"This is like deja vu all over again."
"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
But really, in this case, this one fits the best:
"It ain't over till it's over. "
I was unable to hear the discussion on The Conversion today on KUOW about charter schools. Luckily, you can hear the playback any time so I went to kuow.org and took a listen. It was a fairly scattershot kind of show with little bits of things thrown in here and there.
Ross Reynolds cited the Washington Policy Center poll that said 60% of voters in our state want charters (but noting that it would be quite the switch given that voters turned down charters three times at the polls and legislators turned down charter legislation even more times than that.)
Then they had Senator Tom, a sponsor of the Senate bill, stating in a recorded quote, that the bill is still alive but has changed.
He said instead of 50 charters over five years there would be 10. (But it wasn't clear over how long.)
He then said the bill could be more narrowly focused to serve educationally disadvantaged students by requiring the charters to be within several blocks of 57 schools in the state that have been failing over a long period of time (Senator Tom said "generations".)
As you can imagine, this caught my ear. It was interesting because, earlier on the Weekday program, Lynne Varner from the Times actually admitted the bill had issues and that a few amendments would help.
This was also startling because she has never said anything like this in any piece she has written.
So it would seem that either someone woke up and read the bill and/or had a come to Jesus moment. "You mean we might not have charter schools because we wrote an overly-long charter bill that doesn't really do what we say it will? Gee, we should do something about that."
What is also odd is that the locating of charters near the failing schools kind of flies in the face of what is already in the bill - Transformation Zone schools. As you may recall, those would be the lowest performing schools throughout the state being taken over by the State, their staffs fired and a Learning Management organization taking over for at least three years.
I called Senator Tom's office. I got a very nice young man who hadn't heard about this and later, called me back to say that was an old comment on KUOW (I checked, and no, it's a new comment that the Senator made today).
I went on and asked a Legislative desk officer who couldn't find any new amendments and he confirmed that any new legislation could be tucked into a budget proposal but that is not a common occurrence.
So either the charter bill is being heavily revamped in hopes it might be more palatable in the last 10 days of the session OR a revamped part is going to get tucked away into a budget bill OR it is DOA.
But, a bill that I had really liked is somehow back on the table. This would be House bill 2799, that would "authorize a five-year pilot project for up to six collaborative schools for innovation and success operated by districts in partnership with colleges of education."
This is the pilot project I can support. From the bill:
The college of education and the school district must develop an innovation and success plan for the school in collaboration with school staff, parents, and community members.
The innovation and success plan must include:
(a) The proposed program for instruction, wraparound support services, resource deployment, and professional development that has been developed based on the comprehensive needs assessment;
(b) A family and community engagement strategy that builds support among students and parents for high achievement for all students culturally appropriate ways;
(c) Professional learning communities among school staff and higher education faculty that are focused on identifying and responding to emergent student learning needs;
(d) Intensive preparation of teacher and principal candidates using research-based practices and a particular focus on skill development to improve learning for English language learners, highly mobile and homeless students, students with disabilities, and other students with special learning needs;
(e) Identification of the metrics that will be used to assess student achievement and skill development, both while the students are enrolled in elementary school and after they continue into middle school, and specific goals for improvement of these outcomes over the term of the pilot project, including but not limited to such metrics as attendance, grade-level retention, student growth, disciplinary incidents, course completion and grades, and performance on classroom-based assessments;
In another section:
Subject to funds appropriated specifically for this purpose, the office of the superintendent of public instruction shall contract with a northwest educational research organization to conduct an evaluation of the collaborative schools for innovation and success pilot project using quantitative and qualitative analysis to identify successful practices in improving student and educator outcomes. The organization shall submit a preliminary evaluation by December 1, 2015, and a final evaluation by September 1, 2018, to the superintendent of public instruction and the professional educator standards board.
Oh, you mean learn from the pilot schools and then disseminate best practices? Great idea.
I sincerely wish that Senator Tom would support this effort first. This is the way to go if you want to pilot this kind of innovation and seek best practices out of that pilot. This will not cost the state (or districts) the money or resources that a charter law would. And, money spent on this effort WOULD go into the classroom and not just for administrative costs.