Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Foundation Money in Seattle Public Schools

The Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Stuart Foundation and Boing have committed to provide $9 million in grants over the next 3 years to Seattle Public Schools.

$9 million in private grants to help Seattle schools (Seattle PI)

Foundations Back Seattle Public Schools’ Excellence for All Strategic Plan (Seattle Schools)


Charlie Mas said...

Now will they actually fulfill the community engagement protocols they set for the strategic plan initiatives in October?

seattle citizen said...

I sadly note that while there is a great emphasis in SPS on increasing access to AP, IB, ALO, Spectrum etc, and the Gates grant specifically mentions improved access to AP, Pathways funding is cut, the district is losing funding for developmental programs, other benefits to struggling students are being cut (library assistants, lunch staff, Pathways deans...)

As usual, it seems, the struggling students get it in the neck.

If society has extra money to spend on above or below grade level services, the money is better spent on below-level services: Students who are at level or beyond will suffer less if they don't have additional services than those that are below level. The struggling students will suffer, so society will suffer.

Economics and, more importantly, the compassion one would expect from a waelthy society, demands that we fund developmental programs and services at least to the same level as advanced programs, if not more.

( I do not include Special Ed services in this accounting: These are a subset, of sorts, of both struggling and advanced students.)

Keepin'On said...

I am puzzled by Seattle Citizen's attitude towards this money. What in the world is wrong with giving more money to AP classes and teachers? What is wrong with increasing access to Spectrum, etc? Oh, that's right, I forgot. In Seattle Public Schools, if you are a student or family who is doing well, we dont care about you, because we have to focus all of our attention and money on lower perfomers. This is what drives me crazy about Seattle Public Schools - the lack of balance.

Seattle Public Schools funds its low-income and struggling students to the point that there is no money for ANYONE else, ever. LAP money, Title One, Weighted Staffing, grants, state scholarship progams, Rainier Scholars - the list goes on.

If the Gates foundation has to step in and fund students who are performing well, because the district won't then more power to them!

seattle citizen said...

The district funds plenty of advanced classes.

How many developmental classes (below level) do you see?

seattle citizen said...

"LAP money, Title One, Weighted Staffing, grants, state scholarship progams, Rainier Scholars - the list goes on."

LAP is state money. Title One is federal. WSS and grants benefit entire schools (not just below-level students). state scholarships go to at-level or beyond-level students.

Please name the specific, non-special-ed classes that benefit students who are below level if you are going to claim that these students are getting specific resources.

adhoc said...

"If society has extra money to spend on above or below grade level services, the money is better spent on below-level services"

This statement is so wrong on so many levels. This mentality is so off base, and never fails to amaze and frustrate me.

The answer to proper funding is balance and equity for all. ALL.

ALL kids deserve to be challenged, including higher achievers. ALL kids deserve to have their needs met, including higher achievers. "Extra money" should used in an equitable manner to fund our schools lowest and highest achievers and everyone else in between. Yes, lets not forget the masses of kids that fall "in between". They are the ones that generally get less than everyone else.

Haven't we lost enough families to private schools yet? How much flight will it take to realize that the families who can leave will leave, most of them middle class and affluent, taking their high achieving kids and support with them. When they leave look at what's left in the public schools......a majority of low income, struggling students. Does that create a thriving public school system?

adhoc said...

Seattle Citizen do you have kids in the public school system? Have you looked at any high school class choices guide lately? There are remedial, catch up classes in almost every core subject for struggling students. I was just looking at Nathan Hale's class choice guide. For math they offer INT I II and III, and assume 9th graders will come in at INT I. However your advanced child can go into INT II, or your struggling child can go into a PRE-INT I class.

In addition there are after school tutoring and homework clubs staffed with teachers and tutors at most schools. There are all kinds of intervention and supplemental programs like AVIS, Gear Up, MESA and Steps ahead just to name a few. They are not funded by SPS but who cares, they are available at SPS schools.

And why does it matter where money comes from (LAP, Title I etc) as long as it comes, and believe me it come, to low income schools?

Keepin'On said...

Ad Hoc - Thank you. You clarified my thoughts better than I could!

Seattle Citizen- I repeat, WHY is it a bad thing to give private money to high performing students? Why? The Gates foundation isn't cutting any programs - they saw a need and are filling it.

I would just say that Seattle Public Schools is supposed to have the mission of educating EVERY student, not just low performers.

hschinske said...

In a more just world, giving money to fund higher-level services would *free up* other funds to go toward more basic services. After all, isn't the situation pretty much like this? "School needs money to fund needs A through Z. School has money to fund needs A through M, so stretches to fund inadequately A through Z. Money comes in to fund W through Z. The A through M money is now a little less stretched."

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

Of course its got a mission to educate all students. But why add advanced programs while cutting the Reading program? That ain't fair. I hear lots of talk about adding programs at advanced levels, but little talk about cuts to remedial.
Yes, we SHOULD educate everyone. But there's a baseline of "mid-level" education, then there's advanced, then there's remedial. I only suggest that once you've got the baseline (given limited funds) then the remedial need more attention, to avoid future harm, then the advanced. An unpopular opinion, perhaps, and we've had this discussion before in here (I've actually argued that yes, the advanced students indeed suffer just as much in some ways as struggling students do...) but what I see now is cuts towards the stuggling students and additional resources going towards the advanced.

And it DOES matter where the money comes from. SPS is a public entity, publicly funded. It SHOULD be providing services to all students, at level, above or below. So WHAT if there's homework clubs after school, I'm talking about actual classes. Maybe in 9th grade they have a below-level math class, but in LA, you HAVE to take your level class, and many schools have no remedial classes offered. But a student CAN, once they've taken their required LA, take a more "advanced" version of LA in mnay schools.

Keepin'On said...

From what I have seen with my kids in middle school and high school LA classes (regular LA) if you can't pass those classes by the time you have hit middle or high school, you are more than just a stuggling student.

Challenging, they are not.

seattle citizen said...

That's a valid critique of at-level coursework. Probably has some merit in many, if not most schools. This speaks to increasing the rigor of the grading system in the lower grades, the "social promotion" policies, the coursework...But it also speaks to what to do if a student is struggling, whether it's because the student was promoted without skills, was promoted without challenging coursework, or is merely (?) struggling with a particular concept. These students exist, and to leave them without access to resources that can try and bring them up is no productive.

Furthermore, a student who is "below level" and is in an "at-level" class is going to struggle, is often going to fail, is often going to be at odds with teacher and class because they are struggling....nobody wins, not the at-level class, not the student, not the teacher.

I'm not suggesting we stop adding opportunity for advanced work; I'm suggesting we supply the necessary supports for students who aren't there yet. Cutting those supports while growing advanced coursework seems not only mean, but ineffective overall (given a wide range of needs and a limited budget)

adhoc said...

You can't really win this argument. If there were to be a large array of self contained remedial classes as Seattle Citizen suggests then there would be an uproar from the community that struggling students are being isolated and dumped into sub par classes, and that they should be mainstreamed. If you don't offer self contained remedial classes then by Seattle Citizen's account you are not serving the struggling students. It appears to me that Seattle has struck a balance. There are some remedial classes, especially in subjects such as math where you need to master skill A before you can work on B. And for the classes like LA that are not quantifiable there are support services, intervention programs, and "extras" such as homework club and free tutors.

My son struggled in 5th grade math. It was difficult for him and he failed the math portion of the WASL two years in a row. His teacher this year pulls him out of math class once a week to work with a math tutor one on one, and she strongly encouraged us to join homework club, which we did. In homework club he has a tutor that works with his math teacher on very specific assignments. He has made tremendous progress this year.

Could Seattle offer more to struggling students? Of course. Should we offer more? Of course. But so should we offer services for the advanced kids. They count too.

seattle citizen said...

Why not work to change the culture that tells us that a student should at level 10 when they are 15? Why not foster a culture that accepts (nay, celebrates!) a wide range of abilities and developmental levels?

Who, then, would care if Johnny was in level 8 in math, but level 11 in LA? Work with them at their level (what other level would one work with them at?) and bring them up, perhaps with accelerated pacing in certain areas

word verifier! Are we really "stuck"?!

Keepin'On said...

OK, but then why have grades at all? Why have course exams? Heck, why have a minimun GPA for graduation? (I assume that is not your intent Seattle Citizen)

The problem with Seattle Public Schools is that we have had lax standards for too long, hence the problems we face now. But that is another debate.

Point at hand: THANK YOU GATES for helping out, especially in this economy.

(word verifier: psibli - hmm - possible?)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hmm, thank you Gates Foundation.

Sure, that might be the first response. I'm always grateful for those who want to help public education.

But I'd like to know WHAT changed in SPS for the Gates Foundation to say "all is forgiven" (after the slap they gave to the district when they withdrew funding previously). Is it Dr. G-J? If so, what has she done (or more likely, said) to make them believe there is forward progress?

I think what mostly bothers me is three-fold. One is that most, if not all these grants, come with strings. And sometimes very specific strings. I'd like to find out, in specific, how the grant money can (and will) be used and how it will help students. For example, a big deal is being made over "rigor" in the form of the PSAT being given to all freshman, sophomores and juniors. It's great to have the experience and allow them to see what it is like. But where is the follow-thru? Why does each high school get to decide what that follow-thru is? And, what is the big picture "here's what we will get out of administering this test to this volume of students"?

Second, is this issue of professional development. Okay, teachers, chime in here and help me but my perception is that many teachers find most professional development a waste of their time and somewhat demeaning to them (because it treats them all like newbies to the classroom). I know many of them want help but have specific ideas about what they need. I know, for example, that teachers at RHS had asked for more technology training - that's what they needed help with. So what is this professional development that is coming from the grant money?

Third, why doesn't anyone ever ask parents, real public school parents, what they feel is lacking? With all due respect to Mr. Gates, his children will never see the inside of a public school classroom. (And don't go off on me, blah, blah, they could get kidnapped. I know WHY they aren't there but it's all a little too smug for the Gates Foundation to think they can wave a wand and change public education. And they have now found this out from their own bitter experience.) Parents who go, day in and day out, to their children's schools and put in the time and resources. Those people, along with teachers and principals, are the ones who might like to give input on what we need or what might help.

But we're never asked. You have to wonder.

Keepin'On said...

You know what Melissa-

I am a parent who is in the classroom day in and day out. (Well not every day, but you know)

My thoughts: Professional Development. Hopefully this money will be used so that schools can quit paying for it out of their I-728 money.

Taking the PSAT - I thought this was great this year. The kids seemed to think it was interesting as well - they could see where they were at. I have no problem with this grant being renewed, nor do most folks I know.

Overhaul the hiring process. Why is this a problem? I think if asked, most teachers and principals would love to see this overhauled.

Stings with grant money. THANK YOU GATES FOUNDATION. Yes I am saying it in big letters. Sometimes I feel it must be really hard to do anything in Seattle, because people always, always find a way to criticize what you are trying to do. And then tell you how you should have done it. If you gave this money in the form of a blank check to Seattle Schools, I can guarantee it would go down a black hole somewhere, never to see the light of day again. Strings are not always a bad thing.

I know we feel we got burned by Gates last time, but I think they have looked at what worked and what doesn't and are trying to get money where it needs to go.

As for asking parents what they want - well, look at what happens when they offer money. Parents find a way to complain about it. I wouldn't ask parents what they want either.

seattle citizen said...

So maybe a little money from foundations is helpful. 10 mil (give or take) is one/fiftieth of the year's operating budget.

What happens when someone offers to cover the whole budget? "Here's half a billion, but here's how we're gonna run things..."

I'm still paranoid about industry attempts to gain a lsice of the education pie. I'm still wondering, what's in it for the Gates Foundation?

Are they wanting to make schools better for every kid? Are they still after small schools (the last grant)? That was an interesting idea on which the plug was pulled..."Small schools" seems almost quaint, now, in this day of efficiency at all costs.

I'm not complaining about the grant...yet. I want to know more about the intentions. What DOES the foundation see as a good school system?

Is it eventually contracted out to outstanding community supporters such as....Microsoft?

Lastly, why can't the public fund their own dang school system? Wht do we have to put our hands out and beg?

Word verifier sees the whole issue being covered with a PATIN[A} of obscurity, a mystery wrapped in enigma shrouded in shadow or something.

adhoc said...

Please lets stop spinning the conspiracy theories, and the Gates Foundation to take over the world fears. Let's stay within the realm of reality, please.

Like it or not, the fact is that our schools are sorely under funded. WE have a multi million dollar deficit. We are closing schools. We are cutting transportation. We have a hiring freeze. We can't fund smaller class sizes. We don't have the funds to open shuttered buildings even though they are direly needed in the NE. Our PTA's have to fund basic services like music, art, field trips, and school supplies. We are cutting Central Staff. We even have to pay for K for gods sakes. Where does it end?

Amidst all of this chaos and turmoil, amidst families leaving the district in droves, amidst votes of no confidence in our leadership, a multi million dollar budget "mistake", school boards that rubber stamp everything, anything, that the Gates Foundation is willing to give us another try. Give us 9M? Don't you think at this point we should be thankful, heck even have a party? Sure, their may be some strings, but as Keepin on said, strings are not always a bad thing. This District needs some strings to get anything done. Maybe the strings would, get this, hold MGJ, "accountable".

We should at the very very least be open minded and willing to see what the strings are, instead of the knee jerk, blind, arms crossed, Seattle "no".

Trish Millines Dziko said...

As a person who runs a foundation that depends on grants, I must say that there are VERY FEW grantors that will give you a grant with no "strings" attached. They all want to see outcomes. They work hard for their money and they want to make sure they give it in a way that there will actually be positive results.

The fact that education once again (the other example is teachers not wanting true performance evaluations) thinks it's the exception and doesn't have to be held to any kind of scrutiny (especially from those gastly private enterprises) is exactly why there isn't more investment from grantors.

Seattle has leadership now that gets the fact that you have to perform to get money. There are no blank checks. When you don't meet your outcomes and you don't work to figure out why and get back on the right path, then you lose your grant. Period. End of story.

The foundations' roles are not to query the constituents of the organization they're funding to see what they want out of the money. That's what they count on the grantee to do. Why would you expect Gates or any foundation to ask parents what they want? Their relationship is with the district not with the families the district serves.

And let's be real here. There are as many suggestions on how to spend the money as there are families. And frankly the parents who have the time and resources to be super involved will lead that discussion and the inequities will continue. I know that's something some folks on this blog don't want to hear, but that's what I see.

So Hurray for the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation and Stuart Foundation for making an investment and asking for results.

There are thousands of great examples of exemplary education out there and a ton of research on what works. That's what we as public school parents should be pushing our districts to implement, not chastise the foundations giving them the money to try.


seattle citizen said...

So Adhoc, what do you think the Gates foundation wants? What are their goals in giving the district 7 mil? How about Eli Broad? What do THEY want?

Not sayin' any of these good-hearted people are out to do us wrong, but many are: It ain't no conspiracy that there are many people/companies who would love to get a chunk of the public schools.

There's money to be made.

Not sayin' this is the case, here, but I want to know what someone wants anytime they just give me seven million, or one and half million, or a third of a million...

What do they want?


Can't we say "no" to something we know nothing about? Tell us what these foundations want: what is their vision for the future of public education and why are they making these grants?

adhoc said...

"So Adhoc, what do you think the Gates foundation wants? "

I don't know Seattle Citizen, but for 9M, I'm certainly willing to find out.

adhoc said...

Here's what has been reported:

"The Gates Foundation has earmarked $7.2-million to efforts to strengthen college-prep courses, establish a new computerized testing system, and improve teacher hiring."

Though I'd like to know all of the details, all of these things sound more than reasonable to me.

Charlie Mas said...

Believe me, the strings - if any - attached to the grant money are less binding than the strings that we know for sure are attached to the state and federal money.

seattle citizen said...

So there are strings. So the grants have accountability built into them.
Which brings us back to how we, non-grantors, hold district accountable ourselves.

Ad Hoc, for nine mil you're willing to find out (what the grantors want)? Yikes!

Should we take, say, 20 mil from the Smith and Wesson Foundation, and wait to see what THEY want out of it?

Staff hiring sounds okay; what could be behind that? (well, maybe union-busting, but besides that, what...)
Computerized testing system...Nothing wrong with that, eh? Students can upload their knowledge to the mainframe, no problem as long as the program is recognized. Oh, and we here in the NW could stand to gain some employment when MS debuts its computerized testing system! Yea! And our stocks will go up, ka-ching!
Coillege prep, yes, very important...Of the 4 billion jobs available on earth, 2 million require college prep. Better to focus on those jobs, even if there's no jobs in those sectors. Why would anyone want to be an artist, or a singer, or operate one of those crazy cranes on the waterfront? Crane operators only make about 70 thou, why train them for THAT?
What Microsoft is giving the money for is not what they WANT. What is their larger goal(s)? Are they what students need?

WV: "ascalfic"...I leave that to wittier brains than mine. Maybe a scientist? A psychologist? would have the creativity to address THAT one...

north seattle mom said...

Seattle Citizen,

Smith and Wesson vs the Gates Foundation. How absurd and inflammatory and unfair.

The Gates Foundation has spent a lot of money helping the most helpless on the planet with medical treatment. I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Clearly, you have a deep distrust of anyone trying to help things that don't meet your definition of need. There are lots of need in this world and our state budget can't fill them all. Part of being a grown up is making hard choices about what you can do with what you have.

I applaud anyone that tries to make thing better at the top and bottom and in the middle

Keepin'On said...

Yes Seattle Citizen, you have discovered the plot by the Gates foundation to take over the world, by it's insidious and nefarious donation of money to Seattle Public Schools.

If I were bent on world domination, I would at least start with giving my money to an organization a wee bit more competant.

seattle citizen said...

NS Mom,
Yes, I have distrust. Some people and organizations are in it for the profit ot be had. Or maybe they have a vision that is not that of the people, or not in the best interests of the people. This is a PUBLIC school system, and if some outside organization wants to change things, I want to know why. Just because they are doing a good thing (giving the district money) doesn't mean their aims are pure.
The Smith and Wesson comparison was used because it seems people are only to willing to take money, private money, from anybody regardless of what the motives might be.
Yes, Microsoft has done many great things that are pure and beautiful and should be appluaded. No, this does not mean that we should merely, meekly, accept their money without questioning the direction they would like to take our public school system.
Note, also, that the grant does not specifically address those "in the middle and the bottom"; it mentions computerized testing, for all, (maybe a good thing; that's debatable); teacher hiring (maybe a good thing...) and students at "the top"; AP. Not a word in there about developmental or remedial assistance.

owlhouse said...

I hear you Seattle Citizen, thank you for being a measured voice of concern on this thread.

Gates carrot and stick approach to supporting the district has been problematic in the past. It's been pointed out here that foundation money always comes with strings. Fine. It's reasonable then, crucial actually, to raise questions re: the goals of those who offer private funds- especially as monies granted now are a somehow a show of faith in district leadership. Leadership that is not responsive to parents, does not meet its own goals, lacks transparency, acts in opposition of city planning...

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' On:

Corporations (and foundations, both good and evil) also "donate" money to campaigns.

Out of the goodness of their hearts?

Lobbyists "donate" meals, trips, gifties,and other such baubles to elected officials. Because they worry about those poor and unappreciated congresspeople?

Again, not to say there is anything nefarious with MS...Eli Broad, I'm not so sure...Just saying we can't just take the money because it's money. That is SO cheap, and potentially damaging to the future of PUBLIC education.

adhoc said...

The Gates grant earmarks some of the money to add to our college prep offerings but they are by no means forcing any students to take college prep courses. Those that seek a college education and want to be prepared can take the courses and those who are not college bound do not have to take them. How does that stifle students ability to be singers or musicians or crane operators? It just adds more choice for kids, and the way I see it choice is a good thing.

Doesn't every child have the right to choose his/her own career path? And doesn't that choice include a students right to choose college just as much as their right to be a musician? And, for those that do make the choice to go to college, shouldn't they have access to college prep course so they can be fully prepared for college and be competetive applicants?

Seattle parents have shown a huge interest in more college prep. It is very clear. Just look at the three Seattle high schools that have the largest waitlists. They are the high schools that offer the most college prep courses....Roosevelt, Garfield and Ballard. Roosevelt offers 420 9th grade seats and they received 643 applicants for those seats last year. Consequently, Hale, Roosevelt's neighbor, offers very few college prep courses and consequently only received 160 applicants for their 280 open 9th grade seats.

Here are a few numbers...

average earnings of a person with only a high school diploma 29,448

average earnings of a person with an AA degree 37,990

average earnings of a person with a bachelors degree 54,698

Not to say that you should give up your dreams in pursuit of a high paying job, but in this economy, 29,000 a year won't even cover the basics.

Keepin'On said...

OK Seattle Citizen, you have piqued my curiousity.

I would like to know, in all honesty, how you view the money given to SPS from the Alliance for Education? The money given to the New School? The avaiation school at the Museum of Flight? Money raised by school PTAs? This is all private money going to public schools. There are other grants out there as well, that schools apply for and get.

Are these ok, or not?

seattle citizen said...

"ok or not" is too black and white, there are grey areas. Ok: money. Not okay: possible expectations of outomces driven by the grantor's notions of what's "right."

Some people/foundations/companies believe that socialism sucks, that it's a free market, baby, no stop signs, speed limits...This organization might promulgate that ethos, perhaps in very subtle ways, perhaps even unconsciously.

Alliance for Education? - I'm distrustful. Seems very business-oriented

The money given to the New School? - (that was once given to TT Minor, you mean? That money TT Minor had pulled from them?) Hmm, sounded to me like an individual (Sloan) with a vision about what he thought education should look like. A grocer with lots of money. Is the money green? Yes. Is the vision right? I'm not sure. Did a new building get built, partly to enshrine the New School, right as we are closing other buildings due to capacity issues? You betcha. Did that cost us millions? Yep.

The avaiation school at the Museum of Flight? - You mean that Highline school in the SPS district territory? Hmm, I love flying! Magnets seem like a good idea. I myself prefer a more interdisciplinary approach...Are magnets efficient? But I guess you mean whatever external funding sources it might have: Is the goal of public schools to provide fodder for the business world? Should we care whether a person earns 29,448, 37,990, 54,698? Or should we care about developing thinking processes that are deep, thoughtful and inquisitive?

Money raised by school PTAs? - Hmm, tough one...Two neigborhood schools, one in a poor neighborhod, one in a rich neighborhood...One PTA raises 15,000, one raises 200,000...I guess the kids in the rich neigborhood got lucky in where they were born. Those in the poor neighborhood? Not so lucky...

north seattle mom said...

Seattle Citizen
It is not a matter of black, white or grey. This is PUBLIC eduction and the public is a very broad swath of people - rich, poor, middle class, struggling, succeeding, etc.

At the heart of your argument is some presumption that money and businesses all that goes with it is by its very nature evil. It is not, money is simply the currency that makes things going round. Those crane jobs you glorify, wouldn't exist if businesses didn't make jobs. We wouldn't get the luxury of arguing over financing of schools without employment and taxes.

We have a public system and within every public system is a wonderful matter of redress and recourse. If you don't like what is happening, run for the school board. I personally am not willing to put that much time into this process. So I acknowledge what I can do and I greatly respect the people that have chosen to do and give more.

I sincerely applaud anyone that is willing to get their hands dirty in the absolute mess that is education financing. I don't always agree with Charlie, Beth or Mel but I have so much respect for the number of meetings that they attend and the work they do to make the system a better place.

Is the gates grant perfect? - No.
Is it better than nothing? - We have no way of knowing without trying. Maybe it is a wash, maybe it is a great thing. Most great things come from trial and error.

Your presumed expectation that it should be to your liking and on your agenda before anything happens with someone else money is not measured, it is quite rude. Folks choosing to share what they have to make education better should be encouraged. The opposite is to further stratify society so that folks with money just stay in their private school world and leave the public to fight over the scraps of public finance.

seattle citizen said...

NS Mom - I'm not saying that anything should "be to [my] liking and on [my] agenda before anything happens with someone else money is not measured, it is quite rude."

Rude? Rude to wonder what the motives are of people who give things to me, to us?

Why does a husband give his wife roses? Sometimes love, sometimes guilt. Why does a lobbyist give a congressperson dinner? Friendship?

Yes, I have paranoia about corporations. Should I not? Should I just roll over and accept their undoubtedly good intentions?

I believe public schools should be funded by public funds. This removes the temptation of CEOs to try to take a slice for their stockholders.

adhoc said...

Seattle Citizen I wish you would stop stereo typing and using broad generalizations for all foundations, businesses, and companies. They are not all the same, do not all have the same intentions. It is downright wrong, and is border line slander. If you have specific knowledge about the Gates Foundation and any ill intentions that they may have for Seattle Schools please share, otherwise your playing the air guitar.

I am also puzzled as to your concern and disdain for expanding college prep courses. Especially, after you just mentioned in another post that you have a Masters Degree???

seattle citizen said...

adhoc, when did I stereotype corporations or foundations? If I did, that is not my meaning, of course (please show me where I did so I can learn from my mistakes. I don't think I did.) My meaning is to say, shouldn't we know what an organization or foundation or corporation might want before they waltz in the door?
I thought I was pretty clear.

And I believe public schools should be funded by public entities. If someone wants to donate, fine, donate to the general fund, thank you, we'll take it from here. Why should external agencies have a say in how public schools are run? That, as NS Mom so aptly points out, is the business of the Board.

seattle citizen said...

And where did I say I have disdain for college prep?! Geez...I do say, what about the struggling students...

Please don't put words in my mouth!

adhoc said...

You've slanted your argument to insinuate that taking money from corporations is like pimping out the school district. You call it, amongst other digs, "cheap" and "potentially damaging".

You could be right - it could be damaging, but you could be wrong. It may just be an absolutely fantastic opportunity for this district.

You don't always have to cross your arms, and plug your ears. Try to be open minded. At the very least be willing to learn about the grant and find out what the "strings" are before draw any conclusions. Right now it is premature to oppose it. You are opposing a question mark. You have no idea what, if any, the strings even are.

Nobody has said we should take this money blindly. MGJ shouldn't make a deal with the devil, nor should she turn away a fantastic opportunity either.

Do some research on the grant. Find out what those "strings" are. Then when you have researched it come back to this thread with some specific information on the Gates Foundation and this grant. We would all appreciate the follow up.

Sahila said...

Seattle citizen - thanks for holding the line on this discussion...

If someone comes to my (relatively impoverished) household and offers me $9M (which sure would come in handy right now!), I'd be tempted... wow, what I could do with that money...

But - its really unusual in my life for a stranger to show up on my doorstep with a suitcase full of moolah for me...

I'd be wondering.... of all the people/causes/opportunities available and in need in the world, why has this person come to me... what is his/her/its motive and agenda, what does he/she/it want in return, what am I going to have to give up in terms of my sovereignty if I accept this offer, how am I going to have to change who and what I am and where I am going?

If the money came with absolutely no conditions - true giving - well and good...

However, my experience in life shows that thinking to be very rare (despite all the teachings in the world's sacred books to the contrary!)... the giver wants something back - usually to have some influence over the receiver and outcomes.... giving money ensures the giver has leverage... look at politics for the evidence of that truth...

I agree - this grant goes mostly to the top, rather than supporting the bottom and the middle, introduces more standardisation and more control and reduces collective and individual freedom... its a way of pushing schools further down a pathway determined by the donors (who have their own interests to further and protect) to be the most appropriate for the perpetuation of the current economic and societal model...

If they were sincere and not self-interested in their motivation, they would donate to the general fund and allow the community to decide how to spend the money...

seattle citizen said...

Taking money from corporations...wit strings attached...IS like pimping out the district. Why should some foundation be able to tell the district what to do, just because we're broke and need money? Can't the district make its own decisions, or, since it's gone in the hole, must it sell parts of its pedagogy?

You say it's premature to oppose it. I AM opposed, as a rule, to taking money in exchange for autonomy. It's never too late to oppose THAT. It wouldn't be premature to oppose it (because it's a question mark) regarding what is behind it: it's already a done deal. It's TOO LATE to oppose it on whatever merits of what's behind it. It's already signed off on.

Are you suggesting that we wait and see what happens, then after the fact decide if it was, in retrospect, a good idea?

WV - Pulapp is jist NW of Mt. Rainier...

Keepin'On said...

I think I have a solution that will make some of you happy.

Could Seattle Citizen and others who dont want the money maybe turn it down for your schools so you don't sully your principles? Then those of us who apparently have no principles, can pimp out our schools and get your share.

I'm done.

seattle citizen said...

Sounds like a plan, Keepin' on.

I'll write you a check...could you not cash it for...awhile?

north seattle mom said...

Why don't the folks that are so concerned about Gates money just call the Gates foundation and ask some question rather than spew these unfounded conspiracy theories. My bet is that they give better answers than when you call the State or the Feds about the accountability they demand with their money. I personally feel the Gates have earned the benefit of the doubt. I also think that grantors have a right to decide how their money is spent as it is their money. The public gets a big say in how public funds are spent.

IMO, the bigger funding issue for schools lie in unfunded mandates when the feds tell you have have to do this and give you zero funds to accomplish. In this case the money to fund the project is there. The district uses its judgment to decide if this is in student interest or not just the same way they make a million other budget decisions.

The other part of a grant process is that grantor can't force you to do anything. Disagree with how the district spends its own money all you want but there is nobody in the world that is just going to walk up and say here is big pile of molah, have fun. I certainly would never go downtown and hand over the small amount that I donate to my kids school to the district. I want my private contribution to make an impact.

BTW, there is a name for money that goes to the general fund as you suggest -- Taxes!

seattle citizen said...

Right, taxes. And these should pay for public schools, instead of relying on outside organizations who might have an agenda.

It's not a conspiracy theory to question the motives of those who give money. It's common sense. And thanks for that "spewing" comment. It's good to know I can have an opinion and not be slammed with vitriol.

WV: hope I dionest!

Sahila said...

Thats the problem exactly - taxes...

Not that there is too much taxation happening, but that funding for school is based on changing, unreliable levels of property taxation and stupid levy votes, which rely on the capricious will of the people... have never seen anything quite as silly as this in my life, where the citizens of a particular place get to say yes or no to funding schools - the community's and society's investment in the future! A future we all selfishly have a vested interest in making the best possible for ourselves (at the minimum) and our kids...

Of course with this system, you get self-centred people voting against every levy proposal which they dont think will benefit them personally - fix the roads? - I dont have any potholes in my street, so why should I pay for that... Money for schools? I dont have any kids - why should I pay for yours?... Money for welfare programmes? Hell no, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and worked for every penny I've got - you should do the same (regardless of the circumstances)...

The short-sightedness of this crazy, crazy funding system defies all rational thinking... which leaves you in the unenviable position of having to be rely on and be grateful for the largesse of private organisations which have an idea of how the future world our kids inhabit will look and what their place in it will be.... never mind the fact that their kids dont have to go through the public school system and will have all the choices in the world...

seattle citizen said...

Conspiracy Theories:

To sell more textbooks, publishers "dumb down" texts to sell to the greatest number of states. California, Texas, and a couple of other states drive the market.

There are online course offered now. Some are apparently benign: student signs up through school.
Some are run by private companies, who make a profit from your tax dollars. Some are run by school districts, who advertise state-wide, draw students from other districts, get 5000 or so from state, buy program from company for 3000 or so, hire, for 2000, and instructor for thirty students, and pocket one grand. Everybody is happy, right?

Someone builds the computers and programs them for such things.
(My vision of future: Teacher enters parameters into computer, which generates assignment. Student's computer gets assignment, and uses parameters to complete. Student's computer emails assignment back to teacher's computer, which uses parameters to grade it. Viola, hands-free education!

Because we live in a capitalist society, you'll find little mention of, say, labor unrest in textbooks. It doesn't sell.

Some public schools are now run by private corporations, and are expected to make a profit by their shareholders.

You don't see small-farm, organic beverage machines in schools because they can't afford it. Pepsi, on the other hand, can and does. They even let the schools keep the profits! How freakin' generous! (oh, wait, citizens fought that, ex post facto, and won: corporate marketing in the lunch room...begone! Or, since we're "broke," should we reinstate that little ploy: there's money to be had, but with strings...)

There's money to be made in the selling off of public school property. There's some condos on Queen Anne I'd like to show you...

Lots of Washington schools used to be funded by timber! THERE'S a corporate connection for ya! "You HAVE to let us clearcut more tress! Your children need schools!" Remember that argument?

Ever hear of separation of church and state? Then why do many students have to listen to how we're "one nation, under God" every morning? Conspiracy or just a bit of inspiration?

Yes, many foundations and people are "pure" (but why can't we fund public education ourselves, anyway?) but there are also those who want to profit, or have some twisted vision that might not be good education. Shoud we let them tell us what to do?
No conspiracy, just keepin' an eye out. There's profiteers out there...

Trish Millines Dziko said...

OK, now I know how much credibility to give to Seattle Citizen.

Seattle Citizen said The money given to the New School? - (that was once given to TT Minor, you mean? That money TT Minor had pulled from them?) Hmm, sounded to me like an individual (Sloan) with a vision about what he thought education should look like. A grocer with lots of money. Is the money green? Yes. Is the vision right? I'm not sure. Did a new building get built, partly to enshrine the New School, right as we are closing other buildings due to capacity issues? You betcha. Did that cost us millions? Yep.

You are so absolutley wrong on this. The grant from Sloan for T.T. Minor was a 7 year grant with an option to renew. The Seattle School District announced in 2005 that they were going to close T.T. Minor and didn't have the common sense to let Sloan know--he had to find out through the newspapers. He made a choice to not renew his grant and that's his right to do so. I don't blame him because it's clear that the District didn't really care and it jeopardized the confidence he had that the money would be use properly.

The New School at Southshore is NOT funded by Sloan.

Get you facts straight or else all your comments will fall on deaf ears (or eyes in this case).

seattle citizen said...

I stand corrected, Trish. I had heard otherwise.

So why, then, did the district bail on continuing the grant (why didn't it let him know they were closing Minor? Was the grant money wasted? Was the pedagogy sound?

I was wrong, but in this new view, the money that was spent (and maybe you can tell me more about what the money was FOR - what was the money spent on, and what was the intent?) appears to have been thrown down a rathole.

Why did the District need Mr. Sloan (and I DO appreciate his willingness, despite my rhetoric) to give them money? Why can't public schools be fully funded so as not to have to take money from others who have some vision they want to enact?

If the vision was a collaborative one with the district, then where's the data on its effectiveness? Did it work? Could the district have thought of this new pedagogy by itself, carried it out, followed through with proper R+D, training, funding and long-term planning?

So I mis-spoke in the heat of my passion. So I got it wrong. My apologies, but you can find me credible or not, you can dismiss me completely due to an error or two...or not. That's purely up to you.

YOU'VE got vision, Trish, and I admire that very much. You've given much to the community, and I am glad that you can do this. I just don't like that individuals or organizations from outside the district can tinker with the education of the students. As we see from the Minor episode, apparently, it can be risky business, and I would prefer all the planning come from public entities.

wseadawg said...

Re: New School at Southshore, the Times referred to it as a "Sloan Grantee" more than once, and I've heard that from so many other parents in the district, I'd say it's "common knowledge" by now. Is that totally wrong? Or could we be talking about two separate grants or funding sources, which ultimately were connected with Sloan in some other way?

wseadawg said...

Here's a 2 second google example of what I'm talking about BTW:

April 22, 2005, S. Times: "The district's closure/consolidation proposal would also affect a second Sloan grantee, the year-round New School at South Shore, which opened in 2002. The district has recommended changing it to a K-5 school and moving it to the campus of Dearborn Park Elementary on Beacon Hill."

Seattle Times staff reporter Sanjay Bhatt contributed to this report.

They quoted you in the article too Trish. What did they apparently get wrong?

wseadawg said...

I think there's alot to worry about with more and more private funding of public schools. First, that funding can be pulled quickly when a grantor feels snubbed, which causes a variety of disruptions. Second, the district risks becoming dependant upon that money, which yields larger and larger influence, year after year, to the donors (whether they're after that or not). Third, Gates is a huge champion of reform and charters, which is fine but such ideas really should be debated publicly, not engineered through private donations. Fourth, more standardized testing and data collection? Assessment is fine, and necessary, but how far afield from real learning are we willing to go to standardize everything in the classroom. Talk about over-regulation! Fifth, this does nothing to alleviate the current budget problems. It adds things to the pot and pays for them, so while it helps the district deliver more, it does nothing to pressure the district to get its financial house in order. Sixth, flame me all you want, but shouldn't those of us with kids in the district have more say than the richest donors? Or should we always defer to the billionaires and captains of industry to lead us to the promised land, because they obviously have it all figured out so much better than those who do it everyday, like our teachers?

Okay, I asked for it, hit me!

seattle citizen said...

"defer to the billionaires and captains of industry to lead us to the promised land, because they obviously have it all figured out"


adhoc said...

The New School is one of the only schools in SE Seattle that performs well - shouldn't we be thankful that someone had the vision and willingness to fund this type of school? SPS certainly didn't. Thank goodness someone was willing to pick up the district's slack. And what a successful outcome! The New School performs well above the district average and gets a fairly large waitlist. The other schools in SE Seattle are under enrolled, and perform well below average. By middle school families ship their kids to QA for McClure and north to Hamilton, and by HS kids are voluntarily busing to the other end of the city for schools like Ingraham and Hale. Shouldn't the citizens be grateful for the New School, a viable option in the south end?

I believe that The TAF academy would have been another highly successful school in the south end. Too bad Seattle ran Trish and her funding out (how's TAF doing in Tacoma Trish?). And look at what's left. A high school, RBHS, with capacity for 1000 students that has a mere enrollment of 300 or so students. Seventy eight kids per grade! A school that couldn't be merged with a neighbor HS because of gang violence. RBHS has 1200 high school students living closer to it than any other high school, but these students do not choose the school. I bet many of them would have chose TAF.

So before you go off spitting at Sloan, Trish, and The Gates Foundation you should think about all that they have accomplished here in Seattle. And please note, Seattle Citizen, that these monstrous, ill intentioned, nefarious donors have focused their funding in the most impoverished neighborhoods in the district, and served the most at risk students (TT Minor, New School, TAF).

Wouldn't you say it's fair game now to focus some of the Gates money on college prep?

Pimp me out all the way, babe!

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, please tell me what metric is being used to determine that New School is successful.

Also please tell me why SPS can't do this itself.

Also tell me why it's okay to let someone else do it, no matter how good their intentions.

If you are okay with some of the district being contracted out, perhaps we should go whole hog?

Will you send your children to a school that is funded externally, and which has surrendered all or part of its public school control to outside entities?

You seem to think it's fine that impoverished neighborhoods get schools run by outside entities: Would you be okay with your child's school being run by outside entities?

What if the Gates grant came with stipulations that a new north-end AP school would be created, and it would be semi-autonomous, controlled partly by the Microsoft Foundation? Is this a good thing?

If so, why shouldn't we just make the whole dang system a private venture, and if not, why is it okay for the South End but not for the north?

adhoc said...

"Adhoc, please tell me what metric is being used to determine that New School is successful."

Are you serious? First of all they have a very large waitlist. What better way to determine a schools success than by it's popularity, and community demand. And secondarily they get great test scores. I know you despise the WASL, but it is what we have, it is what our district uses, and it is the data that parents have access to.

"Also please tell me why SPS can't do this itself."

They can do this themselves, but they won't - they have no desire to do this. And they don't have the funding to do it. If they did, they would. So cross that one off of your list.Furthermore the district could not afford to provide what New School provides. New School's per pupil funding is almost double that of SPS per pupil funding.

"Will you send your children to a school that is funded externally, and which has surrendered all or part of its public school control to outside entities?"

You bet I would if I liked what they had to offer. Like I said pimp me out, babe.

"What if the Gates grant came with stipulations that a new north-end AP school would be created, and it would be semi-autonomous, controlled partly by the Microsoft Foundation"

Yup, if I was seeking AP for my child I'd be first in line. I would take advantage of the best education that my child could receive. And I'd send Bill a thank you note.

"why is it okay for the South End but not for the north?"

Where in the world did you get the idea that I wouldn't like a school that received private funding in the north end?? That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact I would welcome it with open arms, especially if it offered traditional math, middle school IB or language immersion. But the folks offering the grants decide where they want their money to go, and they often fund schools that need the most help, that serve the most at risk kids, in the most impoverished communities. Darn them.

adhoc said...

Seattle Citizen, you and I are just on two different sides of the fence on this one, and we are never going to see each others point of view. And that's OK. It's what makes the world go round. It's what keeps things balanced. I enjoy hearing your perspective, it's intelligent, it's passionate, and it forces me remain open minded. And even though I don't always agree with you, I listen (or read) and learn, and that's a good thing.

AutismMom said...

Yes, please tell us how New School is measured so successful? Seattle Citizen is right on the money in this conversation. To my mind New Schools has been successful by excluding students with disabilities. It has the lowest rate of special education participation in the district... and has actively kept students with severe disabilities out of the building for years. And by creating these bastions of selective service, we increase disproportionality elsewhere in the cluster and in the district.

Private donors should fund private schools. Otherwise, private funders can choose who they want to serve and at what percentages. Our public schools shouldn't be social experiments for private enterprise... no matter how well intentioned or even how accomplished. If private donors wish to have impact, they should use the same ways others do: run for school board, run for legislative office, apply for jobs in the district, etc.

wseadawg said...

Adhoc: You make some good points, but my only query was to clear up whether the New School was or wasn't a "Sloan grantee."

On the larger issue of private funding, I think we need to be careful what we are so thankful for. While its true that its nice to have a private donor pick up the district's slack, we need to first ask why that slack exists, and why this public school district just can't get its fiscal house in order. We blame the economic downturn now, but what's our excuse for the past 20 years? Once we get addicted to that private money, we can't go back or say no to it ever, so it's influence only grows. Soon it has the power to make demands or withhold funds. Whether for good or ill, should we ever cede such power and influence over our kids? That's where your argument leads, and I fear its not only a point of no return, but would lead to ever narrowing curricular offerings to suit the corporate world's desired ends, versus what best educates our kids.

If Gates wants to set up a world class future techy academy, I'm all for it, and I'll donate to it myself. But if they want to turn our conventional schools into them by skirting the democratic process, then I'm not.

This is an important debate, not a bunch of conspiracy nuts. It's elementary politics. What level of influence should follow the money? If its reasonable and fair, fine. If not, we should reject it. But in neither case should we assume all is fine, abandon critical thinking and not ask questions. Especially when the same donors are funding a wide variety of ecuational reform groups along with some very strange bed-fellows who for decades have sought to undermine and destroy public education.

Many people want to reform and improve public schools, but for very different reasons. Gates may simply want to help, as Sloan apparently did.

But others they ally with clearly seek to profit from public schools, and using donations to get their hands in the school budget cookie jar is a great back-door method of getting ahold of our tax dollars while short-changing our kids.

We here all the comparisons to business models today. Tomorrow they'll start calling education a product, and teachers "salespeople" I suppose. If people are fine with that, have at it. I think education is alot more than that, so I'll continue to voice my skepticism until the pies come out of the sky and we start getting some solid answers from the district and its benefactors as to just what the heck they are up to.

adhoc said...

Agreed, wsseadog!

Ask questions, find out intentions...

All I'm saying is we can't yell "no" without investigating first.

Seattle has a tendency to yell "no" prematurely, and it impedes progress sometimes.

Slow down, look at things rationally, do the research. Then if you don't like what you find out say "no".

What do we really know about this 9M Gates grant? What are the strings? Is there oversight? Is it renewable?

Let's find out......

adhoc said...

As far as I know The New School is funded by the New School Foundation, and although the foundation has many donors, it is Sloan's foundation.

I checked the New School's Website and here is what they have posted.

"The partnership with Seattle Public Schools began nearly ten years ago when businessman and philanthropist Stuart Sloan first met Seattle School Superintendent John Stanford. They quickly realized they shared a common vision for whole school reform that involved transforming one school at a time and creating new models for private support of public education. This became the vision of The New School Foundation."

And this from a Seattle Weekly article:

"Sloan's New School Foundation, now involving anonymous donors as well, is funding a new public school in the South End beginning next month, called, appropriately enough, the New School at South Shore."

seattle citizen said...

Trish, adhoc and others have indicated that at least part of my off-the-cuff remarks about Minor and New School had some merit.

Not trying to play, "I was right, you wrong," but you dismissed my comment about these schools out of hand, indicated that because you thought I was wrong (how wrong was I? How right?) "all my comments would fall on deaf ears."

Really? If someone makes a mistake (did I?), "all" that person's comments might fall on deaf ears? That speaks more to the listener, and her/his ability to sort through information, than to the speaker and human fallibility, eh?

So please tell us where I'm wrong, where I'm right: Is New School part of a foundation spearheaded by Sloan? Did the district make any sort of deal to build the building for New School? Does it have a lower percentage of special ed? What were the "strings" attached to TT Minor, what are the strings attached to NS, who is pulling those strings, and what are the larger philosophic and pedagogic goals behind those string pullers?

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, thanks for the acknowledgement of our differences, and out ability to converse about them. Likewise. You, too are paasionate about education and I appreciate that.

Regarding "success": you cite tow measures, WASL scores and parent interest in the school. Please keep in mind the comment I made in another thread: some parent/guardians believe the WASL to be either/or a) a good measure of a student's achievement, or b) a way, THE way, to show that their child is on a par with with other children who might have more in other ways. This is partly a cultural thing, partly class...Someone coming from another country, unfamiliar with this system, sees this test as a given, as the way we measure, maybe the way it's been for years. They don't see the bigger picture, how schools used to operate with some autonomy to meet the various needs, skill levels etc of their student body.
They (and I'm speaking in generalities, and also from my perceptions, not from hard research: this is a qualitative FEELING for the sake of discussion, please don't kill me) they might also feel that this is how it's done in America, this is the ticket to ride. In some ways it is. Does that make it good? Is that what we want? All children being forced into buying this ticket (at some cost)?

So: many see the WASL as either appropriate or some sort of "good."
They see a school that is advertised as "successful" due to WASL scores (are these "good" scores to be had at the expense of, say, limiting other things, like art? Are they to be had by having lower special ed numbers? Some sort of discipline system that allows selection of student body? Kicking out troublemakers?) No matter: some see this as "good" so they line up.

Does that make it truly good?

Remember the old cigarette ads? "Smoking is GOOD! It's relaxing!" Many started to smoke; Suzy did it, joe does it, the bigwigs at the corporations tell us it's healthy (right there on TV!) I'm gonna smoke, too.

Same dealio: just because someone says something is good doesn't make it so.

As to "pimpin'" for better programs, I'm, uh, heartened that you have this, umm, easy-going ability to accept whatever you must in order to get the things you want. But I'm not willing to pimp my citizenship, surrender my authority, vote, and dollars for public education to private companies no matter WHAT they offer me, no matter HOW good they promise the "product" to be.
That ain't public education. If you are okay with a system that is run by those outside the board, the legislature, the courts, etc...well, go for it. Me, I'll fight it tooth and nail, not one inch given withour a fight. Our public schools are public and shall remain so, if I have any say in it.

WV...this conversation has upset my tummy: your recommendation that I have some "gastol" is a good one...Gastol doesn't market in schools, do they?

AutismMom said...

There is a whole other reason to curb "public/private" partnerships; the weakening of the public funding role in public education. If enough people have somehow gotten those AP classes they want... or some other, coveted but donated service, where will the incentive be to fund public education? It's ironic that the people who lament "private schools", are happy as clams to accept a reduced public funding obligation by farming it out to private organizations.

What do we have now? We have wealthy schools collecting 100's of thousands in donations, while educating the easiest to educate students. (my kids' school collects close to 300K of extra funding, and maybe even more) We also have grants and foundations selectively taking on limited challenges, serving a limited number of students according to the special interest of the grant or foundation. Everyone who benefits from that arrangment of special funding and donation has no real incentive to ever really vote to fund education as it is needed. And so, we have continuation of underfunding education as a matter of public policy.

adhoc said...

A question for Autismom, Seattle Citizen, and wsseadog

How do you all feel about individual schools seeking out their own grants? This is widely accepted common practice in SPS schools. At my sons elementary school we had a grant writing committee whose sole job it was to seek out and apply for grants.

Also to Seattle Citizen. When the community speaks, as they have done in support of the New School as proofed by their large WL, you have to accept it. It's democracy, and you can't reason your way out of the democratic process by saying demeaning, rude things like "they don't see the bigger picture", and "it's a cultural thing", etc. That's just plain wrong. Have you ever thought that maybe they do see the big picture, and their big picture just differs from yours?? Something to ponder.

Sahila said...

"The partnership with Seattle Public Schools began nearly ten years ago when businessman and philanthropist Stuart Sloan first met Seattle School Superintendent John Stanford. They quickly realized they shared a common vision for whole school reform that involved transforming one school at a time and creating new models for private support of public education. This became the vision of The New School Foundation"...

um, excuse me, what the heck is a public school superintendent doing (and this current one continuing to do), creating new models for private support of public education, and transforming the entire system, one school at a time, to fit that vision?????

There it is in black and white - the death sentence for quality, public school education - and the superintendents (and Boards)are active and enthusiastic participants in this process....

AutismMom said...

How do you all feel about individual schools seeking out their own grants?

I feel the same way about that as I do about auctions, bake sales, move-a-thons... and all other fund raising. Yes, a reality and fact of life in public schools... and yes, more of the same. All these fund-raising mechanisms remove the responsibility on the public... for public funding.

As to waitlists being a measure of popularity... there is truth to that. But, when class sizes are artificially kept at 17, and each class has a TA, isn't that really why there's a waitlist? Doesn't everyone want that?

adhoc said...

"But, when class sizes are artificially kept at 17, and each class has a TA, isn't that really why there's a waitlist? Doesn't everyone want that?"

Yes, of course everyone wants this. That was my point. The district won't reduce class size as parents have demanded for years, they say they can't fund it. So The New School Foundation comes along and does it, and voila a waitlist.

Please explain how this is "the death sentence for public education". The way I see it, at least a handful of kids are getting the type of education that every kid deserves. Remember Seattle ranks 43rd out of 52 states in class size. If anything is a death sentence for public education it's our ridiculously large class sizes.

seattle citizen said...

C'mon, adhoc! My opinions are my opinions! Do I have to preface every comment with, "I believe..." or "In my perspective..."?

There are (I BELIEVE)some very disturbing statements in your lambast against me: "you can't reason your way out of the democratic process..."

Then we have trouble...Is democracy opposed to reason?

" saying demeaning, rude things like "they don't see the bigger picture", and "it's a cultural thing", etc.
Demeaning? MY PERSPECTIVE is that some people don't have enough information to assess whether the WASL is good or bad! Prove me wrong. Of course I wasn't being rude of demeaning; it's the truth. I've talked to quite a few people (of different classes and cultures) who a) knew not what the WASL was, and/or b) no matter what they thought of the test, saw it as their only option in proving their children "successful." IT IS MY OPINION that this is not good.

Not incidentally, the WASL is history (after next week's, and another in April, waste of precious class time...) Someone in the community spoke...

Speaking of which:
"When the community speaks, as they have done in support of the New School as proofed by their large WL, you have to accept it."

Have you studied the fascist movements in Italy, Spain and last, but not least, Germany during the 20s-50s? If a community speaks with one voice, I will be deeply concerned about who is teaching them and what they are learning. The day I have to accept something because "the community speaks" is the day I find another community. Or start the guerilla movement...

Where is the critical thinking? Where is the analysis of pros and cons? Where is the questioning of authority, if blind acceptance dominates?

Why am is it "rude" to say what I think about some people's perspectives? This is similar to silencing any talk about racism, because we just can't make comments about what those people think, it's mean...Act all proper, and discourse is silenced.

I have plenty to ponder without your condescending admonition to do so. But thanks for the thought!

seattle citizen said...

The death knell of public education:
Public funding = 100%, small classes
Public funding is cut to 75%...bigger classes.
Private entity steps in: "We'll help make up the difference, but we've got "strings."
Public funding is cut to 50% - more private money steps in, more strings
Public funding is cut completely - private fuding, a tangle of strings, and suddenly the whole dang thing is in private hands!

Please don't flame me, it's just an illlustration for discussion purposes. I'm not saying it'll happen...yet...

AutismMom said...

The way I see it, at least a handful of kids are getting the type of education that every kid deserves.

And that's a "handful" of parents that will never vote for adequate education funding. And coupled with a few highly funded wealthy schools, and private schools, we've got a lot more than a handful... that say, won't ever vote for an income tax supporting public schools. Why bother? They've got their good deal.

My kids' school has a waitlist too. That waitlist would be increased to the many hundreds if:
A) The school was cut in half by a "private deal", reducing it's capacity in half
B) It featured reduced class sizes
C) It shipped out all the sped kids

As I've mentioned before, New School has outright rejected efforts to make it serve students with disabilities. This makes it a non-starter as a public-private enterprise in my book. I might feel differently if the New School had taken on all the true challenges of it's neighborhood. But it's current operation means that the other neighborhood schools have to take on more students... and more difficult students. It's pretty easy to look good and smell like a rose when you do that.

Who knows what the new special education placement will be. I do know that more disabled students will come knocking on the doors of the New School!

adhoc said...

Autismom, I admittedly do not know that much about special ed so I won't debate you on The New School not serving their fair share of sped students.

I just had a look at their annual report to get a better idea of the demographic that they serve. Here's what I found.

3% sped
13% bilingual ed
84% minority
42% free reduced lunch

This seems like a fairly challenging demographic to serve. They are by no means cherry picking in their overall enrollment, but still I do wonder why the 3% sped rate?? Is there anything in their MOU that would explain it?

seattle citizen said...

Autism mom,
That's a fine description of the problem with these outside fundings. As you've said before, it gets people feeling that they don't have to argue for full public funding.

So we have that problem, and also the problem of outside interests that might attach conditions, their own conditions and not the district's, on the funding so the public system loses control.

The answer is to fully fund schools, and allow districts to run their own policies and ecperimentation. There is absolutely no reason to farm it out to non-public school sources if it's done right inhouse. If it's not done right inhouse, then the answer is NOT for parent/guardians to go looking for the best deal for their child elsewhere, but to demand that it's done right with public funding in public schools. In my opinion. I think. Take this with a grain of salt. This is merely conjecture. That's my two cents. My understanding is that that is that.

Speaking of which, here's a punctuation and capitals exercise for y'all before bedtime - Make this make sense by adding punctuation and capitals as necessary:
That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is

WV, this is bugan me, too!

AutismMom said...

I guess I don't see the big demographic challenge of the New School. Certainly it takes on less challenge than the other schools in the S or SE clusters. I'll take your word on the 42% FRL... but that is the same as the district as a whole.. and way less than its cluster. Bilingual is on par with the district too. Nothing special. It has 84% minority (30% of whom are Asian). Without a high FRL or high ELL, is that minority count really a big deal? And then there's the 3% sped... or 4.9% if you count the "therapy only", level 1 students. That is the "shirking" level.

Just fyi, students in special ed programs have had 0 access to the enrollment center. Every assignment is a "deal", a special arrangment negotiated with central office by a completely non-transparent mechanism. There's no list of tie-breakers, reasoning, or anything like that. It has boiled down to is principals agreeing to serve students and take on programs... or not.

New School has no special education programs at all... and that is why it has a very low percentage of sped students. I know a number of families with autistic students in the reference area that have tried to get into the New School... setting up meetings with various principals and central office staff. I'm sure there must be other cases I know nothing about. But the result has always been the same: heels dug in, no dice.

beansa said...

You know, I'm not super thankful that the Gates Foundation is gracing SPS with a 7 million dollar grant. In fact, the whole situation kinda pisses me off.

Microsoft has cheated the state out of so much tax money over the years, it's not even funny.

528 Million bucks in corporate tax that Microsoft has avoided paying because they make the software here, but they sell it from Nevada. Kinda makes that 7mil seem paltry in comparison, huh?

I know all of that money wouldn't go to schools, but a good bit of it would. And maybe our roads would be fixed too.

But no, the corporations shirk their responsibility to pay taxes, and then set up "foundations" so they can distribute the money as they see fit and put strings on it as well.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, Beansa, my concern is also that a relatively paltry 7 million might merely be good PR.

I'm thinking of the Exxon support for environment programing on PBS..."See how green we are?!"

Not sayin' it's true, those amongst you who might immediately cry "you believe in conspiracies!" but it's just good business for a company to do good works. It pays off in building "good will."

Remember when Apple donated all those computers to schools back in the day? Why did they do that? Did the disruption caused by then switching districts from Apple to PC negate positive outcomes? (and is Microsoft afraid it will lose marketshare to Linux, etc, in the schools? This would cost them billions)

Let's take a look at MS: Yes, billions spent in good works, health and education amongst them. Their product? Programming for a machine that is a toxic bomb, an energy user, and usually only available to the relatively select few. Talk about a PR nightmare. So what to do to make up for that...

I love this computer: handy, revolutionary, life-changing...But it has enormous costs. Just got a flat-screen monitor. I've since heard that flat-screens use 50% more energy. This is why I always try to look at all the pros and cons, this is why it's not all black and white, this is why I believe, in my opinion, the way I see it we should measure each aspect of a public system, analyze each gift, and ask ourselves, "what's the benefit to students? What's the cost to public education? What's in it for the donor? What are their motives?"

Some are pure, but as has been pointed out there are at least three immediate and serious downsides:

1) loss of public control of funding (and possibly public will to generate public funding)
2) Sporadic, time-limited donations negate long-term planning
3) Donors desire control: could be out of goodness of vision (THEIR vision) could be for other purposes

Some might argue that since public schools are underfunded, we must do what we must do to get the kids edumacated. I disagree: I propose that we must fund education completely. Donors may donate, bless 'em (which is why I beleive bake sales and PTA funding is not as bad as these grants: The school has decided it needs something, and people donate money, usually with few strings or desires to control the outcomes...But even this generates disparities in funding, as wealthier neighborhoods obviously can donate more..)

I'm not paranoid because I want to understand all aspects: motives, goals, effects...I'm "merely" very, very protective of public education because there are so, so many in the world (and even here) that do not have it. The comparisons to other nations that say, oh, the US sucks, India, for instance, does such a better job of educating...conveniently ignore the fact that India doesn't really have public education: Many, many people in India get little or no access to the kind of education we have here. Comparing their system to ours is ludicrous.

So let's protect our public education system!

wseadawg said...

Great comments folks. I think a point can be made that there's often a fine line between genuine support and influence or conditional support. One is directed toward answering a direct need while respecting the expertise and autonomy of those committed to the cause and craft, while the other demands change and results, OR ELSE, under the guise of accountability. The burning question is: Accountability to Whom? Parents? Taxpayers? Or the big donor? Many places the interests align, while in many others, they don't.

I don't want to paint donors as evil or corrupt, but the Foundation is clearly quite influential and acknowledged already that they withheld money in prior years because they didn't like what they saw from SPS. So the clear message is for SPS to toe the line and do what they like, or lose funding again.

Most places in life, the one with the most toys ($) wins. Public education is supposed to be one reserve where kids can learn and expand their minds and abilities without that harsh adult-world reality confronting them until they are ready and equipped to deal with it.

I genuinely fear that as we go further down the road of "money talks everything else walks" we will see the narrowing of curriculum and steering towards all things technical and global- commercial at the expense of philosophy, history, political science and humanities. While we need engineers, scientists and tech-savvy people to compete across the globe in the future, we're going to need the poets, philosophers and humanitarians just as bad, if not worse, to keep us balanced and sane. I'm afraid the continuing moves toward standardization cuts directly against those pursuits.

I've heard Gates say many times how he doesn't like to give money unless he really feels it will make a difference, so he targets his donations accordingly. Fair enough, but at what point does such conditional giving cross the line from generosity to buying influence over and above any parent or other stakeholder in the district? I think it's fair and wise to always ask that question.

north seattle mom said...

And for those of us that have been through multiple rounds of closures, we remember with great fondness the number one reason during the 05-06 round of closures. -- The legislature won't give us more money unless we close schools and manage our money more responsibly in line with the auditor's report.

I am just saying that it is not just private money that comes with strings -- All money comes with strings. As Charlie said, grant money can often have fewer strings than federal and state money.

seattle citizen said...

Remember that those that pull the strings often have strings that can be pulled.


The excuse that the legislature wouldn't fund us unless we closed more schools? HOgwash, but even if that was true, it is within the power of the people to use the vote, the courts etc to pul strings themselves.

Microsoft acting too uppity? Boycott their product, choose freeware!