Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seeking a Diversity of Voices

I would really like to hear from folks who disagree with me. They may be cautious about commenting here on this blog. No one likes to feel like they have been shouted down, attacked, or had their integrity or intelligence insulted. So I would like to create a safe space for people who have another perspective so we can discuss these things in a civil, courteous, and respectful manner.

Towards that end, I'm going to try an experiment. Here at Save Seattle Schools, we delete spam comments and unsigned, anonymous ones, but it is not our practice to edit or censor comments for content. This is a free forum. On this thread - just this one - I will remove any comments that are not civil, courteous, and respectful. I want to create a safe space for people to disagree. We'll see how it goes.

In particular, I would like to hear from people who either support any of the School Board incumbents for re-election or support the hiring of Teach for America corps members as teachers in our schools. I know these people are out there. I want to hear from them and I want to hear their reasons for their positions.

I have heard some of their rationale and it hasn't convinced me, but maybe there is more that I have not heard. I have an open mind and I want to improve my thinking on these questions. I cannot improve my thinking if I do not challenge it. So, yes, this is selfishly motivated.

Please, if you have a view on either of these issues - or others - that is different from the one typically voiced on this blog, please venture forward with a statement - I will enforce civility on the comment thread. You can retain your anonymity by signing any name you like to your comment. I hope you will find the result to be worth the effort.

172 comments:

Anonymous said...

In most of the school board races, I am going to vote for the challenger. However, I am thinking of voting for Sherry Carr (incumbent) over her challenger, Kate Martin. My reasoning her is I do think there is some need for some amount of institutional memory on the part of the board and there is a pretty steep learning curve for new board members. I think Sherry Carr is the best out of the current group of incumbents that are up for re-election this year. I'm hoping to go to the debate/forum for the school board candidates on Sept. 28 - I may change my mind after that. Jane

John said...

I'm voting for Sherry Carr in an old-fashioned straight-up quid pro quo: She pretty much single-handedly saved Jane Addams K8 when the district, or somebody, tried to repurpose it between the day families got accepted and opening day. She was the only board member who helped us at all. I'm voting against Peter Maier for pretty much the same reason. He was silent during the whole fiasco, and JA is in his district. I don't think he's a bad guy, but if he supported our school he would have, well, supported our school. So there you go.

Beyond that, I think Ms. Carr is the best board member we have, and she's willing to listen, and evolve her views. I'm dead-set against TFA for Seattle Public Schools, so I have a little problem there, but I think she's the real deal.

(And thanks, Charlie, for addressing the tone issues around here. This blog is an invaluable resource, and I really appreciate the hard work you, Melissa, and others do, but these are very complex issues, and well-intentioned people are on both sides of the issues. Some of them are on the school board.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Charlie (and Melissa).

What I see is that TFA gets a lot of press time and has some very committed bloggers. That's great for those folks, but the discussion can become more of a monologue.

I do see some irony when I see comments about TFA such as "What's worse, it's an experiment on children of color who are living in poverty--already our most vulnerable students." Yet on another posting re: Where does Education's Role and Parent's begin? there were many comments that show a certain lack of empathy (I felt) for kids who are at risk. There were a lot of "it's the parental responsibility and we can't be expected to deal with the baggage that comes in with these kids." I can understand a beleagued teachers with 150 students feeling that way. Yet the kid without a parent or an adult guardian around is still a kid that needs help. You can't get rid of them (unless they drop out and I don't think that is what we want), though I guess you can send them to the office or in the hallway.

I am surprised in that posting not to see more teachers or teacher supporters discuss the whittling away of our support services for these kids. Some of the commentators like "diff" tried to point that out. The loss of counselors and others who can help the teaching staff make a difference with these vulnerable kids are mentioned in bits and pieces, but there's not a big rallying cry to bring them back. I guess I'm looking for solutions. TFA is one solution being offered. PTSA is looking at Charters as another solution. What else is out there?

The other issues that I followed closely that we used to have more discussions on are: BEX and capacity. Both I think are going to have more impact on many, many kids than (I'm sorry to say this) TFAs. I also look for candidates that will respond to kids and parents and will require SPS admin staff to provide information (make it easy to access info on SPS' web site) and be more responsive and engage families in real and meaningful ways

-long time reader

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for all the challengers, and this is a change from my previous policy, which would have argued for benefits to institutional memories.

My motivations are
1) I do believe the current board needs a shakeup
2) I believe shaking up the board undermines the education reform foundation/superintendent/board trifecta that is needed in order to make changes I oppose (charters being, I think, the next big battle).
3) I am unconvinced that any particular board member should be protected because of how well they've performed.
4) I believe voting for all the challengers will increase the probability that some challengers will win.
5) There will still be institutional memory (i.e. Betty Patu, Kate Blum, DeBell )

The school board member I'd consider "protecting" would be Harium Martin-Morris, in my case, purely because I think the board needs visible diversity in order to serve the diverse SPS population. But I'm disillusioned enough to support the challenger in spite of that worry. HMM might have gotten my vote if he'd kept his blog going. (Oh, and my support of HMM for diversity has little to do with his positions, it's mostly a matter of perceptions).

(zb)

tbjohnston said...

Could we take a cold hard look at what has worked (and what hasn't) and go with empirical evidence, rather than with things that do not have a positive demonstrable track record.

Cliff Maas's latest post (http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2011/09/k-12-math-education-needs-scientific.html), and the recent briefing in the Economist (http://www.economist.com/node/21529014) are right on line.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ John and Jane:

I will stipulate that Sherry Carr has personal qualities, institutional memory, analytical skills gained in the business world, and a long history of pro-school activism as a volunteer, that all reflect positively on her.
-
In addition, she has always listened carefully to my concerns and engaged me respectfully. All those are pluses.
-
But see, I could say exactly the same thing about Sundquist, and I can't support him either. Both Carr and Sundquist have a bad voting record on too many things that renders all their positive personal qualities irrelevant.
-
When push comes to shove, Sherry has voted the "wrong" way EVERY SINGLE TIME. That is what she is there for, to vote right.
-
I respect your high opinion of her. I set my bar in a different place, and in my personal opinion she has not met it.
-- Ivan Weiss

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

Sherry Carr gets my vote too. She goes above and beyond to be available and responsive to her constituents. She has responded to every single one of my emails, and I feel like she has been very honest and forthcoming. She really listens.

Further, I have watched her evolve from an inexperienced, somewhat mousy board director to one who does her homework, asks touch questions, and has begun to demand answers and follow up.

There is a huge learning curve for board directors - I like that Sherry has gone through the curve, grown, and come out stronger. Instead of needing to learn all of the ins and outs of the district this term, I feel like she will be better able to focus on the issues at hand. She has also seen first hand how staff is unresponsive, manipulative, gives incomplete information, and little to no follow up. She's been frustrated about it, and frankly I don't think she will tolerate much more of it. A new director won't be at that point yet, and staff may get away with more of the same.

Kate Martin on the other hand has just not sold me. She has very strong views, which is commendable, but I worry that it will be hard for her to put those views, and her own agenda aside in order to represent her constituents. I could be wrong, I have nothing to prove it, it's just my gut feeling. But it's enough for me not to consider voting for her.

As for TFA, I am generally against having any untrained, non certificated, teacher in the classroom. However there was a recent exchange on this blog where a couple of teachers (Salander and Mr. Lemonade) expressed their views on discipline and reaching the most challenging students, that were disheartening to me. They both seemed burned out and bitter (just my opinion). If I had to choose between a bitter burned out teacher or a young, inexperienced but eager, TFAer I'd probably choose the TFAer. My kid would probably have a better experience in that classroom. Again, that is just my personal opinion and what I would do for my own kid.

Just sayin'

TechyMom said...

I just don't think TFA is that big a deal. Would I accept a TFA teacher for my white, affluent child? Well, if the resumes I've seen for this year's crop are accurate, yes, I would. Private schools use teachers without certificates, based on content knowledge and doing well in interviews. I don't think it's the end of the world if public schools do too. We've also been happy with a 20-year teacher who was a staunch union supporter and a youngish teacher who wanted to stay out of all politics. The issues we've had with SPS have been about district politics, generally having too many rules and not enough common sense at both the building and district leve, capacity (both class size and school size), and building condition. I also like the MAP for the regular, nationally normed feedback it gives, and think that STEM has the possibility of being a wonderful option for south-end families (and central district families like mine). I liked the idea of open choice, and wish we had tweaked that instead of creating the more rule-crazy NSAP, but I'm starting to see the value of a neighborhood school too. I like Susan Enfield, who seems smart and generally able to get stuff done without too much drama, and though MJG was a really crappy manager and not a very nice person.

I am voting against the incumbents not because of their pet projects, most of which I either like or don't mind that much, but because they can't seem to do basic management oversight. MJG should have gotten a bad review her second year and should not have had her contract extended on either review. The first year, I wouldn't have given her a bad review, because creating plans was the goal for that year, but I would not have given her the reward of a new contract until I saw some execution in the second year, which didn't happen. The Silas Potter issue and MLK School are both complete and utter disasters that the board knew were coming, and let happen anyway.

That said, I really hope that the new board keeps Susan Enfield. I don't think any of the candidates have taken a position on this, and I wish they would.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Good for you, Mr. Mas, in opening the discussion to everyone. Though we may all have a variety of feelings about the TFA issue, it is a matter for reasoned individuals to discuss.

TFA isn't out there to eat your kids, and they aren't soulless corporate monsters who are trying to demolish public schooling and denigrate minorities. Their existence and presence is a policy decision based on a number of trends (i.e. the growth of alternative credentialing programs, trends towards residency programs in teacher ed, etc.), but a corporate land-grab. They have a lot of money, and that definitely influences things, but so do teachers unions.

Equally, I'm personally offended about the tone used to describe UW in relation to the matter. This blog raises a number of interesting points that would generally be part of a reasoned discussion, grounded in literature and research.

Instead, it cavils about the UW's leaders and faculty, attempts to publicly shame them by misrepresenting their private discussions, and generally attributes malice where there is none.

I realize that this is a form of citizen activism (and you are entitled to your opinions and voice), but repeating "TFA bad! Qualified teachers good!" from a bully-pulpit does not elevate the discussion.

Qualified teachers aren't stamped out of a processing mill in China; they're made day-by-day in classrooms, with community support. If this community wanted to have a real impact on TFA's activities, it should try to improve them by offering these people support and help.

(As I note, there are a number of legitimate concerns raised by SSS, so I hope this note doesn't make it seem as though I don't respect your positions.)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll copy for anonymous above who didn't sign -

I am shocked everytime someone is against Teach for America. There are schools, many of them in Southeast Seattle that are failing. If the naysayers of TFA were to walk through these schools, they would realize very quickly that the reason they are failing is because of the teachers. There are young and old teachers who are letting our children down. If anything- if ANYTHING, TFA teachers have a fight in them- they will do whatever it takes to teach our students. That, plus training that is evidence based simply works. Why not give them a chance? I simply don't understand why the naysayers are so against a little bit of a change.

9/20/11 10:32 AM


So you do believe that Charlie's proposal of swapping Eckstein teachers for Aki teachers would also swap student learning?

Oompah

anonymous said...

Oompah, do you believe that a child that spends a year in a classroom with a stellar, experienced teacher will fare the same as a child that is in the classroom of a first year, inexperienced, TFA teacher? Or as well as a student in a class with a bitter, burned out teacher waiting for retirement? Do you think individual teachers have any influence at all in student outcomes? Just curious?

-just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Mr. Mas, in opening the discussion to everyone. Though we may all have a variety of feelings about the TFA issue, it is a matter for reasoned individuals to discuss.

TFA isn't out there to eat your kids, and they aren't soulless corporate monsters who are trying to demolish public schooling and denigrate minorities. Their existence and presence is a policy decision based on a number of trends (i.e. the growth of alternative credentialing programs, trends towards residency programs in teacher ed, etc.), but a corporate land-grab. They have a lot of money, and that definitely influences things, but so do teachers unions.

Equally, I'm personally offended about the tone used to describe UW in relation to the matter. This blog raises a number of interesting points that would generally be part of a reasoned discussion, grounded in literature and research.

Instead, it cavils about the UW's leaders and faculty, attempts to publicly shame them by misrepresenting their private discussions, and generally attributes malice where there is none.

I realize that this is a form of citizen activism (and you are entitled to your opinions and voice), but repeating "TFA bad! Qualified teachers good!" from a bully-pulpit does not elevate the discussion.

Qualified teachers aren't stamped out of a processing mill in China; they're made day-by-day in classrooms, with community support. If this community wanted to have a real impact on TFA's activities, it should try to improve them by offering these people support and help.

(As I note, there are a number of legitimate concerns raised by SSS, so I hope this note doesn't make it seem as though I don't respect your positions.)

Anonymous said...

I am voting for the challengers in every case except for Kate Martin. I don't know if I can trust her to follow rules/care about rules (the whole skate ramp thing) and she seems not to take a measured tone to me. We have serious problems and I want calm, measured thinkers on the board, not fire starters. Carr is very responsive to me. She has not always done what I wanted, though she has a few times (She did vote no on the CSIPS that time). She is no KSB, but I think she is getting better.

Time for Change

kellie said...

I am answering the part of Charlie's post about creating a safe environment for blogging.

Blogs with the option of anonymity always have an edge. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, an edge can be truly valuable. Sometimes, the consequences to truth telling can be quite severe so anonymity can be extremely valuable and lead to more interesting conversations.

That said, the blog was much more civil when everyone had to sign in with a name or an alias. I know there was some issue when Beth reset the settings when one regular poster attempted to out the anonymity of another regular poster.

IMO, the minimum threshold anonymity created a much safer environment for posting. Creating a regular alias was a very small hurdle but it was enough of hurdle that helped folks to be more mindful of their comments.

I know I post much less since that change.

When I run large meetings, the first thing I always do is I get name badges. It is simply amazing how the act of putting on a badge is just enough of a transition for folks to be mindful of their environment without pushing them to censor. I think the sign in function had the same impact.

Anonymous said...

Good point Kellie.

You are a long time poster. Who do you support in the race and why, and what is your TFA opinion?

Curious

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is why Melissa uses "bullshit" as a label on a daily basis. How does that foster civilized discussion among individuals with different viewpoints?

--Confused

Charlie Mas said...

Confused,

Let's please try to stay on-topic. If you like, I'd be happy to start another thread for suggestions to improve the blog. In fact, I will do it tomorrow.

I think we all will acknowledge that the blog has not maintained perfect civility and courtesy and that nearly every regular voice here has played a part in that.

Right here, for now, I would like to hear from folks who support incumbents in the school board campaigns and who support the use of Teach for America corps members in our schools. I've been very pleased with the early response and I would like to stay on the beam.

I hear your concern and I understand it, but this is not the time or place for it. Please wait for tomorrow.

NLM said...

I appreciate this thread. I've often felt like a fish out of water here.

I'm not anti-TFA. I participated in a similar program in college working with at-risk kids, volunteered in Los Angeles schools for many years, and would rather have some of those idealists teaching my child than some of the certificated placeholders I came across. My experience with *professional* educators has been that few have as high of expectations for my children as I do so a little optimism goes a long way with me.

I'm not anti-charter either. I just moved from a district that already has charters and recall that the two best public schools in the city were PUBLIC charter schools that offered a real alternative to the segregated neighborhood school system and expectations that compared favorably with the best private schools (minus the air of superiority). Year-round instruction, extended school days, a STEM emphasis and central urban location were all available on a lottery basis to all kids. I’d prefer any shot at that kind of education for my child than being trapped in a failing school.

Then again, there are minorities in affluent areas that face challenges with children being tokens and ambassadors – certainly not the experience any parent wishes to have. The NSAP guarantees that the only reflection of self my child sees is at church or family gatherings.

I haven’t lived here long enough to pay that much attention to the school board races or know how well (or not) the district is run. My family has moved often enough, though, to know that Seattle Schools and the people involved with them are a lot more cliquish and territorial than anywhere else we’ve ever been.

I’m not sure what to make of that.

Kelly said...

Have to chime in here that I did not read Salander to be bitter, at all. Just realistic.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is a huge hole in services needed for struggling students, from tutoring to counseling to peer group support and so much more. We USED to see more of this in our schools, but services have been cut way back due to obvious fiscal problems.

This relieved the burden on teachers, and allowed them to focus more of their energies on teaching, rather than on providing social support services. I think people here are being a little too hard on Mr Salander and Mr. Lemonade, who are living and working everyday on the front lines of increase class sizes and social service cutbacks. It is a much harder job to teach under these circumstances, and I am not surprised that they sometimes chafe under the load.

I also do not think that bringing in TFA is a solution to this problem, either. All the enthusiasm in the world cannot add more hours to the day or more services to the classroom. I also worry greatly about the lack of classroom management experience that TFA candidates have, especially in light of the larger issues that are being raised.

The solution has to be to bring more services back into our school. What I do not understand at all is why major educational foundations are not looking at increasing bodies in the schools where they are needed most - more teachers to reduce class size; more social services to help those who are at a disadvantage; more enrichment to help everyone, but especially the at-risk kids who are not getting enrichment at home; improved infrastructure so the the kids and staff are safe and comfortable learning environment.

Instead, we get grants for administrators to hire more administrators; tons of money spent selling TFA to the public and to the movers and shakers, as well as outside money thrown at local school board elections; and huge, expensive, nationwide efforts to over-test students and homogenize curriculum. All the while our district shuffles funds out of building improvement budgets to support operating costs, teachers beg for classroom supplies on giving websites, and local PTAs pick up even more program costs.

What I fear more than TFA, or who gets elected this fall, is this gradual, relentless move towards tranferring local control over school board agendas to outside large foundations. I know that TFA is a part of that, but it is not the nexus of the problem.

Local districts need to focus on regaining local control, and insisting that any offered help be directed as closely to the classroom as possible, and not so much in setting agendas for the district. I think, in general, the local community does a better job of knowing what it wants, and rarely needs an outsider telling them what to do, and using their money to force it to happen. The more we divert from that message, the more we lose control over our kids' future.

- Worried About The Bigger Picture

StopTFA said...

BTW,

I know of what diff speaks and agree with her. I support teachers who support children (particularly the disadvantaged and disabled).

Anonymous said...

I agree with what a few have already said - there is a need for a bit of experience on the board. For that reason, I will be voting for one incumbent, though at this time, I'm still not sure which one. I am leaning towards Sherry Carr, though, I'll need to do a bit more investigation. We do need a board that questions the school district and holds them accountable, but there is never perfect information and at some point decisions need to be made. If the board goes to far the other direction, questioning every report, all of the data and every decision, I have a concern important decisions could come to a stand still.

Regarding TFA, I do not like how it was handled. There seemed to be a fair amount of secrecy surrounding it. But I can say that most of my children's best teachers were new to teaching. Some of our school's recent hires of "experienced" teachers are some of worst teachers I have ever heard about. If there are so many qualified candidates, how did our school end up with teachers who don't seem to like teaching or being with children. If TFA can bring in people who can be developed into great teachers, I'm for it, but I'm still on the fence on this one. Considering the budget constraints and high unemployment, it's not the right time to be pushing for it.

- Flower -

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, I think you confuse two issues. Lack of social support (counselors) with teachers. TFA is not going to fill the role of counselors. Charters are not going to fill the role of counselors unless it's a very specific kind of charter school like KIPP. Trying new kinds of teachers doesn't mean you will get better counseling and social services for kids.

Techy Mom, you saw the TFA recruits resumes? Can you pass those on? I'd like to see them.

TFA isn't going to be a little bit of change (if only it were). They want to get bigger and bigger and in more and more schools. Call me crazy but TFA does have a national agenda and it starts by having their teachers in every single state.

Beyond that issue, TFA doesn't like peer-reviewed research and picks and chooses its research so I would look at their "evidence" with both eyes.

I think I will go walk-thru some south-end schools because I really want to see these low-expectations in action. I feel like there has been a lot of supports going in these schools and a lot of urging of attitude change. If that's not happening, then yes, it needs to change. I would also point out that one or two teachers cannot change the culture of an entire school but yes, we all know one good teacher can be a great thing for a child.

Confused, that is a tag we gave TFA a long time ago. I'm sorry if you are offended and I think maybe we will give it some consideration to discontinue its use. Maybe I should use the word I spoke out loud at the Board meeting; nonsense.

NLM said...

To be honest, I've seen way too many certifcated teachers with horrible classroom management skills to think TFAers would be, by and large, any different. The ability to command/demand attention and hold it with engaging course content isn't conferred with a teaching certificate. TFA may not close the achievemnt gap but does it, as a general rule, do harm? And if it doesn't, then what's the hubub about? At the end of the day, on-site hiring teams recommended some. If local control is so valued/valuable, why aren't folks respecting the decisions made by those closest to the students and applicants?

Charlie Mas said...

@just sayin' -

Oompah wasn't the person who wrote the statement about being "shocked everytime someone is against Teach for America". Oompah merely repeated the comment because it is was unsigned and therefore doomed to deletion.

I think that we should address the anonymous commenter's observation:

"If the naysayers of TFA were to walk through these schools, they would realize very quickly that the reason they are failing is because of the teachers. There are young and old teachers who are letting our children down."

If those teachers are letting the students down, then what should the principal of that school be doing about it? What should the school community be doing about it? Is there some action that could be taken? Is there some specific element that hiring committees should be looking for when hiring teachers for these schools? Are there some teachers in these schools who are not letting these students down? What does that look like? Please tell us more about this observation, complete with some specifics to help us understand your observations more precisely.

Anonymous said...

For me TFA is the wrong boogey man to go after. What it boils down to is how well this district is managed and does it have a vision, a plan to get through tough economoc times along with political and societal pressure to improve our schools. What has always bugged me is why does the district write grants to get more admin.staff? Why can't it (board members be part in that grant writing?) write grants to propose restoring fundings to our wrap around services from donors (including the ones who are funding TFAs). Is it because the district and SEA may have to concede to the donors wish for accountability (dollars and quality of teaching, improving test scores)? I really don't know what goes into these grants for private and public dolllars.

Has the SEA tried to work with the district and board memebers on a grant that would bring in money back into the classrooms? Has the district ever asked the SEA for such an input? Where can teachers as a whole be part of the solutions? I do see individual teachers and staff at the local school writing for small grants and getting them. Is it possible for all to work to get some funding restored for bigger things the district needs? What are we willing to trade for that? Do we stil have "coaches" downtown? Do we need them? Can we trade some of those positions for support staff?

I'm asking because I don't know. I don't hear much from board members about this. Is it because they can't make such suggestion? I don't hear much from the district that's for sure.

-long time reader

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I wish you would chill out sometimes! It's YOU that's ridiculing and calling names when someone doesn't accept your point of view. That wouldn't be so annoying written by the general public, but you're seen as a moderator speaking officially for this blog! After reading your postings over several years I'm not surprised that diverse voices don't feel welcome.

-Reader

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you for that constructive input, Reader. I will try to do better in future.

NLM said...

Low expectations are an insidious thing. They're subtle and rarely obvious when you walk though a school. Would'nt it be nice if you could walk in and see scores of sullen, monotone teachers and unruly kids? How easy that would be.

No, you feel low expectations when people assume things about your family life and/or resources. You feel it when your kid brings home 3+2 when you know they're capable of double digit arithmetic. You feel it when a teacher asks an ESL parent volunteer to help by dusting the classroom rather than say, reading to the class in Spanish before rest time. And, how welcome would you feel, as a parent, if that happened to you? And this was in the north end. I shudder to think what south end families face.

It's one thing to have preconceived ideas about what's going on based on experience - it's a whole nother thing entirely to cling stubbornly to those notions when confronted with evidence from people who *are* that is to the contrary.

I think, confronting these kinds of disparities requires real leadership, not some kind of passive, ignore the elephant in the room crap, but real discussion on a district and building level. Successful charters, to my mind, engage in this kind of discussion well. The recent NYT piece on failure seemed to demonstrate just how hard it is for more entrenched interests (represented by Riverdale) to do the same.

StopTFA said...

NLM,

Churn and inexperience cause harm. That is why the feds have codified the reduction of churn and lack of experience in NCLB. The law states that districts cannot place a disproportionate share of inexperienced or "out of field" teachers in high poverty high minority schools.

The boogeyman is the waste and distraction that poor management and lack of oversight has created in our district. So much energy in useless pet projects while multi-tiered supports are deferred year after year. Funds for the arts and music go poof. Support staff like counselors deemed expendable. THAT's the boogeyman.

I want to eliminate distractions. If that means I do more homework than some district admin, well they can thank me later.

StopTFA said...

just a general fyi:

New Study on Teacher Education
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: David Brenna, (360)-725-6238, david.brenna@k12.wa.us


Olympia, Washington – September 19, 2011



The Professional Educator Standards Board is pleased to announce that a new study, “The Gateway to the Profession: Assessing Teacher Preparation Programs in Washington State Based on Student Achievement” will be publicly released at the September 22, 2011 Board meeting. Author Dr. Dan Goldhaber will provide testimony to the Board about the study findings and implications for policy.

This is a value-added study that provides evidence about the relationship between a teacher’s preparation and their future effectiveness measured by student growth on WA standardized tests. This empirical study confirms growing evidence that teacher preparation matters and it begins to unlock some of the key questions as to why preparation matters.

“This is the kind of empirical work that we need to begin to address the link between teacher preparation and student performance” said Barbara Taylor, the PESB Chair. “We’ve known that teaching quality is critical, now we see additional evidence of the importance of preparation.”

The implications for the policy making of PESB is clear; this study brings important evidence and context to the best practices in teacher preparation and the Board will continue to work with preparation programs to adopt methods that demonstrate results in the classroom.

The study was supported by the Carnegie Foundation. “Prof. Goldhaber’s study represents a breakthrough in research on the importance of teacher preparation” said Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Program Officer for Carnegie . “As he has found, it does matter – for the teacher and her students -- where and how you learn to become a teacher. Now the question is what differentiates the top-performing programs from their peers, and, most important, how can all institutions learn from and adapt those practices to improve the training they provide their own teachers. Carnegie is proud to have supported this effort and looks forward to the improvements that we hope emerge from it.”

The PESB meeting on September 22, 2011 is open to the public and individuals are welcome. The Board meeting is scheduled from 8:30 to 4 at the Highline Community College, Building 2, 2400 S. 240th Street, Des Moines, WA 98198. The study is on the agenda for 12:30.

NLM said...

Stop TFA, you're assuming that there's not already churn and/or inexperience in high-poverty schools. High poverty schools can be challenging work environments and hard working conditions create churn. Having a cetificate is no guarantee that a teacher will stay in that particular school any longer than a TFA teacher. In addition, hasn't your research already shown that at least of the Seattle TFA hires is an *experienced* teacher?

NLM said...

ETA - It's not that I belie teacher preparation is irrelevant. Far from it. It's that we all know teacher preparation programs vary wildly in terms of efficacy so on what basis would you conclude that a poorly trained teacher from a conventional program would be an improvement over a TFA recruit?

Charlie Mas said...

I think there should be some focus placed on this idea of low expectations raised by NLM.

The District has tried to address this through the use of the MAP and through curricular alignment.

Have they been successful? Have they failed? Is it too early to say? Do they need to be tweaked instead of dumped?

It seems to me that any such effort would balance entirely on the work of principals and how well they can insist on setting and maintaining high academic expectations for all students and supporting students who need help to meet those expectations.

Am I wrong about that?

TechyMom said...

Melissa, there were links here to profiles of some TFA hires a couple weeks ago. They looked like nice, well-educated young people who wanted to work hard and make a difference. If one of them were my child's teacher, I think I'd be ok with it. I would certainly keep close tabs on what was happening in the classroom, but I would do that anyway, no matter how experienced the teacher was.

I'd rather have an experienced teacher, and I don't think we need TFA here, but there are many other things I'd spend my energy on before that one.

dan dempsey said...

NLM said:

"TFA may not close the achievemnt gap but does it, as a general rule, do harm? And if it doesn't, then what's the hubub about?"

In situations where an adequate supply of fully certificated teachers is available ... yup TfA has a negative impact.

The biggest problem with the whole TfA action is the underhanded way it has been undertaken. This type of underhanded dealing that ignores polities, and or laws has been typical of the Board and the Superintendents..... Check out all those 4-3 votes where the incumbents up for reelection are the four.

dan dempsey said...

NLM and low expectations....

YUP!!
when the Superintendent assures us that math is improving at all levels. Yet here is what the Math EoC #1 shows for students that took an Algebra class in a Seattle High School in 2010-2011 school year followed by EoC #1.:

Each Seattle comprehensive high school's pass rates for:
all who took algebra and the test....
followed by same for low income....
and then the percentage of low income students scoring at level 1 the clueless level (Well below Standard).

all :: LowIncome :: clueless low Income

53.2% :: 42.0% :: 35.2% == Ballard
46.1% :: 43.7% :: 38.2% == Cleveland
30.4% :: 23.2% :: 49.3% == C. Sealth
53.9% :: 56.6% :: 21.4% == Franklin
30.7% :: 29.9% :: 47.7% == Garfield
36.0% :: 17.9% :: 45.7% == Ingraham
56.4% :: 31.7% :: 43.1% == Nathan Hale
7.4% ::::: 8.5% ::: 63.9% == Rainier Beach
71.8% :: 59.4% :: 20.6% == Roosevelt
35.5% :: 28.2% :: 45.0% == West Seattle

If the above can be thought of as improvement, these are really low expectations on the part of the Superintendent.

The Board often appears more like sales agents assuring us that past purchases were fine, rather than behaving like directors. Yup LOW Expectations.

Anonymous said...

Dan,
ON a side note, looks like Cleveland and especially Franklin did well on the pass rate for FRL. Especially when you look at the high 3rd column for Garfield, Nathan Hale and Ingrham. Am I reading that corrrectly? If I am, what is going on at Cleveland and Franklin that caused better outcome?

-Looking for solution

StopTFA said...

I don't wish to hog the discussion. Suffice it to say that over a five year period, even in districts with >50% FRL, over 50% of teachers including novices stay teaching in that district. Compare that to less than 20% of TFA stay in "the education field" after two years.

Analysis of Teacher Retention

Yes, there was an outlier in the TFA hires. She already holds full state certification.

Catherine said...

The best teachers I had, and two of the four best my son had, were not state certified. So in principle, I'm not opposed to the idea of uncertified teachers in the classroom. However, the way in which TFA has been handled in Seattle, is a non-starter. A group that works so hard to get around and through the rules and laws, who knows that there are rules and laws for a reason, appears to have something to hide by their approach. Another, I feel important consideration, is that the non-certified teachers, all taught at 6th grade and above.

As far as voting, challengers will take it, except between Peter (track record) and Sharon (substantive factual errors where correct data is readily available). I'll abstain there - I can't vote for either one.

now - back to work.

NLM said...

"In situations where an adequate supply of fully certificated teachers is available ... yup TfA has a negative impact."

How so? It may cause harm to the adults ivolved, in terms of lost job opportunities, but how does it harm the kids? I find it incredibly hard to believe that there are scads of well-intentioned, well-prepared, culturally competent teachers lining up to teach in challenging environs. Clearly, the school based hiring teams felt one or more of the TFA candidates was worth a shot. Why is that? Has anyone asked them? And do the hiring decisions made at other schools receive the same level of scrutiny? Why or why not?

Isn't it just as likely that these hiring teams have their children's best interests at heart and that the new hires they chose were the best of the lot they were given?

The alternative view seems to imply that local hiring teams are uninformed, unintelligent or incurious dupes. In which case, who wants local control?

Beyond that, churn is more an issue for schools, students, classrooms than districts. If a teacher goes from Baily Gatzert to Whittier in two years, that is also disruptive.

*shrug*

Anonymous said...

NLM, there is another explanation - the local hiring teams may be subjected to pressure from above to bring in TfA candidates. Something to consider.

I would like to hear more about the cliquishness and territorialism you see here that is not as evident elsewhere you have lived. I don't disagree with you, I just want to hear your observations. I am also surprised sometimes by Seattleites' reactions to local affairs.

- Worried About the Bigger Picture

Anonymous said...

Dan,
If I am looking at the data you presented correctly, then I have to take what NLM saids with greater weigh. What is going on at Nathan Hale, Ingraham, and Garfield? These are traditionally strong schools overall, so the 3rd column of numbers should show better results. Why the larger gap? Is it low expectations or something else?

-Looking for solution (genuinely)

someone said...

Whether it's TFA or incumbent vs Challenger, the bottom line for me lies in both fiscal responsibility and informed management. Both are qualities that seem to have be increasingly missing from SPS.

Does the blame lie at Mgmt's feet or the Board? I'm personally not sure, though both have clearly demonstrated poor judgement on both topics. Would TFA even be a question with better mgmt or in different fiscal times?

For me, I haven't seen enough evidence that the incumbents care enough about those 2 concepts to act accordingly, to question information and be truly responsible informed leaders. I think Ms. Carr has potential to "get there" - I'm just not entirely convinced giving her more time is worth it for myself.

Interesting thread

Anonymous said...

Mel -- I'm unsure why you've attributed comments about charters & counselors to me (zb, usually)? Did someone else post as zb?

I agree with the point someone else made about Sherry Carr's voting record. In the end, that's a very important characteristic about a politician -- It's a rule I follow rigidly in national elections, because in the end, it's not their understanding of the issue, or the questions they ask in committee meetings, but their vote that matters.

Regarding TFA and why I think it's an important has nothing to do with the quality of the individual people who participate in TFA. I think individually many of them are great and that some of them will be good teachers. But the current growth of TFA and it's merging with the pro-charter, education reform movement has turned it into a an organization developing a temporary, low-paid, and inexperienced workforce for education. I think replacing the system we have now (even with its flaws) with a temporary workforce will not serve the interests of the children (and I think amplifying that trend is bad for society in general).

TFA's entry into Seattle, where qualified teachers are not in short supply is a bulwark of that expansion into providing a temporary workforce, and thus an important issue for me, not to be judged by whether I would like to have a particular TFA teacher teach my children.

(zb)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Shrug, yes, teachers move all the time...but the majority of them stay teachers. TFA recruits go and then leave profession. It's the commitment to teaching that's the difference.

I don't know that anyone has stated on this blog that hiring teams at Aki or Washington were "duped." I don't think that. I think it's a testament to the large numbers of hiring teams who DID interviews with TFA candidates and didn't hire them.

That so few have been hired says something about those hiring teams. (It also probably has people at UW's COE program tearing their hair out. If the program has maybe 10 people, that's a lot of money for very few people.)

Someone said, well put. There's the dilemma. I think Sherry is so bright and could be such an asset. But in four years, that's a lot of overlooking and rubber-stamping to what outcomes? If she, or any of the incumbents, haven't changed how they operate in 4 years, I'm not sure I believe they will.

After all, when I asked all four of them about lessons learned and what has transpired in these last four years and what they would do differently going forward as a director, only Sherry had an answer. The other three said they wouldn't be doing anything differently.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand from Dan's comment is that he doesn't like TFA because it hurts new teachers. I understand and agree with that, but I still don't understand how having a TFA teacher will hurt the Kids. Does it hurt them any more than a burned out grumpy teacher who has many years of experience? Will it hurt them anymore than a teacher who sits at her desk looking at her computer while the kids 'discover' math? Is a TFA teacher worse than a science teacher with 15 years experience who teaches by having the students watch movies several times a week? Would having a TFA teacher hurt kids anymore than an experienced teacher who talks on his cell phone to a friend while his elementary school class has an extended silent reading time? I don't see how TFA teachers will have a negative impact on the classroom or the kids, anymore than some the lazy teachers we already have.
So, as you can see I am not against TFA in the classroom.
I may not support how the district handles the contract with TFA, especially if it takes money away from schools because that would hurt the kids. I don't think that is the case though since they have received funding through the Seattle Foundation.
-Willing to give TFA a try

Charlie Mas said...

I think it is a valuable question to ask the extent to which low expectations from teachers contributes to low achievement by students.

I remember, very clearly, a tearful testimony to the Board made several years ago by an IA at Highland Park. She told how the fifth grade students there were being taught third grade lessons, the third grade students were taught first grade lessons and the first grade students weren't taught anything at all. The IA laid all of the blame for this on the low expectations of the teachers and principal. Again, this was a number of years ago and shouldn't reflect on the current staff.

I am also reminded of all of the honors earned by Maple Elementary School for exceeding expectations for their demographics. The strategy that brought them that success was to set and maintain high expectations for all students and to provide support to students who were struggling to meet the standards. This strategy started to show positive results at other South Cluster schools which adopted it (Van Asslet, Dearborn Park, etc.).

If Maple - and the other schools - have not been able to continue their strong performance it is possibly because they can no longer offer the same sort of support to struggling students as they once could. Budget cuts have cost them the staff who once provided the needed support for students who needed acceleration. Also, they have been set back by school closures, consolidations, and reference area changes which have shuffled their enrollment and diluted the culture that these schools were developing.

Anonymous said...

I think it is quite significant that the membership of SEA voted "no confidence" in Steve Sundquist.

He was pro-MGJ, all the way, only to shift course and go on a media tour with Susan Enfield to talk about transparency.

The teachers and staffs don't take these votes lightly, and they are rarely (if ever) the result of a single issue.

This district is hostile to teachers. Parent support is a huge counterbalance.

Hopefully, the next board will be supportive at the school level. This group of four incumbents has been essentially in lockstep when it comes to voting.

--Been there, done that

Charlie Mas said...

I don't see the connection between poor performance by a few of the current teachers - for which the solution is likely to dismiss them - and a willingness to bring in Teach for America. To me they are two completely separate and unrelated things.

Unless, of course, traditional teacher education schools promote the bad practices mentioned by Willing to give TFA a try.

If one of the Mariners isn't playing very well that doesn't mean that the solution is to replace the whole team with the single A team from Appleton, does it? Not even that one player. I think it means, instead, that we should replace the one player with a player from another major league club or from the AAA team in Tacoma.

mirmac1 said...

I want to add that an award-winning teacher who LOVED her students, left a Title 1 school because the principal became a harridan nagging on MAP crap, insulting her intelligence, questioning her skills. That school's loss was another's gain.

Charlie Mas said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Mel, did you ask the incumbents running for re-election what lesson they had learned and three of them - Maier, Sundquist, and Martin-Morris - said that they wouldn't be doing anything differently? They said that?!?

This is a very different story than they were telling before. They went on about what a humbling experience it was and how they were going to make all kinds of changes. Now they say that they wouldn't have done anything differently?

NLM said...

Melissa - I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Does the fact that those other hiring teams didn't hire TFAers make them smarter or something? How is it a testament to them?

It could be, as someone said, that those two site-based teams were pressured. I guess I'm making my own assumption that pressure or no, parents won't sacrifice their kids to prove a point. I'm certainly that altruistic.

Looking for solution, I grew up here, moved away and came back this past year but I recall Garfield has always had a two-tier system, one for the haves and one for the have nots (and never the twain shall meet).

When Bellevue started it's big upswing, it did so with a top-down, standardized high-expectation approach. It wasn't popular but it worked. They're going away from that now and we'll see how it works. I'm skeptical. People are fallible and its really easy to let one's subconscious notions about who we serve and how they're best served to affect what's taught.

So far, I've lived in CT, HI, AR, CA, IL and now back in WA and I can't remember ever seeing so much angst and strife between gen ed., advanced learning, special ed, etc. as here. I think there'd be less need for a gigantic APP program, for example, if students were better able to move into and out of Spectrum and APP-level courses based on an interest in and willingess to do the work rather than *just* test scores. How are kids supposed to go from basic gen. ed to AP/IB readiness in high school if they've never been challenged with that level of work/thinking in the years prior? I understand the desire of parents to protect those types of programs. On the othet hand, if your high school is so clearly focused on those students to the point where all others are allowed to fall by the wayside...that's not OK.

I guess what I've seen here more than anywhere else in terms of territorialism (and I can only compare this to places where my kids were in school or I was present in schools) is the incredible bureacracy and artificial gate-keeping and the way that folks tend to advocate so much for specific programs/school models rather than strengthening the whole enchilada. If gen ed weren't so weak, you'd not have so much flight to various programs/nifty models (OK, maybe save special ed). I kinda feel like this district, more than any other I've experienced, is spread really thin over lots of sparkly, newfangled instructional models. JMHO.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Looking for Solutions,

Excellent questions!!!

At Cleveland every student taking algebra is taking an 85 minute class which meets every school day for the entire year. Other Seattle schools have a 50 or 55 minute class... a few have a doubled situation for some algebra students but I have no data on this.

I've heard Franklin is concentrating on teaching algebra to students using effective methods and uses the "Discovering materials" very little.

Hale and Garfield have looked good in the past because of favorable student demographics. These are scores for students that are taking an algebra class at those schools. Perhaps lots of kids at Hale and Garfield may be skipping taking Algebra in High School as they passed it in middle school. The fact remains that these schools are not getting the needed algebra content and skills to enough students.

I have no idea about Ingraham.

Here are the numbers of students that took the test after taking an algebra class last year 2011. divided by total enrollment at school and resulting percent.

248/ 1560=> 15.9% == Ballard
169/ 678=> 24.9% == Cleveland
208/ 1060=> 19.6% == C. Sealth
369/ 1292=> 28.6% == Franklin
207/ 1764=> 11.7% == Garfield
172/ 938=> 18.3% == Ingraham
183/ 1097=> 16.7% == Nathan Hale
96/ 399=> 24.1% == Rainier Beach
231/ 1656=> 13.9% == Roosevelt
144/946=> 15.2% == West Seattle

Garfield and Roosevelt are about the same above but LowInc pass rate for Roosevelt is 59.4% and Garfield is 29.9% ... Roosevelt has had no use for Discovery type math and has for years refused to use the District math materials..... Garfield has been a number 1 embracer of all things pushed by UW and loves Discovery / inquiry...

I would point out that there is a significant problem with SPS k-8 math ... and that is not going to magically go away in a HS Algebra Class.

Mercermom said...

I know three people closely who were TFA teachers. Yes, they are no longer teaching (although one does child advocacy for kids caught in the criminal justice system). But based on what I know about these three personally, I would have few reservations about having my child in their classes. They are people who are very idealistic, hard-working, committed to doing the best job possible, smart, creative, etc. If I could chose a seasoned, great or even good teacher, I'd probably take that. If the choice was between a teacher who is not terribly bright, burnt out, uninspired, etc., TFA might be a good choice.

One noted problem about TFA is that the level of work they put in is probably not sustainable over time, if you have a family, etc. If your child is behind grade level, do you want for your child someone who is willing to relentlessly pursue improvements for the kids in that classroom for a year, or someone who is trying to figure out how to make this a sustainable career with inadequate support for 30 years?

dan dempsey said...

Willing to try TfA asked:

"From what I understand from Dan's comment is that he doesn't like TFA because it hurts new teachers. I understand and agree with that, but I still don't understand how having a TFA teacher will hurt the Kids."

The data shows that in situations where an adequate supply of fully certificated teachers existed that TfA had a negative impact.

I find this really easy to understand.

In 1968, I began teaching in a small Catholic School in Idaho. It was about three times the size of the local public school. This was in a town of about 1000 population in a ranching and farming economy.

I had NO college degree and NO student teaching but I did have an idaho teaching certificate and had taken several ed courses in college. I was close to completing my degree in math.

I spent two years there. (A lot like a TfAer)

While my results from test scores were very impressive.... I would note that the teaching conditions were ideal in that almost every single student had original mom and dad at home. While the community was poor (Wheat was at $1.25 a bushel ... it was before the Russian grain deal). There was an extremely large amount of importance given to respect for elders and education. German catholic ancestry.

This is entirely different from the Seattle situation that TfA teachers will find themselves in.

I left Cottonwood as the school dissolved and the public school system took over. This was not a decision made by the community but rather by the Diocese of Boise .... (Again Top Down rules ... especially in the Catholic Church of 1970)

TfA teachers are showing worse results for their classes in situations like Seattle's .. this is compounded for students and schools because of TfA teacher two year churn. It certainly would be my hope that for the good of the students this TfA experiment ends as quickly as possible.

I also hope that the screening and selecting of TfA teachers will be good enough to lessen the damage over the next few years.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.... belief in Fairy-tales is not productive.
=====
Side note:
My third son is beginning his first year of teaching in first grade in Oakville, WA. He worked for several years for the US Forest service as a hotshot and a smoke-jumper. He completed an undergrad degree and then did a two year program for a masters in teaching, which he completed in May 2011. He student taught at both grade 1 and at grade 3. He is teaching in a school with 70+% poverty.

I am amazed that Seattle low-income students should get marginally trained teachers, when teachers like my son are available.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this time of reflection and how the blog is serving our community! I see it as a sincere effort to be constructive in our endevour to improve our schools.

In response to you asking for honest constructive feedback, I wonder whether we are discussing the topics (eg. Board elections and TFA) that really matter. I believe the biggest factor contributing to a child's success in school and life for that matter is the support and guidance or lack of support parents and family (loosely defined)members provide. Because of this belief, I think a lot of effort is spent on how to improve teachers, principals, central office, Olympia, etc, at the expense of helping our families stay engaged, become educated on how to better support their child and stay connected with our schools. When and where are these discussed and given the time and energy that it deserves? Are we talking about and educating ourselves on the issues that really matter?

A friend of Seattle

Anonymous said...

I mentored two new teachers a few years ago who put in 12 hour days.
It's a myth that TFA teachers work harder than others. A dedicated teacher (who is a teacher at heart) isn't thinking about the next 30 years but is concentrated on each class of children that year.

For all of those smart and idealistic people who have chosen to pursue teaching as a profession, I feel really bad that Seattle Public Schools hired the TFA recruits ahead of you. It's not fair at all.

--glad I got to work with young, idealistic certificated teachers

dan dempsey said...

Mecermom makes an excellent point:

"One noted problem about TFA is that the level of work they put in is probably not sustainable over time, if you have a family, etc."

We have an enormous problem in Seattle and elsewhere in WA state in that we have a system that is doing poorly in regard to educating educationally at risk students ... and the needed effort and services to correct this (if possible) are not sustainable over time.

WA State has exceptionally large class sizes and had incredibly poor instructional direction from OSPI during the Bergeson years.

The idea that under-trained but motivated TfA teachers are in any way a solution to this is NOT realistic. It seems we are coming to a point where "I hope we win the lottery" is similar to the rationale of the teacher my child might have.

The South at one point needed a lot of manpower and got it through slavery. Is this the current direction for education?

Anonymous said...

I have a child with an IEP. My child has a learning disability that can result from one of three main neurological differences and is complicated by weaknesses in visual motor skills and speech acquisition. Research shows that certain remediation techniques will help my child advance significantly in the area of disability, even up to or beyond grade level, but that different techniques will help a child who has one of the other neurological differences and will not help my child.

IDEA requires that the instruction my child receives be “specially designed instruction that means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, the methodology or the delivery of instruction to address the unique need of the child that result from the child’s disability.” And “the Special Education that the child receives must be based on peer-reviewed research.”

Please explain to me why I should believe in any way, that a TFA special ed teacher has the training to design special instruction for my child based on peer-reviewed research. Should I even expect that the TFA teacher be familiar with IDEA?

- not sold

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, Charlie first. (And I'm just so hurt that you have memorized everything I have ever written here. Ha.)

As I reported in my threads on the candidate interviews, the incumbents, save Sherry, did say they wouldn't change how they acted as directors. This is not to say they hadn't learned anything; apparently so but not enough to change how they operate.

Yes, this is what they said and yes, I was quite surprised.


I may have phrased my hiring team praise incorrectly. I meant, the teams were doing their due diligence in opening the hiring pool which included TFA recruits. They asked all the candidates the same questions. I just meant I felt that the hiring teams through the district had done what was expected to be fair and yet most of them rejected the TFA recruits.

MercerMom, you bring up a good point that keeps being said. "If I had the choice..." ah, but we don't do we. I know many of us wish we could pick our child's teachers but we can't. (Not to say you can't get out of a bad class - at least in high school - but mostly, no.)

I find this issue of "burned out" teachers interesting because in my years of K-12 with my sons, I didn't met very many at all. One son had one in kindergarten but that was it. Maybe the teachers in SPS have gotten older since my kids were there.

Mercer, you also bring up what is now a high level discussion; is teaching to be a career? Is the best way to reach children with scads of youthful teachers who work like the dickens for 12 hours a day in a longer school year and burn out in 3-5 years and we just replace them with other young teachers?

I'm not trying to be sarcastic but it sounds like there is this national discussion over teaching as a career. Would we be better off with a revolving door of teachers with high energy all the time or does experience and creating a teaching team at a school count?

And, of course, there are young teachers coming out of COEs all the time, still young and enthused and fully certified and trained.

Not sold, I agree. I have a child with special needs and I would have taken him out of any TFA class. I don't think 5 weeks even trains a teacher to teach a regular class. Where does any sort of Special Ed training come? While they are teaching? No thanks.

When I said this to two former TFA teachers, I waited for an answer. There was none. And that's because they know that TFA really is way, way out of its league in taking on Special Ed and ELL.

On the fence said...

I like Kate Martin's brutal honesty. Has any of the incumbents ever questioned Ms. Bree Dusseault's lack of district qualifications? Do the incumbents think it is ok to place an indivudual with one year principal experience (50 student charter school) to oversee highly experienced principals in schools of 1600 students?

I really like Sherry. I think her experience is meaningful. Yet, her voting pattern is deeply disturbing.

Sherry's vote on upcoming TfA will sway my vote- for sure.

someone said...

Here's where I struggle as far as candiates go - as I said I could live with Carr - there is potential there so if one incumbent has to win, I'm ok with that one, more than the others. I find Harium's taciturn demeanor very disturbing - to me he comes across as having "checked out" as if he's phoning in the work and there are too many important issues on the table, now and for the foreseeable future for that to continue. Maier is very similiar in that respect for me. Sundquist...I can't put my finger on it but he endgenders a lack of trust in me.

See, the fact that the next board will be choosing a new Supe is very crucial - will tthey maintain the status quo, or ??? I want people who truly care about the students and line staff making that decision. Phoning in your work, thinking you can keep doing what you have been doing just won't cut it

dan dempsey said...

Someone said ... mades a great point about the next board choosing a Superintendent.

Given the SAO reports ... keeping Enfield seems like a very poor choice.

Anonymous said...

Vote the bums out. That includes school board and teachers. Well, of course, not all the teachers. I think having a challenge to the union, and current teaching staff supporting it, in the form of TFA is a net positive for the district. For whatever reason, we seem unable to get rid of some dead weight. Addtionally, the perception, so prevalent on the "responsiblity" thread, is that, Too bad. There's nothing we can do about those kids. If our current teachers have given up, accepted failure, or at least status quo - and our current principals won't move them on, then we need something else, even if it might only be for 2 years. 2 years of enthusiasm might be exactly what we need. If you can't bust your ass forever, well, maybe you can bust it for 2 years. Then we'll get another TFAer to bust it. Churn? There's already churn in those low income schools.

As to students with IEPs and TFA. True, that might be a bit much for a neophyte to handle. But really, they aren't replacing the special education teachers with TFA, so what's the big deal? The special ed teacher will still be doing whatever she does, right? And the TFAer's student will still have access to that special education teacher too. Who knows? Maybe the TFAer will learn a thing or two from that arrangement.

-vote the bums out, put in TFA

One last note. It should be about the community too. To me it looks like the high-end, mostly APP bloggers, have a problem with TFA for some other people. People in the schools and programs where TFA is actually going to be, they don't seem to mind. A few have supported it. Why should some high-minded know-it-alls even have an opinion as to what's best for others?

dan dempsey said...

I do not mean to be disrespectful ... but...

Vote the Bums out put in TfA ... may be preferring anecdotes to evidence.

Try THIS from the NY Times on teachers.
====
" People in the schools and programs where TFA is actually going to be, they don't seem to mind. A few have supported it." ... (huh???) Why do you think this to be true?

It seems that several parents of Special Ed students have a completely different opinion from what you are reporting.

Anonymous said...

According to the Special Ed PTSA it is the goal of TFA to place 8 TFA teachers as special education teachers in Seattle schools this year and to expand that in future years.

Special ed is one of the target populations for TFA in Seattle

So convince me that I should feel confidence in these special ed teachers. Please!

-Not sold

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall reading a few posts from AKI parents supporting TFA over the current teachers. That was one of the few people actually from Aki voicing an opinion. And it was positive. Mostly what we get is, other people speaking on Aki's behalf. Not a good thing to do. Let people speak for themselves.

I don't know what the plan ever was for TFA and special ed. TFA has had lots of plans. So far though, only a very few doing anything, AND none of them special ed. So why worry about what isn't happening? I guess you can always worry about something, especially if it's on behalf of somebody else. Besides, didn't the dean over at the U list special ed as one of the areas that wouldn't be supported by the program here in Seattle.

-vtbo

Melissa Westbrook said...

VTBO, it's not needless worry. The e-mails between SPS and TFA clearly indicate they wanted to fill several Special Ed/ELL positions. (They did at Washington but this is the teacher who is already fully certified.) It was very clearly part of their plan.

That UW's COE was worried about these TFA recruits being ready the first year of teaching to do this should tell you something. (But Stritikus never expressed this fear - just the actual faculty that would be overseeing the recruits).

If a program comes into your district, you better know what they want to do and what it will mean. That it hasn't all worked out the way they want doesn't mean they won't continue to move in that direction. Outside sources have invested millions in TFA being here; they aren't going away easily.

Also, TFA requires that if they do have a TFA recruit teaching Special Ed that a trained Special Ed teacher be on-site and available. There's a cost there for that (although the district likes to act as though it doesn't exist when they tally how much TFA could cost the district itself).

Anonymous said...

dan dempsey - You often reference information that I can't seem find the source for. You said: The data shows that in situations where an adequate supply of fully certificated teachers existed that TfA had a negative impact.

Can you point me to that data? Thanks!

- new to sps

Jan said...

I have to say -- what little I know of the 4 or 5 TfA people hired for this year makes me think that they will do fine (or at least, as fine as any other bright, committed first year teacher would do). I suspect each of them will look back in 3 or 4 years and identify areas where they could have done much better, but that is all well within "tolerance" for me. ALL teachers start somewhere.

My biggest concerns with TfA (and I also agree -- this is not my biggest issue) are two:

First, the current size of the program is not the "footprint" that is envisioned. They would like to be MUCH bigger in Seattle. I am concerned about the cost (in the program as envisioned) and the effect on quality of instruction over time. I am also concerned over whether they will be willing to be part of the principal's team -- and part of the school's overall efforts, or whether they are mostly led by, and accountable to, TfA supervisors. I sort of feel like this is charter schools -- one CLASSROOM (rather than one school) at a time. But maybe I am just off base here.

2. My bigger problem, frankly, is the lack of honesty, transparency, and forthrightness surrounding the entire entry of TfA into Seattle. The COE emails and meetings, the odd statements by Janis Ortega. The fact that the "selling points" don't make sense to me. The rushed quality of the decisions. I feel like I am in a used car lot. I thought that the original premise of TfA (a sort of "Peace Corps" program -- but in underserved American schools where teacher shortages were a big problem -- was a great idea. Much of the "language" around TfA still harkens back to that initial idea -- but it feels to me like there has been a lot of "mission creep" and they don't want us to really notice it, or ask about it.

So -- I go on opposing it. But like many others here, it is not my main focus.

Jan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeattleSped said...

My educated guess is that SPS figured they could plug a lot of TFA as "special educators" because they figure us parents are so beat down we'd just whimper in our corner. SPS has already had success with replacing specially trained SpEd teachers with generally trained SpEd teachers (ala ICS/"enhanced" resource room), to the detriment of students with low-incidence disabilities that NEED that expertise. Well, we aint' buyin' it!

seattle citizen said...

vtbo,
Some of speak for students generally, even if some of those students happen to be at Aki or wherever.

Some parents like TFA at Aki? That's all well and good, but there are some that don't, and, additionally, Aki serves all sorts of students.

Much of the discussion on this blog is about general policy: TFA would like to place "teachers" in classrooms. As the Interim Superintendent said, it is up to ANY school that wants to to hire TFA (even tho' TFA itself seems to target only "failing schools," whoich are really schools with some struggling students, some struggling faculty - not ALL students at Aki are "failing," obviously)
So TFA wants footholds everywhere, it is obvious. It WANTS to change from being a "help temporarily staff hard-to-fill positions" organization to a "our TFAers are young and bright and energetic! HIre them anywhere! Competing with young and bright people who actually committed to teaching b y taking extensive coursework and student teaching..."

This is a PUBLIC school district. I am the public, along with every other taxpayer. If I don't believe it's in the best interest of ANY student, let alone students who are struggling, to get an uncertified person in front of them, that's not meeing with Aki's community; that's critiquing policy.

Lastly, one of my biggest concerns with TFA, as evidenced in the emails between TFA, SPS, and OSPI, is the blatant end-run around the law: It states that emergency certs are to be used ONLY for hard to fill positions - specialty areas OR no one applying. As we see, TFA is free to apply anywhere.
There has never been a cogent rationale by the district about why, in fact, they are opening the door to uncertified people. Look at tomorrow's board action report on the TFA hires. The rationale is something about "broadening the hiring pool." Nothing about "hard-to-fill," but only about "broadening the hiring pool to address the achievement gap"!

It's against the law.

If Washington want's to do away with certification, that discussion can be had. If we want to start a new thing, as Melissa touched on, of hiring people for a couple years, using up ALL their energy (hello, do these people have families? What about THEIR kids? Speaking of which, many people say, so what: teachers work long hours, everyone does in this economy, blah blah blah. Well, that just ain't true: Many workers can ONLY work forty hours, if they can get it, and many highly paid professionals leave the office at 4:30 and go home to their family)
BUt if we WANT to cycle compassionate people through the grinder 'til they're shredded, then just hire a new batch, that's a discussion. If we WANT to allow a minimal amount of training, that's another. But TFA, OSPI and SPS are not following WAC on this issue and it's dishonest and somewhat disgusting.

shawna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

New to SPS,

As requested here is a major study of the TfA results that are available...

Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence, is written by professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin, and professor Su Jin Jez of California State University, Sacramento.

Initial Link is HERE.

This is a study of TfA results that looks at peer reviewed research and concludes the following=>

Overall, Jez and Heilig argue, the impact of TFA teachers on student achievement is decidedly mixed and dependent upon the experience level of the TFA teachers and the group of teachers with whom they are compared.

Studies which compare TFA teachers with credentialed non-TFA teachers find that "the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers,"

The evidence suggests that TFA teachers do get better—if they stay long enough to become fully credentialed. Those experienced, fully credentialed TFA teachers "appear to do about as well as other, similarly experienced, credentialed teachers in teaching reading ... [and] as well as, and sometimes better than, that comparison group in teaching mathematics," Heilig and Jez write.

The authors note that this high turnover of TFA teachers also results in significant recurring expenses for recruiting and training replacements.

Heilig and Jez urge schools and districts to devote resources to a number of proven remedies for improving achievement, {{Where is that legally required review of all options for closing the achievement gap???}} including mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers, universal pre-school and reduction in early grade class size.

The authors conclude, "Policymakers and stakeholders should consider TFA teachers for what they are – a slightly better alternative when the hiring pool is comprised primarily of uncertified and emergency teachers – and continue to consider a broad range of solutions to reshape our system of education to ensure that all students are completing schools with the education they need to be successful."

========
========

As usual this evidence was presented to the school board and ignored.

Same goes for the Professional Educator Standards Board..... but then reading the emails between PESB executive director Jennifer Wallace and TfA's Ms. Ortega this one was in the bag... long before the PESB made their decision to ignore state laws.

When Gates Funds it and wants it done... laws do not matter,

dan dempsey said...

New to the SPS,

Since you are new to the SPS you need to be aware that most places looking for solutions carefully analyze a problem, then do research, and decide by intelligently applying the relevant data on a plan of action.

That rarely if ever happens in the SPS.

A course of action is proposed by the District administration and then a great deal of scrambling takes place to see if some supportive data can be found.

On many occasions the four incumbent directors running for reelection have completely ignored the relevant data provided to them by the public in making their decisions.

You should also be aware that RCW 28A 645.020 requires a transcript of evidence be provided the court whenever a school board decision is appealed. This transcript must be certified to be correct, says the law.

The Board however really appears not to use a transcript of evidence in making decisions and the Board never certifies to the court that the transcript provided is correct. In the political mess surrounding Seattle Education dealings the Superior Court judges have no problem in ignoring this state law's requirements.

So ....
=====
Briggs v Seattle School District No. 1; Stafne v Seattle School Districtr No. 1 - Appeal Hearing at 9:30 a.m. on November 3 at Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals for Division One will hear oral argument in the above captioned cases on November 3, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. The sole issue before the Court from our perspective is whether the Superior Court has appellate jurisdiction to hear an appeal of legislative decisions pursuant to RCW 28A.645 Ch. based upon a record the school board refuses to certrify is correct as is required by RCW 28A.645.020.

In the Briggs' appeal the District is challenging the appeal on grounds of mootness and standing.

The Stafne captioned appeal was brought by me in the Anderson appeal because the Superior Court dismissed the appeal as a result of my refusal to participate in the Anderson appeal based on a Transcript of Record the school board refused to certify was correct. RCW 28A.645.020. Because I am bringing the appeal on my own behalf as an attorney and officer of the court, it is my position that neither mootness nor standing of appellants is an issue before this court. An attorney from the Stafne Law Firm by the name of Andrew Krawczyk will present oral argument on my behalf. I will present oral argument with regard to the Briggs' appeal.

The proceedings are open to the public.

Scott Stafne

==============
Was the Nov 3 scheduling a move to put this out of the way ... from the school board elections? We will never know about that.

emeraldkity said...

Looking for solution, I grew up here, moved away and came back this past year but I recall Garfield has always had a two-tier system, one for the haves and one for the have nots (and never the twain shall meet).

Disagree.
My child had an 504 & was in remedial and in AP classes at Garfield at the same time.
She was not the only student in that position.
You might have to advocate for yourself or for your child a little, but staff is very willing to work with families who are interested in such.

I am likely voting for challengers but reserve final decision until after I attend a few of the debates.

It is dismaying to hear that TFA teachers may be placed into SPED.
I will say that I think the SPED pool could be improved but as these teachers won't have an education degree let alone specialized training into what is truly needed to support those students , it really makes me apprehensive on behalf of both the students and the young TFA teachers.

Charlie Mas said...

So here's my recap so far:

No one who posted thinks that the Board has earned re-election. No one advocated for the re-election of Directors Maier, Sundquist or Martin-Morris.

A couple of folks offered support for Director Carr's re-election but most of that support was fairly un-enthusiastic.

The support for Teach for America is equally mild and is driven mostly by specific areas of dissatisfaction with the current teaching staff. That most concerning dissatisfaction appears rooted in the presumption of low expectations for minority students, students from low-income households, and students with IEPs. There was also some specific concern around the loss of support staff who provided non-academic services in support of academic services provided by teachers. There was some specific belief expressed that Teach for America corps members would be a positive because they would dedicate the overtime to provide those non-academic services and would set and maintain high academic expectations for students.

Have I fairly described the sentiments expressed here?

suep. said...

-vote the bums out, put in TFA

One last note. It should be about the community too. To me it looks like the high-end, mostly APP bloggers, have a problem with TFA for some other people. People in the schools and programs where TFA is actually going to be, they don't seem to mind. A few have supported it. Why should some high-minded know-it-alls even have an opinion as to what's best for others?


Actually, Vote the Bums, I have a problem with a fast-tracked, short-term novice "teachers" with only 5-week's of training, teaching ANY child.

Bringing TFA, Inc. to Seattle doesn't just affect some kids; it potentially affects all our kids. It affects the hiring pool, indicates a potentially troubling attitude by SPS leadership toward the professionalism of teaching, and potentially sets the stage for more corporate-driven ed reforms to invade our district, reforms that have proven to be harmful to kids.

Have you surveyed all the families in the SPS community whose kids are targets for TFA and asked their opinion of TFA? The SPED families I know are not supportive of this idea. I also know of others in the city's south-end schools who do not want TFA.

But why shouldn't we all have opinions and concerns about all the children in SPS? Are you suggesting we shouldn't care about our city's most struggling children?

One of my biggest issues with TFA, Inc. is the stealthy, dishonest, behind-the-scenes way it crept into Seattle. If TFA is such a winning product, why have people like Enfield, Stritikus, Ortega and Gates been so cagey and manipulative in how they have brought TFA here?

And why is this multimillion-dollar enterprise holding out its hand like a charity, demanding an additional $4,000/year per recruit from our cash-strapped district?

TFA is an added expense that SPS cannot justify.

What is TFA really about? Helping kids in classrooms -- or helping college grads polish their resumes on their way to their real jobs? Helping low income kids, or making money for TFA, Inc? TFA Inc CEO Wendy Kopp herself admits that the purpose of TFA is not to train teachers, but to create future "leaders" -- whatever that may mean.

Lastly, I agree with the gist of your final sentiment: Why indeed should "high-minded know-it-alls" like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Wendy Kopp, Janis Ortega et al determine what's best for our nation's children?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Suep, well said.

dan dempsey said...

I just dropped off a note to Randy Dorn and OSPI's Erin Jones, which said "It is the job of OSPI to enforce state law."

“Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.”

That law states:

The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options.

SUCH A REVIEW HAS NEVER HAPPENED.

Jan said...

I second Emeraldkity's experience. My child was at Garfield for four years, with an IEP -- and took a number of AP and honors classes there -- and was welcomed and supported in virtually all of them. There was absolutely NOT a "never the twain shall meet" mentality. I think what may happen though, is that if kids come in withOUT ieps and/or 401 plans, and are just way way behind, they may end up self selecting out of classes where they don't think they will be able to keep up (and no one is running interference through and iep for them). The big percentage of low income kids NOT passing EOCs in math classes were obviously NOT taking the same math classes (and passing them) as the APP/AP/Honors crowd. AND -- whatever the school was offering these kids -- it is NOT working as well as what Franklin and Roosevelt are doing -- so what I want to know is -- what is the Garfield math department doing to figure out what works better at these other schools, and then adapting their teaching methods/materials/whatever to match?

Jan said...

Oops -- not 401 plans, 504 plans. I have been watching too much CNBC.

Anonymous said...

Jan, who is most likely to initiate an IEP or 504 plans?

For me this is the place where I think interventions are possible as seen by Franklin's success. So perhaps it is not just one school math department that needs to re-examine its program, but others with similar outcomes. I wish there was as much hue and cry fo this to happen as for advanced learning and TFA.

-looking for solutions

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this board for about a year, but finally feel compelled to post.

First, I agree with the vast majority of posts on this blog and appreciate having it as a resource. I went to Seattle Public Schools and have seen the unceasing dysfunction of the system play out over the last 20 years - first as a student, then as an avid news-follower, now as a teacher at a neighboring district.

The TFA issue is a particularly galling one - it's the perfect storm of institutional corruption, political corruption and disrespect for teachers. Those who support TFA always point to burnt out teachers as the alternate option - but the reality is that TFAers can only apply for open jobs, and open jobs rarely go to burnt out teachers (those teachers don't bother changing schools, and couldn't get hired if they did). No matter how wonderful and idealistic you are, teaching is an incredibly complex job that takes years to get good at. Some research suggests that teachers are at their best in their 7th year of teaching - and any teacher will tell you that they became significantly better after their first two years.

Finally - my gripe with this blog. Despite being pro-union, anti-TFA and incredibly liberal, I am pro-charter school. I used to work in a state with charter schools, and while I do not buy into the hype of these schools as the solution to the nation's education problem (I know that most charter schools perform the same as or worse than public schools) I still think we need them. This blog provides a daily testament to the fact that radical change is needed.

The current system is broken. The current system is failing students. No matter how hard we try, things are not going to be fixed tomorrow or next week or next year. Charter schools can do two important things: give people an alternative, and put real pressure on public schools. In the previous school I worked at, I saw the public school change its focus, how it treated students and its communication with parents as a result of the pressure it faced from local charters. It's not the perfect solution - it's not even a good solution - but right now I think it's the only thing that could effectively blow apart the Seattle School District as we know it. Which just might be exactly what we need.

-AO

seattle citizen said...

AO,
You write that "Charter schools can do two important things: give people an alternative, and put real pressure on public schools."

Alternative schools, option schools, etc, can do this, all within the framework of the district. Charter schools want to be OUTSIDE that framework; hence, the charter.

Ask yourself why a district, such as Seattle, would close alternative schools and then want to open charters?

Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

AO
I appreciate your input. Funny after going through 8 dysfunctional years in SPS with my kids, I am beginning to think a shake up is needed. I know you want us to consider charter. I want to look at all options including vouchers. I know there are other families out there who are starting to reconsider the way we do things and want to shake up the status quo. I hesitate even posting here, but since you are brave enough. I thought I would support opening up the discussion.

-seeking new options

dan dempsey said...

-seeking new options,

Definitely hear what you are saying. I think it is time to put pressure on for a "Core Knowledge" alternative school.

It is also time for 4 new school directors at election time. New Superintendent as well.

Anonymous said...

Suep, people wanted "public/private" partnerships for as long as I can remember. Melissa blogged about it years ago. We wanted New School. Wasn't it great? Yeah, they didn't do special ed either but that didn't matter back then. The big bucks, business should help public ed because they benefit so much from it's product. Well guess what? They heard you. You got it. Now you don't like it. Then it was "Boo. New school. They got a better building". Did you really think that money would come without strings? When did you ever give money and say... here's money, I know you're really great, do whatever you want, and keep the change.

Whether or not TFA is perfect, it IS something to challenge the intransigence of the union and its straglehold on progress and process. And they too need a competitor. Maybe not something big. But something to fear, at least a little bit. It looks like 2 or 3 teachers has got them all worked up. Good. It might even make them try to figure out why people are annoyed with them. To my mind, perfect. And I could care less that Seattle process didn't get in the way. We don't need to vote on it. Cheap teachers who want to bust their ass for a few years. I say, why not? And yes, we do want to have the discussion about super achievers for a few years. You aren't burning them out, that was the plan all along, one they bought into.

You're right. I haven't polled all the Aki families. Neither have you. But I have seen what they've written here. And it was positive. Nobody needs a knee-jerk liberal to tell them what they should fear and reject. And speak for them. They know if they like their school, teachers, and whether they'd like to try something else.

And yes I know many special education families. Not one of them is afraid of TFA, or even has it on their radar. None. Zip. Oh yeah. There's one special ed parent who seems to be obsessed by it, who posts of nothing else. But that's it.

-vtbo

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

We all know the opinions of the regular contributors to this blog - they state them here on almost a daily basis. This particular thread was supposed to be a place where people with opposing opinions could post. Why not let them have the floor for just this one thread? You don't have to agree with their opinion or position but why not let them express their thoughts without a rebuttal from you. Just for this one thread.

rainbow

Maureen said...

rainbow is right--this thread is dedicated to people who disagree with Charlie and In particular, ... people who either support any of the School Board incumbents for re-election or support the hiring of Teach for America corps members as teachers in our schools. We regulars should just post about issues we think Charlie has wrong and bite our lips on the rest of it for now. I've appreciated reading other perspectives here.

emeraldkity said...

Rainbow- for the record- I would like to see what charter schools would look like-
I would argue that alternative schools could be successful in Seattle & the community has been trying to expand them without help much help from the district & I think there is room for more-

This article in the NYT about non academic traits of success & KIPP is intriguing.
( my browser doesn't link)
THE EDUCATION ISSUE
What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?-By PAUL TOUGH
Published: September 14, 2011

Anonymous said...

VTBO,

Can you talk about the special ed families that you know. Why are they confident that a TFA special ed teacher will be able to provide the instruction required by IDEA?

Is that what you mean by 'not on their radar'? That they have confidence? Or do you mean that they don't know about having TFA special ed teachers? Or that what kind of teacher they have is the least of their worries? Or something else?

My child has a learning disability. That means that most of effect of the disability is seen in schoolwork. (That could be different for a family dealing with a developmental disability or an autism spectrum disability.)So for us the biggest concerns center on what happens with school work.

I am very focused on getting the proper special education instruction for my child.

I would love to have your confidence. I hope you will share something that gives such confidence to me too.

-Not sold

suep. said...

This thread is problematic if it allows people like VTBO to assail or insult people by name or inference without allowing us to respond.

So, briefly -- VTBO, I never asked for private/public partnerships and I certainly have never supported the privatization of public education. So you are incorrect to address your accusations at me.

(And the families of SPS never asked for TFA either, btw.)

"Knee-jerk liberal"? Actually, I put a fair amount of thought and research into what I say.

My point about the survey is exactly that -- neither of us have taken one so neither of us can say what all others feel, thus I never have.

There are SPED families who post here who definitely and legitimately have issues with TFAers teaching their children.

Your emphasis on the union-busting nature of TFA only affirms one of my qualms with TFA. By the way, the flip-side of the non-union aspect of TFA is that TFAers themselves have been known to be overworked and burned out by places like KIPP Inc charters, with no recourse because they have no union. (Some charters are unionized but many-most are not.)

Finally, as our current national economic crisis demonstrates, this country has suffered more from the ravages of corporatism & capitalism than any flaws of unions.

Back to your diversity of opinion....

Jan said...

AO and "seeking new options" -- I would love to hear more from both of you. I used to be pro charter, but seeing what a hash big for-profit charter schools have made of it, I retreated. Other than forcing a bad bureaucracy to do better because there is an alternative (funded by public dollars), is there any way, in your opinion, to actually foster charters that are more localized, more able to respond to what local communities want (in terms of pedagogy, materials, course offerings, etc.)?

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anonymous said...

SueP did you read the header that Charlie wrote for this particular thread? This thread is meant, specifically, to hear the voices of people who are pro-TFA and/or pro incumbents. Please try to refrain and let others have the floor for just for this one thread. We all know your positions since you are a regular poster (and thank you for contributing!) but this thread is dedicated to folks of opinions that are in the minority. Please let them have their say, without rebuttal, for just this one thread.

rainbow

NLM said...

I still can't get over folks advocating "local control" while deriding the choices made by local hiring teams. We lack even the most basic information about who applied, who was interviewed and how they performed during those interviews so how can we judge? Should the certificated TFAer have been shunned simply because of the TFA affiliation? Does that person not "count" as TFA because of the certificate? I think not. If you don't want TFAers, even ones with certificates it seems, teaching your kids, participate in your own building hiring team and make sure they don't.

And what's with calling low expectations for minorities, low-income students in Special ed programs a "presumption"? It completely minimizes and marginlizes those who've offered example after example of low expectations and the impact they can have on access to services, curriculum and parent involvement. The proof is in the disparate impact. Numerous studies have shown that taking household income and family education levels out of the equation achievement and discipline disparities remain.

I think that goes beyond presumption.

I dunno, I guess I just found that disheartenening because it's impossible to generate interest in solving a problem that doesn't exist.

Oh yes, and I didn't literally mean 'never the twain shall meet and probably shouldn't have said it that way, I used the tongue in cheek expression to show how little crossover I remembered between the gen. pop. and the APP crowd at Garfield.

Anonymous said...

In Hawaii they have placed TFA teachers as the special education teacher in inclusion classes. We have a shortage of special education teachers. At many schools special education positions are the ones they allow TFA to fill. TFA wants to get its foot in the door so they will place inexperienced teachers in these positions to get into a school. The learning curve is steep and the general education teacher must basically mentor the TFA teachers. I had a Teach for America teacher placed in my inclusion classroom as the special education teacher. She was responsible for differentiating the curriculum for over one third of the class. I had never heard of the organization before but it sounded great on paper. I emailed the TFA teacher often over the summer and came in for many days on my own time to train her and teach her about our curriculum. Other teachers at my school spent entire weekends going over basic curriculum with her. She ended up knowing nothing about special education or teaching in general. She stated more than once that most of the students in special education were only in special education because of poverty (even though some of the students in our class had genetic disabilities). Apparently TFA had taught her that. She had no idea how to teach reading in general, let alone to young students with learning disabilities. She ended up quitting within the first quarter of school because she never wanted to be a teacher to begin with. I know this was only one particular person who did a poor job of representing TFA, but I was most shocked about how the leadership for TFA reacted. They wanted her to continue to "teach" so that their reputation would not be tarnished and they could still have an in at this school. They were not concerned about the children and the disservice that was being done, but rather about how they looked to those outside the organization. They never apologized about the mess left behind or the children who suffered as a result.

I know other TFA teachers who have become good teachers after a few years. I say good teachers because I do not believe that you become a great teacher until you have taught for 5-7 years. They leave after 1-3 years (yes, some don’t even stay the full 2 years.) I think it is scarier when they leave and want to become involved in educational reform and politics. Michelle Rhee is an excellent example of someone who did her small amount of time and now believes she should be able to create educational policy. What is worse is that Wendy Kopp has never even taught. When you first start teaching you think you are doing an excellent job because you spend every waking second thinking about teaching, but wisdom comes with years. In about the fifth or sixth year you can finally lift your head up long enough to start seeing the big picture and at the same time you can start to see each child holistically. You fine-tune the work and the plans for the individual needs even as you weave the tapestry of the class as a whole. It feels a little like magic but takes time and dedication.

Still thinking about teaching every second…

Charlie Mas said...

I had to remove a comment by VTBO because it wasn't civil.

That was also something that would be special about this thread.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

I wonder if policy could be written that charters would only be permitted if they were local, homegrown, schools. Could the corporate, chain charters be banned, while a Waldorf school, a school of performing arts, or law or math/science magnet, be permitted? Folks always say that our alts work in place of charters, but they really don't. They can't. They can't hire their own principals, or teachers. They have to follow the same policy that traditional schools do (take the map test, use discovery math, writers workshop, etc). They have no freedom, and well, this waters them down. Tremendously. Plus, when was the last time the district opened an alt school?

I don't think I would like huge chain charters like KIPP in the district, so I wouldn't want to see that. Though I do wonder if there is a large enough group of families that would like their kids in a KIPP type school. And if that is the case, then who am I to say no chain charters.

curious

Anonymous said...

Jan,

Our families along with others have been discussing alternative options outside of SSD. Charter is one option. There are some good charter schools out there that are not run by large corporations. I've read Dianne Ravitch's books and agree with much of what she saids. Her comments about how we need to improve the quality of our teachers and their working conditions were spot on. I agree about Charter's lottery system and the stress on families as seen in the Movie, "Waiting for Superman".

But we are going through the same thing in the PUBLIC schools, including Seattle. Discuss with parents the constant jockeying to get into an Honors seat or the popular Biotech programs. They run lottery too. We've all talked about the constant churn, the lack of coherence in district leadership down to building leadership. The young pipeline of new principles (some with little teaching cred who are just as obsessed about testing results and presidng over older more experienced teachers). The inflexibility of our curriculum, the so call "standardization" and pacing effort in the schools (with good intention, but can also thwart innovation and the ability for teachers to adjust to their students' interests and abilities).

I could go on and on, but my point is many of the comments against charters can also be applied to our very own public school system.

When I look at private independently run schools (not part of a chain), there are some good ones and some not so great. The good ones share some of the same quailities as other successful public schools and public charter schools except they can control their admission more stringently. They can create a school culture that emphasize high expectation in the academic as well as personal behavior/responsibility, caring relationships with adults, and discipline. There is constant evaluation of student achievement to check to see what works or doesn't on an individual and group level.

There is a Time's article by A. Rotterham (who is a charter proponent)

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2025310,00.html

Several families like the idea of the voucher system. They look at Finland and the ability for family to choose schools. New Zealand has a history of independent schools (not called charter) that run without large school district oversights. Canada and Sweden also have history of "charter like" schools.

In the end, even if we can have a few choices outside the traditional public system, we think the pressure there may force some real changes to the way SSD has been operating and will continue to operate.

Jan, there is so much more, but I must be off to work. I apologize if this posting is so disjointed. I am writing on the fly and try to incorporate some of the main points that other families have shared with me.

-seeking new options

Anonymous said...

Oops, I mean princials NOT principles in the 2nd paragrahp there. Apologize for all the bad grammar and typos.

-seeking new options

anonymous said...

Seeking new options, that is the best pro charter argument I have heard yet. Very well said, And so so true. And no Seattle Citizen our alts are not filling that void. Not even close.

Also seeking new options

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that we had a system where schools were operated more independently by their staffs & parents when we had site-based management. We used different curricula, had much more control over staffing, and could experiment with project-based learning or biotech academy.

What I don't understand is why education leadership in Seattle saw that as bad thing that needed to be brought under strict central control, but supports even more independence for charter schools.

-Rose M

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Discuss with parents the constant jockeying to get into an Honors seat.."

What does that mean? Are you talking about advanced learning programs or AP/IB in high school?

Charlie Mas said...

Rose M,

The de-centralized, site-based management that you remember worked for some schools, but it didn't work for others. Schools where it didn't work started to spiral down. The problems arose because the District would not intervene when the situation at some schools started to worsen.

Site-based management can only work if the central authority sets and maintains high standards for all schools. The central authority at Seattle Public Schools refused to do that. They would not exercise their authority so the whole system eventually unbalanced and wobbled into collapse.

For example: McGilvra and Montlake got reputations for being "good" schools. Martin Luther King got a reputation as a "bad" school. So very few families - including those who lived very close to MLK - chose MLK for their children. In one year the number of families naming MLK as their first choice for assignment actually reached zero. At some point the District should have stepped in. The school should have been re-invented. It wasn't. Instead, the District assigned students to the school over the families' objection (many went private). It was a messed up situation because the District failed in its duty.

Imagine if the District had responded quickly to the low popularity of MLK. Imagine if the District had stepped in and made investments in the school, developed a new program there - such as Montessori, language immersion, or tech or whatever.

Site-based management works if the central administration doesn't forget that they have a job to do.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Totally agree with Charlie re site based management. It worked wonders for some schools, and failed at others. I think the district could offer site based management to the schools that do well with it, and intervene when schools don't. That seems like a happy medium.

also seeking new options

anonymous said...

"Discuss with parents the constant jockeying to get into an Honors seat.."

Lets think about how Spectrum works. The first jockying begins when a family has to have their kid tested for Spectrum, which happens during a short window, way before open enrollment. Not on everybodys radar. Next, if your child does test in they are still not guaranteed a seat - many schools have Spectrum waitlists. You go in the lottery (just like a charter!). This is of course if your school even even offers Spectrum. If it doesn't you have to ship your kid to another school often further away, and hope for transportation. If your child doesn't test in many parents test privately and appeal. More jockeying.

How about IB. It's only offered in two high schools, and they are both over enrolled neighborhood schools. Families for whom these two schools are not their assigned schools have to jockey for one of the promised but not always offered 10% set aside seats. Or they have to lie about their address, or move if they can afford it. That's jockeying.

As for AP it is all over the place. Not consistent from school to school. Some schools offer a full array of classes, some offer just a handful. Some are stand alone classes, some are inclusive/mixed. Some are true AP classes, some are watered down so that every student can take it. It takes a detective to figure out which schools offer what, and that's just the beginning. Then you have to figure out how to get your kid into the school that offers what you want (if it isn't your neighborhood school). Whole lot of jockying.

And STEM, Center School? Bio tech Academy? Montessori program at Bagley? Language immersion (if it not your neighborhood school)? More of jockeying? More waitlists. More lottery (just like the charters!).

And just to choose a school now that Barnhart-Waldman is gone takes some jockeying. If you choose a school other than your assigned school you may blow your one chance at getting into an acceptable school. So more research. More jockeying.

More anxiety.

Doesn't seem any better than what we saw in Waiting for Superman does it?

Also seeking new options

Melissa Westbrook said...

New Options, it was just a clarifying question.

I don't think Ingraham is overenrolled at this point. IB hasn't gotten popular until just the last couple of years and I believe the district is working on putting it at RBHS.

As far as Spectrum, you know I agree there.

Not sure what you mean by a "mixed" AP class. AP is open to every student who wants the rigor.

You kind of answered your own question - charters, if overenrolled, are lottery. You'll have the same issues there but with almost no parent input. At least in public there is some hope.

Charlie and I agree that foreign language immersion should be at option schools.

I hear your frustration loud and clear. Question is, does the Board?

Anonymous said...

So that leaves me with 2 questions.

1. Did ending site-based management bring the schools that spiraled-down back up to an acceptable standard that they were not meeting before?

2. Would independent charters, be better controlled by central administration than schools were under site-based management?

-Rose M

Melissa Westbrook said...

In answer to your first question, I think somewhat. I forget what Joe Olchefske's phrase was (Charlie knows - tight something, loose something) but it was basically, if you are doing better, you get more of your own control (and maybe even flexibility). That allows the district to concentrate on schools that still have major issues and allows those doing well more freedom.

To your second question, it all depends on the charter. All the states with charters have completely different ones. In some states the district has NO control over the charter - it falls to a state entity. Some give districts a lot of control.

That's the huge question about charters beyond whether they work and it's worth the splitting of money and resources - what charter law works the best? I don't know that answer.

NLM said...

Can we clarify something? Charter schools *are* public schools, yes? They are waived from some but not all requirements of regular public schools and typically (but not always depending on how the law is written} are free to hire/fire staff and select curriculum. The actual charter though, the founding guidelines and rules for the school, are subject to various approvals and hearings, yes?

My experience with them, in Little Rock, was that LISA and eStem offered two of the most rigorous/highly regarded programs in the city, if not the state. The kids there also take MAP tests so there's an independent check on their progress beyond just anecdtotes. There have been other, less successful charters there too, some that closed, sometimes on short notice.

Just like with traditional public schools, some charters are successful and others are not. The difference to my mind is that poor charter schools close (and can be closed) quickly while poor public schools keep failing kids year after year.

My own kiddos attended a prominent private school in the city which I was thrilled with but I also had them on the lottery list for eStem because I liked what they were doing. I'd always rather go public but if my public options are not up to snuff, I like the option of voting with my feet.

anonymous said...

Melissa, Ingraham has a waitlist for 9th grade this year (for the first time in as long as I can remember) likely due to APP moving in.

By mixed AP I meant the style Hale offers, where all students (AP and non AP) are in the same classroom.

also seeking new options

Miss Waterlow said...

Most of the pro-TFA and pro-charter arguments here seem to sum up to this: “they can’t be any worse than what we already have.” (see below) I realize that you’re trying to rebut those who say TFA and charters will hurt our schools, but I would like to hear your arguments for why TFA and a charters are better than public schools.

I’m curious as to why you prefer introducing a new, un-tested, non-public system with, apparently, at least as many problems as our current one, over working to improve the system we have? Why ask for charters instead of a larger number of attractive choice schools? Why ask for charters instead of pressuring the state to bring us up from 44th in the nation in public school funding so that we could reduce class sizes, offer more foreign languages and at earlier grades, add a seventh period in high school (most other states have seven, our state pays for five), maintain excellent tutoring and homework help as well as summer school - more of the things that we know work? Why ask for TFA instead of demanding that our teachers be paid more and given better working conditions so we can attract higher achieving graduates and keep our best teachers in the profession instead of depending on a rotation of temps?

I can only think that these outside programs appeal because they are shiny, new and untested, so haven’t yet accrued negative baggage like our beleaguered public schools. Also, they seem to offer a quick fix because they require very little of the civic engagement necessary to make the sustainable changes that will be good for all children. (I don’t mean that you are not engaged!)

Very nice post, Charlie. I’m sorry I didn’t do what you asked!

From the comments:

NLM 11:32 9/20
I've seen way too many certifcated teachers with horrible classroom management skills to think TFAers would be, by and large, any different.

TFA may not close the achievemnt gap but does it, as a general rule, do harm?

NLM 12:34 9/20
Having a cetificate is no guarantee that a teacher will stay in that particular school any longer than a TFA teacher.

Anonymous @ 9/23 8:43
But we are going through the same thing in the PUBLIC schools, my point is many of the comments against charters can also be applied to our very own public school system.

Anonymous 10:59 9/23
Doesn't seem any better than what we saw in Waiting for Superman does it?

NLM @2:04 9/23
Just like with traditional public schools, some charters are successful and others are not.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, charter schools are public schools.

New Options, didn't know that about Ingraham. And I had forgotten about Hale's model of doing AP so yes, that is very different from having a separate AP class.

I know that Roosevelt has an AP class that all sophomores take and it is a whole year (when it usually is a semester class). Dorothy Neville, who writes here, thought it was not a great class for her son. I had no direct experience with it.

Anonymous said...

My experience in public schools is that you do have to advocate for your child, be proactive about getting your child into a school or program, and volunteer for or fund things that you want to see in the school like hall monitors or instrumental music. I think that often you also have to fill curriculum gaps, provide challenge or remediation at home in areas where your child needs it, and provide enrichment.

I don't have any experience with charter schools or private schools. Is this different in those schools?

Rose M

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

"You kind of answered your own question - charters, if overenrolled, are lottery. You'll have the same issues there but with almost no parent input. At least in public there is some hope."

In theory but not in reality Melissa. I have not seen anything improve with SPS enrollment in the 11 years that my kids have been enrolled - despite plenty of parent lobbying. In fact it has gotten worse. We lost the racial tie breaker (not the fault of SPS but still), we've lost the Barnhart-Walden algorithm, we've lost a big chunk of transportation (including south end transportation to Mcclure and Hamilton), we lost an alternative school, we lost the ability to change our child's school any time during the year (could do this when my kids were in elementary as long as there was space available in the school you wanted to transfer to), we lost the ability to remain on a waitlist all year long (it was shortened to October and then shortened again to September), we even lost the 10% set aside seats at most high schools this year, just to name a few. In fact I really can't think of one thing that has gotten better with enrollment. So, so much for public input. It is moot in this district.

At this point the portrait of charters that Waiting for Superman painted is no worse than what families experience enrolling their kids in schools in SPS.

also seeking new options

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the thing about charters and private schools: you are signing up for their particular way of teaching and learning. Don't like it; leave.

Many charter schools ask parents to sign agreements on the parents' end of what they have to do but not so much in the charter end. (Although I'm sure they promise a lot.)

Again, it depends on the charter law; maybe some states require their charters to have parents on their boards or a parent vote on issues. I think more the former than the latter.

Private schools, especially here in Seattle, are full. You can't just tour and say, "oh I like your school, here's my deposit." They pick you. I'm sure there are parent boards but from input I have received, it's mostly around parent activities and fund raising.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

"Here's the thing about charters and private schools: you are signing up for their particular way of teaching and learning. Don't like it; leave. "

Wow, sounds a lot like our neighborhood school plan. Oh, only you don't sign up for it or get to leave.

Oh, you don't like that your HS only offers 2 AP classes, or your elementary doesn't have an ALO, or offer enough PE time? Sorry, to bad.

At least you get to sign up for a charter.

just sayin'

Melissa Westbrook said...

And Just Sayin' that makes me sad that you say that. Because it seems like for some areas of the city, choice or neighborhood plan, it makes no difference. That's troubling.

Charlie Mas said...

The District is trying to address some of the concerns expressed here through two initiatives, curricular alignment and academic assurances.

Curricular alignment is supposed to guarantee that all schools teach to the grade level Standards or beyond. The idea was to raise up the level of academics in those schools that were teaching below grade level. Unfortunately, this effort has actually resulted more in reducing the level of academics in schools that were teaching beyond the grade level. They mandated classes and instruction instead of Standards.

The academic assurances initiative is the one that tries to guarantee that every elementary school will offer instrumental music and an ALO, that every middle school will offer Spectrum, and that every high school will offer a minimum number and variety of AP or IB classes.

NLM said...

Ms. Waterlow - I don't think any model for public education is guaranteed to be better than any other.

What I like about the charter option is:
a) everyone has an equal shot at getting into the school,
b) parents can actually choose a school which closely matches their preferences and not be zoned into one regardless of preference (e.g. a math/science emphasis, language immersion, arts or entrepreneurship)
c) there is greater flexibility in terms of curriculum (I am not a fan of Everyday Math...at all)
d) class sizes may be smaller
e) there may be a more structured approach to discipline/performance expectations (e.g. uniforms)
f) there may be a longer school day/year and additional instructional time

Do charters offer a quick fix? If done well, why yes, yes they do. Is that bad? How long do you want folks to wait for the sustainable, easily replicated solution you're after?

I don't think anyone would argue that no one should leave the Titanic because there are only 30 lifeboats. No, you save as many as you can and then find another way to help those that are left.

SolvayGirl said...

Depends on the type of charter that comes in., I think. There are as many types of charters as there are private schools. Personally, I would not want my public tax dollars going to a school that promoted inaccurate science (Earth is only 6,000 years old, etc.), but it could happen.

anonymous said...

"Depends on the type of charter that comes in., I think. There are as many types of charters as there are private schools. Personally, I would not want my public tax dollars going to a school that promoted inaccurate science (Earth is only 6,000 years old, etc.), but it could happen."

Interesting, because the diversity of charters and the range of what they offer is in my opinion their beauty! There are so many different options and varieties. Personally, I don't like the KIPP charter model - it wouldn't work for my kid or our family, but I respect the fact that it may be exactly what another family is looking for - and I'd be glad to have my tax payer dollars fund it even though I wouldn't use it. By the same token a family looking for a KIPP charter, might not be at all that interested in a performing arts charter, or a law charter, but I would be. You, Solvay, have posted repeatedly that the only schools in the district that would work for your child are Garfield and Roosevelt, two comprehensive, traditional high schools. That's great - but I'd hope that just as you have decided what is right for your child you'd respect the fact that other families have the same rights - and know that their choices may be totally different than yours. So yes, even a religious charter that still teaches creationism would be OK with me - though I personally don't believe in creationism and wouldn't allow my child in a school that taught it, I understand that offering children a christian education is very important to some people, many of whom are not able to afford private school - like you can. So yes, I'd pay for it, no questions asked. But then I am open minded and understand and respect that there are different strokes for different folks.

Just sayin'

SolvayGirl said...

Just Sain...

I sacrifice a lot to get my child the education I think she needs, but I would not expect a public charter to give her something that other children are NOT getting. I would not take a voucher, and I would not expect the public to pay for MY child to have a class size of 15 when other kids are in classes of 30.

So no, I'm not OK with public dollars giving only SOME kids what they need when others don't get that. I liked choice and I liked the rich diversity of option schools that SPS used to have. I believe they needed more. But I never liked that some kids get what they need and others don't.

I do realize that other people have different desires for their children that traditional public school cannot or does not offer; that's what option schools and private schools are for.

The school my child is at is a good fit for her; it would not be for everyone. There's no cheerleading squad or class officers. Some languages are offered, but not others, etc. It has a definite philosophy and world view. It has what we wanted in a school; that's why we went private. I don't expect anyone to fund our personal choice in education.

I support public school with my vote, my tax dollars, and by supporting my neighborhood elementary fundraisers (we're alums) and contributing to my friend's children's fundraisers. I buy wrapping paper and grapefruit, etc. when asked.

There is a separation of church and state in this country. I like it that way, and would not want my tax dollars going to support any religious belief, even one I shared.

I see charters as a way for private enterprises to make money off the public dollar—not good in my opinion. Give public schools the ability to tailor themselves to their student population. Give public schools the money and resources they need to serve the needs of their students—be it advanced classes or family support workers, or both. Put the money into the schools and classrooms and put the District admin on an austerity budget.

But that's just my opinion...I'm not about to attack anyone else for theirs. I would hope others on this blog would do the same.

anonymous said...

Solvay you are very lucky to be able to afford private school, and yes, I know you sacrifice. But most people can't afford it no matter what they are willing to give up. Families are dealing with unemployment, forclosure, some don't have decent living conditions, or health care, or even healthy food, let alone expendable income for private school. I'd support those families having the same choice you do. So sure, take care of your own, but don't forget the thousands of families left behind in SPS that aren't as lucky as you. I'd like them to have options too.

If you are still not empathetic to families less fortunate than you try to think about what it would be like if you couldn't afford private school and your daughter didn't get into Roosevelt, Garfield or Center (like most south east families) and she wound up at RBHS. How would you feel? Does that change your perspective? Then would you take a voucher or consider a charter school?

just sayin'

Jan said...

SolvayGirl said:
"There is a separation of church and state in this country. I like it that way, and would not want my tax dollars going to support any religious belief, even one I shared."

Boy, Solvaygirl -- I totally agree (and not because I am not "religious," I am. But I think that a good charter system would have to incorporate some standards in this area, so that tax dollars do NOT, in fact, go towards supporting one religion or another.

Solvay also said: "I see charters as a way for private enterprises to make money off the public dollar—not good in my opinion." When they go to big corporations, I can see your point. But at the other extreme, I could say "I see public schools as a way for teachers and public administrators to make money off the public dollar." If the schools are locally based and parent/community run (as opposed to being owned by some big investment trust looking for an 8 to 10% "return" on its "investment"), I don't see it your way. If they are nonprofit enterprises, under the supervision of parent/community based boards, and under further supervision by the school board with respect to the big stuff (admission of minorities and SPED kids, absence of religion, etc. in curriculum, etc.) -- I don't see that they are any different from alt schools, except that they would be easier to form and run, if not every decision had to be run through the gauntlet of downtown bureaucracy/meddling.

But -- maybe I am blinded here by wishful thinking. I was a huge site based control proponent, and have already had my bubble burst when reminded that it did not produce educational utopia last time we tried it.

SolvayGirl said...

Jan said But at the other extreme, I could say "I see public schools as a way for teachers and public administrators to make money off the public dollar." If the schools are locally based and parent/community run (as opposed to being owned by some big investment trust looking for an 8 to 10% "return" on its "investment"), I don't see it your way.

If that were the case, I'd totally be behind it. I just don't want to see the corporate model where some CEO makes $500,000+ at the public trough.

And to Just Sayin':
In a perfect world where we had oodles of money to spend on public education, I might see your point, but the reality is we barely have enough money to fund the schools we have (at not very well at that), so saying that public dollars should support every charter, regardless of its teachings, etc. just is not practical.

I don't appreciate being made to sound like some elite, heartless person who, now that my child has what she needs, does not care about anyone else. I care deeply, and would love for every child to have the education that would serve them best. That's why I'm on this blog and do other things to promote quality education. That's why I busted my butt volunteering when my daughter was in public school. And why I still volunteer a bit at her old elementary. So please, stop making this personal. You have your opinion and I have mine. I am not a bad person just because I don't agree with you.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Never said you were a bad person Solvay. You sound like a good mom who is doing everything you can to give your daughter a quality education. That is commendable.

My point is that everyone doesn't have what you have. Everyone can't afford to escape to private school. What I want to know is what is a good solution for the children that can't escape? The ones that wind up stuck at AKI and RBHS without an alternative? You haven't answered that question. If you were in their shoes and couldn't afford private school, and were forced to have your daughter attend RBHS (a reality for many families) would your perspective change? Would you be more open to another solution? Reform? Charters? Vouchers? Or do you think blogging, and paying your taxes would be enough?

Just sayin'

hschinske said...

Actually private school is if anything easier to afford if you are very low income and can therefore get a full scholarship. Getting in is what may be difficult.

Helen Schinske

anonymous said...

Yes, Helen, I know many private schools offer some form of scholarships, but they are limited. Scholarships are generally offered in a set dollar amount (like $2000, $4000) and are rarely (if ever??) full, 100%, scholarships. Plus even if every private school in Seattle offered a couple of scholarships they would only cover a handful of SPS low income students.

And then of course their is acceptance. While a charter is open to all by lottery, private schools cherry pick the best and brightest.

Just sayin'

NLM said...

Hmph. I guess there are people who think everyone should go down with the ship as a matter of principle. *shrug* I don't find that especially humane but I'm sure ethicists could argue it either way.

I think there's a difference between voucher programs, where parents are free to choose religious instruction at private schools, and public charter schools where the constitutional prohibition against comingling church and state still applies. I'm not a proponent of voucher programs because I think that gives up too much control over public money and there's no way to independently verify that the students are being better served. Charters, however, which are still public schools (only out from under the thumb of some distrit mandates) have to be part of the solution, IMHO.

I find it unconscionable to tell people that ther have no choice but to attend a poorly performing school simply by virtue of their zip code. Equal opportunity ought to mean just that. Besides that, the unintended consequences of this, in terms of property values citywide, are huge.

SolvayGirl said...

Actually, many private schools do give full scholarships. I personally know low-income immigrant families, middle-income families of color, and two middle-income caucasian families where one parent has a major health issue whose children all got full scholarships to non-religious private schools. They are usually a combination of need and merit.

And no, I would never support vouchers for the same reasons that NLM states. I might support charters if they are set up in a manner in which Jan suggested. That's why I liked our old choice system, so people could let the District know if a school was not working by walking with their feet to another school within the system. It wasn't perfect, but for people whose zipcode gives them a school that is not a good fit for their kid it provided more options than they have now.

But the real need is to improve public neighborhood schools in whatever way needed to serve their populations. There are many children who do not have parents/guardians able to advocate for them—even getting them into a charter, etc. The parents may be recent, non-English-speaking immigrants, working a couple of jobs and don't have the time to navigate the system, absent (either physically or mentally), uninformed, etc. This can run all income levels and racial/ethnic combinations. Charters and vouchers won't help these kids, so as a society we need to find a way for the traditional public school system to reach them. I'm not trying to insult anyone here, but the reality is that charters and vouchers would only benefit the kids whose parents are already advocating for them.

We need our current and future generations to be educated enough to get living-wage jobs and to make informed decisions in the democratic process. It's essential to the health of our country, society and the planet. I'm open to solutions, but not ones that line the pockets of private industry CEOs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just Sayin', that's a little scary that you would support a charter with religious training (but, of course, these are public dollars so that can't happen). I wouldn't support any use of public dollars for religious training.

Again, charters can write their own entrance requirements. They aren't necessarily open to all - the only place that is open (and has to be) for all comers is regular public school. You may not like what you get but ELL, Special Ed or anyone else, you have a place.

Would I be more encouraging of charters if I felt I had poor public school choices and no money for private? Well, as I said, I would be no to vouchers because I don't support paying for religious training.

If I thought someone could write a very narrow charter law with real accountability that limited the number of charters per year and ramped up slowly, I might consider it. But I know that won't be the case.

NLM said...

Melissa, you didn't answer the question with respect to charter schools. I think (and NSAP will only speed this along) pressure is already building for additional school choice and by opposing any form of charter, you run the risk of being sidelined when it comes to providing input into what the law looks like. I do know, tho, that other states have managed to craft charter laws that do exactly what you described.

I don't disagree on the need to improve neighborhood schools either but I do note that efforts to do just that have yielded very little fruit over the years and, as my kids are young, I'm extremely hesitant to adopt a wait and see, more of the same approach.

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa wrote:
"If I thought someone could write a very narrow charter law with real accountability that limited the number of charters per year and ramped up slowly, I might consider it. But I know that won't be the case."

The purpose of the limitation on the number of charters would be, I presume, to facilitate their review and the public accountability.

This reminded me of the discussion around waivers for Seattle Public Schools. The district staff don't want a waiver procedure. If they aer forced to accept one, however, they demand that it include some sort of review to repeal the waiver if the student performance doesn't meet a benchmark. The thinking here is that we wouldn't want a whole school of students working out of sub-standard texts that weren't working for them.

That statement always makes me wonder about the district's effort to confirm that the board-adopted materials are working. Where is the feedback loop and benchmark for the board-adopted materials? There is none. Why are we aghast at the possibility that 300 students might be using poorly written material, but we don't mind if 15,000 of them are using poorly written materials?

Similarly, if it is a good idea to closely review the performance of charter schools to confirm that they are working well, why isn't it a good idea to do the same for regular public schools?

I think what we need is a public school law with real accountability. I think the state law whould require the district to step in and intervene when a school isn't working for the students.

Of course, we'll need a better measure of "working for the students" than MSP pass rates since the state isn't funding schools to do the work that would be required to raise the pass rates in low-income neighborhoods.

Melissa Westbrook said...

NLM, you need to read my latest thread because you are saying I'm saying no charters. I just said I would be willing to think about it, narrowly written. I also said nothing about having a "wait and see" attitude.

Please don't infer ideas that aren't given. If you want a more expansive answer, please ask but don't infer.

anonymous said...

Melissa NLM didn't say that you said to have a wait and see attitude. I think he/she was merely pointing out that if we do not do something right now, like charters, the alternative is obviously to "wait and see" if schools improve. NLM stated that he/she isn't willing to do that. I wouldn't be either. Charters were voted down when my son was in 2nd grade - he's in 11th grade now. That's a long time to wait, and almost the entire span of his public school education. And during that time nothing has really improved for some of our lowest performing schools like AKI, RBH. Luckily, my family lives in a neighborhood with access to adequate schools so no harm done for us, but I can certainly see how someone facing assignment to AKI and RBHS would have great cause to worry, and want a fix, as in a charter, right now.

Just sayin'

NLM said...

Sorry - I didn't mean to say that you, Melissa, didn't support charters - I could have been more clear. I had read your caveats about charters and wanted to say that I don't think it's a forgone conclusion that a charter law can't be crafted with limited numbers and additional oversight as you described (but I edited all that extra stuff out and left out the paragraph mark). I intended to be more general as in, I think those who reflexively oppose charters run the risk of being left of ot the discussion about how to implement them well. The concerns you outlined, I share. At the same time, I agree with everything Charlie said too. I'd like to see the voluntary spread of accountability and flexibility within traditional schools as well but I think it might take a little external competition to make that happen. Just sayin', thank you, that is what I meant. I think a lot has changed and a lot has been learned since charters were first proposed. I'd like to think that lessons have been learned since then that would prevent this state from making some of the same mistakes as others.

Anonymous said...

There are some really interesting discussions on this page - I wish we could take the tension down a notch, though. Anyone who's spending their time reading hundreds of comments on an education blog genuinely cares about public education.

As others have mentioned, I think charters are basically inevitable at this point. Currently, 40 states have charter schools, and Race to the Top and the new NCLB waivers are further pushing states in that direction. If we accept that it's inevitable (and you don't have to - feel free to disagree with that point), it is definitely worth considering what our charter law should look like. I'm concerned that the group that writes this law will be of the most extreme, corporate-charter mindset imaginable - while I would much rather see an extremely limited, locally-focused version of that law.

-AO

P.S. Someone asked for an example of a charter that is working the way it's supposed to - I'd point to Summit in California as a decent example.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There's nothing obvious about the opposite of charters is to wait and see. That would be...the status quo that I'm absolutely not saying.

Hmm, I have to wonder that this is such a circular discussion.

And charters inevitable? Just like TFA (that's what the Dean said). What an odd coincidence.

We voted down charters three times. I'm thinking it can happen again especially considering the very tight financial situation. It's worth remembering that parents aren't the only voters.

SolvayGirl said...

I am genuinely curious about Charter Schools. The ones I hear most about focus on at-risk youth in low-income neighborhoods. Is there another model? Are there many charters that target the at-level or slightly-above-level kids? Are there Advanced Learning Charters? Arts? Science? I honestly don't know. I assume there must be some, somewhere. Anyone have any links to this sort of info? I don't have time to research it right now, but when I do, I'll check it out. My curiosity has been piqued.

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

"We voted down charters three times. I'm thinking it can happen again especially considering the very tight financial situation. "

Maybe, but a lot has changed in the 8 years since we last voted down charter schools.

1) Parents have far fewer choices now than they did 8 years ago. The "choice" system is gone and has been replaced with neighborhood schools. Transportation has been cut back tremendously. South end busing has been discontinued to Mcclure and Hamilton. There is no longer excess space at Ingraham and Sealth HS for south end kids. And with the tight economy many of the families who used to be able to afford private school no longer can. With limited choices and families feeling forced to send their children to schools that they might not otherwise sent them to, I think it is totally possible to see a lot more families in favor of charters.

2) Charter proponents will argue that charters SAVE the state money and are run much more efficiently than traditional public schools. Whether that is true or not I don't know, and won't argue, but I hear it all the time. And so do others. That may tip the scales for voters who are looking to tighten the reigns on spending. Especially now that states will be monetarily incentified by the government if they have charters.

3) Charters have been in the news A lot. They have seen a tremendous amount of publicity. Popular movies, like Waiting for Superman, are major hits. President Obama and Arnie Duncan are huge cheerleaders. Way to many people don't take the time to do their own research and they let the media heavily influence their vote. They may very well vote in favor of charters.

4) Charters have been around for over 10 years now. They aren't new and scary anymore. In fact we are one of only a hanful of states that DON'T have charters. We have had the time to monitor charters, collect statistics, and analyze outcomes. And we have seen many different models and styles from the corporate chain charters to magnet schools, to small homegrown community run schools. The public has had time to see what works and what doesn't work. What is appealing to them and what is not appealing to them. They may feel much more confident about trying charters now than they did 8 years ago.

I have no idea how Seattle will vote on charters if there is an opportunity to do so again. What I do know is that a lot has changed in the last 8 years since we voted them down last. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

WFS

NLM said...

Solvay, in Little Rock, the charters were supposed to target low-income, minority kids. There was controversy, however, because despite that mandate, LISA first opened in an area of town that few low-income people lived in or could easily travel to (no transportation provided). As a result, the west side LISA school has a predominantly middle class student body and generally serves kids at or above grade level. Since then, LISA opened a school in the north end that does have a more diverse student body and has managed to maintain good test scores for both schools. The program is designed to serve and create high achievers so it includes longer hours and Saturday school, no competitive sports (unless you count math/science competitions). If you're not into Turkish, Turkey and eastern European values, it's probably not a good fit.

In contrast, eStem was also approved with a mandate to serve low-income students. It opened shop in the heart of downtown and has managed to get lots of positive attention. Its central location (near the capitol and arts attractions) and its emphasis on STEM has been a huge draw for parents of all stripes who either live in the central area (again, no transportation provided) or commute there for work. The result is a diverse student body, lots of active parents and decent test scores.

anonymous said...

Yes, yes, and yes, Solvay. There are performing arts charters, schools of dance, law charters, medical charters, STEM charters, and many forms of magnet schools.

The corporate chain charters are the ones that primarily focus on reaching low income kids,and are usually open to all with lottery.

There are also plenty of independent charters, and magnet schools that are super high performing. They focus more on the average to above average, and gifted student. Some of those charters have stringent admittance requirements, including a high GPA, testing, interview, and a slew of other prerequisites.

Then there are the home grown, community school variety of charters, which seem much more organic. Some are fully parent run. Parents hire and fire the principal, teachers, work in the office, etc.

Not sure why people always associate charters with KIPP, and other big chain, corporate models. They are only one model.

Just like traditional schools there is a full range of varieties and performance in charters.

WFS

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed lots of charter choices. I often wondered the way the district treat its AL programs, would it eventually spurred frustrated parents out to chart a course --OK, bad pun-- for charter school for high performers? IF you are really cynical about the ed reform agenda, is that part of the long term plan as some have implied?

Appealing on one hand as one does get tired of being treated as a bothersome stepchild and the constant reshuffling. But is there enough community interest and momentum to do it right and avoid the bad corporate driven charters out there.

- piqued my interest

Anonymous said...

I am reading the description of charters mentioned here. I wonder again, how is this an improvement on site-based management where some schools had project-based learning, others focused on math & science, others had uniforms, some had higher test scores than others? What do we get with charter schools that we didn't get with site-based management?

And if some schools failed under site-based management why would that be different with charter schools?

Rose M

Anonymous said...

Site based management can be taken away as it has been shown. It is hamstrung by district's procedures and policies, affected by district's playing roulette with staff (principals' shuffle for example), and does not allow to meet community's need in areas of curriculum and instruction unless you get a waiver (Loyal Height's request from EDM was denied), and well the list can go on and on. You think the district would want to replicate areas of success, but it seems more bent in tearing down programs and even schools that work (or threaten them). Be ever vigilant is our family's motto.

Hope that helps Rose M.

Anonymous said...

So you are saying that charter schools are an improvement over site-based management because the district has less control over them. (I think that is what you are saying.)

Many people did not like site-based management because some schools did not succeed in keeping lots of kids at standard. How is that ensured with charters particularly with less district control?

Rose M

seattle citizen said...

Rose M asks, "What do we get with charter schools that we didn't get with site-based management?"

One key component that appears to be in play is labor. Often it is said charters are freed from district policy but when you look closely this seems to have at its core the ability to fire at will, and when combined with merit pay, turn the classroom into a competitive place for teachers to get into, or stay in.

Some might like this: Those teachers will really have to show their mettle, eh? Don't make the grade (and this could or could not be as simple a metric as HSPE scores) then, out you go!

Additional "benefits" accrue when that competitive model demands teachers work long hours: Home visits, longer school days, etc. (we keep hearing about longer school days, but never how it will be paid for. Here might be an answer: Non-union individuals all competing with each other for jobs, driving down wages and increasingly work output...sans benefits, of course, because pensions, well, pensions are so 1970.)
So one large component of value to charters is the ability to hire and fire at will.
Some charters are union; perhaps the young, idealistic, competitive teachers figured it out after a couple of years of not having family time, of being jerked around by "data," and unioned up, who knows...

Rose M also asks,
"And if some schools failed under site-based management why would that be different with charter schools?"

Exactly. If the district and its policies are not meshed with a site-based system, if existing policies aren't enforced, if standardization becomes the norm, then how will the district write a charter with a school that contains vigorous protections, solid policy, and accountability beyond HSPE scores? In other words, if the district can't work things right with all its "regular" schools, how will it work things right with charters, who are further distance from acountibilty.

s a taxpayer, I in NO WAY want my public schools to be LESS accountable - Charters are granted waivers from policies my duly elected Directors enact and enforce. Why would I want my tax dollars to be spent with less accountability?

It's a non-starter for me: EVERY school should be under policy; policy should allow for the types of schools we want.

But Word Verifer thinks I'm practicing CONISM. Stuck in my cone of silence, eh, WV? What?

Anonymous said...

Nope. Go back to Charlie's posting re: site based and the problem with the district lack of management. State writes up charter laws. There are states with rigorous laws with bite to hold charters accountable. Charters may operate outside school district's control. This charter is new to me, but not for others I know who have experienced them in other states. So I am researching as I go.

Personally, if the district was better managed and accountable, I would not consider charter. I don't have hopes that things will change much in near future even with a new superintendent or new Board. And getting TFAs is not what I consider a priority or beneficial for this district.

Hope this heps Rose M.

seattle citizen said...

Rose M,
It's my understanding (and I could wrong...maybe!) that while the state sets general law, with teeth, the charter itself is written with the district. So if the district isn't capable of providing what it "needs to" (by whatever metric) then how could it write a charter that gave away even more accountability?

If a charter were purely an instrument of the state, then how would it recieve city money? Would it?

Regardless, I'd rather have more immediate control over where my money goes as a city taxpayer. Some of my money goes to the state, so I have an interest there, too, but if these are "Seattle Schools" or "Washington Schools" (which we have, in a sense, in online schools offered by the state through the cooperation of some districts, as "home" districts for purely online coursework) I still want my tax money to go to PUBLIC schools, accountable through policy (and/or law) and my elected Directors (or Legislators.)

If it WAS a purely state system, where is the accountability there? Would we, as taxpayers, have a say in policy formation?

I just don't get how we can elect officials to create policy, then have them grant waivers for that policy. We elect them on their platforms, we participate in policy decisions, policy is what they are accountable for, policy is what we pay for.

Why would I want to waive that, as a taxpayer? It's like saying, "We've made traffic laws that are the best we can do for everybody: Nobody is happy 100% of the time. But it's a fair mix of regulation. NOW we are going to exempt those people over there from following policy because they think they have a better system for traffic control."

(Actually, maybe this is coming to: As roads are privatized, what argument would a taxpayer have as to what sort of speed limits, etc are enacted on those roads? Built by corporations for profit, hey, it's THEIR property....They are not acconutable to me at all.

seattle citizen said...

I guess the state already has "waived policy," in an area of interest to charters:
The state policy is that NO emergency certs are to be given UNLESS a) there is a shortage, or b) it's an area of expertise that is rare.
But the state waived this policy to allow TFA to come to Seattle.

This is great for some charter operators, who want to deprofessionalize teaching so as to make it cheaper. If the public can be convinced that one only needs a few weeks training (and support from...from...a bureaucracy? Wait, don't those fail) then one can teach for two years and move on.

Teaching, in that model, becomes a mere stepping stone on a route elsewhere: Hire the fresh out of school (because they are energetic and idealistic, not like the burnt-out old husks currently wasting space in front of the classroom) work their asses off for non-union, entry-level wages, let 'em burn out and then hire a fresh batch.

I mean, who would monitor any of the above? To whom is a charter accountable, if it has a "waiver" from policy?

Anonymous said...

So it is not clear whether the charter is written by the district or by the state.

If it is by the district, and the district won't even grant a math waiver to one school, why would they grant a charter? Why is it preferable for district administration to have charters instead of site-base management or alternative schools or waivers?

If it is by the state, does the state do a better job than the district of policing failing schools? If so would they do a better job of running the district & is that/should that be a goal? To have state instead of district control of schools?

Rose M

seattle citizen said...

I like local districts with some state mandates.
Having a district, in an ideal world (ha!) allows for the public (i.e. a city) to pool its money and dole it out according to need. (State money helps pay for teachers, of course :) )
Solo schools (charters) are not a part of the ENTIRE community, they are entities unto themselves, with little (or less) connection to the bigger picture of the needs of the city. A district allows for the bigger picture.

My whole thing with (against) charters is this "lone wolf" thing, where they are given public monies yet aren't as tied to the public good, the public accountabilty...I want my money to be spread around to as many students as possible, and I wanted it accounted for. I DON'T want my money (and my "ownership" via my elected officials) to be thrown to the wind.

Granted, a district might not be managed "correctly," and might mismanage my money, but if the district (or the state...a better manager? hmmm....) gives away accountability by giving up policy through a charter, well, I have lost even more control over how my money is spent and how my beliefs are expressed through my elected officials.

WV's doggie is going bald, so WV bought it a mutwig!

NLM said...

From all I've read/seen, districts don't typically write charters (the agreement between the operator and the district). District boards often (depending on how the law is written within the state legislature) have the ability to approve, , etc. so that the charter complies with the law, but district boards/staff don't generally write charters unless they are converting one of their own traditional schools to a charter model (which has been done). This link provides an example from Indiana's Charter Law FAQ but every state is different http://www.doe.in.gov/charterschools/faq.html

NLM said...

err,

I meant to say, have the power to approve, deny, recommend modifications, etc.

They are not wholly unaccountable schools though and many have been closed due to mismanagement, typically within a year or two of opening. I kinda like that kind of speedy response. *shrug*