In the news: Madison small schools are history

12:37 pm

Beth Slovic reports today on Willamette Week’s blog that Madison High School will eliminate it’s autonomous, autocratic academic silos and return to a single high school in the fall, saving the district money while increasing opportunity for Madison students.

That leaves just Marshall and Roosevelt in the “small schools” category, with Jefferson having previously abandoned the disastrous experiment.

We’ll have to wait and see if any middle schools are reconstituted in the Madison and Jefferson clusters, the only parts of town stuck exclusively with K8 schools for the middle grades. Like “small schools,” K8s cost significantly more money to operate while providing significantly less opportunity (and high school prep) to their middle grade students.

At Monday’s school board meeting, the business agenda included money to purchase portables for Madison feeder schools Rigler and Scott, which don’t currently have room for eighth grade. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to invest that money into re-opening Rose City Park Elementary and converting Gregory Heights back to a middle school? Given the community uproar surrounding the decision to merge those schools into a single K8, it’s difficult to argue the community would be upset to have their old configuration back.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Equity, Facilities, High Schools, K-8 Transistion, Madison High, School Board, Small Schools

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12 Responses

  1. Comment from mary:

    Well that could be a step in the right direction for Madison.

    However, I would not assume that the Roseway Heights community would support the dismantling of the K-8 we have worked to build over the last three years. As a member of that community it is my impression that many parents supported the K-8 model. Our school has faired well in the transition. Our facility has 2 large and one small gym, a middle school-sized library, science room with lab, and three computer labs (PC, MAC and Linux). Our students have a full-time art, technology, counselor, Spanish and PE teacher. Science and Math in grades 6-8 are taught by specialists in their subject. Our library is open and staffed. The SUN program offers classes ranging from yoga to music to Lego robotics taught by Saturday Academy after school.

    The K-8 model has definately increased parental presence in the lives of the middle schoolers (and grant funded projects such as a new edible garden). I appreciate the continuity of community the model brings. My son is a reading buddy to a kindergartner he’s known since the child was a baby. Sure a downside may be less elective offerings such as drama. Our proximity to Madison allows our 6-8 graders to take band there and earn some high school credit. But many electives such as shop and home ec have been long gone from even the middle schools. Frankly, I would prefer a fully funded K-8 over a return to the middle school configuration.

    I want stability for our school, not a second reconfiguration in 3 years.

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Thank you Mary; I shouldn’t have tried to speak for the Roseway Heights community. (Plus, my Madison alum wife points out I’ve got my facts all messed up on which school was a middle and which merged into which, now corrected above….) Sorry about that.

    We’ll probably end up with some kind of hybrid. The K8s that started as middle schools have definitely fared better than those that began as K5s (the dreaded “ele-middle schools), and should serve as the model going forward, if we’re going to keep some K8s.

    The ele-middles on the other hand, many with one class per grade, don’t have much hope with the budget cuts that are looming. (Any Rigler or Scott families want to chime in? How about Humboldt or Beach?)

    Bottom line: if we’re going to have any comprehensive middle schools, every cluster should have one. Right now, Madison and Jefferson have none. It’s the cheapest way to offer our middle grade students the most opportunity.

  3. Comment from mary:

    Yes the middle school merger was a better deal for schools. Ironically at the time we envied the schools allowed to “grow organically” to K-8s. I know the district has frown on “split feeder” schools but perhaps a middle school option in each quadrant of the school (with no transfer lottery to get in) could have a healthy enrollment without draining students from the still-building K-8s. Gee, its too bad the Phillips administration never actually counted the numbers and toured the buildings prior to the reconfiguration. Too bad she never rolled out a model of what a K-8 should be program and staffing-wise. Actually, we’re all stil waiting on that one aren’t we?

  4. Comment from Susan:

    I agree with Mary that the RWH families and neighboring community would not support returning Roseway Heights back to a middle school, although many staff and an administrator might have differing opinions. Roseway has indeed benefited from moving into a building with middle-school sized gyms, fields and equipped science and computer labs, and also from bringing in family involvement and fundraising from the Rose City Park community. I suspect the financial cost of merging these two schools has never been added up.

    Re-opening Rose City Park is a whole different issue. It’s been obvious to many in the RCP neighborhood that this school was closed in order to be used as a swing school during the planned rebuilding and remodeling of Fernwood/Hollyrood and Laurelhurst, and then to be sold to the highest bidder. Hopefully, the Rigler community will also get a new school building before RCP is sold.

    What happened to the boundary changes that would have helped alleviate overcrowding at Rigler and Scott? Was it really easier and more beneficial to send 8th graders to Madison? It is really cheaper to spend $2 million on portables? Is it really the best plan to move Faubion? Are these decisions really being driven by the ultimate goal of building strong and successful school communities with rigorous curriculum or for creating real estate for the benefit of Concordia and condo developers?

    And what happened to the K-8 Team?

  5. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I love the RWH community! Thank you Mary and Susan for setting me straight (I need an editor, evidently).

    The last public “K8 Action Team” meeting was almost a year ago. (Maybe we should call it the “K8 Inaction Team?)

    The school board keeps throwing more and more money at the problem (which, though substantial budget-wise, does not rise functionally above the level of a too-small Band-aid), and Ruth Adkins has spoken publicly of the need for a middle school option in every cluster.

    But the administration seems too distracted by the high school system redesign and the budget crisis to follow through on the K8 disaster which has many, many poor and minority middle graders trapped in completely inadequate elementary school facilities, getting completely inadequate preparation for high school.

    Surely somebody at BESC can grasp that if you lose them in middle school, it doesn’t matter what your high school design looks like.

  6. Comment from Terry:

    Back in the day, everyone went to a K-8 school, me included. I took Algebra I in eighth grade, Algebra II as a freshman in high school.

    In short, I really liked my K-8 experience.

    But then as an adult I taught 15 years in a junior high/middle school. I enjoyed that as well, especially in the last few years, when school reform really kicked in and all students and teachers were “teamed” and instruction was (mostly) integrated.

    So I’m torn. There’s certainly an equity issue with the way PPS K-8’s have unfolded. The bottom line for me, however, is money –school funding is clearly inadequate– and the infamous PPS transfer policy.

    Deal with those and I don’t think that K-8 vs. middle school is quite as big an issue.

    BTW, two of my nieces attend Roseway Heights, one a first grader, the other a 4th (or 5th?) grader, and they’re doing quite well, thank you very much.

    Of course they have yet to reach the middle school grades. So we’ll see.

  7. Comment from Zarwen:

    Susan is absolutely right. There are 5 overcrowded schools surrounding the original RCP. Six if you include Faubion. While the overcrowding at Rigler, Scott and Faubion can be traced to the closure of Meek in 2001, it could still be alleviated now by reopening RCP. I would REALLY love to hear from someone on the school board, or the superintendent, or anyone else, about how spending $9.6 million on “portables” is more cost-effective than reopening a building that should never have closed in the first place! (N.B.: the “portables” at Laurelhurst have been there since the ’60’s or ’70’s–traceable to when Normandale and Kerns were closed!)

    Susan is right about the developers’ plans too–whatever happened to the concept of publicly owned lands? Of course, once the other schools have been rebuilt BIGGER, then it will be easy to declare RCP “surplus,” right along with Washington HS–remember how that worked out?

  8. Comment from Anne T.:

    A small correction: Meek, along with Brooklyn Neighborhood school was closed in 2003. I was at that meeting–a repulsive display of inequity and lack of democracy.

  9. Comment from enoughsugarcoatingalready:

    I never really have heard PPS reason for going back to the k-8 it mainly for having less buildings to maintain and hopefully reduce transfer requests ( hoping that students will just choose to stay in those schools through 8th grade )? The whole entire PPS handling ( or mis- ) of things makes me look at it this way = you can put however many band-aids on those cuts and bruises but they won’t do a thing for all the broken bones. Enough foo-foo fixes, let’d get to the core.

  10. Comment from Zarwen:

    Ann, thanks for the correction. I hate it when I goof on dates!

    “Enough,” do want the “official” reason, or the real reason? Doug Morgan stated in a school board meeting back in 2007 that the reasons for the K-8 conversion were twofold: “to reduce the district’s footprint, and to do it in a way that raised achievement.” It is now two years later, and we can easily see that “reducing the District’s footprint” was grossly ill-timed, and there is nothing supporting the belief that achievement is better at K-8s than elementary/middle schools. (Research shows no difference.)

    Susan nailed it, above: this was all about helping the builders and develoeprs in this town with their ongoing land-grab. I ask again, whatever happened to the concept of publicly owned lands?

  11. Comment from Anne T.:

    The K-8 reforms instituted by Vicki Phillips lined the pockets of consultants who were paid exorbitant fees for planning and implementing the change.

  12. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    …planning and implementing the change.

    Good lord, I think I heard a rim shot when I read that.

    I know what you’re talking about (consultants and “planning”), but in reality there appears to have been very little (if any) actual planning for K8s.

    The costs continue to balloon, and we’re still nowhere close to providing the level of education that is available for far less money in a middle school.

    Some school board members candidly acknowledge this, but there is a sickening reticence to move toward correcting this egregious error, even as at-risk students pay the price.