Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Open Thread

Checking the Seattle Times, the final charter school ruling from the state supreme court is now gone from their home page.  There's not even a listing under their "Education Lab" section.  I guess the editorial board is now busy writing their latest missive to prop up what is truly a battered law.

As I said in one of my comments there, the Legislature would have a lot of explaining to do if they really tried to turn this around.  They'd have to create some quasi public/private system for charters, find the money to prop them up (as well as the Charter Commission who would still need to oversee the majority of them) and then, of course, explain to the public why, during a short session with a lot of work including McCleary, they are choosing to do this work and divert money from other programs.

I think this law is on life-support and maybe the Legislature should just pull the plug and start over with a new law.  A constitutional law.

Here's the trailer from the new Michael Moore documentary, "Where to Invade Next."  He's going to "take over" other countries' great ideas including those on public education.  This should be good.

Re: the arguing the other night at the Board meeting (where Director Patu really took it on the chin from some community members) about one of the SMART goals, closing the opportunity gap, here's the flyer that the district created last year about this program for African-American males.  At the time, I remember seeing this and wondering why I wasn't hearing more about this program. I'm still wondering.  The last page has a list of what ALL programs would like: "community-wide engagement, unwavering Board and Executive leadership ownership, dedicated cabinet-level "project-manager" and consistent resource allocation, culturally responsive professional development and accountability for performance."

There's a new book called Alice - Alert, Lockdown, Inform, counter, Evacuate - to help little kids know what to do in an active shooter situation.  Someone made a video of parents reading the book.

One of my two least-favorite U.S. Supreme Court justices, Antonin Scalia, told a Georgetown law school group this week that there is nothing in the constitution that gives parents the right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. 

 Naturally, home-schooling groups especially don't like this ruling and have a whole list of court cases that seem to indicate otherwise.  Of course, the actual right being in the constitution doesn't mean that the Court can't protect that right any way.  Scalia is apparently against substantive due process i.e. being a strict constitutionalist although I think even he would say that the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" contained in the Declaration of Independence may cover child-rearing as well as the First Amendment.

There are three community meetings on Saturday.  (Director Peters noted my plea for the new Board to try to have one community meeting per Saturday.  She told me that it's hard to do but I'm thinking maybe with seven people and four Saturdays a month, maybe it could happen.  The public really has no other way to see Board members in a group fashion.) See the district calendar for times and locations.

Friday Funny - making plans for the kids for that long Thanksgiving weekend?  Forget Black Friday - take the kids to the Internet Cat Video Festival at SIIF.  My latest fav cat video is cats and the scary, scary cucumber.

Transforming the internet phenomenon of cat cuteness from a solitary online experience to a real-world social event, the Internet Cat Video Festival features over 85 viral cat videos in one engaging and exciting non stop parade of **squee!** that will leave you with a smile on your face and a purr in your heart! 

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

National and local education news of note:

Frank Ordway the LEV lobbyist, left LEV to go the new state department of Early Education. It seems to me that this is the latest "all the cool kids" are doing it government cause. I noted that this is where the federal DOE is now putting its eggs in its basket.

Which brings up the bigger news: Bipartisan support on tearing up the NCLB law. A redo is likely to pass before Obama leaves. The insistence that states tie test scores to teachers is gone. Yearly tests stay, but most of the rest of public school regulation is getting punted back to states, which is either good or not good depending on how strongly states support money and high standards for their schools. I fear for students in our southern states.

The amusing and satisfying issue on the NCLB compromise is both liberals and conservatives united (after 8 long years) over their hatred of Duncan and his Race to the Top mandates/bribes forcing states to jump when he said boo in order to get federal funding. Those days are over. In my book Duncan was catastrophic to public schools and a blight on the quality of Obama's administration, so very glad to see him and his ideas get a kick in the pants.

From the New York Times: “One of the really funny things is that I cannot think of a major piece of legislation that was driven as much by bipartisan frustration with a single cabinet secretary.” This from a very conservative organization's spokesperson.

One story I read said the only power that will be left in the DOE, thanks to Duncan, is choosing the flavor of their morning coffee at Starbucks. That Duncan brought down the DOE for better and for worse) will be his ultimate legacy and that's about as poor as it gets for a government appointee.


NO 1240 said...

The pro-charter folks learned from Eva Moskowitz and packed hundreds of charter schools onto busses to advocate in Olympia. No surprise, here.

Chris Reykdal used to be a strong public school supporter. He is running for OSPI and I am greatly disappointed to see his latest quote. Please consider writing Reykdal and let him know a pro charter stance is inappropriate for a Democrat.

"Great public schools are student-focused and accountable to local voters. The Court got this right. Charter advocates have a pathway and it is through local school board authorization and a contract will locally elected school boards who are directly accountable to voters and taxpayers. This will take compromise on all sides. From charters, to excessive testing, let's compromise."

Our district has enough to do and shouldn't be engaging in contracts between charter schools/districts. Lastly, there is too much work to become a charter school authorizer.

Anonymous said...

A big kids win!

A group of young petitioners in Washington state fighting for a stable climate—and therefore a livable world—was vindicated late Thursday when a judge affirmed that the state has a constitutional and public trust obligation to protect the environment.


Anonymous said...

Like McClureWatcher's enthusiasm but the young petitioners did not get a big win. They got a loss. Their case was rejected. Judge made some supportive comments toward the kids but that is not the same as winning the case.

Also Watching

joanna said...

Seattle Times does have their post up now:

Jan said...

One HUGE reason for districts to refuse to become charter authorizers is the legal exposure. Charters elsewhere have proven extremely difficult to close -- and if state bodies or others try to hold them to their authorization docs, or state law, -- they sue (backed of course, by the endless pit of money controlled by their corporate overlords). Just look at the legal dollars being poured into the current efforts to prop up a flawed, unconstitutional initiative!

It is bad enough for the state to have to take on the legal exposure created when bad charters refuse to comply or fold -- but the State AG is a pretty big entity, with a lot of capacity. It would be disastrous for the District to take on that liability.

Melissa Westbrook said...

EdVoter, my thought as well. Are all the ed reformers jumping ship for pre-K?

McClure Watcher, my listening of the climate change news story is that the kids got some affirmation but the case won't go forward.

Joanna, I didn't say there wasn't a story - it's just not on their front page. You have to go looking for it.

Jan, likely we just elected a Board majority that will recognize these issues (and that want to better the existing schools already in the district). They'd never vote to authorize but again, the law is dead. Just funding those schools will not be enough to keep charters going. They really should cut their losses and try again.

Anonymous said...

"A group of young petitioners in Washington state fighting for a stable climate"

I guess they want it to be 72 degrees and sunny year around.

See what happens to kids when paper routs disappear!

ABW Seattleite

Lynn said...

New petition filed in the McCleary case:

Anonymous said...

What the state charter association said about yesterday's court ruling. High notes of bitterness and heartstring tugging paired with under-notes of lobbying and scare tactics.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, District Watcher, both the WPC and charter association have particularly high-pitched comments.

What is interesting is that the association makes it sound like the Court could decide to uphold a law just because it was an initiative and just because it has started enactment. The Court is there for the law and only the law.

My favorite line?

"Not only has the Court relied on an antique and dated constitutional framework to reach its decision, but the implications of this decision are sweeping and could impact students attending tribal compact schools, Running Start, and other important public educational programs as well."

I love that "antique" framework - did they mean antiquated?

Plus they seemingly missed the part where that footnote got taken out that would cover those programs they noted. Even AG Ferguson mentioned that.

Charlie Mas said...

I like how the Washington Policy Council called the ruling "mean-spirited".

You'll notice they never make a legal argument about the ruling. They say that voters wanted charters, or that this closes kids' schools, or that the law on which it is based is old, but no one says that the Court got it wrong based on the only determinant that should matter: the law.

Charlie Mas said...

Oops, Washington Policy Center.

Anonymous said...

Charlie said " but no one says that the Court got it wrong based on the only determinant that should matter: the law."

Didn't the Court just say they got it wrong the first time, and that is why they removed footnote 10 about funding?


Melissa Westbrook said...

C'mon Lisa, that footnote apparently may have affected other ed programs that are funded (although Rep Gerry Pollet debunked the issue of Running Start.) The Court was being prudent on that point but nothing else really changed.

The law is dead. I think it will be fascinating to see how some lawmakers will try to breath live into it.

Isn't there a new Frankenstein movie coming out?

Anonymous said...

Melissa said "C'mon Lisa, that footnote apparently may have affected other ed programs that are funded (although Rep Gerry Pollet debunked the issue of Running Start.) The Court was being prudent on that point but nothing else really changed."

There seems to be two possibilities: 1. The court made a mistake when they included that footnote in the original ruling. 2. The court was correct in including that footnote in the original ruling, and they are removing it rather than deal with declaring existing programs illegal.

You seem to be siding with the second possibility and calling it "being prudent" rather than negligent in allowing existing programs to continue to operate illegally. That seems to be a cynical view of the Court. But I'm new to the state, so I don't have any background to be cynical about them, so my interpretation was that they made a mistake in the original ruling and admitted it.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, even if the second issue is correct, it doesn't matter for the charter law.

If the Legislature is funding other programs wrongly, then they can fix that issue (or could.)

It doesn't make the charter law constitutional. As well, I've said this over and over - the Court did NOT consider all the issues the plaintiffs laid out. I believe even if the Court HAD reconsidered, those issues would have brought the law into jeopardy.

A bad law was written out of a template by ALEC and they gambled and lost.

The Legislature should move on to the REAL issue of fully-funding public ed for the 1M+ students. Not wringing their hands over 1200 students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But Lisa, clearly, they felt their ruling had opened a door that could be an issue. You are right there.

As well, I don't know what state you came from, but we elect our judges here. Which I think is somewhat weird and, of course, whoever they get contributions from then people are suspicious of any ruling that favors a contributors.

We have also had this weird issue of repeatedly elected judges that have the last name "Johnson." In fact, over in Eastern Washington, there was a very qualified guy running for a judgeship and he had a Hispanic last name. Out of nowhere, comes this guy with the last name of Johnson who was underqualified and had no real track record. It looked very much like a ploy to not elect the Hispanic-American candidate. Luckily, he did win.

Anonymous said...

I'm from California which does elect judges, and also has charter schools.

It seems clear that the Court says that I-1240 violates the state constitution. I still can't tell whether that means any charter school in Washington would be illegal, or whether there could be some way that they could be organized that would be legal.

My 9:33 comment wasn't about any of that. I was just trying to point out that the Court seemed to think it got something wrong according to the law, which contradicted Charlie's comment that "no one" was saying that.

In California, charter schools need to be reapproved every 5 years, so bad ones disappear relatively easily. California has a lot of bad school districts. Bad enough that they lead to lawsuits about students being denied access to education. Personally, I disagree with that ruling because I think it was never shown that the school district ever tried to get rid of ineffective teachers. One of the school districts involved in that case is notoriously dysfunctional and has had cheating and embezzlement scandals. It's not surprising that parents would look to charter schools for their children. School districts don't need to have their schools approved every 5 years, so year after year they can continue to deprive students of a good education.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, they could be "organized" to be legal but they won't be charters. The Legislature can find a way to fund them but without any kind of elected oversight, they aren't common schools. Finding that money means some other funding than basic ed funding. But, they still need some kind of oversight.

Our constitution says that the state superintendent is supposed to oversee all "common schools" which the Court says charter schools are not. But, if the Legislature wanted to keep them as charters, they can fund them out of the General Fund AND have some kind of oversight from the Superintendent.

However, charter schools don't want that kind of supervision so I just don't know where this will go.

We have not had enough time or charters to know how well the enforcement of charters would be but the overall national record is not good.

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

Reprinting for Anonymous (no anonymous comments, please), a very fascinating podcast (but the transcript is there if you want to read it). I may do a thread on this.

Interesting Freakonomics piece about early learning, very early learning, differences in racial outcomes, and more. It made me wonder about "targeted universalism," a term I hadn't heard until this month.

Anonymous said...

Oops, thanks, Melissa! That was me.

Reading that transcript led me to do a search for "targeted universalism" in this blog. I didn't attend the last Board meeting, but you wrote about their discussion of it here:

I did a little searching for the Montgomery County reference that Martin-Morris made at the meeting, but couldn't find anything.

Anyway, I was just wondering if the district understood how positive results for African-American males would automatically have universal benefits, or if they were just hoping that they would happen to, or if they were going to specifically try to develop plans they knew would have universal as well as targeted benefits. Because from reading the Freakonomics transcript, it sounds as if what works for one population in terms of learning does not necessarily work for all populations.

When I did a bit of reading about other examples of "targeted universalism," it sounded like the original plans include both the targeted and universal benefits -- it doesn't happen through coincidence. One example was how funding for increasing energy efficiency (universal benefit) could also be used to benefit low-income communities (targeted benefit) if the funds were used for home improvement rebates in poor areas, instead of, say, building high-tech windmills.

Anyway, if anyone has any more information on the plan for how this will work, I'd be interested in reading more.


Anonymous said...

The October Friday memo referenced in this blog post -- -- does not give me hope that the district has any plans to ensure that their attempts at "targeted universalism" will have universal benefits.

1. Formative practice benefits EVERY student. This work exemplifies the concept of “targeted universalism” – the practice of following targeted strategies to reach universal goals. Formative practice targets struggling students but ultimately benefits all students, universally. Our strategies target struggling students, but when we can document that opportunity gaps are closing for them, this helps confirm our overall success. In other words, a boost in their achievement tends to reflect a universal boost for all.

It's unclear what they are saying. They seem to be saying that (1) targeted efforts tend to (coincidentally?) have universal benefits, or (2) their targeted goal happens to be an overall goal so therefore this targeted benefit will be a universal benefit, or (3) both.

I think it's smart to target one group in order to have the best outcome for that group. But it didn't sound like their plan was to target the group they believed to have the greatest need first, and then use their learnings from focusing on a single group to target other groups next. It sounded like they believe that whatever works for African-American makes will automatically benefit other groups as well -- which directly contradicts what Levitt and Dubner were saying in that Freakonomics piece.


Anonymous said...

Melissa said "they aren't common schools. Finding that money means some other funding than basic ed funding"

That's something I don't understand yet. From reading the constitution, various rulings, legislative guideline, etc. it seems that common schools are only part of basic education. Basic education includes common schools, but also includes high schools and other types of education.

Melissa also said "charter schools don't want that kind of supervision"
The California charter schools that I am aware of are approved by a school district or a County Board of Education, so it seems that many charter schools are willing to have supervision by a locally elected board. (Washington doesn't have County Boards of Education, does it?)


Anonymous said...

LisaG, I've come to the conclusion that Melissa is purposely being obtuse on the issue of charter schools in regard to the differences between common schools and public schools in our state, the governing issues as they pertain to those differences, and how charter schools might be funded out of the general fund without cutting other non-school funding.

She is first and foremost an activist and is strongly anti-charter schools. She's not trying on this blog to inform but rather persuade. You are wasting your time engaging in a debate on the pros and cons of charter schools. She is only interested in the cons.

I respect her position. I strongly disagree with it, but I respect that she has taken a position and is more than willing to fight for it. But this blog is not a place for an honest exchange on the merits of charter schools.

--- aka

Lynn said...


I've been reading about this too. It looks to me like the universalism in targeted universalism refers to very indirect benefits. For example, practices in schools that increase graduation rates for African American males benefit everyone because our society benefits when overall graduation rates increase.

The common example I found in my reading was the G.I. Bill. It provided a universal benefit to veterans - but was used mostly by white males and therefore increased rather than decreased the achievement gap. Targeted universalism would provide a benefit that only increased college attendance by underrepresented groups.

Targeted universalism explicitly directs resources toward programs that benefit only the underperforming group - because practices that benefit every student don't decrease the gap. In my opinion this subverts the point of public education. That's the question of the day though isn't it? Should the goal of our schools be providing the opportunity for every child to achieve to their highest level or for every child to reach an equal achievement level?

Anonymous said...

Posting late for Open Friday - sorry: I've done a couple of search-field searches, but haven't come up with this info:

I'm fairly new to the world of gifted kids / getting my bearings....

Can anyone please tell me what happens to the HCC / APP Lincoln kids when they age?
I heard Lincoln HS got the funds approved to get a makeover/ become a comprehensive High School by 2019: it there any glimmer of hope that an upperschool gifted program might be available for the HCC? Is there already in SPS?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Lisa, the Court said they aren't common schools under our constitution because they are not overseen by an elected official/board. I'm not on the court so I cannot explain that point any better.

Our charter law say oversight is by the Charter Commission (not elected but appointed) or school districts (they have elected boards but only one district in the state is an authorizer.)

Aka probably didn't ever read my multi-part, objective series on charters. I wrote it before I fully came out against charter schools because I wanted to be informed and I wanted my readers to be as well. That I have educated myself, gone to charter schools (one in California, Lisa) and now are against them means at least I have an informed opinion.

Lynn, JvA, I, too, want to do more reading and research about "targeted universalism." Both Martin-Morris and Blanford were almost evangelical in their talk and Blanford lit into Peters for even asking a question. From reading the link from Freakonomics, their article seems to refute targeted universalism. But if SPS is investing time and money into this venture, it would be good to know what is happening. (Peaslee made the point that she worried about one it would look like to focus on one under-served group versus the others.)

Jules, there is really no direct "gifted" program in high school. All the high schools have AP classes (although I believe Garfield and Roosevelt have the most.) Kids in the gifted program in middle school can go to an IB program at Ingraham that is cohort-directed but there is also IB at Sealth and Rainier Beach High School. But you can only go to another high school if there is room.

As for Lincoln, I suspect it may get IB as a lure for parents but I have no direct knowledge of this.

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote "the Court said they aren't common schools under our constitution because they are not overseen by an elected official/board."

I totally get that the courts say they aren't common schools, and understand why they say it.

What I don't understand is why basic education can cover education other than common schools, but basic education cannot include charter schools. What aspect of charter schools makes them unable to be included in basic education? The 897140 ruling seems to say that, but I don't see that they give a reason why. Can anyone out there point me to a ruling or law that explains?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lynn and Melissa.

I've been reading more about targeted universalism. I think it means that if you want to ensure that the most marginalized, underserved group benefits from a policy, then you need to focus on that particular group. I couldn't find anything that said it means that focusing on one particular marginalized group will automatically benefit other marginalized groups, which seems to be what the School Board thought. It sounded like the School Board thought it was OK to focus on African-American males because any benefits to them would also mean benefits to, say, Cambodian girls and Filipino boys.


Melissa Westbrook said...

JvA, I thought that was what was said as well.

Anonymous said...

The C&I Friday memo on targeted universalism from several weeks said it would help everyone. That by targeting one group, you improve outcomes for all.

Yeah, right. Maybe in the sense that by improving outcomes for a low-performing group you might increase the district's overall average performance (assuming the new targeting doesn't negatively impact those not targeted), but the claim it'll increase outcomes for all groups is wishful thinking.