Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let's Get Loud (or at least noisy)

I do believe the Times is really angling for a fight. (Kind of reminds me of dueling banjos in Deliverance - we answer them and they answer us.)

The latest salvo is an editorial about the SEA and the district (thanks to Seattle Citizen for the alert) by Lynne Varner.

She opens with the issue of the SEA putting off a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent until after the negotiations. (I find this tactic pretty funny as I'm sure it won't change a whit of what happens in the negotiations.)

If the Seattle Education Association is betting on a tactic of tying the superintendent's fate to labor talks as a way of gaining the upper hand, they are stuck in a pre-recession time warp.

Casting a cloud above the negotiating table is the latest state economic forecast showing an arduous climb out of the recession. By 2013, Goodloe-Johnson may be able to afford to buy the union's affection, but right now that check would bounce.

That last sentence is an odd one. Would any superintendent attempt to "buy" the union? Is that anyway to get loyalty and motivate a teaching corps? Maybe I'm too idealistic but I like to think it takes more than money to get the best out of people.

Fun fact: Lynne belongs to a union. (Yes, I was surprised, too, as I didn't know editorial writers had a union. You learn something new every day.)

But unions risk alienating the public by flailing at any idea or support that hints at a reform agenda. Lately, they have trained their ire on businesses and philanthropies, accusing the twin engines of "corporatizing" education. The way I see it, these groups have long been urged to be part of the solution for education and a new breed of philanthropists and corporate leaders are rightly following their money through the schoolhouse door and expecting a role improving education.

I think that unions initial response is to yes, be on guard against "reforms" especially those that are aimed right at their heads. But the bigger question is why should business and philanthropies have a seat at the table? What do they know about education that would help reform it? Certainly if they want to give money to education, they can put all the strings on it that they want to BUT their voices cannot be listened to any more than any other outsider. Why this would be, I don't know. The educational arm of the Gates Foundation has not, in any real sense, proven itself as a valid agent of change for education. They themselves have admitted a lot of mistakes. So why are they experts at this point?

Another fun fact: the American Federation of Teachers is having its convention here next week. Maybe I can get a press pass.

Then Lynne says this:

Still, whether for street cred or a sign the union isn't ready to come in from the cold, AFT President Randi Weingarten recently criticized "self-identified reformers who spend little or no time in classrooms." Not a helpful thing to say when parents, most of whom aren't trained to teach, are trying to step up and do their part crafting public schools for the 21st century.

I'm not sure Randi Weingarten was referring to parents. I'm pretty sure she was talking about business and philanthropy. (Also note to Lynne: SPS parents get no traction in our own district in "crafting" public schools unless you are speaking of the thousands upon thousands of dollars and volunteer hours we put in. Our district doesn't give a rat's ass what we, as parents, have to say about the education of our children.)

We have a confluence of favorable events: unprecedented federal money, a groundswell of interest and support from families and a new generation of teachers who don't fear a future that includes change. If all of these groups started moving in the same direction, I'm guessing we'd move rather quickly from talking about improving public education to reaping the benefits.

How come when it's ed reform there's a "groundswell of interest and support" but when it's for something the Times doesn't like, for example, petitions and votes of no confidence against the Superintendent, the Times dismisses it?

And are we all interested in moving in the same direction? I missed that national/state/city vote. That there is division over how to reform education and the lack of ALL voices at the table in what could/should happen should give the Times pause but sadly, never does.

93 comments:

zb said...

"Maybe I can get a press pass."

Do try please. I think you should get a press pass.

seattle citizen said...

I agree. You are one of the few reasoned public voices on education in Seattle. And as you are not paid, I have no worries about who is buying you off.

(I pay you with my continued gratitude for your hours and hours and hours of attending meetings, speaking with those who are smart enough to listen, and reporting on such things to all of us so that we might have a better understanding of what's best for Seattle's chidlren.)

reader said...

Bravo Lynn! Exactly right on so many points. How many times have we heard over the last few years about wanting "private/public partnerships"? Only to hear the same people whining about billionaire club? Nobody gives money without strings. Every institute of higher learning(that credentials teachers, superintendents, etc) is going to have corporate sponsors. Another big surprise. And then, yes, the role of the parents is in thousands of hours of volunteering.. not selecting curriculum, methods of instruction, correct amount of "rigor", etc. etc. etc. Big surprise number 3, they aren't taking direction where it doesn't belong. What public service branch would? Could you imagine the police taking similar input?

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Reader, why should business and philanthropy get to determine the course of public education and not parents? Why do we have to sit down, shut up and raise money? And, more and more, we are raising money for basics - maintenance and staff - so at what point do we get heard?

seattle citizen said...

That must be why the Police Accountability Board in Seattle, or whatever it's called, recently was basically forced to change its ways to include citizen participation: No dis-respect to the police, but in the past, without a public voice, the accountability seemed always slanted in the police's favor. Now the public has demanded, and received, a place at that table to oversee the actions of its employees.

Volunteers are to merely stamp envelopes at school? Then why are they on the Building Leadership Teams? Why do they have a voice in the functioning of the schools there? Are you serious? The "little people" should just sit back and clean blackboards while our hallowed and supremely knowledgeable leaders ponder and act?

Wait...so the foundations can have access to the hallowed leaders, form their thoughts (oh, wait, the superintendent is already ON a foundation - she doesn't need to be influenced by them, she IS them) but the little people, the old ladies and eccentric men who like to dabble in volunteerism can merely come in and tutor while being denied an active voice in public education?

And "Every institute of higher learning(that credentials teachers, superintendents, etc) is going to have corporate sponsors."?

Some do already, and that's absolutely horrifying. That EVERY public institute might some day is, educationally speaking, the apocalypse: The business of business is business. On that day, the public commons disappear forever.

Sahila said...

Sorry reader, when it comes to my child and his future, it is my place to select curriculum, method of instruction and degree of "rigor"...

If its not my place, whose place is it? Bill Gates or Eli Broad? Milton Friedman or Mike Milken? Maybe its the place of the Walton family (Wal;mart, not John-boy!!!)?

I dont think so.... particularly since they dont have children who have to experience the consequences of their parents' meddling on a day to day basis....

Maybe I'm just an oddity here... Tell me, are you happy to have your childrens' realities decided by these people?

Anonymous said...

I would simply like to know what is behind the concept of philanthropy but to give to the group/charity or individual of your choice out of the generosity and the ability to do so without recourse or expectations that it will be used wisely and effectively. If that fails and the charity mismanages the money you still get a tax credit and the ability to NEVER give again.

To give is to do just that GIVE.

Why are foundations like Gates and Broad so involved in Education. At first I thought it was PSA type giving with the idea of building brands or whatever now its with actual curriculum and personnel expectations. When did Bill Gates become an Educator? When did Bill Gates ever GO to a public school? Are/Were any of his family Educators? And when were they EVER involved in Seattle Public Schools?

I have never understood why you would involve yourself in something of which you have no personal experience or interest until well you do and given Bill's well attitude about Philanthropy until the Mrs. stepped in has always been a rather laissez faire one at best.

Now because he has "decided" this is something he wants to do he can and we take it? Why is that? And why does the district accept it from him and not those truly vested and committed to the district? I have to wonder on several counts.

Education once part of the great equalizer is now part of the great Oligarchy of how we see the world. Let Business take it all over I mean they couldn't do worse right?

Chris said...

The new philanthropy is called "Venture Philanthropy." And yes, the expectation is that your "giving" will pay you back in spades. That's why we want them far away from our children.

Momma Snark said...

Oh, please. I'm all for skepticism and making sure corporate interests aren't taking over our schools, but why the paranoia about the Gates Foundation? Bill and Melinda aren't doctors, either, but they have done a great deal of good for health initiatives in Africa and elsewhere.

Having worked at a school on the receiving end of a Gates grant, I can tell you that mistakes were made and the process wasn't perfect. But I can also tell you that the people we worked with seemed genuinely interested in helping the teachers, students and community make some positive changes. And no, we weren't forced to tattoo the Microsoft logo on our foreheads or change out all the Macs for PC's.

Just sayin'.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bill Gates attended Laurelhurst Elementary for at least part of his elementary education and then attended Lakeside. I have no idea about his wife. Of course, his children attend private schools.

Charlie Mas said...

Ms Varner's editorial essentially takes the teachers and their unions to task for their non-participation in the design of Reform efforts and their refusal to climb on board the Reform bulldozer - the one that threatens to knock down their homes and schools.

This is directly taken from the "Why can't you work WITH them?" theme that I referenced this week.

The reason that the teachers are not at the table working to design the Reform is because they were not allowed a seat at the table where Reform is designed. To chide them for their absence is almost too cruel to be funny.

Hey, guess what? Student families weren't at the table when the Reforms were designed and they still aren't at the table because they aren't allowed to get anywhere near the table

These people are outside the circle because they were locked out of the circle, not because they obstinantly refused to join it.

seattle citizen said...

Momma Snark, as has been pointed out numerous times on this blog, Gates money, along with Broad money, is being used to create drastic changes to policy. This isn't just Bill Gates volunteering down at...Medina High (I wonder if he DOES volunteer in a public school?), it's not about Gates, out of the goodness of his/her heart DONATING money or service to a school like the one you mention that got Gates money...This is about large "philanthropic" and "non-profit" (and some for-profit) organizations buying access (oooh, you'd turn down MONEY?! You must be against the children!) and buying policy changes.
Gates/Broad et al fund Performance Management at SPS. G/B fund the Alliance, which does push-polls and dishonest surveys to further the G/B party line.

There's a BIG difference. As has been mentioned, public education should be funded publicly, designed by public entities, and not left to beg for Gates dollars or RTTT money in exchange for radically altering (and privatizing) public education.

Chris said...

Momma Snark: You have MACs!!??? What school? Now that's something I've never seen. Are they hidden in the room with the Integrated books?

seattle citizen said...

Mommasnark,
You wrote that "the people we worked with seemed genuinely interested in helping the teachers,students and community..."

I'm sure many of them were. In my opinion, many people have convinced themselves that the only reform is Reform.

You go on,
"...make some positive changes."

Can you tell us which changes, how they were positive, and who designed and/or initiated the changes?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great news. I'm in at the AFT convention next week AND guess who's speaking? Yes, it would be Bill Gates.

Sometimes it rains...pennies from heaven.

MathTeacher42 said...

I wish the comments on this freebie blog were attached to your name - it would be easier to link to the longer more detailed comments, instead of rewriting them all the time.

I enjoy how ms. varner LIES about the union's input on these reform lies. She's doing the elite media "reporting" of repeating some groups lies as if the lies are a fact, instead of ... LIES!

While the unions have been as flat footed on messaging as you can get, and the flat footedness is excusable ONLY if political incompetence is a badge of honor,

WHERE are the great idea$ which are co$ted out in time to implement, and then paid for ??

Instead of the worthless high level blather from the schools and colleges of ed, we teachers get worthless high level blather from powerpoint jockeys at "not for profits" where lots of people making more money than teachers make, and those well paid people are busy making power points!

Whoooo - Hooo!

To all you silent teachers out there - I don't mind the slings and arrows of outrageous lies, which is 1 reason I speak up. Those who want to lie, and call me and call us obstructionists, after all the work we did and do, they deserve little more than contempt.

IF this "reform" stuff was about more than redirecting 1/2 a trillion PUBLIC dollars a year into private good old boy sector pockets, wouldn't something useful for our kids have been accomplished, something beyond gigabytes of reform power points, and something beyond lots of good paychecks for the consultant kleptocracy?

BM

Sahila said...

Any chance of more of us going to the conference and - good, golly gosh - talking to Bill (and leafleting teachers to let them know we support them??

Sahila said...

Get loud at Queen Anne News online - you get a chance to vote for or against MGJ's performance...

http://www.queenannenews.com

MathTeacher42 said...

Darn - I forgot the URL to the 1/2 trillion dollar figure.

http://www.census.gov/govs/school/

Open the .xls "State-level Tables", Tab 1

++++

Here is a off the top of my head question to the highly credentialed, highly degreed, highly titled ...

Don't you want to do a GOOD job?

IF you make over $75k a year, in 2007 money income you were doing better than 214,000,000 Americans with money income. IF you make over 100k, you're 1 of appx. 13,000,000 making more than appx. 225,000,000. (see the statistical abstract of the united states, 2010)

Don't you want to do a GOOD job?
Step back - think about that.

At the Yalta conference at the end of WWII, Stalin, Roosevelt & Churchill got to wave their arms (that is a math department slam ;) and millions of people were affected - you are NOT at the Yalta conference! You are NOT that high level! YOU need to make things work better - things IN THE CLASSROOM - that is how you do a good job.

You make more than hundreds of millions of people working. I know it is part of the ethic of your social set to NOT sully your high level self with details, to act like all your emanations, ruminations and illuminations are worthy of minions groveling at your feet as if you're 1 of the big 3 at Yalta, BUT

if you're going to be involved with education, wouldn't you like to do something useful?

How are we going to get our kids to not just participate in maintaining this complex world, but fix and improve and change the good and the bad?

I do NOT need more power points.

BM

owlhouse said...

Interesting. The Alliance has posted about and linked to to this editorial. I wonder if they'll allow discussion on it.

Momma Snark said...

Seattle Citizen says: "public education should be funded publicly".

YES. And how I wish that public education were funded appropriately by the public. But it just ISN'T. Some schools hold auctions, some apply for grants, some just languish without necessary funds. The idea that we are going to see sufficient public funding for public schools in the next 10 years is almost laughable.

My point was simply that just because a foundation is headed by Bill Gates doesn't mean the projects funded by said foundation are driven by some nefarious corporate scheme. I don't think schools should blindly take money no matter what, or bow down to billionaires who deign to spend money on education. BUT I also don't think that every effort of the Gates Foundation to reform education is misguided, or "Venture Philanthropy."

To be perfectly clear, our Gates grant was used to form small academies within our high school (not in the Seattle system). Our school was ALREADY very much in tune with the idea of small schools, and were quite excited about the idea of being able to grow our own "mini-schools" where students could focus on an area of interest to them. I was a member of the steering committee that worked with students, the community, and the rest of the faculty to design the new academies.

Ultimately, our vision was not successful. The academies did not "take." But I am certain this had very little to do with the Gates Foundation. The entire process was quite illuminating, and we all learned a great deal about our students and each other - and what the community really wanted out of their high school.

Bottom line: teaching is complicated, students are complicated, and reform is complicated. You can't pin success or failure of a school on any one factor. But I was happy to have the opportunity to really dig deep into our school community, to think about how to do things differently, and to try something new. I would not have been able to do so without the Gates Foundation's involvement.

seattle citizen said...

Momma Snark,
Why couldn't you do that (involvement) without the Gates grant?

Also, the main thrust of Gates in Seattle right now IS nefarious: They, Broad, and Boeing have given about nine million to the district, managed by the Alliance, for "Performance Management." This is directly trying to change the entire system. It's MAP tests and "teacher quality" based on MAP and HSPE and, well, I think the whole thing stinks.

But whether I like it or not is beside the point, which is that these foundations are taking advantage of starving schools to try and change the whole system. They've got an idea, they're running with it (with help from their friends at Strategies 360 and the Seattle Times.

Gates did the small-school thing at Cleveland HS about ten years ago. It didn't "take" there, either, and Gates pulled out. So then you had a school that had gone through this massive reconfiguration, languished for two years, then the funding for the reconfiguration disappeared.

Now maybe it was an interesting experiment, but it did cause three or four years of cross-purposes, confusion and lack of identity or vision at that school.

Gates liked small schools (so do I, actually) and poured money in to seed it just because they could. Sure we need money, but at what price?

Lastly, it is becoming increasingly apparent that many of these "reform" groups are looking to make a buck by privatizing and breaking the union. The current Gates drive (Performance Management) smacks of this.

Somethings they do are good-hearted, I'm sure, but they are sometimes mere whims, experiments, and sometimes it seems they are intentionally driving education out of the hands of citizens and into corporate or semi-corporate hands. I don't like that one bit.

FightingForKids said...

Momma Snark, save your fingers from typing on the keyboard. You will never win on this blog unless you 100% agree with the folks who post here on a regular basis.

Even speaking from a voice of experience using funds from the evil Gates Foundation in a positive fashion won't make a difference. The people on this blog are just as close minded as they portray the District to be.

Spruce said...

Fighting for kids not all of the folks that post on this blog refuse to hear any viewpoints other than their own. Mel, Charlie, hschinske, Solvay, emeraldkity, techymom, ZB, Dorothy, Maureen, Wseadawg, and many others are very open to listening to others (even if they do not always agree), and responding civilly, rationally, and coherently.

But you are right in that there are a handful of frequent posters that post the same comments over and over again, like broken records, as knee jerk reactions to just about anything. If you don't agree with their opinions they accuse you of working for Gates, or Broad, or SPS - it's actually pretty humorous sometimes. But seriously, it is just a few posters and you can easily scroll through their posts without reading or responding to them (like I've learned to do).

reader said...

So Reader, why should business and philanthropy get to determine the course of public education and not parents?

You get the influence you pay for. You don't pay, you don't get influence, you get to lick envelopes and sharpen pencils, and do lots of other really good volunteer work too. Would you really expect anybody to give a sizeable amount of money and then get no say in return? How incredibly naive. I'm perfectly happy to keep private funding out... but if it does get in, I'm going to assume there will be strings.

The idea that only "some institutes" receive private funding is also pretty ridiculous. The UW has a whole club (the Laureate club) of people who have donated more than a million dollars. Are we going to start rejecting teachers because they went to the UW (with its huge foundation). Or Harvard? It's got a huge foundation too.... full of private gifts.

Charlie Mas said...

I welcome private contributions to public education.

Here's the thing. The District needs a policy that sets the rules for it. What money will we accept, for what purposes, and, yes, what influence is for sale and at what price.

I have only praise for people who want to contribute to public education, but the District shouldn't take orders in exchange for cash. And if the District is going to grant influence to Donor A for $300,000, then they should grant similar influence to Donor B for $300,000.

There just need to be some rules for this and right now there are none.

Is that fair?

Charlie Mas said...

Why does the New School Foundation get an MOU with the District that grants the Foundation certain rights when the PTA at every other school doesn't have a similar MOU? Don't the families at Montlake donate enough money to have a voice about their school as strong - and as codified - as the voice of the New School Foundation at Southshore?

What are the limits of what money will buy? If I contribute enough, can I design a school as the Gates Foundation and the New School Foundation did? The District essentially sold T T Minor to the Sloan Foundation. What would it cost for another Foundation to buy their own school?

I don't want to stop private donations to schools or the District; I just want rules for them. Right now it's the wild, wild west and you can buy anything that the administration of the moment is willing to agree to sell you.

The same for the City. What rights to accountability do they get for the money from the Families and Education Levy? The same for the State and the Federal government. At what point would we decide that we're not interested in Race to the Top money either because it requires us to surrender too much autonomy or because it doesn't pay enough to buy it? Were the School Improvement Grants sufficient compensation for the changes they required?

I don't want to stop any of it; I just want some rules for it. And if control of our schools is for sale, then I want a published price list.

seattle citizen said...

F4k,
Your comment is must like the "why don't you work WITH us" thread - "we" are close-minded because we go against some ideas we think are bad. I'm certainly one of the posters who repetitively emphasizes some of the same points, and I do this because there is a big drive to "reform" education, those people have money to get the Times to print their party line, I only have this forum to try and get an opposing perspective out.

"Reformers" are also closeminded: They have a plan, and if you differ in your ideas you are not listened to, you are effectively voiceless. Very close-minded. So I sometimes adopt a similar mantra in response. "standardized testes standardized tests standarized tests" from "them" gets "narrowing of ed narrowing of ed narrowing of ed" from me.

So sue me.

To regular readers, I apologize for the repitition (tho' I think you and now Spruce are a bit close-minded yourselves to dismiss all of my comments (I think you mean me, by omission) because I do try to carry on a dialogue.

reader said...

Why does the New School Foundation get an MOU with the District that grants the Foundation certain rights when the PTA at every other school doesn't have a similar MOU?

Uhhh. Let's do some everyday math here. The New School Foundation has donated 15 million... Montlake raises 100,000 from a few hundred parents. If somebody at Montlake donated a million, I'm sure they would have plenty of "say." So no. $100,000 isn't enough to have a say, and really, it doesn't buy you that much anyway.

I agree. Rules please. But it's crazy to point out that the Supt has some private backing. Who not?

Sahila said...

F4K (Fighting For Kids), A4E,(Alliance For Education - where F4K also posts as a cheerleader for A4E) S4C (Stands for Children - a pro charter lobby group scattered all around the country), OSC (Our Schools Coalition - an offspring of the Alliance via the 360 Strategies PR firm).... so cute... so laudable...

What gets me is why these people think they are the only ones "fighting/standing for kids/children" and education?

I work with quite a large number of other parents and community members and educators to preserve a quality public education for all our children - we're an (informal) Alliance/Coalition... why dont we have as much power and influence within SPS as the Alliance does, then? As the Gates and Broad Foundations?

Surely we, with children in the system, have much more at stake... and we are the experts on what we want for our children now and in the future...

Why doesnt the Times report on our views, then?

Until there is a fair representation of our views, then I shall continue stating the obvious... after all, one of the hats I wear is as a journalist - its my moral obligation to keep putting forward the other side and exposing the outright lies, half truths and omission of facts that are being used to push us down this track...

and you might be interested in this news:

http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2010/06/27/at_school_focus_groups_parents_voice_concerns_call_for_more_input/?rss_id=Boston.com+--+Education+news

and this:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2010/06/house_dems_trim_race_to_the_to.html

and this:
http://gothamschools.org/2010/06/30/the-case-of-the-early-test-scores-and-resulting-confusion/comment-page-1/#comment-275486

Sahila said...

A good breakdown of the systemic problems that are at the root of the education issue:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-06-29-california-schools_N.htm?csp=outbrain&csp=obnetwork

Sahila said...

and of the people who have been taking the Queen Anne News straw poll, 75% think MGJ is doing a poor job... 13% think she's fantastic and 13% think she's OK...

http://www.queenannenews.com/

wseadawg said...

Reader, while you're wearing out your kneepads, some of us will continue to analyze not just what private money is being donated, or by whom, but more importantly, what's being done with it.

It's called caring, and not selling out your ideals and your children's futures to the latest sugar daddy. Your "no duh" analyses could not be more jaded or cynical, not to mention juvenile and corrupt. Maybe Third-World payola schemes and all that go with it are fine with you. Not with me. While you're sucking up and genuflecting to big donors, I'll continue to work to see that any money, whether private or public, is well spent and helps kids versus turning them into lab rats and cockroaches for the latest new fads.

Spruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spruce said...

SC says: "we" are close-minded because we go against some ideas we think are bad."

I don't consider anyone that posts on this blog close-minded due to their opinions (though repeating the same canned remarks over and over again does get annoying). But I do consider some of the posters on this blog close-minded because they can not, and will not accept, or respect, the fact that other people may have differing opinions than theirs.

Differing opinions don't warrant or deserve attacks, name calling, and accusations of being a plant for some corporate organization. This type of behavior was getting to be all to common on this blog, though it has settled a bit since the threat of comment moderation came into play.

Thanks, Melissa!

Sahila said...

My opinions are based on research, data, facts and a knowledge of history...

Almost everything I post here I back up with references to (reputable) evidence supporting for my stance...

When I see 'opinions' expressed that are not supported by any critical, independent thinking, then I question its validity...

I've been around marketing and PR too long to accept anything coming out of ANY organisation at face value... I go check for myself and then make up my own mind...

It seems to me that some people posting here do not do that... and then they get mad that I question their assertions and publish data/facts/research rebutting their positions...

This is not an "I'm (my opinions are) better than them cos I do the research" perspective...

Its a call to people to become their own persons and not just accept what's fed to them by the big money which does most certainly have an agenda that impacts our kids on a daily basis for a good 13 years, and counts on our lack of knowledge, insight, time, energy and apathy to implement it...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Momma Snark, that is exactly what I have been saying for years. The Gates transformation money forced schools to take a good hard look at themselves and what was working and what wasn't. It was a great idea and, I think, got many people thinking.

But there wasn't follow-thru from the district and, of course, the money that started the transformation went away. So a lot of people put effort into these plans and didn't get much back.

So it was worth it to do but beware of non-sustaining initiatives.

Fighting for Kids, you know what? If you think we are all so close-minded (we're not but if you think that, fine), why come here? It must be very frustrating.

"Would you really expect anybody to give a sizeable amount of money and then get no say in return?"

Reader, we put our children AND our efforts AND our money in our schools (both thru fundraising and tax dollars). Can we get a say in the return?

reader said...

I'm just saying bloggers don't deserve a "say"... just because. Because why? If you don't like the public service offered you, don't use it. Go private, homeschool, etc. We don't argue over what sort of uniforms, incentive schemes, brand of weapon, that police officers use... yet some people expect that sort of "voice" and "input" for our public schools. No, you aren't going to get to pick your math curriculum. And then, when others do manage to obtain a say in things, because they've donated a huge amount... the same people who wanted a say, then cry because somebody else got what they wanted. Shouldn't you be happy that somebody got a say? Sure it isn't fair. Didn't your mother teach you, life isn't fair?

Lynn's article in the Times was right on. Exactly the right amount of skepticism with the unions. Hey folks, the union is there ONLY for the teachers and their jobs. Unions were never supposed to be the only show in town, and now, they've got a teeny, weeny, threat of competition. If the system as it is, is doing so well.. the unions would have nothing to worry about. Let's get real, there are huge stacks of teacher resumes everywhere you look. Don't those people deserve consideration too? What union represents them? Anyone who has ever had a mediocre teacher, or serveral mediocre teachers would certainly like to give those people a shot too. Lynne is simply pointing out the obvious.

reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader said...

Reader, we put our children AND our efforts AND our money in our schools (both thru fundraising and tax dollars). Can we get a say in the return?

Your say will be commensurate with your donation. Millions yields more than thousands. Donations of effort, not so much. If you think your pencil sharpening skills will give you a voice, tally it up at $7.00/hour and see what you get. Dontating time to your own kid, at his own school, and helping a few other needy kids along the way is certainly worth something, but our society doesn't remunerate for that. Personally, I prefer the voice of people who actually put their money where their mouth is... over a bunch of helicopter parents with limited perspective. I'd prefer total public funding, without any "donations" most of all.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Personally, I prefer the voice of people who actually put their money where their mouth is... over a bunch of helicopter parents with limited perspective."

What? People who have more money and will give it away get more of a voice in our society? And those "helicopter parents" somehow know less than these people who have money?

Great thinking - people who make a lot of money know more about everything than those who don't.

seattle citizen said...

Reader,
You wrote that "Your say will be commensurate with your donation. Millions yields more than thousands"

That's right. And our billions in tax dollars should, by all accounts, yield more than the millions that are given by philanthropists.

We get our say as to how our tax billions are spent by voting for elected board members, city, state and federal officials, and then holding them accountable to us.

In between electing them and then holding them accountable, we get to have a say in what they do.

Our billions trump the foundations' millions easily.

The ethics of the situation, contrary to your idea of giving away the candy store, lean heavily towards us, the taxpayers, as THE supporters of public education. The laws also provide similar weight to us, rather than "them": There are several conflict of interest laws, reporting laws, and other regulations that protect the public interest against the baser instincts of the private interest.

As someone who gives thousands to the schools every year, and is "in league" with hundreds of thousands who do likewise in this city, our billions, and our collective voice, is much more powerful than the small voice purchased by the odd organization and other well-meaning individuals.

Sahila said...

Reader said:
"We don't argue over what sort of uniforms, incentive schemes, brand of weapon, that police officers use..."...

actually, I think we do deserve and should have a say in that too...

I would prefer that police not be armed, as they are in New Zealand and the UK...

I dont know how pay rates are calculated here, but police in NZ and the UK are considered public servants/government employees and their pay is at public service level (as are teachers) with add-ons (allowances) for shift work etc...

And they have a union too!!! And they pay into pension plans... and they get health care and generous vacations....

They work quite hard to protect their pay rates and conditions of service - I dont see people say that's selfish and greedy and whiney on the part of police officers...

So what's the difference between police officers and teachers? Both are working to protect our futures... and one could argue that teachers have a more important, far reaching impact and need to be the best qualified people available, seeing they have so much influence over the next generation, and its in all our interests to make sure that children grow into happy, healthy, well functioning adults...

Sahila said...
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FightingForKids said...

Yes, Melissa it is frustrating. More like disappointing. This used to be a blog where ALL opinions were valued. Now of you say anything that remotely goes against the opinion of the folks who post regularly, you're subjected to some form of name calling. Go back and read Sahila's posts for a very clear example of what I mean.

Very few people who are subjected to this treatment come back to post other thoughts.

The most disappointing thing for me is watching you go down the road of " I'm right, I'm always right and I know best". You have a lot of knowledge and have become known as an expert in Seattle Schools. I think that's great. What's not great is how you seem to be letting that go to your head. You can agree or not, that's up to you. I'm sharing my opinion.

reader said...

Yeah right Seattle Citizen. No way you're paying billions in taxes, or even millions, or even hundreds of thousands. Unless you're very wealthy you pay practically no taxes anyway, and I doubt you are. You get your piece of say, when you vote. So have at it. Go vote. If one person is paying millions, in addition to the millions in taxes they already pay to support the majority who pays little to nothing... they're going to have influence.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fighting for Kids, you don't read much here do you? Because I have NEVER said I am always right and I know best. I acknowledge when I am wrong, I celebrate good things happening in this district and I'm the last person to say "I know best". What I (and Charlie) say is that we have been down this road many, many times and generally life teaches you to learn from your experiences.

Yes, we do have some people here who don't admit they don't know everything and perceive that their reading, their research supports everything they believe. People tend to seek out research that supports their beliefs. As many other readers have pointed out, you can skip over what they say.

And,as I have said, if this blog is not worthy of being read, that's up to you. That some of you come here because you know that we deliver information that you will get nowhere else AND give you info before the district does sometimes, well, you're welcome.

Spruce said...
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FightingForKids said...

I have an opinion that is contrary so therefore you assume I don't read the blog much? Well for your info I have been reading it since it started and I'm speaking from my own observations.

Yes, I can skip some posts and have done so. That's not my point. This blog has changed a lot. You have changed a lot. You're right there is info here you can't get anywhere else. It's the rest of the crap ( and there's increasingly more of it) that is disturbing.

Do you ever wonder or care how people feel when they post and then get blasted for having an opinion? That's why there aren't many new contributors who actually stick around and post other stuff.

Again, you can take my opinion or not. That's up to you.

Spruce said...

Melissa,

I read this blog every day. And honestly I don't know what I'd do if you stopped blogging. Where would I find this info? Most of it is not available on the SPS website, and I don't have time to dig it out, and attend every meeting. It's an invaluable resource, and is very much appreciated. So thanks very much.

But Fighting for kids is right in that there are a handful of posters (not Mel, Charlie, Maureen, Dorothy, et al) that are poised and ready to bash anyone who has an opinion contrary to theirs. They will call you a liar, accuse you of working for Gates or Broad, and inundate you with their (mainly manipulated) data over and over and over again.

Recently a couple of posters even attacked the use of the pseudonym "Fighting for Kids".

Then there is the constant thread hijacking to Broad and Gates. I'm thankful that there are posters willing to research and share their knowledge and expertise on the subject, and I look forward to reading it in the appropriate threads. However it is just so annoying and such a time sink to read, re-read, and then re-read it, again, and again, in every thread no matter the topic. In fact I challenge anyone to find a thread, any thread, in the last year or so that does not have a reference to Broad, Gates, or another corporatist agenda.

Just some things to think about since you Melissa (along with Charlie and Beth) have the power to moderate and set the tone and rules of the blog.

wsnorth said...

Isn't South Shore a clear example of a public/private partnership that is working very well? That clearly seems to be one of the best schools in the Southeast. I hate the teacher bashing, and do think parents (not to mention taxpayers in general) should have a say in how the district is run, however, it is naive to think big donors will contribute with "no strings".

Sahila said...

Spruce - why dont you prove me and all the other people who write about the Broad/Gates influence wrong...

Why dont you point out exactly how beneficial is their reform agenda?

Come on, if I'm only finding and presenting stats - even manipulating them - that prove my stance in this debate, show me your version of stats/research/data...

You know, even Melissa and Charlie have come to understand the dangers of the road we are going down...

They've both railed here and at the Seattle Times website and at the Alliance's blog about the corporatist reform agenda and the undue influence of these big players on what is happening here in Seattle, when we parents cant even get a look in, a seat at the discussion table let alone be part of the planning of the change that's occurring ....

Melissa Westbrook said...

(I only asked if Fighting for Kids was new because he/she said I always think I'm right and know best. That is simply not true.)

Yes, I know we have a problem with a few posts who circle back to one issue. And, everyone has been warned about staying on topic (or they may have comments deleted for getting off topic). I agree it is not always an easy read AND I think that sometimes people come out swinging when there's no need.

But I've said it and Charlie has said it, we are open to all opinions. However, if we ask you what you base your opinion on, don't take it as an attack. We are genuinely interested in learning anything new.

gavroche said...

It strikes me that some commenters on this particular thread (reader, Fighting4K) are trying to redefine and conform this blog according to their own personal parameters. I find that rather hypocritical, since that is what they appear to be accusing others of doing.

If the subject matter and perspectives on this blog have "changed" in recent years, so too has the national dialog about education, so that makes sense.

If some of the issues that are brought up on this blog are bothersome or uncomfortable to some readers here, that too is a logical consequence of the fact that the current national phase of "education reform" has many troubling elements.

These need to be discussed and understood, especially since we parents -- the ones with the most at stake in our schools -- are not being included in the "ed reform" decisions or agenda, and the local media is doing a lousy job of honestly covering the many facets of public education and ed reform.

Reader -- your dismissive comment about SPS parent contributions to their schools amounting to nothing more than "pencil-sharpening skills" is beyond offensive.

It also serves to highlight the very arrogance and ignorance of those who think that people with a lot of money (like Gates, Broad et al) have more to offer our kids' schools than those of us who have given hours of our own time, our knowledge, our passion, one-on-one attention to the kids, huge organizing efforts for fundraising, and basically countless unglamourous tasks and efforts that help keep our schools afloat on a daily basis. Without parent input, without PTA resources and efforts, our public schools would, by and large, be in a pretty sorry state.

I'll take 'helicopter parents' any day over bulldozing 'venture philathropists' with agendas and zero background in education and zero connection to my kids.

Lastly, we parents have invested far more in our public schools than Gates, Broad or any of the 'foundations' ever have or could: we have invested our children in these schools, so by that measure alone, we should have the greatest say in the nature and direction of public education.

Not Bill Gates. Not Eli Broad. Not even Arne Duncan or Barack Obama.

reader said...

Gavroche, how strange to on the one hand hate all those evil-philanthropist-corporatists, and on the other hand... use their positive terminology ("investment") to describe your student. Your student is receiving public services.
Are medicaid recipients "investments"? Are people using the fire department because their house is burning, an "investment"? The correct term is "cost". Your student is a "cost", paid for by others. One cost in a whole host of worthwhile public services. As such, you have very little say in anything. And let's not get our undies gnarled in a bunch by parent "fundraisers". A few hundred thousand, raised in only the wealthiest school, really doesn't amount to that much. Schools would do fine without it. And for that, you'll get to decide how to arrange your parent volunteer office in your school. PS. Helicopter parents also have zero education, experience, or perspective on any large issues, especially regarding other people's kids.

PS. Nobody's trying to "conform the blog". Not sure what that even means... oh yeah. It means nothing. You just seem to want everyone to post the same thing, in lockstep.

seattle citizen said...

I'm glad to be reminded to keep to the topic, and will continue to try to stay on thread. But other than that, all these comments about how we "aren't open to other perspectives," and are "calling people liars" strikes me as merely an attempt to quash free dialogue.

If I return to "reform" often it is because it is THE big thing, that effects all of education. If I reiterate the collusion of reformistas in trying to effect massive change in back room think tanks and board rooms, and through manipulation of public opinion, it is because it needs reiterating (in my opinion)

Blog meisters, feel free to delete any of my comments that seem derisive, "attacking," or off topic. On my end, I'l try to be fair and on topic.

Thanks again (and again) for providing this open forum and using a fair discretion in the exercising of your editorial power.

seattle citizen said...

Reader, it seems that you are content to let whoever has the most money make policy. I am not.

Collectively, taxpayers give a hundred times more money to schools than do non-public funders (foundations, PTSAs, etc)

THAT gives us the largest voice. By far.

And believe you me, I do vote, and I talk to my friends and anyone else whose ear I can bend in trying to get information to them, so they can be informed voters, too.

It is difficult, tho': Public schools and taxpayers would rather their money go to education instead of advertising and buying push-polls, so those few who have money spend more than we public supporters trying to influence the vote. But I do my best with my limited PR funds.

Charlie Mas said...

Speaking for myself, I am troubled when voices - new voices and alternative perspectives in particular - are shouted down on this blog.

We cannot have a full discussion of the issues if the voices on one side of the debate are hounded and attacked. And I sincerely want that discussion. There is nothing I would like better than to read strong and spirited support for controversial school district policies and practices. That's what I called for the Alliance to sponsor on a recent thread because that's what I want.

I would dearly, dearly love for the District staff who are working on alignment - or math material selection, or ICS, or Advanced Learning, or program placement - to offer explanations and defenses of their decisions here. And I know that they can't do that if they do not feel safe to do it. I want a civil and respectful discussion.

I know that my own behavior has not been perfect. I have taken some shots at people, Director Maier in particular. I have also failed to come to the defense of minority voices or chide folks who have bullied or quashed opposing voices. Honestly, I'm not confident that I should take that role.

This was and is Beth Bakeman's blog. She has generously allowed Mel and I - along with a long list of others - to contribute posts. Other authority has also been granted us, but I accept it reluctantly. I think of myself as little different from the other regular readers and commenters to this blog. I don't want to exercise greater authority or be held to a higher standard. I am but one of hundreds of voices on this channel.

While I am distressed by some of the roughness of a free and open discussion, I am very hesitant to constrain the discussion. I fear what else we might lose along with that freedom. I can encourage folks to civility but I'm not comfortable policing it. I just don't trust my own judgement enough to exercise the authority to edit or censor other's voices.

This does allow for a rougher exchange than a lot of folks can tolerate. And we are poorer for the absence of their voices here. I grieve the loss, but I am unsure of how to protect those delicate souls while protecting the freedom of the discussion. Am I to don the shining armor and ride to the defense everytime someone gets snotty? And if so, then why me? Aren't each and every one of us equally capable of defending the rights of minority voices?

I'm open to suggestion. Believe me. I feel the absence of diverse perspectives and I acknowledge that they aren't here because they have to be very tough to withstand the vehement disagreement. I'm just at a loss about what to do about it.

Charlie Mas said...
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Charlie Mas said...
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wsnorth said...

Back to the question of public/private successes... isn't South Shore a pretty good example of that? Isn't that school a success by most any measures?

FightingForKids said...

Charlie and Melissa, we are all grownups here. I don't expect either of you as the main posters to moderate this site.

I think we're missing a lot of voices because of the behavior of some and when you look there is really not much of a discussion/debate going on for any particular topic--just the choir chiming in on the verse--because opposing opinions get shut down immediately.

Charlie Mas said...

I think of Southshore not only as a successful public/private partnership but as an excellent model for duplication. That school has shown a path to higher achievement for students. It is time for other schools to follow that path. Not all of it costs money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

South Shore. Hmmm. I haven't seen their test scores in awhile so hard to say whether their method of holistic support for kids is working. That it is popular points to people liking that system for their kids.

(But free preschool and a brand-new building also might be contributing to their popularity.)

That said, you don't hear people clamoring for another South Shore like people want another TOPS. The district doesn't tout the benefits of the SS system so I have to wonder if they think it's a model worth duplicating.

What's interesting is that the district hasn't taken many steps to seek out more public/private partnerships such as the one with New School. They had the opportunity with TAF and blew it (not that it was entirely the district's fault but if they had backed TAF up, it would have helped).

There was a good NY Times article along these lines that I'll start a separate thread about soon.

seattle citizen said...

I would rank Southshore highly in terms of rallying support around its students. Where the money is wisely spent, and with the voice of the Southshore community having the greater decision-making capacity (in contrast to the minor, helper role of the source of the money), Southshore has evidently found much success.

I would compare it to NOVA, among other schools that meet the needs of their students. Each has a different model, developed specifically to address their students, and like other schools, programs and classrooms around the city that do this self-directed introspection, decision-making and change, each is wrap-around service to its children where possible or funded.

seattle citizen said...

It really IS all about community.

Spruce said...

I think Southshore is doing very well by most measures, and serving their community well. I wholly support public/private partnerships and wish we had a lot more of them.

Wish we had TAF too. We wouldn't have needed to spend millions on STEM had we worked with Trish a few years ago and created TAF.

I think Charlie is right in that we do need some rules and guidelines around accepting the money, but within those guidelines we should accept it with open arms, as we do from the PTSA and every other fund raising group in the city.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Spruce, just to be fair, PTAs don't get the kind of leeway that New School Foundation does. It's apples and oranges but yes, public/private partnerships are great.

seattle citizen said...

Spruce, I agree with this comment for the most part:
"we do need some rules and guidelines around accepting the money, but within those guidelines we should accept it with open arms, as we do from the PTSA and every other fund raising group in the city."

I'm all for anybody contributing to a school. But the rules and guidelines must be strictly enfored and fair for both the givers and the school.

The school must be at the heart of it, and must make ultimate decisions and direct the donation. The school and its community (reperented, perhaps, by its principal and its BLT, composed of educators, parent/guardians...students..) are the arbiters for how resources are allocated, within district and funding guidelines.

The PTSA, for instance, does not direct policy much: its money (if available) might be used to fund a particular sort of class, or to buy materials...but not without the consent of the school. The school (as agent of the District) gets to decide.

What we are seeing more of lately is that decision-making is given away to others, often decisions that are not just what to do with that particular donation of money (or other) but are about the very way the school is run.

Ultimately, it is not up the PTSA nor some other external benefactor to tell the school what to do. Quite the converse, it is up to the school to tell everyone else what to do. The school SHOULD be the representative of not only district policy, but its community, including students, staff, parent/guardians, other relevant community support, and the citizenry at large. THESE are the ultimate decision makers.

While Reader seems to think that "he who has the gold makes the rules," I believe it is up to the community to assert its "ownership" and leadership of our public schools. PTSA and, say, Sloan should at least be on equal footing in contributing to decision-making, but both are subservient to the school. Money shouldn't buy access to our children for purposes other than the school's community allows.

seattle citizen said...

Spruce, I agree with this comment for the most part:
"we do need some rules and guidelines around accepting the money, but within those guidelines we should accept it with open arms, as we do from the PTSA and every other fund raising group in the city."

I'm all for anybody contributing to a school. But the rules and guidelines must be strictly enfored and fair for both the givers and the school.

The school must be at the heart of it, and must make ultimate decisions and direct the donation. The school and its community (reperented, perhaps, by its principal and its BLT, composed of educators, parent/guardians...students..) are the arbiters for how resources are allocated, within district and funding guidelines.

The PTSA, for instance, does not direct policy much: its money (if available) might be used to fund a particular sort of class, or to buy materials...but not without the consent of the school. The school (as agent of the District) gets to decide.

What we are seeing more of lately is that decision-making is given away to others, often decisions that are not just what to do with that particular donation of money (or other) but are about the very way the school is run.

Ultimately, it is not up the PTSA nor some other external benefactor to tell the school what to do. Quite the converse, it is up to the school to tell everyone else what to do. The school SHOULD be the representative of not only district policy, but its community, including students, staff, parent/guardians, other relevant community support, and the citizenry at large. THESE are the ultimate decision makers.

While Reader seems to think that "he who has the gold makes the rules," I believe it is up to the community to assert its "ownership" and leadership of our public schools. PTSA and, say, Sloan should at least be on equal footing in contributing to decision-making, but both are subservient to the school. Money shouldn't buy access to our children for purposes other than the school's community allows.

wseadawg said...

Yes, we are all grownups here. So how about dispensing with playing the victim and accusing others of "attacking" or being "uncivil" (code: not as good as me) because they disagree with ill-conceived, weak, obtuse and often completely irrational viewpoints. We have a first amendment for a reason: If you disagree with what someone else is saying, air your own viewpoints and engage in the debate. That way, in the public sphere, everyone gets to hear or read all sides of the argument. For those who take their ball and run home because others don't agree with them, I'm calling you out as Un-American. Yup, that's right. Un-American.

People died to defend your right to speak and be heard. Live up to that ideal and engage thoughtfully in the public arena or don't. But don't whine and moan about others' being uncivil and shutting down debate when you slink away and shirk your own responsibility to defend and advocate for your own viewpoints.

I've never seen a thoughtful viewpoint, delivered respectfully on this blog, receive unwarranted venom. Is there a chorus of like minded people on this blog? Sure. So what.

To quote Peter Tosh: Stand Firm, or Feed the Worm.

Spruce said...
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seattle citizen said...

Spruce,
"If I post that I think there are some virtues and positives to charter schools"

We're all ears. Please tell us what those virtues are, and then engage in debate about them.

"and then have to deal with people accusing me of having a secret agenda, or being a plant for Broad, or working for SPS, or being naive,"

These things have all (four) happened to you? Which people accused you of these four things?

"or if I have to sift through post after post of canned remarks and knee jerk responses, then why would I ever bother posting again?"

None of MY posts are canned. Some are repetitive because their is a full-court press on to fundamentally change education, and my little drumbeat might reach at least some ears (and the wearers of those ears are certainly free to debate me on my points. Or not)

MOst people, in discussion about important issues like politics, economics, social ideals and ideals, and the former of all of these things, education, engage in knee-jerk back-and-forth, often time passionately. When I call my brother an idiot for believing something it means two things: my opinion is different and he is free to respond; and b) I don't REALLY think he's an idiot. I mean, come on, we've all become heated over the dinner table but we still talk and we still love one another (well, I love them, and can only hope they love me.)

"It's not such a friendly environment for anyone with differing opinions and that's sad, because I think everyone has something to add, share, and learn from one another."

I refuse to play the "let's all make friendly" game. While there are tenets of civil discourse worth remembering, speech is speech is speech, and muzzling it to be polite (and believe me, difffering people have differing ideas about politeness) is to diffuse it and, often, turn it to pap.

No one said democracy is easy. Or nice.

Spruce said...

Wseadawg, thanks for the free speech reminder, however I wasn't talking about citizens first amendment rights.

I have the RIGHT to pet my dog every day. It's my dog after all. But if every time I pet that dog it bites me I will eventually stop petting it. Not because it's not my right to do so but because I don't want to. No different than posting on this blog. If I post that I think there are some virtues and positives to charter schools and then have to deal with people accusing me of having a secret agenda, or being a plant for Broad, or working for SPS, or being naive, or if I have to sift through post after post of canned remarks and knee jerk responses, then why would I ever bother posting again?

It's not such a friendly environment for anyone with differing opinions and that's sad, because I think everyone has something to add, share, and learn from one another.

Not saying anyone has to agree with my viewpoints. I love a healthy debate. But I do expect a thoughtful, civil, respect exchange.

Spruce said...

SC, what are you not getting? I don't mind debating any given topic. AT ALL. As I said I love a healthy debate. But that doesn't happen often on this blog anymore. Rather the debates are largely unproductive with a few bloggers relentlessly accusing anyone that supports charters, reform, et al, of being a plant, working for SPS, being naive. Is there anything productive in that? Bring on some thoughtful debate, or even just your opinion, but leave the paranoia and name calling at the back door.

Dorothy said...

"I've never seen a thoughtful viewpoint, delivered respectfully on this blog, receive unwarranted venom."

I have.

seattle citizen said...

Ok Spruce, let's debate.

My opinion is that overly scripted instruction is a problem, but that NOT having an overly scripted instruction makes it more difficult to ascertain what instruction was actually delivered using a standardized test (specifically, a test designed to test outcomes given a highly scripted instruction.
This is what "fidelity" refers to: Some would like "fidelity to the material," which means they want "teach in the exact way you are told by the material." The problem with this is that other instruction happens: either divergent instruction (away from the particular standard in question) or a different way of teaching the standard (a way that teaches it but not in the prescribed fashion.)

Both of these interfere with a testing system that is designed to operate across the district, testing knowledge according to a specific method of instruction.

Of course there is divergence now. There was more previously. We seem headed for a more strictly scripted method of instruction in order to "manage performance," and this concerns me.

Anyone care to discuss?

TechyMom said...

Seattle Citizen, why does a standardized test imply standardized, scripted lessons? ITBS, SAT, PSAT, and a variety of other standardized tests are used across the country for students who have been taught using many different texts and teaching styles. Even if you're concerned about Texas-influenced textbooks, these tests are also taken and passed by students from private, alternative, and home school environments that teach differently. Right here in Seattle, NOVA has the highest average SAT score in the city, and teaches the material in a very different, very unstructured way.

Standardized tests, rather than dictating scripted lessons, can be used to free teachers from them, by making a requirement on the 'what' (a certain average score or pass rate) without dictating the 'how'. They can be used to show what works and what doesn't, and even to prove that alternative styles get the job done. Are they always used that way? No, of course not. But, neither are they always used to force scripting.

Personally, I really like having nationally-normed MAP test results so frequently. My only complaint is that I really wish I had access to the more detailed information available to the teachers, so that I could use it to structure a supplemenation and acceleration program for 'after-schooling.' That, and I wish there was more training for the teachers and the parents on how to use that info to tailor lessons both during the day and at home.

Charlie Mas said...

seattle citizen asked: "Anyone care to discuss?"

I think are people who would like to discuss the pros and cons of curricular alignment and standardization. Can this blog be the place for that discussion? Should this blog be the place for that discussion? Should that discussion take place on this blog and elsewhere too?

I think we should have that conversation here - and I want to have that conversation here - but I think it also needs to happen in other forums as well. I think it needs to happen with some more of the right people doing the talking and some more of the right people paying attention.

It may be that there are those among us who can give an informed, supported, and spirited argument in favor of standardization, but if that argument isn't coming from district staff it can and will be discounted. Moreover, the media and the Board need to give witness to it.

Actually, I've been thinking about who could sponsor the substantive conversation series and we absolutely must add the Board to the list of appropriate sponsors.

seattle citizen said...

Techymom,
Yes, standardized tests can be good: We have standards (knowledge and skills) we would like students to know, and these tests can assess that (to some degree of accuracy, another subject).

Perhaps I wasn't clear: What I meant to say is that with "fidelity" and "alignment" and "performance management" we are seeing a growing effort to have everything align, and standardized tests in that view are (merely, perhaps) the tools used to try and see if the (worst case) scripted and aligned instruction was used.

In this scenario, it is necessary for those who would use such a system to make sure the system is used with "fidelity" - If it is not, the system loses a couple of things:

It can't determine what led to the increased knowledge (unless it videotapes the classroom or something), it can't say, "teacher did well" or "teacher did poorly" because there is nothing to back up the statement (what we hear with merit pay and teacher quality and such is a lot of tying teacher performance to expected outcomes, and it's way easier to publicize whether a teacher is "good" or "bad" if you can merely say, "they had this instruction routine, which should have led to X, X was not reached (as we see on the test) so teacher is not successful.

I guess what I'm saying is that, as we've seen, little matters (in this scenario) except the basics that are standardized. There is no Civics test. I feel, in my opinion, that it is way easier to "sell" ideas about "teacher quality," about "success," if we allow those things to be determined merely by scripted lessons and then tests. It makes it simple, and makes for headlines such as "School ______ is failing."

In an "efficient" and "controllable" system, you want all your variables minimized, and many of the things we are doing now seem to be headed in that direction.

gavroche said...
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gavroche said...

reader said...
Gavroche, how strange to on the one hand hate all those evil-philanthropist-corporatists, and on the other hand... use their positive terminology ("investment") to describe your student.


Hence the irony, reader, which apparently you missed. I was purposely using your language to make my point to you.

I never said anything about "hate," by the way -- that's your word and an oversimplification on your part. I have merely and legitimately questioned why people like Bill Gates and Eli Broad -- neither of them education experts -- should have more influence on my children's education than I, our school community, or even the School Board members I elected do.

Just because they are rich does not mean that we should all roll over and give them the right to run our schools.

Your student is receiving public services.
Are medicaid recipients "investments"? Are people using the fire department because their house is burning, an "investment"? The correct term is "cost". Your student is a "cost", paid for by others.


Apparently you consider public education some kind of welfare. I consider public education a pillar of democracy and a public trust.

If you don't see the education of our nation's children as a worthwhile undertaking, or if you don't realize the even greater "costs" of not educating our children, then we will probably disagree on most aspects of education.

Every student in public schools brings money into the system through govt-allocated funds. We parents helped pay for this through our taxes, just as we pay for libraries, highways, and various other services that have been deemed for the public good.

As such, you have very little say in anything.
I agree that we parents do not have enough say, but we can engage in our kids' schools and vote in School Board elections, so I'm not willing to give up so easily on my say.

And let's not get our undies gnarled in a bunch by parent "fundraisers".
Here you're not even making any sense. Parent fundraising efforts in public schools pay for many things. That's a simple fact. The person with their knickers in a knot over that is you. I merely stated that fact.

A few hundred thousand, raised in only the wealthiest school, really doesn't amount to that much. Schools would do fine without it.
With what authority do you speak on this? Apparently you have little experience with what really goes on in our schools. PTA money pays for teachers, enrichment, books, equipment -- many things that the District ought to be paying for. These do make a significant difference in our schools, and it is a shocking testament to the fact that our state fails to fully fund our schools (46th in the nation for per-pupil funding), and our District management (Supt. & Board) constantly mismanages funds that we do get.

You've got me confused with someone else with your "lockstep" comment, by the way. I believe this blog should be open to anyone's views and have never said otherwise. Of course, we all may be challenged sometimes to support or defend our views, but that's okay too.

The remainder of your comments were simply obnoxious and not worth responding to.

Sahila said...

"your student is receiving public services"... as though our kids are receiving some kind of charity???

Uh, uh... no... our kids are clients - we pay for those services through our taxes and in return for that payment, we're entitled to the best for our kids... we are the employers here and the buyers...

and who asked us, by the way, if we were OK with the trillions being spent on 'defence' and wars, and only a comparative drop in the ocean on education...

seems to me we are spending ourselves into eternal debt on death-bringing activities and being scrooge on life-affirming ones... and if we spent more on educating our kids, maybe we would one day not have to send them off as cannon fodder because the world would be a better place...

gee whizz... simple, elementary logic... pity that appears not to be taught in school... but then profits would go out the window and the economy would collapse ... oh but wait, that's happening already.... sick, sick, sick....

reader said...

Uh, uh... no... our kids are clients - we pay for those services through our taxes and in return for that payment, we're entitled to the best for our kids... we are the employers here and the buyers...



Last you posted Shaila, you were unemployed. That means you aren't really paying taxes enough to cover your child's educational costs. That isn't a client relationship you have with the school, he is a public service recipient. If he were a client, people would care if you came back and purchased more services. In actuality, they don't. Isn't that also your experience? Nobody gives a rip whether you return to AS1 or not. Did the school send you a coupon or something to attract you back?

And yes, education is a form of welfare. And yes, I support that welfare. But let's not overstate the case for input.

Sahila said...

Reader...I'm underemployed - and I pay sales tax...

You think public education is a form of welfare???

Wow..........

I think it's a society's collective investment in its future...

Sahila said...

Reader:
so you really are saying he who pays the piper (on the education of OUR children) pays the tune?

And that is OK with you?

So, if you can only afford to give a $500 grant to your child's school, and I give $50,000 to your child's school (and I dont have any children in the school), I get to say what are the structures and rules/processes in place in your child's school, I get to dictate what and how your child learns, what materials are used and who teaches your child?

And that is OK with you?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, so all public services are welfare? Honestly, I don't get it. Is police service, fire service, all of it welfare?

hschinske said...

I guess anything where you contribute to a pool and get back from it what you need is welfare -- like health insurance. So is there no benefit to me in my brother not being bankrupted because he has type 1 diabetes and I don't? (and before you start going on about lifestyle, I said TYPE ONE, not type 2, and this is a real example).

Helen Schinske

wseadawg said...

Welfare isn't a dirty word, but some have been brainwashed to think so. (Help others? What a sucker!) It's actually inherent in both Judeo-Christian values, and for my secular friends, inherent in the Golden Rule.

May the first person who raised themselves in the woods with a wolfpack cast the first stone. Otherwise, we've all been on welfare from our parents, and from society, since day one. Get over yourselves.

People should raise points they think are worthy of discussion, or are what they'd like to see in schools. If Charters are doing some good things, by all means talk about them. But that's not what I've seen, nor how they've been presented. It's always "charters" as the magic bullet solution, instead of "some charters do A or B. Should we try that?"

Like everything else in this polarized society, charters have become both a political football and a shell for other less desirable aspects of education like profiteering and privatization. I'm happy to discuss nuances, benefits, ideas, and methods that might be used in the charter camp. But, again, that's never raised or discussed before someone suggests we change state law and allow charters. Kind of putting the cart ahead of the horse, isn't it? How about first answering the question: why? Or, why can't we do that in a typical public school?

I'm not pro or anti charter, but I know a trojan horse when I see one, and the educational reform movement is full of them right now.

Along with the polarization of everything, I see a lot of union bashing on this blog too. As if an idea "collective bargaining" is inherently evil. Do all the union haters want child labor to return? 80 hour work weeks? Company towns & stores? Um, then, you might want to lay some facts down as to what it is you don't like about the teachers union and how the union makes things worse, instead of repeating Limbaugh-like anti-union diatribes all day long.

Be thoughtful and I'll reciprocate. So will many others. Spout talking points, and you won't be very well thought of on this blog. People here do their homework.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would just say that welfare is generally defined as "actions or procedures on the part of governments and institutions striving to promote the basic well-being of individuals in need". So for me, it's help for those who don't have the means or wherewithall to meet their needs.

Education isn't a "need" to live. But it is the backbone of any society or government that expects to succeed.

I just can't put education into the welfare category because of its importance to our society as a whole.

Wseadawg, I'm gearing up to have a multi-part discussion of charters. Just a lot of reading to do but yes, let's have a discussion.

wsnorth said...

Rather than a discussion of "charters" per se (aren't they still illegal here?), how about a discussion of "public/private" or "alternative" schools that help close the "achievement gap" (a phrase that makes me a little uncomfortable, I'll admit). Other than South Shore, are there others? Nova was brought up, but it and many other "option/alternative" schools in Seattle seem to be more "white/Asian" and less "poor/FRL" than the district average.

reader said...

Yes. All public services are a form of "welfare". No. It isn't a dirty word. Healthcare and education have a lot of features in common. In fact, many special education services are actually covered under health insurance plans. Health care is also a backbone of society, perhaps an even larger backbone than education. I'm not saying I like the fact that people who donate more money have more say. But, it is still a fact. Debating it is like debating gravity. And Helen, yes of course there is benefit to people using public service like health care Or education. As we all have seen in healthcare, it is the monied intrests that drive the delivery of public health... even more than in education.

reader said...

Just to be clear, although I don't like reliance on donations in education... I tend to like the donations of the big donors a lot more than the PTA-type. That is, the strings attached to the big donor gifts are usually thought out better than the small strings and small scope of the small donations. I haven't seen much coming from the "watch-dog" blogosphere that I'd really want in my kid's school.