He starts by saying:
"Recent pages in the Times have been awash with stories about the resegregation of our schools and new Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's plan to add tougher, "standards based" programs at low-income schools as a way to attract more upper-income, white families back to their neighborhood schools."
I'm not sure I ever heard Dr. Goodloe-Johnson say the Strategic Plan included standards-based programs at low-income schools to get back more private school parents. Did I miss something?
He's pretty harsh on AP courses calling them "a gilded WASL". Ouch.
He then says,
"Let's keep it real Seattle. If we're going to talk about social justice and equity in education, let's walk the walk. If we truly believe that all kids deserve an equal opportunity to realize their potential and achieve their dreams then we must shrink class sizes and de-emphasize standardized, test-based courses like AP."
I totally agree about class size and, across the board, this is what you hear from parents. I remember a conversation while I was standing in line at Zoo Tunes last year with a West Seattle parent who had opted for private school even though he had good public school options. He said the class size was the deal breaker. I've heard this from other private school parents; they just don't believe that larger class sizes allow the teacher to give enough individual attention.
I wish I could ask him what the opposite of standardized curriculum is. What does it look like? I'm not sure I know.
He goes on:
"On behalf of the thousands of Seattle kids on the losing side of the achievement gap, we need to admit that this is not the type of curricula that will engage them. Let's not pretend that adoption of AP "rigor" will inspire ninth-grade kids with sixth-grade reading levels to stay in school. Likewise, let's not pretend that the standardized AP approach of a "mad dash through the chapter and a test on Friday" is the best curricula we can give our most-highly-skilled students.
Look to our city's elite private schools for ideas. Kids at Lakeside and Bush do well on standardized tests and fare well in college admissions. Tellingly, however, their teachers are not forced to waste valuable class time and resources on mind-numbing "test prep" lessons. Kids at Lakeside and Bush do not take the WASL, and AP courses are not offered in their hallowed classrooms. Really, you can look it up."Okay, again, what do does he think will work for kids on both ends of the spectrum? I got a little frustrated here with his put-downs of AP (and it's not perfect I'll admit) without a specific offering of what to do. He does say:
"For all students, real learning involves deep thinking and a thoughtful, personal encounter with ideas and concepts. Whether the topic is photosynthesis, parallelograms or Plato, the cultivation of avid learners and engaged citizens takes time. For struggling students, especially, success in the classroom requires their voices to be heard and their questions patiently and thoughtfully addressed."
Great, but in reality, what does that look like and how do you take kids from across the spectrum of ability to that place? (And, he doesn't mention the issue of classroom management where teachers would love, love, love to answer questions and have deep discussions except for the 2-5 kids who act out.)
And then he throws in that really old argument (sigh) that Lakeside and Bush don't do the WASL or AP classes. One, the law doesn't require them to take the WASL. That's one of the benefits private school gets you. That doesn't make them better. And no, they don't offer separate AP courses because - gently now - they get to pick and choose who gets into their schools. They get to have small class sizes. So the teachers come in with a small class of highly motivated (I hope at those prices those kids are motivated) students. He leaves out how many kids at those schools DO take the AP tests. You don't have to have an "AP" class to take the AP test.
The brief bio at the end says,
"Web Hutchins is the lead teacher in Franklin High School's John Stanford Public Service and Political Science Academy, a program that cultivates an ethic of service and active citizenship in students. He has taught history and English in the Seattle Public Schools since 1990."
I'm intrigued by that academy which I had never heard of; it sounds really interesting.