The first one is from Representative Reuven Carlyle who is not happy that his Teach for America for principals bill went down. He first talks about what he got done last year and what his effort was about this year:
Last year, through the support of the entire Seattle legislative delegation, I was able to include a provision in the painfully ineffective "Race to the Top" legislation that ultimately eliminated tenure for new Seattle principals. This year I introduced a bill to create an alternative certification route for principals with strong backgrounds in community service, business, and many other categories outside of the traditional education route.
How did it turn out?
As the regular legislative session concludes, it’s worth noting openly that efforts this year to pass the alternative-certification bill were a total, complete, and fantastic failure.
I have to admire the ferocious political force of the education industrial complex that made it clear that passage of this bill was not an option.
He states that he did reach to principals to ask for their input and "they politely declined the invitation." He then makes a good point:
I certainly did discover what the opponents found objectionable about the bill’s core idea. They were very clear about that. Unfortunately, I just never was able to discover what they actually support in striving to improve the role and value of principals. They never got around to answering that question.
I'll believe him if he says he reached out and was rejected but I have a feeling that PASS and the principals themselves would have plenty to say about what would help so it's puzzling they said no.
Here's what I said (condensed):
If you just wanted new managers, fine. But a principal? The major job of the principal (really and truly) is to be the academic leader for the teaching corps of the school. To support and direct teachers. Not disciplinarian, not manager, academic leader.
It takes real training and experience to be able to walk into a classroom and judge pedagogy and classroom management skills. You could bring in some skills from other jobs into this work but if you don't understand what you are looking for and looking at in a classroom, you're not a principal.
And, the push is for assessments of teachers. We have new contract in Seattle Schools for a new 4-tier assessment. Then you want a person who doesn't know what good teaching is supposed to look like decide a teacher's career? Teachers are willing to be assessed but c'mon, it has to be by people who know the work.
It's not the "education industrial complex" that did your bill in. It was not understanding the real work of a principal.
The second op-ed is by Anthony Robinson, the president of Congregational Leadership Northwest and is entitled,"Too Many People Think They Could Fix Seattle's Schools."
He has several good things to say but misses the reality on others.
I know this is heretical but I sometimes wonder if the Seattle schools might benefit from a bit less public involvement and diminished levels of scrutiny? Yes, in light of the most recent managerial failures, that may seem completely nuts. Bear with me.
He points out that parent and family members have a real vested concern in SPS. But he says that the Mayor, the City Council, business leaders, charitable foundations, ed reformers, etc. are all piling on. He also points out that it comes with the territory that a Superintendent can have many people trying to tell her their opinions. Then he says:
Yes, but leaders, if they are to be effective, do need partners who want them to be successful, who are willing to let them grow, and who are able to forgive an occasional misstep or poorly chosen word. While leaders need to build and earn trust from their partners and constituents, real trust is not, “I’m with you as long as you support my cause or agenda, and repeat mantra-like the precise words I want to hear.”
I think that's fair. The reality, however for SPS, is that the reality of the problems are large (not missteps) and the number of incidents are not occasional. I absolutely understand that no one is going to get all they might like OR that any superintendent can make everyone happy.
In recent years, the Seattle School District has not found it easy to attact a wide or strong pool of candidates for the position of superintendent.
I disagree with that statement. Seattle's a pretty desirable place and not an uber-urban district. I think sometimes it is simply timing in who applies.
I second his point about too many innovations, new programs, etc. where the district is constantly in flux and parents and teachers often have no idea what is really going on.
He sums up what the district needs to do nicely:
If the community is to exhibit greater trust, the School District also needs to merit and earn this trust by being clear about its core mission and staying focused, by listening with interest and respect to parents, and by showing itself managerially competent.
He also has words of wisdom for everyone else:
But human organizations and institutions don’t get “fixed.” They aren’t automobile engines or leaky faucets. Human organizations get improved. They can be made better and they should be. But they aren’t going to be made perfect. They aren’t going to be fixed. So let’s aim high and work hard. Let’s cut others some slack, and remember to say “thank you” often.