Saturday, November 03, 2012

Playing One Card Too Many for I-1240

The Times, in its never-ending push for charter schools has one last salvo to throw out there and boy, it's big.  Actually it's two.

The first one is that this is a civil rights issue.  Lynne Varner, who sadly writes about education for the editorial board and yet seems to never do her homework, says it is.  She writes, constantly, about Rep. Eric Pettigrew (of the 37th) and how he believes his district has been underserved. 

What's interesting to me about that is the Pettigrew and Varner complain about the exact same things and never offer any real ideas of their own. 

She also cites writer Pedro Noguera who writes for Ed Week and links a his blog post about a recent visit to Seattle.  She says this:

Noguera does not see charters as public education's salvation or its downfall making his words all the more compelling.

He wrote: "I find it ironic and hypocritical that the opponents of charter schools don't voice much objection to the loss of affluent children to private schools. Moreover, there are selective public schools that are limited to so-called gifted children (typically the most privileged) and concentrate the neediest children in under-resourced schools. Why do you think so little concern is expressed about the effect these schools have upon public education? Clearly, private schools and screen schools are exacerbating efforts to promote integration and equity in public schools, but I hear so little from the opponents of charters about these issues." 

That was one salvo and one that, apparently, El Centro de La Raza, the NAACP,  the Washington State PTA, the Japanese-American Citizens League Board, Asian Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment, the UW Alumni Assn. Multicultural Alumni Partnership Board and the Tacoma Pierce County Black Collective don't favor in our current discussion over I-1240.

Back to her point - people in Seattle HAVE said this for years.  The puzzlement has been the district's silence and shrug of the shoulders.  The district has always taken it for granted that "that's the way it's always been" but a lot of us thought they could/should have fought back.  But Lynne, except for a few scattered exceptions - our schools ARE now full.

Mr. Noguera complains about "concentrating" needy students.  The district did this? Or did the history of Seattle (and probably every urban area in the country).  You cannot lay residency patterns at the district's feet. 

But she left out what he also said in that piece:

I think the charter advocates are wrong about the effect of competition. There is no evidence that charter schools are superior to traditional public schools, nor is there any evidence that the spread of charter schools has prompted public schools to improve. Instead, parents in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia are being pitted against one another as they fight for space, while educators in charters and traditional public schools work in isolation from each other. We are spending so much time fighting over charter schools and so little time working to improve our public schools where the vast majority of children are still being educated.  

Deborah, we've got to find a way to shift the focus of reform away from distractions like charter schools and on to issues like inequality, racial segregation, and the need to improve schools that have been struggling for years and to create schools where children are intellectually stimulated. 

I believe that latter point is really the one he wanted to make.  


Her last salvo is this one:

Indeed, Seattle's biggest charter opponents have long relied on well-resourced schools in North End neighborhoods or charter-like alternative schools for their own children. And no surprise, Seattle's private school enrollment remains steady. 

And there you have it folks.  Ms. Varner is treading on very unsteady ground in saying that NO one has ever cared what has happened in the south end AND that it's those terrible northend parents who are at fault.  She fails to say that the northend schools are largely "well-resourced" because of parents and not anything the district ever did. 

She also fails to understand that schools are underresourced at this point and bringing on more of them is NOT the way to solve anything.  

16 comments:

seattle citizen said...

On Varner's oped is a four-minute video, a KCPQ Fox piece. On the top edge of the video is "Democrats For Education Reform." So DFER, in effect, produced this piece, which is not only an ad for charters, but an ad for democrats who are also charter advocates.

This Pettigrew/C.R.Douglas/Democrats For Ed Reform/Fox "news" item/charter ad is yet another example of Ed Reforms stranglehold on politics, corporations, media, and society.

Our own Seattle Channel "reporter", C.R. Douglas, goes onto Fox News "Politics" section to present his lengthy conversation with Rep. Pettigrew. Edited down to four minutes, it spouts the usual "status quo," "can't wait," "some children are square pegs in round holes, system isn't serving them, parents need options" crap.
1) There is no status quo.
2) Parents/guardians aren't, or don't have to wait: They can participate in numerous ways locally, and get their boards and legislators to fully fund schools, and free up existing schools to "innovate" more - much of this is already being done.
3) parent/guardians and students already have some choices. There could be more, and there could be more individualized attention and support. See number two - get involved. but don't chop pieces off the districts and feed them OUR tax dollars and receive little accountability from them.

That Douglas, purportedly an unbiased employee of the City of Seattle (I believe he is paid through city funds via the Seattle Channel, or at least supported, but I could be wrong) would participate in this project, produced by DFER for Fox and Pettigrew as an ad for charters shows us how deeply the machinations of the charter industry have embedded themselves in our city and state. Crafty editing of a local politician, with all the buzz phrases hit, by a local, public news voice, through the filter of DFER and the lens of a corporate media, present our citizens with a massaged message that sells charters and sells Democrats selling out on their prinicipals, selling, shilling for their corporate backers rather than for their working class citizens.
Disgusting.
And then we have Varner, of course, just shoveling it along through yet another media agent, our own Fairview Fannie, no scratch that - she's gone, now - our own Fairview Canny down at the Seattle Times

Anonymous said...

Ms. Varner doesn't need to do her homework when her writing is filled with stereotypes. Doing her homework would mean you can't paint broad strokes about a city which Ms. Varner doesn't live in and it's becoming more apparent, a city she doesn't really understand.

It irks me to no end because Ms. Varner does more to create rifts than mend. If we are going to throw failure around, should we discuss Dr. G-J and her failed policies which Ms. Varner supported with such enthusiasm? Let's talk about the damages that did to the whole district. Let's talk about the failure of the SE Initiative and all the money, time, manpower that were wasted. No, I guess not. It's too complicated, so in lieu of the SE Initiative, now we have charter schools.

If Ms. Varner is so concern about the north-south divide, I like her and this paper to write about that in a meaningful way. Is there such a problem or is it more about money and ROI (especially taxpayers' return)? Talk about economic development and the disparity in focus from civic leaders, the mayor, the city council, and the billionaires. Let's talk about transportation dollars and how Sound Transit is built (in Rainier Beach vs. Capital Hill). Let's talk about the financing and maintenance of the SL Trolley and the cuts in metro bus services everywhere including the south end. Let's talk about this paper's push for a South Lake Union school and the money that this cash strapped district should spend to build a new school where it would have to go out and lasso kids in to fill such a school. Is the southend crying for such a school? No, it's parents from QA and Eastlake even though schools on Capital Hill and central areas have empty seats.

Real change has to come from opportunities not just for a good education, but for safe neighborhoods, safe schools, safe and gainful employment, safe and affordable housing and child care. It's about personal responsibilities as well as societal ones.

There won't be a real discussion here as it doesn't make for a short op-ed piece. Too many powerful interest and rich people who may be unhappy. Too many nuances and complications. Ms. Varner would be more credible if she writes about her Isssaquah zip code and civil rights issue there.

flygirl

Melissa Westbrook said...

Flygirl, you said it all and I wish you would go post this at the Times. Mighty powerful stuff.

seattle citizen said...

On a related note (because Pettigrew and Varner are both the products and the spokespersons for the Reform Cabal, the Cabal's Alliance/Strategies 360 PR propaganda organ, the Our Schools Coalition, now has its "platform" for the 2013 CBA union contract negotiations up. I have no idea why they believe they are important enough to have a voice, but as we've seen in emails, they're all in sync with the usual suspects of the Cabal.

They go to great lengths, in a November 2nd short introduction post on their main page, to make it sound like a bunch of community members actually had something to do with the creation of this platform, but of course it is merely the work of the Cabal.

I like the way they request a response from the district:

"OSC requests a response to these recommendations and an action plan from the [Partnership]Committee by January 31, 2014." They also explain that they should be part of the partnership because, you know, they live in Seattle or something...

Nick Esparza said...

RE: Melissa Westbrook: You are completely wrong about public schools being a civil rights issues. They are completely a civil rights issue. It effects how much money you make by how much education you get. It effects your upward mobility. Children that are trapped in a failing school system like Seattle Public Schools, should have another option. I am not for charter schools but the options need to be there. It is quite clear from the state of the school district that Seattle Public schools has failed in every category. So if they have failed people should have options or improve the schools. But nothing has happened in the last several years. You "Melissa" just keep writing how bad it is and then move on. No solutions from you or the schools on change.

In your reply you say NAACP you say they oppose the charter schools. But nobody takes them serious. They have no backbone. They just make noise and stir things up.

Maybe for if you every struggled in your life you would agree that the inadequate actions of the schools get students no place in education. You advocate for the well off north end schools. Never talk about how to improve poverty schools but you pick on them at any chance you get.

Sincerely,
Nick Esparza
RE: Melissa Westbrook: You are completely wrong about public schools being a civil rights issues. They are completely a civil rights issue. It effects how much money you make by how much education you get. It effects your upward mobility. Children that are trapped in a failing school system like Seattle Public Schools, should have another option. I am not for charter schools but the options need to be there. It is quite clear from the state of the school district that Seattle Public schools has failed in every category. So if they have failed people should have options or improve the schools. But nothing has happened in the last several years. You "Melissa" just keep writing how bad it is and then move on. No solutions from you or the schools on change.

In your reply you say NAACP you say they oppose the charter schools. But nobody takes them serious. They have no backbone. They just make noise and stir things up.

Maybe for if you every struggled in your life you would agree that the inadequate actions of the schools get students no place in education. You advocate for the well off north end schools. Never talk about how to improve poverty schools but you pick on them at any chance you get.

Sincerely,
Nick Esparza
Email us at NICKESPARZA@seattleschooldistrictexposed.com
http://seattleschooldistrictexposed.blogspot.com/

Melissa Westbrook said...

It would be great if people would actually read what I wrote at the Times but clearly that doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Noguera complains about "concentrating" needy students. The district did this? Or did the history of Seattle (and probably every urban area in the country). You cannot lay residency patterns at the district's feet.

You absolutely can lay it at the hands of the parents. Hoards of people line up to privately test their kids into gifted programs, demand them, advocate for them. Segregation is the ONLY way to teach our kids, they say. So many that we now have an industry in qualifiying people for these programs. Many of our wealthier schools are 30% "gifted". And the number keeps growing.

Sorry, but our Lake Woebegone attitude does indeed concentrate the needy, as well as minority, disabled, and poor students into clusters. Our "residency patterns" are remarkably integrated.

-observer

suep. said...

observer, you appear to be saying that minority, poor and disabled children can't be gifted. You're wrong about that.

You also appear to be saying that giftedness is not real. You're wrong about that too.

You also appear to be saying that all families with kids in gifted programs seek racial segregation. Wrong again.

Clearly you are the one harboring a prejudice -- against gifted kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hate to break it to you but gifted education in SPS is NOT good. It is not a stellar program, it does not reach all kids (ncluding poor and minority students), and it is not funded near the levels of other districts. It's laughable to believe it is the cause of ANY problem.

If you want to blame gifed education for the woes of our district, then you are seeing what you want to see.

suep. said...

By the way, even pro-charter Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has had some pretty damning things to say about charters:

"(...) unfortunately, we have far too many mediocre charters and we have far too many charter schools that are absolutely low performing." (Duncan's address to the National Charter Schools Conference, July 1, 2010, start at the 9-minute mark.)

Also see: Vote NO on charter school Initiative 1240 (pass it on!)

Anonymous said...

I'm just observing.

No, I'm not saying it's a great program, or making a determination as to whether or not it is "stellar". No suep, I'm not saying anything about who is actually gifted or not. I AM saying that the reality is: minority and disabled students aren't represented in those programs. I'm not blaming gifted families for ALL the district woes, just some of them. And, it happens to be the woe (segregation) articulated in the article. I AM saying it IS a segregated program BY DESIGN, both APP and Spectrum. And yes, parents want it that way. I AM saying it's a program designed for segregation because most of the students use "private" testing to get in. Guess what? That costs money. I AM observing that most of the parents are dedicated to segregated education. They claim all sorts of "research" (sound charterish to you?) to back them up yet never cite any that discredit it. But the real data - test scores of APP eligible students who receive education in a regular school without APP are higher than those in the segregated program. Didn't you read your own audit? Or is "data" just for everyone else.


-observer

Anonymous said...

So, observer, you are blaming families for "some" of the district's woes?

As fars as the rest of your claims..."segregated program BY DESIGN"..."parents want it that way (segregated)"..."most of the students use "private" testing to get in"..."most of the parents are dedicated to segregated education"..."test scores of APP eligible students who receive education in a regular school without APP are higher than those in the segregated program"

Gee whiz...

Generalize often? Attribute intent without evidence often?

So I'm still trying to figure out specifically which of the district's woes you are blaming families for...Am I to gather from your tirade that the primary woe is segregation in the district?

Really?

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

I AM saying it IS a segregated program BY DESIGN, both APP and Spectrum. And yes, parents want it that way.

Big charges - what's your proof?

"I AM saying it's a program designed for segregation because most of the students use "private" testing to get in. Guess what? That costs money."

Again, unless you work in the Advanced Learning office, what's your proof? As for "costing money", that's money PARENTS spend (or, in the case of F/RL students, money the district is WILLING to pay to help them).

"I AM observing that most of the parents are dedicated to segregated education."

Offensive, especially with nothing but your opinion (but yes, you are entitled to it). That did NOT apply to me or my family.

Anonymous said...

My proof? 1 black student enrolled at Lowell@Lincoln. 1/2 the city, 1 kid. Marshall has like 5. Isn't that enough proof?

Evidence? The premise of both APP and Spectrum is that they need to be segregated into special classes. And parents whine repeatedly that it is the ONLY way their little dears can possibly get educated. ALO is harumphed right and left - because - well, because it is desegregated. Couldn't possibly be good. I don't really think that's a big secrect that those programs are self-contained, eg segregated. That the "BY DESIGN" part.

Ooompah. Yes, to sign up for these programs. To insist on your eligibilty with special pricey tests. To sign up for schools far from home yeilds segregated results - which leaves the remain schools segregated as well. Parents in these programs support that. I'm not saying it's the ONLY problem in SPS, or even the biggest problem. It just happens to be the case the author of the article is making when he/she said the following:

Moreover, there are selective public schools that are limited to so-called gifted children (typically the most privileged) and concentrate the neediest children in under-resourced schools. Why do you think so little concern is expressed about the effect these schools have upon public education?

To be clear - Melissa said, in her rebuttal, that this problem was all about the district. Not true! By any means. Parents have always been on the forefront of this problem.

-observer

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, that's not proof. That's evidence. It does mean there is any pattern or scheme to segregate or limit minority students from the Advanced Learning program.

Actually Spectrum was supposed to be separate but now that's the exception, not the norm so you would be wrong there.

We have FOREVER complained about the ALOs and lack of them.

I still don't get your last point.

Anonymous said...

You know observer, if you would stop your description of APP and spectrum as being "segregated education" based on.... well.. I'm not sure what because it sounds like you think it's based on money buying the right test or being privileged and whiney, I may understand your point better. But to make Lincoln APP kids "more privileged" than what.... kids who attend Coe, QAE, Lawton, Schmitz Park, Whittier, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst, JSIS? Err, I don't think so. As to the comment of concentrated neediest kids in under-resourced schools... like what schools....RBS, South Shore? I just would be careful since these schools get more public dollars per student and the budget and community resources available don't add up as being under-resourced. I am glad the money is being spent here (though I wish South Shore would fill their school so more kids in the surrounding area can benefit).

Now if you want to talk about affordable housing and Section 8 housing in this city and where those are found and how we are losing those units at rapid rate with re-development, then I can understand your statement about "concentration" then. If you want to talk about the loss of choice with NSAP and how that has increased "segregation" not just of race, but of poorer kids, that I can understand too. But I guess that is something that requires a lot of context and we might miss your "segregation" point.

In the end, there are schools that are making headways all over this district. It's those schools, we should be looking toward and try to see if we can replicate. I can't begrudge the ALO programs and would love to see more and more kids qualify into them and to make sure the programs are not watered down to so they become namesake programs. Do I think sometime on this blog, a few APP parents can dominate a topic or be a bit whiny? Yeap. But I've also learned the comments here don't always reflect all the APP voices out there. Many don't bother because they work and don't have the time, prefer to work things out themselves, not bloggers, don't know about SSS, etc.

And by the way, if we go back to 1240, some charter schools also have entry admission requirement just like public magnet schools and schools with gifted programs.

flygirl