Once again, the district's "feedback" process has pitted families against families, neighborhoods against neighborhoods. Unfortunately, for every family that is unhappy about being assigned away from a popular school, there's usually another family happy to be assigned to it. So, how can we win?
The real problem is: The district has failed to convince us that they have a credible plan to improve the less popular schools. (Are they even trying to convince us?)
I applaud Melissa's "don't give up" sentiment and think everyone should continue to advocate for boundary changes they believe are necessary, but please ALSO advocate for developing a credible plan to improve more schools now. And I'm not talking about more "excellence for all" lip service -- I'm talking about specific steps they will take to improve schools.
Examples of specifics? We all have our own. We need more money from the state, but it's not just about funds. For me, I'm convinced it comes down to giving the schools more freedom to try. I didn't agree with everything Scott Oki had to say last night or in his book, but I did agree with a bunch of his proposals:
- Every school should have its own Board made up of community leaders, charged with actually listening to people who are served by the school. That Board should have the power to hire or fire the principal (just like the School Board should be holding the Superintendent accountable.)
- Every principal should have the freedom to do whatever it takes to improve their school -- including hiring and firing teachers, developing their own assessments, and finding innovative ways to make instruction relevant and fun. We don't need charter schools in Washington, but we do need schools that are not shackled by bureaucracy.
- We need more teachers, fewer central administrators. We have more non-teachers in SPS than teachers! What are we getting for that? In countries like Japan, they typically have a ratio of 4 teachers to every 1 administrator. The primary business of schools is teaching and that is where our dollars should be going.
- Let's work to get more volunteers (parents, business, organizations, even older kids) into all neighborhood schools. Together, we have to keep up high expectations for all students and schools. (That means rigor -- not D's to graduate.)
How can we get there? For one thing, we need the unions to work with us. There could and should be a win-win partnership between parents and the union -- once we agree to put kids first. If we fight for hiring more teachers and improving more schools, then the Teacher's Union benefits. And let the union lead the discussion for what defines a poor performer (teachers know which of their peers are struggling) and let peers review all teacher dismissals to ensure nobody is unfairly targeted for whistle-blowing or to free up salary.
If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear other suggestions for changes that don't pit parent vs. parent and neighborhood vs. neighborhood. If we want to fix things, we need to find more positions we can all agree on because right now parents don't have much a voice in the process. And at the end of the day, there just aren't enough seats in (insert popular school name here) for everyone who wants to go there.