Elizabeth Weise

What can parents and communities do to create socioeconomically integrated schools?

Navigating the racial divide in Seattle

with 4 comments

A really excellent article from the Seattle Times on the issues faced by a large urban high school and how difficult it is to serve all students. I have no answers to any of this but am so glad that the Times is shining a light on the questions.

And kudos to the paper for creating an education team to focus on these issues when so many papers are ignoring education.

Finally, it is disturbing that in Seattle, a bastion of liberalism, one-third of white students attend private schools. We need all students to attend public schools, or I truly believe we will create a generation of adults who believe public schools are only for the poor. But how do we create schools that will draw those families back to public schools? As this article makes clear, there are no easy or clear-cut solutions.

‘Microcosm of the city’: Garfield High principal navigates racial divide


After leading Seattle’s storied Garfield High School for more than a decade, Principal Ted Howard is having a crisis of conscience, wondering if his hard line with youth of color is hurting the very students he most wants to help.

Mayor Ed Murray was firing off facts about Seattle’s divided education system, with no idea that he was standing below an area of Garfield High that students call the “black balcony.” Or that the school’s “white hallway” stretched one floor above.

The selection of Garfield for a citywide education summit in April was, nonetheless, a telling choice. No other place so starkly embodies the irony of wealthy, progressive Seattle — Ground Zero for raising the minimum wage, stronghold for Bernie Sanders — presiding over a school system so undeniably segregated.

A third of the city’s white students get elite educations at private institutions, Murray noted, while a third of Seattle’s students of color attend a high-poverty school. Nearly half of all African-American and Latino students fail to graduate in four years, if at all.

“We are depriving them of the opportunity to succeed in life — we have to admit that,” the mayor said, addressing the 500 parents, educators and elected officials who had gathered for the latest attempt to focus attention on Seattle’s enduring disparities.

On paper, Garfield  looks like a liberal utopia, a majestic, Federalist-style building in the center of the city with a broad mix of students and long history of academic and athletic success under Principal Ted Howard, a black man.  Yet students of different races inhabit separate worlds. The school’s advanced-track classes are mostly white, as is its well-heeled parent fundraising group, and its annual crop of National Merit Scholars.

Please read more here.


Written by Elizabeth Weise

June 25, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. You should send your own kids to public schools before insisting that others need to in order to save society.

    Don Krause

    July 5, 2016 at 3:22 pm

  2. I’m perplexed. You attended one of those “elite” “private institutions”. You didn’t seem to be unhappy about it at the time. Do you regret this now? If you were living in Seattle today, and had school-age kids, would you send them to public or private school? How would you make this decision?


    August 27, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    • I don’t know enough about the Seattle public schools right now to know the answer.
      In San Francisco, I’m very frustrated by SFUSD’s lack of interest in doing things to entice families with students working at and above grade level. The focus is on helping disadvantaged kids, which is a great thing and which I wholeheartedly support. But there must be some way to also meet the needs of ALL kids who need and want challenging work. Otherwise they simply leave for private schools, or leave the district. Or get so bored they act out. Otherwise I fear we’ll end up with a two-tiered education system similar to England, where the wealthy send their kids to private schools where their kids work two and three grade levels above the kids in public schools. For example, in San Francisco now all 9th graders have to take Algebra 1, whether or not they’re ready for Geometry. It’s a one-size fits all approach that leave math-loving kids bored and also makes it very difficult for them to reach the final high school calculus course. Policies like this drive out families who want (and can afford) something more challenging for their kids. I don’t want a financially divided education system but I feel the current policies are creating just that – and asking for anything else is considered elitist.

      Elizabeth Weise

      August 28, 2016 at 2:44 pm

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