Hybrid Schools

There is a heated debate going on here in Seattle about a private nonprofit group pushing to share space with a public high school, creating a “school within a school.” The Technology Access Foundation (TAF) is making this push to open an academy inside of Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School.

What do you think about private groups taking over space in public schools?

We talk quite a bit about education here, and I think that this is an interesting dispute. I am a proponent of public education. I am a bit weary of charter schools. I am also a big fan of technology. I believe that the more technology students have access to, the better. I believe that access to technology is a great way to improve one’s quality of life.

On this particular issue, I am a bit torn. I’ve done work with TAF since I’ve been in the Seattle area, and I like the things they do. However, I’m not really comfortable with them making this move because I feel like it’s a power-grab. I’d rather see TAF create their own technology-focused institution wholly separate from Rainier Beach. Everybody wins with this solution, and they are free to partner with any/all high schools in the district.

One Love. One II.




About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

6 responses to “Hybrid Schools”

  1. Senblake says :

    I dont think its a good idea to place a TAF school in a public school. I’ve been reading about power struggles within high schools amongst students. As we probably know, HS students will use any separation (income, clothing, knowledge of trends, etc.) to separate the haves from the have-nots. I feel like TAF kids would walk around with an undeserved air or elitism when mixed with the “regular” RB students. And this social separation could be bad for both groups of students.

  2. Garlin II says :

    Sen, thanks for the comment.

    I think that you have made an interesting observation about the social implications of this sort of program. That is something that is often overlooked (well, at least I overlooked it, instead focusing only on the educational environment implications).

    I think your issue could be solved by designing a system where TAF’s resources were shared equally. This would mean that all students had access to both RB & TAF’s resources (computers, staff, etc.). That way, there is no separation. I am unsure, however, if that is how this program is structured.

  3. senblake says :

    I definitely see your point, and I agree that that would alleviate the situation. I just hope that intelligence is distributed evenly between the two schools, and that the TAF school does not base its admission solely on aptitude test achievement, as my prep school did. That way, you can avoid adding another rung onto the perceived “intelligence ladder” at the school (like how advanced math kids look down at normal track math kids, who look down at remedial math kids, etc).

  4. Garlin II says :

    Good points Sen. We need to do what we can to eliminate the illusion of division in school, and in life in general for that matter.

  5. Edward says :

    The issue of social stratification in a shared-space it real and legitimate. Fortunately for TAF and all the students who might potentially be served in the RB building, there are numerous successful examples of co-located schools across the country in larger cities and schools than Seattle and RB, respectively, and even in our own backyard. Max Silverman was successful in breaking Tyee in Highline into smaller Academies using the Coalition for Essential Schools (CES) model, Environmental Adventure School (EAS) in Kirkland, WA is successfully co-located, and Brooklyn Collegiate has had success as well.

    There is also a substantial amount of small-schools research that clearly articulates how to best avoid steak vs. hamburger syndrome (i.e. vs. have nots). The key is to pay diligent detail to the establishment of culture in all schools and for each school to have authority in issues related addressing their students’ needs. The TAF model is designed to cultivate and nuture a productive academic and social culture, which based on the literature on their website, I can not believe would include cultural elitism. In fact, TAF almost comes off as more of a social justice curriculum in terms of commitment to service learning and proposed curriculum. That is more than can be said for APP and AP programs currently located in Seattle schools such as Washington Middle and Garfield High, not to mention the stratification and marginalization that exist between north and south end schools. The logic that TAF’s success would necessarily worsen the already threatened culture, esteem and outcomes of the current RB school is simply flawed; utterly remiss of reality and context of who TAF is as an organization.

    Lastly, the mere possibility of the TAF Model on the RB campus has already done more to bring attention and potential for resources from the district to the current RB kids than the school could have ever done by itself. Currently, the RB building has the capacity for 1100 students but only serves 470. We won’t discuss why that is the case. Only say that TAF’s proposal creates much needed opportunities out of those empty seats by offering additional funds to the district to serve south end students with a viable program. The pressure and focus should be on the district and the RB staff to figure out how to better serve the 470 students currently in that building, period. I’m sure this model would have never been proposed were their outcomes different.

  6. Garlin II says :

    Edward, thank you for the thoughtful comment.

    I believe that you have mischaracterized my position as one of opposition to TAF’s plan, or of co-location in general. I agree with you that paying diligent attention to establising of culture is critical to the success. As a technologist, I know how easy it is for us nerds to get caught up in the grand idea of having computers everywhere without focusing on the cultural implications of technology implementation strategies.

    I believe that TAF has good social intentions. I want to ensure that they maintain their integrity by giving proper time to focus on these social issues. I am confident that they will do just that.

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