they are asking for a decision now is because it will take from now til the campus opens to pencil out the details. This 9th grade model has been the focus since our committee made the recommendation 1 1/2 years ago. I was on the VVFE and during that process of trying to pass the bond, not one person questioned (in my presentations) the focus of going to a 9th grade model or the fact that the district would move to 2 middle schools if the bond failed. The educational experts, district administration and new HS principal all believe that we have an opportunity to do something exceptional with our students not just in HS but in 6-12 grade. Additionally, they have compelling information that supports moving to larger middle schools and the programming and social benefits for students at that level. They have the offer of assistance and insight from the Issaquah 9th grade campus experts (who also run 800+ middle schools) and can help them do it even better than they did. If any of the experts felt like the current plan was a compromise for our kids I could see the public hesitance and request to go back to the drawing board and to try to come up with something better. But if you listen to what they are saying, EVERY ONE of the educational experts is on board with and excited about the potential of this plan. I guess I”m not sure why the reluctance at this point. Let the professionals do what they do best and all of our students will benefit in the long run.

  12. There are several important facts about the High School Study Committee that Anne failed to mention. First, the HS Study Committee was never given any option other than annexing SMS. They were only allowed to consider whether the annexed building should be used for a 9th Grade Campus or a small STEM high school. Second, the Committee was never told about a single drawback of a separate 9th Grade Campus. Third, while they were subjected to the Principal of the Issaquah 9th Grade Campus (who did support the 9th Grade Campus) they never heard from or were even told about the hundreds of parents of children who attended this Issaquah 9th Grade Campus and felt this isolation from the two main Issaquah High Schools greatly harmed their children. Fourth, the committee was never told that a 9th Grade Campus experiment had failed in both Issaquah and Snohomish School Districts – or the reasons that those two 9th Grade Campuses failed. Finally, the committee was never told that actual high school enrollment at Mount Si High School was several hundred students less than what administrators had told them it would be just a few months earlier. In short, the Committee was nothing but a cheerleading section for the 9th Grade Campus. I have taught college level courses in problem solving for 20 years. One will not come up with the best solution for problems when only one side of a debate is heard and when the facts are not even considered. As for no one speaking out against the 9th Grade Campus, several North Bend parents warned the Administration and the prior school board that we would publicly oppose annexation of SMS. We stated our concerns about the harm it would inflict on our children. Our concerns were ignored and none of us were invited to participate on the carefully selected HS Study Committee. To claim that there was no public opposition to annexing SMS is simply wrong. It is also wrong to claim that all of the Educational Experts are in favor of a separate 9th Grade Campus is also simply wrong. If separate 9th Grade Campuses were so wonderful, they would be in every school district in the State. The reason they are not is because they would harm far more 9th Graders than they would help. It is time to hear from ALL sides, consider ALL options and be aware of ALL of the facts so we can make a better decision for the future of our children. Regards, David Spring Parent North Bend.

  13. This is another Living Snoqualmie FB page cross post in response to above.

    Some of the reluctance comes after listening to Mr. Belcher talk about how we need a small, focused 9th grade campus for high school success. Basically, this philosophy is what we currently have at our middle schools, which is producing great results. We have to take this away from 1,400 + middle school students to give it to 9th graders w/o a replacement school. During all the studies, huge consideration was given to maintaining our 3 middle school model and now we’re ready to turn our back on those considerations. Are we as a community ready to say that the 9th grade year is more critical to high school success than three critical middle school years? Because currently that middle school education model is using exactly what Mr. Belcher wants on a 9th grade campus – small focused schools giving middle school students more opportunity “for leadership and having their voices heard.” To apply his philosophy to a 9th grade campus we lose that very thing at the middle school level. So I guess in a nutshell this sums it up for me:) Also, at the time of the studies, they were studying 9th grade campus AND 3 middle schools – closing a middle school wasn’t part of the equation until last April (when 2nd bond failed) for the majority of Snoqualmie Valley parents – this is why the debate is happening now. Also, there may be compelling data from other districts to move to lager middle schools, but I believe the most compelling and relevant data is how well our three middle schools are currently working. I feel this data is more pertinent and directly related to our district than data from other districts – data that also pertains to large middle schools that were built large so maybe the comparison is not apples to apples. Our schools can only be big by crowding them. Very important to remember that our middle schools were built the size they are bc our district determined students learn best in middle schools with 600 kids or less. We’d be changing this philosophy by going to 2 middle schools.

  14. Carolyn Simpson says

    There has been alot of discussion and reliance upon decisions made by the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee which concluded to annex SMS and build a replacement middle school and the High School Educational Program Study Committee which determined to use the annex as a Freshman Campus,but which was also working with the assumption of a replacement middle school. I acknowledge and applaud the volunteer and employee time spent away from families while working on these committees. But, I have some questions that we might want to explore. The LTFPC relied upon a “scientific” survey. In looking at the survey results, it looks to me like the survey respondents were comparing a $50 million plan to annex SMS and build a replacement middle school adding space for about 600 high school students in comparison to a $100 million expansion and remodel of MSHS which added capacity for 1,000 students. And, based upon my understanding and review of the supporting documents and public presentations, the expansion/remodel option did not only respond to the capacity issue by adding about 40 classrooms, but also included some very major remodels of MSHS like an indoor track in the gym and a parking garage, among others. It seems like this compares an apple with an orange, doesn’t it? I wonder what the public survey responses would have been had the public been asked to compare an SMS annex with about 20 classrooms versus a comparable 20 classroom expansion of MSHS at a possible lower cost than building a replacement middle school – in other words comparing an apple and an apple. The LTFPC report’s rationale in building a replacement middle school acknowledged that “feedback from the community supported maintaining smaller student populations at the middle level.” That’s a pretty strong public comment. Should we explore this more to see what the community meant in this survey and the “feedback”, especially in light of our lower and slower enrollment growth?

  15. Anne Stedman says

    @ David – I think it’s really important when you are stating “fact” that you have them straight and don’t mislead people. Our committee did not consider other options than the annexed SMS facility because that was not our role. There was a whole other committee that preceded ours that made that decision. We were not “allowed” to consider only STEM or the 9th grade model. We poured over all kinds of options during that 7 mths. We explored advantages and disadvantages of different ideas – we were not sheltered from the data and new data was provided to us upon request as we unearthed different ideas. I don’t know what the situation was in Snohomish but I’ve heard you mention a few times now that the 9th grade campus in Issaquah was a failure. That is unequivocally not true. They knew when the opened it that it would be a temporary “fix” to address student volume. It lasted 5 years and was reverted to a MS this past fall. Finally, I find it highly offensive that you would call our committee a “cheerleading section” for the 9th grade model. I have not worked in many years with such a dynamic, insightful, smart group of forward thinking people. How degrading that comment is to all that gave their volunteer time on behalf of our students.

    No one is trying to silence either side – we are trying to share opinions and insights as the topic is considered. And regardless if we agree or disagree, it’s important to keep it respectful and truthful. I ask that you please keep that in mind in future posts.

  16. Anne,
    I am sorry if you felt my post was disrespectful to you or to the committee. In your prior post, you made it sound like the committee was 100% behind annexation with a “unanimous committee vote” – when the reality is – as you have now admitted -they were not allowed to consider any other options. As a person who has spent years teaching problem solving courses, it troubles me greatly when a committee’s options are so severely limited. It is also a fact that the prior Facilities Task Force unanimously voted to put a second high school on the ballot. So claiming that our community is 100% in favor of annexation of SMS is simply not true.

    As for whether your committee was informed of the opposition to the 9th Grade Campus by parents in Issaquah, committee members I spoke with assured me they were not – they were only allowed to hear one side of that debate. The committee was only allowed to hear from those in favor of annexation and in favor of a separate 9th Grade Campus. Again, this process was extremely flawed. When I ran for office in 2008, I spent weeks going door to door in Issaquah and Sammamish. I had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of parents on the Sammamish Plateau and Issaquah whose children were subjected to the 9th Grade experiment. They were universally angry about what had happened to their children. These parents described in vivid detail how their child was harmed by being placed in a 9th Grade Campus far from the main high school. They gave specific examples of harm – harm that your committee never got a chance to even hear. So what is untruthful is to claim that the Issaquah 9th Grade campus was a success. Believe me, the parents were extremely happy to see it gone. The fact that your committee failed to even hear that point of view is also very troubling.

    Finally, it is a fact that the huge over-estimation in enrollment was kept hidden from your committee by administrators. Some committee members told me they might have voted differently had they had access to more balanced and accurate information about actual Fall enrollment and the actual drawbacks of a 9th Grade Campus. There is no question in my mind that your committee was not only sheltered from a lot of data – but deliberately misinformed about everything from enrollment projections to the failures of 9th Grade Campuses in other communities. What I find not respectful and misleading are those who only allow one side of an issue to be heard. This is no way to solve problems or come up with fair responsible solutions. My hope is that we will learn from these past mistakes by making sure that in the future our community hears BOTH SIDES of all debates before making a decision that will affect the wellbeing of all of our children.
    Regards, David Spring

  17. Anne Stedman says

    David – you are again misreading my comments. When I said it was a unanimous committee vote, I meant for the 9th grade programming concept. As I said before, our committee was formed AFTER the decision was made, by a separate and I’m sure equally capable committee, to annex SMS. I know for a fact that that committee considered multiple options, and they held public meetings to hear community feedback – I remember at least 4 scenarios that were laid out, there may have been more.

    Our group was comprised of opinionated strong people – including teachers and counselors at the HS – and most were pretty vocal when they felt they needed additional info on a topic or were not getting the full picture. I don’t know who you have talked to but of those committee members attending the board meetings recently, all who have been vocal in the meetings are still supportive of our initial decision in their comments to the board.

    You make it sound as though there is a conspiracy among district administrators to mislead the public and committees to push this concept through. Even if they were somehow successful at deceiving everyone, what would the motivation be for that? What do they gain? How did they get the new principal of the HS to say it was a driving reason he was interested in our district? If Issaquah was a failure as you say, why is the principal of their 9th grade campus so willing to help us create something similar for our students? These people have devoted their professional lives to improving the learning of students. There is not a person in the bunch that would willingly and knowingly push a program through that is detrimental to the education of our valley students.

    And if there is a conspiracy that I and others have fallen victim to, how do you account for that panel of students we heard from? They were very clear, as I said before. 9th grade matters. It can be a “make it or break it” year that impacts the rest of their HS experience. When I went to the Running Start/AP mtg at the HS, a student on the panel that night said he is spending his HS career making up for his failures as a freshman. At the board meeting the night of the 9th grade campus discussion, kids in the audience had similar stories of impacts to their freshman year that they felt would not have happened if they had been in a separate campus. Maybe it’s because I was on the committee that I am tuned into these comments, but it cements in my mind that the decision our committee made was the right one.

  18. @all. I have been out of town and have been reading many of these posts. I have a few questions that I have also posed to our school board President who advised me tehy were “good points.” I will pose them here, seeing that some committee members may want to help me understand how we got to the point we are right now–annexation without a replacement school.

    First off, I have to wonder if any committee was charged with the exploration of the annexation without a replacement school concept. I would think if they were, they would have conducted an analysis of how this plan would proceed without a replacement school? Was this part of the committee’s charge? I tend to believe it was not, seeing that I have not seen any analysis on how such a plan could/would impact our current middle schoolers. In fact, the only clear evidence the committee seemed to “approve” moving forward with this plan seems to be couched in a previous comment made by a past committee member. In the above posts, it is mentioned that VVFE and none of the committee members questioned moving forward with this plan when it was announced the plan would proceed regardless of the replacement bond’s failure. Was that the analysis conducted? Also, who was responsible for approving the decision to proceed without a replacement school? I have asked this question specifically of committee members and of board members. To date, I have received no concrete response. To be totally honest, that is perplexing and telling. It has lead many to believe that the decision to proceed without a replacement school was nothing more than a marketing ploy to get people to vote in favor of the building a replacement school (there, i said it). As an outsider looking in, I am sure you can see why many would think this way.

    The above said, I have to wonder how all the committee members and others could approve of such a plan without conducting an extensive analysis on the pros and cons this type of action could have on our middle school students. In none of these posts or in any of the reports do I see any real analysis of the impact this current plan would have on middle schoolers. I see a lot of people talking about how programming options will be increased if we move to 2 middle schools, but I do not see any hard evidence to suggest that moving to a 2 middle school model will really be great for our middle school students. I would think prior to making any such decision/recommendation, such an analysis should be thoroughly explored. To date, the only analysis I have seen comes in the form of some Facebook posts conducted by non-committee members that compare middle school test scores pre- and post our current 3 middle school model. In all cases, the evidence appears to suggest we are performing at higher levels with 3 middle schools. This leads me to wonder how the incoming classes of middle school students (seeing they are performing at higher levels) may adjust to a 4-year high school concept. Logic would lead me to believe they may perform better than previous middle school classes. Has anyone conducted any type of analysis on this?

    In addition, I see little to no evidence of any public input received that would lead me to believe that the public comment was received AFTER the decision to annex without a replacement school was made. In fact, all the public input received was made during a time when everyone thought the FLC would proceed IF we had a replacement school for SMS. I have yet to see any meaningful public comment received since the time this decision was made to the present day. In fact, the past three board meetings have left little room for public comment. In some cases, the meetings are designed as “work sessions” that allow for absolutely NO public comment. Where is the public input? It appears to be occurring on Facebook!

    Further, I see a great deal of support for the FLC concept by members of the committee and how it may serve to impact our drop out rates and failure rates (or, taken in context, our lower performing high school students). I have not seen how the FLC will preserve the integrity of our average students (who are not the ones most likely to drop out) and our advanced students. In fact, in some cases, I have seen evidence of the difficulties we may have in preserving those levels (i.e., lowered foreign language and math requirements). Also, it appears that most of the students consulted by the committee were upper classman. Were any 9th graders polled? Yes, many upperclassman realize by about their Junior year the importance of having gotten good grades during 9th grade. I have to wonder, however, if we really should be concentrating on instilling these beliefs at a lower grade level. For example, at the middle school level prior to entering into 9th grade. That makes alot more sense than focusing on this in an isolated, 9th grade setting.

    Last, but not least, I have to point out the actual composition of the committee tasked with making a recommendation to the school board. In a previous post, someone pointed out the composition of the committee. I have no doubt that those on the committee are dedicated, hardworking, and forthright individuals. However, it is hard for me to believe that the composition of this board was a scientific, cross-representation of the actual community and student body. Of the 18 members on the HSEPSC, two (2) were MSHS students. One (1) was a Board member. Six (6) were teachers, none of which were from SMS. Nine (9) were parents, of which none are listed as having students at SMS. Of the 9 parents, only 2 were from Snoqualmie. Both were from Snoqualmie Ridge. None were from downtown Snoqualmie. One is listed as having children at CVES and at CKMS. The other has children at CVES. None had kids in SMS. I do not feel this is representative of the community and students, at large. Of course, that is my observation. You may view this differently. However, it again leads me down a path that suggests that annexation without a replacement was not a consideration. How could it have been, when the committee formulated to develop the “ideal” solution did not even include anyone from SMS on the committee?

    I offer these comments just to provide a different perspective on this matter. I know that I am not alone in this summation. There are many others out there that feel the same. I believe it is incumbent upon our elected officials and our District to survey the community, the students and the teachers to find out how they really feel about proceeding without a replacement school and how they really feel about having a FLC without a replacement school. I further feel this decision to proceed without a replacement school warrants itself to a lot more analysis than just a four-part series of presentations. I strongly believe that our kids, the voters, and the teachers deserve this analysis.

    • Laurie,

      These are great points you bring up. I truly hope our school board takes the “gift of time” we have been given since enrollment declined and gathers more data about the current situation we are in (no replacement school) and further examines the impact on middle school students. These data points are important. There is time to examine them more and share the information with residents. I just do not see the rush to do this without more study. This is a HUGE decision. One that closes a high-performing middle schools and buses 500 kids a really long way…..

  19. Anne,
    I am merely saying that it is a flawed process when only one side of a debate is allowed to be heard. I attended many of the public hearings you mentioned over the past several years on this issue. Typically, supporters of annexation were given hours to present their side – while opponents were given two minutes each. I remember one School Board Work session on this issue last year in which three supporters of annexation were allowed to sit at the table with Board members and speak as if they were a member of the Board – while three of us opponents of annexation (all local parents) were forced to sit in the back of the room and were not even given one minute to speak during the three hour meeting. This is a deeply flawed process that does not build good will in our community.

    I understand you believe a separate 9th Grade Campus far from the main high school would be in the best interest of our children. I only wish you could have come with me during my weeks of going door to door talking with parents in Issaquah and Sammamish. I believe their heart felt stories of the harm inflicted on their children by the Issaquah 9th Grade Campus would have changed your mind. If separate 9th Grade Campuses are so wonderful for 9th Graders, then why do you think it is that out of 294 school districts in our State, only one (Yakima) currently has a separate 9th Grade Campus? Even that campus was the result of a school bond failure. Parents in Yakima want to get rid of it as soon as possible! Also Anne, if Issaquah 9th Graders had such a wonderful experience being separated from their high schools, then why did Issaquah end their 9th Grade experiment as soon as they could? If Snohomish 9th Graders actually benefited from their 9th Grade Campus, why did the Snohomish School District abandon that 9th Grade Campus? The reason there are almost no separate 9th Grade Campuses in our State is because parents in those districts learned from personal experience that a separate 9th Grade Campus harms far more children than it helps.

    I agree that 9th Grade is an extremely important year. I am in favor of a separate 9th Grade Cluster – provided that it is at the main high school campus – and provided that it is flexible enough to address the academic needs of ALL of the 9th Graders and not just some of them. But I and thousands of other parents in our school district will not support a 9th Grade Campus which is separate from the main high school. We want our children to have the same benefit of every other child in our State – the chance to take four years of upper level courses at a high school and not merely three. A separate 9th Grade Campus is as deeply flawed and unfair to our children as the unfair process that led to putting it on the ballot.

    The failure of the current school district administration and the prior school board to listen to those who have concerns about annexation of SMS has deeply divided our community and greatly harmed our children. Last November, we were the only school district in the State where the MAJORITY of school board incumbents lost their election. It is clear that the majority of the parents in our school district disagree with you Anne. We want to go in a different direction. My hope is that the new school board will do something the former school board failed to do -. Which is insist on a fairer process in which the voices of all parents and all children in our school district are allowed to be heard and respected.

  20. Julie Ehrlich says

    I personally want to see more details on the potential 9th grade campus. What is it going to look like? What is the programming and curriculum going to look like? I’m not ready to “let the professionals” do their job – I need details. That never seems to work.

    I, for one. don’t want my son to be a guinea pig if it’s a complete failure. If 9th grade campuses are so great – why are there none in the state? Or maybe there is one? If there is one – has anyone talked to that district/school/parents in that area for feeback?

  21. Steph Hager says

    To Julie: You ask if there is another 9th grade campus in our state, and if anyone has talked to them. Yes there is, and it’s in Yakima called West Valley High Freshman Campus. I spoke w/them at length about a variety of things. Let me know if anyone is interested in what they said. By the way, I’m not affiliated w/our school district or the board … I’m just a mom trying to figure it all out for myself.

  22. Fabiola Johnson says

    Steph – Yes. Please share.

  23. @Julie–I agree. We need many more details. As I have noted in previous posts, the entire “concept” seems to be just that–a concept. I have no idea how anyone on the Board could theoretically make such an important, far reaching decision without a lot more discussion and vetting. For me, a solid plan needs to be developed. I do not think it is in the best interests of anyone (especially the kids and the teachers) to vote to proceed without knowledge of the entire plan. To say the District needs to have a decision made by the board in order to proceed with the development of a plan is like saying, “Take my XXX dollars and build me a house without showing me any blueprints or plans.” What if the house is built and we, as buyers, don’t like it?

  24. Anne Stedman says

    Laurie, the FLC committee had nothing to do with the middle school bond. period. The VVFE tried unsuccessfully to pass the bond, but in all of our communications and meetings, it was made clear that the annexation would go forward regardless of bond outcome. The bond did not pass and as a result, the district did research to assess what the impact would be on our MS’s and compared ours to those across our state. We have the smallest. That’s not a good thing. How nice would it be to have a real spanish teacher rather than having the kids learn Rosetta Stone on the computer? How bout a librarian? With larger MS’s comes more robust programming. Parents who had kids at the 2 middle schools when they were larger have been vocal at meetings about how they miss the opportunities that came with those larger student numbers. We don’t need a committee to research it to tell us what many already know – the kids will survive and can thrive in larger MS’s.

    You keep saying you can’t get answers to your questions. I find that baffling. When the 9th grade campus came back on the agenda, I called Mr Belcher and asked to meet. The committee decision was made 1 1/2 years ago, under leadership of another principal, and based on the 8 mths or so he’s been there, I wanted to know – what did he think? Were there other options he felt would better meet the needs of the school? I met with him the very next day. He was incredibly responsive to my questions, progressive and creative in his ideas and BTW, yes, he did believe the FLC across the street from the main campus (not far away as David suggests) was the right move for our HS and our students. Call him. I”m sure he’ll be happy to hear your concerns and answer your questions.

    I have no idea what the home school composition was of the committee, and in fact it changed that fall when we wrapped up because of a boundary change. It really doesn’t matter. I can tell you that the crew that were there were not thinking of their own town or own children – the focus was on valley students.

    I am amazed at your remark about public comment. The last 2 meetings have gone til midnight and 1am because of public comment – maybe not during the actual “public comment” section of the meeting since agenda items can’t be discussed at that time, but during the actual content discussions, there has been much public input. Work sessions are totally different, they are not open to public comment typically. If you did not understand that, I totally get your frustration. But that is not new.

    I think we could study options ad-nauseum and it still would not answer every question or concern out there. It would not make the opening of the 9th grade campus seamless and error free. I know the district will work hard to make the programming at the 9th grade campus all that it can be and more it’s first year. But I also know if there are shortcomings, they will be on it quickly to resolve them and move the programming forward. I do support the 9th grade campus. I have 3 kids, one who in 2013 will be a junior, one who will be a freshman in that campus the year it opens, one who will be new to MS that same year in 6th grade. Two of mine are Hi C students, one more middle of the road academically. I would NEVER compromise one child’s education for another. Not for my family, not for our valley. I truly believe that what is in store will benefit all students. To say that the focus is more on those “lower performing” and that “our average ” students are less likely to benefit is elitist and ignorant. Every student has a place in this new model – without compromising any one child’s academic future.

    I did share a few concerns from the blog with the Principal from Issaquah and asked her if she could address a few things. Here is what she said:

    Regarding the comment: The “9th grade campus focuses on the struggling student”: I spent some time thinking through this over the past weekend, and here is the most eloquent way I can put it. Yes. if the system is deisgned to wrap around the struggling student and hold onto those fragile 9th graders, then the TEACHERS can work on the average and excelling students. The benefits to advanced students is obvious, once you look into the daily operations of schools. The two most important aspects to advance/accelerated learning opportunities are access to advanced classes and access to teacher time and attention. If the classes are available (because you’ve got all those 9th graders together) or to walk up to the high school, then students in the 9th grade can take the most rigorous class available. Second, if the classroom teacher has time to focus on the excelling student, he or she can really know them (interests/abilities) and can give extension activities and opportunities. Even if the teacher has a moment to say “hey, Dana, I can see that your math skills are really strong. Why don’t you think about being on the math team (or whatever). For girls especially, it is in the being noticed as much as the actual skill. If the TEACHER is assisted by the structure of school and/or the office on the kids that are really struggling with learning/behavior/attendance, then the TEACHER has time to work with those who are more self motivated and ready for a leap year. And, if the 9th graders can go into 10th grade with all their credits, then the entire high school has a stronger web. It is a huge stressor to have a junior who still hasn’t passed algebra 1.

    Middle schools: I’m not sure how many students would be in your middle schools, but I would say from experience that you are limited by a small middle school in what you can offer. I think there is a sweet spot of between 750 and 850 students in creating the master schedule with enough students to offer a broad range of classes from support to accelerated. I think some singleton electives have a chance at happening and music classes can flourish in those numbers. Blending in some cases (like PE) and holding tight to grade lines in others and still being able to offer all that you want to offer. As a middle school of 780 this year, I do feel that I can know the kids and families, know the teachers well and keep in touch with all the ins and outs of school. While there will certainly be a change to larger schools, the transition for the adults will be the greatest challenge, and the shift of boundaries and alliances. I am convinced that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. As this would be new and never tried before, I’m sure it is stressful and uncertain. I would say that we are your neighbors, and we have high performing schools in the larger range and you could look at our historical data and see that students do fine here. We have 3 classes of Spanish, and I’ve heard that you no longer can offer world language in 8th grade. for some students this is an excellent way to get all the advanced classes in, by starting in some of them early in middle school. to not offer that would be a detriment to your brightest students.

    Finally, I guess I didn’t realize what a can of worms my cross posting would create when I complied with my friends request. I feel like I”m on a merry go round of unproductive conversation with a crew that are determined to fight the good fight against an administration that honestly can’t defend itself. Because they work for the people, they have to take the high road and abstain from defending their position. I am not their spokesperson. But combined, their years in education surpass mine on this earth. Their intent is pure and I hope that all concerned will open their minds to the potential in front of us all.

    This is my last post.

    • Thank you, Anne, for posting your thoughts. I do appreciate you taking the time to post some thoughts from Dana Bailey. I think it’s okay that we disagree the whole middle school size issue. One important aspect I think getting shadowed in all of this is the aspect of community – and what having a middle school in Snoqualmie provides for our community here in Snoqualmie. This “crew” you refer to who disagree with this move to close SMS is not simply 5-10 people – more appropriate might be the majority of Snoqualmie. This move will close a high functioning, central middle school and split up yet again a large group of kids. That’s pretty major. I just don’t think you can fully understand it unless you’ve lived it. We have lived here 10 years. Here’s our school list: SES: 4yrs, CVES – 5yrs, NBE – 2 yrs, CKMS – 3yrs, SMS: 4yrs, MSHS: 3 yrs. I even had one year where I had an 8th grader at CKMS so she didn’t have to change her last year and a 6th grader at SMS. The fact that this is now the solution when we have time to try and solve it a better way leaves me perplexed. If the long term solution is two overcrowded middle schools and Snoqualmie kids being split up and bused all over the valley, then I wish someone would just and say it. Based on what you are saying, it seems the district has decided we need bigger middle schools – so this is it? 4 years ago I didn’t hear one parent or admin saying 2 overcrowded middle schools was a good thing. Quite the opposite in fact if you had a child in one of those schools in 2007/08. Two of our three middle schools won’t always small. There are more and more Snoqualmie kids approaching middle school age who will need the space provided at CKMS and SMS. So if what this ultimately comes down to is Snoqualmie kids losing their school, being split up from friends, being bused long distances and placed in a purposely overcrowded school in order to be offered foreign language in 8th grade – well I think this might help explain why the majority in Snoqualmie feel the way they do – and why they want this solved a better way.

  25. Anne,
    I am frankly stunned by your last post. You claim that we have the smallest middle schools in the State! Clearly you and anyone you got that false information from have not done much research. There was a national study of middle school sizes that concluded that the national average size for middle schools was 600 students. This was also the recommended size for middle schools. This study was used three years ago by our State legislature as the basis for the Prototypical schools model which is at the heart of the Education Reform Act. The new Education Reform Act is based on a prototypical middle school of 600 students. So Twin Falls Middle School which has 600 students is at the State average and is nowhere near the smallest middle school in the 294 school districts in our State.

    Second, there is no credible scientific research anywhere that supports your claim that children benefit from larger middle schools. All of the research of dozens of studies supports the conclusion that children benefit from smaller schools at the elementary school, middle school and high school level. The reason for this has to do with the social development of children as it relates to Grade Cohort Size. Children feel more secure and therefore build stronger relationships and do better in school when they know their peers on a first name basis. Children engage more in smaller schools, and there is much less interpersonal violence. So moving to larger middle schools would harm our children emotionally, socially and academically.

    As for a 9th Grade Campus “helping” struggling students, this is also not true. Because this model results in a larger Grade Cohort, and would eventually lead to our high school having among the largest Grade Cohorts in the State of Washington, struggling students will be more likely to get lost in the crowd, become disengaged and eventually drop out of school.

    Finally, your claim that students would be able to walk back and forth between the 9th Grade Campus at SMS and the main campus at MSHS is utterly not true. Administrators have now publicly admitted that there is no possibility for a walkway between the two campuses and no money to support a shuttle bus between the two campuses. This is another one of the many facts they deliberately withheld from the committee you were on. This is a huge issue because it not only means that advanced 9th Graders would not be able to take courses at MSHS, but it also means that struggling 10th Graders who had failed 9th Grade math would not have access to these courses at the 9th Grade Campus, thus increasing their chances of dropping out of school.

    But the most important fact you are ignoring is that we had an election to determine the future of this issue last Fall. The prior school board suffered the worst political defeat of any school board in our State – all because they supported annexation of SMS – while the challengers opposed it. What you need to understand is that we as a community have voted down and soundly rejected annexation of SMS. It is not up to you and it is not up to a couple of extremely out of touch administrators. Instead, this decision is up to the five members of our current school board. My hope is that they will recognize that annexation of SMS is a dead issue and bring all sides back to the bargaining table so we can have a fair and balanced discussion about the best way to insure a better future for all of our children.
    Regards, David Spring Parent North Bend

  26. Steph Hager says

    Fabiola, here’s what I learned.

    This is a summary of my discussion with the very helpful and friendly Principal of Yakima’s West Valley High School Freshman Campus (about two weeks ago). I didn’t mean to talk to her, but was forwarded to her personal phone line so we ended up having a chat.

    • The High school is across the street and is about a 4 minute walk between schools by a sidewalk
    • They have ~ 400 students at freshman site
    • Their facility is remarkable, fully updated and redesigned. There are pictures of it online.
    • Math levels at the Freshman campus: 1) two sections of Algebra2/Trig, 2) two sections of Geometry, 3) everyone else takes Algebra1. All are at Freshman campus. Some students take Alg1 as 7th graders who then take Alg2/Trig as 9th graders (this is about ~40 students she said of the 400). No remedial math is offered. [Note – a “section” is a classroom]
    • Foreign Lang for 9th graders: In the freshman building they offer Spanish 1 & 2 (Spanish 1 is taken by some 8th graders which is why they have Spanish 2). Freshman that take German walk to high school. She said “we give students the opportunity to have 5 years of a foreign language by the time they graduate from high school.” She believes taking foreign language 4 or 5 years is very important so that students are “proficient and conversant” in the language.
    • Students regularly move between the two schools during the day for very high level math (beyond Algebra 2 for 9th graders) and German
    • They have 1.5 Spanish teachers on freshman campus site
    • Ninth grade students are herded to pep assemblies at the high school she said
    • The high school kids don’t think of the 9th graders as part of their school and don’t want them at their homecoming, so 9th graders can only attend if asked by an upperclassman. They are not allowed to Prom.
    • Said there needs to be a very strong connection w/the high school so that the 9th graders feel a part of it
    • Most importantly she said programming/coursework needs to be offered at the 9th grade campus so they are treated as real high schoolers with the same opportunities as all high schoolers
    • Said if you isolate 9th graders, and don’t treat them like high school students then the concept doesn’t work

    Their performance report and teacher/student stats: http://www.wvsd208.org/fc/pdf/FCPerformanceRpt.pdf

  27. Steph Hager says

    Hi Anne, can Ms. Bailey share with us the classes/courses they offered to students at the PCFC?

  28. Posters above have asked for more information on the other 9th Grade Campuses in our State. So what follows is a brief summary. There have been only three 9th Grade experiments in our State. In the 1990’s, the Snohomish School District suffered a bond failure to build a second high school. So they spent $10 million in local funds combined with $10 million in State matching funds to build a 9th Grade Campus. The experiment was a dismal failure for the many reasons we have noted above. A few years later, they passed a bond to build a second high school (Glacier High School) which is a huge success.

    Nine years later, the Issaquah School District built a 9th Grade Campus for $20 million in local funds plus $6 million in State Matching funds. This also was a dismal failure and was recently turned in to a traditional Grade 6 to 8 Middle School. The 9th Graders who were at this campus are now at either Issaquah High School or Skyline High School – two of the most successful high schools in our State (in terms of Graduation rates and college admissions). Parents in Issaquah are elated that their children are no longer being subjected to the harm of a 9th Grade Campus.

    Finally, in just the past year, again after a $28 million school bond failure, a 9th Grade Campus was created in Yakima by remodeling an extremely old school building at a cost to local tax payers of $2 million with $5 million in State matching funds. A key difference between the Yakima 9th Grade Campus and the proposed annexation of SMS is that it is possible to safely walk from the Yakima 9th Grade Campus to their main high school in less than 5 minutes. It is not possible to safely walk from SMS to MSHS in a similar period of time. Nor does our school district have money for shuttle buses. Thus our 9th Graders would be completely isolated and cut off from courses offered at the main high school.

    Another key difference is that local taxpayers in Issaquah were only asked to pay $20 million while the 2011 bond asked our tax payers to spent a record $50 million with not one penny in State matching funds.

    In conclusion, there has never been a successful 9th Grade Campus experiment in our State – and for all the reasons we have noted above, there likely never will be. Our kids deserve the same opportunity that all other high school students in our State have – which is the opportunity to take four years of courses at a real high school.
    Regards, David Spring Parent North Bend.

  29. Anne Stedman says

    From Dana :
    “Well… we had
    Core:  supported, regular and advanced classes in all subjects English, math, social studies, science
     
    PE and tech 1 (issaquah grad requirement)
     
    World languages:  Spanish 1 and 2, French 1 and 2, Japanese 1
     
    Music:  orchestra, band, choir and world drumming (which was a semester fine arts credit)
     
    Art:  one semester of drawing and painting
     
    Guided studies:  semester elective for organization and work completion
     
    Special education:  leveled math and English classes
     
    Advanced technology classes:  Video productions, digital design, (both occupational ed credits)
     
    And the yearbook and leadership classes.
     
    Students went to the high schools for Calculus and the district advanced orchestra”
     

  30. Carolyn Simpson says

    Regarding the class choices for freshmn at Issaquah’s freshman campus: Issaquah’s campus had close to 1,000 students. Based upon the current enrollment and projected enrollment, our Freshman Learning Center will only be about half of that size for at least 10 years. A key question, that has yet to be answered, is what types of choices can be offered to this much smaller group of freshmen. Based upon 27 per class, that only allows about 18 teachers for the 6 periods. I think it is important to understand what our class choices might be for our freshman if they were in a physically separate freshman campus. I keep hearing that their opportunities will be limited. I am still trying to understand what that looks like.

  31. Anne–Seeing that was your last post, I doubt you will respond to this. I have to admit, when I first read your post I took offense to your characterizing both me (and others who agree with me) as “ignorant and elitist.” In fact, I was unaware of your post, until someone I know sent me an email to let me know she felt you characterized anyone who had a different opinion about the FLC without a replacement school as “whiners.” I went back and read your post several times. I can honestly tell you I responded to my friend after reading your post and defended you. I can tell, after several reads, you are passionate about the decision the committee made and you are truly committed to it. I applaud you for that. Having served on committee’s before, I believe it is important for you to stand behind the decision you made. However, I also know that sometimes defending a position also can sometimes preclude you from opening your mind to other ideas or concerns. I actually do feel bad that you feel you have “opened a can of worms” and are on a “merry-go-round”. I guess I do not view it that way. I have actually found the discussions on this board to be productive. They have opened my mind to various other considerations, ideas and viewpoints. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what others have written. I don’t go into this discussion thinking of ways to shot every idea down. I try to keep an open mind. The bottom line is; my opinion differs from yours. That is okay though. We can agree to disagree. Anyone that really knows me also knows I have a motto. It is simple. I firmly believe the best decisions are those that appease the majority, and do not serve to alienate the minority. As you have seen over the past years, you never know when the minority may become the majority. It is important to always work toward that goal for those reasons. I am human. I have sometimes not lived by my own motto. But, I try hard to strive toward that goal.

    First off, let me say I am not a stakeholder in this decision anymore. My kids will not even be in SVSD schools next year. Like you, I am passionate about still being involved in this process because I care about the community and the kids. I could easily walk away from all this, but I have elected not too. For me, I think this decision is probably one of the biggest and most important decisions the District has had to make over the 10.5 years I have resided here. This far outweighs the multiple boundary changes that have occurred during my residency.

    You are correct on several points: Kids are resilient, parents are not. I was not a member of the committee, nor am I an educator. I am just a Mom, a transitional planner, and my profession is in the law enforcement & corrections sector. Ironically (and sadly) there are many similarities between school operations and jail/prison operations. The big difference comes in the fact that our “students” spend the night. 🙂 But, I digress.

    First and foremost, I have spent a great deal of time mulling over projection data. At the time your committee was formed, the projection data for the District was bleak. It showed widespread, massive overcrowding at the high school. In fact, the projection data from the 2010 CFP indicated our high school enrollment would be at 2,121 by 2013!! These are numbers that were forecast in the midst of your committee work. Since then, projection data has slowed (by both the District’s and demographers own admission). The latest projections show high school enrollment to be at 1,733 by 2013. Current enrollment at the high school is 1,540. Per numbers described at a recent meeting by the District, they are calculating high school enrollment to be at about 1,598 by October, 2012. Honestly, I find it hard to believe that we will even hit 1,733 by the following year (or grow by some 135+ students in one year) when the trend has been otherwise. Most of the individuals that move into this District do not arrive with high school aged kids. Demographic data supports this theory. Most move here with elementary/pre-school aged kids. Therefore, using this logic, the likelihood high school enrollment will even hit 1,733 by 2013 as is currently predicted is slight. These are hard statistics. Therefore, I tend to subscribe to the belief that our slowed enrollment has granted us with the gift of time to further analyze this issue and make the most informed, best decision for all our kids. A decision that does not lead to as much debate–in other words, a decision that serves to appease the majority without creating a large subset of people who disagree.

    To add to this, I highly recommend that everyone on this thread also review our historic projection data. I find it odd that our projection data has never come close to reality. In fact, the projection data provided to the District has always been wrong. It is not your standard projection data that shows a standard deviation of +/- 2-3%. In fact, I do not believe it has ever fallen in that normal range. Again, that is telling information. Yet, we seem to rely on this data to make some of our biggest decisions? We seem to plan for Armageddon, yet it never seems to arrive. Perhaps if we worked with more realistic data, the decisions we make for our students would be different. Please know, I do not blame anyone on your committee for using this data. You have to use the data provided. However, I do find it odd that no one has ever questioned this data. When I have questioned it, I have been told the demographer is the same one many other government entities use. I am sorry, but that is an unacceptable response for me. I expect to hear that from a weather forecaster (who never seems to predict the weather right), but not from a body of individuals tasked with making such widespread decisions that will serve to impact our kids. You may disagree, and that is fine.

    As for your claim that we have the smallest middle schools, you are correct. We do. However, our middle schools were designed to be small. In all the other Districts you are using to compare us too, their middle schools were designed to be larger. We cannot compare apples to oranges. In our District, the public voted to have three, smaller sized middle schools. We did not vote to have two, large middle schools that required portables to be added to make them large. The common space for these schools was optimally designed to handle a smaller size population–not the large design you are discussing. Do I think it would be great to have a full time librarian and foreign language offerings at our middle schools? Of course I do. Do I think that is a reality based on budget cuts (both past and upcoming)? Probably not. Can anyone really assure me this is going to happen when we have a $2 million budget cut looming in our near future? I doubt it. Can you assure me of that by March 8? I doubt it. Yet, we are supposed to make this decision by March 8 and hope it happens?

    You indicate parents were vocal about wanting to return to larger middle schools. I am surprised you can say that with so much confidence. I have not heard from all parents across the District, nor have you. In fact, there are some parents boundaried to SMS who actually elect to send their kids to CKMS and drive them there on a daily basis. There are others boundaried to TFMS who elect to drive their kids to SMS. I do not know who all these parents are that support the return to larger middle schools. From the posts I have read, they seem to come from CKMS. I realize you come from TFMS, however, the majority of posters here seem to hail from CKMS. I would love to see a poll of the entire District and find out what the true statistics on this issue are. From my perspective, I find very few individuals who are excited about returning to a 2 middle school model. In fact, Anne, there was such a survey conducted (if memory serves me correct). It was answered by about 700 parents, the majority of which supported the smaller middle school model. This data was also available to the committees and was used to formulate the recommendation to annex SMS as a FLC and REPLACE SMS. To date, that seems to be the only survey conducted. I tend to use this survey as my starting point. It represents the only real data we have. The rest, unfortunately, is hearsay.

    In addition, I have also seen data that supports how well our kids are performing, educationally, since we have moved to a three middle school model. That, to me, is the most important information. If our kids are excelling (or the trend is in the right direction), why return to a larger schematic? I have to wonder if we followed these middle school kids who have benefited from the smaller, 3 middle school environment through a typical 4-year high school process, what the outcome may be. Time will tell and, as noted, I believe we have time.

    The question I cannot seem to get an answer on has nothing to do with anyone’s commitment to the FLC concept. I can tell Mr. Belcher is committed and I have listened to his presentation over and over. I also know the Issaquah Principal stands firm on her convictions. The question I have yet to receive an answer to is who decided we would proceed with the annexation of SMS regardless of the success or failure of the bonds. I have asked this on Facebook, I have asked this on this thread, I have asked it directly to our School Board President. No one seems to know. The reason I want to know, is because I feel it is important. Whoever made this decision must have a wealth of knowledge regarding the impact this decision will have on our middle school populations. I want to find out who this individual(s) is, and talk with them. It is hard for me to talk with someone, when no one seems to know who I should talk too. That is the question I have yet to find an answer too. It is really a simple question. I had no idea the answer would be so difficult to uncover.

    As for the composition of the committee, I know that some of the individuals on the committee personally moved to other locations and, because of their move, they moved to different schools. I also know that some of these same individuals retained their kids in their previous, smaller schools. As for the others, there are two who hailed from areas that were reboundaried. In both cases, they were not impacted. I have no doubt about the integrity of any of the committee members. In fact, I know several of them and have the utmost respect for them. My problem with the composition of the committee comes because there was an obvious lack of SMS input on the committee. I would think that if the recommendation of the committees was to annex SMS WITHOUT having a replacement school, some input from the SMS community (whether it be parents, teachers or students) would have lended itself more to the validity of the recommendation. That, again, is my opinion. You may disagree. Just as you have encouraged me to seek some additional input, I encourage you to spend some time with some members of the SMS community. You may find their opinion would have been useful to your committee discussions.

    You indicate that, ” ..to say that the focus is more on those “lower performing” and that “our average ” students are less likely to benefit is elitist and ignorant. Every student has a place in this new model – without compromising any one child’s academic future.” You further state: “[You] spent some time thinking through this over the past weekend, and here is the most eloquent way [you] can put it. Yes, if the system is designed to wrap around the struggling student and hold onto those fragile 9th graders, then the TEACHERS can work on the average and excelling students. The benefits to advanced students is obvious, once you look into the daily operations of schools. The two most important aspects to advance/accelerated learning opportunities are access to advanced classes and access to teacher time and attention. If the classes are available (because you’ve got all those 9th graders together) or to walk up to the high school, then students in the 9th grade can take the most rigorous class available.”

    First, will these advanced classes be available at the 9th grade campus, Anne? From everything I have heard, these classes will be available at MSHS (not at the 9th grade campus). That seems to defeat the purpose of the FLC. Second, can you explain to me why the discussions included in the 9th grade campus presentations include the reduction of foreign languages and a slant toward lowered math standards? Again, that seems to go against the entire concept of the FLC and does not seem to support your position that TEACHERS will have time to spend with the average/accelarated students. In fact, the only thing I see this type of educational model supporting, is better, overall pass/fail statistics for the District. I do not see how this serves to benefit the greater majority of kids. If those kids that are identified as excelling are going to be afforded all these wonderful opportunities, why do they have to walk (or be bussed) to MSHS to participate in them? It seems to go against the whole purpose of isolating these students to begin with. You further go on to indicate that teachers will have time to focus on the advanced students/average students during this critical 9th grade year. I have to ask this (not to be ignorant or elitist), but can’t this be done in a 4-year high school environment? Shouldn’t this be something that should be occurring in a 4-year setting anyway? According to Mr. Belcher’s presentations, it appears that we are doing it under his tutelage now. Why a separate campus if the same principles seem to be working now in the 4-year environment. Lastly, I will go back to my original stance. How will all this impact our current middle school successes? To date, I have only heard a great deal of praise for the administration. Yet, I have yet to see any hard data or evidence that suggests a thorough analysis has been conducted on the impact this decision will have on our middle school level students. The focus seems to be strictly geared to one year of learning–9th grade. Little focus seems to be being made on the middle school level kids.

    Lastly, you indicate there has been a lot of public input at the last few board meetings. During the last Board meeting that went to 1:00 a.m., there was a lot of public input. Unfortunately, it was geared to the decision regarding the change in our kindergarten schedule. There were very few, if any, individuals left to provide a great deal of public comment/input on the FLC/Annexation discussion because it occurred so late in the evening (after midnight). In fact, there is no way I could have stayed there that long. I applaud those of you who did. I think you should have revealed, however, that the majority of the handful of people that stayed to the end were either members of the committee and a few parents from Fall City. I believe, in reality, there was one (maybe two) people who where not committee members or who hailed from other areas across the District. To me, this does not constitute public comment, Anne. The other Board meeting went late, as well. Again, there was little time for public comment on the annexation decision. In fact, the public was unaware that annexation was even a topic on the agenda, as it is written in code. Most individuals have no idea what “educational programming and facilities planning” means. If the agenda said, “Annexation and FLC”, you may have seen more individuals there. Luckily, due to the efforts of people like Danna and others, information is starting to become more forthcoming regarding the fact that this topic is even an agenda item. In fact, CVES sent something out yesterday for the first time.

    To close, I am sure this will NOT be my last post. To me, this matter lends itself to further discussion. So, I have to close by asking you, Anne, “Who is being elitist and ignorant?” To say that would be your last post, leads me to believe you are unwilling to converse about this topic. You, obviously, have made up your mind and have dug your heels in the sand and drawn a line of dissent. I am willing to cross that line. Most elitist and ignorant people would not think about crossing that line. In fact, they would never draw a line to begin with.

    Sincerely–Laurie Gibbs

  32. Julie Ehrlich says

    Unporoductive conversation? Isn’t all of this productive, so we can all see ALL sides? Although the programming options might be nice at a 9th grade campus, I don’t think Danna could have said it better. It can & does come down to more than just “programming” – so yes, we are “fighting the good fight” because we want more answers than just “better programming.” You are talking about completey absolving the only middle school we have in our community, splitting our community in half (because I’m assuming 1/2 would go to TFMS and CKMS. That is not a decision to be done hastily or taken lightly. Schools are truly the core of communities.

    I’m pretty sure if we talked about getting rid of CKMS or TFMS, you’d have quite the “fight” going on with just a different set of parents. I don’t think Snoqualmie parents are being unrealistic in wanting our school to stay, or simply wanting more details about this 9th grade campus.

    With that said, I do agree – the administration obviously has tons more exeperience in education than any of us do. But that doesn’t mean they always know what they are doing, or what is best for our kids.

    In my 9 years in Snoqualmie I’ve seen & heard about so many things this administration has done to truly aggravate and turn off so many people…. all over the valley. Their lack of transperancy, inability to effectively pass bonds, and constant changing of plans and numbers frustrates so many of us. I honestly don’t know the truth anymore. Are they wanting to do this campus for better programming, or because the high school is overcrowded? I thought it was to relieve pressure at Mt. Si, but now all the programming talk?

    I am still undecided on all of this. I am simply looking for more solid details in this plan before I make my decision.

  33. Thank you for listing the course offerings that were @ the PCFC … super helpful Anne and Dana, thank you. I see that some 9th graders go onto the high school for Calculus. That is great for those super advanced students, that they have that option. Normally that is a class reserved for 12th graders and your efforts to make that available for the highest ability students is impressive.

    To my knowledge Issaquah is set up (generally) like this for Math Path I, their main math path: Algebra A in 7th, Alg B in 8th (together A+B = Alg 1), Geometry in 9th, Alg2 in 10th, Pre-Calc in 11th and Calculus AP in 12th. Their Math Path II is a year ahead as I understand it, so those students (who self select into that path in 6th grade) take Algebra 1 as 7th graders, Geometry in 8th, and so on. PCFC’s foreign language offerings were very extensive too I see with levels 1 and 2 in three different languages. It’s really neat that PCFC could provide these classes on campus, in addition to advance technology, social studies, special ed, orchestra, world drumming, and much more.

    As a parent that does sound very extensive with many great options for the students to choose from.

    I know the details are not where worked out, but these are some of the questions I know some parents are wondering about:

    Is our school district looking at adding social studies to the 9th grade year since we don’t have that now?

    Will our 9th grade campus provide foreign language, a couple languages, or one? – I think it would have to be level 1 I think since no incoming middle school students would have had it yet.

    What level of math would our campus have compared to PCFC’s math levels? We don’t have Geometry students in 8th so probably wouldn’t need Algebra 2 or higher in 9th.

    I have great respect for all the accomplishments mentioned. But with Snoqualmie’s already limited courses and level of those courses compared to what Issaquah provides their students at the same grade levels (please compare them yourself), it can be concerning to separate kids further away from where the opportunities currently exist. This is not to be confrontational, just concerned because I’m pretty sure our FLC cannot offer those courses and the level of those courses listed above for the PCFC simply due to many constraints that are no one’s fault.

  34. Anne Stedman says

    Laurie – I just want to clarify so I will include it here again, that this part of my last post was actually written by Dana Bailey, who was the Principal of the 9th grade Issaquah Campus. I don’t think I set it off appropriately the first time so that readers knew it was not me.

    “I did share a few concerns from the blog with the Principal from Issaquah and asked her if she could address a few things. Here is what she said:

    Regarding the comment: The “9th grade campus focuses on the struggling student”: I spent some time thinking through this over the past weekend, and here is the most eloquent way I can put it. Yes. if the system is deisgned to wrap around the struggling student and hold onto those fragile 9th graders, then the TEACHERS can work on the average and excelling students. The benefits to advanced students is obvious, once you look into the daily operations of schools. The two most important aspects to advance/accelerated learning opportunities are access to advanced classes and access to teacher time and attention. If the classes are available (because you’ve got all those 9th graders together) or to walk up to the high school, then students in the 9th grade can take the most rigorous class available. Second, if the classroom teacher has time to focus on the excelling student, he or she can really know them (interests/abilities) and can give extension activities and opportunities. Even if the teacher has a moment to say “hey, Dana, I can see that your math skills are really strong. Why don’t you think about being on the math team (or whatever). For girls especially, it is in the being noticed as much as the actual skill. If the TEACHER is assisted by the structure of school and/or the office on the kids that are really struggling with learning/behavior/attendance, then the TEACHER has time to work with those who are more self motivated and ready for a leap year. And, if the 9th graders can go into 10th grade with all their credits, then the entire high school has a stronger web. It is a huge stressor to have a junior who still hasn’t passed algebra 1.

    Middle schools: I’m not sure how many students would be in your middle schools, but I would say from experience that you are limited by a small middle school in what you can offer. I think there is a sweet spot of between 750 and 850 students in creating the master schedule with enough students to offer a broad range of classes from support to accelerated. I think some singleton electives have a chance at happening and music classes can flourish in those numbers. Blending in some cases (like PE) and holding tight to grade lines in others and still being able to offer all that you want to offer. As a middle school of 780 this year, I do feel that I can know the kids and families, know the teachers well and keep in touch with all the ins and outs of school. While there will certainly be a change to larger schools, the transition for the adults will be the greatest challenge, and the shift of boundaries and alliances. I am convinced that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. As this would be new and never tried before, I’m sure it is stressful and uncertain. I would say that we are your neighbors, and we have high performing schools in the larger range and you could look at our historical data and see that students do fine here. We have 3 classes of Spanish, and I’ve heard that you no longer can offer world language in 8th grade. for some students this is an excellent way to get all the advanced classes in, by starting in some of them early in middle school. to not offer that would be a detriment to your brightest students.”

  35. Administrators failed to inform John Belcher about isolation of 9th Grade Campus

    The topic for last night’s school board meeting was annexation of SMS. While I could not stay for the whole thing, I did get to listen to Mr. Belcher explain his vision of how the 9th Grade Campus would work. Sadly, Mr. Belcher was as misinformed about important facts as the rest of the pro-annexation group. For example, when asked how students might have access to advanced courses at SMS, John stated that they could just walk between campuses, or that there might be shuttle buses. This was the same kind of nonsense that administrators told to the Parents Committee a year and a half ago. Administrators have since publicly admitted that there will not be a covered heated walkway between the two campuses. They have also admitted that there is no safe way for students to walk between the two campuses during the middle of winter. And they have been forced to admit that there is no money for shuttle buses between SMS and MSHS. So much for Mr. Belcher’s vision of a flexible 9th Grade Campus.

    I do not blame John for being so badly misinformed on this issue. I think John is a terrific high school Principal. The blame for this has to go with administrators who failed to inform John about the extremely crucial fact that the students at a proposed 9th Grade Campus would be completely cutoff and isolated from the main high school. They will not be able to walk to the main campus safely and there will be no shuttle buses.

    When I went door to door talking with hundreds of parents in Issaquah and Sammamish about their adverse experiences with the failed 9th Grade Campus in Issaquah, one of the things they were most bitter about was that they were “promised” that there would be a shuttle bus between their 9th Grade Campus and at least one of the two high schools. Instead, parent after parent told me that in the five years of operation, there never was funding for a shuttle bus. Instead, parents themselves had to take time off from work to drive their kids back and forth between the Issaquah 9th Grade Campus and the two high schools.

    And that lack of funding for shuttle buses occurred during GOOD economic times. Our school funding situation right now is much worse than it was back in 2006. So as I sat there at last night’s school board meeting listening to John Belcher talking about kids walking between the campuses and shuttle buses going between the campuses, it became even more clear to me that the whole thing is a house of cards. It is all smoke and mirrors. As one poster said earlier, we are being asked to agree to pay for a house sight unseen. There is no real plan. There is no real house. But this is not merely a house we are deciding on. It is the future of our children. We should not risk the future of our children on pie in the sky wishful thinking.

    The one comment that made me happy last night was when Carolyn Simpson asked why we were waiting until 9th Grade to get all the students preparing a plan and improving their study habits. She pointed out that we really need to be reaching kids when they are in the 6th and 7th Grade. I am glad that someone realizes that the middle school years are as important – and likely more important – than the high school years. Hopefully, the school board will realize that these promises by administrators are false promises. We should base plans for our kids on financial realities and not on a bunch of pipe dreams. Thanks to billions in State budget cuts during the past three years, our kids are going to be subjected to – and harmed by – massively large class sizes. The least we can do for them is not also subject them to the further harm of massively large schools which fail to offer the courses they need to compete for a spot at a good college.
    Regards, David Spring, Parent, North Bend

  36. This is kind of a strange way to converse with everyone, but it’s highly efficient and helpful so I will continue :-). It sounds like the main disadvantage of PCFC was that there wasn’t too much interaction for the students to attend classes at the high schools. What they had available to their students however is quite impressive. These are the courses listed by Issaquah, but put in a laundry list to show the exact offerings the students had available to them.

    Before being excited about our own PCFC-type campus, can someone give an idea which of these offerings our kids will have? Logistically, due to a variety of constraints – can we even offer half of these classes? It would be really good to have that question addressed I think.

    Here are PCFC’s classes. What from this list will be SVSD’s? That is kind of important it seems.

    English
    Algebra 1
    Geometry
    Algebra 2
    Pre-Calculus (not sure if PCFC had this, the list implies yes but not sure)
    Social Studies
    Science
    PE
    Tech 1
    Spanish 1
    Spanish 2
    French 1
    French 2
    Japanese 1
    Orchestra
    Band
    Choir
    World Drumming
    Drawing and painting
    Organization and work completion
    Special education classes
    Video productions
    Digital design
    Yearbook
    Leadership

  37. To clarify, I’m not suggesting we need an exhaustive list of electives. Am only wondering at this point of the essential classes necessary, the ones we absolutely need to have in a 9th grade campus. In other words, what are the courses (and levels of those courses) necessary to provide to 9th grade students that are achievers at all levels: lower, middle, and high achievers? Asked another way, what are the lowest-common-denominator courses and their levels that educators consider as must-have’s in a 9th grade campus? Can we find that out?

  38. What is the likelihood of more class offerings at a separate 9th Grade campus? The truth is that there would be need for more administrators at the separate campus and there would be no more teachers than the 9th Graders have now at the main campus. In all likelihood, the 9th Graders would have fewer options and fewer teachers – not more options and more teachers.

    To give you an idea of what a logistical nightmare this separate 9th Grade Campus would become, consider what happened to the original plan for our current 9th Grade Campus. We were told that the portables at the main high school would be used to separate the 9th Graders from the rest of the high school, and that the 9th Graders would be able to spend most of their day at this separate location – all the same promises were are being given now.

    However, it quickly became apparent that the teachers were unable to move from the main campus to the portables and bring all of their instructional materials with them. For a little while, we had “teachers on wheels” going back and forth between the portables and the main campus, but these have been pretty much abandoned in favor of the normal (and most efficient) program of teachers having their own classrooms so they can organize their instructional materials in one room for all of their courses. The 9th Grade students meanwhile turned out to be so different from each other that it was impossible to coordinate their schedules to keep them at the portables for even half the day- much less the entire day. So go to the high school portables now between any set of classes and you will see the result. The 9th Graders are moving from class to class and back and forth between the portables and the main campus throughout the day just like is done in nearly every high school in the State.

    This is the difference between reality and wishful thinking. In theory, theory and reality should be the same. But in reality, theory and reality can be quite different. We need a real plan – not a bunch of empty promises – so our real kids can have the best chance for a real future.
    Regards, David Spring Parent North Bend

  39. Anne-
    Thank you for the clarification.

  40. Steph Hager says

    College Prep Thoughts

    There are some things I’ve learned this past year that other parents might be interested in knowing. I do not claim to be an expert, just someone who has researched college admissions to 4 year universities by phone calls and on the web. Would like to share with parents some of the things I came across.

    So much goes into college admissions. Most use what’s called a “holistic” review of a student’s application and high school transcript, and this means they consider all sorts of things. What stuck with me, however, is the part where we talked about those college requirements listed on their websites. This is what a couple different senior admission advisors for universities in the state of Washington had to say about planning out our kids’ high school courses:

    – Our applicant pool goes well beyond all minimum requirements

    – Meeting minimum requirements only make high school students eligible to have their application reviewed. It is not the same as being part of our competitive applicant pool.

    – Applicants without rigorous math and other core courses may not fare well in the review process

    Hmmm, ok so I then went the CollegeBoard website (they are a non-profit organization who developed the SAT test) to understand what those rigorous courses exactly were. Here’s what they recommend (for students who are ready and plan on going to and graduating from college):

    “The academic rigor of your child’s high school courses is an important factor in the college admission process. College admission officers see the high school course schedule as a blueprint of an applicant’s education. They’re looking for a solid foundation of learning that the student can build on in college. To create that foundation, your child should take at least five solid academic classes *every* semester — starting with the basics and then moving on to advanced courses. “ — CollegeBoard

    So what are those five solid academic classes? They list these:

    1. English

    2. Math

    3. Science

    4. Social Studies

    5. Foreign Language

    Then they list the Arts and AP for additional coursework. Here is the link so you can look for yourself http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/plan/hs-steps

    In addition to the many things that were learned about how other school districts in our area deal with these recommendations, the other interesting piece of information is what the colleges say themselves about these 5 core courses and what grade level they suggest students take them.

    Here are some really easy to click on college links for parents, and course recommendations for students year-by-year that are in grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 that may be interesting to others. What’s interesting I thought is that many of the recommendations across different organizations are pretty similar.

    Florida State University

    Algebra 1 or Geometry and Foreign Lang in middle school
    http://admissions.fsu.edu/freshman/admissions/tim

    University of Iowa

    Algebra 1 or Geometry and Foreign Lang in middle school
    http://www.uiowa.edu/admissions/undergrad/counsel

    University of Southern California

    Click on 8th and 9th grade
    http://www.usc.edu/admission/undergraduate/prepar

    Michigan State University

    Click on page 2 for 8th grade “Consider taking algebra I so that you can take precalculus or calculus during your senior year in high school. It also says, “consider taking a foreign language course this year [grade 8]”.
    http://admissions.msu.edu/documents/CollegePlanni

    What’s a Good Academic Record for College Admissions?
    http://collegeapps.about.com/od/theartofgettingac
    It says “A lot of colleges require two or three years of a foreign language, but you’ll look much more impressive if you take a full four years. College educations are emphasizing global awareness more and more, so strength in language will be a big plus for your application.”

    Washington State GEAR UP

    See page 23. GEAR UP is a link off of UW’s Get Ready for College page, and co-written with office of the Governor of Washington State.
    http://www.gearup.wa.gov/files/2009%20Middle%20Sc
    “[In 8th grade] Take pre-algebra or, if possible, algebra. Take classes in art, computers or world language, if you can.”

    U.S. Department of Education FSA (Federal Student Aid)
    http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/sit
    It says in its workbook for 7th graders: “Begin taking advanced courses such as Algebra I and a beginning foreign language class. (But, remember, take only the most difficult courses you can handle).” Then it says for 8th grade “Continue taking advanced courses such as Algebra II and an intermediate foreign language class.” For 9th graders: “Enroll in algebra or geometry classes and a foreign language for both semesters. Remember, you will have more options if you start planning now for college and keep your grades up.”

    I’m not sure how helpful this is to anyone else, and some of this is obvious probably to parents with older kids who are far down this road. But for me, learning these things were eye-opening and very useful while figuring out how to help guide our kids to reach as high as they’re able, and be lined up for the neat opportunities that await them.

  41. Dear Steph,
    Thank you for the informative post. Having worked at Bellevue College, Seattle Community College, Shoreline College and the University of Washington for more than 20 years, I can confirm everything you said is absolutely true. If a student does not have strong math skills in particular, they are not likely to make the final cut at most good colleges and universities. There was a case a couple years ago of a High School Valedictorian from West Seattle High School who failed to make it into the University of Washington due to a low score on the SAT math test. One cannot blame colleges and universities for setting high standards. It is a fact that over half of all entering college Freshmen in our State have such poor math skills that they are forced to take remedial math courses before they can even take 100 level (Freshman level) math courses. This is a waste of time and money for the student and for the colleges and universities. Our State has a very high percentage of kids going to college, but a very low percentage of kids graduating from college (among the lowest in the nation). This is why colleges have placed greater emphasis on preparing kids for college math courses while they are still in Middle School. This is precisely why I was so happy when School Board member Carolyn Simpson stated at the last school board meeting that we should not wait until 9th Grade to get kids more focused on improving their study skills. What happens in Middle School is every bit as important to the future success of our children as what happens at high school.

    By the way, I have heard that there will be a chance for public comment on the annexation of SMS at the school board meeting on March 8th. If any of you know any parents of Middle School or High School students, please let them know that this is there chance to let the school board know what they think of our school district eliminating Snoqualmie Middle School and overcrowding the two remaining middle schools – harming more than one thousand middle school children – just to create an isolated campus for our 9th Graders.
    Regards, David Spring Parent North Bend

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