Monday, June 03, 2013

The Seattle Times and their Mood Swing Editorials

The Times has two editorials from this weekend that leave a lot to be desired.

One is about forced teacher placement at schools.  We get a story trotted out about what, yes, sounds like a terrible teacher.  The parents in one classroom at West Woodland kept their kids home for some number of days in 2011 because of her.  But what the editorial lacks is what happened from there.  What did the district do?  Did the principal really, in the face of what sounds like constant complaints, really sit back and do nothing?  That's on the principal who does have the power to exit a poor-performing teacher.

The writer, Jonathan Martin, then pushes Senate Bill 5242 that the Senate Republican ed reformers (and our not-a Dem Senator Rodney Tom).  This bill would give principals the sole discretion over who gets into their building, no matter the teacher's background/skills.  That means HR could think a teacher could be a good fit but the principal could say no.

The problem is the bill is being billed as "mutual consent" when it is no such thing.   The power is almost entirely in the principal's hands.  You can imagine the kind of scarlet letter that a teacher would get once rejected from a school.  All the other principals will wonder, "Hmm, what's up with this teacher no one wants?"

It is stated that Seattle already has given principals at its six lowest performing schools this power (and yet oddly, it is then reported that Aki Kurose had more forced placements in the last three years than other schools).  Which is it?

Some other interesting statements are from Rep. Eric Pettigrew (whose district includes Aki Kurose).  He says that teachers should be picked for enthusiasm and personality.  Frankly, I've had many teachers who I didn't particularly like but that didn't make them bad teachers.  He also says that the forced placement process "is very detrimental for schools in my district because it breeds inconsistency and instability."  Well then, I would expect that he doesn't like TFA because that is practically the description of TFA teachers and their longevity and skill level.

Martin also states the age of the teacher at West Woodland.  Ageism, anyone?  

Mr. Martin says "principals should be captains of their own ship" and "in Seattle are held accountable of their students' performance."  Really?  Because I don't recall seeing a lot of this accountability but Martin doesn't explain how he knows this.

Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Martin says BUT he doesn't think the bill will work (for various reasons including a new teacher evaluation process).  It's fascinating to see a Times editorial writer suss out an issue on paper but it's there.

Update: the district believes it is going to meeting their goals of high quality teachers in every classroom through its Professional Growth and Evaluation system.  (This speaks to Mr. Martin's point of teacher evaluations evolving.)  Pettigrew's complaint is interesting because Aki Kurose used to be a Level One school (which would have allowed the principal to have full choice over teachers placed) but because it has moved up to a Level Three school, that choice is now only partial. 

Update: There is now an op-ed, written by the president and vice-president of the Shoreline School Board and its superintendent against this bill.  It's pretty effective.

The other editorial is about one of the smaller schools within Interagency (a group of small schools with specialty purposes) called Alder Academy housed at the King County Juvenile Detention Center.

 The building is being replaced but the district is being mum on continuing the school.  It is not a requirement for the district to do so but there is law requiring the state/feds to serve those youth.

The Times seems to want to slap the district on the wrist for not saying yes.  But the Times does not say how it has been working or what it costs the district.  These are all legitimate issues to raise.

As well, the Times says it serves students "who have been jailed or kicked out of school or are homeless, pregnant or learning disabled."  I know that South Lake High School, in a beautiful new building, also serves pregnant and homeless youth so it's not like there are not other options.

Frankly, I think the district should work with the county on this issue but it's the county's job to figure out how to serve these students who are in their care.

Update:  I checked in with the district.  They read the editorial as advocating for the school to remain at the facility because of location.  I didn't get that from the editorial (I thought they were saying that was the only place for services for these students.)  

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