Friday, August 28, 2015

Uh Oh, What Got Said on KUOW?

I like to listen to KUOW's Friday morning round-up of news.  It's generally lively and interesting.

I only caught part of this morning's but the part I caught really bothered me because of what I heard.

The discussion was about the alleged cheating by the Bellevue High football staff who were running a "diploma mill" for students they recruited for the football team.  It is alleged that those students were attending a private school that was being paid for by team boosters or someone else.  It does not appear the students went to real classes or even had teachers all the time.  Bellevue has had a winning football program for many years with, at one time, a 67-game winning streak.

The pundits were asked about what should happen to the Bellevue program, given that Bellevue had won games with these students playing. ( I note KUOW also had the H.G. Bissinger, noted author of Friday Night Lights, about Texas high school football). 

So in jumps Joni Balter who gives a pretty strange analogy and manages to (I think) to disparage someone.  (Balter used to be at the Times but does a variety of writing/advising, mostly on politics.)

She first said that you need high school sports because kids don't get enough PE/exercise and we have an obesity program in our country.  (That's true but I would point out that the kids who want to participate in sports are generally those that would exercise even if there were no school sports.  All kids need PE.)

She then goes onto this comparison between the Bellevue football situation and the Garfield choir field trip situation.  She said that the Garfield teacher needed to go because of her actions but not the entire Garfield music program and that the Bellevue football staff/coach needed to be disciplined, not the entire football program. 

(Unfortunately for Balter and the Bellevue High football program, the coaches knew the rules and those rules include revocation of games if your program breaks them.  It doesn't end your high school's football program - it takes away wins.)

My issue is Balter equating what Garfield teacher Carol Burton did on one field trip (using poor judgment) to what the Bellevue High football staff allegedly did, long-term, to deceive their district and their league to win games, year after year.

I continue to believe Ms. Burton should not have been fired.  I continue to believe that someone at JSCEE should have been disciplined or fired if Ms. Burton was.  No one at JSCEE was fired for this incident and it's unclear if anyone got any sanctions.

I personally believe that Balter defamed Burton with her statements, given how different the two situations are. Burton has enough problems without other people making it sound like she purposely tried to deceive the district. There is zero evidence of that.

I don't think KUOW realizes that the pundits they have on Friday mornings are people their listeners trust with information. They should be people who the public can trust to couch their comments if they are expressing an opinion.  (I also wish that pundits would not weigh in on subjects that they truly know very little about like public education but that's another issue.)


Anonymous said...

(I also wish that pundits would not weigh in on subjects that they truly know very little about like public education but that's another issue.)

That "knowledge requirement" would have knocked out more than half of Joni Balter's ed columns at the Times.

Inquiring Mind

Patrick said...

PE and competitive sports are pretty much opposites. At competitive sporting events, hundreds or thousands of people are sitting on their butts watching for every one who's getting actual exercise.

seattle citizen said...

Evidently, Bellevue HS football staff (and that private "school") didn't just "long term...deceive their district and their league", they cheated tens, maybe hundreds of students out of their educations.

On a side note, I know this won't be popular, but one of the commentators on that show said we should do away with school sports. I agree.

Anonymous said...

I agree too. Too much money gets funneled to school athletics and we could fund much more appropriate scholastic programs. I like the club team model in Europe and think that through scholarships and foundations, athletics would thrive under such a model. Seattle could be a great test-case for this.


Don James. said...

Bellevue football should get a one year death penalty like SMU had in the 1980s. When the program returns there winners to be an entirely new coaching staff.

Anonymous said...

I second (third?) the opinion that we should do away altogether with team sports, and move to the European model of club sports. Team sports at American high schools are for the most part completely antithetical to the primary mission of education in our schools, which is itself on shaky ground. Sports and drastically impact school start and end times, to the detriment of our students. There are so many other great ways to get exercise and build community and team spirit in our schools without all the drawbacks.

Also, I am familiar with the "private school" in Bellevue that gave credit to these kids. It is not exactly a school, but a tutoring organization that somehow became eligible to grant credit for 1-1 and small group "classes." Someone I know actually "taught" there for a while, some years ago. There were few or no benchmarks to meet, or curriculum to follow. He actually remembers there was a football player in his class. He did the best he could, but it sounded a whole lot like the blind leading the blind, with no oversight or accountability. Definitely not a place where real learning was meant to take place, at least from his experience.


Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. The goal of schools is to create independent adults - it is not endless (and mostly pointless) academic saturation. We've gotten way off track with the unending list of academic trivia that is heaped on students - for little or no benefit. I don't want a European or Asian educational experience here in USA. We don't have a European safety net for all the non-academic students. And we don't want the standard of living, the hegemony, or the autocracy of the Asian systems. Our strength is not in academics uber alles, it's diversity, creativity, and motivation. While sports isn't everything - it's a piece of a well rounded education. For some students it is highly valued, and sometimes it's the only the thing that keeps them connected to the community in prosocial positive activities. Sports teaches many skills that we need in adults - teamwork, physical abilities, obesity reduction, perseverance, social skills. These are the most important skills of all for students to learn - every bit as important as learning the Scarlet Letter, or how to determine the volume of a cone. Of course, cheating and lying, as in boosters funding private educations (no matter how good) is unsportsmanlike and antisocial. It's the wrong values and the wrong lesson. Whether or not the private school was good - is irrelevant. We could argue about that until the cows come home. If they were accredited then that's fair game.

And wrong about the assumption of kids exercising without sports. Sports is the exercise, and the reason to exercise for most kids. It teaches the value of a positive active lifestyle. Without that, they won't do it. And, PE really is no exercise of note or merit, and doesn't teach any of the valuable skills - generally speaking. It can't. Standard's based education (PE) doesn't motivate anybody to fitness. I can't think of a single student who reached fitness by attending a PE class.

More Sports

cmj said...

I agree with Reader. We have few reasons to keep varsity sports in public schools and many reasons to do away with them. I have zero problems with no-cut intramurals or community athletic leagues and think that PE in schools is great.

Varsity school sports distract from education. The kids do not need sports assemblies disrupting the school day and the school administration doesn't need to spend time managing coaches when they should be entirely focused on managing teachers and encouraging academics.

Exercise is a great thing and most kids don't get nearly enough of it, but I don't see school sports doing much to help obese or overweight students. There are few no-cut sports teams, so the students who need exercise the most don't make it onto sports teams. PE classes, on the other hand, help all students.

Varsity school sports are a bit scandal-prone. When coaches are obsessed with winning championships, some of them will do some improper things like falsifying student addresses to get good players into the school and on the team (Chief Sealth), recruiting students from other high schools (Garfield), and creating fake classes for academically-challenged athletes so that they can get recruited by top colleges (Garfield). Some of these could also happen with community leagues (see Jackie Robinson West Little League scandal), but at least the community leagues aren't nominally focused on academics.

As Reader mentioned, school sports also affect school start times and end times. If someone proposes later start times for high school students, who are biologically primed to go to sleep later and wake up later, the first objection that they hear is usually "but what about after-school sports?"

hschinske said...

I can't think of a single student who reached fitness by attending a PE class.

I took a lot of PE classes in high school. I learned about stretching, weight lifting, running, monitoring my heart rate, the basics of tennis, falling and rolling safely, doing a ropes course, and many other skills that have helped me pursue fitness and avoid injury. They were a hell of a lot more use to me than the numerous teams that I (a) had no interest in or time to pursue and (b) might well have been unable to qualify for. (Full disclosure: I did do a season of cross-country, which I did enjoy despite being one of the slowest runners, but no more than I enjoyed lots of other things.)

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

"While sports isn't everything - it's a piece of a well rounded education."

I would disagree; being healthy (i.e. working out) does not have much to do with sports. Millions of people are active without ever having played a sport in high school (me as one of them).

As I said in the thread - kids who want to play sports aren't the ones who need PE.

As well, there are club sports - our schools don't have to have a big involvement in sports. Not having sports at school doesn't mean no sports for kids. European kids are just as active, if not more, than U.S. kids.

"PE really is no exercise of note or merit, and doesn't teach any of the valuable skills - generally speaking."

Then I wish your kids had my kids' PE teachers because my kids PE teachers did a great job.

Anonymous said...

Before we throw high school sports under the bus a reminder that there are students who if not for their team participation may be on the streets.

I have seen how these teams become families, how coaches go beyond the call of duty to help a player get access to a nutritious meal and keep a roof over their head. And not to "keep them on the team" because they are the "star," but because they care and know what that child's probable outcome will be if they go hungry or become homeless.

So try to see pep assemblies as lifelines. And be thankful for your own good fortune.

Articles that illustrate how sports reduce dropout rates, increase test scores:

Cheating happens, it's rude and distasteful. But in our schools cheating is not limited to sports. Just google "test cheating scandals" and watch what bubbles up from Atlanta, Philly, Seattle...

Pro Sports

Lynn said...

Sports is the exercise, and the reason to exercise for most kids is just not true. An average of 16% of our high school students and 8% of our middle school students participate in school sports each season.

We cannot arrange our school schedules around extracurricular activities when doing so compromises our students's health and academic success. If the community wants to provide organized sports leagues for our children, more power to them.

seattle citizen said...

More Sports writes that "we don't have a European-style safety net for all the non-academic students..."
1) What safety net does varsity sports provide non-academic students? Do they get into college because of sports even though they're "non-academic" and might have poor grades? Is the "safety net" a possible pro-sports slot? What are the chances of that? What happens if they get into college with low academics (because they're cut slack), complete college with low academics (because they're cut slack AND some make pikes of money for the college sports machine) and don't get a pro gig? What's left to them?
2) If they are "non-academic", whatever the heck that means), isn't it the school's job to raise their academics, teach them? Or just to give them a sports venue?

Which brings us to the perspective that sports brings in students, keeps them coming to school, gives them a supportive community....Can't, and shouldn't, we be able to do that without sports? What is it in our culture that leads youth to think sports are their connection to the world, that sports are why they should be at school? This is the bigger cultural question, yes, and perhaps unanswerable, but students should be engaged with academics, not with their team. Age old question: where is the pep rally for the chess club? It's a school, not an NFL, Inc marketing device.
Lastly, there are plenty of educators who offer "fsmily" and connection and support IN the school. Yes, coaches do this, too, but if the student can only be brought to the school, and given support, by the sports team then something is wrong.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Pro Sports, I understand and appreciate your point. However, the story out of Bellevue shows how underprivileged students can be used. And fyi, pep rallies as lifelines? I've never heard them described that way.

Lynn,does the "community" want these organized sports leagues or is it parents? Honestly, I think that would be an interesting vote by the public at large. If sports boosters want to put that money in, great. I'm not as interested at the district-level and if I had a vote, I'd put my money in arts.

Arts keep kids in school as well.

Anonymous said...

SC - sports provides the scholastically non achieving students an afterschool prosocial venue of value, universally available, with quality monitored by the school, and at no cost. Students learn teamwork, school spirit, socialization, perseverance. And they have a family. For students living here in America - where there's scant safety net - these things are necessary. Actually, those are the MOST IMPORTANT skills you can have in life. More than academics. So - if you can't be an academic scholar (which is an ethnic bias btw) at least you can learn valuable skills. Community sporting venues do not provide the esprit de corp, the professionalism of schools, the price, nor the universal access that exists in public schools. Funny, it's always the advanced learner proponents who wish to denigrate the values of others.

If there's any problem with varsity sports (fully school supported), it's that they are "cut". The reality is - there are always no-cut options, and even many team sports like football - provide team access for nearly all students who want to try. I support reducing the level of play - to give opportunities to all students. All students deserve that.

MW - right. My kid didn't get the PE experience yours did. My kid got PE. It was fine. It did not make anybody fit. Varsity sports - provides more than fitness, and those other things are important too.

More Sports

cmj said...

More Sports said " Students learn teamwork, school spirit, socialization, perseverance. And they have a family. For students living here in America - where there's scant safety net - these things are necessary. Actually, those are the MOST IMPORTANT skills you can have in life. More than academics."

Good grief! School spirit is more important than academics? No, for goodness' sake, it is not. School spirit is a useless part of school culture. Did Bill Gates have school spirit when he was at Harvard? Apparently not, since he dropped out to start Microsoft.

"So - if you can't be an academic scholar (which is an ethnic bias btw) at least you can learn valuable skills." We certainly have problems with racism in education, but you're trying to tell me that if you're going to be a doctor or engineer, you must be racist? That doctors and engineers and accountants shouldn't study, because a good understanding of mathematics and science (academics) isn't a valuable skill?

I love how you discount the ability of community athletic leagues, performing arts programs like theater, and academic clubs (like rocketry club or chess club) to teach teamwork in favor of extolling the virtues of school sports. Clearly, students can only learn teamwork while kicking around balls. It's utterly impossible for them to learn teamwork or learn to socialize in any other situation. Since only 16% of high school students play school sports each season, the other 84% must be completely incapable of making friends or working with other students as a team on school projects.

Lynn said...


Those skills aren't going to get a student very far in life without academic achievement. (Particularly school spirit?) As an aside, how is academic scholarship an ethnic bias?

Organized sports do seem to be important to some students (less than 20% in our high schools.) Once our schools can provide manageable class sizes, reasonable teacher compensation, necessary academic supports, transportation, books and supplies, it would make sense to offer after school sports. (Assuming that could be done without affecting the school schedule.)

Anonymous said...

Lynn you are dead wrong if you think academics will necessarily "get you" somewhere. There's no sure thing. And learning social skills and to get along gets you the furthest. If you don't value varsity sports - don't sign up.

I never said it was impossible to learn other things, or receive value from sports in other places - just that we have a diverse population with many different values and many different needs. Schools are the most accessible, and they are required to be accessible. Community venues are fine - but not a substitute for schools. You could also get academic tutoring privately - or have private science, or a private math club. I never said, nor implied that academics shouldn't be offered - just that other things are also important. Notably Bill Gates attended a high school that has nearly 100% sports participation, where many students play multiple varsity sports. Evidently, he attended a school where athletics is school is a value. You sound like a bunch of ed-reformers - poo-pooing all the things that constitute a well-rounded education, except for the short list of things that you personally value. I'm sure you would all be up in arms if music or art were crossed off the list. That's your pet enrichment. And you would be right. I support arts in school too. You can't just support your own private values, and denigrate the values of others - no matter how sure you are that your values are the most important.


Melissa Westbrook said...

MS, that "nearly 100%" figure for Lakeside? From their website:

"...widespread participation (over 80 percent of our student body participates in at least one sport each year);"

80% is large but it's not "nearly 100%."

(Yes, when improbable claims are made at this blog, I sometimes check. Ask Suzanne Dale Estey about that.)

And ed reform is about "poo-pooing a well-rounded education?" I would say you don't know much about ed reform because that's not their general mission.

No one is denigrating sports in schools - we're asking questions about the high-profile they get versus what schools are funded for and responsible for - academics.

seattle citizen said...

MS - Being "an academic scholar" is an ethic bias?! Do you mean to say educators have a bias, thinking some ethic groups can't be academic scholars, and therefore educators should offer those ethnic groups other (non-academic) activities?!
Or do you mean that some ethnic groups see being an academic scholar as being "white", and therefore need another entry into the school via sports?!
I'm certainly not clear about what you mean, and in either scenario I get back to my first point, that we need to address the mindsets (not just in ethnic groups) in the community that say sports are as important (or, according to you, "MOST important"!) as academics. Schools are first and foremost places of learning. And plenty of other activities (and academic endeavors) provide the social learning you seem to suggest only occurs in team sports.

seattle citizen said...

"Ethic" twice above...dang autocorrect..."ethnic" of course.... : )

Anonymous said...

I believe the participation rate in sports at Hale is around 70%. Most sports at Hale are no cut or have JV alternatives. I know of several kids whose only inspiration to keep their grades up is to be able to participate. They do a grade check every month.

I think where a lot of problems comes in is when you have alumni or sports booster groups who value winning over everything else. The Bellevue Football Boosters raise over $400,000 every year! Hale's Football Booster account is 100x smaller than Bellevue's and is used primarily for equipment and uniforms for the over 60 kids that participate between Freshman, JV and Varsity football.


Anonymous said...

MW - OK. You got me. Smart you. 80%. 100% of the Lakeside students I know participate in sports. I am very, very familiar with ed reform. So, you stand corrected on that one. They support reducing curriculum to testing, and school to testing. That's not well-rounded. Their refrain is the same as yours - well, it's all about the tests and academics. No room for anything else. Is there a KIPP football team? I doubt it. Have you seen "First Place" or any charter school sponsor a team for anything? I haven't. My point.

I don't thinks sports have a particularly high profile. Coaches are barely paid (where's their union?) We hear moaning about a few extra minutes from our teacher's union - but they would gladly have their coaching colleagues spend hours and hours extra for nothing at all. And btw. They are earning far less than minimum wage. Probably less than $5 hour if you count all their time.

SW - I didn't say "sports" were the most important thing. It's the values and skills that students can derive from sports that are the "most important things". Yes. Some students get those values somewhere else. Good for them. But some, particularly those in less affluent situations, need a school sponsored activity that they enjoy to learn those all important skills. Yes, I think it is pretty racist to deny sports to people who want sports - because well heeled northenders can live where there are many opportunities to community based sports, well kept venues, and can afford to uber kids to and fro for them, and afford to buy equipment, clothing, coaches, transportation. No. It doesn't happen in low SES areas. All enrichment is important, arguably as important as much of the academic load. And the choice of how to prioritize enrichment is a cultural one.


cmj said...

Actually, school sports are probably more expensive than local recreation leagues unless you're FRL. For SPS, the first sport is $100/season/kid ($25/season for FRL students). By comparison, a city soccer team fees are $400/team for spring season with a maximum of 16 players per team, so a minimum of $25/player/season. City Track and Field team fees are $35 per player per season.

Social skills are somewhat important, depending on what profession you go into. They are not as important as academics and far easier to learn outside of school than at school. There are many places where you can learn social skills, but not many places where you can learn algebra. I don't care if my doctor has fantastic social skills if she misdiagnoses my illness. I don't care if the accountant at work is a wonderful team player if he fumbles the reports and people don't get paid on time. A social worker or psychologist needs to have good social skills, but they also need to have a very good understanding of psychology. Social workers can't get licensed unless they can pass their exams, no matter how friendly or empathetic they are.

I want to see schools revolve around academics and career preparation, not athletics or social skills. You'll get much further as a poorly socialized college graduate (assuming that you study something marketable) than as a well-socialized high school grad.

Anonymous said...

A doctor isn't a doctor long if he can't communicate or has poor bedside manner. A great accountant, who doesn't show up for work, or pxxes off his/her colleagues doesn't keep his/her job. It's not about "friendly and empathetic" . It's about life skills. Collaboration, perseverance, those are really the content of algebra. Basements everywhere are full of college grads who passed exams but have no gumption. I worked many years as an engineer, people with poor social skills, no matter how smart or educated, do poorly. Or at least, worse off than those who can get along. Yes, people should learn as much as they can in school. But we don't serve anybody well, if focus on only one thing. Btw. College is the new high school.


Anonymous said...

I think the obsession with sports is a huge factor in the denigration of teaching, and academics as a whole, in our culture. Just look at the pay differences between schools and sports. If you can get a various ball into a various hole, you make millions. Those who teach our kids get nowhere near that amount of money, and are many times barely scraping by.

We have become a nation where being smart is not seen as a positive, it's seen as being elitist. A kid who is good at sports, on the other hand, is practically a god. School should not be the training grounds for the NBA or the NFL.

We need to get back to academics being the most important part of schooling and not sports.

I would guess the majority of adults could name multiple sports figures before they could name a scientist (RIP Oliver Sacks), and that's not right.


Far less said...

To me, the values and skills of sports are far from what kids should be learning. Values of sports are competitiveness, aggression, and black & white thinking. You're a winner or a loser. This leads to more black & white thinking - you're a Packers fan or a Bears fan, you're a democrat or a republican, etc. No room for nuance or gray areas or seeing the other side's perspective. You also learn that if you can run fast and/or throw and carry a ball down a field or court, that you will be held above other people. The rules that the little people must follow don't apply to you. Therefore you can go to a fake private school paid for by sports boosters, or use a fake address to play for the school that wants you, just because you can throw or run with a ball down a field. You can ignore girls and women who say no to your advances, because no one cares about them, they just care that you're winning games for your team. If they speak up they are the ones vilified, not you. Sports is so overvalued in our culture. Far more people watch the super bowl than vote in the presidential election. I'm so very very tired of it all. Would love to see sports separate from school.

hschinske said...

Note: I went to Lakeside, after Bill Gates but still quite a while ago (overlapped with his little sister). Sports participation was high, but I'm pretty sure not as high as it is now -- certainly far from 100% -- and, as I said before, a number of the PE options were very good classes.

Incidentally, it used to be that sports were the only extracurricular activity available at Lakeside (before Gates's time, in the all-male days). A couple of teachers (Tom Wendel and William Dougall) had to start with once a week singing lessons to get ANY music going, back in the late 1950s. By my day, under Peter Seibert, we had orchestra, band, choir, barbershop quartets, and an early music ensemble. Things change.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

" Far more people watch the super bowl than vote in the presidential election. I'm so very very tired of it all."

Far more people are better informed about each team in the Super Bowl than they are about any presidential candidate.

Follow the advertising money. Maybe Bud Light should sponsor a presidential candidate. Candidates sponsored by Corona or Dos Equis could compete for the Hispanic vote.

Exhausted Mind

Melissa Westbrook said...

"100% of the Lakeside students I know participate in sports."

All readers, please do not state something as a fact if it is based purely on your experience. Not helpful.

"I don't thinks sports have a particularly high profile."

You've obviously never seen Friday Night Lights or been in an SPS high school. Yes, they have rather the high profile. Sports boosters at the high school pour in hundreds of thousands a year. It's not even the money - it's the focus that bothers me.

MS, you need to tread lightly. It's one thing to say "well-heeled" parents can provide more for their kids - it's another to say that in doing so, they are racist.

"All enrichment is important, arguably as important as much of the academic load."

We'll have to agree to disagree here. I will never go that far. I believe sports ARE important in many ways to different communities but taxpayers are paying for academic outcomes and the end of school is about those outcomes. Not what sport you played.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said...

Curious about the number of students who participate in schools? The figures for 2013-14 are available on page three of this document: You'll need to find the total high school and middle school population and calculate the percentages yourself.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tootaloo, I was speaking to MS so I'm perplexed.

I never state anything as fact if it's only based on my personal experience.

I am sorry to deleted your comment but I said not to call people racist for THEIR views.

Anonymous said...

Hale has parent booster groups for many different activities: Drama boosters, Science boosters, Robotic boosters, Music boosters, and Sports boosters. Also, this year there is no pay to play so high school sports are cheaper than community sports this year except for the club sports (Ultimate and Lacrosse).

I don't know how the spirit rallies are done at other schools but at Hale, it isn't all about the sports. The last spirit rally I went to at Hale, had a presentation from the Robotics club (they built a robot that shoots out tee shirts at the crowd), dance performances by the Bollywood club and the African Girls club, and more. The ASB leadership really tries to make it a focus on the school not just the sports.

I think sports, art, drama, music, dance, cultural clubs, and science clubs are all important to a high school experience and if done right, they are equal. I went to a all-girls college prep school and sports were an important part of the experience though I myself did not participate. Drama, music and art were also important.

Lastly, if your kid is not interested in sports or the traditional high school experience, there are options in Seattle such as The Center School and NOVA. No money spent on sports at either of these places from what I can tell.