Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blanford's KUOW Interview

KUOW released an interview that journalist Ann Dornfeld did with departing Seattle School Board member, Stephan Blanford.  It was eye-opening, both for what he said and didn't say and what either didn't get asked or was left out in the piece by editor, Katherine Banwell.

The full interview as released on KUOW is 31 minutes long; the shorter for-the-radio piece is about 7. 5 minutes.  The title of the interview is:  On being the only black man on the Seattle school board

Sadly, I didn't take a screenshot but I do recall the first time I saw the KUOW page on this story, it said that Blanford would be reflecting on his time on the Board.  Well, he does but thru one lens and that's race.


My overall impression from listening is that Director Blanford is very much the person he has been all along on the Board - quick to judge, good at never telling the full story and, most of all, good at blaming others for lack of progress in our district.

I'll go into detail but here are the issues that jump out at me:


- That title.  Blanford currently is the only black man on the Board BUT he served his first two years with another black man, Harium Martin-Morris.   That fact is never brought forth by either Dornfeld or Blanford.

- Blanford's biggest complaint - and he cites it as a reason he chose not to run again - is that he was on the wrong end of too many 6-1 votes that "affect the achievement and opportunity gap."  That's really not true.

First, he doesn't talk about his first two years on the Board when he wasn't the only black man nor was he on the end of 6-1 votes.

I went back and looked at the Board votes for the last 3+ years (I would have liked to go further back but no, you can't at the district website - one more irritating thing to add to the website revamp.)

Want to know what I found?  That throughout the nearly four years he has been on the Board, about 95% of the votes - from both sets of boards  - were unanimous.   (So for any of those who buy into that - "dysfunctional board" nonsense -on voting, just - not - true.)

And, in his first two years, he did tend to be on the good end of 6-1 votes.  When he occasionally was the lone vote against the majority, well, it was over things like renaming Wilson-Pacific.

Then, when a new group of people came in two years ago, guess what?  Still largely majority unanimous votes.  In this interview, Blanford says that he was pained over losing votes on equity matters and yet when he was on the 6-1 end, most of those votes were on construction matters or growth boundaries (around Woodland Park).

Want to know something else?  Peters was on the losing end of a couple of 6-1 votes.  Ditto on Pinkham.  But you don't see them whining about it.

-  What is sad is that Blanford is a really educated, smart guy.  And yet, what did he achieve on the Board?  There's another question that didn't get asked.  I can answer that - not much.  He did not champion much nor drive any new initiatives.   He spoke out - frequently but ever offered solutions.

- Which brings me to another point - He barely had  anything good to say about the district.  Or the boards he has served on.  Or even to mention the Black Male student initiative which just came out with their recommendations (and that's a whole other thread).

Wouldn't you think that the last item would be something of pride to point to, especially as the only black man on the Board?  And yet, mum's the word.

No, I think Blanford has given up on the Board and is now a mouthpiece for...someone(s) and that  message is that Seattle Schools is pretty terrible and when it comes to equity matters, very terrible.

What's significant is when he does point to something good, it's not something the district created.  It's the City's pre-K program (maybe that's his next public gig).

- He does say one interesting thing about being a board member- "You get to put a brick in the wall but not change whole systems."  He's right on a Board member not being able to create that kind of systemic change (but voting in a great superintendent could do that) and his choice of "brick in the wall" echoes the Pink Floyd song which was very much about kids in school.

Please note that I did try to transcript verbatim but truncated some responses (like SPS instead of Seattle Public Schools).  

Highlights 
  • He and Dornfeld talk about the fact that SPS has the 5th worst opportunity gap in the country.  (He doesn't bother to mention that one big issue in that data is that Seattle's gap is so very large because they do so well with white students who score much higher than other white students in the state.  That is worth noting.)  
And, he claims, "It's hard to know what the baseline was before."  What?  He's saying there's no way for the district to have known what its gap was before this study? Maybe not nationally but statewide, sure.

He is right that for our city being so wealthy, education and committed to education, that gap is unacceptable.
  •  On the NAACP ask on ethnic studies versus the resolution that the board passed which doesn't include a timeline or mandatory for graduation.  He is one point that these are difficult conversations and teachers need support to carry out this kind of curriculum.  But then, he says there are some teachers in SPS who are "inspired by the idea,", which, to me, seems to say others aren't.
  • On Race and Equity teams.  He said that he has seen some "excellent teachers who care" about closing the opportunity gap and yet there are some teachers for whom "it's not their primary concern."  He said the culture of the entire school is the work of those Race & Equity teams.  He argues that the district is not moving fast enough and I agree. 
  • Dornfeld asked how the district could have desegregated schools in a largely segregated city.   If families don't have a high quality school in their neighborhood, he worries that mandating assignment to neighborhood schools won't change that.  But, he points out that transportation costs would be sky-high if the district attempted to change schools' populations.  He does say that the assignment plan was created with the idea that the district would make all schools high-quality (he doesn't say how that was to happen) and that they are getting there but it isn't a reality yet.
Dornfeld then teases out the idea that diversity is important to a quality school and that leads Blanford to say this:

I agree wholeheartedly but others in school communities may not recognize how important that is.    That part of education in the 21st Century is going to be the ability to work across cultures and work with people who are not like you.   Many of our schools are not very diverse and many of our constituents are pushing towards efforts to ensure that that is happening.  When we try to promote, we actually get pushback from folks in communities.

Dornfeld - you've said that parents in Seattle want their child to be in a school that is diverse but not too diverse.  Why do you think that is?

Blanford: right.  I read a study - I'm not remembering the author - who tried to quantify what is the threshold number for kids of color in a school and it was not very high, where white parents will say, "that's a good school, I want my child to go there" and if it goes over that number, then those same parents are less likely to enroll their child in that school.  

He didn't remember the threshold number but he says it was less than 10%.

He goes on to say he would like to ask Seattle parents why they would feel that way.  Except that he's extrapolating what this mystery study said - not in Seattle - to parents in Seattle schools.  He said he would like to "put that in front of parents and have them grapple with that."  Apparently he has never met any of the parents from Soup for Teachers, for example.

Dornfeld: Do you think that white parents in Seattle know that about themselves?

Blanford:  I hope I don't get myself into trouble but I believe that in many ways our parents, many of our white ones, there is a disconnect between what they believes in their heart of hearts and how they act.   And as a parent myself, I know my primary job is to advocate for your child.  I believe that is what all parents do, all of the time. 

There's a fundamental dissonance between if you have a preconceived notion that black and brown kids can't learn at the same rate as white/Asian kids, then there is an automatic default to wanting your child to be in a diverse class but not too diverse.

Dornfeld: do you see issues of segregation within school buildings that appear diverse but are not?

Blanford: Yes, there are three schools in the district that I represent and I would believe in every district in Seattle, there are a number of schools where the teachers have come to me and said there is rampant segregation in our building when we line up all of our kids and we send HCC kids in one direction and we we send the General Education kids in another direction.

Here's a question - how come Thurgood Marshall's HCC isn't more diverse?  It's within the principal's power to help make that change and yet, it hasn't happened.  I mean, if a principal could dissolve Spectrum, couldn't a principal make an active change to the make-up of HCC by getting more kids of color in the program (not in the classroom but the program)?  Hmm.

I'm also just so puzzled over this incessant wringing of the hands over HCC by nearly every kind of staff and leadership in this district.  No one can do anything about this? C'mon.


Where it's profound and right in your face, where you see all the black and brown kids on one side, and all the Asians and white kids on the other side, our teachers and our administrators, when they see that are able to call it and some of our parents are pretty passionate about when they see their kids lining up, on either side of that equation, that's not public education is about.

He says he has tried to support those parents but that there are times when that has been challenged.
He doesn't say by who but he generally points the finger at other parents in this interview so that's what I would assume.  However, if you are an HCC parent, told by the district what this program is and how it works, wouldn't you ask questions if it played out differently than what you were told?

Dornfeld: Has the School Board aided and abetted that?

Blanford:  Yes. I want to believe unintentionally.  I would suggest in my four years on the Board I've tried to articulate if we make a policy decision in one way what the ramifications of that policy decision for our efforts to foster equity and close gaps. There have been times when I have been the sole vote on an issue like that.  And after a lot of 6-1 votes, at some point it becomes not the best use of my time.  Figuring that I can advocate externally better than internally.

Except that there were not that many 6-1 votes, not even over the entirety of his career on the Board. 

Dornfeld talked about seeing more white faces at School Board meetings than in your average classroom in Seattle Schools.  How do you see the folks who lobby the Board as influencing its agenda when it comes to equity?

Blanford:  That is a great question.  They do strongly influence the Board and you should know that the School Board meetings are an opportunity for parents to come and articulate their feelings on policy positions that we are going to take.  What you don't see is the emails that we get.  The campaigns that are launched by people of goodwill who care very deeply about their individual school but in their advocacy for their school are working to the detriement of other schools.

I'll hit the pause button here to say that in any given situation - be it boundaries or buildings, whatever - one school may come out in a better place than another school. I rarely see decisions that appear to be made inequitably by the Board but they are the leaders who have to make the decisions.  And, I have seen many times when "campaigns" simply did not work.  I believe Board members do due diligence and strive to consider all points of view.  That's my experience but apparently not his. 

He went on to talk about waitlists (probably about Stevens) and the struggle he has for all schools, both in his region and the entire district, to do what this parent group wants "would be detrimental to another school."  He does not seem to view what would happen to the first school as detrimental which is odd for someone trying to be fair.

He claims that "those who lose" are not the organized parents but those parents who don't have access to a school board member and those who choose not to go to a school board meeting.

Wait, what?  There are parents who don't have access to a school board member?  I'm not sure how that is possible given the many ways to access board members.  I think he came closer to the reality with "choose not to" in the latter part of that sentence.  I realize that Board meetings are at an inconvenient time (and I argued against that and I don't recall that he did) but yes, there are multiple ways to access Board members.

There are winners and losers with every decision we make.  And if  you are truly an advocate for education equity, you have to factor that into your advocacy.

I'm confuse how he can be so pronounced in his feelings one minute and then pragmatic the next.   He does go on to saying that "the pie should get bigger" and calls for more advocating with legislators about funding.

Dornfeld: What do you think has to be in place besides that funding to close the opportunity gap?

Blanford: In my research around the country, there are districts - many districts - that have far less resources than SPS has and their gaps are equivalent.  In some ways it is about money, but it's not only about money.  I believe my heart of hearts that it's about leadership.  And it's about a community coming together and speaking passionately about what it believes and then tasking its representatives, being school board directors and superintendents, to act on that vision.  

Interjecting here, I go to and watch on tv, a lot of Board meetings.  I have not heard a single challenge - ever - to the Superintendent's SMART goals on closing the achievement gap.  But Blanford makes it sound like there is pushback.  Maybe he means there isn't enough dedication or push for educational equity from parents publicly from parents?  I can't be sure.

He goes on to say that with fewer resources that people will "advocate what is best for you instead of what is best for the community."  He seems to believe this is a mindset problem that will continue even if the district gets more funding.  

It will be more difficult over time to disrupt and interrupt that.

Dornfeld; I've spoken to a lot of parents over the years who think that the district has a really good platitude game and talks a lot about closing the opportunity gap and doing right by young black boys, etc. but doesn't really put their money where their mouth is.  Do you think that's the case?

Blanford: Yes, in large measure, I do think that's the case.  I think you asked the question at the start about why I chose to run and I would say I did because I had the right skillset to try to push that issue and the 6-1 votes that have occurred over time prove to me that that's not the case.  

As many e-mails as I get saying that folks are not concerned about schools that are not like their own, who believe passionately that our school system should be equitable and should be driving resources to those students who are underperforming, they are not nearly as organized as those who are advocating for their own individual school. 

Dornfeld: when you think back on those 6-1 votes, which are most painful?

Blanford:  There are numerous ones but one in particular still grates for me and it was one of my colleagues has taken a position for a long time that standardized assessments are bad, inherently bad.  And so I did a little bit of research on that and found a letter written to the Congress by 20+ national organizations that are advocacy organizations for children.  They said assessments actually are a good thing, particularly for our kids because they show the system is not serving those kids well.

I read this letter almost in its entirely before we voted on the assessments resolution that said that standardized testing is bad and that was a 6-1 vote.  

Now, I recall that letter and NCLB was created just so that all kids - in total and in subgroups - would be tracked on outcomes.  The problem was, as we later learned, that the assessments were not being used for progress but just straight-up test scores to punish schools.  That actually doesn't serve any one group well. 

Here's what the Board minutes reflect (partial):
Director Burke highlighted the changes made between introduction and action. He further acknowledged the collaboration between staff and Directors in providing a thoroughly thought out Resolution that would provide for the needs of the students while attending to the financial concerns the Resolution may raise. Dir. Burke noted the intent of this Resolution is not to forego assessments but to provide an avenue to seek alternatives that would effectively meet the needs of our students and educators. He noted the removal of the opt-out language and the risk that the use of opt out language presented to the District’s budget. He noted language added that will allow for identifying opportunities to choose the best test and standards possible for students. Director Peters noted the flexibility afforded through the Every Student Succeeds Act. Directors Burke and Peters emphasized the intent to present a request to the State to move forward in finding a better alternative to the testing situation that currently exists.
Dr. Nyland thanked the Board for extra time to work through this item and for recognizing the risks faced in terms of improving participation rates and maintain funding dependent upon these assessments. He noted this Resolution as being a step in the right direction to getting the participation numbers up and meeting the needs of the schools and alleviating the concerns of students and their families. He noted that this resolution moves the District into a position to look at options. He noted that it is a way to balance all of the testing that is required of the students and assists educators to provide more instructional time. He encouraged the continued conversation and the opportunity to address the issue at a State level. He agreed that the resulting Resolution is a good compromise.
Director Blanford expressed his appreciation for the adjustment to the language but voiced concerns around funding Title 1. He noted his apprehension to this Resolution and noted discrepancies around statistical information within the Action Report regarding students of color. He highlighted national organizations that strongly oppose the anti- testing movement and test-out movement and read portions of national reports on the topic. He commented on how some data provided through this testing is particularly important because it is the only data available on educational outcomes and noted that this data is used to advocate for more funding.
It's weird how the Board was not seeking to end assessments and they worked with staff - to the Superintendent's apparent satisfaction - and yet Blanford makes it sound like the opposite.

And, it was not a 6-1 vote - it was 5-1.

He then claims that kids will suffer under this resolution.

I would link the resolution but sadly, there is no agenda link for this meeting. Please note that resolutions are statements, not actions. That resolution helped drive down - somewhat - the amount of testing. He says the resolution was about that but that SPS is 50% under what "recommendations or guidelines" say. He does not note the source of that information.

The conversation continues on and Blanford noted that as a black man and having a doctorate in education research that he knows the test have biases but looking at it from the big picture, I know that those tests are responsible for allocating dollars to schools that desperately need additional resources in order to improve the outcomes for their students. When you don't have any objective assessment to compare School X to School Y, then that's the one tool that those of us who are advocating for equity have. When you take that tool away, you do what some parents would have us do which is to allocate funds to schools that are already doing well versus those who are struggling.

For all his talk about outcomes that he never mentions any outside factors like poverty.

Dornfeld asked him about his past statements about hearing statements at Board meetings that are outright racist.

Blanford: Well, without rehashing uncomfortable/unpleasant situations, there have racial microaggressions manifested by Board members on other Board members and on staff and on community members who have come to testify.

Boy, that's a big statement and yet he won't back it up by even naming Board meetings where this occurred so people could go and listen for themselves. He claims these are "well-documented'' but where? He won't say.  He says there is a need for the boards in most communities to do lots of personal work in order to fulfill our role on the top of the org chart of a billion-dollar organization.

Dornfeld: What's it like being the only black person on a mostly white school board?

I'm a little surprised at this question, given that the Board is the most diverse it has been in a long time and Blanford, true to form, doesn't point this out himself.

Blanford says it was an experience and an honor. He says that he believes some people voted for him because he was black.

Dornfeld: After four years, this will be your last term, why?

Blanford: several reasons. One is traditional of education that school boards serve their communities because they care and not for financial remuneration. He said he worked between 25-30 hours a week being a director and, at some point financially, that is not feasible "especially in my prime wage-earning years." He continued on, "The 6-1 votes are really hard" and not the best use of his time. He again said that perhaps there was another education platform for his advocacy. Another reason is that it's hard to be in a restaurant or grocery store with people asking you questions.

His advice for his successor? He hopes that they have a skill set that allows them to manage to provide governance rather than manage. And he hopes that new board members come in with guidance to close gaps and stand firm against obstacles that would change that. He said that he hoped those two indicators would be something voters would be looking for.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blanford is delusional. He's trying to rewrite history. He's been on the school board for what, 3-4 years? What's he accomplished? Looks like he's trying to blame everyone else but himself for his lack of effectiveness. Looking forward to new representation on the board in his district. Talk about exiting spinelessly.

- Fed Up

Eric B said...

I actually agree with Blanford about access to board directors. I've been to a lot of board meetings, and I think I've seen one case of interpretation, and that was sign language. I don't know if the interpreter was provided by the district or brought by the person testifying. So that's a pretty substantial barrier for many parents in the district. If you're not available Wednesday afternoon/evening or Saturday morning, you pretty much have no chance of face-to-face contact with a board director. For other people, whether it's an issue of choosing not to testify or not being able to, the people testifying aren't all that diverse. A notable and refreshing exception are the groups of students from RBHS at the last several board meetings.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The district provides interpreters with advanced notice.

Eric, people can write letters, send e-mails, leave a message with the Board office or ask for a private meeting (in the past, directors have done this). I'm not sure I know what more directors - who are paid nothing -can do to be more accessible. At some point, a parent has to decide to try.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh and if you check, I'll bet you'll find Blanford had the least number of community meetings especially in the last two years.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I forgot Blanford was on the board.


BB

Eric B said...

Snob, I think you'll find that this is about the only thing I kind of agree with Blanford on. Happy?

NNE Mom said...

I wrote the board an email about the student assignment plan and my email was shared around to all the board members and entered into the official record. I even found my email (minus identifying information) included with the one or two hundred other emails they received in the written documents that go with the board meeting. So you can definitely interact with your board member by email. Plus they often have those meet-ups at libraries or cafes. I've never been to an actual board meeting, but I don't feel like I have any trouble communicating with the board. Plus, I vote.

Anonymous said...

Look, for families living in or near poverty and for non-English speakers, there are fairly significant barriers to having input with the school board. And board members like Blanford who openly scold parents for only advocating for their kid's school doesn't end up encouraging further involvement.

He prepared poorly: more than he expressed surprise and outrage about discussion of an item that he "didn't know about" but WAS ON THE AGENDA. Which is posted comfortably in advance of the meeting. He seemed to look for ways to dismiss parents and community members, instead of listening to them.

It's... nice he wanted to serve. It would have been actually nice if he'd truly been of service. But he wasn't. Thankfully there are several strong candidates vying for his seat.

-Thanks-ish

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks-ish, good points all.

Adan said...

Families living in or near poverty and non-English speakers have fairly significant barriers dealing with most public sector entities. The school board is a lot easier to interact with than the IRS, the DMV, the SNAP office, DHS, the passport office, etc. I am confident that any city librarian or school employee would help a parent/guardian compose an email or a physical letter to their school board director. I just have a hard time believing that communicating with school board directors is a super big priority for most of the families in the district living in or near poverty or who don't speak English. I agree with Thanks-ish that it doesn't help when board members scold parents for advocating for their own children or for a specific school.

Lee said...

Wait, aren't Asian-American kids included in "black and brown" kids?

Anonymous said...

Blanford is his usual racially divisive self, disregarding or "misremembering" the data in order to make his biased point. Example:

Dornfeld - you've said that parents in Seattle want their child to be in a school that is diverse but not too diverse. Why do you think that is?

Blanford: right. I read a study - I'm not remembering the author - who tried to quantify what is the threshold number for kids of color in a school and it was not very high, where white parents will say, "that's a good school, I want my child to go there" and if it goes over that number, then those same parents are less likely to enroll their child in that school.

He didn't remember the threshold number but he says it was less than 10%.

Yeah, I remember a study that looked at parents' diversity preferences, too. That 10% number he threw out seemed waaaay off base to me so I looked it up, and yes, apparently my memory is better than Blanford's. (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2016/07/when_white_parents_have_a_choice_they_choose_segregated_schools.html) It almost seems like he's trying to make things seem worse than they are, trying to fuel the racial divide... Here's what it says:

The study also demonstrated white parents’ taste for what the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has termed “carefully curated integration,” the kind that exposes white children to some poor peers of color but not “too many.” At the elementary-school level, white Washington [District of Columbia] parents prioritized schools where about 60 percent of the student body was white and were slightly more likely to avoid schools with larger percentages of white children. At the middle school level, the researchers found that the “bliss point” for white parents was a student body that was 26 percent white. In a district where 73 percent of students are black, 14 percent are Hispanic, and only 9 percent are white, such preferences contribute to a significant clustering of white children, which results in black and Hispanic students being further segregated.

They also found that "across race and class, a middle-school parent was 12 percent more likely to choose a school where his child’s race made up 20 percent of the study body, compared with a school with similar test scores where his child’s race made up only 10 percent of the study body."

These are a far cry from how Blanford apparently remembered things, that parents want less than 10% kids of color.

Stop Stoking





Melissa Westbrook said...

Lee, that is a good question. I am astonished at the number of people who are putting Asians in with whites. Asians aren't monolithic so that's insulting right there. It's a very odd thing and should be challenged every time it happens. Why is there a default thought that Asian students do better and all of them are doing fine?

Stop Stoking, thanks for those comments. I have found, over the years, that Blanford likes to throw out these statements which is probably because of his deep background in education. Problem is, he usually doesn't cite the source and, as in this case, gets it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and what's with the whole "only black man" on the Board thing, anyway? How many black men does Blanford think there "should" be on the 7-person board at any time? If it's 2, then should there also be 2 black women? And then the remaining three spots should be divided between white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American men AND women? According to SPS 2016-17 figures, Black/African American accounts for 16% of the district.

If we wanted our board to match the diversity of our district, we'd have 3 white, 1 black, 1 Asian, 1 Hispanic and 1 other/mixed. Our current board's makeup is pretty darn close, even though with a 7-person board it's pretty easy for things to skew one way or the other.

Stop Stoking

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa and Lee- "Asians aren't monolithic so that's insulting right there."
I agree, Asians are a diverse group. So are "whites". I am getting tired of being lumped in with N. Europeans. My own family history is very different from other Americans, my G grandparents who came to the US as adults had zero schooling! No opportunity to attend school in their native country. We have different ethicities, diverse histories, different cultures, etc. And some "Whites" are pretty brown skinned as well.
-Diversity.

Go High said...

Blanford complains about "racial microaggressions manifested by Board members on other Board members and on staff and on community members who have come to testify" and then he says that many of the district's white parents have a disconnect between what they believes in their heart of hearts and how they act. That is totally a racial microaggression. White parents are more likely to have a disconnect between what they believe and how they act? Seriously?

Isn't he supposed to represent ALL the students in district V? Isn't he supposed to act in the best interest of all the students in the district? All of them?

I totally don't buy into this theory that only a black school board member can act in the best interests of black children. He's 14% of the board. That reasoning would have black boys receive 14% representation? Stop Stoking has a good point about the girls. Who represents the black girls and hispanic and Asian-American students? Is Director Burke the only one representing the educational needs of white boys on the board? This makes no sense!

All of the board members should be doing their best for the educations of all 54,000+ students. Blanford can't just pick and choose. I mean, what, does he not represent the black and brown HCC students in his district? Or the black and brown SPED students?

The gap cannot be solved by metering or rationing the educations of high performing kids. That literally does nothing for underserved students. We, the whole district, the entire board, the whole city, ought to be furthering the educations of ALL the students.

Anonymous said...

Everyone thinks it's OK for Patu only to represent Samoan students, why not question that?

Ed voter

Anonymous said...

My non black wife is more brown than many of her black friends.

Logical error

Melissa Westbrook said...

Because Betty doesn't do that. Never has. I will say she does focus on students in the SE but that is her region.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"Here's a question - how come Thurgood Marshall's HCC isn't more diverse? It's within the principal's power to help make that change and yet, it hasn't happened."

MW: Why do you keep repeating this complete inaccuracy?

This is absolutely incorrect. The principal cannot change the identification criteria. Period.

Even if the principal nominates every GE kid for testing, the HCC required cut-off CogAT scores (that are not based on state-mandated norming--comparison to similar demographics or experience) and the cut-off scores for achievement virtually exclude under-represented gifted children from being identified--as the entire De Bonte presentation to the school board spelled out.

The fact that you continue to insist that the blame rests on Katie May, with all evidence to the contrary, is starting to border on slander.

Facts and Truth

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say - ever - that principals could change identification. I'm saying if principals can decide how Spectrum is delivered, why not HCC? In fact, that seems to be what is happening at Garfield and Thurgood Marshall.

But Principal May knows her school community and her teachers know the kids. If they think there are kids in Gen Ed who could qualify for HCC, are they telling those parents or nominating kids themselves? I doubt it. And if not, why not?

Melissa Westbrook said...

And fyi, slander is verbal statements, libel is written.

Anonymous said...

Facts and Truth,

There is no legal requirement for self-contained, so actually Katie May could integrate every single classroom and REQUIRE teachers to provide instruction to EVERY student at their assessed level. Students don't have to test into HCC to receive advanced learning. Teachers can provide advanced instruction to ANY student who demonstrates need.

Therefore, Katie May has the power and right to offer what should be available at any school - instruction based on curriculum based assessments. Forget Cogat. It's irrelevant to a teacher correctly assessing reading level or offering walk-to-math based on continual, fluid assessments. It's all within her purview.

Instead of being defensive, exercise your right at TM to change what's offered. May is not handcuffed by HCC. Actually, she has significant power to change the learning environment at her school.

Actual Truth

Anonymous said...

Katie May could also create a pull-out program or in-school "academy" designed to help promising students get up to speed so they can qualify for--and then thrive within--HCC. If Rainier Scholars can do it after working with kids for a year, why can't TM do it after working with these kids for 7 years?

Instead, it sounds to me like principal is intent upon lowering the ceiling for high achieving kids, not helping others climb atop.

DisAPPointed

Inflammatory Piece said...

There are nuance conversations related to testing. Shame this was not explored. Enormously disappointed in Ann Dornfeld.

Anonymous said...

No, principals should not be deciding how services are delivered. That is how Spectrum was essentially eliminated and why more students flocked to HCC. It's wishful thinking that "teachers can provide advanced instruction to ANY student who demonstrates need." If that were true, why would so many students feel the need to leave their neighborhood school for more appropriate services elsewhere? How does a young student "demonstrate need?" Do compliant, well behaved students who get their work done just fall under the radar? Does a student need to ask for more?

-jm

Missed Vote! said...

How many meetings has Stephan Blanford missed? Stephan Blanford did not attend the meeting to VOTE ON THE BUDGET!!!

I wish we had some actual reporting in this town.

Anonymous said...

I think Blanford has actually done quite a lot during his tenure. I think he has gone a long way toward increasing racial divisiveness in the district and he has successfully advocated for the dismantling of advanced learning. I don't think it is fair to call him a do-nothing school board member. Just because nothing he does benefits students in the district doesn't mean he has not had an impact.

VoteHelmstetter

Preparations/Reparations said...

I think his support of the city's pre-k program for low income children is actually an admission that much of the opportunity gap for young black students in the district is not caused by our schools, but rather by factors in the lives of students before elementary school begins and in their lives outside of school. The schools can't do much about a gap that is not caused by the schools and I think he knows it. The pre-k program will help with the gap and I think he knows it. Not much mystery there.

Anonymous said...

@Preparations/reparations--not sure if this is Blanford's logic, but I agree with you and this is why honors for all is just window dressing political cover BS driven by people who shouldn't be given the reigns to hijack pathways set up by a system designed by THE DISTRICT to supposedly serve students ready and interested in more challenge.

Fix AL

HCC Parent said...

Advanced learning is a special need intervention. Can't clap for Blanford's support to take down a program for special need students.

Anonymous said...

Seriously. No. HCC is not "intervention". It is not "special education". Special education is defined by a law, IDEA. It does not include people who do are not disabled. Intervention is to intervene, as in go between and interrupt. Intervention is something that is applied to an aberrant condition - as in a medical condition, abnormal behavior, addiction etc. No. We aren't trying to prevent advanced learning, giftedness, or good fortune, nor is it an obligation. "Intervention" is not necessary for advanced learning. Quit trying to steal stuff from disabled people by equating your circumstances.

Get Real

Go High said...

HCC Parent didn't say "special education." He/she said "special need." And that is pretty much right on the mark. According to Washington state law Chapter 392-170 WAC, highly capable students qualify for what is called a "special service program." This special service program, according to the legislature (see 28A.185.020) is to include access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction. For highly capable students, access to these is basic education.

"Intervention" (here used in the sense of "doing something about it") is only required when general education classroom instructors fail to provide the legally mandated access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction for these learners. They fail to do this all the fricking time. In this state many of them have received little to no training in what HC even is let alone what to do about it pedagogically. They blithely follow rumors and innuendos they hear on Soup for Teachers.

The situation is most egregious (and often illegal) in terms of twice-exceptional (2E) students. The failure to identify gifted students with disabilities has civil rights and legal implications. Under current federal law, students are first exposed to a process of ongoing learning assessment by classroom teachers. Children performing below grade level are located and provided tiered interventions of increasing magnitude to alleviate performance delays—a process commonly called Response to Intervention or RTI. Students who fail to improve to grade level are then referred for special education. Yet, gifted students with learning disabilities frequently perform at average or higher levels by using advanced reasoning (and a massive amount of really, really, really hard work) to compensate for deficits. Schools OFTEN fail to identify them as needing special ed services for their disability.

2E students frequently require substantial extra time to process when completing classroom activities or homework, fatigue easily due to compensation demands, require unusual parent support just to keep up with their classes, and need therapeutic interventions (e.g., reading interventions, occupational therapy, vision therapy, etc.) to prevent years of academic struggle. Without interventions, college and even high school graduation may be out of reach.

For a thorough discussion and a useful list of best practices, see this article.

Providing HC students (including 2E and underserved minority HC students) with basic education is not "stealing stuff" from anyone. It's just providing students with a basic education. It's a civil rights issue.

HCC Parent said...

The legislature recently provided schools with additional funding for advanced learners. Garfield, Blanford, Soup for Teachers and others that seek to destroy advanced learning pathways, have no evidence that the needs of advanced learners are being met.

Anonymous said...

Slander, the verb, applies to written statements. The poster used the word correctly in regards the abuse thrown at Director Blanford. The race hate bleeds out of this blog on a regular basis.

Sad Man

Anonymous said...

@ Inflammatory Piece

Agreed. I'm also very disappointed in Ann Dornfeld. What has happened to her (and KUOW)? She used to be a fairly good reporter. Why didn't she check the truth of what Dir. Blanford told her, like Melissa did? Thank you Melissa! In the interest of fairness, will Dornfeld conduct an equally indulgent 30 minute interview with the only Native American school board director (Dir. Pinkham) or the only Pacific Islander director (Dir. Patu)? What was the point of this interview other than to give one director the opportunity to promote himself and blame others, unchallenged by facts? Bizarre.

Also Disappointed in Dornfeld