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Group files complaint over efforts to address racial inequity in advanced learning in Seattle that would start at Central District middle school

A group calling itself Equity and Access to Support Every Learner, or EASEL, is calling on state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to intervene in the debate over reshaping advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools that has boiled over at a Central District middle school.

In its complaint sent Monday to Ferguson’s office, the group echoes many of the point critics of the public school system’s “highly capable” program have argued: Advanced learning classes don’t reflect the racial makeup of the Seattle communities they serve.

“The Seattle School District is not identifying, placing, or supporting students equally on the basis of race,” the complaint reads. “By its own admission, the programs for advanced learning, including Highly Capable education, does not reflect the general racial makeup of the student population.”

But the group which includes a former Seattle School Board president, is not siding with critics of the program and Superintendent Denise Juneau who are championing a first step to reconcile the disparity in Seattle — an experiment eliminating the program at the Central District’s Washington Middle School. A first push at the change was rejected by the school board last month.

Instead, EASEL is asking Ferguson to intervene in decisions around the Jackson at 23rd Ave school and the efforts to fix the city’s public school’s treatment of gifted students. “We ask that your office investigate the disparate impact on students, including the lack of processes for universal identification, publicity of the program (including information around District provided appeals of testing), placement, and supports which the District has allowed to continue which particularly impact students of color,” the complaint reads.

Under the Seattle Public Schools system, Washington serves as the only middle school with the advanced learning program serving the area of the city including Capitol Hill and the Central District. In their complaint, the group says eliminating the program for these students and not advanced students in areas like West Seattle and Ballard is unfair.

A representative for Ferguson’s office has not yet responded to CHS’s inquiry about the complaint. The Seattle Times reports that it is unlikely the AG’s Office would act on a school district’s policy. The more likely outcome? A lawsuit if the changes are made when the school board goes back into motion in 2020.

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11 thoughts on “Group files complaint over efforts to address racial inequity in advanced learning in Seattle that would start at Central District middle school

    • It’s ridiculous to accuse families of “hoarding opportunity” when it’s the District rationing access to advanced learning. SPS excels at the soft bigotry of low expectations.

      • Not so much the district hoarding as white families using privilege to gain access. It’s long been known that the program can be entered by almost any family willing to pay a private psychologist to test their student.

        Separating students by ‘capability’ widens the gap. Eliminating it is the way to go.

      • It’s true that privileged families have an easier time accessing the HCC program, in part because of the many roadblocks set up by SPS (including a September application deadline for the following year, testing on multiple Saturdays away from the home school, not advertising the program well, etc.). However, it’s simply untrue to say that private appeal testing allows unqualified students to “buy” access to the program; just ask any of the families who never appealed because private testing didn’t yield qualifying results or who submitted appeals that were denied. In any case, let’s not take our eye off the ball here: accelerated instruction is NOT A FINITE RESOURCE. The reason it’s provided in a cohort is that it’s cheap; it would require many more teachers to provide similar instruction without the cohort model. The district should be removing barriers and equitably identifying MORE kids for the program, not eliminating it.

      • @JSH

        Right, because there is a large number of professional psychologists in Seattle who are willing to risk their licenses, practices, and livelihoods to falsify testing results.

        I would trust a psychologist administered test over an SPS test every day, every way.


    • Define Opportunity Hoarding.

      Juneau’s plan does nothing to increase advanced learning opportunities for students of color. She seeks to decrease the cohort to the top 2% to the top 1%.

      Education is intended to increase (not decrease) opportunity.