So many phrases describe what we see every day. Down the Rabbit Hole. Advice from the Caterpillar. Don't mind that man behind the curtain. Not in Kansas anymore.
The Mock Turtle on education: Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
We are seeing all this play out via charter schools and the somewhat ugly discussion about them in our state. Stand for Children, the Times and others have chosen to target certain legislators - Gerry Pollet, Marcie Maxwell, and especially Rosemary McAullife.
It is hard to believe that anyone who wanted to be fair would not consider an elected official's ENTIRE history and not just their stand on one sub-topic of a topic. But this is where we are.
Gerry Pollet's opponent, Sylvester Cann, claims (kind of and it depends on which venue you are in) to be against charters (and says he will vote against 1240 but I'd like to see a photo of his ballot marked that way). While I applaud him saying he is against 1240, I have to worry what he would REALLY do if he were elected. (I say this because Harium Martin-Morris' statement about voting for the No resolution to 1240 the other night sounding like someone being dragged along. Mr. Cann, like Director Martin-Morris, might consider what it would look like to say, on video, that you are against something and then turn around and suddenly change course.)
Then we have the curious case of Chad Magendanz who is running against David Spring in the 5th LD (in and around Issaquah). Mr. Magendanz was an Issaquah School Board member who has been very active in the charter school movement. But his stand, like Mr. Cann's, is confusing. He said this at his blog in October 2011:
Personally, I've found Stand for Children to be a completely grassroots organization, attracting education leaders from the community and soliciting legislative positions entirely from its membership.
That is pretty laughable as you see the same 10 parents recycled at Stand's website. Is it grassroots? Hardly.
But in June 2011, he said this about charter schools:
In short, I believe that charter schools…
must pilot unconventional methods to engage kids that would otherwise be struggling in traditional classroom settings,
should be subject to direct community oversight, just like all other public schools, and
are held accountable for measureable improvements in student achievement over conventional schools.So that's two items he says charter schools in Washington State should have but I-1240 doesn't have. (The last one is in there but the accountability measures? Not so accountable with many options to get out of being closed.)
There's nothing in I-1240 that mandates "unconventional methods".
However, he goes on to say:
To be completely frank, I have some concerns that charters have been oversold. Their biggest advantage in my opinion is that they allow innovative approaches that have been prohibited in public schools due to proscriptive government mandates or restrictive collective bargaining agreements. The danger is that we don’t hold them to the same accountability standards as every other school. As with start-ups, many innovative new ideas fail, and we still have to hold our charters accountable for success, factoring out the fact that they reap the benefits of having a demographic that’s already genuinely interested and engaged in the success of their schools because they chose to go there.
Really? Yes, many of us share that "oversold" problem as well. He also shares my doubt about accountability.
The simple reason that charters are necessary is because it's untenable to experiment with the general student population. If there’s a promising but unproven new approach to instruction, charters provide a means for parents to choose to participate in the experiment. After these pioneers blaze the trails and have gathered the necessary data to substantiate their claims, others can safely follow. Maybe it’s the Microsoft in me, but I happen to believe that there’s far too much blood on the bleeding edge.
Untenable to experiment? Says who? Not the Seattle School Board with the Creative Approach schools. Not Tacoma where their at-risk high school within a high school, Lincoln Center, has CLOSED the achievement gap. (And if someone can explain, "too much blood on the bleeding edge" I'd appreciate it.)
The other truth that I discovered during the WSSDA Legislative Committee debate is that there’s very little that districts could do under a new charter school law that can’t be already done as an innovative school. In fact, many districts throughout the state have outstanding new alternative programs being implemented as innovative schools, and the opportunities have only increased with passage of E2SHB 1546 this past legislative session. If districts want to innovate in the classroom, there’s no need to wait for passage of a charter school bill. They should get started right now.
So, like Alice, I find all this push for charters mystifying if this is how pro-charter people feel.
Maybe we should fully-fund our EXISTING schools and SUPPORT the Innovation Schools laws that have already been passed.