Wednesday, April 04, 2012

News Round-Up (And Look Who's Boycotting State Tests)

From the Times' Danny Westneat, his take on some parents in Mill Creek and Snohomish who have decided  their children will not be taking the state test.  About 70 parents are participating and for one school, that includes 25% of students. 

From his column:

They'll be in another room, doing art or science projects.
 
Parents have the right to opt their kids out of the tests. There's no punishment, though the kids get a zero. Handfuls have opted out over the years, often at alternative schools. A few years back a Seattle science teacher refused to give the test, saying it was harmful to students.
 
But state officials say parents have never pulled their kids on this large a scale.

"We're kind of shocked at the size of it," said Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state superintendent of public instruction. "No Child Left Behind is still the law of the land."


What's interesting is that the parents say the results don't have value to them and this is their protest against using scarce dollars for testing.

At Seattle Hill, class sizes have ballooned up to 29, even in some of the younger grades. Parent volunteers come in to teach art. The school has been shut down seven half-days and one full day this year for teacher furloughs.

"We're not against testing," Purcell said. "But in the context of all the budget-cutting, we're saying: Can we at least spend the money on a more useful test?"

SPS parents have talked about doing this - for various reasons - for years.  The staff wants to not make up snow days but yes, the state test is vital. 

Then there's the Times' article about the superintendent search where we learn that some people are unhappy about the superintendent search.   Interesting quotes from Board members:

"I really want to be channeling everybody in the community as we make this decision," said one of the new members, Marty McLaren, of West Seattle. "But, you know, I am an elected representative and I feel like I do have some capacity to do that.

"There are people out there that aren't going to buy that," McLaren added. "And I regret that. But I respect it."

Peaslee did note she is conflicted about the process and will push for televising the focus-group interviews.

And others:

"It is intense and it is many-faceted, and a superintendent who doesn't absorb that right out of the gate is going to have a harder time succeeding," said Michelle Buetow, a former School Board candidate who supports letting citizens question the candidates, even though she earned a spot on the focus group.

"We need a candidate to see the reality of the situation, not just our best face forward."

The latest stories on the so-called "parent trigger" law show that parents are pushing back. 

First up, in Florida, parents - real parents - marched on their Legislature and turned back a well-financed effort to have a parent trigger law in a state awash with Florida.  From the Tampa Bay Times:

The well-financed, politically savvy backers of the parent trigger bill thought it would be a sure thing. 

Opponents knew it would be a dogfight. 

In the end, it came down to a dramatic, last-minute vote in the sharply divided Florida Senate.

What is interesting is that one of major opponents was the Florida PTA.

Almost immediately after the bill was filed, the coalition distributed a stinging press release, claiming the proposal really sought to line the pockets of for-profit school management companies, which would have access to new contracts. 

"This was never really about parents," said Mindy Gould, legislative chair of the Florida PTA. 

But the supporters, including a California group that started this movement, brought in California parents to testify because they couldn't find Florida parents to come in and testify.

Gov. Rick Scott and national education reformer Michelle Rhee made phone calls in support of the bill. Teachers' unions urged their members to stand up in opposition. 

In the end, it was 12 Dems and 8 "maverick" Reps who voted to defeat the bill.  

Out in California, that same organizing group, Parent Revolution, started mostly by charter organizations and funded by their supporters, again failed to seize control of a school thru the parent trigger law.  From Reuters:

The outcome of Wednesday's meeting marked the second time the Adelanto board has denied a petition submitted by families seeking a takeover, finding they fell short in collecting valid signatures from parents representing at least half of the 642 students at Desert Trails Elementary. 

The petition drive has been fraught with acrimony as the two sides accused each other of fraud and forgery in trying to meet the 50-percent threshold or in presenting rescission affidavits from parents who claimed they were misled into initially giving their support. 


There are currently four states with trigger laws: California, Connecticut, Mississippi and Texas.  No state's trigger law has yet been enacted for one school.  Several other states are considering this legislation.

From the LA Times Opinion page today on why many charter organizations DON'T want to use this law for themselves:

There are several reasons for this. Charter schools have tended to thrive under lottery systems, in which motivated parents sign their children up for a random draw that might give them a shot at a seat in a coveted school. But under parent trigger, charter schools would have to accept all students within the low-performing school's boundaries. Few charter schools have been interested in that scenario, which tends to result in less dramatic test results for them. The current woeful state of school funding makes it difficult if not impossible for charter schools to provide needed resources -- just as it's difficult for traditional public schools. And turning a deeply troubled school around is much harder than starting a new school with its own campus culture.

And parents?

That leads us back to the desires of the Desert Trails parents. What they really want is the ability to eliminate teachers whom they see as ineffective. They want to be able to pick their own principal and for the school to have authority over its own budget and curriculum. Those are all understandable goals, but they're not among the options under the parent trigger law. So the parents signed a second petition calling for an independent charter school, run by parents and outside experts. Yet organizers concede that the parents don't really want to run a charter, and lack the know-how to do it.

This is an important point.  Change doesn't always mean better.  But if parents have little control or voice AFTER the change is a key issue to keep in mind. 

18 comments:

mirmac1 said...

OMG! Don't quote me! I'm so...er, what's the word...inarticulate!

Sahila said...

there is a national "Opt Out" movement... see more here: United Opt Out

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

Speaking of News Round-ups, look what manipulative teacher-bashing ed deform trash made Sunday's Everett Herald:

Chris Korsmo from the League of Education Voters, Shannon Campion from Stand for Children, and Jana Carlisle from Partnership for Learning wrote this piece: Viewpoints - A Road Map for Education

Sahila said...

re Opting Out... read this: Pencils Down

Anonymous said...

I wish the point about the lottery being a self-serving feature of charter schools was highlighted more in these debates. I have been so frustrated when pro-charter folks claim they take all comers because of the lottery. Then they point out the higher test scores of minorty students in charters, and claim it is because of the charters, not because of the students.

Minority students are not interchangable. If you have an African-American kid whose parents sign them up for the lottery, you can predict higher parent involvement than for the kid whose paretns did not. And parent involvement predicts better outcomes academically.

If a charter school can't produce results with the SAME students as a public school, then they aren't better. They are just skimming the kids that have more support.

-In the 48th

Anonymous said...

In the superintendent article McCormick and Buetow both offered smart quotes about why to involve the public. Thank you to them and others (hey, even the Times' editorial page) for speaking out on behalf of those of us who have no "inside access".

My family doesn't have a lot of $$. We aren't politically connected. But we care a whole lot about who our next leader is. Both for our own family (to bail or not to bail on SPS, that is the questions) and for our friends, neighbors and fellow city residents.

Capitol Hill Mom

mirmac1 said...

Well, at least we weren't called names like insurgents, traditionalists, etc. I kinda like "watchdog", although my favorite moniker is the "Peruvian Piranha" ; }

Josh Hayes said...

Michelle writes:

"First up, in Florida, parents - real parents - marched on their Legislature and turned back a well-financed effort to have a parent trigger law in a state awash with Florida."

Awash with Florida? What did you intend to write here (I assume it was something other than "Florida") - "charter-provider money", maybe?

mirmac1 said...

I dunno Josh, I think "awash with Florida" pretty much nails it....

Anonymous said...

Michelle B nailed it in the supe article. Anyone coming in needs to see the public dynamic in action. And the public has the right to see the most highly paid public servant in the state unvarnished by some (suspect in makeup and authority) focus group.

SavvyVoter

Melissa Westbrook said...

My apologies; I think I just go too fast and proofread too quickly. I think I meant in a state awash with charters.

Anonymous said...

That letter that Sahila linked is a response to the demand to Bailey-Fogarty for specifics in the Publicola blog. It clearly specifies early learning as a priority with which everyone agrees but is up to the legislature to fund. Little else is included other than we need excellent this and excellent that.

Then a kind of rant about Washington schools followed up with some statistics about other districts.

And a lot of numbers about the opinions of people.

As for the list of every organization they could think of . . . I'd be interested in knowing how much involvement these groups really had.

You gotta admit, they're out there trying. Do we have them on the defensive?

n...

Sahila said...

Optin Out Of Testing Madness - Why and How

Sahila said...

New York parents Opting Out:

Children should not be a number

"A movement to end standardized testing in New York State and our nation. Parents need to start this revolution by opting out their children from state testing programs in order to take back public education from the corporate reformers who are destroying the education of our children."

Sahila said...

ed deform gobbledegook: Executive director of KIPP school: We don't pay students for grades, we just reward good scores with money."

Jacksonville KIPP charter school offers cash for FCAT gains

mirmac1 said...

Okay Hilarious, one of the phony orgs on the Korsmo piece (no names, only a "communication specialist) has been hacked! And since nobodies home, who cares right?

College and Work Ready Agenda wants you to buy Cialis

Anonymous said...

@savvyvoter: I'm sure there are a dozen or more city light employees making more than Enfield


Juliette