(Background: Fifth grade class sizes at Spanish immersion school Puesta Del Sol increased from 22.5 students per teacher in 2015-2016 to 30 students per teacher in 2016-2017 which is higher than nearly every other fifth grade elementary school in the Bellevue School District. Parents have mobilized to understand why this decision was made to increase class sizes at Puesta Del Sol and in Spanish language immersion which teach no English through second grade and require more resources to get students ready for middle school at comparable English levels as as schools which teach primarily in the English medium.)
Update: Bellevue School District provided class size data and budgets for 2016-2017 for comparison across the District.
- Helpful, but frustrating meeting with Bellevue School District administration on Saturday September 17th, 2016
- Bellevue School District will be having more meeting this week on Monday 9/19 and Thursday 9/22 to discuss staffing across the District.
- Puesta Del Sol Parents MUST attend the BSD Board meeting on Tuesday 9/20 at 4pm at WISC Rainier Room, 12241 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005 AND the second Bellevue School District Meeting at Puesta Del Sol on Wednesday 9/21 at 6pm in the Puesta Del Sol Gym or this issue will get swept under the carpet.
- If you are interested in email updates on the process & parent advocacy for Puesta Del Sol, please use this link to sign up for the email updates: http://eepurl.com/cgf8tD
The GOOD: We had more than 50 parents attend the meeting with Bellevue School District Board member My-Lihn Thai, Executive Director Cindy Rogan, and Principal Jonathan Shearer. It was great to hear from the other parents, many of whom shared the similar questions, frustrations, and emotions around the 30:1 student to teacher ratio in the Puesta Del Sol fifth grade. It was GOOD to have a conversation primarily with Ms. Rogan regarding how we got here and how the Bellevue School District makes staffing decisions. Additionally, we found out that there are meetings on Monday 9/19 and Thursday 9/22 to continue to discuss district staffing. The fat lady has not sung yet! One of the parents took notes from the BSD Puesta Del Sol Class Size Meeting.
The BAD: From my opinion, the BAD centered around an opaque decision making process that is fundamentally broken for Puesta Del Sol and language immersion. From what I understood, the School District made the decision that “28 students per class” is appropriate for Puesta Del Sol intermediate grades of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. Since Puesta Del Sol is language immersion, Puesta attracts very few NEW students after Kindergarten, who must test into the school. So Puesta class sizes simply attrite over the years. So, at the point 10 students leave a grade for whatever reason, the Bellevue School District feels it appropriate to eliminate a classroom, jumping class sizes from 22 students per classroom to 30. Most of the student attrition occurs from grades 3 through 5 when English & Spanish are being taught and students start to struggle with the immersion program. There is a real question if Puesta Del Sol is doing all it can do to support students are struggling from 3rd grade to 5th. These are also the same students that will struggle in classes with a 30:1 student teacher ratio.
Our own Koan Mauer was literally up until midnight analyzing class size by grade by year for the past fifteen years using the yearbooks. Click to see linked spreadsheet on Puesta Del Sol Class Sizes for the Past Fifteen Years. Over the past fifteen years we have not seen class sizes higher than 28 students per teacher and that we have only seen 2 classes out of 90 classes with 28 students (3rd grade and 4th grade in 2009-2010). Now we are at 30.
The UGLY: Personally, I left the meeting angrier about the situation than before. No data or rationale for the class sizes was presented, other than “28 students per class is a good number for Puesta.” I had sent Ms. Rogan, Ms. Thai, Deputy Superintendent deVita, and Principal Shearer an exhaustive list of questions ahead of time, but they were not discussed. Because Ms. deVita was not present today, the “data questions” were deferred to the next meeting. It is clear that the class sizes that we are seeing at Puesta are “the rare exception” in Bellevue, yet there was no commitment to add an additional teacher. There was also NO CONSIDERATION that Puesta Del Sol is Spanish language immersion. I understand that managing a budget for the school district is complex and there are many considerations, YET I am angry that the decision was made to remove resources from the Puesta fifth grade. This could easily happen in 4th grade and perhaps 3rd grade based on the budgeting rationale that was presented.
Finally, much of the data presented was contradictory to other information we had heard from Senator Litzow’s office or been able to find on our own (like Koan Maurer’s analysis). The minimal data we heard added insult to injury. Hopefully we will get the right information on Wednesday at 6pm at the next meeting.
WHAT’S NEXT? We did not accomplish much today, so we need to keep the pressure on. Please plan on attending & speaking at:
- The BSD Board Meeting on Tuesday 9/20 at 4pm at WISC Rainier Room, 12241 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005
- The BSD Meeting at Puesta Del Sol on Wednesday 9/21 at 6pm in Puesta Del Sol Gym
I do believe Board Member My-Lihn Thai is sympathetic to our situation and will be an advocate. Please continue to email her, cc:ing Ms. Rogan, Principal Shearer, Superintendent Tim Mills, and Deputy Superintendent Melissa deVita.
Also, it is clear that engaging with our elected representatives has had impact as conversations with Senator Litzow’s office were referenced by BSD. Keep working to get those representatives engaged!
Let’s get some rest – both mental and physical – and gear up again for next week!
Washington State Elected Representatives for Bellevue
Bellevue City Council