Saturday, May 26, 2012

How Meta is this?

I have reserved the previous thread for the conversation with the Seattle Times, but I know that people will want to comment on that conversation (whether the Times shows up for it or not). So here is a thread for public comments on that thread.

Too meta?

46 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Lynne Varner would rather tweet her arguments in 140 characters or less. Not surprising.

Why should they care said...

I can't see how the Times editorial has much of anything to do with your blog.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's part of what I said at their comments section:

First, did you miss the entire conversation that a lot of us had during the time when there was a charter school bill in the Legislature this past session? Where were you then? Don't try to make this out like the conversation about charter schools has never happened or at least not recently. It has

Second, you don't wait to start the conversation until it gets on the ballot. Why should we wait? Why don't you want to talk about it NOW?

Why do you not address the issue that it is not the teachers but the administrators who fail to try innovation and the bureaucracy that our own legislators set up. There is NOTHING stopping them from changing to be more innovative. Where's that conversation?

Funny how Senator Tom, the Senate sponsor of the charter bill, said that this issue was TOO important to go to the voters. Why do you think he said that?

Priority would ONLY be given to charter applicants who will serve at-risk kids IF there are such applicants. If not, the charter authorizers can pick anyone and are required to fill the spots no matter WHO they serve. There is NO guarantee that any applications will serve that group.

"A charter principal would be able to tailor staff and programs to meet their students' needs."

Not true; the charter school board would do most of the hiring and pick the programs. I'd like to see prove of your statement, please.

In Seattle, the teachers union tried to head off charter schools by developing the Creative Schools

Only half right. The Creative Schools MOU was created by the teachers union AND district staff AND approve by the School Board. Don't put out half-truths to support your argument.

Folks, this is not parent-driven. It is driven by a small group of entities with lots of money from the Gates Foundation. They will have to hire hundreds of paid signature gatherers to get enough signatures for this to get to the ballot.

Three words - Decline to Sign.

mirmac1 said...

That's right, Lynne, change the subject...

@lkvarner
Just had amazing free chair massage @Swedish #Highlands. Donations go 2 uncompensated care, which costs hospitals tens of millions each yr.

‏@charlie_mas
@lkvarner You want a conversation. Let's have one. http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2012/05/seattle-times-wants-conversation.html

@lkvarner
Yes, I support charter schools but I can no more vouch 4 each one, than I can vouch for all Afr. Americans just because I am one.

‏@WestbrookMel
@lkvarner they do not contract operations or management. Please tell us one public school that does that.

‏@lkvarner
@WestbrookMel We could argue abt this all day & while you have that kind of time, alas I have to work. (coward) The sun's out. Enjoy.

‏‏@WestbrookMel
You need to read the initiative; the non-profits can farm out work to for-profits.

@lkvarner
@WestbrookMel and the public schools can & do farm out work to for-profits. It's called contracting.

‏@charlie_mas
@lkvarner @westbrookmel Then you wouldn't care what a corporation makes off public education either, would you?

‏@lkvarner
@charlie_mas except the proposal for Wash state is nonprofits, not corp. But don't let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

@WestbrookMel But their vendors are. Also, some non-profit work pays very well. What does Wendy Kopp make?

‏@lkvarner
@charlie_mas @westbrookmel I couldnt care less what she makes. Anymore than I care what Jose Banda makes or what the prez of WEA makes.

‏@WestbrookMel @lkvarner - to head off the downfalls of charters like draining money from schools, profit motive, excluding kids

@lkvarner
@WestbrookMel nonprofits aren't allowed to make a profit.

‏@lkvarner
When @DianeRavitch says college 4 everybody is a sham, I wonder whose kids would she suggest not go to college. Didn't she go?

‏@lkvarner
Washington tech jobs pass 400k, average pay $95k

‏@lkvarner
It is do or die day. Will Washington have a charter school initiative on the ballot or not?

Anonymous said...

Solvay Girl said...

LV tweeted back in response to a question about Wendy Kopp's salary:
@charlie_mas @westbrookmel I couldnt care less what she makes. Anymore than I care what Jose Banda makes or what the prez of WEA makes.

Isn't that what's wrong with our country today? It's a "more power to 'em" attitude about the salaries of people in power (CEOs, hedge fund managers, etc.) I do care what they make—especially in relation to what they contribute. They always say, "but we we need to pay those salaries to get the best and brightest." Then those "b&b"s screw up royally and still come up smelling like roses. I am so fed up!

Charlie Mas said...

Why should they care asked: "I can't see how the Times editorial has much of anything to do with your blog."

An excellent question.

The Times called for a conversation, but the Times is incapable of hosting that conversation. Their comments automatically close after three days. We can do it, so we are accepting their invitation to have a conversation.

Charlie Mas said...

On the other hand, if we want to consider the comments that follow the column, that conversation has clearly reached a consensus that is opposed to charters.

Is that the conversation that the Times wanted? If it is, I would say that it's over.

Jack Whelan said...

Please. Lynne Varner showing up on this blog would be about as likely as Marie Antoinette showing up to volunteer at a left-bank soup kitchen.

seattle citizen said...

I like this gobblety gook in Ms. Varner's infomercial for LEV/A4E/OSC/A+W/DFER, uh, I mean the Seattle Times "editorial":

"THE charter schools ballot initiative proposed for the November election was born out of parental frustration…A coalition of education-advocacy groups behind the effort..."

So which is it, Lynne, uh, Times? Parents of "advocacy groups" with lots of money but few parents?

Bright side said...

No one will every change Lynne Varner's mind, but it is sure great the comment section provides a great platform for public education.

Anonymous said...

I am disturbed by the tone of Lynne Varner's tweets - not just those represented here, but others that I've seen before. They're snotty and smarmy, with a real know it all flair - all wrapped in the maturity of a tween that's way too enamored with her new phone. The Mr. Hyde snarls that come out in het tweets are just odd.

Oompah

Anonymous said...

Re monitizing the blog, Melissa. Okay with me but would you consider a tip jar to start with? I think your regulars would be happy to pitch in. Just an idea.

n...

Patrick said...

Oompah, the tone of Ms. Varner's tweets sounds to me like someone who's paid to hold her views and sees no reason to seriously entertain opposing views.

Anonymous said...

Not understanding the difference between a Not for Profit vs. a Non Profit quickly displays that Ms. Varner is not forming her editorials based on personal research, but rather the talking points that are fed to her.

Why even bother to try to engage such an obviously purchased soul?

I'm sure I'm missing the point - but why would you want to join her circus of spin?

Rather like the current state of our school district, reason and facts will not persuade her.

-Confused by the politics

Anonymous said...

Jack Whelan...... Just spit out my drink at that comment : )

Jet city helix on the ST comments had a great suggestion, to linger beside a signature gatherer and point out some counter points to potential signers. I might put a few bullet points on postcards and keep them in my purse for convenient distribution when I encounter signature gatherers. Ideas for bullet points?

One other thought.. Anyone up for starting and updating a Decline to Sign Facebook page? I'd like it and share the heck out of it from now til d.l. Like the one they had for ref 74.

..SPS parent v. Charters

Anonymous said...

Charter Schools are an awesome idea. Let's get money sucked out of the public schools so they die a MUCH faster death than the dinosaurs ever did. It is time to get rid of the public schools and go charter all the way. If they can suck the funding from the public schools then the charters can take over and they can offer a much better education with less students in the classrooms. Way to go.

Charter School Enthusiast

Anonymous said...

The Times Editorial would be remiss to associate themselves with this rag.

Edith Bunker

Anonymous said...

Or, to look at it from a different perspective.

Engaging in a debate in which you have already launched all of the talking points fed to you, and are not able to propose an argument based on your own research or intelligence of the debate at hand is career suicide.

I do not believe Ms. Varner is willing to commit career suicide for the sake of fact or intellicual debate. She is too smart for that. ;-)

- Confused by the politics

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas wrote:
" [T]he Seattle Times calls for a conversation on charter schools. ... Here [in this post] is the space for the conversation they wanted."

When a newspaper calls for a public conversation on a topic, they are referring to all major media in the area, and in particular the newspaper OpEd pages. They don't mean that if some blogger challenges them to comment in their blog, they promise to do so. It's kind of stunning you would think so.

And as for "How Meta is this?", the answer is "one level of meta". It sounds like that's a little too trippy for you.

-Underwhelmed

Charlie Mas said...

Underwhelmed wrote:

"When a newspaper calls for a public conversation on a topic, they are referring to all major media in the area, and in particular the newspaper OpEd pages. They don't mean that if some blogger challenges them to comment in their blog, they promise to do so. It's kind of stunning you would think so."

"major media"? Get a calendar; it's 2012. The concept of major media is anachronistic. The presumption by a newspaper OpEd page that a community conversation is conducted in the newspaper OpEd pages is not only ridiculously narrow, it is also absurdly self-serving.

This blog, like it or not, is the major media for public education.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the record of charter schools, what is life like for charters in Minnesota, their birthplace, where a respected Democratic politician* helped lead the way?
Of the charters in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which ones have been successful? Why?
Aside from the bankruptcy of the first charter schools--Chris Whittle's (remember Channel One?), which have not been successful? Why? What is the level of accountability? How inclusive are these schools? And in the Chicago mode, how many regular public schools were closed and converted into charters--and what was the process.

The Minneapolis / St. Paul area is very similar to the Seattle - area in many ways. Along with the students of various Latino backgrounds, that district also has the largest populations of Somali, Mien and Hmong communities in the U.S.

I do not have all of these answers. This is a perfect opportunity for journalists.
Lynn Varner could also have conversations with her journalist colleagues in Minneapolis about how charters deal with the challenges there. In terms of special education students, how is transportation dealt with?

P.S. * Unfortunately the Democratic politician in Minneapolis eventually lost a lot of clout in some communities due to his role in promoting charter schools. There were a few scandals about the process of handing out charters... That politician is no longer in state politics.

For those who support or those do not support charters, in Minneapolis /St. Paul we have useful case study in which we can use to determine what is acceptable and is not acceptable here.

--Old School Music

mirmac1 said...

Hilarious. Apparently, the Times doesn't really want to have a conversation because they buried the OpEd on their website. One must use search to find it.

Having it in print in the Sunday Edition is a pretty one-sided conversation if you ask me.

Disgusted said...

"Why even bother to try to engage such an obviously purchased soul?"

I agree. Besides, talk to people around town..Varner lost her credibility a long time ago.

Bring your campaign to others. It will be a better use of your time.

Love the idea of standing next to signature gathers with a "Decline to Sign" campaign.

seattle citizen said...

I notice that there is no link to the "let's have a conversation" editorial on the Times website this morning. I guess they didn't really want to have a conversation after all.
I'm SHOCKED, I tell you, SHOCKED.

TLM said...

The conversation is right under editorial and opinion on the main page when *I* click on the Times website. I just hit refresh and it was still there-why would some of us see it and others not? I know I'm looking at the right one-published May 25 and has 152 comments? Maybe it's necessary to go to the main page first but I don't think that's hard to find.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Varner says in yet another Tweet:

"@charlie_mas Sorry Charlie, I'm already in a convo w/ tens of thousands thru @SeaTimesOpinion. Works fine. You follow my every utterance."

She's having a conversation with thousands of people? Sure she is.

Watching said...

"This blog, like it or not, is the major media for public education."

Charlie,

How many viewers per day?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, we don't need to reveal our numbers except when we do choose to monetize (and if we have advertisers who need those figures). Let's just say for a little blog, we do pretty well.

seattle citizen said...

@Melissa - You quoted Varner's tweet:
"I'm already in a convo w/ tens of thousands thru @SeaTimesOpinion. Works fine. You [Charlie] follow my every utterance."
Then you add,
"She's having a conversation with thousands of people? Sure she is."

Of course she's NOT. Varner says Charlie LISTENS to her utterance, but that is not a conversation. It's her spouting, then refuing to engage. Charlie listens to her spouts, tries to engage....nothin'

Varner is certainly not engaging in the comment section of the "invitation to converse" in the Times editorial.

Wow. It's just so freakin' transparent...Invite us to have a conversation....as if that was what the Times wanted. Varner is a shill, and the Times is paying her. It's pathetic.

Anonymous said...

We get it. You're not for charter schools. Fine. That is your opinion.

Is it better to have crappy overloaded public schools where kids get rotten educations and tax payers spend $10,000 a yr per child so they can be in overcrowded classrooms and not get the attention they need to succeed??

What is so great about the public schools that you are protecting this massive failed behemoth?

The teachers' union allows the worst teachers to teach until the end of time.

Why are you so sure that charter schools in Seattle will fail b/c they failed elsewhere?

Time to try something new. I would be all for it. My kids are in Seattle Public Schools and frankly I am not impressed at all. My kids, and all kids DESERVE much better.

Kids first.

Miffed

Anonymous said...

Most people working at the Seattle Times know what they are doing although some are questionable and naive.

Miffed Again

Rufus X said...

I shouldn't be surprised, but am still a bit befuddled by the whole Mean Girl, dismissive tone of the tweets of @lkvarner. Can't wait to see a future piece from her titled "Let's Have a Conversation about Contempt and Bullying."

Anonymous said...

@Rufus X -
I'm with you on that. The mean girl thing with Lynne Varner is right on - her "published" (ahem) works in the Times is the equivalent of her behavior in class, while her tweets are how she behaves between classes and at lunch time. She does not do sarcasm well.

Oompah

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you Miffed, for providing us with the rationale for your support for charters.

First, let me ask you. Do we really have "crappy overloaded public schools where kids get rotten educations and tax payers spend $10,000 a yr per child so they can be in overcrowded classrooms and not get the attention they need to succeed??"

Clearly, you think so, or you wouldn't write that. What reason do you have to believe that the charter school classrooms won't be just as overcrowded as our current public school classrooms? Is there anything in the charter legislation that indicates to you that the classrooms will be less crowded?

Second, you write: "What is so great about the public schools that you are protecting this massive failed behemoth?"

Have our public schools failed? By what measure? What would success look like? I hear a lot of people talk about the failure of public schools, but when I look around, I see a lot of success. I see a highly literate society. I see students in school than were not there before. I see graduation rates at historical highs. I see a greater proportion of students going on to post-secondary education than ever before. I see graduation requirements that are much higher than they were when I went to high school - I certainly didn't need to pass Algebra II or have a year of laboratory science to graduate. Where is the failure that you write about?

Third, you wrote: "The teachers' union allows the worst teachers to teach until the end of time." Actually, and I would hope that you know this by now, it is principals who allow bad teachers to continue to teach. The union only protects due process.

Fourth, you ask: "Why are you so sure that charter schools in Seattle will fail b/c they failed elsewhere?" Actually, I'm not sure that they will fail. But I'm looking for some reason to believe that they will succeed and I'm not seeing it. Are you?

"Time to try something new."

We try new things all the time. There are lots of new things being tried in classrooms all across the District. And the District tries new things with schools as well. Cleveland STEM, STEM at Boren, Queen Anne Elementary, all of the Creative Approach Schools, these are all new things that the District is trying.

You want to try something new? How about we have all of the students come to school with their socks on inside-out? I'm not saying that it will close the academic achievement gap all by itself, but it is one tool in the toolbox and we shouldn't reject it just because it is something new. All of those folks who are nay-sayers about inside-out socks are just protecting a failed status quo.

My point, and I do have one, is that when the arguments in favor of charter schools are no different than the arguments in favor of turning socks inside-out, then they are not strong enough to merit support.

Miffed writes: "My kids are in Seattle Public Schools and frankly I am not impressed at all. My kids, and all kids DESERVE much better."

Over 80% of Seattle public school families are either satisfied or very satisfied with their children's school and teachers, but you're not. That's okay. What would be better, Miffed? And what makes you think that charter schools will provide it?

Charlie Mas said...

Here's something that I don't get about this charter initiative:

Why did they write it so that it can so easily be subverted? Even if this thing passes, it will be ridiculously easy for the WEA to stop all but one or two charter schools from ever being created.

Think about it folks: the law allows only eight charter schools a year statewide. If there are more than eight applications, then the eight that are authorized are selected by lottery, right?

How many sincere charter applications do you think we will actually see statewide? Honestly, do you really think that there will be more than six? Two or three in Seattle, one or two in Tacoma, and maybe one in Tri-Cities. They are not going to appear in Issaquah or Bellevue.

So if the WEA floods the field with hundreds of charter applications, the eight selected each year are likely to all be from the WEA, right? Think about it: six sincere ones and 300 from the WEA. The odds that any of the six will be picked are pretty slim. Then, after the charters are authorized, they just don't actually form.

How could the WEA create 300 (or more) charter applications? Through the teacher trigger. The WEA could ask every member to vote to convert their school to a charter. Every public school in Washington could be a charter conversion applicant. That's thousands. Only eight are chosen. All eight will probably be from the WEA sponsored group. Then the charters just don't form.

I don't understand why the folks who wrote this thing included such an obvious way for the WEA to block it.

Sahila said...

@Charlie....

there is very little push back against charters from the unions nationally... Randi Weingarten (AFT president) at one time had two charter schools, which were funded by Eli BROAD,and GATES has just given the NEA $550,000 for "collaboration"...

I doubt there will be much union push back here... you saw how lacklustre the fight against TFA was...

additionally, most states started with caps on charter school numbers and THEN LIFTED THE CAPS OVER A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME...

this proposal to allow only a small number of charters is just a strategy to get charters past the voters... once they're in, then there will be no stopping them...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Miffed, you are sort of working from the "status quo" POV. None of us are saying that the system now is perfect and, of course, it does not work for all kids.

That SPS is overcrowded is a function of people coming back to SPS and SPS not being ready for them. It doesn't mean much academically (has nothing to do with the curriculum).

I don't know that charters would fail here. But I know the success rate is incredibly low and the this initiative does little to guarantee the best charters would come it. What it does guarantee is a lot of disruption.

And Charlie is right. The district, with the union, are both trying new things. And there are two event this Thursday to talk about more. It's not static at all.

I love Charlie's mind, always one step ahead. I hadn't even thought of the WEA being able to do that but yes, flood the pool and make it go to a lottery and there you are.

Brilliant.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Of course, just because there are multiple applications doesn't mean they will all be approved. The lottery only occurs with the approved ones but I think teachers are savvy enough to know how to put together a good application.

But going further, that is why there are likely to many applications (KIPP, Green Dot), etc. to maximize their chances.

What I'm wondering is how School Boards are supposed to find the time to do this and how many, in the end, will farm it out to companies. Will Boards even really be part of it in the end?

mirmac1 said...

"The conversation is right under editorial and opinion on the main page when *I* click on the Times website. I just hit refresh and it was still there-why would some of us see it and others not?"

TLM, wow, can't tell ya but I've checked 3-4 times and did not see it on the Editorial/Opinion page. Maybe you have the right "cookies"?

Charlie Mas said...

I don't think many school districts will step up and act as authorizers. Maybe one or two of the tinier ones who will take the 4% to "oversee" an online charter school. There just isn't much - if any - incentive for a school district to do this. I think the state commission will be, far and away, the primary (if not the only) authorizer.

If I were the WEA I would DEFINITELY make plans to flood the pool with my applications. Write one good application one time and have everyone use it as a template (with minor local adjustments). If necessary, they could even actually form the school, but the law specifically requires any unionized employees of the school to be members of their own bargaining group - separate from any other. Of course, if the applicant is the WEA... they would have no trouble agreeing to the CBA for the District since the union would be negotiating with itself. The WEA is, of course, a non-profit. If it were really necessary, the WEA could create an independent non-profit subsidiary for the express purpose of serving as the charter school management organization.

Charlie Mas said...

Yes, the more I think about it, the more it makes excellent sense for the WEA to apply to convert nearly every public school in the state and for the WEA to take over the management and administration of the schools.

Man! Talk about a backfire for conservatives who were hoping to use charter schools to break up "union control of schools". Their ridiculous myth could actually come true thanks to their own efforts.

Mwah ha ha!!

I really am a sneaky bastard.

seattle citizen said...

Good idea, Charlie! A WEA charter management non-profit! I like it. It would indeed disturb many, many charter backers.

Anonymous said...

"Over 80% of parents in Seattle are satisfied with the public schools," Charlie writes.
Wonderful. Does that make the schools effective?? Not necessarily.

Miffed thinks that when our children are performing as well as other children around the world on academic tests, then we can safely say that the schools are good, ie: competitive. Until then, I am not convinced. I am not saying there aren't good teachers, etc., but large class sizes make it impossible for kids to get the attention they need. Schools and classrooms are too big. Charters would break up the larger public schools and ultimately provide kids with smaller class sizes. It makes sense. Do the math.

Look what adding the STEM school did in WS?? It allowed other schools to maintain better enrollment numbers...better for kids. Charters would do the same thing.

Read the link below for a better idea of what American kids are doing compared to kids in other comparable countries.

If we don't try something other than what we have (which is impossible to fix b/c it does not get smaller, it just gets bigger, then we can forget it. The kids are the future of the country. Please read the stats I just posted if you want to see what kind of education the kids in this country END UP with. What Seattle parents think might not be relevant compared to what is happening in this country to our young people.

Miffed Again

http://4brevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm

Anonymous said...

http://www.mackinac.org/16774

-Another Vote for the Charter Schools
(and Charlie, this has nothing to do with being conservative or liberal..this has to do with wanting America's children to have the best educations without having to spend $25,000 a yr on fancy private schools b/c not everyone can do that.)

Anonymous said...

Here is more info about charters..

http://www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/charter/index.html

And another possible positive about having small class sizes is that teachers can more effectively maintain behavior before all sorts of social issues take hold and eclipse the whole reason for being in school to begin with...TO LEARN. This is a problem in the public schools today. Too many social issues hampering the learning process and if this is a product of our complex society in the 21st century, then we need to restructure our schools to combat this issue..by making class sizes smaller and having better teacher to student ratios.

To rip off the "Rent Is Too Damn High" guy..."The Class Sizes Are Too Damn Large."

-Intrigued by Charters

Charlie Mas said...

Miffed Again - Thank you for your participation.

In my response to Miffed, I answered point by point. For example, I quoted the statistic about family satisfaction with Seattle schools in response to Miffed's statement "My kids are in Seattle Public Schools and frankly I am not impressed at all. My kids, and all kids DESERVE much better."

Miffed didn't say that the schools were not effective, and I didn't claim that the survey proved that they were, so your contribution, that the survey results didn't mean that the schools are effective is true, but not relevant. While we're at it, the survey results don't mean that the schools are painted blue either.

In response to your point - outside the context of Miffed's comment - what would indicate that the schools are "effective"? Ah, when they are performing well relative to international peers. Is there any measure of how Seattle public school students compare to international peers? Your data doesn't do it. Are we talking about all of the schools (or all of the public schools) in the country or just the ones in Seattle?

Miffed Again writes: "Miffed thinks that when our children are performing as well as other children around the world on academic tests, then we can safely say that the schools are good, ie: competitive." Wow! I didn't read that at all. I didn't read it because Miffed didn't write it. Go back to what Miffed wrote and you'll see nothing of the kind. No reference to comparisons to international "competitors". Again, a stunning failure to be relevant on your part.

Again, to respond to your comment independent of Miffed's points, I don't see anything wrong with those international standings. I don't have some kind of Ricky Bobby view of things that says "If you ain't first, you're last". I don't have some weird nationalistic insistence that the U.S. be first in everything. Again, those are not the numbers for Seattle public school students, so what's your point?

Miffed Again, like Miffed, is focused on class size and believes (hopes) that charter schools will have smaller class sizes. Why? Where is there any reason in the world to think that charters will have smaller class sizes when one of the primary distinguishing features of charter schools is their exemption from class size limitations? If a public school converts to a charter school and reduces the school's enrollment, that will just overcrowd the surrounding schools. It makes sense. Do the math.

The creation of a new charter school in a building that isn't already a public school would draw students out of the public schools and reduce overcrowding - if the schools that lost students to the charter were overcrowded to begin with. Not all schools are overcrowded. Let's face it. The students that will move to the charter schools are the ones who are in under-performing schools, and the under-performing schools are not crowded.

Despite this focus on class size, there is no reason to believe that any charter school created in Seattle will have smaller class sizes than the surrounding public schools. No reason to believe it at all.