The HCC program, along with other advanced learning programs, has been deeply ingrained into the Seattle Public Schools. Garfield’s status as an HCC magnet school has only made these programs more prominent to us. Inevitably the same question arises with each passing school year: What if these programs didn’t exist at all? As of 2020, the district may just be headed in that direction.
It’s no secret that the HCC program serves a majority-white and East-Asian population. In the 2018-2019 school year, 59% of HCC students were white — even though white students made up only 48% of the district as a whole. On the other hand, only 1% of the HCC program was black, while the district enrollment of black students was 14.5%.
Superintendent Denise Juneau voiced her concerns on the topic in a recent SPS Board meeting presenting the new plan.
“One of the first stories I heard arriving here, was about Garfield High School: that some students there call it the slaveship or apartheid high,” Juneau said. “Since that time I have learned it is a generational legacy. This is unacceptable and embarrassing.”
To respond to this legacy of division, the district has put together a task force with the job to propose a full-fledged replacement plan for the HCC program.
The district uses two school policies as reasoning for the oncoming changes. One is Policy 0030, which states that it is Seattle Public Schools’ duty to make sure that all schools are “ensuring educational and racial equity”. The other is Policy 2190 which states, “It is the policy of the Seattle Public School Board that all students will be afforded the opportunity to reach their potential and graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life.”
The Advanced Learning Task Force proposed what they call an “all-inclusive” replacement to the HCC program. Students would be served in mixed classes — a stark departure from the existing self-contained model.
Director Jill Geary supports this initiative to abolish separate HCC classes.
“We have to remember that first and foremost, all our students are general education students, and then they get certain services to support their learning,” Geary said.
The Task Force also called for advanced math pathways at every middle school by the year 2023. 9-12th grade students in advanced learning would be expected to begin taking honors, AP, and or IB courses at an accelerated rate. For those seeking dual credit, Running start would still be offered along with the in school AP and IB courses.
In an attempt to keep students within their neighborhoods, all students will be forced to attend their neighborhood school. The expectation is that each school will be able to offer the same opportunities, but some worry if the schools will stay true to these ideas.
Currently with programs like HCC, many students come from elementary schools throughout the city into Washington Middle School or Hamilton. These institutions are some of the only HCC tracked middle schools putting a majority of the HCC pathway students within a bubble of their own. Thus, once these students move to their magnet high schools, they remain isolated from their non HCC peers.
When students are tracked they are completely surrounded by the same peers for over a decade, there is little incentive to meet other students.
“Experts will tell you giftedness is not based on race; giftedness is not just found in white people,” Juneau said. “That means that we, the Seattle Public Schools, have intentionally created systems that are prohibiting some groups like African American males and other students further from educational justice from qualifying and receiving the services they need to thrive in our system.”
With the proposed closure of the HCC program, some worry what this may mean for current HCC and Advanced Program students. According to the Task Force behind the program change, students will finish the path within the schools they are currently enrolled in.
This is an important subject not only for current students, but for all future students and the future of public education in Seattle
Although this issue won’t directly affect anyone reading this now, it is imperative to stay informed on this subject not just for yourself but for your younger siblings. It will have a lasting impact on the future of education in Seattle Public Schools.