Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Princeton University has come to the conclusion that we don't really live in a democracy but that we are basically an oligarchy.  No real surprise there - the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the people in-between worry about that their children won't even live at the same standard as they do.  Just to be clear:

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

Their main conclusion?

As Gilens and Page write, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

We see this in public education reform and discussion every single day.  There is endless blathering by any number of Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation or Walton Foundation astro-turf groups created by these foundations about "representing" the public.  They don't.

On another note, I was reading a story at Publicola about Rodney Tom announcing that he is not going to run again for state senate.  Ross Hunter, another roadkill Dem, had considered running for the senate seat vacated by Tom.  But he said this:

"He had feared negative ads from independent expenditure groups (done on his behalf) that would have prevented him from running a "clean" campaign.

He writes:
Outside forces control ever-larger slices of campaign expenditures. I could run a clean campaign, but I cannot imagine that the external forces would agree to do so as well, and they would have probably outspent my campaign by over a million dollars. I was concerned about “wearing” this negative advertising against someone I consider a friend. It’s too bad we are are in a world where campaigns are no longer controlled by the candidate. This specific concern is obviously gone today, but it still a problem in the campaign world in general that I do not know how to solve.
Very troubling.  A candidate wants to run a "clean" campaign but because there are groups who can operate in favor of the candidate but independently of the candidate, candidates don't just worry about opponents but about supporters.

That is a very sorry state of affairs but it's probably true.  I think that if Suzanne Dale Estey had truly run her own campaign, she might not have lost the race to Peters.   In person, she comes off as a lot more of a straight shooter than she did in her campaign.  But while a candidate cannot control what others say and do in their name, they can to do the basic move of distancing themselves from people who try to speak for them and/or disavowing such tactics.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Common Core in Portland - Why So Silent Seattle?

I had been seeing a lot of Twitter buzz around Portland School District and the outspokeness of one Board member but now it's ramping up.

(The Seattle Times put it in their ed news roundup but blandly said, "Portland school board members express concern over Common Core.")

What is fascinating to me is the silence from the district and our own School Board on this issue.  I suspect once CC really hits schools and impacts curriculum, test prep and resources, Seattle Schools parents may wake up.  

Most of the concern of Board members is one of the issues I have raised - where was the preparation for Common Core for schools and teachers?   From The Oregonian:

Despite clashing opinions on a group of controversial state standards, six Portland School Board members appeared united on at least one issue: They all had concerns about the rollout of new state exams aligned with the Common Core state standards.

“Is the state providing sufficient time and resources for professional development, for the transition, for even acquiring the technology and materials that the districts need?” she asked.

Knowles said district officials appeared to be on track, but PPS administrators also noted the district only received money from the state specifically for the transition of the core this year. A state grant gave the district about $496,000 until the summer of 2015.

"That money would have been great to have four years ago," said Goff.

The most outspoken member of their Board is Steve Buell who has crafted a resolution against Common Core standards. 
Highlights of his resolution with emphasis mine (with complete text below these):

What Can Girls Wear?

It's prom season and it's soon to get warmer and that means....dress code issues.  One huge issue: are leggings really pants (my young adult sons say no)?  From the Huffington Post:

Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggings have become a clothing accessory that's increasingly controversial — and seemingly, the favorite new target of the school dress code.

Haven Middle School in Evanston, just north of Chicago, took what turned out to be a contentious stand: If you wear leggings, you need to have a shirt or skirt over them that reaches at least down to your fingertips.  In other words, girls need to cover their behinds.

I can't necessarily disagree with this.  Sometimes leggings are made of different materials and, if they are not thick enough, can show underwear.   As I used to tell the boys at Roosevelt who had baggy pants, I'm not interested in seeing your underwear.

But is a distraction factor or an expectation of what students should wear to school?  (I always told prospective Roosevelt students on tours - you don't have to dress as if you are going to church or to see your grandmother but don't dress like you're going to a party.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seattle Schools Score Well in State's Highest Honor

From OSPI:

A total of 413 schools are 2013 Washington Achievement Award winners. Winners were notified Monday via email from State Superintendent Randy Dorn and State Board of Education Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. 

The Washington Achievement Award is sponsored by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Award winners are selected using the state’s Accountability Index and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver. 

“It is important that we use the revised Achievement Index to not only provide feedback to schools and districts on their progress, but also to identify schools with exemplary student performance,” said Mayer. “These awards shine the light on what is working well in schools across Washington.”
Schools are recognized as top performers in one of six categories:
  • Overall Excellence
  • High Progress
  • Reading Growth
  • Math Growth
  • Extended Graduation Rate (awarded to high and comprehensive schools only)
  • English Language Acquisition
Seattle Schools did well - there were 29 cited:

Charter Schools and "Teacher Appreciation Week"

From Daily Kos, comes a fairly unbelievable story (and yet, they are not The Onion) about a charter school group, run by a for-profit education management org, called Mosaica. 

To note before I get to the main story, Mosaica, run in the Muskegon, Michigan area, was recently in the news as they were not able to meet their own payroll. 

The state is fronting $231,000 to the charter school district in Muskegon Heights so it can pay its employees. Teachers and staff didn’t get paid like they were supposed to on Monday.

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was set up in June 2012 when the old school district there went broke.

A state-appointed emergency manager created the PSA, which hired Mosaica, a charter school company, to run the school system. Now the new school system is running a deficit of its own.

Right, because private industry does run so much better for all areas.

The unbelievable story is about "Faculty Fun Day" at Mosaica's Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac.  

Faculty Fun Day
WHEN:  Friday, May 2, 2014
WHAT:  Would you like the chance to see how fun your child’s teacher can be?
WHY:  Fundraiser for Teacher Appreciation Week
WHERE:  [name redacted]'s class - Room XXX
COST:  Any monetary amount

The Faculty at ATAP would like to invite our students and parents to help us kick off our Teacher Appreciation Week by donating money to have our teachers do some fun and wild activities.  If you would like to see any faculty member do one of the following activities, you may bring in any amount of money and put it in the box of your choice in [name redacted]'s room by Wednesday, April 30.  Check out our list of fun things and we can’t wait to have fun.  By the way… NO STAFF MEMBER IS EXEMPT…this includes administration!!
MANDIVA – Our 3 favorite male faculty members in heels for an hour
SAVE MY JOB – 3 faculty members will stand in the parking lot during dismissal and hold a sign.
CREAM FACIAL – Students will throw pie in 3 faculty members’ faces during an assembly.
KINDERGARTEN EXTREME MAKEOVER – A kindergarten student will do the hair and makeup of 3 faculty members.
TEACHER SWAP – Teachers will swap roles with office, custodial, and lunch staff for an hour.  We will also send a high school teacher to elementary and vice versa.
LOOK WHAT THE STORK BROUGHT IN!! – 3 faculty members in bonnets, bibs, and pacifiers (just like a baby)
Every staff member has to participate.

Washington Education News Roundup

To repeat, Senator Rodney Tom, noted turncoat for the Dems, is not going to run again after all (citing health concerns for himself and his elderly father).  The Times ran a blathering editorial about how great he was but you really can't take them seriously when they start with, "But this time you might wonder, what will become of the Legislature without him?"

Seriously?  Not, "how will the Legislature operate like without him?" but "what will become of it?"  Well, like most of life, the Legislature will carry on just fine without him.  He isolated himself with his choices and I think he realized it was going to backfire on him in the election. 

The Washington State Charter School Commission released its 2014 request for proposals yesterday.  According to their press release, last year they received 19 completed proposals.  I'll be interested to see how many letters of intent (which was about 25ish last year) that they receive. 

To understand, they will fill eight spots for Fall 2015. That means that in addition to the applications approved in 2014 for schools opening in 2015 (that would be seven), another eight can be approved for schools to open in 2015.  As they state, "Spots not filled one year are carried to subsequent years."  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Now, for the second year in a row, the most objected to book in libraries is...Captain Underpants.   Do these boys "defy" authority and do silly things?  Yes.  Do I think it needs a warning label, "Kids, don't try this at school?"  Not really.  (I even have a tiny Captain Underpants toy in my car who serves as my parking diviner.  Works 95% of the time.)

You've probably all heard but Senator Rodney Tom is NOT running for re-election, citing health concerns for himself and his elderly father.  Whatever the reason, he has been more of an obstructionist than a leadership (not to mention betraying his party).  As I mentioned elsewhere, Superintendent Dorn told me I would never get a student data privacy bill passed with the current Senate leadership. Well, that now becomes less of an issue.

Here's an interesting feature by National Geographic on what the U.S. population will look like in 2050. 

The U.S. Census Bureau let respondents check more than one race for the first time in 2000, and 6.8 million people did so. By 2010 that figure had increased to nearly 9 million, a spike of about 32%.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Common Core Roundup (with trends and memes)

 Update: Finally! An thoughtful piece about why Common Core is failing (and likely will be weakened).  It's by Jay P. Greene at Education Next and he has it right. 

Supporters of Common Core have made some of the same political mistakes that opponents of gay marriage did.  They figured if they could get the US Department of Education, DC-based organizations, and state school chiefs on board, they would have a direct and definitive victory.  And at first blush it looked like they had achieved it, with about 45 states committing to adopt the new set of standards and federally-sponsored standardized tests aligned to those standards.  Like opponents of gay marriage, the Common Core victory seemed so overwhelming that they hardly felt the need to engage in debates to defend it.

But in the rush to a clear and total victory, supporters of Common Core failed to consider how the more than 10,000 school districts, more than 3 million teachers, and the parents of almost 50 million students would react.  For standards to actually change practice, you need a lot of these folks on board.  Otherwise Common Core, like most past standards, will just be a bunch of empty words in a document.

It’s not as if local officials, educators, and parents are unaware of the existence of informational texts or just waiting to be told by national elites about when they should start teaching Algebra.  They have interests and values that drove them to the arrangements that were in place prior to Common Core.

Having the Secretary of Education, state boards, and a bunch of DC advocacy groups declare a particular approach to be best and cram it into place in the middle of a financial crisis with virtually no public debate or input from educators or parents did not convince local officials, educators, and parents to change their minds.  These are the folks who need to be on board to make the implementation of Common Core real.  And these are the folks who are organizing a political backlash that will undo or neuter Common Core.  

A direct path to victory by Common Core supporters sowed the seeds of  its own defeat.

To which I say:

Too many of our public education reforms are coming from people who have what I call, "I'm the smartest person in the room" syndrome.

Keep the "public" in public education or your outcomes will NOT be what you think they will be.

And lastly:

Power to the people (right on).

End of update.

I'd been meaning to do this for awhile but every single day - in multiple news outlets - there are stories about Common Core.  I occasionally see some "good news" ones but frankly, those mostly come from Gates Foundation funded groups (or more often than not, seriously, in Forbes magazine).

Let's be clear - this is not some small-scale, scattered uprising.  It is happening everywhere in this country and there are those with a lot to lose.  The loss is time, effort, resources and, of course, revenues.

Never, ever doubt the will of people who have a lot of money to lose.

Problem is, you can never, ever doubt the will of parents to protect their children.  And voters to protect constitutional guarantees.

Quite the deathmatch, no?

Here' the latest one that caught my eye.  This weekend was the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" co-sponsored by no other than the Koch brothers and their "Americans for Prosperity" group.  (I know I make Bill Gates sound like a problem - these brothers are magnitudes of scale much worse and more dangerous to public education and this country.  I'm not kidding.)

This story was in service to the idea that the Bushes as a political family are going to have a fight on their hands if they push Jeb Bush (but I'm going out on a limb - right now in 2014 - to say the next Bush with a real chance is Jeb's son. He's also - God help us - another George Bush.  Young, smart and part Hispanic.)

So the "summit" was a round-up of likely conservative candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  And a more hilarious bunch you cannot find - Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, etc.  (Honestly, I think the next election will be more fun than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Basically, it's Spring Break week so no meetings.

Saturday, April 19th
Director Blanford finally has a community meeting.  It's from 10-11am at the Douglass-Truth library.

I attended both Director Carr and Director Martin-Morris' community meetings yesterday.

Seattle Times editorial on Initiative 1351

The Seattle Times wrote an editorial to discourage people from signing petitions to put Initiative 1351, Class Size Reduction, on the ballot. The editorial was, of course, full of lies, misrepresentations, and unprincipled statements.

I don't know where other people stand on initiatives. Lots of states don't have an initiative process. They are certainly open to abuse. We have seen Costco use the initiative process to buy themselves the law that allows them to sell liquor. We have seen a dozen millionaires and billionaires use the initiative process to buy a charter school law. Tim Eyman writes frivilous initiatives to provide himself an income as the manager of the campaign. There was a time when Tim Eyman was the de facto political leader of this state - it was a time when there was no leadership coming from Olympia.

A number of Mr. Eyman's initiatives, though successful at the ballot box, were reversed by the Court because they failed to meet constitutional requirements. A number of other initiatives which won approval were also revealed to be badly written law. Right now there is a legal case being argued about the constitutionality of I-1240, the Charter School initiative. It is also undergoing some legislative corrections and refinements to fix some of the bad drafting.

Initiatives have also created a number of unfunded mandates. They have to. The law requires that an initiative be about just one thing. If it included a funding source then it would be about two things - the spending and the revenue. So all initiatives, by design, are unfunded mandates.

Despite all of this, there is also a proper role for initiatives. They can allow the state to take necessary action when the political leadership in Olympia is frozen, broken, or going wrong. That pretty much describes the current status when it comes to public education. The Court has ruled, but the legislature is clearly incapable of taking the necessary action. Now comes this initiative to direct immediate action on at least some of the work. When the leaders fail to lead, then the People need to take the lead. That's what we're seeing here.