Yawn. Yet ANOTHER Times push for takeover of Seattle Public Schools.
I have said this elsewhere but I'll say it again: I believe there are forces, both within and without, trying to create a situation to take over the district. I believe there are some people in SPS who are either working with outsiders or working to drag their feet on some issues so the district will look worse.
Back to the Times op-ed. I always find it interesting that people at the top of the food chain think that they will be able to force top-down edicts. It's not going to work but it will be a very interesting exercise to see who lines up where. Who stands up for local, elected control of our district by people elected to oversee the district (and nothing else).
The Seattle Times has its stable of ready mouthpieces for its public education view. Honestly, Google and see how many times LEV's Chris Korsmo has had an op-ed. Charters Lisa Macfarlane. TFA's Chris Eide. And now Don Nielsen.
Most of you were likely not in SPS when Mr. Nielsen was on the Board. Those were not great days mainly because Mr. Nielsen is from the club of "the Smartest Guy in the Room." He was for Broad training of leadership LONG before Maria Goodloe-Johnson came into our district. He helped secure the "leadership" of Joseph Olcheske, the finance guy, who then promptly drove our district into a $32M hole.
In Mr. Nielsen's op-ed he gives his thoughts on - well, he covers just about everything about public education in Seattle. He gives three rather veiled thoughts on what should change - straight out of the ed reform playbook.
Here's what I wrote in the Times' comment section:
Let's start with Mr. Nielsen being a "senior fellow" at the Discovery Institute, "an institutional hub for scientists, educators and inquiring minds who think that nature supplies compelling evidence of intelligent design." That should tell you a lot right there.
(Funny how Mr. Nielsen never brought this up during his tenure on the Seattle School Board. There's some courage of your convictions.)
"Education advocates constantly talk about providing more money for schools. Teachers unions always press for small class sizes, which means more union members and more union dues."
Well, we public education advocates constantly talk about more money because Washington state schools have been consistently underfunded. Guess who agrees? The Washington State Supreme Court. And, in state rankings, our funding is about 46th. We don't even fund to the national average.
Know who else wants smaller class sizes? Parents. Parents who would like to see the cuts over the several years restored so they can get back counselors, nurses and librarians who make a real difference in the quality of education and form meaningful relationship with students that help students stay in school.
He claims we have a failed system. He is right that we need to do more to support minority and low-income students but overall, he is dead wrong that Washington State has a failed education system. As the proud parent of two Seattle schools grads (and now college graduates), I disagree. As a long-time public education advocate, I know that our state's graduation rate is above the national average. I know that our state's SAT pass rate is very high and that the rate of students of color taking the SAT continues to climb.
All being 46th in the country in funding. Imagine what would happen if we funded even to the national average?
As for the turnover rate in leadership in Seattle Schools, let's break that down. I note that Mr. Nielsen conveniently starts in 2006 to avoid the superintendent that HE helped hired, Joseph Olchefske, who left the district with a $32M financial scandal that Mr. Nielsen, as Board president, managed to overlook.
"Seattle’s public schools have been poorly led and poorly governed for years."
Does he include the eight years he was on the Board?
Add another superintendent who left under a financial scandal (Goodloe-Johnson), one who was interim and left (Enfield), one who jumped ship after just two years (Banda), and you can see how the turnover happened. If Mr. Nielsen were keeping up, he would know that today's urban superintendents are guns for hire and that the Seattle School Board should be looking regionally, not nationally.
The world has changed and our schools have not.
Just - not- true. There is so much different from when most adults went to school, that if they did visit a classroom, they would be surprised. I note that City Councilwoman Sally Clark said recently in a City Council session with Superintendent Nyland that when she goes to schools, it makes her wish she could do her own schooling over.
However, the basics of education - safe, comfortable buildings, solid teachers, great principals, good curriculum - those basics will never change.
Then we come to the most singularly disrespectful things I have seen in the Times on public education:
"Improve teaching by making the profession a real profession."
Jaw-dropping in its simplicity of reducing teachers to glorified babysitters.
Second most disrespectful thing?
"Admit leaders and change agents, not teachers who want to get out of the classroom."
Yes, that's all our current principals are, teachers who wanted to get out of the classroom. (And I note that Teach for America - nothing BUT teachers trying to get out of the classroom.)
"• Change the governance model. The present meathod (sic) of elected school boards is not working, particularly in urban systems. You cannot find an urban district, with an elected board, that has been able to put in place sustainable changes to its system."
First, Times you might want to proofread that second sentence ("meathod?"). Actually, if outside business types like Nielsen and the Gates Foundation would leave school boards alone, they could do better. But he seems to suggest - on the Times bandwagon here - that a mayor could do better.
I'll fire back - You cannot find an urban district, with mayoral control, that works well and allows parents and communities to have real input on their public schools.
Do you ever notice how people with money ALWAYS say, "it's not about money."