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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Alliance for Education starts a blog

The Alliance for Education is starting their own blog for discussing school district issues. You can find it here: http://alliance4ed.blogspot.com/

I'm not sure why the Alliance felt they had to start their own blog. They are perfectly free to participate on any of the existing blogs that discuss Seattle Public Schools. Moreover, I'm pretty sure that if they wanted to become contributors to this blog, Beth would be only too happy to have them. I doubt they asked.

No, they found all of the other various blogs that discuss Seattle Public Schools lacking the one thing they really wanted in a blog - the one thing that their blog will have that none of the others will have: Alliance ownership and control.

17 comments:

WS said...

FWIW, wanted to say this because I think this site does an INCREDIBLE job, particularly considering you are all volunteers (but professional quality, honest) - when I got the news release some hours ago announcing that site, that's the question I sent back to the sender: Why not support and participate in this site? Yes, of course, there can be many voices, blah blah blah, but the mission their news release proposed for their site is exactly what you all have been fulfilling here.

Meantime, to sidetrack into something we reported tonight - did you guys already report the attendance map mistake re: West Seattle? After hearing Steve Sundquist discuss it at a meeting in WS tonight, I searched here and in the citywide media and couldn't find mention of it, though he said the supt. announced it at the board meeting last week.

I will be adding to this story before the night's out but the topline's here:
http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=21475

owlhouse said...

If anything, it highlights the contrast between an actual community blog and an attempt at cheap pr.

Thank Charlie and JustaMom for raising questions right from the get go.

I thought about posting a comment letting them know that RSVPs and requests for attendance at the NCTQ Seattle School slam have gone unanswered. But maybe they already know... Is that intentional, or just poor organization?

Central Mom said...

I think it's excellent news that the group is starting a blog.

More of the community not involved with the Alliance will get to see its opinions. And, members of this blog community can be active on the Alliance Site, steering Alliance interests over to the great discussions here.

In short, I think this is a "win" for this blog. It's going to get more in the business community to see the full picture of a District made up not just of district staff and business fundraisers, but parents and taxpayers too.

West Seattle said...

WS: I just saw your mention on the boundaries above. I just posted the same thing on an open thread for a north end SAP meeting. I had not heard any mention of the Sealth/Denny boundary remapping before last night either so I found that to be curious. I also think if they are changing that line we should expect elementary school boundaries to shift as well even for the most northern of West Seattle schools.

Sahila said...

The Alliance is setting up its own blog because its getting nervous about the attention and questions its activities/relationships are drawing and it wants to try to control the PR/spin...

gavroche said...

Blogger Sahila said...

The Alliance is setting up its own blog because its getting nervous about the attention and questions its activities/relationships are drawing and it wants to try to control the PR/spin...


Sahila, Do you perhaps mean questions like this?

According to the May 30, 2009 Seattle Times (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2009279744_settlement30m.html), the Ballard High School lawsuit against the Seattle School District, which the District lost in the Supreme Court, was settled for $800,000.

Somehow $150,000 of that money was "donated" (by the District?) to the Alliance for Education.

The Alliance is a fundraiser and public relations arm of SPS.
(It raises money for the District, held a "breakfast" back in spring featuring Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson as keynote speaker and got fawning press; two Alliance members wrote a puff piece opinion editorial in the Seattle Times about two South end high schools, as if everything is just fine at those schools and the District is doing a great job in the Southeast part of town, etc, etc.)

Doesn't this effectively mean that the District is essentially paying money to itself, laundered through the Alliance, and thus effectively not paying at all?

Inquiring minds want to know.

WenD said...

gavroche: Interesting point. I could never figure out why they were given a chunk of the Ballard settlement.

Here's some info on the formation of the Alliance from their CEO:

"The Alliance was formed in 1995 against a backdrop of ongoing academic decline in—and public dissatisfaction with—the Seattle Public Schools. Washington State's Education Reform Act had passed in 1993, setting in motion the development of state standards and "high stakes" testing. Three existing nonprofits—Partners in Public Education, which developed "adopt-a-school" partnerships; Seattle Schools Fund for Excellence, a grass-roots fundraising organization; and the Seattle Alliance for Education, a CEO-led group that provided technical expertise for improving school district management—merged to create the present Alliance for Education" - from
http://www.newhorizons.org/trans/pasquarella.htm

Happy talk, riddled with omissions. Robin Pasquarella mentions Joe Olchefske and his "unrelenting focus on standards" without throwing up. The district narrowly avoided bankruptcy thanks to Joe's oversight. She missed this?

So what's the point of the existence of the Alliance?

WenD said...

Correction: Former CEO. Pasquarella retired two years ago. From reading their site, I see a long list of people serving on their volunteer board, but I'm unclear on how they've facilitated community engagement since their inception.

seattle citizen said...

I wonder about the links they provide on their blog:
Alliance for Education
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Department of Neighborhoods
League of Education Voters
Office of Education, City of Seattle
Public Education Network
Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition
Save Seattle Schools Blog
Seattle Council PTSA
Seattle Public Schools

They include this blog (yea!) but no other links to other ed blogs; they include a link to the Rainier Coalition but not to other neighborhood groups; they link SPS and PTSA and Seattle Ed, of course...
But right after their own link we find the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Yikes! Check THOSE folks out: a UW "center" whose goals are as follows:
...a range of K-12 public education reform issues, including choice & charters, finance & productivity, teachers, urban district reform, leadership, and state & federal reform.
CRPE's work is based on two premises: that public schools should be measured against the goal of educating all children well, and that current institutions too often fail to achieve this goal"
Can't you hear that reform train a'comin'?
They also list our friends at League of Education Voters, and a group called Public Education Network...

These three groups are all "reform" minded, a bunch of people with varying agendas and activities who all have in mind toi shake things up. As far as I can tell from a cursory review, they all want charters, or more "choice," which begs the question why are we closing alternatives?

One is also left to wonder where other links are, such as those to Meg Diaz's report, or to the SEA, or to other groups that are not these particular reformers. I mean, how about linking to Evergreen's excellent teaching program and get some perspectives from their? Or some of the links to sites that others have provided here, that have reports about how well "reform" movements are doing...or not. I'd really like to see less bias on the Alliance site. If it weren't for the bias and apparent agenda I'd wish them all the best.

gavroche said...

I also just shared a couple of thoughts with the Alliance on their new blog...

Dear Alliance,

Ditto to all of the above questions of my fellow SPS parents. And here are a few more:

Why did you bring NCTQ to Seattle? What business is it of theirs what the agreement is between our teachers and our school district?

There are rumors that NCTQ emerged out of the failed and draconian No Child Left Behind policies of the failed George W. Bush presidency, and it is in fact a union-busting anti-teacher pro-testing operation with political ties, and an “education reform” agenda that leads to the privatization of public education. Can you prove otherwise?

Who paid for NCTQ’s “report” that is to be unveiled tomorrow and how much did it cost?

NCTQ likes to refer to teachers as “human capital.” Last I checked, teachers are human beings. (That’s just an fyi.)

Is the NCTQ “report” that the Alliance is helping to present tomorrow anything like the report that NCTQ recently did on Colorado’s public schools and all the drastic and questionable things it must do to qualify for Race to the Top funding? (Colorado's quest for federal Race to the Top funds, August 2009: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/NCTQ_CO_Race_to_the_Top_20090819015708.pdf)

If so, can we expect language like this in NCTQ's Seattle report?
There’s no such thing as too bold. Bold, tough reforms—the ones that may seem too challenging to pull off—should be the goal.

Or advice like this (that the district should work with -- or around -- the teacher's union):
Teachers’ unions too need to be brought in from the beginning. The message that change is coming is a constant refrain in the remarks given by the new AFT President, Randi Weingarten, but with the important caveat “with us, not to us.” Giving teachers and the organizations that represent them an opportunity to hear and be heard about human capital strategies is important.
In truth, some of the changes that the Department is seeking may be difficult for local or state unions to accept. Fundamental changes to tenure, evaluation and compensation, for example, may be rejected on their face. States which are intent upon proceeding with some of these reforms may have to do so ultimately without the support of their unions. Having made good faith efforts to work cooperatively, a state that needs to move forward unilaterally must be prepared and willing to do so.
It is critical for states to keep in mind that there are other stakeholders involved apart from school districts and unions, the two groups with the most at stake, and who are also the most likely to resist (or embrace) change. These other stakeholders often represent the interests of children and the community, such as civil rights groups, advocacy groups, business leaders, religious organizations, and parents. Their contribution is essential.


(continued)

gavroche said...

(continued)

And is the real reason behind all the "education reform" zealotry of the Gates/Microsoft and Dells of the world, all the emphasis on data, testing and computers that NCTQ and others like to promote? Or as NCTQ lays out:
For example, most of the strategies we present here concerning human capital require eeffective data systems to implement. Any well designed human capital strategy will make struggling schools a priority. And certainly an effective workforce cannot deliver results without a common set of rigorous learning standards and, we would argue, a great curriculum.

Is this why the district is imposing standardized computerized testing on students as early (and inappropriately) as kindergarten (i.e with the new MAP testing)?

Back to the Alliance itself: Speaking of reports, have you read Meg Diaz’s report on the waste going on in the oversized SPS central administration office (John Stanford Center)? Please see “Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools” http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=0AVRHgOkrxGL8ZGhta2I4cXJfMGZqbjZqampz&hl=en).

What is the Alliance’s official response to this report? Doesn’t it disturb you to see your hard-earned fundraising go toward such wasteful spending?

While you’re at it, and it case you missed it, please read Meg Diaz’s initial report on the Capacity Management Plan – “Analysis of Final capacity Management Proposal” (http://andrehelmstetter.com/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis.htm). Diaz demonstrated that it was wrong for the district to close schools when demographic trends showed these schools would be needed. Only nine months after closing schools, SPS has declared that it needs to open 5 more schools because demographic trends showed these schools would be needed. Even SPS spokesperson David Tucker acknowledged this on King 5 News last night:
http://www.king5.com/video/education-index.html?nvid=406517: "With all the economic turmoil within the city, with all the changes that have occurred within our demographics we've seen a significant change in our demographics occurring so we are responding to that."

Does it concern the Alliance that it is fundraising for such a mismanaged and fiscally irresponsible operation as SPS?

You (the Alliance) seem to have a very active role in the management of SPS –- especially for a mere “nonprofit” whose purpose is to raise funds for the city's public schools. It strikes some of us that you appear to have an inappropriate amount of power and influence on district decisions. Ironically the whole tone of your web site reveals this. -- "We’ll work hard to understand and analyze your insight.
• We’re committed to sharing that insight directly and frankly."

What exactly does the Alliance do, and why? Please be specific and exhaustive in your response.

Thank you.

Charlie Mas said...

The link to this blog is new. It wasn't there yesterday.

WenD said...

"Does it concern the Alliance that it is fundraising for such a mismanaged and fiscally irresponsible operation as SPS?"

I'm especially interested in the Alliance response to this question.

Here's an article from Northwest Education, Winter, 2003. It quotes Robin Pasquarella's explanation of Alliance goals, and it confuses me, given the actions of SPS under Manhas and MG-J. It's a bit dated, but I think it's pertinent:
"http://www.nwrel.org/nwedu/09-02/change.asp

“Paving the way for such leaps is where the Alliance for Education comes in. Working in tandem with the 47,000-student Seattle School District, the nonprofit organization has developed a broad vision to transform an educational system that has become increasingly obsolete and to ensure that all children achieve at higher levels.

"We need to move away from a system designed 100 years ago to sort and select students," says the Alliance's Robin Pasquarella. The passionate reformer spends most of her time rallying business and community groups around the idea of moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to one that's individualized. Her finely-honed message, succinctly summed up on a 5- by 7-inch card, calls for discarding K-12 education in favor of a prekindergarten to 20-plus model and changing from a seat time-based system to one based on demonstrated mastery."

"When the Alliance first sketched out this vision with the Seattle School District leadership, the question became "how are we going to deliver on it?"

"Serendipitously, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was just starting to launch its education program with a focus on reinventing public schools. Gates chose its hometown as the first place to invest in a K-12 initiative. "The Alliance became their first grantee because the foundation understood the benefit of having an external, independent organization that would guarantee the involvement of the whole community and the effective stewardship of their private dollars," notes Pasquarella. Beyond that, Gates wanted to see its investment leverage other dollars.

"In the eight years since the Alliance was formed, it's helped raise more than $73 million in charitable donations. Pasquarella calls the private funds 'the venture capital of school reform.' She speaks about building a new model of philanthropy for public schools—much like the United Way—where everyone in the community develops a habit of charitable giving to public education.”

Individualized? Moving from seat time to mastery?

Anyone involved in development for non-profits can break this down far better than I can, but this sounds like they exist as a middleman. What's their take away?

As for community engagement, after all the $25 checks and magazine orders I've sent to our schools, I'd never heard of them until I started reading this blog.

dan dempsey said...

It seems to me that the PTSA and the Alliance can both be characterized as cheer-leaders for the district. The SPS seemingly has no organized opposition to combat their frequent bad ideas.

I see the blogs as a somewhat disorganized opposition.

What is needed is a Parent Community organization that promotes improvement through better direction and decision making, an organization that speaks rather than just cheer-leads.

Board members who come from an Alliance or PTSA background may have difficulty with the transition from Cheerleader to thoughtful leader...... I am sure each blog reader can provide examples.

It is great that the Alliance started a Blog .... if they read it -- as the city hardly needs more SPS propaganda.

SolvayGirl said...

Dan's right...

Currently we have cheerleaders (PTSA, Alliance, etc.) and then splinter groups (such as this blog, CEASE, school-based PTAs, etc.) who are each aware of many of the real problems in the District, but don't have the strength in numbers to have an impact.

Could a summit of all the various parent/community groups lead to some sort of cohesive consensus on demands (perhaps too strong a word, but suggestions just doesn't cut it) to be made?

If it could, there would definitely need to be an event—a march with kids and parents on District headquarters?—that would attract media attention. Even though I am a private school (I HATE that word; they are really independent schools) parent, I would be willing to show solidarity. The sorry state of education of Seattle's children is one of the biggest issues this city is facing and it should be up there splashed across the headlines.

Any ideas on how to organize a summit of all the school/education-focused groups in the city?

Sahila said...

Pick a day, time and place, send out invites and see who shows up...

Send out an invite, electronic and paper, with a short description of what is the current state of the game and what we hope to achieve by linking up with other groups...

I cant speak for others but I'm willing to help and getting some sort of coalition of groups together has been the subject of discussion in the activist circles I travel...

I think its way beyond time that parent power meant something in this city... gavroche is right when he/she poses the question as to how come a 'fund raising' organisation like the Alliance seems to have so much influence with the District and we parents dont...

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

It's amazing the level of work some parents (e.g. Charlie & Melissa) seem to sustain, but the reality is... we all have jobs, kids, and other responsibilities. The advantage of the Alliance is they are funded, so they have full-time people who come to work 8+ hours a day and this is all they do. So, of course, they have more influence. As I understand it (I could be wrong), part of their funding is that they are supposed to help SPS coordinate community input. Are they doing that? True input requires an ON-GOING, ITERATIVE relationship with stake-holders -- not one-time information meetings where people can fill out a comment card and then they never hear back. I wish someone with the resources would put some people on this problem who know would actually do it.