Seattle Public Schools has a long history of promises made and promises broken. The district gives promises to communities to suppress opposition to their plans, then they move forward with the plans but don't keep the promises. It happens all the time. I am convinced that a number of the promises were made without any intention of ever fulfilling them, just to suppress opposition. You cannot go to them and demand that they fulfill their promise. You have no means to compel them to fulfill and they know it. They will simply ignore you. That's if they don't laugh in your face. Then they are back a year or two later with more promises to suppress opposition to more plans.
The public needs some means of applying accountability. The public needs some way to get the district staff (or school staff) to keep their promises. No one in the District - except the Board - are accountable to the public. They don't need your approval for anything they want to do, and they don't have to do anything the public wants them to do. The public doesn't hire them or fire them. Community efforts to remove teachers, principals or program managers are notoriously messy and ineffective. So what can the public do?
There are only a few things that the public controls that the District wants: votes on bonds and levies, contributions to schools, and student participation in the WASL.
Except in the most egregious cases, it would be unwise and self-defeating for us to vote against levies or to withhold contributions. Except at Title I schools, however, there is little harm to us, our schools, or our children if we opt them out of the WASL.
I have suggested WASL boycotts before, and I think they are a good idea. Good idea or not, they are the only tool we have. I suppose it would be nice if we had others, but we don't. For a WASL boycott to work it would have to be organized and well-communicated, not only to the members of the community, but to the district or school officials as well. Everyone would have to know that the boycott is happening, why it is happening, and when it will end.
Here's an example:
The District split the elementary and middle school APP community against the community's wishes and, in the case of the elementary program, without clear cause. To suppress opposition from the community, the District made a number of promises to the community. They promised that the two programs would be equivalent, they promised a written, taught and tested curriculum. They promised more differentiated instruction. They promised reform in response to the APP Review. They promised strengthened Spectrum programs and ALOs. They made a whole laundry list of promises. There is little expectation that the District will keep these promises. There is, in fact, little expectation that the District will even try to keep these promises.
The APP community could come together and write a list of the District promises. Each promise should be listed and quantified so there is no doubt, so it can be objectively determined when the promise has been kept. Then they could opt their children out of the WASL and hold them out of the WASL until such time as all of the District promises are kept. This year for sure, probably next year as well. APP families would keep their children out of the WASL every year until the District meets the obligations they set for themselves.
The word would have to go to every APP family and it would have to go to the schools and the District staff as well. The community would have to remain united and resolute in the face of strong opposition. They will have to stick to their answer: the schools and the staff can end the boycott any time they want by fulfilling the promises.
APP isn't alone. There are a number of other schools and communities that got promises. They, too, should boycott the WASL until those promises are kept. Again, these communities need to stay united and resolute. They need to provide clear goals that would have to be met to end the boycott. That's accountability. It is also absolutely key that the WASL boycott begin immediately and only be removed when the promises are kept. The community should not threaten the boycott if the promises are broken; they should start in the OFF position. The District has to perform first.
Students at Title I schools should not participate in WASL boycotts. The WASL boycott will not harm any student or school outside of Title I schools, but it can cost Title I schools - and students - dearly, so they should not participate in this sort of exercise.