Friday, April 03, 2009

Bill Gates...Redux

The Times printed an editorial this week by Fred Hiatt editorial page editor at the Washington Post. It had a modest title, "How Bill Gates Would Repair the Nation's Schools". So pull up a chair and let's see what's new. (I'm being sarcastic here because I, like most of you, applaud anyone interested in furthering public education. However, Mr. Gates' past efforts, at least locally, did not produce much in the way of results. His Foundation's education wing seemed to get schooled in their early efforts when they found that national high school reform isn't about one thing such as smaller high schools. To boot, when the district either didn't do what the Foundation wanted or the Foundation didn't like the outcomes, the money was pulled. So a lot of what got started in SPS ground to a halt when the money disappeared.) From the editorial:

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder turned full-time philanthropist, visited The Post last week to talk, among other things, about how to improve schools for the nation's poorest children.

That so many children in this country cannot live up to their potential because they are born in poverty and attend terrible schools is one of the nation's greatest scandals, as Gates pointed out in his recent letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

I find this statement interesting because although the first point may be true ( in the U.S., "the standard of living for those in the bottom 10% was lower in the U.S. than other developed nations except the United Kingdom, which has the lowest standard of living for impoverished children in the developed world" (Wiki)), just making schools better isn't going to solve that problem. I get nervous for teachers and administrators when I hear this kind of linkage only because schools, even good schools, cannot (and should not) be expected to solve the problem. And, you need a whole arm of social services to help these kids (nutrition, counseling, health care, etc.) and then you get conservatives upset because the "cost" of education rises.

I am not saying that better schools can't help and aren't a possible answer. If anyone saw the footage of Michelle Obama visiting a girls school in London, the girls were positively jumping up and down with excitement. Mrs. Obama made it clear they could succeed with education. That's a strong motivation to do better.

So what does Mr. Gates support doing?

The foundation has spent about $4 billion seeking to improve high schools and promote college access since 2000, along the way gaining valuable experience on what does and doesn't work. Based on those lessons, Gates names two priorities: helping successful charter-school organizations, such as KIPP, replicate as quickly as possible; and improving teacher effectiveness at every other school.

In both cases, institutions stand in the way. School boards resist the expansion of charter schools. Teachers unions resist measuring and rewarding effectiveness. In fact, Gates said, evidence shows no connection between teaching quality and most of the measures used in contracts to determine pay. Seniority, holding a master's degree or teacher's certification, and even, below 10th grade, having deep knowledge of a subject — these all are mostly irrelevant. It follows that some of the money devoted to rewarding teachers who get higher degrees and to pensions accessible only to those who stay 10 or more years should go instead to keeping the best teachers from leaving in their fourth or fifth years.

I might support his first effort at finding great charters. (I'd say the jury is somewhat out on KIPP, not because they aren't successful but because they employ a very strict theory of what works. I'll have to research this further. If anyone has real information, let us know about it.) But school boards (and state legislatures and public votes like here in WA state) stand in the way because we have NOT seen that charters will do better.

Teachers unions. If you ever read any of the comments from people who read education articles online, you know that teachers' unions are, for some, one of the rings of hell. They believe every single thing wrong with public education is due to the teachers unions. I don't buy it and it's an easy out. Again, I'd have to check out the research on rewarding teachers who do invest in more education. I can't believe it has little to no effect on teaching. However, if really good teachers leave in year 4 or 5 because of the lack of money, sure, maybe that's where some of the money should go.

From the editorial:

One purpose of measurement would be to deploy the best teachers to the neediest schools, and pay them accordingly; another, to fire the worst teachers. But the main point, Gates said, is that effective teaching can be taught: "The biggest part is taking the people who want to be good — and helping them."One purpose of measurement would be to deploy the best teachers to the neediest schools, and pay them accordingly; another, to fire the worst teachers. But the main point, Gates said, is that effective teaching can be taught: "The biggest part is taking the people who want to be good — and helping them."

Hey, that jives with what Obama's Education Secretary is saying which is to help find, reward and keep good teachers. That's a fine idea. But what does "pay them accordingly" mean? What are teachers' salaries across the country and do they help teachers keep up? I heard a guy on the radio who was totally upset over hearing a kindergarten teacher here can make $70K. Is that too much? And, where will the money come from to pay more to good teachers? The feds? The states?

Also, how to define a bad teacher and how quickly can you do it? Do you give them a year? Two years?

Then there was this interesting statement:

Obama and Duncan both stress that teachers shouldn't be judged on standardized tests alone, but they want better standardized tests to measure how much a student improves in a year, so that teachers can be rewarded or held accountable.

Don't judge them on tests alone but do get better ones so that teachers can be held accountable. Myself, I don't want any teacher out of a job based solely on test scores but I'm not hearing what other measures will be considered. The teachers union in D.C. is fighting back against rising education star, Superintendent Michelle Rhee, who is pushing new reforms. They want performance to be judged schoolwide or a combination of individual/schoolwide. What do people think of that?

Another interesting statement:

Union locals, controlled by long-serving teachers, also, not surprisingly, tend to favor pay and pension structures that reward long-serving teachers, not the best strategy to attract the brightest from a generation that doesn't envision spending 20 or 30 years with one employer.

Hmm, so if we have a generation that isn't going to making teaching a career, isn't that troubling? Teaching isn't one of those things you try on a fling. I know from being at Roosevelt that many things influence how long a person teaches, not just money (otherwise very few people would teach). So should there be a new way of thinking about teaching if, as Mr. Hiatt states, we have a new corps of teachers who might not be in it for the long run?


Dorothy Neville said...

This article was in the WaPo last week. The comments are interesting, including the following by mcstowy. I particular like the information that Melinda Gates is on the board of the WaPo. Very interesting.

"When did Bill Gates become an education expert? When he dropped out of college and used family money to start his business? When he became a white-collar criminal; violating anti-trust laws and lying about it under oath? (Or when the Bush Administration let him off without even a slap on the wrist?) When he evaded taxed by creating his "Foundation" to pursue his anti-worker political agenda? (Thus unsercutting the main cause of student failure: poverty.) Perhaps when his wife became a member of the Post's board? I think I'll go with that one.

But Gates' lies are not limited to antitrust litigation; To quote the article: "In fact, Gates said, evidence shows no connection between teaching quality and most of the measures used in contracts to determine pay. Seniority, holding a master's degree or teacher's certification, and even, below 10th grade, having deep knowledge of a subject -- these all are mostly irrelevant." "IN FACT" the truth is nothing of the sort. The only quantitative; peer-reviewed research on the subject of teacher experience, training and student outcomes says just the opposite: That Teach For America teachers (temps) are no better than other inexperienced, uncertified teachers and that certified teacher are considerably more effective and that effectiveness increases with experience (a 2005 study by Linda Darling-Hammond and other Stanford professors).

The Post, and Fred Hiatt in particular, have a history of promoting corporate interests, especially their own, such as the op-ed by Post-subsidiary and diploma-mill Kaplan Higher Ed. opposing a DC Community College to promote its own financial interest.

In recent weeks, with the collapse of the economy and Rhee's corporate backers, it's begun to appear that real change is on the way. Leave it to the post to ride the the rescue with a pro-Rhee puff piece. If you want a real education expert, why not invite Darling-Hammond or Diane Ravitch? Someowe who actually knows what she's talking about.
3/31/2009 6:12:50 PM"

anonymous said...

"But school boards (and state legislatures and public votes like here in WA state) stand in the way because we have NOT seen that charters will do better."

This has been very true in Seattle. Seattle families have access to many different learning environments via our wide array of alternative and non traditional schools. And we have had an open choice system which has given families from all over the district access to these schools. This has satisfied families thus far and acted in place of charter schools.

It is true that some of our alternative schools are slowly fading away. A few years ago COHO/NOMS were merged, this year we witnessed the closure of Summit and AAA, and NOVA moved out of their beloved building. And it's not over, next year AS1 is in threat of closure. But I have to acknowledge that the district has also grown many of the remaining alt schools like Pathfinder and Orca, and attempted to grow TC. And in the last 10 years they have added many new programs such as the John Stanford International school, a few Montessori programs, two IB high schools, 2 new international elementary schools, an international middle school, a few k-8's, and a science and math magnet (addams).

If the district remains committed to add more non traditional programs AND they continue to allow families access (choice) to attend these schools then I think Seattle can, and should, do without charters.

If they do not continue to grow our options, or severely limit choice, then I think we will see a change in tides and families will look toward charters to fill the void.

Charlie Mas said...

I can't help remembering how much advice Seattle Public Schools was taking from Kerry Killinger, the CEO of Washington Mutual when that bank was riding high.

All of a sudden, with the reversal of his fortunes, he isn't regarded as such an expert on education any more, is he?

The Gates Foundation came into education reform and tried to buy it and brand it. Unfortunately their product just didn't work. So they blamed everyone else in the room and stormed out, leaving schools and students with half-finished plans and their efforts poured down the drain.

Now Gates wants to come back and direct things again. Maybe the Gates Foundation could start with some learning and supporting before they try to take charge again. Maybe the Districts won't be so quick to let the Gates Foundation take charge again.

rugles said...

...half-finished plans and their efforts poured down the drain.

At least they got their plans to half finished.

Not only is Bill Gates a college dropout, a user of family money to start a business, a white collar criminal, an anti trust violator, a liar under oath, the possessor of wrists unnslapped by the Bush Administration, an evader of taxes, the husband of a woman on the board of the Washington Post, he also habitually drives over the posted speed limit and is an inveterate bridge player.

Clearly no education expert. Maybe he hired some education experts, I wouldn't put it past him.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rugles, I get that except for the first person to head his foundation was a former superintendent (another business type, not an educator) from this area. I just couldn't believe he would put an non-educator at the head of the education wing of his foundation.

It's great that he cares; he certainly has a vested interest in an educated populace.

owlhouse said...

Thanks so much for raising this issue, Melissa. Jim Horn wrote about this a few days ago. He's an unapologetic anti-corporate, pro-public ed blogger and watch dog writing from MA. He sites a number of studies that speak to the importance of experienced, educated and skilled teachers- including research by Darling-Hammond.

Rugles- Fair enough, Gates does consult education folks. Especially business-minded administrators. For me, the fact that he has accepted the role of "educational consultant" himself, shows that he doesn't consider day-to-day experience teaching in the classroom particularly valuable. To me, that's troubling.

Robert said...

now its only my opinion of course but inveterate bridge players are cool!

Josh Hayes said...

Oh -- I thought you said invertebrate bridge players. I did find that troubling, but inveterate, that's different. :-)

(I once had a bridge partner who was pretty well described as "invertebrate", actually -- he was the most spinelessly passive bidder I've ever played with.)

I still don't get the GF's stubborn insistence that charter schools are A Good Thing. There's no evidence that they're any better than regular ol' schools at much of anything. Why the blind faith, I wonder?

dan dempsey said...

Sad to say but the Gates Foundation and Education reminds me of the (WPPSS) Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear power plant fiasco.

Consider an organization that never built even one successful power plant on time trying to build five simultaneous Nuclear plants. Result = massive fiasco. WPPSS

Consider Gates Foundation and education and their version of needed reforms ... Whoops just like WPPSS.

WPPSS the system was forced to default on $2.25 billion in bonds

Perhaps the Gates Foundation has wasted a similar amount due to equally bad planning.

A couple of well intentioned disasters ... Whoops

hschinske said...

I have to say, while I am not going to defend all of Gates's actions, it is pretty silly to add in being a "college dropout" and "user of family money to start a business" to his list of sins. He had quite a good idea for a business, and he was doing no bloody good at Harvard. Whyever SHOULDN'T he have asked his parents to invest in the business instead?

Helen Schinske

TwinMom2003 said...

So, I was reading an article about Melinda Gates today. A rare - once two times a year visit to the hair dresser when I get to read magazines.

A memorable quote from Mrs. Gates is that there are people in Ivory towers that spend their time debating about the best answer and solution. And there are those that go out and do. If they (Gate's Foundation) try something and it doesn't work, they will keep trying until they find something that does work.

The comment from Mrs. Gates rang true to me. But then - I come from a community and culture that will pick up a shovel and start to dig if a ditch is needed vs. debate the angle, pitch and soil displacement needed.

For me if the ditch requested is dug, and it works, that is great - mission accomplished.

If it doesn't work, you look to see what went wrong and you try again.

You just don't keep digging the same ditch to nowhere, over and over again.

I know, I'm a newbie here and I pretty frequently get slammed for asking questions. I don't know - so I ask -- and ouch you let me have it.

But, if the goal is a better education for all the kids -- why not keep trying until you find something that works? Why keep trying something that has not worked before again? Why slam those that are actually trying?

anonymous said...

I agree with Twinmom. Why not give the GF a second chance? Why not let them try? Maybe they learned from their mistakes last time around. Maybe this time they will be successful. And if not at least they tried. At least we makes an attempt at progress.

What's the harm in giving the GF a second chance?

I know many fear charter schools but the GF can't bring charter schools to Seattle - that is a voters issue isn't it?

Josh Hayes said...

okay, adhoc, fair enough.

So if they can't bring charter schools to Seattle, what can they do? What would they do?

The alternative schools in SPS provide everything that a charter school provides, except for one thing: SPS has union teachers. If the GF pushes for charters nonetheless, that should make it crystal clear what they're really pushing for.

Certainly I welcome the interest of such a powerful foundation, but stop right there: before we go any further, do they love us?

Charlie Mas said...

When you know that something doesn't work, you should try something else.

This has been a failure of public schools. They have a process that doesn't work for various groups of students, they know it doesn't work, yet we don't see them trying anything very different.

Why does Brighton look and function so much like Bryant? It works well enough for the students at Bryant (although I might question whether it couldn't work a whole lot better) but it isn't working for the students at Brighton.

The Gates Foundation - and a whole lot of other people - look to Charter Schools because they believe that Charter Schools will try something different.

Some of those things won't work either, but some of them will.

I think that the Gates Foundation - and others - can say that SOME Charter Schools have shown good results so it is those successful models that we should duplicate. There is no reason that we have to duplicate models that have proven unsuccessful.

Right now, it's pretty clear that the public schools are sticking to a model even though they know doesn't work. What rational person wouldn't want that to change?

anonymous said...

The GF will pitch their deal and offer their funding to SPS, but it is up to our leader, MGJ, to decide whether the deal is a good deal, or not. It is up to MGJ to accept it as is, negotiate it, or completely turn it down. It is up to her to establish whether it fits into the overall vision for SPS.

So the million dollar question is.... what is the deal?

I hope MGJ has vision. I hope she is open to trying something new.
I hope we move forward and progress. So many things in this district are broken. So many things just don't work. We must be open to change - it's how progress gets made.

I do, however, think that SPS must create a policy on the acceptance of private funding so there are some guiding principals, a set of criteria, and a protocol to follow.

dan dempsey said...

adhoc said:
I do, however, think that SPS must create a policy on the acceptance of private funding so there are some guiding principals, a set of criteria, and a protocol to follow.

Is that the Alliance for Education?

dan dempsey said...

I agree let us stop digging the ditch in the wrong direction.

Let us look for a better Director of Direction.

Consider where the inappropriate assignment of direction comes from.

Stotsky's opinion is spot on in this case:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why not try new things? Sure, except charters HAVE been tried and the results are all over the place. How to figure out which ones work best and how would it look in Seattle or Washington State?

On the issue of voting in charters, well, there's always funding for each side of an issue. I seem to recall someone from within the Gates family/organization (my memory is saying his dad) funding the yes side of the last charter initiative. So, yes, they certainly can have some influence but as we see, Washington state voters have said 3 times - no.

anonymous said...

When I said "why not try new things", I didn't mean charters, necessarily. Though the GF is pro charters, they are offering SPS this funding WITHOUT us having any charters.

With all of their money, the GF can't buy charter schools for Seattle. Only the voters can allow them, and as Melissa points out, the voters have said no 3 times.

So lets take charters out of the equation and think more openly. What can we use the money for? How, and where will MGJ and the GF find common ground? And what will it mean for, and look like, in SPS?

anonymous said...

And yes, perhaps the Gates family can influence the vote on a Charter Schools Bill with their financial backing, but they could do that whether SPS accepts this current offer of funding or not. So, that really wouldn't be a reason to turn it down.

Dorothy Neville said...

Mel, that wasn't Gates, that was Paul Allen who funded I-729. He spent 3.2 million dollars trying to pass that charter school legislation. I recall that the No on I729 raised $11,000.

What I never understood was why so much money? What in the world was Paul Allen thinking? If he truly believes that we need a new sort of school, why not start one himself with all that dough? How much capital would it have taken to start an independent private school, one he could run as if it were a charter, to show people in Washington what they could be getting? Then, once we have seen the error of our ways and how successful his school was, we would embrace charters and be very happy to help turn his school into a charter school. Instead we got three million dollars in advertising.

Twinmom, I am sorry you feel slammed for asking questions. I can't recall specifically what you mean, but I do know that sometimes those of us who have been involved longer, already discussed some issues, get so frustrated, we might be too snippy. I wish this blog had a better search the archive feature. We've discussed Gates before, but I can't find it right now.

Sure, they deserve credit for trying, for admitting failure and trying again. And there are numerous articles detailing their failures. Seattle Weekly, Business Week and too many articles in the NYT about NY schools to mention.

Yes, sitting in one's ivory tower and doing nothing is bad. But how about listening only to those ivory tower folks and not even trying to listen to real teachers? If it's your kids, do you want them in an experiment designed by ivory tower education folks or by successful experienced teachers?

What I have seen from GF is an "Oops, my bad, we didn't consider that teacher quality counts." But in this latest, they aren't saying that, they are now saying "Oops, my bad, we didn't consider how really terrible unions, school boards and districts could be at working with us." That's a different spin, eh?

So no, I don't trust them yet, no more than I trust education ivory towers to produce quality mathematics material, especially when folks in the trenches, actually teaching kids math, say over and over that it doesn't work.

And the thing about the college dropout. Sure, it's a bit of an ad hominem. And I was quoting a WaPo commenter that had other things to say as well. I just didn't want to edit the comment.

But also ironic in that here is a man for whom education was more of a hinderance to success than a path to success, and he wants to be our education leader.

Anonymous said...

adhoc said: "If they do not continue to grow our options, or severely limit choice, then I think we will see a change in tides and families will look toward charters to fill the void."

I agree. And I'm not even sure I'm not leaning that direction already.

Can/should we have a thread to specifically discuss charters? Open it up with some info and maybe a few links to the basic nuts and bolts, i.e. how they are created, funded, budgeted, operated. And maybe a few links to success stories and failure stories?

What I would not want to see is a thread that just starts bashing, because there ARE successful charters around the country. The question is: what is the difference between success and failure, and given the sad state of SPS, what are other realistic options?

Dorothy Neville said...

Did the ditch correctly and not only does the village get clean water, but the leaders of other villages will allow ditches there. Dig the ditch wrong and the village with stinky water now has unpotable water and other village elders will turn you away in fear. So, if you want to do more good than harm, how much effort do you put into thinking about that ditch before laying shovel to the ground? How much do you rely on soil engineers a continent away vs the folks who've been farming that soil, living in that climate, for generations? Can't you at least get the soil engineers and the farmers talking substantively before getting out the shovels?

anonymous said...

"Can't you at least get the soil engineers and the farmers talking substantively before getting out the shovels?"

Sure, it's called the Seattle process.

owlhouse said...

One key difference between charters and alternative public schools is unionized teachers- with contracts that stipulate working conditions, staff:student ratios...

But unions aren't the only difference. Charters vary state-to-state, but they generally are NOT run through the district, or accountable to the district staff. What we have seen nationally is school management, local or out-of-state, that fails to ensure that schools operate according to the Charter, district policy, state law... This has been a concern, a legal issue, in Florida, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, DC, Texas...

The fact that charters are given enormous latitude with the care and education they provide children, with very limited regulatory oversight is one reason charter school teachers are working to organize. Unions seems to be on the way for some in Chicago, NY, LA...

So, our alternatives schools are really quite different from charters. Imperfect as the public system may be, it is ours. We can influence the direction it takes. It may not declare failure and close shop.(Except, of course, in the case of individual schools. I mean buildings. Or programs.)

Dorothy Neville said...

"Sure, it's called the Seattle process."

Lol. But seriously. We snark on the Seattle Process when we notice it getting in the way and not being productive, but it's worked quite well in a lot of ways in my personal and professional life.

See the analogy? Gates with his theoretical knowledge is a lot like Education Schools with their insistence that Inquiry Based Mathematics is great. It's the Ed schools who push inquiry-based math whereas the mathematics professors and teachers are sounding the alarm. Now we have Gates and his Ed School Theorists claiming that studies show teachers need no deep knowledge of a subject below 10th grade. The comment I swiped from the WaPo rebuts that. Think about it. Middle school math teachers need no deep understanding of mathematics? You believe that could possibly be true? You want that guy in charge of hiring your kid's teachers?

What does Singapore got that we don't got? I don't mean texts. They have elementary school teachers with deep understanding of the math they are teaching. I've posted a couple times a link to an article about Singapore Math in Maryland, and one of the comments from a teacher a teacher in one of the pilot schools in Montgomery County: “Having to explain Singapore Mathematics made me understand that I never really understood the mathematics I was teaching.”

So, you really think this Gates guy has the answers? Or maybe he does have all the answers, just not in math. Maybe it's just math where kids would be better off if the teachers had deep understanding. Maybe teachers don't need any deep understanding in any other subject. After all, Gates assures us there's a study that proves it.

anonymous said...

Oh, I was being humorous about "the Seattle process". I understand the importance and need for "the process".

dan dempsey said...

The folks are sure to vote for charters eventually if the admin keeps running the school system into the ground. Dr. Stotsky is correct:
Voices are beginning to call for the dissolution of our public school system—a logical result of the increasingly negative influence of education schools on the quality of the curriculum and instruction in it. That influence will continue until their direct control of educator preparation and indirect control of the content and pedagogy in school textbooks is removed.

Now we have the SPS admin recommending a mathematically unsound textbook series for high school math, when will this nonsense ever end? ... it will end with charters ... the schools that Eli Broad wants ... courtesy of our Eli Board Foundation trained Superintendent who is now on the Broad Foundation Board of Directors.

anonymous said...

Dan is right. If the district does not hear what parents want and a charter school comes along and can fill the void, Seattle may bite.

On Harium's blog he has a thread on the HS math adoption. There are 50 posts, and every one of them unanimously asks Harium to vote "no" on the adoption of these reform math texts. Parents want a sound, more traditional set of materials.

If the board adopts the Discovering series, against families protests, then families might be much more inclined to look at charter schools to fill that void. A traditional math charter school might be very more appealing.

If a charter emerged as a gifted program that was stronger than the watered down split version of APP it might be appealing?

If a charter emerged as a new progressive alternative school right at a time when the district is closing our alt schools and has restricted access (transportation) to other alt schools, that charter might be very appealing?

If a charter emerged as a science magnet while our district flounders with their science curriculum that charter might be very appealing?

How about an IB elementary or middle school?

How about an environmental studies school?

Or health sciences school?

Or a few more appealing choice schools in the south end?

I'm not saying I'm for charters. I'm not.

What I'm saying is that if the district continues on the path it's on, ignoring parents requests for traditional math, more Spectrum, stronger science curriculum, high quality south end schools, then we see the tides turn. We may see the families of this district support a charter bill. Not everyone can afford private school, private tutors, Kumon......

Melissa Westbrook said...

Adhoc, you are absolutely right. The district chooses to ignore parents at their own peril. They pretty much discount our questions/concerns/wants. But it will be difficult to ignore both the Gates Foundation and the Obama administration (at least if they want the money).

We already have one candidate who says he wants to take over the schools if they don't change. The tide may be turning and it may be that the district and the teachers union are the ones who won't be listened to anymore.

Maureen said...

I wonder if Gates even knows about the history of alternative schools in Seattle? Is he aware that Seattle families have choice in K-12 schools? We have a natural experiment going on right now (especially when reference areas and transportation change in the near future). Is anyone out there collecting data? I see a few PhD dissertations in the making!

Josh Hayes said...

Thanks, Owlhouse, for the information.

I think a thread on charter schools might be a good idea, because for all the discussion about it, I still have no clear idea on what a charter school, in the real world, would look like. What would Seattle's "Charter School Number 1" be like? How would it differ from any of the other schools in SPS? This might make a useful and informative thread.

seattle citizen said...

My somewhat limited understanding of charter schools tells me this about them:
1) they are formed by "charters" (legal papers) between the charter group and the district. The charter group could be parents, it could be a company. Either the district or the group could initiate a charter.
2) They probably would, under state law, require some accountability piece: A way of measuring "success" (this might be just WASL scores)
3) They are often, tho' not necessarily, freed from various contractual obligations taken on by the district: They need not pay heed to various union contracts, or food service provisions, etc etc.
4) They might be responsible for their own buildings, or be lent one. Maintanance would be negotiated.

Other than these loose parameters, I believe the conditions for a contract are few, if both parties desire this. The only mandate I could imagine is that the charter have some sort of accountability built in, to satisfy state mandates.
I'd assume they would also have to meet state curricular mandates for seat time, credit hours etc.

Charters would receive the state (and federal?) dollars that attach to each student.

What would they look like, given these things?

That's up to the district.

The big difference between charters and Alts is that Alts are still public schools, governed by the district and usually in district facilities. Charters have no such district governance or contracts.

anonymous said...

Hmmm....I wonder if alts would actually fare better as charter schools? With the current trend in SPS toward standardization it might be more appealing to alts to be charters than a regular public school. They could use their own type of grading system, materials, curriculum.

Jet City mom said...

..I wonder if alts would actually fare better as charter schools? With the current trend in SPS toward standardization it might be more appealing to alts to be charters than a regular public school. They could use their own type of grading system, materials, curriculum.

I wonder if before closing the alternative school/charter, if a focused plan would be put in place to meet the goals,
( and if the charter commitee would actually be involved with setting of the goals)
rather than to let it limp along after being unsupported by the district for years until the district decides that the improvements to the building that the charter implemented made the building so attractive that they " needed" it.

Josh Hayes said...

I think emeraldkity is right: it would be a great idea to get a sense of where the alternative schools are, what they provide, what holes they need to fill. It's almost like we should, oh, I dunno, have an alternative schools audit?

[slow burn]

As for adhoc's comments, as usual I can only speak to the AS1 experience, but we DO use our own grading system, and sued the district (and won, of course) to ensure that we could use our own home-grown, detailed, individual student progress report.

But so long as the "progress" of a school is measured in WASL scores, the upshot is that schools have to spend all their time teaching to the WASL. If a charter school's performance benchmarks were WASL-based (as one would expect), what would the difference be?

anonymous said...

Hi Josh,
Yes, I know AS1 uses it's own grading system. All alts do (or can). But they had to fight for that right. Two times. I was part of the second movement that helped that process happen.

I was speaking more to the turn in the current administration toward standardization. This seems to be a strong focus for them. All schools the same all the time (bell times, math pacing guides, NSF science kits etc). I wouldn't put it past them to try to "standardize" AS1 (limit field trips, limit mixed grade/age classrooms, etc).

Wouldn't it be nice if alt schools didn't have to use EveryDay math or CMP2? Wouldn't it be nice if an alt could choose math materials more in keeping with their pedagogy? About 8 years ago there was interest in a public Waldorf school here in Seattle. I recently did some research and found that the reason the public Waldorf school didn't work out was because they taught math in a very different manner than SPS does (different style, different ages) and they couldn't make the SPS math curriculum work. That's sad. There are, however, many thriving Waldorf school charters around the country.

And, not all states/districts require charters to take the state standardized test (WASL for us). They do have to meet performance levels, but many states allow charters to create and use their own unique criteria.

That's why I was wondering with the state of standardization this district is headed in, if alt schools would fare better as charters?

Anyone who know more about charters care to comment? Josh?

anonymous said...

My apology, upon some further research, I found out that Charter schools do have to take standardized tests (this was not so when Charter schools started, and apparently came about as part of no child left behind).

That adds a different perspective to my theory that alts might fare better as charter schools.

Here is a great article that helps define what a charter school is and how they are held accountable


seattle citizen said...

Here is the text of the article cited by adhoc. It makes for interesting discussion, although I would say that it is written by the principal of a charter school, and hence its "definitions" of charters are biased. It's a cheerleading
-pasted article below-
"How Much is Tuition?":
Charter Schools Defined
Editorial, September 2006

by: Terrence Moore

"Competition from charter schools is the best way to motivate the ossified bureaucracies governing too many public schools. This grass-roots revolution seeks to reconnect public education with our most basic values: ingenuity, responsibility, and accountability."
—Senator Joseph Lieberman

Charter schools are among the least understood public institutions around, perhaps even less understood than the bolder form of school reform known as vouchers. Often parents have called my school, Ridgeview, to ask, "How much is tuition?" One witty board member said, in light of human beings’ love of a good deal, we should respond with, "For you, it costs nothing." Several of our critics in the paper have snarled that Ridgeview is "an elite private school." (Presumably being an elite school is a bad thing, though no one complains of elite sports teams or auto-glass repairmen.) And yet as a charter school, Ridgeview charges no tuition, though we fancy that the education we provide is comparable to private schools that charge many thousands of dollars per child per year. Indeed, to underline our charter-school status, we have had to display prominently on our marquee, on our website, and in all advertising the words "no tuition." Far from being private schools, charter schools are public institutions. In fact, they may be the most authentically American form of schooling.

Charter schools have been defined as "independent public schools of choice, freed from rules but accountable for results." Charter schools are independent in the sense that they do not report to school boards in matters of hiring, curriculum, administration, or governance. In fact, most charter schools have very little interaction with their districts except when certain state reports are due or standardized tests are being administered, in short, when certain state-mandated functions are being coordinated at the district level. Almost all decisions made in a charter school are "site-based" as the lingo goes now. Though mostly autonomous, charter schools are nonetheless public because their revenue comes from public taxes and they are open to the public. Indeed, it could be argued that charter schools are more open to the public than "neighborhood schools" since a student’s ability to attend a charter school does not depend on his parents’ residency. Whereas regular public schools adhere to strict neighborhood boundaries, charter schools normally admit students regardless of where they live. In that sense, a child does not have to live in a "good neighborhood" to go to a "good school" (Would that the one really followed so seamlessly from the other!).

The term "choice" is one you will hear often in connection with charter schools. Indeed, it is the charter-school movement’s watchword. Choice refers to the fact that charter schools give parents a choice in schools, especially in the type of school, where none existed before. Choice also means that no one is forced to attend. Parents and students have to choose a charter; no one assumes they will. The element of choice is essential to school reform since the opposite of choice is either forced uniformity or inertia. If parents imagine that the only possible kind of school is the one their student attends, then they will be unlikely to seek some form of education that is better. Were that school a great school, then such seeking would not be necessary. But if that school is only mediocre or actually very poor, the ability to find a better school is central to the child’s education and well-being.

The neighborhood system of schooling, in which there is no choice, is akin to Henry Ford’s Model T: mass-produced; "you can have any color as long as it’s black." Charter schools, on the other hand, introduce choice and therefore competition into this system. Whenever parents have a choice, they will be inclined to use it. This exercise of choice is often criticized by public-school apologists. "Why are you taking your kids out of the public schools and leaving all those other poor kids to an inferior education?" Such selfish parents, wanting to pull their kids from a sinking ship without regard for the other kids whose parents might not have figured out the ship is sinking! Actually, exercising self-interest in this case might be the most public-spirited thing a parent can do. Competition forces public schools to improve a lot more than either criticism or pleading ever will. In economic terms, when "voice" proves unavailing, individuals must have the capacity of "exit." Ford may not be the leading automobile manufacturer anymore, but at least all its cars aren’t black.

Charter schools are also more accountable for their results than are regular public schools. Charter schools are accountable principally in two ways. First, they are required to take the same standardized tests that all other public schools must take. Insofar as publication of the results of these tests has become extremely visible throughout the nation, charter schools become known by their performance from the first year of operation, often a very difficult year given all the hurdles involved in setting up a new school. I am well aware of the typical public-school accusation that charter schools take all the "most motivated" children from the neighborhood schools. The implication is that a charter school’s high performance can be attributed solely to the school’s clientele, so to speak. If that were the case, then why have so many charter schools using ultra-progressive curricula ended up having the worst test results in their districts despite their students’ being in no way disadvantaged? Moreover, why would the most motivated students be moving to a charter school unless they are seeking to be more challenged, to get a better education, to keep from being "bored," as my students put it?

Second, the element of choice also makes charter schools accountable. If parents do not like the education their children are getting, they are free to take their children out of the school. In fact, they are free to leave for any reason, whether reasonable or not. A school of choice with a declining enrollment has no option but to change or, eventually, to go under. Without choice, neighborhood schools are accountable to no such pressures. They stay in business forever, whether they are successfully teaching students or not.

Opponents of charter schools must oppose them on one of these principles: their independence, their public funding and openness to the public, their reliance upon choice, or their accountability. Realize that these are extremely compelling, indeed extremely American, principles to oppose. If we study the arguments of these opponents, we shall find that their criticism boils down to their fear of competition and to charter schools’ receiving public funding based on the number of students they have. In short, these critics are monopolists. They want regular public schools protected from competition at all costs. I suppose there is an argument for monopoly, but we must wonder whether critics of monopoly would practice what they preach in other matters in which we take choice for granted. Do the critics of charter schools wish to be forced to buy Fords simply because Ford has fallen on hard times and could use the business or be required to buy HP computers though they might prefer Apple or Dell? If they go to church, do they wish to pay tithes to the church located closest to their house, though it is Catholic and they are Protestants? What if they do not go to church? If they live in Fort Collins, Colorado would they agree in all cases to send their children to C.S.U. and not to U.N.C. or to Colorado College or to The Citadel or to M.I.T.? Would these public-school apologists as parents agree to have their children go only to the closest pediatrician or dentist? Might they agree to being Denver Broncos fans even if they grew up in Pittsburgh or Dallas?

Choice is as American as apple pie in most everything except for schools. Indeed, Americans who do not like apple pie can always eat cherry or rhubarb without being thought un-American. Parents who send their children to charter schools, on the other hand, are often looked upon as some kind of traitors. Americans have accomplished wonders to make themselves the freest people who have ever lived, but in this one domain, the one that philosophers such as Plato considered the most important, they are substantially unfree, both in their practice and their thinking. Consequently, charter schools constitute a "rebirth of freedom" in an important human endeavor, the formation of children’s minds and souls, that has remained unfree for far too long.

Terrence Moore is an Adjunct Fellow of the Ashbrook Center and the principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools, a K-12 charter school in Fort Collins, Colorado. On the 2005 state testing, Ridgeview’s high school was ranked the number-one public high school in the state.

seattle citizen said...

Here's a comment I'd make:
"Though mostly autonomous, charter schools are nonetheless public because their revenue comes from public taxes and they are open to the public."

But where's the accountability? Who's in charge? If these are public, as supported by public dollars, by states, and by school districts, where is the accountability for what goes on inside?
It might be argued that some form of test(s) is the accountability, but what I'm talking about is policy and procedure, etc. There are some basic expectations set up about what people think, generally, is good and what is bad. For instance, some parents might think that ONLY WASL-related things are important. They might, indeed, FILL a charter school. But these are public dollars, and is it in the public interest to have these dollars spent merely on WASL prep?
The editorial says that charters equal choice: But isn't one of the aspects of publics that schools HAVE to do things some ways because they are publics? Why should a private entity take public money and do with it what it wants? The notion of "public" includes certain parameters, expectations, and accountability NOT determined by a small group of like-minded parents or charter administrators, but by public policy, school boards, and decision-making that is transparent and influenced by public opinion.
In other words, why should my tax dollars be given to someone outside of this system of accountability?

And that's all I have to say, WV, pereid.

anonymous said...

It appears to me that Charter schools are accountable, as the article states, in two ways. First via standardized tests, and second via choice. They must meet AYP and academic standards just like every other school And enough families have to choose them too.

Charters sounds much like our alt schools, but with more autonomy and more building based decision making, both of which our alt schools have long fought for. Take NOVA's desire for vegetarian hot lunches - might have been OK if it were a charter.

If a school meets performance requirements and can attract enough families that want what the school has to offer (whether that is Waldorf, democratic/free school, immersion, montessori, kipp, or even WASL prep) then I would be happy for my tax dollars to support that school. Even if I personally didn't like the school/concept myself, I would respect that enough other people did, and as long as the school was performing well academically I would support it 100%.

Everyone has a different opinions of what works.

old salt said...

Are charter schools required to serve every student who chooses them? ELL? Hearing impaired? Children with learning disabilities?

I understand that it is easier for a charter school to fire ineffective teachers. Is it also easier for a charter school to expel a student or ask them to leave the program because of noncompliance?

seattle citizen said...

adhoc, I wasn't clear about what I thought "accountability" is. It is NOT WASL scores (to me.)
Accountability (to me) means that public schools are planned by the public, with certain parameters discussed, voted on by board members, run according to certain "rules" or policies...
To me, that's the quid pro quo: I give my tax money to public schools, I vote for Board members, and that money and those board members represents me in the formation of public schools. By giving my tax dollars to some outside group, and by signing a charter that abrogates many of the stipulations agreed upon in board policy (and the collective bargaining agreement), the board is giving away my money, and my authority, to some non-public organization (or company.)

Alts are part of public schools: They have to live by policy, they have to live by the CBA, they are a part of the public community, accountable to me through my representative, the Board. Charters are NOT beholden to board policy, are NOT part of the public community, and are NOT beholden to the Board except where stipulated by their charter. So how are they accountable? Besides WASL scores?

I'm not particularely interested if a parent, or a group of parents, finds a certain type of education good or bad: What I'm interested in is providing a public education to students in a public system, paid for with my tax dollars. I do NOT want my tax dollars given to non-public entitites, nor my board-represented control given away by a charter document.

Heck, I'd almost make the case that charters are illegal, as they abrogate the responsibility of the District to provide the education funded by my money.

Jet City mom said...

Heck, I'd almost make the case that charters are illegal, as they abrogate the responsibility of the District to provide the education funded by my money

We don't have a state law regulating Charters in this state- so it is impossible to say what the standards would be.
http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm? ( sorry this is so long)
( just take my comments out)
How Do Charter Schools Work?

The Law: Before you can have charter schools, you must have a state law. Forty states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school laws. (The ten states that do not have charter school laws are Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. Click here to find out more.)

Do Charter Schools Take Money from Public Schools? Charter schools are public schools. When a child leaves for a charter school the money follows that child. This benefits the public school system by instilling a sense of accountability into the system regarding its services to the student and parents and its fiscal obligations. Fiscally, charter schools have demonstrated efficiency.
For example, ABC's "Prime Time Live" ran a story on Yvonne Chan, the energetic principal of a San Fernando Valley’s Vaughn Next Century Charter School. The local school district, one of the largest and most bureaucratic in the nation, typically took a year to buy computers for its classrooms. Ms. Chan thought that was ridiculous. It took her charter school six days to purchase computers, and for less money.
As a result, the Los Angeles Unified School District revised its purchasing system. Overall, in its first year of operation, Vaughn Next Century generated, through operational changes and efficiencies, a $1 million plus surplus, which it used to expand facilities to benefit both students and staff.

If you have a child in special education, or especially a child who is " twice" gifted, you probably already have found the the teacher/school/district/state isn't accountable in any meaningful way for their education.

If I found a charter school that was formed to fill the needs of those twice gifted students I would jump on it.

A school that could hire the principal it wanted- the teachers it wanted and have clear expectations for parents and students is going to be more successful than a school where staff gets bumped around depending on seniority.

seattle citizen said...

Emeraldkitty, here is the Board of Directors for the Center for Education Reform, the organization hosting the description of charters you provide. It's a list of charter operators, supporters, and various business people and investors, including, interestingly, someone from "Tellme Networks, now a Microsoft subsidiary," who is "responsible for product and technology strategy." Make of that what you will...

Board of Center for Education Reform:

Jeanne Allen is the president of The Center for Education Reform, the author of The School Reform Handbook, How to Improve Your Schools, and the mother of four school aged children.

Tim Barton is an entrepreneur who founded Freightquote.com® Tim holds an MS in Finance from LSU and a BS in Business Administration from the University of Kansas.

Kevin Chavous is a Partner with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, where he developed the firm's education law practice. He also periodically teaches education law as an adjunct professor at American University's Washington College of Law. Kevin is a noted attorney, author and national school reform leader.

Kara Cheseby is a General Partner with Rock Creek Investment Partners, LLC. She was a Vice President of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. and T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. from 1997 to June 2008. Kara earned her bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Russian from Duke University.

John Chubb is a founding partner and now a Chief Education Officer for Edison Schools, Inc.; a Brookings Institute fellow; and co-author with Terry Moe of Politics, Markets and America’s Schools.

John Danielson founded Chartwell Education in July 2005 after having served as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Department of Education for two years. He has also served as the principle liaison for Education Secretary, Rod Paige, with both the White House and Congress.

Angus Davis is the co-founder of Tellme Networks, now a Microsoft subsidiary, where he is responsible for product and technology strategy. Angus is Chairman of Best for Kids, a Rhode Island education reform advocacy organization, and he serves on the Rhode Island Board of Regents. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Donald Hense serves as Chairman of Friendship Public Charter Schools located in Washington, DC, and is the former Chairman and CEO of Friendship House Association, a non-profit community-based social and economic development agency working in South Washington, DC.

Gisele Huff is the Executive Director of the Jaquelin Hume Foundation, which supports and advances education reform efforts nationwide. Prior to her work with the Foundation, Ms. Huff was an executive with University High School in San Francisco and worked with several other philanthropic efforts.

Jerry Hume (Chairman Emeritus) is the Chairman of the Board of the San Francisco-based Basic American, Inc. He serves on the boards of the National Academy of Sciences and the Foundation for Teaching Economics. Mr. Hume was a California State Board of Education member and was also active with the California Business Roundtable.

Robert Johnston founded Johnston Associates, Inc. (JAI), in 1968. Since then, JAI has launched several companies in the healthcare field, predominately pharmaceutical companies, around unique and commercially promising technologies and funds them in cooperation with other venture capitalists. Bob also founded and funds Educational Ventures, a foundation focusing on innovative methods of improving the educational system, such as vouchers and charter schools.
Ray Smart is the President of the Smart Family Foundation in Wilton, Connecticut.

Lara N. Vaughan is founding partner of Parchman, Vaughan and Company, LLC. Lara holds a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in International Finance from American University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business with a French minor from Stetson University.

Chris Whittle is founder and chairman of Edison Schools, Inc. Chris is also the author of Crash Course: Imaging a Better Future For Public Education, published in 2005.

seattle citizen said...

You mention the lack of accountability in public schools, and to some degree I agree with you. This, to me, indicates a need to fix THAT, rather than bail out on the whole system.
For instance, you would like "[a] school that could hire the principal it wanted- the teachers it wanted and have clear expectations for parents and students is going to be more successful than a school where staff gets bumped around depending on seniority."
Well, maybe this is workable within a union structure. Maybe the union has to change, or go away. But is an exodus of taxpayer money and control to some business (see Edison, Chartwell, Tellme [a Microsoft subsidiary], Friendship Public Charter, Basic American Inc,) the right answer?

WV went to Yoda's home planet, and asked a bunch of YODYS this question. They answered, "Not the right answer is this!"

anonymous said...

"Charters are NOT beholden to board policy, are NOT part of the public community".

No, charters are not beholden to the school board, but they are beholden to the federal government and the state. They must meet performance standards or they loose their public funding. They must attract enough families or they will be closed. That's incentive and accountability.

Here is some more accountability - Aki Kurose middle school probably would not exist if it were a charter school. It performs terribly, is in step 5 of NCLB, and few families choose it.

And as for charter not being part of the public community, that is inaccurate. Charter schools are publicly funded, paid for by tax dollars, and they serve public school students. THEY ARE VERY MUCH A PART OF THE PUBLIC COMMUNITY. If you don't like charters that's fine, I'm not crazy about them either. But please keep the conversation honest and don't cause confusion.

anonymous said...

And, yes, Seattle Citizen, I agree that the unions are going to have to change. Unions do not base their decisions on the whats in the best interest of our children, they base their decisions on whats in the best interest of the teachers and principals.

Unions have far MORE influence over the outcome of public education in Seattle than the GF and all outside entities combined.

seattle citizen said...

"No, charters are not beholden to the school board, but they are beholden to the federal government and the state. They must meet performance standards or they loose their public funding. They must attract enough families or they will be closed. That's incentive and accountability.

If they're not beholden to the school board, they ain't public schools. Just because they take public money doesn't mean they are part of the public school community.

Edison is a charter company. It is beholden to its stockholders (probably first) and then its students. If it was beholden to its students first, it would go out of business.

McDonalds is a corporation, also, and it serves public students. Should we give it tax money?

I'm being honest; where have I lied, adhoc? How am I causing confusion?

seattle citizen said...

"Unions do not base their decisions on the whats in the best interest of our children, they base their decisions on whats in the best interest of the teachers and principals."

Sometimes what's in the best interest of teachers and principals IS in the best interest of students. Wages, hours worked, etc...Unless you feel that a free market system is better: Companies, us, school districts could hire and fire at will. Companies like Edison, uh, school districts like Seattle could seek the cheapest labor, replace curricula with scripts, and everything would be fine. After all, some parents LIKE the WASL scores, and LIKE direct instruction, right? Who needs a teacher?

And educators SHOULD be subject to being fired at will. District admins, principals, all these people have no personal agendas, no "go along to get along" mentality, they always welcome a diverse, independent, thoughtful staff, so they would NEVER just lose someone because, well, they feel like it.

And if a teacher who has been teaching ten years, doing a great job...if their school is closed due to changing demographics, they should just lose their job, because its a tough old world, eh? THAT will help retention.

Jet City mom said...

This seems like a good place to mention that I do see young people going into education.

While I have heard some of my older daughters friends complain that they can't get anything beside substitute work ( and I have seen in the Seattle public schools myself teachers who have taken retirement, but are still teaching on a part time basis, not to mention teachers who should have retired years ago)

I have also seen about 30% of the students from my older daughters high school graduating class become teachers in schools or advisors in educational organizations after getting their degrees from schools like Oxy, Reed and Carleton.

No those schools don't have educational degrees, but the teachers are in private schools or working for institutes like Olympic Park Institute.

There must be some reason why over 50% of Seattle students spend at least some time in private school. It isn't because families have so much money they don't know where to spend it but because of accountability.

For instance- in private school my older daughter had excellent teachers, who rarely if ever were out of the classroom- except for illness. My younger daughter had in public school, teachers who were out of the classroom for illness yes, but also for vacations, for Gates funded trips to look at schools on the east coast, to care for older relatives and for multiple in service trainings, which to my knowledge was for learning yet another email program.

The recently retired director of my older daughters high school, would have NEVER allowed a teacher who was slacking off. In public school, if the principal does not want to document reasons why the teacher should be retrained/fired, there is not a thing parents can do.
The principal will likely not be there next year anyway, they have found it is easier to be reassigned than it is to get rid of union supported teachers. If the principal is bad, well they have a union too! Handy eh?

In the case that you present Seattlecitizen
of a school being closed because of " changing demographics" what ever that means.

Excellent educators will always find work- I know one teacher for instance, who founded three different schools, all three as far as I know are still in existence.

One of the high demand elementary schools was formed when a pilot study at the UW ended and parents and teachers wanted to continue the program.
Another of the most popular schools was created when philosophical differences split a school community resulting in what is now two well established 6-12 educational institutions.

Conflict/Change =opportunity.
Quality educators should not be afraid of the market expanding, they should embrace it.

anonymous said...

SS says "McDonalds is a corporation, also, and it serves public students. Should we give it tax money? I'm being honest; where have I lied, adhoc? How am I causing confusion?"

Well for starters your use of McDonalds as an example. As you well know McDonalds is not publicly funded, so why would you use the McDonalds corporation to compare against a publicly funded charter school?

Then you use Edison as an example. Let me give you another example..... Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB). This is a corporation that sells it's curriculum to schools. The school pays a private corporation for use of their curriculum and teacher training. One of our local SPS elementary schools pays over $40,000 per year to this private corporation. Yup, it's true, right here in Seattle, without Charters. Thornton Creek has paid for their association with ELOB for over 10 years. What do you think about that?

Then SS says "Sometimes what's in the best interest of teachers and principals IS in the best interest of students. "

Yup, you're right. But sometimes it's not. Why don't you talk about that?

And SS says "if a teacher who has been teaching ten years, doing a great job...if their school is closed due to changing demographics, they should just lose their job,"

Yup, just like Boeing, Microsoft, Adobe, and every other private company and many public agencies too. That's the real, harsh, world.

seattle citizen said...

Yes there are many fine schools out there started by many fine people. But they aren't public schools.

I agree that there are all sorts of problems with publics; many privates have problems, too.

Do we want to just give up on publics and support privates, because there are problems with publics?

Again, there are problems with unions; I've said that. Do I need to repeat what we've all said? But is this a reason to do away with them? To move to a Boeing, Microsoft, Adobe model? Are you sure you want to go to a free market for educators? There are benefits, for some, to be sure: Savvy parents will guarantee good schools. But unwary parents will get market rate educators, perhaps based online in India (it's an exaggeration for effect, please don't hit me)

I'm pro-union, I admit it. Not pro"everything a union does", but pro what they've attained for workers. If you think we should go back to the good old days of teachers starting the fires in the school house, being banned from marrying, and living in a shed out back, fine. I'd prefer not.

You are (in my opinion) looking only at the positives of getting rid of the unions, things like increasing the ability to fire educators (can't we change the system we have, instead of abandoning it in favcor of free market forces, laisez faire?) But what about the negatives? What about cost-cutting? what about investors seeking not student growth but bottom dollar?

Yes, ELOB is a corporation. If I had my druthers, this sort of curriculum would be developed in-house, rather than by outside contractors. But of course there are some things that must be done externally (beware the dangers, tho': packaged curriculums often meet a very basic common denominator. Not saying ELOB is, but, for instance, a textbook). But just because we use "store-bought" things in a school, doesn't mean we are selling the school to ELOB, giving up control, giving them a charter...

As to confusion about Macdonalds and Edison: You write:

Well for starters your use of McDonalds [is confusing]... McDonalds is not publicly funded, so why would you use the McDonalds corporation to compare against a publicly funded charter school?

Then you use Edison as an example."

Uh, hello, Edison is a private corporation, just like MacDonalds. The difference is that Edison DOES get "publicly funded" dollars, and the control of school, to boot. I was merely wondering why we wouldn't give tax dollars to Macdonalds, since they serve students. I mean, why not? What's the difference?

anonymous said...

Here are a few examples of unions actions not being in the best interest of our students:

Unions protect "bad" and "incompetent" teachers from being fired, or even disciplined in some cases. check out this link for a few examples

They strike. The leave kids without a school to go to, and they leave parents scrambling to find child care, or worse, force them to leave their kids home unattended, so they can go to work.

And by protecting teachers sometimes they harm kids. Take for example a case where our school had enough PTA funding to hire a retired math teacher to help us reduce class size. We would pay her hourly and she received no benefits. It was a great deal for her as she was retired and receiving retirement benefits, and it was a good deal for us as it was affordable. She WANTED to do it. But we couldn't hire her. The union dictated that we had to hire a union teacher, and pay union wages, including union benefits. We couldn't afford to do it. Our kids did not get the benefit of smaller class sizes.

And this from a recent Sea Times article "When The Seattle Times asked the Bellevue School District for information about teachers and coaches accused of sexual misconduct, school officials and the state’s most powerful union teamed up behind the scenes to try to hide the files. "

And these are just a few I can think of off hand.

So lets be honest and acknowledge that unions have great power over the education of our students. Much more so that the GF, Paul Allen and all private agencies combined. And lets also acknowledge that while some decisions that unions make are in the best interest of students, some are not.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, yes, yes, there are problems! You just listed a couple. But here's one you wrote about that shows what I mean about dropping standards, AND standards of living, without some sort of labor power (capitals added by me):

"our school had enough PTA funding to hire a retired math teacher to help us reduce class size. We would pay her hourly and she RECEIVED NO BENEFITS. It was a great deal for her as she was retired and receiving retirement benefits, and it was a good deal for us as IT WAS AFFORDABLE. She WANTED to do it. But we couldn't hire her. The union dictated that we had to hire a union teacher, and pay union wages, including union benefits. We couldn't afford to do it. Our kids did not get the benefit of smaller class sizes.

So...A charter, or other non-union school can, and maybe should, hire teachers without paying them benefits, because it's affordable?

The example you give is flawed: The teacher in question was a retired math teacher (already receiving union health care and benefits, no doubt, or she did when she was working full-time), and she could, I suppose, afford to work on the cheap, without benefits.

But why would you advocate hiring someone without paying them benefits, just because it's "affordable"? Is this right? Even if they "WANTED to do it"?

A starving person wants to work, too, and probably will, without benefits...

anonymous said...

"But why would you advocate hiring someone without paying them benefits, just because it's "affordable"? Is this right? Even if they "WANTED to do it"?"

She was already receiving benefits. She got her pension check, her social security check, and medicaire. She missed being in the classroom. She wanted to teach. We offered her a very fair wage. That's a far cry from finding a homeless person and paying them $8 bucks an hour, but I'm used to those far out analogies from you now.

Moving on now............

seattle citizen said...

It's not a far-out analogy. If a company can get away with paying as little as possible by cutting corners, it often will.

You had the luxury of finding someone who had a pension (a union pension? You said she was a retired teacher...did her pension come from a TR plan?)

But as the number of "private" (non-union) schools increases, the opportunity for private corporations to make money increases. They want to cut costs (they HAVE to) Where do they cut costs? By paying less.

Yes, let's move on. While debating these things with you might expose some various strengths and weaknesses of the subject at hand, it often seems to get...tense. I bear you no ill-will adhoc, even if I get exasperated!

anonymous said...

"Edison is a charter company. It is beholden to its stockholders (probably first) and then its students. "

One could argue that Edison is beholden to it's students first. They have an incentive to meet and exceed expectations. An incentive to perform well and be a popular choice. After all if they don't perform satisfactorily and they don't attract students, they will close. They will go out of business. It's part of private enterprise. It's supply and demand.

Not so for public schools. Just look at Aki Kurose or Rainier Beach or Cleveland. They all perform terribly, are not popular, are grossly under enroolled, and Aki is in the last step of federal sanctions. But they are all allowed to limp along protected by the district, school board, and the unions. Who is AKI beholden to? One could argue that by their abysmal performance they are NOT beholden to their students first.

There are some aspects of private enterprise that would be well embraced by public school families, namely competition, accountability, a teachers fear of losing his job if he isn't a good teacher, or your business (school) going out of business if it does not meet it's clients (students) needs.

Jet City mom said...

I suggest that the teacher and principal union follow the same guidelines the unions at Boeing do.

When unions at Boeing strike to obtain better/same working conditions/pay, they are out those hours and benefits.

Pensions for union workers at Boeing is a flat amount for each year worked- not a % of annual income - wouldn't restricting pensions to the years in the classroom motivate teachers to stay?

When educators strike, they simply extend the school year.- union benefits the adults involved- I haven't seen how I-728 for example has resulted in lower class sizes, not when it can be used for "inservice training".

Would we rather work in a job where everyone is paid the same, no matter the quality of their work , or one where leadership and effectiveness is rewarded?

Public school teachers want to be compared to attorneys and doctors re salary, but not hours, not benefits- they want unions, but they don't want to be compared to police officers or firefighters.

It is suggested to change from within not throw out the system-
but pray tell, given that I quit my job to be in the school every week to try and get my child an education and to support the school,

given that despite that I had to pay for outside tutoring because her IEP wasn't being followed & given that Sara Wolverton decided that the district didn't have to reimburse me,
( for that job she is paid 6 figures- nice work if you can get it don't you think?)
because as she wasn't being flunked, she was making progress- ( insert eyeroll here)

what sort of change from within do you have in mind and will my grandchildren be around to benefit from it?

seattle citizen said...

Hmm, points taken, adhoc. But while it would seem to behoove Edison, for example, to be seen to be successful so a) parents choose it, and b) districts re-up the contract, what might happen instead is that one indicator, and one only, is used for "success", for example a WASL score, and parents who might not know better might think this is fine and dandy. Is it? Is it what we want to for public education?
So Edison could tailor everything to the WASL, get no complaints, show success, get re-upped...Maybe that's okay: maybe it's okay if uninformed parents think that all we need are good WASL scores. I disagree.

That's the point I was trying to make earlier: Public schools are not always "what the parent wants." They are taxpayer-funded, and with that funding comes certain expectations. Citizenship, art, music...all sorts of non-WASL stuff is what it seems taxpayers want to see in schools, and what they think their money is going for. That we have strayed from these is a crime, and speaks to other issues, but why should taxpayers send their dollars to some company like Edison, who is evidently nly accountable to market share and state test scores? Where is the accountability for process, for design, for management, we expect when we pay our tax?
I don't suggest we have that now, but I disagree that the answer is to just contract out the whole package. That's not a publc District's job. It's job is to run the schools, not to "sell" them, and the responsibility of providing well-rounded education to private entities.

Speaking of competition, who pays for the transportation to all these various schools you propose? Students, choosing, could end up all over the city. How would they get there?

anonymous said...

"Maybe that's okay: maybe it's okay if uninformed parents think that all we need are good WASL scores. I disagree."

I find this statement so patronizing. Why do you think only "uninformed parents" seek high WASL scores? I am an informed parent, and I want my school to get good WASL scores. Why would I choose a school that didn't get decent WASL scores? However flawed the WASL may be, it is all the district has provided us to gauge a schools ACADEMIC performance.

I think it is the district you have the beef with SS, not Edison. The Seattle School District created the WASL. The Seattle school District chose to use it as the tool to measure a schools performance by. If Edison tailored a curriculum around the WASL whose fault would it be? Not Edison's. They would be trying to meet the standards (passage of the WASL) set forth by SPS. I think you should take issue with the District for creating such a flawed tool, not Edison for teaching to it. If the district had an appropriate tool to measure students success, then Edison would surely use it. Remember, they have to be successful or they go out of business.

And as far as formulating a curriculum around WASL prep, you don't have to look for an Edison school, just look at the public schools of SPS. They All do WASL prep. They all tailor their curriculum around the WASL. They all teach to the test. Even our alt schools are moving in this direction.

So blame Edison all you want. I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

anonymous said...

"Speaking of competition, who pays for the transportation to all these various schools you propose?"

SS please don't put words into my mouth (or my writing, LOL). I never said I want charter schools. In fact I SAID IN THIS THREAD that I am anti-charter schools. I'm even pro-union!

But, I like to see the big picture. I like to look at all sides of an issue, not just my side. There is good and bad, right and wrong, on both sides of the argument for/against charter schools and unions. I like to explore them.

seattle citizen said...

I wrote:"...maybe it's okay if uninformed parents think that all we need are good WASL scores. I disagree."

You wrote:
I find this statement so patronizing. Why do you think only "uninformed parents" seek high WASL scores?

I wrote that some might think that "ALL WE NEED are good WASL scores," not "seek high WASL scores" Please don't misquote me.

There is a difference between wanting good WASL scores AND OTHER THINGS, which is clear from what I wrote, and merely wanting good test scores. Are good WASL scores all you want for you student?

great googly moogly....

seattle citizen said...

Adhoc, it's SC, not SS. I'm a sport coupe, not Shutzstaffel.

But anyhoo....sorry I wrote that you "propose" charters, Wrong wording.

But how WOULD students be transported? We have this same issue with Alts, bless 'em, how do get the students to them?

anonymous said...

Sorry SC, I got carried away with my opinion and left my spelling far behind....I won't take your sports coupe away.

All in fun though - I actually like challenging your perspective, and you challenging mine. Even though we don't often agree, you make me think about things from a different perspective, and I like that........

anonymous said...

I'm not sure how transportation is funded for charter schools, though I know they do offer it. My nephew goes to a charter school in Ft. Lauderdale and take a yellow school bus. His mom said they had a choice of their neighborhood school, or one of two charters in their region. Since the charter school was a small school, and performed much higher than their neighborhood school, and provided transportation they chose it.

It sounds to me a lot like SPS. We can choose our reference school, or if space permits another school in our cluster, or an alt school in our region, with transportation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The Seattle School District created the WASL. The Seattle school District chose to use it as the tool to measure a schools performance by. "

First statement: false. The state of Washington created the WASL and it is assessment instrument required by the state, under NCLB, that Seattle has to use.

Second statement: well, they "chose" to use it because they were already administering it to meet state/fed requirements. If they had the money, they might use ITBS or some other measure but they use the WASL. Naturally, as we all keep saying, the WASL should not be the only measure for either students or schools to be measured by but it sure seems to be used that way.

anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa, you are absolutely right. It was the state of WA that came up with the WASL, not the SSD. Please interchange SSD with state of WA in my previous post.

seattle citizen said...

I would add that, as far as I understand, the WASL was originally created to test SCHOOLS, not individual students. People were concerned about accountability (surprise!) back in the early 1990s, and the state decided to design a test that would see how SCHOOLS were functioning. It has since morphed into a graduation requirement (of the state, and thereby the district).

In it's earlier iterations, I believe, the WASL was purportedly anonymous: students' names were not attached, just schools.

Of course, this school accountability is the sort of "accountability" we are discussing here, not the individual graduation requirement. I just find it interesting that a test created for one purpose is used for another.

I still don't see the WASL as holding schools accountable for much. Maybe for some basics in Reading, Writing....Science is being piloted....Math is...Math is...
And what about citizenship, art, music, history, social studies....
These don't count? We don't need to account for these?
Me personally, I think these state tests are an excuse to create a giant standardized test machine, and the profit to be had in that: testing, tutoring, poossible charters...
Why can't we hold ourselves accountable, hold schools accountable to true education, instead of pap and pablum?

anonymous said...

So, what are some ideas, other than standardized tests, that would hold schools accountable? What could a district do en mass to make sure schools and teachers were doing their jobs at an acceptable level? What would satisfy parents? What would satisfy the state? The district?

Jet City mom said...

The Accreditation process for private schools involves a team of educators, including the ones at the school renewing accreditation.

It's probably expensive, but I doubt it is any more expensive than the WASL, especially since schools only undergo the process every few years.


Josh Hayes said...

adhoc writes:

"So, what are some ideas, other than standardized tests, that would hold schools accountable?"

Let's not over-generalize here: I'm opposed to using the WASL as the sole measure of school success, but that doesn't mean that standardized tests are useless. The WASL is only one of approximately one bazillion available tests. Problems arise when schools and/or administrators refuse to recognize anything other than good ol' WASLie Brown.

Some AS1 parents, for instance, were considering sending their kids to a comprehensive middle school, until they were told that kids are placed in math classes based solely on WASL scores. No teacher input. No Edusoft scores (another standardized test). Just the WASL.

When I was operating under the illusion that the district cared at all about what AS1 parents wanted to propose by way of a "recovery plan", I suggested to district honchos that while we might not have 100% compliance with the WASL, we DO have 100% compliance with a host of other, much less onerous, standardized tests, which would provide the kind of longitudinal data they want for assessing the "progress" of the school. Haven't heard back from them yet, strangely enough.

So let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater: there are a whole bunch of objective quantitative measures by which we can assess whole-school performance. The WASL is but one, and a pretty crappy one at that.

seattle citizen said...

I spent a year on the Assessment Study Team of my college, back in the...well, awhile ago. The ("a") state had been ready to institute nationally-normed, standardized tests to rising juniors in state colleges (after sophmore year) in order to assess whether state colleges were, in fact, teaching. The provosts of the colleges all stood up and said, wait, let us have some time to study this assessment issue. They were given a year, and I joined our college's study group.
We looked at all sorts of assessments: standardized, mult. choice, short answer, portfolio, extended essay, narrative evaluation...

Use them all.

The district is looking for "data-driven" teaching and learning. This is good. Formative evaluations help fine-tune teaching; summative evaluations help assess final results. All of these can be thrown in the pot to paint a rich and varied portrait of student learning (and teacher teaching).

Expand the district's "data team" concept (sort of like "critical friends," where educators meet in small groups together, plan small lessons and assessments, run them - each in their own classroom - then meet again to compare notes.)

All of this tis time consuming, and an ideal. It's expensive because of the labor involved. But professional accountability is vastly improved by having to work woth others, share classroom experience, be "transparent" about curriculum and instruction.

Emeraldkitty mentions the accreditation at private schools: this happens at publics, too, every five years.

This sort of accreditation team, other educators etc, could conceivably be expanded to include "accreditation" of individual educators: It would have to be more often, say twice a year, and it would have to be deep - the team would study lesson plans, results, perhaps short videos of classwork...This could be a huge addition to regular data gathered by other evaluations performed in class.

That would be my favored package of evaluations, for students and teachers. The classroom learning community would be accountable for results and to outside evaluators. It would be possible to fold in qualitative data, such as SES or ELL and still have a somewhat fair evaluation of a teacher (where the WASL results certainly don't do this.)

anonymous said...

Personally, I think Josh is 100% right. I think schools need to maintain some quantitative measure of a schools performance, and that probably comes in the form of a standardized test. Parents pretty much universally agree that the WASL stinks. And, luckily, it is going away! Randy Dorn's platform stood on replacing the WASL with a more relevant test. Hopefully he will keep his commitment and the new test will be more meaningful. We'll see.

Regarding math placement: As a parent of a 5th grader this year, I was very concerned about what Josh said about the district using WASL scores to do math placements in middle school, so I called Eckstein to find out how they do it. She said in the past they invited all of the 5th graders to come in over the summer and take a math placement test, so they could place them in apporpriate classes. But she said that is all changing this year. She read a document to me that she received which said that this year 5th grade teachers would administer a math placement test to the following groups of students.

Those who scored higher than 80% on the winter benchmard assessment.

Those who received a 4 on their 4th grade math WASL.

Those who are Spectrum qualified

Those whose teacher, principal or parent requests it.

She said this was going to be done in all 5th grade classrooms across the district. I guess it's all in keeping with the trend toward "standardization". It seems like it is comprehensive and fair - especially for families who may not know how to work the system, speak English, etc. Their kids will now be automatically tested if they are high achievers or if their teacher recommends them.

It works for me personally too. My son does well in math, but does not do well on the WASL. It sounds to me that the new process would allow a teacher to recommend him despite his low WASL scores, and if she didn't, then I could.

What do you all think?

anonymous said...

Ah, SC, we agree! I love your idea of the big picture, total package, method of assessment!

SP said...

emeraldkity said...
'The Accreditation process for private schools involves a team of educators, including the ones at the school renewing accreditation.

It's probably expensive, but I doubt it is any more expensive than the WASL, especially since schools only undergo the process every few years."

This spring all the comprehensive Seattle high schools are going through the mandated accreditation process (it happens every 6 years). The process can be as meaningful or as worthless as each school wants to make it.

Personally, I am very dissappointed in it as there is no overall accountability to any kind of stated standards. Each school gets to choose their own "guiding questions" that they focus on, choosing the specific data that they then look at and conclude if they are heading in the right direction and set new goals for the next cycle.

It does not even have to be based on direct academic results- some schools have chosen in the past to set the goal of building up their library or improving the school climate survey. It seems as if accreditation will always be awarded for going through the long, drawn out process and is not based on any academic results.

Some schools obviously do a great job, but it's up to each school to set their own bar.

TechyMom said...

Private schools do standardized testing too. The difference is that they like nationally-normed tests with above-grade-level questions, and give the scores to the teachers and act in them. A few use the wasl, but mostly it's the itbs (I think those are the letters) and Stanford Achievement Test. They also do admissions testing, including IQ tests and placement tests. The SSAT I took to get into 7th grade was the hardest test I ever took, and had college level questions in English, Math, Science, and History. And let's not forget the PSAT (9th and 10th grade) SAT, ACT and AP tests. Parents appllying to private schools absolutely do care about these scores.

Surely we could use some of these same measures?