KUOW: Madrona K-8 still facing enrollment issues

Madrona K-8 enrollment peaked six years ago. Today, the student body has declined by 160 students.

Much of the enrollment decline is due to parents sending their children to other private and public schools. Due to continually poor test results, students within the Madrona K-8 area can enroll in other SPS schools. But some of the troubles also stem from racial tension at the 15-percent-white school, KUOW reports.

Below is an excerpt of the radio story. You can listen to the full story on KUOW’s website.

From KUOW:

The school principal suggests low test scores scare some parents away. She admits those need to improve. Also, the school fails to meet federal requirements for yearly progress. So, students assigned here can pick a different school if they want.

Besides all that, Karin Richard sees another possible reason for low enrollment. Something she calls “playground chatter.”

Richard: “I had a friend who said she’d moved to Madrona and within the first three weeks of being here at the playground she said she’d heard everything about the school.”

Her friend heard things like the school doesn’t have an arts program. There’s not much recess. That advanced kids don’t get enough attention.

Richard: “And none of it was true.”

Richard started her networking in the park to set the record straight.

22 thoughts on “KUOW: Madrona K-8 still facing enrollment issues

  1. I suggest that “racial tension” might not really be the problem, but rather class and disparity. The more SPS or others try to conclude low enrollment is about race, the further we get from solving the problem.

    Madrona is not going to turn around until the school provides the same quality that is provided at competitive schools such as Stevens and McGilvra. If SPS has to pour money into it, and they should ethically if not morally, then it’s money well spent by ensuring headcount money when enrollment is raised. The key is to raise the profile by academics and arts programs, and stop using race to shame or justify the abandonment of this school.

    SPS is mentally ill in that they fail to see why doing the same thing over and over produces the same results. See: TT Minor, Meany, MLK. Madrona doesn’t need to get tough, they need to get real and recognize who and what they are competing with/against and SPS needs to fund that critical paradigm shift.

  2. Does anyone have any information about what the process is to pick an alternative school? I know during the enrollment period you can apply to different schools in the area and its the luck of the draw to get in. But this comment implies something different. Not surprising I don’t see anything on the SPS website about this.

  3. Here we go again. Why can’t we focus on the good that is happening at Madrona K8? I have heard nothing but good things going on there these days. What happened 5 years ago, between a group of well meaning parents, a principal who had a completely different agenda and a former principal with a chip on her shoulder, should be considered water under the bridge. What we have now is a new principal who WANTS neighborhood kids, a group of dedicated teachers, a growing art and music program and some really committed parents. Am I missing something? That sounds pretty good to me.

  4. 4-5 years ago, Madrona got a very negative rating by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Because of this, there was a specific procedure that the school district needed to follow in order to notify parents of the problem, how it would be addressed, and what alternatives families had in the meantime. Per NCLB, families must be offered the option to send their child to another school (with a better rating) within their area. I’m not sure how many families transferred their children out of Madrona–I do know that my childrens’ school received at least a half dozen that first year (if I remember correctly, this happened into the school year, not at the beginning of the year or during the summer). As my kids don’t go to Madrona, I am not sure if it is still considered a “failing” school by NCLB criteria, and if families continue to have the option to send their kids to other schools.

    I’m not surprised that you cannot find anything about it on the SPS website–I think it’s designed to make it difficult to find crucial information, but that’s just my cynicism…you could look on the NCLB website, and/or talk to local families about it.

  5. The “pick a different school” process comes after the enrollment process. It comes in the form of a late-summer letter (just before school starts) to all students scheduled to attend Madrona K-8, and states that Madrona k-8 failed to meet “no child left behind” criteria. The letter lists 4 other public schools (in my case all 4 were great schools), with instructions to rank all 4 schools. If all 4 are ranked, then the student is guaranteed to get into one of the 4. The letter is sent based on test scores on a year-by-year basis. Last year the scores did not meet criteria and the letter was sent.

  6. Again, I heard about all of Madrona’s woes second hand, as my kids don’t go to Madrona. However, it did sound like the former principal caused quite a bit of damage as far as parent relationships go.

    Madronamom, are more neighborhood families sending their kids to Madrona? The sad thing is that of the families that I know in that neighborhood, I don’t know of a single family (of means) in that neighborhood who will send/have sent their children to Madrona–they attend Montlake, McGilvra, or private. A few families I know talked about Madrona, how convenient it would be, walking home from school, etc etc–but when push came to shove, they just couldn’t fathom it and all sent their kids out of the neighborhood.

    I’m excited and hopeful to hear that there is a new principal and committed families. I hope it doesn’t take long to make it a thriving neighborhood school.

  7. Madrona has been a terrible school since I was a child, and I’m 47. It will go the way of TT Minor, MLK and Meany, with the school district refusing to acknowledge the the kids who don’t flee these schools are from families who don’t know enough or care enough to investigate them. Why would any soul send their kid to MLK, when there was the shining star of McGilvra blocks away? The MLK kids literally stabbed the McGilvra kids on the bus, so McGilvra parents pulled their kids from bussing and carpooled. Why go to horrid Meany – a terror of a school for 35 years – when you could go to Washington? And why anyone ever sent their kids to TT Minor is beyond me. From the 1960’s these were terrible schools. The district refused to address why, and they closed. So will close Madrona.

  8. We have a kid in the kindergarten program and love it. We also pour our time into supporting it, as do several of our friends. Great kids, great teachers, deeply committed administration with good communication. We only hope that the school can sustain what feels like a rising tide of enthusiasm and that even more parent support developes over time.

  9. krikky – I know several families that send their kids there and everyone is happy as far as I can tell. again, i only hear good stuff happening nowadays and that the administration, the staff and parents are all working together to make it a great place. Like someone said in another comment I hope the school can sustain it and that more parent support develops. I think, I hope, but… I do believe this time it is really coming together. I would suggest that any interested parent stop by the school and check it out before basing their decision on reported test scores or gossip.

  10. The last time Madrona K-8 popped up in the news, it was because of that awful principal who pushed away anyody who wasn’t directly teaching to her testing agenda. No productive engagement to mentor students who needed to catch up. Just verbal abuse of people who wanted to help provide arts, literature, languages, and (god forbid) advanced math, even as voluntary after school programs. It’s no wonder Madrona still has such a reputation. If the new principal wants to work with the community, they need a massive PR campaign to re-engage those who were kicked to the curb before.

    (Speaking as a non-parent (yet) who loves to volunteer mentoring, particularly in math and technology.)

  11. I don’t understand why the district doesn’t do more with bilingual programs — Beacon Hill Elementary turned around abruptly when the district started offering a bilingual program there.

  12. I don’t know why this interview focused on events from five years ago. This is so tiresome for those of us with children at the school. Our son is in now in second grade and we have been very happy with Madrona – he has had and continues to have great teachers, the principal is awesome, he’s getting a great education and it’s a great school community. What happened five or more years ago does not represent our school now.

    We could have gone private, but decided to give the school a chance and are very glad we did. Madrona is definitely a school on the up and up, no matter some of the posters here – who clearly know nothing about the current school community – may have to say.

    Please folks – if you haven’t visited the school yourself this year or last, or talked to people who have been involved with the school directly this year or last, you are hearing old information. Please come and see for yourself!

  13. i think an image campaign is a bit out of their league at the moment given that they don’t have a super. it has to be tremendously difficult to have gone through this many supers in the last decade. no direction, no leadership, etc.

    i vote for giving the city control and making the mayor accountable. can’t hurt.

    and i really want madrona to kick ass. great school in a great location.

  14. are now and under the new neighborhood plans support the families in the neighborhoods in building a school that anyone would want to attend. Madrona School has had many different programs there over the years.

  15. My husband and I visited this spring and were pleased with the school. I like the K-8 format. We chose Leschi because it is actually closer to our home (Bailey-Gatzert is our assigned school, no one even talks about that school…another story) The staff seemed deeply committed and the kindergartners were happy and engaged. Lots of student leaders. There is a positive vibe there and I really hope the community will get behind the school -it’s an exciting thing to be part of a school that is making great strides forward.

  16. We have continually tried to the “pick another school” option with no success. Always told our choices are full.

  17. Krikky, I listened to the entire story and what they were saying was that a lot of the “playground chatter” is little more than rumors now, and people are going by outdated information. That said, test scores still are low and low enrollment in a neighborhood of means is related to that. I wonder if other schools with poor test scores in struggling neighborhoods have such low enrollment (I would be interested in looking into that) because many parents don’t have the means to get their kids into private schools or placed in other schools.

    My family is (barely) in the Stevens district but Madrona would be more convenient in many ways. We considered sending our child there next year – small classrooms size means more personal attention – but in the end we went with our assigned school with a more steady track record. Until the records change, this problem will continue, even with a dedicated principal and teachers, PTA, etc. In some ways, NCLB has contributed to this problem. If the schools weren’t required to give families an “out” to go to other schools, more families would stay and dig in and really help work toward improvement of the school. Instead, most of us take the safer and easier option. I commend those of you who are there doing everything you can to make it better.

  18. Our reference school is Gatzert and we applied to other schools using the choice form since Gatzerz is “failing.” After
    Visiting TOPS, McGilvra and Leschi’s Montessori program, Madrona K-8 was by far our #1 choice school. Despite the claim made by at least one commentator here, my son’s father and I are both educators–we do “know better” than to send our child to a bad school. Like many families at Madrona and around the district, we take our child’s education seriously. Madrona has been amazing. Our child is finishing up Kindergarten. The old principal has been gone for what?–at least two years now, the parent community has gotten VERY involved and the school is a beautiful mix of kids and families from many different walks of life. I expected there to be tension around class/race, but have encountered only a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It may help that the children wear uniforms.

    To repeat what others have said: if you are considering the school, visit it, talk to families there. The Principal, VP & PTSA are all working hard–and successfully–to build a vibrant school that meets the needs of ALL of its kids. Things are changing there very quickly and it’s a shame to news story was so out of touch.

  19. Oh what a bunch of pink slime! I know absolutely nothing about this issue so have kept my caustic tongue in check on this subject, but, now you people have drowned the thing in so much syrup that it’s making me sick. And I like pancakes, especially at the High Spot.

    All the Seattle schools are failing. And if they actually get a failing mark than they are probably actually harming your kids more than helping them.

    Oh how wonderfull that pink, orange and green little hands are wallowing together in the same sewer (SPS). Almost all the buildings are 30-50 year old junkers with broken fences, weeds 3 feet tall, and deteriorating pavement ball courts. SPS has thrown our money away supporting everything but good solid 1-12 Education for the 80% who need it and can use it. 10% don’t need the help. 10% won’t be helped.

    SPS is a disaster. A hollocaust to the imagination.

  20. As a current middle school parent I am completely dissatisfied. I never would have sent my child here had I known what it was really like. I hear the elementary program is good and diverse however, I wish the same could be said for middle school. My child’s grades, behavior, and all around spirit has declined drastically. The middle school is not diverse in any way. Many teachers have no control of the classroom and what’s going on. My child started participating in this behavior as he/she was bullied for not participating. And then you have the teachers who truly work hard to get thru to these kids and don’t get the support or recognizition they deserve. I think in years to come as the elementary program progress into the middle school, that is when change will significantly be noticed. Its a hard position because as a parent i want to support my neighborhood school, but when the most if the students drag my kid down without universal support from staff…. I transferred schools for next year because that’s what’s best for my child