Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DeVos Won't Commit to Equal Protections for All Students

So Ms. DeVos wants to give money to every kind of school, public or private BUT she will not say whether they should have the same accountability standards whether for testing, Special Education or reporting bullying/student behavior.

This interchange with Senator Tim Kaine is eye-opening.


Po3 said...

She would be a YUGE disaster for public education and is why she will probably be confirmed.

Another sad day.

Anonymous said...


-never personally attended a public school in her kindergarten to 12th grade education

-never sent any of her children for a single day of public school

-never has been a teacher, certificated or non-certificated, for even a single day

-never took a course of study about education (does not have an education degree, or, a degree in public administration)

And yet,

She is who our President Elect thinks is the most qualified in the land to run all public education everywhere for all?

It is not about her 'views' or 'values' that I strongly disagree with, it is about the candidate's absolute lack of qualifications and experience that is the problem. She should not be the nominee not because she favors charters and vouchers, but because she is not qualified to have an opinion on charters and vouchers because she has never been a teacher and never stood in front of kids trying to help them learn and grow. She has never been the principal in any school, supporting teachers who have supported students to learn and grow. She does not know what she is talking about. That much is painfully evident. That is why she should not be a candidate for consideration, let alone the actual secretary. Which any sane person would know. Just like every sane person knows this is a shoe-in.

The message is clear. Trump doesn't care. He doesn't have to. So, he will do exactly what he likes. He is a one term president. He will light a match and destroy whatever institutions are in his cross-hairs. Public education is just one of many departments that is lined up for a take-down.

My 12 year old explained to me why s/he was going to walk out: it is not because that walk-out was 'going to accomplish anything', it was because he wants to show the Muslim students in her/his school that the 'masses' are actively against what is or could happen. S/he told me that silence was complicity, and by walking out, her/his fellow Muslim students could see that their fellow students were not going along with, let alone okay with, the Trump administration and what it stands for.

I signed and sent off a letter demanding a different nominee for the Department of Education. It may not be much, it may not be effective, but if we ALL sent a letter, maybe even the ruling party would have second thoughts, especially after Mrs. DeVos's 'performance' yesterday?

It is worth a try. A try to get her set aside in favor of a qualified candidate. Because as my 12 year old stated, silence is complicity. Kain, Sanders, Murray, they can't do it alone. They need an avalanche of letters.

If you care about education, and I know you do otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, then write the letter. Please.

Edmond Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

The fact she does not know about the fact that protection of special education students is the law, that they are as entitled to a free and appropriate education just as non-disabled students are, speaks volumes as to how she will approach this issue once in power.

Yes, her comments about having guns in schools to protect against grizzly bear attacks is of course endlessly amusing, and underscores her woeful ignorance, but really, grizzly bears are not the frightening thing that threaten our students' well-being. She is the threat. Way scarier than a grizzly. Because she is real. A real threat.

But of course, as a billionaire whose children and grandchildren will never step foot in a public school, it doesn't really matter to her. The arrogance, the lack of humility, are telling, no? How else can you explain a nominee willing to babble like she did and still not withdraw herself from the running.

Send Letter

NE Dad said...

We live in Seattle and have the choice of four top performing public elementary schools.

Kids on our street scoring in the 90th percentile have the choice of bussing to the service area Spectrum school. Our neighbors across the street chose the service area option school. Or in our case, we moved our child to the HCC pathway school. Plus there is the high performing neighborhood attendance area school.

That’s a choice between four high-performing public elementary schools for our neighborhood, plus the three private schools within five blocks of our house.

There are parents in Seattle that realistically have only one choice. And their one choice is far worse than any of the four public school options we have. Being this is Seattle, the district consensus seems to be to eliminate the choices families like ours have by getting rid of programs like Spectrum and HCC.

I believe that choice is actually a good thing and I support creating more choices for kids in Seattle that don’t currently have them.

Charlie Mas said...

NE Dad, there is no family in Seattle with just one choice. There are option schools in every part of the city. There are other choices as well. There are Seattle students who attend school in the Highline, Shoreline, and Vashon districts. These schools are just as accessible as other schools in Seattle.

The families with only one choice don't live in cities; they live in rural areas. There are 295 school districts in Washington State, and only two or three others are anything like Seattle Public Schools. The bulk of those 290 other school districts have only one or two elementary schools and only one or two middle and high schools. There are no other nearby schools for those children and no transportation available to take them if there were a nearby school. You want to know where students don't have a choice in education? It's in small towns and rural areas.

But what are the charter school operators and charter school advocates doing to bring choice to these students - the ones who have no choice at all? Nothing. They only want to create charter schools in urban areas. Because it is only in urban areas that they can gather enough students who are willing to leave the public schools to make a charter school viable.

Charter schools opened in Seattle, but they did not exactly empty the surrounding public schools when they opened, did they? Far and away the bulk of families chose to keep their children in the public schools.

Charter schools are a sideshow. A distraction. There is nothing that a charter school can do for a student that a public schools cannot do. The bulk of charter schools operate their classrooms and deliver their curriculum no differently than traditional public schools. The only difference between a charter school and a public school is in the school's ownership and governance. All of the difference is in the Board room, not the classroom. For there to be a difference for the students, the difference needs to come in the classroom. Corporate Education Reformers like to accuse the teachers' unions of being obsessed with "adult issues" instead of "kid issues", but it's really the reformers who can only talk about adult issues. They are fixated on collective bargaining, teacher contracts, school ownership, and school governance.

So go ahead and support more choices for kids, NE Dad, but realize that charter schools don't do a damn thing for the kids who really don't have choice and only create more choices (not better choices) for students who already have plenty of choice.

Anonymous said...

What to expect from DeVos:

The people who best know the education advocacy work of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be his education secretary, are in Michigan, where she has been involved in reform for decades. ...

In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.

On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed. (more)


Anonymous said...

It's a done deal. I don't see how it's any worst then the last 8 years and it's the state's responsibility to educate it's child residents not the Fed's.

Uncle Sam

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Dad, are you saying it's an equity issue?

Because that would be fine but there is no real right to choice. I know as Americans that's hard to hear and believe me that if there was not money to be made in public education, the GOP could care less about choice. (Let's just see what "choice" looks like in healthcare under Trump.)

Charlie is right on all counts. Plus, even in urban settings, the overwhelming majority of charters offer no transportation so choice is for those who have it.

This "choice" idea is illusionary in reality.

Anonymous said...

DeVos and conversion therapy - which is illegal in Seattle BTW:

… Noting the Michigan billionaire has no background in the educational field outside of attacking teachers unions, Franken directed his most caustic objections at the way she and her family have attacked the LGBTQ community.

“Mrs. DeVos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-LGBT causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Franken began. “For example, you and your family have given over $10 million to Focus On the Family, an organization that currently states on its website that, ‘homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.'” (more)


NE Dad said...

Charlie, somehow your reality doesn't match my reality.

For example, in 2015-2016, 26% of Concord Elementary students demonstrated fifth-grade proficiency in math and 35% in language arts. The option school for Concord students is Louisa Boren STEM K-8. Those scores are better at 38% for fifth-grade math and 52% for fifth grade ELA. But all your “options” are still below the district average. And the K waitlist for STEM K-8 closed with 50 students denied a seat and 34 students denied a seat for first grade.

So there is a good chance if you’re at Concord, you have no choice but a failing school.
Compare that to if you live in the Bryant attendance area, which had fifth-grade scores of 95% for ELA and 80% for math. Or alternatively, you could “choose” Thorton Creek that even with its “expeditionary” learning approach still had better scores than Concord or STEM K-8 and a first-grade wait list of only 1.

And let’s not forget that more than 8 times as many students in the Eckstein service area (includes Bryant) qualified for HCC as in the Denny services area (includes Concord). Try qualifying for HCC when you’re in a class where the teacher is teaching a grade down and you have to qualify by scoring two grades up. Once again, a whole lot more choice for some versus others.

I did a detailed review of an ELA curriculum being used for fifth grade last year at a number of charter schools. And it was a whole lot better than the ELA curriculum that has been used for years by Seattle public schools. Perhaps some parents of students at Concord or other schools with very low tests scores might just like to have such a choice.

NESeattleMom said...

NE Dad, Do you really think that a charter school would be better than a public school for the students you are talking about? Oftentimes charter schools are militaristic with uniforms and chants and all that, instead of the kind of teaching your students' have as choices. I think that is an equity issue. My personal thinking is to help students who do not start school as highly prepared as many more privileged students do, is to increase the help at the preschool or K-2 age. More volunteers, more grandparents, more students helping before school, after school, etc. More help to make up for what they don't have when they show up for the first day of school. Things may be easy in the NE, but it is not the school that makes it that way, in my opinion, it starts out when people talk to their baby, take it to the library for story time, walk in the park and discover things. Charter schools won't solve that. Visiting nurses can help with the programs that bring a book to the home, and teach parents/caregivers how to improve their child's language and school-readiness.

Anonymous said...

At yesterday's senate confirmation hearing, not only did Betsy DeVos display ignorance of federal education policy supporting students with disabilities, she dodged and deflected questions about her position on Title IX protections against sex discrimination and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) oversight.

Even if DeVos is confirmed, we can still stand up for Title IX enforcement in K-12 schools in our communities.

Title IX

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I did a detailed review of an ELA curriculum being used for fifth grade last year at a number of charter schools. And it was a whole lot better than the ELA curriculum that has been used for years by Seattle public schools."

Do share that with us. I'm actually surprised they tell you what it is.

Anonymous said...

Who is Tim Kane?

Ass Clown

NE Dad said...


The district uses “Units of Study - Reading” and “Units of Study - Writing” published by Heinemann and authored by Lucy Calkins for the fifth grade based on Columbia University’s Reading & Writing Project. These are not bad, but the district’s implementation compared to other well-intentioned has been fairly poor, and trying to use the same curriculum for example at Bryant where students are above standard as at Concord students are generally far below standard, seems questionable.

For example, for reading the district created its own five “Units” with lessons that teachers are to follow. The first problem is that one of the district's units was an exact copy of another unit (obviously an error), and another unit was just a placeholder. So of the five units, teachers were expected to follow, only three actually existed. Another problem was the pacing guide. Whereas the math department has developed a straightforward pacing guide, and other districts have very detailed pacing guides, Seattle does not have one. And given MTSS teachers don’t need just “one”. Generally, in the end, a ton of work is left for the teacher.

Another key problem with the district’s curriculum is that it’s not well suited for failing students. It seems kind of pointless to be constantly “writing about their reading” when a student can’t read in the first place.

There are work problems used by other districts that assign leveled books for students. Students choose from the available options in the library, read the book, and then answer a series of online questions related to comprehension. Student progress is automatically tracked. Such a system seems far more suited to a school like Concord than the district’s curriculum. Systems that target remediation for math are also available.

Seattle Public Schools has many well intentioned people and many excellent teachers. But it also has a huge expensive bureaucracy that moves very slowly.

Choice doesn’t always works, but it doesn’t always fail either.

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Dad, I did not ask you about the district. You said you reviewed charter schools' ELA. Still waiting for that.

Anonymous said...

I am still learning about charter schools and vouchers and will say right now that I do not fully understand all the issues. But I am one of the parents who advocated against opening Cedar Park as a neighborhood school because those families in the "slice" would have no other choice. The slice is not in a geozone for an option school. Our closest option school, Hazel Wolf, has a crazy waitlist. I heard 100+ kindergarteners? Also many of these kids are from families who would have a difficult time navigating the option school process and may not even know it exists in the first place. In our urban area, did our slice kids truly have another choice? It was painfully obvious to all that opening CP as a neighborhood school with the proposed boundaries was effectively creating, from scratch, a segregated community in a substandard building, but it took YEARS to get this changed. And the equity issue was only confronted when the rest of the parents in the north end heard how the boundary changes would affect them. My dismal experience with the district thus far does not make me confident in the reality of "choice" for families in our urban school district, especially those families who are already disadvantaged. Because the school board stepped up, our kids now get to choose between the amazing Olympic Hills community and Cedar Park as an option school (if it actually opens now, sigh), but as late as September 2016 most OH families involved in the process thought it was a lost cause. Our most underserved families would have effectively been left with one choice, and it was NOT an equitable one.

Perhaps this is a hyperlocal example and purely anecdotal, but it has made me a cynic.

Still Learning

NE Dad said...

Very snarky Melissa. I made a good faith attempt to respond to both you and Charlie. I’ve re-read your question, it was ambiguous and my answer was appropriate.

Even in the last school board meeting, the SPS directors were themselves complaining that the district's ELA curriculum is 20 years old and it looks like once again it’s not going to be updated.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, NE Dad, you are not reading properly.

You said this:

"I did a detailed review of an ELA curriculum being used for fifth grade last year at a number of charter schools."

I said I would be interested in knowing how you got that info and asked you about it. You then provided info on SPS schools. NOt being snarky, asking for information.

SeattlePublic said...

Affirmative Action for rich white conservatives= Betsy DeVos, nominee for the Secretary of Education. It is really interesting how much conservatives talk about affirmative action as being reverse discrimination. But when it comes to their nominee, everything is going out the window. No experience in public education, no experience with enforcing civil rights violations, no experience enforcing policies in education, doesn't even believe in public education---no idea how student loans, Pell Grants works, knows nothing about the student who is not well connected. And... Doesn't even understand what the ADA does for students with disabilities. We don't have time for an On the Job Training kind of person. Trump thinks the worst qualified should get hired.

Charlie Mas said...

NE Dad, you say that Concord and Louisa Boren STEM K-8 are failing schools. Your evidence in support of this statement are the low pass rates on state proficiency tests among the students at these schools.

I understand what you're saying. You're saying that because the school is full of students who perform badly on the tests, the schools are bad. The only problem with that statement is the fact that there is almost no connection between the performance of the students and the quality of the schools.

All of the primary determinants of academic achievement are home-based, not school-based. Consequently, the portion of students working at grade level in a school is not a measure of school quality at all.

That's all pretty abstract and academic, so let's try it another way.

From your alias, I'm going to guess that you live in northeast Seattle. If you do - and maybe even if you don't - you could be familiar with the student outcomes at Eckstein Middle School. At Eckstein, 81.7% of the 279 8th grade students tested last year passed the SBAC ELA test and 66.9% passed the SBAC Math test. That same year, 216 8th grade students at Aki Kurose Middle School were given the same tests and the pass rates were 56.7% and 56.4%. Using your method of measuring school qualilty, this data would indicate that Eckstein is a better school than Aki Kurose.

Now let's consider a hypothetical: What if all of the students at Eckstein were re-assigned to Aki Kurose and all of the students at Aki Kurose were re-assigned to Eckstein. Imagine if the two schools swapped students. If that were to happen, do you honestly believe that a lot of the current Eckstein students would no longer pass the state proficiency tests? And, given the advantages of the building, administration, and teachers at Eckstein, do you think that the Aki Kurose students would pass the state tests at the same rate that as the current Eckstein students? Or - and I would like you to seriously consider this - is it more likely that the home-based factors that contribute to the Eckstein students' performance would continue to drive the Eckstein students' performance and that the factors that contribute to the pass rates on the state tests for the Aki Kurose students would continue to be the dominant influence on the Aki Kurose students' academic outcomes - even if they attended classes taught by the Eckstein teachers in the Eckstein building?

Every single study ever done has shown that the bulk of student academic performance is determined by home-based factors, not school-based factors. Consequently, student performance is not a legitimate measure of teacher quality nor school quality.

The biggest determinant in your child's academic outcome is you. And that doesn't change when your child changes school.

You can call Concord or Louisa Boren failing schools if you want, but the pass rates on state proficiency tests are not evidence of a failing school.

By the way, the pass rates for Eckstein 8th graders from low income homes are 50% and 25.5%, and the pass rates for Aki Kurose 8th grades from low income homes are 53.8% and 53.5%, so, by your measure - which is by no means legitimate - Aki Kurose is a better school for low income students.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, NE Dad, let's say that you're totally right. Let's say that children living the Concord attendance area can only choose between Concord or Louisa Boren STEM K-8. We'll ignore their access to other schools in Southwest Seattle or to schools in the Vashon, Renton, Tukwila, or Highline Districts, even though I made it clear that they have those options as well.

Let's go further. Let's suppose that none of the students in any of the schools in Level 1 or Level 2 of the District's Segmentation Levels (the schools you would call "failing schools") have any choices other than other schools in those Segments. That's 14 elementary schools, 3 K-8 schools, and 2 high schools. Oddly, no middle schools are in Level 1 or Level 2 of Segmentation. The schools are:
Emerson 313
Roxhill 300
Hawthorne 390
Graham Hill 352
Martin Luther King 323
Highland Park 353
Leschi 368
Lowell 315
Concord 391
The NOVA Project 344
Gatzert 291
Sanislo 273
Dunlap 298
ORCA 289
Van Asselt 511
Madrona 212
Licton Springs 99
Dearborn Park 371
and Rainier Beach 673

I tell you what. We'll add in four more schools that are in Level 3, but have absolute scores under 60, even though they have growth scores over 50.

Northgate 241
Viewlands 383
West Seattle Elementary 415
and Olympic Hills 289

Now let's add up all of the attendance at all of these schools. It comes to 7,794.

There are about 1,000,000 children in Washington State public schools. These children account for less than 1% of them. Even if there were this many children in Tacoma, Walla Walla, Spokane, and Kent - the other districts where charter schools have been established - with no choices other than "failing" schools. That would still be only about 1.5% of the children in the state.

My point, which NE Dad completely neglected, is that these 1.5% of the state's students are not the ones with no choice. These students are all in urban areas with plenty of choice. The students without choice are the ones in districts like Concrete, Methow Valley, Oroville, Tonasket, Omak, Okanogan, Curlew, Republic, and Keller. Charter schools are not forming in these rural areas and charter schools are not bringing these students any choice at all - and these are the majority of Washington State schoolchildren.

My point, which I'm happy to make again, is that charter schools are not very effective when it comes to bringing school choice to students and families without school choices. Instead, they bring additional choice to the students and families that already have school choice. So go ahead and make arguments in favor of charter schools, but bringing needed choice is not going to be an effective argument.

Anonymous said...

It is certainly possible to be opposed to charter schools and also acknowledge that many students in Seattle can only access a low performing school that is overloaded with students living in poverty.

It is called SAP in SPS.

As long as you defend the SAP, it is pretty hard to take your arguments against charters without a tablespoon of hypocrisy.


seattle citizen said...

FWIW, maybe I'm missing something but is someone "defending" the SAP?

ck said...

We cannot hold up Betsy DeVos by citing the records of any state's charter school successes-she is instrumental in how the Michigan schools, and nowhere else, are currently functioning-which is pathetic/abysmal. This is what she wants for everyone nationwide now who is part of the public school system. To say Seattle charters, or AZ charters, or wherever-else charters have been successful, misses the point: DuVos has been instrumental in making Michigan schools a wreck in part d/t lack of any oversight/accountability for charters, which she aggressively lobbies against-is that really what we want nationwide?

Charlie Mas said...

seattle citizen, you're going to have to understand how FWIW argues. First FWIW assigns you an untenable position that you never took, then FWIW attacks that position. I can see the appeal. By making these straw man arguments, FWIW never has to actually read or understand what other people write and never has to confront any view except a guaranteed loser.

In this case, FWIW claims that someone (I think it's me) has defended the student assignment plan and neighborhood assignment of students. In reality, where the rest of us live, I have done so such thing. Then FWIW makes the unsupported leap that it is inconsistent to both defend the student assignment plan and oppose charter schools. Which is weird since just two paragraphs before FWIW wrote: "It is certainly possible to be opposed to charter schools and also acknowledge that many students in Seattle can only access a low performing school that is overloaded with students living in poverty." which, as you can see, directly contradicts FWIW's conclusion.

FWIW isn't held to any standard of logic, honesty, or reality and therefore is not constrained by them.

NE Dad said...

Hi Charlie,

Sorry it’s taken me a day to respond.

I understand you to have made the following four main points: (1) All students in Seattle Public schools have choice; (2) Charter Schools don’t effectively increase choice because most students without choice don’t live in urban areas; (3) At home factors rather than school factors are the primary factor influencing student performance; and (4) test scores are not a good determinant of school performance.

(1) With regards to all students in SPS having choice, I understand your point to be that charters (and I assume also vouchers) are not necessary because in Seattle if a child is in a “low performing school” like Concord and their SPS elementary option school is full parents still have the choice of either (a) moving to a new address or (b) taking their kids to public school outside of Seattle in places like “Renton” or “Vashon” island. I can’t argue that those aren’t options, but I we’ll have to disagree as to whether those "choices" represent a compelling argument.

(2) My understanding of your second argument is that Charter Schools don’t effectively increase choice because most students without choice don’t live in urban areas. You provide a statistic of about 15,000 (1.5% x 1,000,000) urban students in potentially “low performing schools” in Washington State whom charter schools (or I assume vouchers) could potentially serve. This seems to be an argument about significance. I agree with your facts but disagree with your assessment of the significance.

Charlie Mas said...

"I understand your point to be that charters (and I assume also vouchers) are not necessary because in Seattle if a child is in a 'low performing school'” - hup. Gotta stop you right there, NE Dad. If we're talking about MY point (rather than YOUR point), then we need to remove all references to any "low performing school". My point is that you have failed to show that Concord (or any other school) is a low performing school.

My point is that "To Give Choices for Families with No Choice" does not provide a compelling argument for charters because charters do not, in fact, give those families any choice. They don't give those families any choice because those families are in rural areas and the charter schools are in urban areas. Charters do give additional choices to families in urban areas, but those families don't need MORE choices, they need BETTER choices, and charter schools, for the most part, are not better choices. Charter school classrooms, for the most part, are no different from traditional public school classrooms. Therefore they don't really represent much choice in education.

You are correct. If we care deeply about every child, then we might want to offer an additional choice of schools to the 15,000 or so who might want to escape a high poverty school. But society never promised people a choice in public education. And the cost of providing the luxury of choice is more than the community is willing to spend. Look around. The state is refusing to fully basic education right now, so there's little hope of funding boutique schools to provide a few thousand kids with choice that no one was ever promised and no one has a right to expect. It's just not a priority. So I would say that if we care deeply about every child, then we would fully fund basic education in the state. Since Washington state has not done that, then I think my priorities for education spending are aligned with the mainstream more than those who support charter schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But society never promised people a choice in public education."

And this is precisely one of the current issues in ed reform - this very American idea that we deserve as much choice as possible. I'm sure that many veterans would like a choice in where they receive medical services but that's not happening. I'm a bit baffled that there should be widespread choice, just for choice's sake. Having that choice has not really done much for Milwaukee which has had both charters and vouchers for years.

I absolutely agree that schools should be have equity in their funding and, as much as possible, work to lower the number of F/RL students at schools in order to support better academic outcomes.

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