The rise, and rise, of Seattle schools
Seattle Times editorial | The Seattle Public Schools are undergoing dramatic changes. However, the story is not one of doom and gloom but of steady progress.
THERE is much to be optimistic about as Seattle Public Schools transform into an urban model of education quality and accessibility.
Dramatic change doesn't happen by tinkering around the edges. Nor is Seattle's thrust occurring in isolation. It is part of a welcome push by urban school districts across the country to improve access to good teaching, strong curriculum and better school resources.
The work under way is most visible in Seattle's shift from a costly open-choice system to a neighborhood assignment plan. Families got that they were exchanging choice — which worked for a lucky few — for a cheaper, simpler and fairer way to access schools and programs.
Making improvements in the middle of a deep recession required Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her team to aggressively leverage millions of dollars from credible organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and federal school-improvement grants.
Wholly appropriate, and much appreciated, is Seattle's civic and business organizations' willingness to fill a recession-driven vacuum in education funding. This kind of support has allowed the district to continue key improvements, including professional development for all principals and teachers and increasing popular programs such as foreign-language immersion and advanced classes.
The district's aligning of its curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade offers a smart shift from a haphazard assortment of curricula and materials to an efficient model. Certainly, the district doesn't need 87 different ways to teach math.
Families are rightly part of Seattle's march forward. A blend of staffers and parents is proposed for every school to create liaisons between central administration and parents.
Another layer of transparency comes next fall when the district issues report cards showing how schools, administrators and even individual employees are doing.
Some improvements are visible, such as the new science, technology, math and engineering program at Cleveland High School, foreign-language immersion at Beacon Hill International School and more advanced classes in schools that have not traditionally had them. Enrollment is up.
Other results will materialize in time. That's how education works. The Everett School District took seven years to achieve an impressive 30 percent boost in its graduation rate.
There is a lot afoot in the Seattle schools. But no need to buy into the doom and gloom scenario when steady progress is the real story.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.