Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Limits of My Endurance

I have been an education activist for about eleven years now. I have clashed with the district about two hundred times. I have never won. People wonder how I can keep doing this. Don't I get burned out? Don't I get tired? What the hell is wrong with me? Is it some kind of neurosis?

There are two secrets to my endurance.



  1. I don't expect to win. Ever. If I have clashed with the district two hundred times then my won-loss record is 0-200. My greatest successes have been taking them to overtime on a couple of occasions. As I have long said "The futility of my efforts does not excuse me from the obligation to make those efforts."
  2. I don't suffer from any outrage fatigue because it is always something new that outrages me. I am not some kind of Johnny-One-Note. I don't keep repeating the same complaint over and over (although some of them do recur). If I pick a new fight with the District every two weeks it is because the District has done something new that angers me every two weeks.

Sometimes, however, the limits of my endurance are reached in a different way. The League of Education Voters just hit it for me. With this blog post of theirs On Teacher Performance: Be Excellent by Hope Teague-Bowling, they rang the bell. It isn't this piece alone. I don't have some special grudge against Ms Teague-Bowling; her silly article was just the last straw. This story sings the praises of the bill presented in Olympia to increase teacher accountability. She would no doubt praise the legislature if they pass it. It pushed me over the edge and, before I could stop myself, I had responded with a screed (below).

That brings us to the third secret of my success. I write really fast.

Are our education failures a result of failures in the system or are they a collection of individual failures?
Some believe that they are a collection of individual failures. They see thirty students sitting together in a class and getting the same instruction. Twenty-five of them pass the state test; five fail. These folks believe that the five who failed got everything from the system that the other twenty-five got, but, as individuals, they failed to take advantage of the opportunity placed before them. Those folks believe that the five students failed individually, not as a systemic outcome.
Similarly, theses folks see classrooms in which five students pass the test and twenty-five fail. From these numbers they conclude that the teacher failed to provide the opportunity for students to succeed. Again, since other teachers who got the same resources – materials and content – saw a majority of their students pass the test, the failure was in the teacher who saw disappointing student outcomes, not in the system since the system worked elsewhere. These folks also label schools as failing if the student outcomes from the school are disappointing. Those schools also were provided with the same resources as other schools which saw higher student outcomes, so the schools are individual failures, not the system.
I’m not hearing this perspective expressed much by people who actually know what happens in schools. I’m not sure that the League of Education Voters would accept or endorse this perspective. Most folks realize that the failures are systemic, not individual. That’s why student outcomes are so predictably correlated to SES. The school in a low-income neighborhood isn’t necessarily doing any worse of a job educating students than the school in the affluent neighborhood; they are just hamstrung by the structure, the budget, and their students’ limited opportunities outside of school. No one really believes that the high-scoring and the low-scoring school would get the same outcomes if they swapped students. The school isn’t the determining factor. Neither are the teaching staffs. The high performing school and the low performing school would not swap test scores if they swapped teachers. No body really believes that they would.
You can continue to believe that these are individual failures – by students or teachers or schools – or you can acknowledge the obvious: there is a systemic problem. If you acknowledge that the problem is bigger than what is happening in a large number of individual cases, then it seems not only foolish but cruel to hold individuals accountable for these outcomes. Unless, of course, those individuals are responsible for the system.
The students are being held accountable. If they don’t get the test scores they will not get a diploma. That’s real accountability. The students, however, are the people with the least power of anyone to change the system. How does it make sense for the people with the least ability to change the system, the people who are, arguably, already the victims of the system, to be held individually accountable for the failure of the system? It makes no sense. It is cruel beyond words. You kick these kids and then punish them for having ugly bruises. 
The next step up the totem pole are the teachers. After the students, the teachers are those with the next smallest ability to change the system. We are just starting to hold teachers accountable for the student outcomes. The next step up the ladder, then next least powerful, are principals. The wave of “reforms” to hold principals accountable is the next wave coming. We’re starting to see it in bills in Olympia and state houses across the country. There are already school turn-around programs that begin with firing the principal.
This accountability is exactly upside-down. Accountability and responsibility need to go together. We recognize that the problem is in the system and the failure is a systemic failure rather than a collection of individual failures. If any individuals are going to be held accountable for the failures, the accountability needs to start at the top with the people who have the greatest power and authority to change the system. However those folks are not being held accountable at all. There is no accountability at the top where it could be paired with the responsibility to create the needed systemic change. The legislators who refused to fully fund public education are not punished at all. The OSPI who promoted a failed math program goes unscathed. District leadership is under no pressure to change their practices and to allocate the necessary resources to close the opportunity gap.
Instead, these folks are out there selling the story that this is not a systemic failure. They are out there trying to convince us that it is a bunch of students who are slacking. They are trying to blame it on the teachers. Oh, right, those lazy, free-riding teachers who are just in it for the money. The people responsible for the failure want to tell a story of individual failure and they are going to punish the people closest to that failure – even if that failure is largely outside the students’ or the teachers’ control.
You can buy that story. I’m not buying it. I’m not signing on to the idea that we need to withhold diplomas from the same students from whom we also withheld an education. I’m not signing on to the idea that we need to damage the careers of the teachers who accept our greatest challenges. I don’t believe that we should label schools as “failing” because we have failed them. I’m not signing on to the idea that the people who have the least ability to control the system should pay for the system’s failures.
But you go ahead. Go ahead and protect the people who control the system at the expense of those crushed under its treads. I can’t stop you. After this fails – as it surely will – maybe then you will be willing to look for real reform. If you don’t just walk away from public education entirely.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes!

New York Times education article flying around the 'net this week backs you 150 percent. Details the farce of Duncan's Ed Reform Folly as it plays out in local districts and classrooms.

And Hawaii just told Duncan, in essence, to stuff it. The CA gov. too. It's good to be on the west coast.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

I do agree with Charlie.

What's disturbing about this LEV piece is that this author calls out a colleague as an ineffective teacher. Does it really help to call out a colleague publicly and disparage their work?

She then goes on to lament how the union protects this teacher and the principal can do little. I don't know what kind of contract teachers have in her district but principals in this district can (and do) get rid of ineffective teachers.

Also, LEV is starting to look like the on-line Lifetime site. I think it can be good to have people speak, individually, from the heart but single stories are not data. It tugs at the heartstrings but if I were a legislator, I'm not sure I would give it much credibility because in the effort to prove your point, you can tell stories back and forth all day.

Patrick said...

Charlie, you really think you're 0-200? That nothing whatsoever has gone your way? What about: The rubberstampers on the Board no longer have a working majority. MGJ is out. Floe still has his job. The District looks like it's going to put a rebuilt middle school on the Wilson-Pacific site.

Anyway, I like your response to the LEV piece.

Elizabeth W said...

I've come to believe that 'education reform' is a labor dispute taking advantage of the classic 'do it for the children' argument. The entire purpose of this 'reform' is to beat teachers down so far that they won't be able to negotiate effectively. That such beating down will also make teachers less effective and will hurt children isn't considered a problem since educating children isn't an actual goal of the reform movement -- leveraging parents' desire to see their children educated is simply a tactic being employed.

Josh Hayes said...

@Elizabeth, I agree for the most part, but this always leads me to the next question, which is: why?

Why is it so important to crush teachers' unions? What is gained, and by whom? Is it just so corporations can suck up public education dollars more efficiently? Is it really just that crass? Or is there some reflexive "union bad!" mentality that just doesn't care about consequences of stomping on teachers? I really don't know.

Anonymous said...

@Elizabeth W:

Look at the New York Times education article referenced above. The last line is: “It’s not about the adults, it’s about the children,” Mr. Cuomo keeps saying. “The children come first.”

It is used in the most ironic, skewering sense against NY Gov. Cuomo and the Mayor Bloomberg + Joel Klein Corporate Ed crowd.

We must take the word "reform" back from what at its core is an anti-labor push. It is corporatization, pure and simple. We must continue the New York Times work of taking back "It's not about adults. It's about kids." from the same crowd.

It IS about adults. The adults pushing corporate reform.

Every time you hear local so-called ed activists using "it's not about the adults, it's about kids" start calling BS on them. Publicly. Do you have any idea how many times this has come out of the mouth of the PAC leaders at Stand on Children? Out of the new head of Democrats for Education Reform? Out of the mouth of the head of LEV? Out of the mouths of the corporate-types downtown? It has been effective in the past, but let's shine a spotlight on it and depower the trite phrase that hides the intent to undermine public education.

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

Just curious if after 11 years you may also be part of the problem/stagnation?

-look in the mirror

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ha, that's a good one, look in the mirror. Are you suggesting that watching what elected officials and public servants do in there roles is part of the problem? That's about the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Do you think that "we" are better off by remaining silent?

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, how would be Charlie (or me) be part of the problem?

We've never asked for anything but oversight, transparency and accountability from either the Board or the staff

We have tried, in the years this blog has been in existence, to do the research and get information out there and start discussions.

We have, of course, offered our own ideas.

So could you explain why you think those things would be part of the problem?

Charlie Mas said...

It's an interesting question that look in the mirror asks. What have I done to perpetuate the flaws in the system?

Well, as a student family member my power to change the system falls somewhere between the complete and utter impotence of the students and the near impotence of the teachers. The word of a adult family member probably carries as much weight as a dozen students but even a dozen family members have less influence than a single teacher.

I'm a particularly loud citizen, but I'm pretty sure that my record shows that I'm not really influential. The volume sometimes works against me. My frequent commentary is discounted as coming from one of the "usual suspects". I am not exempted from that dismissive designation like Lynne Varner, Jon Bridge, David Brewster, or Chris Korsmo, who kibbitz just as much as I do but are not lumped in among the usual suspects.

Perhaps my failure, however, is not in the size of my advocacy but its direction. Perhaps I have been chipping in my little all on the side of the entrenched powers instead of the freedom-loving insurgents. That's certainly worthy of consideration.

I have, after all, taken positions aligned with the SEA and local 609 at times. Aren't the unions the black heart of all that is evil in U.S. K-12 public education? No, I don't think they are. In my experience the bargaining units here in Seattle (PASS excepted) have shown themselves to be very fair-minded, willing to negotiate, and focused on shared goals - perhaps to a fault.

I have agreed with the district administration from time to time. Hey, sometimes they are right.

So I've seriously considered the question and I don't think that I am part of the problem. I'm open to discussing it. If you can point out to me how I've contributed to the systemic failures of our public education system I will be delighted to accept my responsibility and take steps to fix any damage I have created.

Anonymous said...

That's because you guys don't get people like Mitt. Like Mitt said, nothing he is doing is breaking the tax law. He wouldn't be a smart and responsible man if he didn't do the right thing and pay < 14% on his tax for his $45 millions. Then people like you come along and say there's a problem with this system. And all Mitt wants to do is follow the law he helped wrote, er... technically lobbied for. Spoilsports.

another marathoner

Anonymous said...

When someone is viewed as a thorn, they have lost credibilty as well other's willingness to work with them. You may have not caused the problems but I do not think your approach has done much help in solving them. Being negative and down putting is not a constructive way to handle these difficult issues. As obama said last night maybe we need to take the temperature down a bit. New blood may be helpful here.

Look in the mirror
Sorry for typos from phone

Anonymous said...

But it really is all about the kids - look at this picture!

http://investors.k12.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=214389&p=irol-IRHome

three more semesters

Dorothy Neville said...

Related to the "effective and/or excellent teacher" rhetoric, last night Obama quoted that new study "We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000."

From Valerie Strauss (but I cannot find the proper link) I realized what this meant. If there are 25 kids in a class, then a good teacher increases a kid's lifetime earnings by $10,000. In a lifetime of earning, what is that? $250 a year. So, let's put that rhetoric into perspective.

What I am getting at is that I, perhaps like this LEV blogger, *hate* the status quo. Too many of my son's teachers were ineffective and even damaging. That includes some at Roosevelt and it includes at least one teacher vocal in SEE. Remember, my son's kindergarten teacher made kids cry to teach my son a lesson. She was most proud of her sensitivity in taking him out into the hall to tell him this, instead of speaking to him about it in the classroom. Why is she still in the classroom?

But I see this whole teacher evaluation movement to be so completely wrongheadedly wrong in its methods, so damaging to the system; how is making everyone's job harder going to help keep the best teachers and remove or remediate the problem ones?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is a case of too much mirror watching, poisoned apple, and not enough happy dwarves? Obama is a politician and he's trying to win a PRESIDENTIAL election. So I'm not taking cues or temperatue from him right now. Besides those who disagree with Charlie's views can do so. It isn't a bloodletting affair unless you are printing this stuff and have gotten paper cuts over it. Those who prefer to be a thornless rose can do so. I think we citizens are allowed some freedom? Or is our Republic but a fairy tale?

Marathoner

Anonymous said...

Charlie and Melissa, you should know that in my life I operate like you have
been for the last 11 years. I have also learned that there comes a time when one's efforts are counter productive. I have come to learn that the baton must always be handed over when becomes part of the roadblock. Even when one's intentions are for the greater good. It is a diificult thing to do.

Look

dan dempsey said...

It was written:

You may have not caused the problems but I do not think your approach has done much help in solving them.

So I am interested. Has there been any approach that has been a help in solving SPS problems?

If there is, I'll bet Charlie would consider using it.

Patrick said...

If there are 25 kids in a class, then a good teacher increases a kid's lifetime earnings by $10,000.

How could anyone possibly have valid statistics to back this up? You'd have to get a statistical sample of adults at the ends of their careers, total their lifetime earnings, find out who all their teachers were, magically evaluate 60 years later whether all those teachers were "good" or "bad", control for all other influences like childhood household income, language spoken, minority status, family role models, ...

Or you could just pull a nice round number out of your, um, head. $10,000 sounds good.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Look,

You need to be a lot more explicit in your statement above. .... as is I am not seeing it.

Should Charlie and Melissa abandon this blog and informing the public of what is going on? ...... What is your point? I do not see it.

Are you advocating for a new blog to take the place of this one?

Third World dictatorships are largely intolerant of a free press. Is the dissemination of free speech impeding progress in the SPS?

Would the 2007 Gang of Four and MGJ have done much better work without this local blog? Likely the editorial staff at the Times might think so.

With the exception of B Rosenthal, The Times reminds me of Pravda.

Anyway please clarify your thinking. Thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"When someone is viewed as a thorn, they have lost credibilty as well other's willingness to work with them."

Actually, I have found that being a thorn in the side IS effective. They know you aren't going way (as many do after their issue goes away).

And, I found many at headquarters still willing to listen and work with me.

Look in the Mirror, you are talking a bit in circles (or circling around something)- what are you really trying to say?

Anonymous said...

@Patrick: The Ed Deformers constantly confuse correlation with causation to make their case. I often don't know if they are the dumb ones, or if they think we are. But, most of the "research" they cite is not peer-reviewed, controlled, or replicable. Hence, it's worth about 1/2 a grain of salt. WV says "refat." WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Charlie:

First they ignore you;
Then they laugh at you;
Then they fight you;
Then you win.

Ghandi

suep. said...

"Look/Mirror's" chiding seems like yet another variation on the "shut up and be nice" demand which appears from time to time on this blog from occasional commenters who for some reason seem to want to quash discussion and dissent.

But the fact is, our school board members are elected officials, therefore they have subjected themselves to, and deserve public scrutiny.

Our superintendent and the entire district are serving what is meant to be the greater public good and the community, funded by taxpayer dollars.

We the taxpaying public with kids in these schools have every right -- arguably a duty -- to scrutinize the district and speak up when we believe it is going off track or being mismanaged.

We have been able to share a lot of information about the machinations of SPS and the national ed reform agenda on our blogs and I definitely believe that has influenced various policies and decisions the district has made as well as certain outcomes -- and for the better.

As parents and citizens we need to be informed, involved and vocal.

No apologies necessary.

Anonymous said...

Lookly deeply......only you can answer what look in the mirror is asking.......

-look's other half

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

My only question is that is after 11 years, maybe for you longer, if profound progress isn't made then what is being accomplished? Seems to me that the same things are being discussed year after year and nothing is changing. How do you define success/progress?

_Look in the mirror

dan dempsey said...

Dear Look in the mirror,

You apparently have no constructive suggestions for how to bring about positive changes.

It appears your mantra is .... nothing will change so do not make any effort for change.

I think Charlie covered why he still makes an effort, while others would take a nap.

basically said...

I read that article and the comments. What is with all the waah-ing over 'emotions running high' and un-civil discourse? I thought it was a totally civil and two-sided discussion. Is LEV particularly thin-skinned? Or do they not appreciate opposite points of view, even in the comments? What's their deal? Charlie, you were right on.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"My only question is that is after 11 years, maybe for you longer, if profound progress isn't made then what is being accomplished? Seems to me that the same things are being discussed year after year and nothing is changing. How do you define success/progress?"

You know whenever I hear this kind of "why don't you give up" or "do you really think you are being effective" kind of talk, I know it's generally someone who wants Charlie and me to go away. Someday we will and others will carry on as watchdogs. (And there are many other people out there doing this every single day - we're just two of them.)

This was Charlie's piece; I actually think we have gotten some wins, have created the kind of push to get more transparency, have put forth the research and information that forces the district to realize the days of hiding information/bad news is over and so on.

It certainly isn't our fault that we discuss the same things over and over. Maybe it would be great if the district stopped having scandals. (Each and every time we are told that controls are in place so it never happens again.)

Maybe it would be great if issues like the fate of Rainier Beach High School were regularly ignored.

Maybe it would be great if the Advanced Learning program would make sense. (And Charlie and I are on the AL committee and hope that our work, along with the work of all the other caring members of the committee, will make that a reality.)

I sure wish we did get to talk about new things and yes, we are. We are talking about Creative Approach schools, giving back some autonomy to our alternative schools, new kinds of programs.

But I'm always fairly suspicious when someone - always anonymous - tries to make us explain why we hang in there and what we are trying to accomplish.

I feel good about the work and I believe the voices here on the blog make a difference. It's fine if you don't but that you think anyone should step away if they don't "win" is troubling.

Anonymous said...

Alright, look in the mirror -

"...if profound progress isn't made then(sic) what is being accomplished?"

There is not a "control group" by which to compare progress or lack of progress. Use your imagination for a moment and consider this - what if there had been but silence over the course of these years? Do you think all would be as it is now? Would it perhaps have gone various different directions? Do you think those other possible directions would be better? Worse?

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maybe it would be great if issues like the fate of Rainier Beach High School were regularly ignored.

I meant WEREN'T regularly ignored.

Josh Hayes said...

I'd like to point out that the appearance of stasis, of no movement in some productive direction, is not evidence of failure.

If I paint my house every five years, in twenty years, someone might say, "geez, why keep struggling with that painting every five years? The house looks just the same now as it did twenty years ago!" And that is, of course, the point: when one is opposed by destructive forces, battling them to a standstill may not seem very satisfying, but it's life-saving for the people passing through the school system during that time.

You're pushing for good things in governance - transparency (hah! I first wrote that as "trashparency"! Freudian slip, anyone?), accountability - and in more classroom-oriented matters - common curricula but with diverse materials, more local control, support for alternative schools - but there are powerful forces pushing in exactly the opposite direction, toward standardized materials, centralized control, and closed-door management.

In books, the hero wins and casts out the villains in a stroke. In the real world, no battle is ever over. Eternal vigilance, and all that.

Anonymous said...

How about the ST piece about our new board gossip, I mean president?

He has become the Gladys Kravitz of directors, it seems...and yes,
all of the speculation about him has turned out to be correct.

Coolpapa writes in the comments:

"The proposal from Director DeBell wasn't great, but the Times editorial in support of it created much more trouble."

Why bother writing anything, if you are coming up with such a non-statement? It is a veiled attempt to defend DeBell, which is rather pathetic (considering his behavior).

Easy to get mad at LEV and write about your noble stance against them (which I totally agree with) on the same day that your homeboy gets exposed (and that article is conspicuously absent from the blog).

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Thank you Josh. Amen.

LITM: You, and others before you, occasionally weigh in with your condescending tones and unsolicited advice, but I rarely see substance from you. Instead, its general distaste.

The problem I have with your soft-sell theory is how you equate acceptance with progress. That kind of thinking is why today's Democratic party is an anemic shadow of what it once was.

Workers rights were not earned by playing nice. Blood was spilled and only when the ruling classes had their security threatened did they capitulate.

In this district, there is a tug of war going on between neighborhood families who wish to control their own destinies, versus outside forces, including Stand and LEV who think they know better and want to do it for us, and thus advocate that we surrender control and autonomy to their platforms. This leads to divided loyalties and ridiculous incidents like Enfield refusing to answer board members questions about TFA funding sources because she hadn't yet cleared it with her reform-oriented puppet masters. Who would accept such insubordination from an employee whose salary we pay? Nobody deserves kind words and gentle nudges under such circumstances. They deserve the verbal trip to the woodshed, and I'm glad this blog as our woodshed. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Mantra is not do nothing.....it is do something but in a constructive and positive way. Negativity creates nothing positive. I have been in several meetings w M and C and much said/expressed is negative, as well as things stated in this blog. Not to say that all in this blog is negative. It is not.

My feeling is that their general negativity leads to not much getting do. Valient effort but poor execution.

Look

Anonymous said...

Look,

Thanks for your perspective, and even more thanks to Melissa and Charlie for allowing us to read your perspective.

If you would like another type of blog with a different perspective, you can start your own blog. I don't know how to do that but I'm sure Melissa and Charlie could give you some helpful, positive advice.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

I was on a conference call from the white house this afternoon with some NEA official. We were told how there were 25,000 of us on the call, and we were told to push *3 to ask questions of the NEA officials at the white house.

I pushed *3 and waited ... after about 8 minutes a human came on, and asked me what question did I have.

(I wish I had a tape recording. )

I mentioned that I've taught in a Seattle high school for over 5 years (in a high need area). I told them that this summer and fall I did about 20 different leafleting or whatever things in Seattle School Board races, and the we got rid of 2 Arne Duncan style privateers. I said that I'd known for decades that the republican party wanted to wreck public education, especially since I grew up on welfare.

I said that when it came to helping Arne Duncan style liars out,

WHEN was hell gonna freeze over?

ThatsMyQuestion

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaaggggghhhhhh!

sorry.

So the "laudable ST has a guest piece by Directors Patu and Smith-Blum. Good. But, can someone explain why we have a new picture of departing superintendent Enfield??

Talk about limits of my endurance.

Oompah

Elizabeth W said...

@Josh,

There are those who, as a point of philosophy, wish to destroy unions, but I see them as willing participants in this 'dispute', not as the actual drivers.

I think the real motivation is backlogged demand for high-prestige jobs for folks with business degrees. At their soul, 'reform' plans change teachers and students into widgets and deliverables, the better to co-incide with the MBA curriculum.

I don't think this is a conscious plan, mind you, but rather the natural result of our country's increasing infatuation with and dedication to the 'cult of business' rather than the actual results business can achieve. I'm not anti-business, or anti-MBA, but I do think we are sorely out of balance in this regard. The fact that an increasing number of our politicians come from more and more money is not helping either.

Josh Hayes said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for that perspective. I suspect there's a lot of truth to it.

In fact, I think there's a general principle driving a lot of "reform", which goes something like this:

"Well, we know how to do this other thing. Let's make education like THAT, and just do the same things. Problem solved!"

This is what underlies the application of industrial production models in education: the assumption that really, they're the same thing. It also drives a lot of the standardized testing mania ("Give me lots of numbers! I know how to analyze numbers!").

It's hard to blame people for this: they really do want to apply what they know to things they don't know. That it doesn't work seems to be lost on them.

Charlie Mas said...

I have had this complaint a number of times over the years.

People have suggested that I would be more success in creating change if I were less negative, or if I contacted the Board less often, or if I just stopped whatever it was that I was doing.

And I have, over the years, periodically tried all of these things. I have gone months without contacting anyone in the district. I have been the very picture of sweetness and kindness. I have tried being totally non-confrontational. I have made a number of positive suggestions.

None of it worked. I was no more successful with any of those other styles than I was with my natural style. See, the thing that Look In the Mirror doesn't realize is that my style is not a factor in my failure. I don't fail because I'm abrasive, sarcastic or negative. I fail because, as an ordinary member of the public, I have no power.

All of the decisions by Seattle Public Schools, no matter how sane or insane they may appear, can all be explained - and I mean every single one of them - by the internal politics of the district's central administration.

Members of the public cannot play in the game of the internal politics at the District and therefore their input - regardless of content, frequency, or style - is totally ignored. It doesn't matter what I say or how I say it, no one there is listening to me.

No one there, by the way, has any complaints about my style or content. Certainly not anyone who has spoken with me.

You may be surprised to learn that I have positive interactions with people at the JSCEE all the time. Many of them are very candid with me. They have learned that I'm a pretty reasonable guy and will listen them and accept reasonable answers to my questions - even when those answers are disappointing. It's only the ones who don't have reasonable answers who bluster and fuss. Most of them are gone now, anyway.

If there is a more effective path to influence I invite Look in the Mirror to walk it. I have tried them all and found them all to be dead-ends.

Anonymous said...

So, you're keeping mum on the DeBell debacle, Charlie?

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

"..on the same day that your homeboy gets exposed (and that article is conspicuously absent from the blog)."

What? I'm missing what this is.

Plus, folks,sometimes I weigh in on some things and Charlie others. (we never coordinate this stuff but somehow it all works out.) For example, Charlie is taking on the teacher assessment issue and I'm doing charters. It's hard to do everything so if Charlie hasn't weighed in on everything, please,cut him a break.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie wrote:

I have been the very picture of sweetness and kindness. I have tried being totally non-confrontational. I have made a number of positive suggestions.

None of it worked. I was no more successful with any of those other styles than I was with my natural style. See, the thing that Look In the Mirror doesn't realize is that my style is not a factor in my failure. I don't fail because I'm abrasive, sarcastic or negative. I fail because, as an ordinary member of the public, I have no power.

All of the decisions by Seattle Public Schools, no matter how sane or insane they may appear, can all be explained .....- by the internal politics of the district's central administration.

Members of the public cannot play in the game of the internal politics at the District
and therefore their input - regardless of content, frequency, or style - is totally ignored.

--- --- ---
As Brita Butler-Wall said before voting for Everyday Math ... "We chose to trust our hired Professionals" .... so with a continuing record of lousy decisions from Central Admin Bita and company trusted Rosalind Wise and Carla Santorno about Math.

The really sad thing about this attitude of ignoring relevant data submitted by the public ... is that "little if any progress is being made" .... AND the Legislature and OSPI play exactly the same NO RESULTS game.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data .... but the politicians do not care about that at either the city or state levels of education.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What is it about common sense that so few people in power seem to have it?

n...

dan dempsey said...

"The Limits of My Endurance" ... what a great title.

There are a great many folks whose endurance is being stretched to the max and most are parents or teachers NOT politicians or consultants or Central Office administrators.
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I am reminded of a piece in the NY Times that asked: who are the biggest contributors to the entire marvelous theater scene in NYC? ...

The conclusion was that the actors were the largest contributors ... because so many were acting virtually unpaid and supporting themselves with other jobs. It is estimated only 2% of NYC actors actually make a living through acting.

As I look at education USA over the last 200 years... teaching is amazingly similar to NYC acting. At one time most teachers were women and received a sub-standard wage. The spinster comes to mind. The nuns teaching in parochial schools. The wife whose husband was bringing home the major bacon.

In 1985 Charles Osgood mentioned that in 1960 the average house payment required 32 hours of adult labor a month for payment ... by 1986 this had risen to over 100 hours a month .... His question was where are these extra 70+ hours a month coming from?

His conclusion was the hours are coming directly out of the lives of the children... because of less meaningful parental contact. .... He said that society had not figured out how to compensate the children. In WA State we are certainly not particularly interested in compensating the children by fully funding their schools. We are not interested in compensating the children by offering an education that is internationally competitive. Shortest School Day and Shortest School year and now come the "Common Core State Standards" that are NOT internationally benchmarked.

It seems that the little glue left in this system comes from the teachers and the parents .... these are the neglected players when it comes to educational decision making..... perhaps as powerful as underpaid or unpaid NYC actors.

James Colman wrote around 1985 that social capital is the glue that holds Public Schools together. Social Capital arises out of the common interactions of people in terms of shared values shared trusts and shared activity. USA had an enormous store of Social Capital in 1800 but by 1985 was nearly running on empty in many places. ..... This was long before RttT was going to solve everything in high poverty/ high minority schools by firing under performing teachers in these under performing schools.

... So how did Ed USA Arne Duncan gain such control over the schools in at least 44 states? ... By promising an infinitesimal amount of additional funding ... as Jay Greene points out in NY State a big RttT winner of $700 Million .... the state has given up control of its destiny for close to nothing in comparison with the NY State education budget.

Nationally $550 Billion is spent annually on k-12 education ... the Feds put up $40 billion of that which is 7% ... RttT spending was $4.3 Billion .... so for a bribe to follow Arne D of $4.3 billion or 00.8% .... 45 states mindlessly play follow the RttT CCSS leader. WA state has received essentially zero ... but we don't care we follow anyway.

No wonder teachers are disheartened and really pissed at the moment ... for they are contributing a lot more that a puny 0.8% and they are continually maligned or ignored by many politicians and other education decision-makers. I doubt teacher morale has ever been lower.

dan dempsey said...
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Anonymous said...

Elizabeth W: "cult of business" reminds me of the smartest guys in the room/ You nailed it.

What is being accomplished with this blog and others: squeaky wheels eventually get oiled. I guess it takes time, patience and it does get on the nerves eventually. If we only accomplish "getting on their nerves," I'm at least partially satisfied. Please note: I said partially. I want more, of course. David Brewster heard us. Maybe he didn't alter his thinking but at least we know he got the message. You never know what influence small sound bites have over time.

n...

Anonymous said...

Right on LOOK. I'm totally with you.

-reader