Some point to results as evidence of the work Seattle Public Schools has to do to improve student achievement in poorer parts of the city.
While a recent survey gave local schools mostly positive marks overall, a closer look at the results shows residents in South Seattle are significantly less happy with their neighborhood school than those in the north.
Twenty-nine percent of Southeast Seattle residents and 18 percent of Southwest Seattle residents questioned in the Elway Research poll said they had an “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view of the nearby school. That compares with 9 percent each in the Northwest and Northeast zones and just 5 percent in the East zone.
The survey of 400 adults, released earlier this month, was done to help the Seattle School Board with its search for a new superintendent.
The new wrinkle comes with a caveat as the specific geographic sample sizes were relatively small.
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Moreover, the trend won’t come as much of a surprise to those closely following education in the city. Seattle Public Schools itself has said schools in the south part of the district are worse than the northern ones.
A district report card released in November, which was based on test scores and other indicators, listed just two schools north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal among the 17 worst schools in the city.
Still, local education researchers and advocates say the survey results should serve as another reminder of the work the district has to do to make education equitable across the city.
“We get complacent in Seattle because averages mask a lot of differences within our school system,” said Robin Lake, associate director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. “It’s important to keep that in mind and recognize that while there are people who are incredibly happy with their school, there are also people who are incredibly unhappy.”
Officials have worked for years to increase student achievement in the South End, where a higher percentage of poor and single-parent homes has led to many more students without access to resources available elsewhere. Test scores have lagged even as the district has focused more money and attention on the region.
The pressure to make all schools equitable is likely to increase as the district finishes transitioning to an assignment plan that puts more students in schools closer to their home.
The answer, according to Southeast parents, lies in responding to the needs of individual students and schools.
“The South End parents and community have for a long time felt ignored, mistreated and basically just not cared about,” said Carlina Brown, president of the PTSA at Rainier Beach High School, which soon will be receiving an International Baccalaureate program, thanks to parent requests.
Officials said they understand parents’ frustration.
Improving South End schools is a high priority, School Board President Michael DeBell said. He pointed to three specific strategies: working with teachers to improve instruction, building partnerships with community organizations; and replicating recent successes at Southeast schools like Mercer Middle and Maple Elementary.
Fellow School Board member Betty Patu, who represents the Southeast, said the survey may reflect more perception than reality in that area’s improving schools.
“The schools in the South End are getting better,” she said. “It’s just a matter of us working together with the parents and the community to see what areas we really need to work on so we can really see better, quality education.”
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.