Thursday, December 31, 2009

Times Editorial Wrong on Everything

The Seattle Times has a sort of Year-In-Review editorial about education in today's paper. Nearly every statement in the editorial is either incorrect, unsubstantiated, or misguided.

"Academic standards were raised" They were? Where? How? By whom? I didn't see anyone raising any standards this year.

"The Legislature amended the Basic Education Act, a giant leap forward in an 18-year education-reform effort." Yes, they voted for it, but they didn't fund it and they are now in Court saying that they are already fulfilling their obligation to funding education, so they are denying it. The amended act is lip service - hardly a step forward, let alone a giant leap.

They said that the delay in making high stakes math and science tests a graduation requirement was a gaffe. No, the gaffe has been miseducating students in math and science for the past ten years. These tests were supposed to be used to hold adults accountable, not students. Where are the adults who have suffered negative consequences for these failures? Why punish the students, the people with the least power to influence the system?

The Times notes the reduced funding from the State for education and the increased dependence on local levies. So much for the great leap forward thanks to the amended Basic Education Act. HA!

The Times encourages the state to make long-term overhauls in the system to compete for a paltry amount of one-time money from the federal government. Not smart.

The Times seems to think that there has been progress on struggling schools and teacher quality. There has not. The problem isn't struggling schools; the problem is struggling students. We need to send the help to the students, not to the schools. All of the talk about struggling schools is misguided and a distraction from the real problem. And as for teacher quality, all of the talk about teacher quality is completely empty in the absence of a definition - there is none. All of the talk about improving teacher quality is completely empty in the absence of any metrics, assessments, or benchmarks - there are none.

The Times favors merit pay and charter schools but cannot explain the benefits of either of them nor can the Times explain how they would work or why we need them. Why does the Times favor charter schools but oppose alternative ones?

The editorial board of the Seattle Times is full of people with critical reasoning skills who are capable of asking sharp questions, but when it comes to education issues they lose all of that and become rubes overawed by jargon and sloganeering. It's pathetic.


DWE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SolvayGirl said...

This just fortifies our decision to opt for private high school. My husband will be forced to take an 18% cut in pay next year due to city budget issues. We were far from rich to begin with, but we will do all we can to cut our own expenses rather than be forced to put our child in one of the SPS high schools available to us. She is our only child, and her education is the paramount thing on our plate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Follow the data, look, there are schools that have larger numbers of struggling students because of the challenges they bring to the school. And I know that there are a small number of schools that truly are, on their own, struggling. But I agree with Charlie, though, that it is more about students than schools.

I think the teachers have had so many "initiatives" thrown at them over the last 10 years that they hardly know which way to go. It probably confusing and demoralizing. We've had Five-Year Plans (that stopped with a new superintendent and now we have a Strategic Plan). The district did not follow-thru clearly on Moss-Adams, CAICEE or the McKinnsey reports. There needed to be change on the district administration end of how they do business and it's been barely visible (I do give them some credit though).

Charlie, don't do it. Don't do the district's job which is to analyze the data and present it in a coherent way to parents and the taxpayers.

And by the way, you seriously think they would release the MAP data? I couldn't even get the PSAT data in any real form (and oh boy, today's the day they give it to Boeing so maybe, I'll see it Monday).

The district drags its feet on data - why do you think the State Auditor's report on the BEX program has gone on for over a year? A well-run program with transparent accounting would be easy to audit. No, the district doesn't want the public to see that audit until AFTER the levies vote.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa great observations...

Data Driven decision making, Transparency, Accountability.... can now all be filed in the fiction section, if they were not already there.

SP said...

off topic, but School Board agenda heads up:

The Jan. 6th agenda is online, complete with the intro. item Transition Plan. On the 3rd page is a 20 page attachment of transition details.

Unknown said...

The Transition Plan which will be voted on -


uxolo said...

The PUBLIC school system has to manage the CHARTER school system or else the CITY has to do the monitoring. The Seattle Public School system cannot manage the current variety of programs. There's no way the central administration could handle more management responsibilities.

seattle citizen said...

1) SPS can monitor its schools;
2) If it couldn't, is the answer to transfer management to charters, to in effect abrogate responsibility to non-district entities?
3) If the district passes management to non-district entities, isn't that the end of the "public school" idea and public responsibility? For who will then manage the charters if they are not managed by the district? Who will ensure that district policies are upheld (or are those disposable?) and who will dispense public tax dollars to these entities and on what basis?

If, as you claim, the public districts can't manage their own schools, are you then proposing to do away with the districts and funnel tax dollars straight to independent charter opreators? Who then would "manage" the charter operators, and who would hold them accountable to public policy, properly broad educational goals, and properly broad assessment tools to ensure their success?

Will these charters be required to educate every child who walks through the door?

uxolo said...

Charter schools are not needed in Seattle. Good management with Local School Councils would be the simplest way for each and every school to improve. The political aspirations of our supt and her desire to privatize would be squashed if each school truly became part of its geographic community. Alternative schools would survive and thrive.

Charters require govt. supervision - some of which comes from the school district (costing the district more in central administration services) and some govt. support comes from the mayor's office doing business with local businesses who get their hands on all sorts of dollars.