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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NAACP Weighs In

The PI carried an op-ed this morning by James Bible and Phyllis Beaumonte, both of the NAACP. It makes some fairly inflammatory statements and bases them on review of the closure process, its criteria and the data. (I would provide a link but can't find it at the PI website; I'll check again later.) To wit:

"The Seattle King Country NAACP is opposed to Johnson's school closure plan because it is likely to disproportionately affect children of color, the poor and students with learning disabilities. "

So it has been argued here about minority and disadvantaged children and the movement of Special Ed programs has also been discussed but did anyone find evidence that more students with learning disabilities will be affected? (I'm not sure if they mean versus regular ed popular or versus other closures?)

"Now that we have concluded our analysis, we have reached the position that this school district purposely has decided that some children are of value while others should be left behind."

That's a pretty hot statement. Based on their analysis, district staff's decisions are not only affecting minority/poor children but it was done on purpose? That these closures are to help some children and hurt others?

They say that the district should use the rainy day fund because this is a time of crisis economically. There's a point for discussion with the district. If the budget crisis is so bad, why not use some of the rainy day fund (but leave a cushion)?

They try to make the point about how much more money Dr. Goodloe-Johnson makes compared to Mayor Nickels ($264,000 versus $150,000) and how much more she made than Raj Manhas ($178,000). They say her salary is out of touch with our market and our state but fail to understand that superintendents aren't elected (not usually) and free-market rules apply. She would get that much almost anywhere else.

They rightly argue about creating the assignment plan before closures. But then they explain that we are likely to go to a neighborhood plan and if areas with high numbers of students have no school because of closures, where will they go? I'm not sure the district or anyone else for that matter, can say what will happen under a neighborhood assignment plan. Will it attract back people who want that kind of predictability? Will it drive others to private school?

They do end with an interesting proposition; that an outside agency such as the US Department of Education or the state should review the district's plan to make sure all children are treated equally. I'm not sure I believe it's possible to document all children being treated equally; in closures it's much more about equity than equality.

The NAACP has previously said they might file a lawsuit which is a standard line they use frequently.

13 comments:

seattle citizen said...

The proposed amendments are available on the Agenda for tomorrow's meeting, posted at:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/08-09agendas/012909agenda/012909agenda.pdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen, that link isn't working. Maybe they got posted and then removed. Could you recheck that link?

WS said...

The school board page now says "we anticipate posting amendments at 1 pm." So - everybody stand down for a bit.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the guest column.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
opinion/397772_seattleonline29.html

Charlie Mas said...

The NAACP writes that the capacity management plan "is likely to disproportionately affect children of color, the poor and students with learning disabilities".

But will affect them positively or negatively? If the affect is positive, do they still mind the disproportionate outcome? If the affect is to move students from failing, ineffective schools to successful effective ones, do they still oppose the plan?

The NAACP writes: "Many of the schools slated for closure actually are located in areas in which the student-age population is relatively high. If those schools are closed, those students will not have a neighborhood school to go to." Which schools do they mean? Not Cooper, there are few students in the area around Cooper. Not T T Minor, there is plenty of excess capacity around T T Minor providing neighborhood schools for those children. Same for Meany. They certainly don't mean the AAA, because it isn't even a neighborhood school. So what are they talking about? Van Asselt?

There have been a lot of misstatements made about this plan. This appears to be one of them. Which other elements of their analysis are faulty?

When people write things like "we have reached the position that this school district purposely has decided that some children are of value while others should be left behind" it discredits them and makes me disinclined to take them seriously in future.

dan dempsey said...

I disagree with much of the following:

They try to make the point about how much more money Dr. Goodloe-Johnson makes compared to Mayor Nickels ($264,000 versus $150,000) and how much more she made than Raj Manhas ($178,000). .... but fail to understand that superintendents aren't elected (not usually) and free-market rules apply. She would get that much almost anywhere else
.

WRONG.... when a person is under contract in Seattle for a specified time period at $240,000 per year .... it appears the only place they can legally make more than that is Seattle (unless the contract is broken ... and then a lawsuit would be appropriate).

By the way the original $240,000 per annum was more than Arne Duncan was making in Chicago before becoming U.S. Secretary of Education. It is also interesting that this raise took place outside of appropriate board policies and procedures and there was no data to support this raise.

This appeared to be the board's way of congratulating themselves on hiring a great superintendent.

Now could someone please read the board policies and the Phi Delta Kappa curriculum audit and think about what the superintendent did to justify this raise in June.

Then read the Superintendent's Strategic Plan of June 2008 and look at the timelines ( notice this is Jan 2009 ... six months later) and notice all the things that have NOT happened.

I agree with Charlie that some portions of the NAACP statement were way less than creditable but a lot of it was creditable.

zb said...

Has anyone else done the calculation on how this impacts African American children? (and minority children & FRL)?

Here they are:

AA children in closed schools: 51%; AA children in district: 21%.

Minority (AA, NA, Asian, Hisp) in closed schools: 76%
In district: 54%

FRL children in closed schools: 66%
FRL children in district: 40%

As raised by others, I do accept that this is an unintended consequence, in the sense that the district is not specifically targeting poor minority schools for closure because they are poor and minority. They are targeting them for closure because they are underenrolledd. But, they're underenrolled because they're poor and minority (and yes, because that means that they end up having lower test scores and the other things people with choices want).

But, the impact is disproportionate, and the modifications of the plan made it even more so.

Charlie Mas said...

I appreciate that the impacts are disproportionate. But are they necessarily negative?

I know that the Cooper community is very upset about students being moved to schools further from home with lower performance. They say this is a negative impact and I can see that. But what if the students are moved to a school that is closer to home with better performance? Is it still a negative impact or is that a positive impact? Many of the Cooper students are being relocated to higher performing schools closer to their homes. The AAA scholars are, for the most part, being relocated to higher performing schools closer to their homes. They are impacted, but aren't these positive impacts?

And if the impacts are positive, then why are they complaining about the disproportionate outcome?

The primary reason the AAA is closing is because it is grievously under-enrolled. Like all of these other schools, they are under-enrolled because they have been rejected by their communities. How is it a negative impact to take away from a community something that the community has rejected?

zb said...

"And if the impacts are positive, then why are they complaining about the disproportionate outcome?"

Obviously because they don't believe that the effects are positive. I'm not sure what your statements about Cooper add up to, but moving further away from home to worse performing schools is certainly not a positive outcome. And, my understanding is that that's going to happen to students at Cooper. Wasn't there an admission that Cooper students are not being moved for their benefit, but for the benefit of the system?

We have separate and unequal schools in Seattle, a result of residential segregation, both legal and voluntary, and historical and current, which is exacerbated by the school choice system (in the absence of FRL/race tiebreakers). The school system is working to fix that, but they've decided that it doesn't work to send higher SES kids to poor schools, so their closing the poor schools and trying to disperse the students.

Ultimately will this benefit those students? Perhaps, but only if it's not done for the benefit of others.

Beth Bakeman said...

zb, I am very sympathetic to the plight of the Cooper community. But I'm frustrated by the fact that statements like yours ("..moving further away from home to worse performing schools is certainly not a positive outcome. And, my understanding is that that's going to happen to students at Cooper") are frustrating because they sound so convincing that people believe them even when they are not based on facts.

Charlie pulled up the numbers on this one on a previous thread.

Under the current proposal (ignoring Sundquist's proposed amendment for the moment), here are the facts:

from a recent Charlie Mas comment
"Cooper students are being moved into programs CLOSER to their homes and - for most of them - MORE successful than Cooper. Yes, 86 of the 286 Cooper students are going to West Seattle, Highland Park, or Roxhill (schools CLOSER to the students' homes), but 200 of them are being assigned to Pathfinder (not moving), Alki, Lafayette, Sanislo and Schmitz Park, all HIGHER performing schools or to Gatewood, a comparably performing school."

zb said...

Of the 200, most are going to Gatewood, the "comparably" performing school. Under 20 are targeted towards Schmitz Park & Alki. I don't know how this breaks down on whether the kids are closer to their homes, but the bottom line is that we're talking about 30% of the students having to move to a school that's more poorly performing and presumably further away and another 30% or so moving to a comparable school. But, what guides me is the SPS person who admitted that this plan is not for the benefit of the Cooper kids; Charlie was suggesting the kids are being dispersed for their own good. I'm willing to listen to that argument, but that's not the one being made.

I don't actually have any personal interest in any of the schools involved, but as an outsider looking in, the lesson I learn is that higher SES, organized, and white parents are able to get their voices hear above the others. Looking at the demographics of the plan as it morphs as a result of public involvement shows that statistically.

Charlie Mas said...

Please don't presume that the students are being moved further from their homes.

Very few of the Cooper students actually live in the Cooper reference area. Only eight of them, 8, live in the walk zone for Cooper.

The students are being re-assigned, for the most part, to their reference area schools. In other words, to schools closer to their homes.

Syd said...

That still does not make them better schools.

Choices are being removed, leaving the kids worried about attending their local schools out of luck. That disproportionally affects families in the south end and west Seattle.