Stories to watch in 2016

With a new year in a growing district, there are a lot of things going on.  Two new schools are opening in September: Jane Addams Middle School in the northeast and Fairmount Park Elementary School in West Seattle. Here are five stories we expect to shape Seattle’s education scene in 2016.

  1. The City’s preschool plan. Last September, Seattle City Council unanimously endorsed a plan to provide pre-school spaces for all kids in Seattle, with fees on a sliding scale. This year, we can expect to see those plans take shape.
  2. More wrangling over Charter Schools. After the King County Superior Court judge’s ruling on Dec. 12, one thing is certain about the future of charter schools in the state: it’s heading for the state supreme court. If those who back charters get their way, as many as eight schools could open in September.
  3. Common Core. Schools have already started adjusting curricula to get kids ready for common core standards. In 2014-15, the way students are assessed will change. The state will replace the Math, Reading and Writing MSP tests with Smarter Balanced summative assessments, which look at common core standards and have another big advantage over the MSP – teachers don’t have to wait months for the results.  In high school, 11th graders will take Smarter Balanced tests. Roosevelt and Ballard high schools will be among the schools field testing Smarter Balanced this spring. Schools will also have the option of using Smarter Balanced interim assessments during the year, to track students’ progress. No word yet on whether Seattle Public Schools plans to keep the MAP test as well.
  4. School discipline reform. Seattle Public Schools started working in earnest to overhaul their school discipline policies in order to provide more effective help to kids with behavior problems and to reduce the number of kids suspended. Along with rule changes on the district level, more schools are trying alternative discipline methods. The work continues, and we hope to see more progress in 2014, including more schools adopting alternative discipline, and more changes to the rules – perhaps even lowering suspension rates for the top two suspension-causing offenses: fighting and assault.
  5. New High School Growth Boundaries.  No word yet on when the school district is going to start figuring out how to adjust high school boundaries to accommodate the growing population of students. No doubt a lot of people are still recovering from the brouhaha over elementary and middle school boundaries last fall. But the population surge now filling elementary and middle schools is going to hit the high schools in a couple of years, so it would be nice to be prepared.

-Fiona Cohen


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