Article in the Seattle Times


I know many of you are involved with this. I was wondering if we could get some clarity about who is involved with who and what each group is trying to accomplish. I know there was a post about this acouple of weeks ago, but it is time for an update.


zb said…
Ugh. That's a stupid article. I think other people know more than I do, so I'll wait for those updates, but I think I know more than that reporter; it's a terrible, press-release induced article.
ParentofThree said…
Apparently the Alliance of Ed is operating under an alias these days.
Josh Hayes said…
In the article the Alliance claims this is a completely unrelated organization - with astonishingly congruent views. What an astounding coincidence!

I'd love to have seen the "poll" they used, too. I bet it's something like this:

Do you support "merit pay" for teachers?

A) Strongly,
B) Very strongly, or
C) I want to have merit pay's children, it's so hot.

seattle citizen said…
I am simply astounded that the reporter, Linda Shaw, chose not to address the issues with the survey and the poll. These issues are common knowledge, and a little digging would turn them up.

I can only conclude that this is just another one of the Blethen's hit pieces, and Shaw had to go along with it.

The article is evidence, to me, that the Times is in bed with the Alliance. Like we wouldn't already know that - the Times is knee-jerk pro-business (charters) and anti-union ("teacher quality"); of COURSE they'd print an article like this.
Charlie Mas said…
Really, even if I agreed with their perspective, I think I'd be disgusted with their methods.

The questions in the survey were like Stephen Colbert asking: "George W Bush - Great president or greatest president?"
seattle citizen said…
Here's the list of members of the Alliance's "Our Schools Coalition"
(just kidding, it's their Board, but until they tell us who their "coalition" is, it will have to do:
G3 & Associates, Inc.
Ernst & Young LLP
Ben Bridge Jeweler, Inc.
Puget Sound Community Affairs Director
Microsoft Corporation
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Community Volunteer
Garvey Schubert Barer, Corp
Community Volunteer
President - Seattle School Board
Roosevelt High School Foundation
Deloitte Corp
Harris Private Bank
Superintendent - Seattle Public Schools
First Choice Health
Foster Pepper PLLC
Callison, LLC
Washington Real Estate Holdings
Group Health Cooperative
Chase Morgan
Bridge Partners LLC
Metzler North America
Kennedy Associates Real Estate Counsel, LP
The Boeing Company
seattle citizen said…
Here's another way of looking at the above list:

Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Cooperative, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Corporation, Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Public Schools, School Board President, High School Foundation, Community Volunteer, Community Volunteer

That's right: Twenty corporations, a couple of which have given millions (which the Alliance manages) to the "Strategic Plan" (read: "Performance Management"; "Teacher Quality") make up the bulk of the Alliance's Board. After them, and the Chamber of Commere, we see the Supt, the Board President, a HS Foundation (?) and TWO "community volunteers."

No educators. No university reprentatives. No represntation of the various neighborhoods and communities (geographic, wealth/poverty, ethnicity...)

No coalition.

Yet these twenty corporations are directing millions (including public tax dollars from the lawsuit, that the District piad as settlement and gave to the Alliance) towards pointing at teachers and other educators as the sole problem. Not administration, not meddling corporations with corporate agendas, not poverty, not the reduction of staff, materials, and respect foisted on educators every year (have you seen your school's budget this year? How many staff members is it losing?)

If Seattle wants its public schools to be run by corporate American, she need only follow the money to the Broad Foundation, to the Gates Foundation, to Arne Duncan of the Ariel Investment Corporation and now the head of our national education department...

If this is the path the citizenry choose, so be it. But I doubt they are choosing it consciously. It takes shenanigans like biased surveys and puch-polls to convince the public that "data" is being gathered, though readers of this blog will note that none is ever forthcoming.

Alliance: Post the survey questions, unless you are ashamed of them. Post the telephone poll. Too embarressed? Post the trnascripts of these supposed "community gatherings" - you cite ideas, but how are we to know who said them? Or if anyone said them? They obviously follow your Gates and Broad mandates. No one even heard of the term "teacher quality" until it fell out of their, and then your mouth.

Post your information, post your data that suggests "teacher quality" is some sort of real thing, and someting to be worried about (instead of worrying about, oh, poverty? Drug use? Bad tests? Lack of funding for schools?
Corporate malfeance? Corporate influence on public endeavors? Corporate influence on "Coalitions" of corporate lackeys?
uxolo said…
The questions in the survey were like Stephen Colbert asking: "George W Bush - Great president or greatest president?"

Good one, Charlie.
uxolo said…
And while the Alliance is telling it all, let's hear how many of the Alliance Board members have kids in private schools.

Somehow even when we think we are donating to our own public schools, the Alliance gets a cut since they manage the donations. How can this be avoided?
Maureen said…
Aah, A4Ed has just posted a new thread on their blog which identifies the members of "Their Schools Coalition:"

Alliance for Education
Central Area Motivation Program
Councilmember Tim Burgess
El Centro de la Raza
Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Horn of Africa Services
Kevin C. Washington, Chair, Tabor 100 Education Committee
League of Education Voters
Mona H. Bailey, Retired Seattle Public Schools District Administrator
Powerful Schools
Rainier Scholars
Seattle Breakfast Group
Technology Access Foundation
Technology Alliance
Urban Enterprise Center
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
seattle citizen said…
Central Area Motivation Program
El Centro de la Raza
Horn of Africa Services
Mona H. Bailey
Powerful Schools
Rainier Scholars
Seattle Breakfast Group
Technology Access Foundation
Urban Enterprise Center

Are all organizations, some small and some larger, that work with demographics that are typically portrayed as struggling: Latino, African American...

I wonder what other bloggers think about that.
Sahila said…
No disrespect intended, but they're easy targets.

Think about why people come from the 3rd world to the States - land of milk and honey and opportunity, comparatively speaking, and education is the means to get you up out of the quagmire and up the ladder.

And who, coming from a different culture into the blinding, glittery light of the west, coming from a survival strategy and not seeing the corporate realm in any other light than glowing, is going to argue with the ideas presented by the Alliance?

Logic might say that all the Alliance's statements re teacher quality being the most significant impact on educational outcomes make sense... especially to people who dont have the time, energy or skills to put into supporting their childrens' educations outside the classroom.... or even realise that's necessary...

And the Alliance can claim its got community buy-in and that its sincere in its goal to help the most underprivileged and disadvantaged... its another back-door strategy...
TechyMom said…
I think it says that there are good people, with real experience, who are trying to do the right thing on ALL sides of this debate.

There may also be bad actors, but we need to keep in mind that the vast majority of people involved in this discussion, and I would include President Obama in this, are trying to find solutions and make a difference for kids.
TechyMom said…
Sahlia, with all do respect, I think you are selling these people and organizations short. I've met Trish from TAF a few times, and she's pretty impressive. El Centro has done great work for decades. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a rube.
seattle citizen said…
Techymom, of course there are good people involved, including members of the listed organizations.
But they are being misled. If they believe the "data" provided by push polls and skewed surveys, they are being misled. If they have come to see their one chance at "equality" being the HSPE, which some do, no doubt, they are being misled about THAT.

I don't trust the Alliance, and I don't understand why someone would drink that Koolaide. If anyone wants to fill me in, I'm open, but as it standds I think poor people and minorities are being used.
Syd said…
I believe we should ban the words "with all do respect" from civil discourse. This phrase means exactly the opposite of the literal meaning. I know this sounds snarky, but it is a language tick that bothers me almost as much as the term irregardless.
suep. said…
TechyMom said... There may also be bad actors, but we need to keep in mind that the vast majority of people involved in this discussion, and I would include President Obama in this, are trying to find solutions and make a difference for kids.

I would argue that the vast majority of these local organizations are simply lending their names to bigger organizations and their agendas, perhaps unwittingly, and are perhaps being used.

For example, I once contributed a small amount to the League of Education Voters and am now named as a "donor" on their glossy multi-page "progress report" they published last year. Okay, but I do not agree with the LEV's positions on a number of issues, including its recent efforts to push for law changes in Wash. State to qualify for the "Race to the Top" contest, and I do not agree with the demands and agenda of this new "coalition" that LEV has put its name to. And yet, on the surface one might presume that a veritable "league" of "voters" has willingly and wittingly signed on to this bogus survey and demands that the Alliance contrived, myself among them.

If you do some searching online you will find that the "vast majority" of people involved in the "education reform" debate are all interlinked and most lead back to the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation, and a couple of others. Take a look at the Broad Foundation's "Board of Directors." On it you will find controversial rah-rah reformite school chancellors Joel Klein from NYC and Michelle Rhee from D.C., the CEO of the KIPP charter school franchise Richard Barth, (young inexperienced, cheap labor) Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, Seattle's current school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and San Francisco's rousted out Supt. Arlene Ackerman. Rounding out the roster, up until last year, Obama's own Education Secretary Arne Duncan was also on the Broad board along with Obama financial adviser and one of the architects of our current financial crisis, Lawrence Summers. Oh and Mort Zuckerman from U.S. News & World Report is also on board -- and whaddya know -- last December his magazine did an entire issue on the glory of charters. I don't believe the Stanford CREDO Report that found serious fault with charters was mentioned anywhere in the mag. So much for journalistic objectivity -- or accuracy for that matter.

Anyway, my point is, there is a recurring cast of characters who are pushing the latest "education reform" agenda, and they are focused on privatizing public schools and scapegoating teachers and weakening their union (charter operations overwhelmingly prefer the cheaper more malleable labor of nonunion "Teach for America" type teachers).

suep. said…
Sure, there are some parents and community organizations who may be following along with the agenda of these bigger players without having read the fine print. But they need to read that fine print, because it sells out most everything that makes schools strong -- autonomy for teachers, districts and states, nurturing, enriched and inspirational curricula for kids, sound textbooks for kids, creative teaching, and all the things you might want for your child's education.

Instead these reformites are selling top-down corporate management and micromanagement of our schools, one-size-fits all curricula, utter disrespect for teachers, and Trojan Horses to bring privately run charter operations inside the public school system.

I don't think we should let Obama off the hook on any of this. He is supporting this and either hasn't done his homework, or sold his soul to the corporate types who funded his career and are now players in "education reform," and that, sadly, may have happened long ago.

How else do you explain Obama and his basketball buddy Duncan forcing states to destroy their existing public schools and instead impose two FAILED concepts on the nation's kids -- privately run charter schools and merit pay?

Why do collaborators like the Alliance for Education resort to shady and clandestine maneuvers like the push-poll "survey," and secretly inviting the DC-based politically connected "National Council on Teacher Quality" to Seattle (at whose behest?) to evaluate our kids' teachers last year (at a cost of $14,000 -- this is how the Alliance spends money, by the way)?

If their agenda for "reforming" our schools is so solid and noble and worthwhile, why do they have to strong-arm states and districts to impose it? Why do they have to create faux "grassroots" or "community coalitions" to pretend that they have widespread support for their schemes?

Because, it would seem, they are unable or unwilling to sell their schemes to us openly and honestly.

Seattle has a school superintendent who is on the board of directors of AIG billionaire Eli Broad's pro-charter, pro- "merit pay" foundation, and on the board of directors of the Northwest Evaluation Association which sells standardized tests to school districts, including ours, and whose MAP tests potentially may be used to evaluate/reward/punish teachers. I think it is fair to conclude that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson is a part of this "education reform" conglomerate.

Seattle has now experienced nearly 3 years of this superintendent's "Strategic Plan" and "reforms."

Seattle has now experienced 3 years of a "Broad Superintendents' Academy" graduate's leadership.

Does anyone on this blog or beyond think that Seattle's public schools and schoolchildren are better off now than they were 3 years ago?

Hands up if you think they are.


suep. said…
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suep. said…
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MathTeacher42 said…
the following was posted to their diary.

After Sunday afternoon, I have to congratulate the Alliance / Broad / Gates / NCTQ / Duncan ... message machines.

I had to spend 1 hour discussing all kinds of Alliance style talking points, all kinds of Alliance style 'conventional wisdom', with 2 people who would NEVER go to bat for any kind of right wing agenda.

I had to spend an hour because all the terms of discussion was happening within the context of Alliance framing. These reform teacher groups, these reform teacher articles in The Atlantic and the New York Times and Newsweek have defined how this issue is discussed, and teachers are on the defensive.

After an hour, they asked me:

1. Is this the best way to help our kids?
2. WHERE is the data that will be used to evaluate the teachers? Who has access to it?
3. WHERE is the data that will be used to evaluate the administrators and managers? Who has access to it?
4. WHAT is the accountability timeline for the people instituting the teacher accountability?
A. Will those instituting the accountability be fired in 3 or 5 years if their accountability project doesn't work?

Our local, state and national union leadership deserves a huge percentage of the blame for this state of affairs. It has been coming for a few years, they have tens of millions of our dues every year, and their 'tactics' are straight out of the '80-'04 Democratic Party playbook - whine about the tactics of people willing to do anything to win.

And the leaders and the minions of this Blame-The-Serfs-Not-The-Bosses project deserve their accolades - they are really turning the public against teachers, instead of enlisting the public to address the problems of our kids. Soon, we'll have a spawn of the serf class holding pen system which will be publicly funded, not accountable, and privately profitable to the well off and well connected.

R. Murphy.
gavroche said…
From the Alliance's self-aggrandizing post about its pseudo new "coalition" and its "poll":

"Teacher quality is the single biggest point of leverage in the system."

Bizarre wording. "Point of leverage"? Are they talking about the people who are teaching our kids, or some kind of corporate takeover?

"A great teacher is the single largest predictor of student success."

Really? Let's see factual data on that. I've read that POVERTY or INCOME LEVEL is the single most influential factor on a child's academic success.

R. Murphy -- while it's true the media have done a poor job digging past the talking points of the teacher-bashing "reformers" and have lazily parroted their spin, I'm not convinced that the average parent buys this poisonous tripe.

From what I've read and from my experience, teachers, by and large, are still considered hardworking selfless professionals who are motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference in children's lives.

That is certainly true of all of the teachers I know, including those in my family and among my friends who teach.
grousefinder said…
This A$E (Alliance for Dollars) is becoming a serious lobbying effort, with well paid PR staff. It is likely they will have some margin of success in the next few years pushing the privatization agenda. Sooo...let me propose this very realistic scenario.

The SEA will likely be decertified should it lose control of seniority for the bulk of its members. Two possible replacement unions will organize the teachers into a new, more powerful bargaining unit. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is one possibility. This organization is not afraid to strike for fair pay and working conditions. The other is the Service Employees Union (SEIU) who have led numerous successful labor walk-outs. Both these organizations would be happy to take on A$E.

As I reflect on how the Alliance marketing campaign is being run, it reminds me of when Paul Allen kept polling and advertising that we needed to pay for his new stadium. With enough money and press time the old adage stands true: "The truth is what you want the public to believe."
Anonymous said…
The phrase out of the Bible "Forgive them...for they know not what they do" comes to mind when I read the list of individuals and companies who have signed onto the Alliances' list of supporters. (I was a minister's daughter, so Bible phrases easily come to mind.) I see all of them, except for LEV, wanting what's best for our students and thinking that everything that the Alliance has told them sounds really good but they don't know what the big picture is. I would suggest that those who believe that this people have no idea what they have signed onto, write these folks and explain your point of view.

People have to be informed and educated to what is going on. I had to find the information for myself to understand why our superintendent was doing what she was doing and so did everyone else on this blog. It's our turn to share what we know with these organizations and individuals. These people have no clue.
Anonymous said…

I like your vision.
Sahila said…
Syd - I truly do not mean disrespect to the groups being targetted - oops, sorry, meant supported - by the Alliance...

I've been an immigrant in three countries (and lived in five). I know how hard it is to get into a new country and start a new life and while I had the advantage of being white, middle class, middle aged, well educated and speaking the language, it was still enough of a challenge for me that I can imagine what its like coming from another completely different culture (ethnicity, language, food, relationships, values, spirituality, economic status etc, etc, etc...)...

My journey took me through the halls of the Refugee Women's Alliance (as a client) and I saw how the reality of life for the communities the Alliance courts...

I find it sickening that the Alliance courts disadvantaged and immigrant minorities in this way and then claims to have grassroots support...

If it really wanted grassroots support, it would also court us less naive (about the US, its political, economic and social structures), less economically and educationally disadvantaged citizens ...

But it doesnt do that because it knows we can see through its agenda and strategies and we ask questions it cant or wont answer...

So, it goes acourting further afield and hopes that its efforts and successes there will give it a strong enough foothold and momentum to brush our objections aside...

Because really, if we object too loudly, we'll get accused of racism, elitism, classism, of wanting to hold on too tightly to our middle class white privilege, of working to perpetuate the achievement gap...

Its a very clever game/strategy... but then so was the idea of the Trojan Horse...

And please note that I'm a social activist from way back and had to face and own the fact a long time ago, that, apart from my place of birth, everywhere I have lived on this planet, my (comparatively) privileged white life has been built entirely on the back of exploitation of indigenous peoples' slavery, genocide and loss of sovereignty and their lands....
MoneyPenny said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
MoneyPenny said…
"Does anyone on this blog or beyond think that Seattle's public schools and schoolchildren are better off now than they were 3 years ago?"

Yes, yes I do. 3 years ago SPS was floundering under well meaning but without direction leadership from non-educators. I have the opposite view that most people don't drink the conspiracy theory Kool-Aid often (but not always) offered on this particular blog. I have sat back and read for a long time, often wondering if the posters here get that most of the time, the are in the minority. If that was not the case, well, Dan Dempsey and Charlie Mas would have made it out of the primaries when they ran for school board.

And Dan, maybe all of the Superior Court judges are right and your attorney is wrong. Hakim's razor and all, maybe it isn't that five or six judges are refusing to follow the law, maybe it is that your lawyer doesn't know what the law is.
Sahila said…
Moneypenny -

the law is very plainly written, very explicit...

RCW28A.645.020 says:

thou shalt keep complete records and shalt certify that the record is complete...

and SPS doesnt follow the law...

and so parent cant challenge SPS decisions in the courts and the courts cant carry out judicial reviews...

Convenient, eh?

We teach our kids that every choice and action (or inaction) has a consequence... the courts ought to enforce a consequence on SPS for its choices and continued inaction... This is a constitutional matter now...
dan dempsey said…
Dear MoneyPenny,

Google this "RCW 28A645.020"

You will get this:

RCW 28A.645.020
Transcript filed, certified.

Within twenty days of service of the notice of appeal, the school board, at its expense, or the school official, at such official's expense, shall file the complete transcript of the evidence and the papers and exhibits relating to the decision for which a complaint has been filed. Such filings shall be certified to be correct.

In regard to school board elections of 2007 ... I think the fact that the four winners spent just a shade under $500,000 on elections had a significant impact on who won.

The Times (in Spring 2007) estimated that individual winners might spend as much as $50,000 to win an SPS SB election smashing the previous record of around $40,000 ....

Check the data for 2007
Maier $163,000 is now the new standard.

Just for the record... in Germany the rise of Third Reich was not just the governments doing. See the corporatist contribution from Krupp Arms and a good five other corporate powers ... that were in favor of the direction.
dan dempsey said…
All I know is what I see in front of me when it comes to "actions" and "results".

#1 .. the continually growing White -Black achievement gap in Math reached an all time high in Seattle of 51.5% in 2009.

#2 .. Porter, McLaren, Mass filed suit with an initial appeal on June 5, 2009 .. shortly thereafter Key Press Sued OSPI.

#3 .. Porter et al won on Feb 4, 2010 and the next day OSPI won.

#4 .. the AG told OSPI to keep quiet until KCP vs. OSPI was over.

#5 .. OSPI remains silent on KCP's "Discovering Series" .. Issaquah remained very confused due to lack of direction from OSPI.

#6 .. "To improve a System requires the intelligent application of relevant data."

#7 .. The SPS is very adverse to looking at data and particularly the relevant data submitted by the public. ...

#8 .. The following cases have been punted by Superior Court Judges ...; AS THEY DID NOT require the SPS to follow the LAW. School Closures .. Student Assignment plan .. NTN

This entire mess (including District's Appeal of Order of Remand about Math) is now headed to the WA Supreme Court commissioner on April 16, 2010 .. If you would care to check it out in testimony on St. Patrick's Day 3-17-2010 Tom Leonard served the Directors with a "Writ of Mandamus".

This was filed at the Temple of Justice on 3-26-10 and proof service to the Judges was provided to Supreme Court on 3-30-10.

The Supreme court takes a dim view of Officials that do not fulfill their legal responsibilities in regard to the minimum requirements of the law.

Thus there is not much waiting around with a "Writ" filing. Note commissioner's review will be on 4-16-10.... the commissioner's review is like a pre-screening and then if it passes==> it is onto the Supreme Court.

I have a suspicion that the Superior Court is supposed to enforce the laws of WA State not issue free passes to SPS as three Judges might have done.

It will be interesting to find out if the Supreme court is going to see the failure to resolve appeals in a timely fashion as in need of correction.

The Crux of this is: An inadequate "administrative record" as in the required RCW transcript normally means the SPS could not possibly win an appeal.

I am really growing weary of all the SPS BS about transparency and accountability and especially the seeking of public involvement....

A huge Problem with the District's disregard of RCW 28A 645.020 is the complete lack of using information provided by the Public in decision-making.

NOTE: Porter v. Seattle the SPS submitted 1100 pages within 20 days which contained ZERO from the public.

In regard to NTN action of 2-3-10 the day before the crushing "Welcome SPS to some legal reality" Spector decision.... We find the 2-3-10 action so badly flawed that when appealed by Joy Anderson et al. the district began the do-Over redo which culminates in the NTN re-do vote tonight.

Note: on 2-3-10 it was a case where not only did the 4 half-million dollar directors from 2007 voting for approval of the contract disregard the evidence from the public BUT the Contract did NOT exist.

District has still failed to provide required complete transcript due on 3-25 and Judge Laura Middaugh issued another SPS free pass as she decided that the record not required until 5-7-10....

IMHO this Judge is not enforcing the provisions of the law nor is she interpreting the law, but rather she is ignoring it's provisions.
It is great to hear you find elements of improvement in the SPS from its previous sorry state in many areas.

Please detail some of these so perhaps we can encourage expanding and building upon these successes.
Note: I find many good to great teachers in the SPS but central administration is not of high quality.
uxolo said…
Bravo Seattle-Ed2010 and seattle citizen and Dora Taylor.

We need to consider that someone who works for Rainier Scholars or any of the other groups who appear to "represent the community" and think about their funding sources. These organizations rely on well-intentioned donors. These organizations, even as nonprofits, make their payroll when generous people support their "community organizations." And as crazy as this may sound, the outside nonprofits working with our deserving and needy public school students would not have any work (or payroll) if the schools were stellar. We wouldn't need Rainier Scholars if the district itself provided a challenging education for that group of students. We wouldn't need Powerful Schools if the district provided arts instruction and a longer enriching school day. These groups depend upon the folks who have the finances to gather at fundraisers such as that hosted by the Alliance.

The interrelationship between this poorly run school district, highly-connected-to business-world (Broad) superintendent, and ready willing and able nonprofits set the stage for the privatization of public schools. Until the public part of public schools improve, the dollars raised by tax donations will keep coming in. The nonprofits are not going to speak against the Alliance. They are dependent upon the Alliance.
Unknown said…
Moneypenny-- Yes! Yes! There are many readers who do not buy the conspiracy theories and (frankly) often negative approach toward the whole kit and kaboodle that makes up our schools. I read this blog for the facts and I thank the contributors like Melissa who bring them to our attention. The rest-- like the animus toward Broad foundation, etc., I leave behind.
uxolo said…
from today's Washington Post - how the teachers' union contract might go:

"The proposed pact, which must be ratified by union members and approved by the D.C. Council, provides teacher salary increases of more than 20 percent over five years, with much of it paid for through an unusual arrangement with a group of private foundations that have pledged to donate $64.5 million.

The private funding sources for the contract are expected to draw scrutiny from teachers and council members. The proposed pay package would be financed with grants from four private donors: the Eli and Edythe Broad, Laura and John Arnold, Robertson and Walton Family foundations."
LouiseM said…
MathTeacher42 wrote "Our local, state and national union leadership deserves a huge percentage of the blame for this state of affairs. It has been coming for a few years, they have tens of millions of our dues every year, and their 'tactics' are straight out of the '80-'04 Democratic Party playbook - whine about the tactics of people willing to do anything to win."

I think more than any statement on this particular blog topic rings true.

What the union should be doing with those tens of millions of dues dollars is ensuring that they really build up the profession and ensure that every teacher has the talent and resources to continue to improve so they can bring the best to their students.

That would be money well spent and would certainly benefit students. But no, they want to protect mediocre teaching. This is not about messaging, it's not politics. We're talking about kids' futures here, not a political tit for tat.

I truly believe that 98% of the teachers work hard and care about kids. But from my experience with my own kids, only 30-40% actually have the talent to be good teachers. Just because you go to school for 4 years doesn't mean you should be a teacher. Once you find a district that will take you and you join the union, you're good to go. Then of course you do have that option to train to become a principal and frankly that's another problem--poor leadership.

Our system is broken from top to bottom. The place where we can have the most impact is in the classroom. There are numerous examples across the country of adults coming together in a school system to effectively educate ALL children. But for some reason this district and this state can't get a clue.

I'm curious about the folks who regularly post to this blog. If you're so knowledgeable and so good, why don't you go work for the district and show them how it's done? Seems to me like a great way to make a difference.
LouiseM said…
And as crazy as this may sound, the outside nonprofits working with our deserving and needy public school students would not have any work (or payroll) if the schools were stellar. We wouldn't need Rainier Scholars if the district itself provided a challenging education for that group of students. We wouldn't need Powerful Schools if the district provided arts instruction and a longer enriching school day.

And there you have it! These nonprofits exist because the system is broken. So stop bashing them (and in certain words call them ignorant) because they're trying to band together to serve students the district is failing to serve.
Sahila said…
I'd love to work for the District and show them how its done...

I'm a communications specialist and a trainer/executive coach, amongst other specialties...

They dont want me cos I point out that the emperor has no clothes... I point out resources that would help improve things... I ask questions... I point to other systems in other countries... I point to research and internationally accepted 'best practice'... such as here:

Been to Board meetings to testify, been on rallies, wrote letters, wrote to Harium at his blog, blah, blah, blah...

Me and hundreds of other parents, thousands of hours...all to no avail...


its as simple as that and its not a conspiracy theory...
LouiseM said…
Sahila, have you actually applied for a position at the district?
Sahila said…
No, I applied for an education communications position with the Gates Foundation (working with SPS and other school entities around the country)... totally qualified... didnt get called for an interview... wonder why!?
seattle said…
Sahila perhaps you're not receiving a call or interview had to do with the state of our economy? Perhaps they had 5o or 100 applicants for the one spot. That's what's been happening in many fields, including mine.

I posted a want ad on Craigslist for an AA and received over 150 applications. Many, many were qualified, but I only chose a few to interview.

Can't blame MGJ or Broad for that.
Sahila said…
Sully - I understand the economic situation and the unemployment stats... and I'm not taking the lack of interview personally - much! :-)... it might not sound like it but I do have a sense of humour, albeit rather twisted and ironic most of the time!

My point was directed at the idea put forward that we complaining parents here on this blog ought to get off our arses and go work within the system to make change...

I did apply to that Gates Foundation job with the idea of working for change within the system, bringing another perspective that I hoped someone there would be open to hearing...

I truly dont think SPS and the Board want to hear what we have to say, let alone act on it, seeing we are their constituents and they should be working for us and our kids, rather than Broad/Gates...

I think its worrying that Broad pays for Directors retreats, that a Broad person comes to Seattle to 'assist' the Board in evaluation the (Broad Board) Superintendent ...

There is so much here that stinks - literally stinks - in terms of open and obvious malpractice within a quasi-governmental organisation - that I am gobsmacked it has gotten this far pretty much unchallenged... which speaks to the power and money directing this behind the scenes....
Jet City mom said…
I'm curious about the folks who regularly post to this blog. If you're so knowledgeable and so good, why don't you go work for the district and show them how it's done? Seems to me like a great way to make a difference.

Well- in order to " show someone how it is done", that implies they actually think there is another way to do it- than what their " highly paid consultants" have been telling them.

I would rather put my energy into actually making a difference- by working directly with children and families, by volunteering in the community and the schools & by assisting families to find additional resources in the community- , ( or poke out my eyes with a sharp stick) , than end up beating my head against the wall because I am working " within" the district.

I want to add, that I have met Trish several times and my daughter worked with TAF for a year through CityYear and Trish is good people.

El Centro de la Raza has also been a positive resource in the community for almost 40 years- and I wouldn't sell them short.

( my lack of inclusion of other groups- is due to lack of knowledge about them)
dan dempsey said…
"I'm curious about the folks who regularly post to this blog. If you're so knowledgeable and so good, why don't you go work for the district and show them how it's done? Seems to me like a great way to make a difference.

go work for the district and show them how it's done? Seems to me like a great way to make a difference.

I certainly agree with you in theory, but in actual practice currently impossible.

TEAM MGJ listens to no one in the classification of knowledgeable education professional unless they buy the consultants party-line.

#1 .. Most "Teachers" within the system that see the need for change are afraid to speak out because vindictive administration believes in payback for those attempting to show them anything... Math Teacher42 is a notable exception.

#2 .. Note the frequency of Public Relations Employment Commissions rulings against SPS .... I believe recently three times for essentially same type of violation... PERC awarded attorney fees to last plaintiff, which is highly unusual. The Reason is because SPS refuses to change no matter who tells them to.

#3 .. Superior court judge tells district to reconsider a decision using all the evidence. District responds with NO WAY we appeal ... apparently no one can tell the SPS decision-makers much.
dan dempsey said…

"that implies they actually think there is another way to do it- than what their " highly paid consultants" have been telling them."

The district already knows what they want.... the cherry pick data to confirm what they wish to do....

The SPS hire specific consultants to deliver a predetermined answer to validate doing what they had planned to do all along.

NOTE the Phi Delta Kappa audit of over 350 pages purchased for BIG bucks went entirely ignored as MGJ did not like any of those PhiDK criticisms and recommendations.
seattle citizen said…
I wouldn't sell any of these groups, either, I've interacted with members of about six of the groups, maybe more, and people are people, mostly good, in these groups like on this blog. BUT...I still believe that the changes proposed by Gates and Broad and the like, and now by Duncan (and by our superintendent, a Broad and NWEA Board member) are for the worse. I believe they will hurt ALL children, and maybe hurt the very populations represented by these groups the most.
People more savvy about the process, people who have more money will not accept some of these changes. People not savvy, people desperate for change, might accept them, particularly if they are fed dishonest information in the form of biased polls and surveys.
hschinske said…
No, I applied for an education communications position with the Gates Foundation (working with SPS and other school entities around the country)... totally qualified... didn't get called for an interview... wonder why!?

There's a recession -- therefore a buyer's market for any employer who's actually hiring these days, and all the more for one that offers decent salaries and benefits. They could probably fill every single position with Ivy League grads if they wanted to. Left-handed Ivy League grads.

Fifty or a hundred applications at a time is *normal* for someplace like the Gates Foundation. These days they're probably seeing 500 applications for a spot (some of which, of course, come from people on unemployment who have to apply for a certain number of jobs per week, and can't be too picky about whether the job is really in their field).

Helen Schinske
Sahila said…
I get that, Helen... but does anything seriously think I am going to get a job with the Gates Foundation or SPS, (no matter how qualified I am) given my history of criticism/protest at what's going on?

I have a very distinctive accent... someone (a fellow concerned SPS parent) joked with me that she'd train me in a US southern accent if it would help me get the job... hilarious!

They really do not want a different point of view - either within their staff or from the community... they're committed to an agenda we parents have had no part in creating and they're going for it, regardless of all the data we present to show its misguided...

See, for example, how they have ignored Meg Diaz's work... they took some notice of the top-heavy, bloated District Admin report she came up with, but has there been any real action? Who's been fired to streamline HQ and how much money has been saved in that process?
Jet City mom said…
Re hiring- I choose to work/volunteer with organizations whose mission I agree with and can support. Why fight an uphill battle, when you can accomplish more, by joining with people who are going the same direction?

If I was HR at a private but community focused organization- and had an embarrassment of riches, regarding candidates for employment, why would I hire someone who seemed to be more interested in changing the mindset of the organization, than expanding our mission?

Im not saying I support Gates/Broad, but you gotta have some common sense here.
gavroche said…
"FightingForKids" said..
I'm curious about the folks who regularly post to this blog. If you're so knowledgeable and so good, why don't you go work for the district and show them how it's done? Seems to me like a great way to make a difference.

Please do not preach to any of us about what you presume we are or are not doing to help our kids' schools, this district and public education in general.

Posting on this blog is one small element of what some of us are doing. And frankly, in this era of lazy journalism in a one-paper town, some of these blogs are the best source of information about what's going on in SPS and beyond.

I know for a fact that many people on this blog meet with school district members and local officials to try to inform and help the district make wise and fair decisions, who actively participate in their PTAs, raise funds for their schools, spend countless volunteer hours in classrooms helping out kids and teachers who have too many kids and too little support, and basically doing their damndest to fill in all the potholes in our public education system that have been created by years of bad central management and financial neglect by local and state and federal governments.

The reason many of us are disturbed by how SPS is run is that we deal firsthand with the end results and damage caused by poor SPS decisions and twisted priorities every day in our kids' schools.

As for your statement, MoneyPenny, you might want to do some research on your own to find out how much of a 'minority' view we have here, beginning with the new book and numerous op-eds by the highly informed Diane Ravitch who backs up most everything that's being said on this blog about the destructive direction that public education is being taken as it is being hijacked by the privatizing enterprises of "education reform."

These are not "conspiracy theories," by the way, aa, they are facts. Believe me, I wish they were only theories.

As for SPS being headed by non-educators in the past, I am guessing, MoneyPenny, you are inferring that SPS is now headed by an educator in Goodloe-Johnson. Take a closer look at her resume. After some years as a teacher, she left the teaching profession entirely for a career as an administrator, which is what she has been doing ever since. No real educator would treat teachers and kids the way she does. No real educator would say that class sizes don't matter. No real educator would say she has no trouble sleeping at night after making decisions to close schools, layoff teachers and cutback on services that kids need.

So tell me, MoneyPenny, how do you think SPS has improved in the last 3 years?

Schools closed to save $3 million and then reopened at a cost of $48 million? Hundreds of kids uprooted and shuffled around the district? Fresh hot lunches cut for middle-schoolers? A new student assignment plan that has left many families confused or angry or siblings divided? A proposal to lower the graduation passing grade to a D average? The implementation of math textbooks that leave graduates unready for college and leave English Language Learners far behind? A central office with one of the most bloated staff in the state? A $5,000 bonus for a superintendent who only managed to make 4 out of 20 goals? Millions of dollars spent on standardized computerized tests but no money for counselors in elementary school? Split programs and schools? A superintendent who fails to deliver regular updates on her Strategic Plan to the City Council as required? Expensive audits and reviews of schools and programs that are then ignored by the superintendent and board? A loss in court over a poorly chosen math text?

Where's the progress in all this?

I see chaos and incompetence. And above all, I see kids being hurt by all this.
zb said…
"Teacher quality is the single biggest point of leverage in the system."

I've read this in a recent review of teacher performance (an unreadable paper, by the way, written so inpenetrable except by those steeped in that kind of research). In it, the phrase was used to mean that, yeah, poverty and home environment are by and far the very largest regressors, but we can't effect those within the public schools. But, we can try to leverage teachers.

When we first started talking about the alliance survey I saw that it was the worst kind "grass roots coalition building" by manipulating people into agreeing with you. Yes, it reminds me of the stadium issue and coroporate-sponsored "initiatives." But, what to do?

I think when we complain about folks at the Urban League giving cover to the Alliance, we also have to remember that the students they represent are the ones who are most poorly served, if the goal is that they get a good education.

I dropped off a friend's child at a NE elementary today. It was bright and cheerful, and the child ran into the classroom, eager to learn. The current system serves some of our children wonderfully. But not everyone.
seattle citizen said…
have you not read some "facts" about Broad and Gates here? Maybe there's some animus, but do not see posted her facts about Broad and Gates and Duncan that help you to see the bigger picture?

Maybe you AGREE that Broad/Gates/Duncan should transform the whole shebang into a privatized, stratified, WASL-prep assembly line. Maybe you AGREE that it's all the teachers fault.

But facts are facts, and yes, some of us are p***ed off about what we see as a lack of responsibility (and of course a lack of's a FACT the Supt doesn't deliver her updates on the SP. It's a FACT that schools were closed, one of them then having all the copper ripped out of it by vandals, then reopened at great expense months later.)

you seem to be new to this blog: Here's a hint - the newspapers don't cover squat in this city. This blog is about the only place to get real information. Yes, some is couched in anger (uh, years of malfeance? kinda makes a person angry) but facts is facts. Maybe you don't agree, maybe you think things are hunky-dory. Great. Then please contribute your ideas, tell us why it's all good, show us the research that supports your way of thinking...
seattle citizen said…
"The current system serves some of our children wonderfully. But not everyone."
This is absolutely true, zb, and it's also true that SCHOOLS, not just teachers, can have a big impact while we might not be able to do much about poverty (tho' isn't that a cop out? If we say, let's work with schools, do we then negate our responsibility to work on poverty?)

But that doesn't mean "teacher quality" is the answer to anything. Of course we want good teachers (but must they be perfect?) but more important, perhaps, are good admins, good board directors, and community supporters who are not cramming unproven and perhaps damaging methodologies and pedagogies onto our children.
gavroche said…
aa & others -- you might want to check out this blog as well -- -- for more info and an archive of links to other articles about most elements of public education and "ed reform." Then you can decide for yourself what's really going on.
zb said…
"Maybe you AGREE that Broad/Gates/Duncan should transform the whole shebang into a privatized, stratified, WASL-prep assembly line. Maybe you AGREE that it's all the teachers fault."

Well, I certainly don't. American public schools provided me with opportunities far beyond those of my compatriots who did not come here.

I also don't think that "great" teaching has much leverage at allon measureable children's performance, at least on average, and on education, as opposed to parroting to a required standard. I think who is an excellent teacher is highly likely to depend on the particular child being taught, and that there is no excellent teacher for every child.

So, I think the efforts are largely misguided, when they are really stand ins for privatizing education, or reducing the power of teachers. I think there's appropriate tinkering to be done with pay & seniority systems (for example, I think teachers should be paid more for teaching in high poverty fields. I also think that teachers should be paid more for fields that require greater hours to do the job well -- English/LA is the one that comes to mind, because of essay grading). But those are tinkering at the corners, not privatizing the system or changing the ability of teachers to teach the kids in their classroom, and not the theoretical children that the Broad Foundation thinks can be taught by the theoretical great teacher.
LouiseM said…
Gavroche I'm not presuming anything about what folks on this blog are already doing. I simply suggested a way to make a difference and since lots of folks on this blog want to tell the district what to do and how to do it, I suggested to join the district as an employee.

So don't YOU presume what I said.
gavroche said…
Okay, FightingForKids, let me make this a little clearer for you -- there are people on this blog who already work for the District. And yes, there was an implied presumption on your part that the writers on this blog are not already participating in the functioning and improvement of this District.
SolvayGirl said…
Considering there's supposed to be a hiring freeze, and the District is laying off some staff (coaches, counselors, etc.) just how are people on this blog supposed to "get a job with the District"? That suggestion is a pretty meaningless one IMHO.
Sahila said…
SolvayGirl - you crack me up in the nicest possible laugh of the day so far!
Maureen said…
From what I understand, the District has had a hiring freeze in place for quite a while, so it would be quite difficult for any of us to get a job there even if we tried.

If you look at the current listings, there are 13 jobs posted. It does look like they are looking for a new IT staff (wow, prayers answered?), so someone with the skills might want to look into that!

Other than that, unless you are a coach or want to work in a lunchroom for 1-3 hours a day (not sure if that will help you advance change in the District), you're out of luck.
seattle citizen said…
They have lunchroom openings? I thought lunchrooms lost staff when they shifted food prep to downtown, delivering it in trucks...
Sahila said…
I should take the lunchroom job and hand out pithy little subversive sayings to the kids as I hand out the trays!

Or maybe I could hand out tiny little notes containing all the stuff they're missing out on in class cos they're so focused on learning to the test...

Maybe some fun little facts around music and art and geography and history and other cultures and, and, and....

Oh, I know - Maybe I can get the Gates Foundation to fund the development of interactive lunch trays - you know, the kids are looking down at their trays as they eat lunch, and lessons come up on the trays and then move on - touch technology + cloud computing - what I used to demonstrate to all those international BigWigs when I had that cosy little job at that really large Washington IT company!
Chris S. said…
Fighting for Kids, what a moniker. Sounds a lot like Stand for Children.
Sahila said…
A rose by any other name is still a rose...

Fighting for Kids, Stand for Children, The Alliance For Education --- many other names but still Broad/Gates toadies...
ParentofThree said…
Fighting for Kids - I would love a job working in that fancy downtown office, except I am completely tapped out volunteering for my schools, raising money to fund things that the district no longer provides. Would you like a list?
Megan Mc said…
Hey all, let's remember to be civil. There is no reason to make fun of people's names.

If we say we want discourse and a variety of viewpoints on the blog, we have to be careful not to gang up on new comers.
Sahila said…
I would like to know who Fighting for Kids really is...

I dont hide behind a pseudonym... you can find out all about me any time you like...

Fighting For Kids this morning wrote a lovely little piece on the Alliance for Education blog thanking that organisation for its work and castigating the naysayers for speaking in such a 'spiteful manner'... perhaps in an effort to counter all the negative comments/observations, hard (still unanswered) questions those more cynical amongst us have been posting there?

Come clean Fighting for Kids - say who you are and where you're coming from in this 'dailogue'...
ArchStanton said…
I should take the lunchroom job and hand out pithy little subversive sayings to the kids as I hand out the trays!

Fortune cookies with the math fact for the day. I like it!
Maureen said…
I agree Megan.

You know, I have to say, I struggle with the whole Broad/Gates discussion here. I am not in favor of privatizing education and I believe that if people really examined the results of charters they would see that they aren't a panecea.

BUT....People like Gates and Broad have a right to believe what they believe and they have dollars that they are willing to spend to, in some way, help kids. It is up to the media and the public (ie, us) to pay attention to the influence they have and to push back when we disagree with their agenda. I don't know why so many people feel the need to cast them as absolute villains. The fact is that our current system is not working well for some kids and I, at least, believe we could use some smart people focusing their attention (and their dollars) on the problem.

It is up to us and our elected officials to take what is valuable from their results and leave what we don't agree with. This blog does a great job at shining light on the issues and I also really appreciate the work Dora, SC, Dan and others do to give us all food for thought, but I worry that we end up driving away other voices and perspectives.
Anonymous said…
What I don't get is the assumption that anyone who disagrees with the majority here, or posts in agreement to your "opposition" is immediately assumed to be a member of, or "plant" for one of the "opposition". It's assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) that no one with a contrary point of view could possibly just be a person with a differing view.

And a LOT of the "regulars" do not use their real names, but THEY are NEVER asked to show themselves by using them. They get free passes to say whatever they want in support of their views, but when someone disagrees, the first thing anyone does after basically calling them ignorant and Kool-Aide drinkers is to DEMAND that they reveal themselves and/or call them out for being a hidden SPS or one of its supporters' employee.

There are reasons not everyone takes you people seriously-this attitude is one of them. I'm a parent, I've had 3 kids in various Seattle schools, and I use the login I have had for a decade with AIM. I'm no shill, I'm not a toady and I'm not ignorant. I suspect that description would fit most posters here-but just because they don't all drink YOUR Kool-Aide doesn't make them any of the things you accuse them of.

Yeesh! This is a good place for information, but if you'd tone down your name-calling and rampant paranioa you might win a few more converts.
Unknown said…
I agree with Agibean, and also with Maureen's comments. Broad/Gates/Alliance can provide some good, and if you look at the lists of grants, etc., have brought small and large changes that positively impacted kids' lives. If this blog is to be taken seriously by readers of all stripes, and its ideas perhaps bhind some changes at the district, there has to be an openness to different opinions. On certain things, perhaps people can agree to disagree.
seattle said…
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seattle said…
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seattle said…
"I dropped off a friend's child at a NE elementary today. It was bright and cheerful, and the child ran into the classroom, eager to learn. The current system serves some of our children wonderfully. But not everyone."

Can you clarify ZB ? Are you suggesting that the privileged NE has bright cheerful buildings while the south end has dark and dreary buildings?

If so you'd best take a tour of a few more NE schools, particularly Eckstein, Thornton Creek, Jane Addams, Sacajewea, Olympic HIlls and Northgate for starters.

But does a building really make a difference? Should a building be used to determine the quality of a school or to show how the system serves some kids better than others? Would families be happier if all school buildings were exactly the same like the houses in suburban sub divisions?

Personally I don't think (except when safety is a factor) that buildings make much difference. There are many many happy Eckstein families, that could care less about how horrid the building is....
Dorothy Neville said…
For years we have heard studies that show that a teacher's expectation can have profound differences in outcome. So we had NCLB which was supposed to mandate higher expectations. I disagree with a lot of the unfunded mandate, but I do not disagree with that premise. That we can and should be doing better for kids of color and kids in poverty. Did we do the right things? Some yes, some no. Was it enough? Definitely not. So, I can definitely see the appeal of those who are looking for the changes the A4E purports to bring. In the early days, I thought charters sounded wonderful. I now have a more nuanced view of them, but that took years of paying attention and critical thinking.

Remember when Paul Allen (wasn't it him?) sunk millions and millions into campaigning for charter schools in Washington? At the time, I just thought what a waste. All that money gone into brochures and advertising time. Why not simply open a private school, treat it like a charter and show the people how successful it can be? Wouldn't that be more effective at eventual changing attitudes of voters (assuming success) and have more potential for a positive effect on some kids right now? (And maybe lead to some humility and increased wisdom, ala TAF and Trish M Dziko?)

The school system nationwide, or perhaps I should say the urban school system, is still terribly flawed. While I do not think the blame the teacher is the answer by itself, I do think we could work toward a different culture where teachers have more status and better students aspire to teaching careers. My kid had 22 teachers in SPS. A couple were damagingly bad. The rest were about evenly divided into competent and mediocre with a few (3 or 4) being stellar. I'd certainly like to see some changes, because those damaging ones? Well, because of family and outside influences, they didn't damage my son too much, however I know first hand that damage was done to other kids with more needs and less-savvy parents. So I want there to be a shake-up in teachers. But it has to come complete with a shakeup of administration and a shakeup of the culture of education.

Some of the A4E points though look like they see this. More prep time, more time with colleagues. I'd like to see some dialogue addressing these. Will A4E and their instant coalition really push for these points? In this economy? If they achieve that in contract negotiations, I am almost willing to forgive them their methods. Almost.

Anyway, I am rambling. Sorry bout that. What I got on to say was suggest that you watch Al Sharpton on last night's Colbert Report. He has the national talking points of education reform, focusing on a shake-up of teachers. He's got real issues. Real needs. One cannot simply fight that by painting Gates and Broad as evil.
seattle citizen said…
agibean, could you cite an example of "rampant paranoia"? Seems to me that what we talk about is actually happening. (or wants to happen; institutional inertia will no doubt keep some from occuring)
Dorothy Neville said…
What's wrong with Eckstein? It has beautiful parts with the art-deco inspired mid century modern detail. But mostly, it has tons of natural light. Tons. Sure there are aspects of the architecture and maintenance that aren't wonderful, but all that natural light. I always liked being in that building.
Sahila said…

I am sorry I still havent figured out how to make links live...

Dorothy - you might like to check out this report about who is funding Al Sharpton.... what he got for his stepping up to be one of the faces of education reform...

Follow the money, people, follow the money...
seattle citizen said…
you write that if we "tone down [our] name-calling and rampant paranioa you might win a few more converts."
Some of us have been writing on this for years, We've watched the massive wave wash over our schools. Converts? Who could go against Gates and their nine million dollar "strategic plan" anyway?

What would we be converting people TO? It's a lost cause, and all we can do is chronicle the debacle.

People are free to do their own dang research and come up with their own dang conclusions...of course. That goes without saying. I might be angry but I believe I ahve plenty of reason to be.

But it's often said that anger comes from sadness, and that's so true here. I'm passionate because this is a big deal, the overturning of an entire system for some new thing.
Dorothy Neville said…
Sahila, sigh. I *know* that! Again, that's not going to help with the average viewer who is also fed up with the state of education. Simply saying that he's one of the cabal isn't a good enough argument for many many people. I am not saying watch Sharpton and be swayed. I am saying watch the interview and see how pervasive the talking points are.

People are desperate for change. Some are out there visible and vocal with change platforms and they are attractive. You say "follow the money" and your average joe is going to reply, "they got money? excellent, it's going to take money to get things changed."
Sahila said…
Actually, agibean... I'm in favour of everyone using their real names... long-timers and new-comers...stand by what we each say...

That whole thing about a man/woman having a right to face his/her accusers...

I understand that's hard for some people because they're afraid of repercussions in their working lives, or maybe family and social circles...

You think I dont worry about all the doors that'll slam shut in my face because I dare to use my name to say these blunt things?

But really, wouldnt this world be a better place if we all just got real and honest with each other and we could speak openly?

And then there's the issue of transparency - something I've been advocating for for a long time, seeing there's precious little transparency in SPS, from MGJ and from Broad, the Alliance and Gates et al...

If someone or something wants to transact business with me/create some kind of a working relationship, wouldnt my first question be:

"how can I trust you when you hide behind false names and PR spin?"
Sahila said…
Well then, Dorothy... we have to talk about what we give away in exchange for the money...

What price our kids will pay... now and possible for the entire next generation...

Because once we give up the little bit of authentic education we do have going now, its going to be almost impossible to get back....

Sell our souls to the profit and loss devil... what makes anyone think he's going to be willing to nullify the deal when we finally wake and realise we were sold a bill of goods?

The privately-run prisons will be full(er) of (the ever growing) minority groups (because the base of the pyramid is expanding as its collapsing from the inside) and seeing the prisons have be full to produce a profit, there needs to be a mechanism for churning out the next generation of inmates... and what better way to do that than to rig an education system that basically generates only two outcomes - it graduates a certain number of docile workers/consumers (again necessary to keep profits coming in) and to create a steady stream of criminals...

Its awesome in its simplicity....
zb said…
"Can you clarify ZB ? Are you suggesting that the privileged NE has bright cheerful buildings while the south end has dark and dreary buildings?"

I was at one of the schools on your list (are those not supposed to be bright and cheerful?). My statement was not meant to allude to the quality of the building, but the quality of the environment (as well as the impact on the child I was escorting).

Not having seen schools in the south end, I can't say whether they feel dreary and depressing. But, I do believe that it is easy to short change those kids, especially when their needs are so great, and they are not easy to serve.
SolvayGirl said…
Though I agree with you in theory, in reality isn't always practical. I am an independent freelancer and my clients are all over the country and some across the waters too. I do very little work locally. There are two reasons I use a pseudonym:
1. I don't want to waste clients' time if they google me and get a zillion comments about personal, fun, political, or neighborhood issues. I want them to get my professional work and that's it.
2. I don't want to turn off a client who might just read one comment the wrong way. My personal views shouldn't matter to them, but I would not want a comment taken out of context to pop up.
Sahila said…
And before anyone asks where all the extra criminals will be coming from -

they'll come from the place where we dont address economic inequity in this country..

from the place where kids dont have a stable family life because of the breakdown of our society

from the place where there are no good jobs for university graduates - the administration itself says 10% unemployment is likely here to stay... 20 million people and rising, not counting those who are under employed...

from the place where university graduates are drowning in debt and working two minimum wage jobs just to pay the rent/untilites, and who have no hope of owning their own homes and raising children in an atmosphere of plenty... or at least 'elegant sufficiency' as a dear English friend used to say about having just enough on one's plate to be satisfied, but not overfull...

from the place where people cant stand the strain and use drugs and alcohol etc to hideout from the hell-holes that are their lives

Does anyone really think education reform is about sharing the pie?

Its not... its about maximising profit from the next generation of kids and there's a philosophy inherent in that around there being a certain level of acceptable loss in 'human capital'...
Jet City mom said…
does a building really make a difference? Should a building be used to determine the quality of a school or to show how the system serves some kids better than others? Would families be happier if all school buildings were exactly the same like the houses in suburban sub divisions?

I don't think so- let me back up- the old Ballard high school building was miserable , but I don't like the " new" one either.
First was too shabby- current is too sterile.
The Garfield building- fit the school- can't say I have decided about the new one yet, Nova was successful at Horace Mann... etc.

To address 2nd question- no.
A building can be attractive- but it shouldn't be used as a criteria to determine whether it is a good school, providing it is safe and legal.

Last question I would say that most parents do not want cookie cutter schools.
Our superintendent may disagree.
SolvayGirl said…
I totally got that ZB wasn't talking about the physical building but the atmosphere at the school. Having seen the various atmospheres fostered by 9 principals in one school, I can say that there were years when the school felt more bright and cheery than others.
Anonymous said…
The rampant paranoia, Seattle Citizen, happens everytime a new poster who disagrees with you posts anything. "Goeagles" was repeatedly asked if he/she was a spokesperson for SPS because they supported both the STEM plan at Cleveland and NTN. The new posters today are being looked at sideways because they support some of the district's views. There have been others, but "Goeagles" really stands out for me because the accusation happened more than a couple of times.

Another example of paranoia is the assumption that the smaller, low-income or minority organizations that support A4E are being ignorantly mislead by the big, bad A4E and/or the district. It's either that or you all really think the people running them are too stupid to look into where their money goes. I've met people involved with the Tabor 100, for example, and they are anything but stupid-they are business people who likely know EXACTLY where their money is going.

The short form of what I'm trying to say is, just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they are hidden district employees or work for one of the agencies you dispise, and just because an entire group supports the district doesn't mean that its members are uneducated sheep. It gets real old reading things like that, and makes me, for one, less inclined to read the things of substance you folks try to say.
seattle citizen said…
well, agibean, I don't know if I've accused someone of being a "plant" or something. Maybe I have, and if so that's bad, because I use a user name instead of my real name too.
Your point is taken.
Maybe I do come across thinking that a group that signs onto this garbage is being duped (heck, I've as much as said it) Well, I do. I can't think of any other reason for buy-in for some of these recent developments.
Yes, some of these groups know exactly where the money is, and where it's going, which makes it even more incomprehensible.
Yes I know that many traditionally oppressed people. people with limited access etc, often find access through routes I might find wrong. They're wrong to me, but if it gets them into the system, any system, maybe it's seen as okay, and I can't speak from their perspective about that.
None-the-less, the "facts" are pretty clear to me, as are recent actions that support my supposed paranoia. I don't like where we are being taken, I don't like manipulation by powerful interest groups to get what they want, and the reason I don't like these things is that I want the very best for All kids and I don't think they will get it in this new paradigm.
But you are right: I do get dismissive of other points of view. I do apologize. I hope you understant that my arrogance, if you will, is driven by lots of study and information gathering, lots of observations of current activity, lots of connectinhg the dots. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that education isn't standardized and we lose art and civics; I hope that poor and minority children who have suffered so much already aren't handed a cold plate of basic drill and kill to basic tests; I hope that there AREN'T any corporations, good people all, who have this subconscious drive to maximizew profits for their shareholders by expanding into public education even further...I hope that all these changes work out.
But when all of a sudden the battle cry is "teacher quality, teacher quality!" as teachers are laid off again, as staffs are further cut, as whole schools are moved around, disbanded, reconfigured...I worry that that is all a distraction (and given the overwhelming opposition to the survey and poll voiced on this blog, I think I'm correct in saying those two tools are pure propaganda)
So I'm sorry if I got arrogant. I've been told before this is a character flaw. But the information I post is, as far as I know accurate. The picture it paints isn't good. I mourn for the past, and sadness is the root of anger.
reader said…
How can anyone deny that improving teacher quality is paramount to improving education? Anybody who had ever sent their kid to school can see that. The teacher makes all the difference. My kids, who attend a good school, have had about a 50% rate of high quality teachers. If the school had more challenges, this would pose a huge problem. Of the low rating half of teachers (those who are not "high quality", 1/3 were incompetent, and 2/3's were simply mediocre, usually not too bright.

Every other organization I can think of, tries to annually weed out at least 10% of its least effective employees. And that's annually. The public teaching profession (including principals) needs a similar dedication to weeding the field. Long overdue. And how.
rugles said…
"And frankly, in this era of lazy journalism in a one-paper town, some of these blogs are the best source of information about what's going on in SPS and beyond."


I would be lazy if I didn't correct you, it's a 2 paper town.
wseadawg said…
I'll take a stab at it. I think the issue of Gates/Broad/Walton, et al, is the disproportionate influence they have over an entire community of parents and 46000 students in the district.

This is how things play in Washington DC, and why corporations and billionaires run the world. Does it not bother anyone "that he who has the gold makes the rules" in public education?

For a pittance of millions (from a billionaire, remember) Gates, Broad and Walton get high tea with the Kings, Queens and Presidents, and by god, if they want STEM at Cleveland, there is STEM at Cleveland!

Its about proportions. 5 million bucks sounds like a lot, but with a budget of over 500 million, why does SPS ignore parents while genuflecting to Gates/Broad/Walton and bending over backwards to give them what they want? How about the community that pays the other 95% of the bill? Or shall the "commoners" be left to eat cake while we witness strong programs dismantled and displaced for reform agendas that have produced zero improvements elsewhere?

I can accept a district supporting its strong programs and spending more money and resources on kids who need more. But I can't accept wholesale changes to schools and neighborhoods that were doing just fine under the old SAP, which cripple choice for parents and force feed kids curricula that stinks.

If Broad/Gates and Walton wanted to help SPS at large, they'd buy us new math textbooks instead of investing in computers and programs to make the district ever-more dependant on computers.

To those who herald the alliance, my only question is: Why are they so sly and sneaky? If you can't smell dishonesty and manufactured consent within their coalition, then I have no hope of convincing you that maybe, just maybe, some money is to be made from all this "for the children" benevolence. And by the way, who asked for all their reform oriented support, anyways? If an idea is any good, it usually sells itself.

SC is right, by the way. Much of what we do in our gripes is chronicle the foregone conclusions of a baked in the cake agenda. I see nothing wrong with criticizing those at SPS who make bad decisions for me and my children ON MY DIME. Let's not forget who they work for.
seattle citizen said…
Reader, I'm absolutely certain your "ratings" of teachers is false, and an insult to the dedicated educators who do their best to educate your children.

At any rate, there is already an evaluation process in place; that it is not used correctly is no fault of the educators.

That is all beside the point, however: My point is that now, amidst the carnage of huge budget deficits, the laying off of counselors, the unfunded mandates of increased testing and use of the test results (MAP and its differentiation, time consuming both), the upheaval of what, ten school closures/movements in the last two years, the new student assignment plan drastically reducing FTE in mnay schools...amdist all this all of a sudden teh Alliance suddenly becomes the Voice of the People, and not the voice of those who give it nine million dollars to manage in the service of the Strategic Plan (which, well look at that, includes "Performance Management"!)
It's all just ridiculous:
Cut staff, give remaining staff more work (and, by the complaints about the Math adoption andothers, worse curriculums), make the students more unstable by moving them around...then focus merely on "teacher quality" at this time of upheaval? It's way, way, too convenient, and it's a distraction.

Yes, some teachers aren't Albert Einstein (I guess you are...I guess parent/guardians want ALL their teachers to be Einstein) Yes, some teachers are not working as hard as they should be. The numbers are way fewer than you postulate. Regardless, there are, at this time, much, much bigger issues and this is a distraction.

And finally, maybe you, reader, could tell me why our superintendent is on the Broad Board, the MWEA Board, and here we have "teacher quality" as THE issue as raised by the Alliance, funded by Broad. Does this not raise questions for you? Is this okay?
seattle said…
It wasn't Seattle Citizen who insinuated that a new anonymous poster was a plant. It was Sahila.
seattle citizen said…
Our "teacher quality" WILL be measured by MAP tests. MAP is a product of NWEA. Supt is on their Board. Supt is also on Board of Broad, and is a Broad grad, as are three other now-key players in admin ("interns," they call them) Broad is one the of the loudest "teacher quality" shouters out there. Broad gives millions to District for Performance Management, money managed by the Alliance. The Alliance puts out too biased and slanted "survey tools" directed at making people think "teacher quality" is just soooo important right now.
Nobody else sees a problem with these connected people and agendas?
seattle citizen said…
Thank you, Sully. Tho' I might have done that at some point. If I have, ever, I apologize.

Even if someone is a plant, this is a forum of ideas, and we should let the ideas speak for themselves.

I know I should cool my jets a bit sometimes, but I just get so....annoyed.
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorothy Neville said…
What's wrong with Reader's assessments? It pretty much matches up with the 22 teachers my kid had over the years. (6 elementary, 5 middle, 11 high school)

Half competent. That would be 11. Of those maybe three or four very good.

Of the other half, that'd be 11, one third really bad. That'd be about 3. The rest pretty mediocre. Yup, that fits with my experience as well.

Getting rid of the lowest performers is important. I agree. And because it looks like the union and others push back at that, it looks like they are against getting rid of the incompetent ones.

And that leaves the door wide open to the big moneyed reformers who may have other agendas as well.
seattle citizen said…
If what you and Reader say is true (and I have no doubt it is in your perception of the matter), I would ask:
What is a "very good" teacher? What defines that? I am curious as to how you might define it. We've heard lots about "teacher quality"; what is a "quality teacher" in your definition?
Teachermom said…
Fighting for Children,

I work for the district, and very hard, too. I post anonymously, and will continue to do so, because many of the district administrators are retaliatory to staff for speaking up. I have experienced it personally numerous times.

It is sad, because I feel that I am a strong and experienced employee, with innovative ideas, and I am actually pretty respectful and deferent to those above me in the hierarchy. But I have been badly burned for trying to improve the system by speaking out.

The downside is, when I tell you what a great teacher I am, I am also anonymous. ;)

Also, most of the posters on here who do not work for the district are spot on.
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
I just tallied up my scores for my kids teachers over the years.

My eldest is now a freshman in HS. I counted all of the teachers he has had K-9th.

6 were super good, fantastic teachers
5 werd adequate/OK teachers
8 were bad/very poor

I qualify "bad" as difficult for my son to understand (didn't make rules and deadlines clear, didn't thoroughly explain work). They were difficult to communicate with (not often available by email or phone, and didn't update the source regularly). I also qualify "bad" as teachers who were overly strict or way to loose (we've had both). And finally teachers who used mainly rote, fill in the blank, get through the day, type worksheets that completely failed to challenge my children in any way.

I classified "great" teachers as those who really challenged my children and pushed them hard as well as made class fun, engaging, and creative. Those teachers were also available by, and responsive to, email, and updated the source regularly. They went out of their way to work with or encourage my son, and many were recognized by their peers and higher organizations via (well deserved) awards.

The adequate teachers were somewhere in between the two extremes.
seattle citizen said…
The corollary question is, of course, how do we hire and support teachers to become and remain "very good"? It's all well and good to demand greatness, but we cannot continue to make their jobs more and more difficult and just continue to expect that greatness. Part of the problem might be that even "very good" teachers are overtaxed, have too many expectations thrust upon them (your idea of "very good," or Readers, while I'm interested to hear both, might not be what an administration's idea is, or a corporation's) and these overburdened teachers resign themselves, make do, do the best they can, and yet still people say, "they're not great! They have 35 students, SpEd laws and necessary accomodations, lack of support for discipline, social promotion, constantly changing curriculum (sometimes for the worse)...we still want them to be great!"
Has anyone ever actually COUNTED the expectations placed on educators, and the number of people placing those expectations?
Hmm...50 different parent/guardians, AP, Principal, Admin, Board, colleges, business, social service, truancy, police, many people or organizations have differing ideas of what it is that a teacher should be doing that day in class?

And let's not forget the student: There's 25 MORE differing expectations of what "very good teaching" is.

I'd bet that if we could just go a decade with some consensus about what it is, exactly, teachers are supposed to be doing during classtime, and gave them the support to do it instead of cnostantly reinventing the whell from yet another perspective of "good teaching," and enforced existing rules on evaluation and support/exit of teachers who are obviously not working to get things done....THEN we might see lots and lots of "very good teaching." Those that are doing it already, kudos: We all know teachers who take all the above factors and somehow plow through, somehow navigate the various stakeholders grabbing for their ear. How do they do it? WHY do they do it, given the clamor from all around them, some of which seems to say teachers, generally, are "not quality"?
seattle citizen said…
Thanks, Sully
I've saved your comment on teachers your son has had. I'll collect others if anyone wants to chime in, and try to encapsulate the comments into a readable piece when done.
My feeling is that many of the contributors to this blog have amazing ideas about what makes for "good teaching" and I hope people will share them, and I also hope people will share how they think we can get to the optimal place to HAVE good teachers who are supported.
Maybe someone could start two threads:
What makes a good teacher?
How do we attract and retain good teachers?
seattle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said…
SC, I could not agree with your comments about teachers being over taxed and stretched way to thin more. I see it and hear it from my kids teachers every day, and it's a real shame.

However, that said, in the face of the over taxing some teachers still manage to do a super fantastic great job, others are completely adequate, and yet others barely slide by.

What to do about that?
MathTeacher42 said…
I marvel at all this high level debate - too bad I only have a B.A. in math & can't participate in all this stratergery and tactically thinkerey.

WHERE are the systemic merit systems which work? WHERE?

Do NOT tell me a bunch of anecdotes about the couple of geeks of google or facebook, the few here and the few there in some random business or bureaucracy - WHERE is there a systemic merit system which works for thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands?

Show it to me!

IF I had been in a meeting at Microsoft and said things about their management similar to things I've said here about education management, I would have been fired before I got out of the meeting.

The reason it is critical to hold teachers 'accountable' without any REAL system of management accountability is when teachers are 'accountable' then there won't be anyone around to question the lack of management accountability.

WHAT is so complicated about that?

WHY are NO ideas to 'reform' the improvement, or lie-du-jour, WHY are the ideas NEVER costed out in time to implement, and WHY are the ideas NEVER paid for?

WHAT has American management accomplished in the last 3 decades, other than wiping out the rungs of the economic ladder up, lining their pockets, and employing hordes of power point parasites to justify "accomplishments" #1 and #2?

As the once wealthiest nation on the globe has evolved into the greatest tottering bankrupt, its wealth squandered & stolen by those in charge of the wealth -

WHAT are we doing to make SYSTEMS which work to bring education, water & sewage, retraining, health care, retiree care, housing, transportation, ... to 6++ billion people?

Right now, we're just exporting the latest versions of serfdom and plantations, with the master's house in an armed gated 'community'.

The people I work with would do anything REAL, anytime, anywhere to make ourselves more effective for our kids.

Anyone have any REAL ideas, or, are we all just going to keep running around our pens, chasing after our own little bits of burger thrown hither and yon by the handlers?

IF you don't have time to figure out REAL ideas, or, find REAL ideas and post the URL, I'd suggest you read "The Prince", cuz that is what we're up against.

R. Murphy

p.s. it would be nice if our local, state and national unions ... ooops! I already made that observation.
Dorothy Neville said…
Sully had some great examples of mediocre and bad teaching. I agree with all his examples, my son had similar experiences. The overly strict, the overly unstructured. The disorganized. The lack of consistency and follow through with discipline and work guidelines.

Add to that the teacher who gave the class a worksheet out of the scope and sequence. It made kids cry. She did it in order to take my son into the hall and tell him that it was his fault (and his mommy's fault as well) that the kids cried, so, he should stop asking for harder work. Privately the principal and school psychologist were appalled, but you know what? In the SIT meeting, the teacher started crying about how rude my son was. The five year old. Her example: When she sang Skidamarink and at the "I love you" she pointed to him and he made a face at her. The nerve! At that, both the principal and psychologist backtracked and said he absolutely needed to stay in that classroom until he learned not to be disrespectful. (Good thing though, that principal was dismissed from the district. She threatened to sue. I don't know if she did. She's currently a principal in a nearby district.)

A heavy reliance on worksheets, including geography ones 10 years out of date with countries that don't exist anymore (leading to much frustration with the atlas). Teacher that talked (and wrote) in scattered stream of conscience that was impossible to follow. (And the year after, the teacher that year said she could tell who had had the previous teacher because they were all trained to tune out instead of paying attention.) Two years of high school LA and not one time was writing actually read and reviewed by the teacher. No comments at all. The only review was peer review. And without anyone ever getting a comment from a teacher, how were the kids supposed to learn how to peer review! The teachers who want artwork and embellishment that takes time and has no educational value. And grades harshly when it doesn't get done. So what if the vocabulary words are defined properly or not, if you don't follow the format and add the illustrated drawing, zip. How about read a novel, turn the book in, read another novel. And then the term paper for the quarter is a compare and contrast on the two books. But before you finish, that second book needs to be returned as well. Who needs access to the books? You took good notes as you read, didn't you?

High Quality teachers? They know the material. They show some spark and innovation. They have the eyes in the back of their head and manage to keep order without screaming. They have clear expectations, clear rubrics. Return homework in timely fashion. Homework instructions are clear. There's a balance of engaging work and the dreaded but necessary memorization and rote. Students understand how and why they are graded as they are and learn what they need to do to improve.
Megan Mc said…
A quality teacher is one who is knowledgeable of child development, knows their content, follows the academic/emotional progress of each of his/her student and works toward improvement in each. The most important factor for me is that the teacher encourages each student to stretch to their potential. They have to care about the kids AND their content.

Teacher performance should focus on some of the objective parts of the job; communication skills; attendance; timely completion of forms; showing up for meetings and other assigned tasks (recess duty, study hall etc). After that, there could be an expectation that a teacher would keep a log of goals for each kid, how progress is being made toward those goals (gradebook), interventions used when things are not moving forward and who they asked for help. If a teacher is reaching out to others and trying a variety of interventions, they should not be held responsible for the lack of progress the child is making. There might be an undiagnosed disability, mental health issue, or a incompatibility between the teacher's instruction style or materials and the student. It's the district's responsibility to provide the resources teachers need to do their job and its the district who should be held accountable for failing kids.

A teacher should be held accountable for a lack of student's progress only when he/she ignores that a student is struggling. The principal or lead teacher should be there as back up to catch a kid before it goes to far. If all of the students in one class are doing disproportionally poorly then that might be a red flag that the teacher is not cut out for the job.
Megan Mc said…
I agree with Seattle Citizen that there are many competing opinions of what a good/great teacher is. Some people like straight, by-the-book, and predictable. Others like loose, on-the-fly, and spontaneous. Complaints about teacher that stem from this incompatibility could be avoided if schools were more flexible about student assignment. It’s not possible to get the ideal teacher every time but if you can put the kids who like structure with the structured teacher and the kids who like it loose with the spontaneous teacher why wouldn’t you try to accommodate them?

I also agree that teachers are overloaded with responsibilities that make it hard for them to do their real job. Some people can handle multitasking a billion things and are able to shine as the great teacher that spends 25 hours a day preparing, communicating, instructing, caring, and following up. Others would be great teachers if they had less on their plate. Many people are just not cut out for the chaotic, emotionally taxing job that being a good teacher demands. They should be counseled out, if they don’t quit on their own, after giving it a solid try for 3 years.
wseadawg said…
Famous Scapegoats, by decade:

1960s - Hippies
1970s - Feminists
1980s - Welfare Queens
1990s - Deadbeat Dads
2000s - Immigrants
2010s - Teachers?

Who'd have thunk it?
Anonymous said…
Thuis is the testimony that I gave this evening at the school board meeting:

My dad, Brice Taylor, grew up in Seattle; African American, poor, with only his father and two siblings. His mother and another sister had died in a fire that had consumed their home.

He used to tell me the story of how one day after football practice, at Franklin High School, his coach came up to him while he was on his way home and asked him where his jacket was. My dad said that he didn’t have one and this man, his teacher and coach, took off his “dark blue Chesterfield coat” and put it on my father’s shoulders. He gave my father his coat. This teacher became a crucial part of his life and was instrumental in my father attending the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. He and two other students were the first African American students to attend that University. My father went on to become the first all American in football at USC and there is a plaque in the stadium next to the Pope in his honor.

He became an educator and devoted his life to ensuring that young people had the same opportunity that he had. His last years were spent as Director of OEO, the Office of Economic Opportunity, in California and the program that was closest to his heart was Head Start.

I wonder now just how his coach and teacher would have been evaluated within the context of this assessment testing, what score he would have gotten.

When I think about this system that is being put into place, I think about a teacher who devotes much of his free time to raising funds so that his students can have the experience of a lifetime working in Guatemala and learning about another culture during spring break. I think about the art teacher who carries home all of her students’ ceramic projects to fire it at night in her own kiln because her kiln is better than the one at school; or the teacher who is always buying books to add to her collection in the classroom so that students will have a wide range of reading experiences or the teacher who offers evening art classes so that the schools’ neighbors can join in and become a part of the school community.

How will they do when evaluated by what is clicked by a student on a computer in a classroom under any number of conditions.

Will they be kept or fired? Will they get swept up in a wholesale firing of staff or a school turnaround? Where does what they do fit into this system of curriculum alignment?

This evaluation system that is being put into place for millions of dollars allows little time to connect with students or properly evaluate what a teacher actually does or how they affect a student’s life.

A more effective way to spend this sort of money is to focus on the youngest ones coming up, in programs like Head Start which are woefully underfunded.
reader said…
Oh please. What a bunch of hand-wringing apologists. Nobody is saying teachers are the new dead-beat dads. Or that they are all terrible. 50% good... is a lot of good. And, it may even be closer to 70%. There's just no process for weeding them out, or any sort of quality control. With today's unemployment rate, with tons of highly qualified people looking for work... why shouldn't the public sector try to improve it's workforce too? Why should unlimited job protection be afforded teachers, and nobody else? I don't have the answer for the teacher metrics, or for how to measure performance. No, it shouldn't be MAPs, MPS, or WASL based, at least, not as a sole measure. But what we have now... is really nothing at all. And, we could surely do better.
Anonymous said…

"Why should unlimited job protection be afforded teachers, and nobody else?"

What is provided to teachers that people in other unions not get?
reader said…
Lifetime tenure.
Anonymous said…

Teachers in Seattle do not get tenure.
owlhouse said…
Related to this discussion, this coming Thursday, The Little School in Bellevue will host a showing of the documentary Race to Nowhere.
Anonymous said…
"Race to Nowhere", highly recommended.
dan dempsey said…
Reader your comments are incorrect.

"But what we have now... is really nothing at all. And, we could surely do better."

If Principals do their jobs there is plenty to weed out the ineffective teachers.

The gyrations and nonsense discussed because Administration does not do their jobs is just unfathomable to me.
Sahila said…
You know, a little compassion and a lot less judgment of teachers would go a long way....

Try putting yourself in their shoes...

There you are at (say) 8am, confronted with a room full of individuals who are each carrying their own baggage (and I'm not talking about backpacks here). Who may or may not be tired, hungry, anxious, depressed, jumpy, alert, eager, reluctant, happy, giggly, wiggly, angry, frightened, worried about home, sick or whatever...

And, if you're a primary school teacher, you've got the responsibility for engaging those people for the next six-seven hours, by yourself...

All the responsibility of parenthood without much of the authority and emotional attachment, expected to do more than 50% of growing these unique quirky individuals (who have a developmentally appropriate but comparatively small capacity for self-direction) to maturity...

So, as well as having to impart knowledge of some description, foster the development of thinking, self-management and social skills, you also have to manage and contain these beings, and hopefully make it an experience they will enjoy and be engaged in...

Then you're handicapped because you have 30 kids confined for most of the day to a comparatively small space... with inadequate resources and teaching materials....

They're mostly eating/being fed junk food which gives them erratic energy highs and lows...

Then they might be pre-pubescent, with hormonal issues...

Then they might have physical, cognitive and socialisation issues... dyslexia, ADHD, mild autism, poor vision or hearing, phobias, be 'sensitive' or 'highly strung', or alternatively be loud and in your face and know nothing at all about personal and group boundaries...

Really - which of us parents or lobbyists wants to take on that job? How are you doing on a daily basis with your one, two or three children? How about extrapolating that out by a factor of 10?

And we want to hold teachers accountable for individual childrens' progress based on standardised test scores? Come on... with all those variables operating in the classroom, how is that even reasonable?

Think about it - how would you do in your workplace if you had to interact intensively with 30 people for 6-7 hours per day? How would you like to be told your job depends on how each of them does in standardised testing, and if they dont do well, its your fault?
wseadawg said…
Reader logic: Ready....Fire....Aim.
Charlie Mas said…
I don't want to protect the jobs of incompetent teachers. I honestly don't think anyone does, not even the teachers' union.

There is already a process for the District to follow to remove incompetent teachers. The problem here is that a number of principals don't follow the process and therefore don't remove the incompetent teachers.

Why don't the principals follow the process? Is the process too difficult? Are the principals simply too lazy or disorganized or disinterested?

We all agree that the incompetent teachers - regardless of their years of service - should either get better or get gone. After that we have to ask how much it is worth to have good teachers instead of merely competent ones and how much it is worth to have great teachers instead of merely good ones. We have to consider the question of whether or not teaching talent is innate or whether it is a skill that can be learned. If it is a skill that can be learned, we have to consider the cost of improving teachers.

Am I making sense?

I believe that it is innate talent that separates the great teachers from the good ones. I don't think we can ever train people to be great teachers if they do not possess that talent. Who could have trained Brice Taylor's coach to give his coat to a student?

I also believe that there are skills that competent teachers can learn to become good teachers.

I don't expect greatness from every teacher. I do expect competence and I would really like them to be better than merely competent, but I'm not sure how necessary it is.

My concern about all of this talk about "teacher quality" is that it focuses too little attention and effort at identifying and dismissing incompetent teachers (an effort that matters) and too much attention and effort at measuring - and rewarding -incremental quality differences among competent teachers (an effort that doesn't much matter).

Is this how other folks see it as well or do I have a skewed view of this corporate movement?
dan dempsey said…
I remain even more skeptical after what I saw in regard to the NTN vote last night that there is any emphasis on attaining quality results.

"and too much attention and effort at measuring - and rewarding -incremental quality differences among competent teachers (an effort that doesn't much matter)"

There is a lot of Money to be made in the measuring .. thus there needs to be lots of measuring

... educating naa thanks but more difficult ... let us dance around that one while pockets are lined.

If anyone care to actually research the NTN schools pathetic results and they are incredibly pathetic .. There can be little doubt that four directors are very disinterested in a significant academic improvement district wide.

DeBell gave a short but quite accurate synopsis of just how little sense this makes.

The fab four had 2 extra months to ponder crappy NTN results and still voted as:

"Four" for whatever MGJ is "for"

They are the New "Four Person" block ... they should be referred to as the Cheryl Chow Action Team ...

rubber-stamping is us.

but "terrible, press-release induced article" to follow praising our support of MGJ.
seattle said…
Agreed Charlie. We need to figure out why principals are not acting?

We had two teachers at our elementary school that were notoriously unpopular. The teachers that people dreaded their kid would get the following year, and who several families left the school to avoid. The principal acknowledged in closed door meetings how inappropriate one of them was, and how incompetent the other one was, but never acted on it. He sympathised and listened to many parents complaints and was happy to do a work around by assigning your kid to a different classroom. One teacher trucked along for years and finally moved out of state. The other teacher is still there.

Here is one small example of the incompetent teacher: at the end of the school year she was giving each child an award, but "forgot" a couple of children, couldn't remember another child's name, and left one certificate blank because she said she didn't know how to spell the child's last name. This was 1st grade. The teacher spent 6 hours a day with these 26 children for an entire year. Didn't know their names??

And Dorothy we have had two of these type teachers too (one in MS and one in HS) " Teacher that talked (and wrote) in scattered stream of conscience that was impossible to follow".

My son has a teacher this year in HS that can't figured out how to use the source so she just decided not to use it.

This is not a teacher bashing. My son has had teachers that are fantastic! Teachers that humble me. Teachers that really inspired him, and taught him life lessons. And, he's had many teachers that aren't out of this world fantastic, but are completely competent and were fine.

But we do have to acknowledge that there are some terrible teachers out there that limp along year after painful year while principals stand by and watch. And it's the kids that suffer for it.
hschinske said…
Here's a really interesting article (same one I posted before on on teaching techniques, and how to train teachers to be more effective:

Helen Schinske
SolvayGirl said…
At my daughter's elem. there were two very ineffective teachers. One was burned out and yelled, the other a disorganized mess. They hung on during our principal musical chairs, until finally, after a truly disastrous principal/year, the District assigned a very good principal (who is still there 4 years later). The two questionable teachers were gone within the new principal's first year.

So, to Reader and others who believe Seattle teachers have tenure, they don't. It's all in the principal's hands. Personally, I wish the whole discussion was more about principal quality. A student can survive a year with a "bad" teacher, but a "bad" principal sets the tone for the whole school, can drive away the good teachers, alienate parents and, often utilizes the Peter Principle when hiring new teachers.
dan dempsey said…
Sully said:
"But we do have to acknowledge that there are some terrible teachers out there that limp along year after painful year while principals stand by and watch. And it's the kids that suffer for it."

while principals stand by and watch

Yup let us not do anything controversial like ..... say our jobs.

This problem is rampant.

Consider OSPI's continuing total silence on the entirely inappropriate KCP "Discovering Series"

Now you know exactly why the "Writ of Mandamus" has three Superior Court Judges named.... their job is to apply the Laws of the State of WA to all..... but the SPS gets ongoing passes for legal violations.

{Clearly not wishing to venture into controversial territory ... but perhaps a change of scenery from Seattle to Olympia will let them know that a bigger controversy may soon be upon them.} The implicit message for other judges is DO YOUR JOB.... which likely most do (I hope).

Too bad we can't bring Principals to Oly for a "Writ" situation.

If the district had some semblance of leadership things could be substantially different ... which makes JOB #1 removal of the "Four" for everything MGJ is "For".

We need to begin a long term shut down of all these "Rubber-Stamping" franchises.
Sahila said…
there's already a process in place to get rid of 'bad' teachers... its time to make sure that its used more often, and that's up to principals to do...

So, if you have a beef about your child's teacher (and its not just a personality class - its about poor teaching and poor class management) and it affects more than one child and you cant resolve it in the classroom, why aren't parents in a school getting together and dealing with this in-school with the principal?

Why do we have to topple an entire system to fix one or two relatively minor issues?

If you cant see that this teacher 'quality' performance/evaluation/management 'crisis' is nothing but a ploy to break the unions and to open the door for young, cheap, untrained people to be put in front of our kids to 'drill and kill' using scripted lesson plans, then you're looking at this with blinders on...

And I am not a teacher and I realise that there are a small number of people who ought not to be in the job because they dont have the enthusiasm, energy, commitment, skill and talent to be there...

But then - being honest... do YOU have the enthusiasm, energy, commitment, skill and talent to be in your job, or are you there just because you need a pay check, the benefits are good, you arent trained for anything else, you 'dont know what you want to do when you grow up' and hey, you are so close to retirement that it would be crazy to quit/switch jobs now? You're mediocre at your job, but not so bad that there are solid grounds for firing you - should you quit or should you be fired?

I'm not condoning poor teaching and terrible teaching and kids having to endure that... but really - this problem is not as big as The Alliance and Arnie Duncan would have us believe...

They're making a mountain out of a molehill and throwing the baby out with the bathwater because they have another agenda... taking away the last of the control parents and teachers have in schools, and along the way, making lots and lots of money...
Eddie said…
I have been working with and for teachers for more than 20 years. I am offended and saddened by these latest attacks on teachers and other school employees (principals, etc) by these so called coalitons. I saw the push poll. I actually took it all the way through just to see how bad it was. It would offend you. It was ridiculous -- Colbert would have had a great time with it. I think many individuals in these so-called coalitions want what we all do -- schools that give every child the opportunity to get a well rounded and wonderful education. But they need to look at the larger agenda at the top -- if you go to the The National Council on Teacher Quality (the ones who put together the push poll) web site, it says they are a nonpartisan research and advocacy group committed to restructuring the teaching profession, led by our vision that every child deserves effective teachers. Great words. If you go to their funders,, and do just one iota of research, you will see that these are conservative foundations from anywhere but Seattle who are part of a national movement to privatize the schools. Period. The end. Need more proof? Go here:
There is a meeting April 20 that the Alliance aka Our Schools Coaltion, is having at 8825 Rainier at South Lake High School Commons. If you look at the invitation, they talk about supporting teachers and students, when, in my heart of hearts, I believe they are attacking every teacher with push polls and propoganda that is simply not valid. I would encourage people to register to attend this "town hall" meeting to see this smooth operation at work. Dinner and childcare are free. Go here to sign up:
I don't know about you, but my both of our kids continue to get a great education in our public schools. There is room for improvement always AND there is a great need for better funding in our schools. Sorry I rambled.
Chris S. said…
First, I guess I should apologize for being snarky about Fighting for Kids. Mostly I was trying to be funny. But it did seem a pretentious moniker to choose for someone who was just a "concerned citizen."

I am NOT going to apologize for fighting against message control by those with loads of money. In my testimony last night, I tried to highlight that fact. I'll try to post it later.
SPS mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris S. said…
Also, I want to weigh in on the personal anecdotes about teacher quality. My sample size is very small; my kid had 4 teachers in elementary school. The thing is two were very early-career (within 3 years of beginning) and two very late (within 3 years of retiring.) I'd rate them all as moderate-to-positive for my kid. However, I know a few parents who consider the same teachers inadequate-to-terrible, and some who think they walk on water.

So there's two things - experience effects - while research says "experience is important." to me it's more that experience adds a dimension to the teacher's style and talents, and that both extremes have their advantages and disadvantages.

Then there's the eye of the beholder - obviously a huge thing. I know you're all going to say that the bad teachers you found were thought bad by everybody, but human beings being what they are, and the number of teaachers a kid will encounter in K-12, one should expect a few to mix badly.

No, I haven't seen sheer incompetence yet. Maybe I will. But I've seen a fair amount of diversity. Sorry I'm rambling. Just want to point out the difficulty in defining quality when relationships are so important to the task at hand.
Patrick said…
Since someone asked, my daughter is in 3rd grade, and all four of her teachers have been good.

SPS Mom makes a good point. Neither kids doing badly on the MAP nor well is entirely due to the teacher. The teachers talked about who were so out of it they didn't know their kids names by the end of the year wouldn't have that show up on the MAP either.

It's been talked about previously that kids know they can game the MAP into giving them easier questions if they answer a bunch of them wrong. That's supposed to be the basis for teacher's pay or retention?

The dad of one of my daughter's classmates was detained reentering the U.S. The mom was handling her own job plus several kids and couldn't go to the border to get him released. The teacher took up a collection between the other teachers and school staff, went to where the dad was detained, and got him released. None of the other parents knew about that until much later. I'm sure doing that didn't help the class's test scores, but it saved that family.
seattle said…
Right on, SPS mom!
Jet City mom said…
What is provided to teachers that people in other unions not get?

Well besides a much better pension and COL than union workers outside of the public sector receive,teachers retain the opportunity to make up pay lost by time on strike- because it is tacked onto the school year.

They also have those in the community who are not teachers advocating for them- that is certainly not something that other occupations enjoy.

I have a daughter who is a teacher- so I am not beating on teachers- just wanting to bring up some additional points that those who are not on a time clock may not be aware of.
ttln said…
We understand that the only teachers directly assessed by MAPs are math and reading, right? Writing instruction is not measured and neither are writing instruction, science, social studies, PE, Health, band, art, etc. This assessment as a measure of teacher quality fails to measure all teachers. I don't know how "legal" it is to measure and hold accountable only part of the teachers while others continue to escape "detection."
hschinske said…
The teachers talked about who were so out of it they didn't know their kids names by the end of the year wouldn't have that show up on the MAP either.

I have to think that over a large population of students, yes, they *would* have that kind of inattention show up in lower scores or lower score gains. Would you be able to tell which exact students had had their scores affected? No, probably not.

Helen Schinske
zb said…
"I'd rate them all as moderate-to-positive for my kid. However, I know a few parents who consider the same teachers inadequate-to-terrible, and some who think they walk on water."

This was my experience as a kid, and also what I see in my kid's experience. One of my favorite teachers: well, she had some kind of mental breakdown, and spent a month just sitting in the class, not teaching at all. Why was she my favorite? 'cause I got to spent that month producing a radio play, one of the coolest enrichment projects I could have done in 5th grade. Did others suffer? perhaps. Should she have been fired? almost certainly not, because she really was a good teacher, when she got over whatever it was that was causing the breakdown (both before, and after). Were there some kids who would never be compatible with her? probably.

I like hearing what makes people think a teacher was good or bad, and I think that everyone is bringing up good ideas. But, they're just not the same for each kid, and, every teacher can't be a great teacher, for every kid, nor can a great teacher be great all the time. Therefore, not every kid can have a great teacher.

Of the 3 my daughter has had, everyone one has worked for her, and yet, she can rank the 3 easily. Should every teacher be like her favorite? Almost certainly not. It's the mix that's made her education good -- 1) organized and sweet 2) organized and formal 3) a bit crazy and wild. Guess which is her favorite? And, each of them have provided her with a good education, from my point of view.
zb said…
"I have to think that over a large population of students, yes, they *would* have that kind of inattention show up in lower scores or lower score gains."

I don't think so, not necessarily, unless that kind of teacher is also likely to serve a socioeconomic population that scores poorly. The fact is that all these other factors, the child, their home environment, their SES status swamp the effect of the teacher, even a pretty miserable one. As others have pointed out, that's partially because the parents fill in for miserable teachers, when they can, so the lack of measurable effect doesn't mean that the miserable teacher doesn't have an effect, merely that it won't be measurable.
Sahila said…

I'd advocate for nurses, childcare workers, those who work with the elderly... I'd advocate for miners (though I disagree with mining)... I'd advocate for anyone who's being paid the minimum wage, whether they're unionised or not... I'd advocate for garbage collectors (without them we'd be dying of bubonic plague!)... I wouldnt advocate for brain surgeons, politicians, IT gurus and box store moguls ...

I would advocate for some changes in teachers' working conditions....

smaller classes with in-class support

not so many teacher-only days during school time... I dont know what its like here, but in NZ and Australia teachers get paid all year round, including the longer summer break and I think professional development ought to happen then, not during school days...

My inner holistic, learn through play, free-spirit oriented childhood advocate doesnt agree with this, but the other part of me would advocate for a longer school year - there are too many breaks and the summer one is ridiculously long (no one goes back to the farm these days to help with the harvest) for continuity of learning...

I'd advocate for higher salaries for teachers, and for extra allowances for those who increase their skills by taking up professional development opportunities... and yes, I would pay more based on seniority....

On the other hand, I'd advocate for a system where performance is assessed by students, parents, peers and principal... and if the consensus is that there is something going badly wrong in the classroom, that is attributable to poor management skills, lack of expertise, enthusiasm and energy then there ought to be a progressive system for dealing with that... verbal discussion with specific ideas for improvement and a commitment to implementation, with an equal commitment to support and oversight on the part of the principal... if there's insufficient 'change', then a written warning again with specific action steps to be implemented... and finally, if there's no real improvement, say over a period of six months-a year, termination...

This process is normal in most other occupations and I can see nothing objectionable in it for teachers - seems eminently fair (to all parties) and sensible to me...
hschinske said…
Well, at Lowell I heard teachers say they could tell which classes the kids had been in the year before, because some of them were much better prepared (e.g., in math) than others. If that was happening in APP at Lowell, which has involved parents if there ever were any on this earth, and ditto kids who were already ahead of the curriculum, I have to think that at other elementary schools the effect is even bigger.

Yeah, those kids would probably all have had pretty good MAP scores, with a ton of above-level variation that would never go away (because there is such a huge variation in the population, all the way up to profoundly gifted), but if you took average score gains across several years' worth of students, I think you'd be able to see some evidence about which teachers were much less effective than others.

The idea is that all the various things that affect scores that *aren't* to do with what the child learned from the teacher that year are going to be about the same between two large, broadly similar sets of children. About the same percentage in each group will "game" the test, about the same percentage will have serious problems at home, about the same percentage will already know a large part of the tested material, etc.

Helen Schinske
hschinske said…
I should add again that I'm not AT ALL defending the current way that's being proposed to judge teachers based on the MAP. I just think it's not impossible for test results over the long term to reflect differences in teacher quality.

Helen Schinske
Maureen said…
zb makes an important point. Of the approximately 40 teachers my kids have had, I would say that twelve of them were flat out fantastic. I know of some parents who would laugh in my face about some of them and swear that those same teachers were damaging or incompetent. For some of them it might be that they had that teacher in a bad year, for others the teacher's style didn't match the kid's (or even more likely the parent's).

Now of the two teachers I would rank lowest (not quite incompetent, still tolerable), I think a vast majority of the parents would agree that they were not good.

Over the same time my kids have had eight administrators (not counting HS VPs – about whom I know nothing). Let’s just say that their records are considerably less stellar than the teachers'.

The teachers I would rank highest are those who impart a love of learning and who run a tight enough ship to keep the kids focused without sucking all of the fun out of the day. They are comfortable enough with the material to be able to present it in a variety of ways to reach a variety of kids. The tolerable ones were really just either in the wrong grade (needed older kids) or were (as it turned out) overwhelmed in their private lives so they couldn't stay on top of the material and focus on the kids well enough. In both cases, a supervisor could have intervened and provided support if they had been paying attention. Eventually the one was moved to a higher grade, the other left on their own.

I think that all of the principal churn MGJ has initiated makes it even more difficult to deal with the few truly incompetent teachers. Getting rid of them is a process that takes real dedication. If you are brand new, wouldn't you feel obligated to take a little bit of time to observe before you start writing someone up? If you are pretty sure that you will be gone in a year or two, why would you bother?
zb said…
Well, the Lowell experiment would be an interesting one (though it wouldn't answer the question about whether such differences could be detected in other populations).

Your hypothesis is that the MAP scores would match the teacher based predictions of which teacher each student had had? An experiment well worth doing. Then, we'd be comparing the teachers' assessment of the learning that occurred in previous classrooms (the progress) against the MAP score report of the same. That would be a method of validating the MAP scores, for me, for the relatively homogenous student population.

My guess? from looking at data like that (though not that), I'd be surprised if there was a strong correlation, and would expect, at best, a weak correlation. I wish someone would do the analysis, though.

My expectation would be that MAP and the teachers' evaluations are looking at different features of student learning, neither of them fully descriptive of the learning that has occurred (and, yes, I'd trust the teacher assessment more).
Joan NE said…
Regarding A4E's coalition members...Isn't Lisa McFarlane the major funder of the Roosevelt High School Foundation? She is co-founder of LEV.

Several people on here are praising Trish of TAF.

I am sure Trish has the best interests of kids in mind. For this reason, I am completely perplexed as to why Trish will defend high stakes testing, but she won't read the BOTA report. I am referring to the stance Trish took on a thread on this blog some months ago. She was too busy to read the report, she said.

I hope Trish has found the time to read it. I hope that if she can rebut it, she will share her rebuttal with me. If anyone can give a credible rebuttle of the BOTA letter-report, I will become a strong advocate of high stakes testing.

Trish - are you reading this thread? I would like to know if you still support HST.

I note that HST is a lynchpin of education reform.

Without HST, there is no tying teacher pay to student performance; there is no closing schools or laying of half the staff or more as a punishment for a school's failure to make AYP as measured by high stakes tests results for several years...there is no denial of diploma due to a single high stakes standarized assessment score.
Lori said…
I agree with Helen, and I've been tossing some ideas around in my head for a few weeks about how one could actually use MAP data to measure teacher effectiveness.

First, we'd have to identify a "high-performing" school, whatever that means, as a benchmark. We'd gather baseline data with MAP for a year or two then conduct appropriate mathematical regression analyses to identify factors that correlate with increasing MAP scores. The list of those factors could be enormous (children's ages, race, gender, poverty, FRL status, outside enrichment opportunities... I could go on and on listing potential confounders). Basically, any factor that could affect the MAP score, above and beyond teacher effectiveness, has to be identified and worked into the model to determine its contribution to the final MAP score.

Then, when you go to other schools to analyze their performance, you have an analytical tool that allows you to "correct" for the differences in populations to determine if they are making adequate progress or not, given their individual "case-mix" of students.

You just can't say that each and every school must show a 5-point gain in median MAP score from fall to spring (I'm using the number 5 randomly here; no idea what the real goals are). Instead, if the benchmark school makes a 5-point gain, you use the regression analysis to determine what sort of point gain other schools should be making based on their population. It may be something less than 5 points. But it's the only "fair" way to set a goal for any given school.

Yes, it would be terribly complicated and time-consuming and would require hiring a cadre of professional statisticians to do it correctly. But it's the only way I've been able to make sense of trying to use MAP to assess teacher performance. You've just got to control for the confounding variables.

Any quantitative folks out there want to comment? I'm more of a qualitative person when it comes to stats, so perhaps I'm off-base with my idea?
Maureen said…
It seems to me that there would have to be a level of incompetency that the MAP could be used to document. As an example, one of our teachers had a terrible year healthwise. The kids in that class suffered through a whole series of short term subs for over half the year and ended with a long term sub. I don't have access to their WASL scores broken down by homeroom, but if you look at the whole grade's scores for that year, you can see that that disruption had a huge impact on those kids. Of course, anyone who spent more than three hours in the classroom over the course of the year could have told you the same thing, but that wouldn't be data.
Joan NE said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said…
Oh and I should point out that I don't mean that the subs were incompetent--just that the disruption simulated what happens when a teacher is.

Lori, it seems like the MAP people might do that sort of analysis and sell it to the school districts as a tool to evaluate their teachers. . . hmmmm, who wants to bet that that product is in development right now?
zb said…
"I don't have access to their WASL scores broken down by homeroom, but if you look at the whole grade's scores for that year, you can see that that disruption had a huge impact on those kids."

Measured how, Maureen? Does the class look like an outlier, when, for example, you plot the 4th grade class scores each year for 10 years (i.e. 90,90,90,90, 12, 90, 90, 90, 90, 90)?

Lori: There's a bunch of incredibly dense analysis that tries to separate different factors in educational intervention. Seattle used to even post something called something like a value added score, that tried to normalize test scores by demographic factors in the different schools (though I think this has now disappeared. Anyone know the history?). When I used to look at those scores, what was clear to me was that the different schools had very similar "value added" scores, even when the children were performing very differently.

I'm presuming that the "value added" scores were dropped for legitimate reasons, that they were found to be unreliable, but the cynical part of me (I'm not very cynical) has considered whether they were dropped because they reiterated what we basically know, that schools don't have much leverage compared to the demographics on producing different test scores.
hschinske said…
I don't think you can reasonably do more than a rough control of confounding variables (e.g., by FRL status and the like). That's why I was thinking large populations would be needed, to randomize everything but the thing you're trying to measure. My point about the Lowell population was that even in a set of kids who do mostly have parental help with homework, tutoring if need be, that sort of thing, the parents' efforts still don't totally mask the effects of poor teaching.

Helen Schinske
Joan NE said…
About getting valuable information out of statistical analysis of MAP data: I think this is a constructive line of thinking. This may be an example of what BOTA (October 2009) meant when it said that standardized assessments have valuable uses.

Still, I would want to be careful that how ever MAP data is used, it doesn't lead to narrowing of curriculum.

I saw a couple old articles yesterday about purported test fraud at a school in Charlston SC.

It was inconsistentcy between MAP scores and the high stakes test scores (students used pencils to fill in the bubbles on the latter) that gave the strongest evidence that fraud had occured.

This brought out for me an advantage computer-mediated adaptive testing. Fraud is one of the problem with HST; adaptive computer-mediated tests provide considerably less opportunity for fraud.

Yes, there are serious problems with using MAP for high stakes purpose, but it might provide much useful data if used appropriately.

These are the links to the articles: ....
seattle said…
Interesting comments regarding individual perspectives on teacher quality, ZB. And, I do totally agree with you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Surely, though, there are some qualities that we can all agree on, no?

A quality teacher should inspire and encourage kids.

A quality teacher has the temperament and patience to do his/her job

A quality teacher provides challenges so children can work to work at their highest ability level, without a ceiling.

A quality teacher is organized enough to update the source, give kids adequate feedback on their work, grades, etc. And is also available to communicate with parents.

And this from maureen "A quality teacher is comfortable enough with the material to be able to present it in a variety of ways to reach a variety of kids."

And from Dorothy "A quality teacher has clear expectations, clear rubrics. And - "Students understand how and why they are graded as they are and learn what they need to do to improve."

But even a GREAT teachers can't be all things to every body.

Years ago, my oldest son thought his 6th grade math teacher was the worst, meanest, unfair teacher he'd ever had, said she was impatient, and singled him out.

My youngest just happens to have that very sam teacher this year, and he thinks she's the greatest, funniest, nicest teacher he's ever had. Can't understand why or how his brother didn't like her.

The fact is she is a good teacher, but my eldest was acting up a bit in 6th grade and this teacher ran a tight enough ship that she wasn't about to put up with his misbehavior. She held him accountable and he didn't like it one bit (though we did!)
TechyMom said…
Lori, that does seem much more fair to teachers. But, I wonder... Isn't that exactly what's meant by a 'culture of low expectations?' Students in this school have all these problems, so we can't expect them to meet the same standards as other students. But then, when they graduate, they're not college ready, and end up with low-paying, dead-end jobs. I think one of the things the reform movement is trying to do, and I should say that I'm not really sure it's realistic, is to push teachers to push kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to meet the same standards as other kids, to not cut them so much slack that they continually fall farther and farther behind.

I don't have an answer, but I wonder how to balance being fair to teachers, and making it clear to teachers that all kids must learn certain things if they are going to have any hope of escaping poverty. While I don't have an answer, I do suspect that cutting class sizes in half would go a long way to letting teachers really influence each individual child, as any human being only has so many coats to give.
Sahila said…
Maureen - more money in the Super's back pocket!
Sahila said…
JoanNE - your last posting is a very good counter to the Alliance drivel posted on their blog Wednesday.... would you do me a favour and repost it there - and to Harium's blog too?

If you dont have time, and you are OK with it, I can do it for you now ... before I have to go and put my Mummy hat back on and get my son from school...
hschinske said…
Dorothy knows more about the value-added stuff than I do, but IIRC it was very, very squishy. Something about comparing third-grade ITBS to fourth-grade WASL scores, where the measures were so different that it mostly made no sense. Another reason the value-added scores were unpopular is that they showed students at schools like Lowell and Bryant making very little or even negative growth (not a surprising result for kids who got ceiling scores on the ITBS, which has a higher ceiling than the WASL). There was some truth in that finding, but only by accident, as it were.

Helen Schinske
Joan NE said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan NE said…
Sahile - Yes - go ahead an post elsewhere. Here is my post with typos eradicated:

4/7/10 6:02 PM reader said...

"How can anyone deny that improving teacher quality is paramount to improving education?...The teacher makes all the difference"

Here is one example where TQ isn't everything:

Force teachers to use a rotten k-12 math curriculum, eliminate all remedial math classes in high school, indiscriminately lump all ninth graders into a (psuedo)Algebra 1 classes; make Algebra a high school graduation requirement; have principals (in their capacity as Instructional Leaders), instructional directors, and instructional coaches monitoring teachers for fidelity to district pacing guides, eliminate popular electives to make way for CORE24, and deny course credit to kids who don't pass a district standardized assessment for the course, even if the teacher gives a passing grade.

The results:

1) No amount of money is sufficient to induce highly qualified teachers to seek jobs at title-1 schools;

2) Lower quality instruction for students at all levels of preparedness at all high schools throughout the district (even the wealthier schools),

3) higher drop out rates.

Even if you could induce the best teachers to teach in the Title 1 schools under these conditions, you still wouldn't get good results, would you?

The very best teachers cannot do much for the students in the most impoverished schools, under the constraints and conditions I just listed.

Many but not all of the parameters I list are already in play in Seattle. But those that aren't here yet (CORE24, etc.) are coming soon!
Lori said…
TechyMom, I hear you. I had a similar thought as I typed my post: what if we would find a school whose demographics were such that it would be nearly impossible to show significant academic progress based on our mathematical model? Or, if we found that an appropriate goal for growth did not exceed the variability inherent in the testing?

Would we as a society look at the root causes of the problem? Would we address poverty, widening gaps in wealth distribution, ineffective curricula, class sizes that are too large and on and on?? Would we use the data to demand that something be done to help those children learn? Surely, if you demonstrated that the odds were stacked against a certain school, you'd be morally obligated to do something about it.

I guess it's a case of "be careful what you wish for" because if you want data-driven decisions, you may find that you don't like what the data are telling you. You can't blame teachers for parental and societal failures.

But if you were to use MAP data to gauge teacher effectiveness without considering a wide variety of confounders, you'd be doing just that.
hschinske said…
The business about scores changing reminds me of when I was pregnant with my twins, and I had one prenatal where a medical student was present. The OB said to the student as they were measuring my fundal height, "This is the problem with twins. *I* don't know where she's supposed to be. She's bigger than she was last month, that's what really matters." Similarly with the measurements taken at the ultrasounds -- I was told they might not be totally accurate (especially the weight estimates derived from them, which were indeed way off), but the point was that they kept going up, indicating that the rate of growth was normal. Stalling out would have been a matter of great concern.

Helen Schinske
Dorothy Neville said…
The value added data was generated because of a three year grant from an educational foundation whose name I cannot offhand recall. Not one of the ones often bandied about. This was way before the current administration. I want to say 2002-2005, but am not sure.

Anyway, the data was of limited value, because as Helen said, kids still got ITBS in third grade and fifth, WASL in fourth. How to measure progress on such incompatible tests? I spoke with the district statistician and she admitted it was hard, but they did their best to make the data comparable.

I also found out that the guy who developed Value Added measuring and sold it to Tennessee still has pretty much a monopoly on this analysis. His software and methods are proprietary. That added to the expense. I really don't understand why someone else -- maybe in house? --couldn't develop a good metric, but I don't know patent law well enough.

Another thing I was told was that they only developed the averages and scores for a school level. They did not create averages for teachers. I was told that this was due to the Teachers Union objections. Do I know that for a fact? Do I know the details or nuances involved? No.

Schools like Bryant showed less than the district average in value added. Sure, some of that is because of kids hitting the ceiling. I doubt that's the whole answer though.

One school I remember that consistently *did* have value added scores above the district average was Summit.
Maureen said…
Measured how, Maureen? Does the class look like an outlier

I know it's not statistically valid--but it really stands out: % met WASL math standards in that class dropped from 73.7 to 55.7 between 3rd and 4th grades. Average of three previous years' 4th grade WASL was 68.9 (and there wasn't much turnover in the class at all). It is true that the change in reading scores was no where near as large--maybe an example of parents being able to compensate better in that area? (and no it wasn't the year that EDM was introduced--tho that dip is reflected in the three year average comparison score).
Mr. Edelman said…
We received this in email today:

Community invited to SPS budget forums

Seattle Public Schools has scheduled two community meetings to provide information about how schools are funded and strategies to close the funding gap for the 2010-11 school year. The district will also seek feedback on plans to address the shortfall.

In addition, families are invited to share their ideas on what SPS programs and services are most important for them to have protected as the district begins to address a projected $26 million budget gap for the 2011-12 school year. Interpreters will be available at both community meetings, which will include a question-and-answer session.

The meetings will be Saturday, April 17, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Aki Kurose Middle School, 3928 Graham St., and Tuesday, April 20, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Roosevelt High School, 1410 N.E. 66th St.
uxolo said…
Looked for the dates of when William Sanders, designer of Value-Added Assessment, worked as a consultant to SPS. It was 1999 and funded by the Stuart Foundation. More recently, Stuart Foundation funded (at least) two grants to the Alliance - worth a look, one is:
"To implement a strong, district-wide leadership system that strengthens Seattle Public Schools’ principal corps and key central office leaders in an effort to create a core group prepared to lead continuous improvement in Seattle’s schools."

The other was awarded for one year 2008-09:
"To support Seattle Public Schools in redesigning its district hiring processes, and to overhaul the central office's performance evaluation system in connection with its overall performance management work, including teacher and principal evaluations."
Also found this:
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson recently won an award for advancing academic achievement -- but not in Seattle.
She shared an award with Superinten- dent Nancy McGinley of the Charleston County School District, who had been her chief academic officer when Goodloe- Johnson headed the South Carolina school system before taking the reins of Seattle schools in 2007.
Their combined leadership cemented the groundwork to build academic advancement today in Charleston, earning them jointly the Broad Center for the Manage- ment of School Systems’ 2010 Achievement Award for outstanding leadership.
SPS mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
wsnorth said…
What a great conversation!

Seemingly in spite of itself, SPS seems to have a lot of great teachers and principals. How on earth did the debate turn to this, anyway?

Give me a school with great teachers and a great principal/admin staff!

We don't care if the building is falling apart (but don't overload us with portables with inadequate HVAC and no running water, this is not a third world country YET).

If our schools are doing OK, leave us alone.

Go help those who cannot seem to help themselves!

We in West Seattle (with a few excpetions) had all this - or were working hard on it - before closures, NSAP, every dummy math books, central control, budget cuts, etc.

In the 4 differnt SPS schools our kids have gone to, bad teachers are really not a big issue.
uxolo said…

what lies ahead?
Unknown said…
" to balance being fair to teachers, and making it clear to teachers that all kids must learn certain things if they are going to have any hope of escaping poverty."
I'm sorry, but I can't let this statement go by without comment. The subtext here is mind-boggling. The sense of superiority, the unstated premise that teachers would not understand this most basic of concepts. It is so sweetly and supremely insulting. And no one on this board bats an eyelash?
Teachers are on the front lines in this societal war. Sure, some are battle-weary. Some are not always at their best. But we're the peacekeepers. We're the ones trying to bandage the wounded. We're the ones trying to make sure everyone is similarly armed with information and truth. We're not making this war. It's a societal problem, not a teacher problem. What are you doing to help?
Sahila said…
Mary - I didnt (yet) notice that comment else I certainly would have challenged it....

I cant stomache how some people think that its teachers' jobs to solve all the societal problems kids bring with them when they walk through the doors of the classrooms...

Been trying to unpack that irrational idea, without a great deal of success it seems!

There are many of us who are active out in the community as well as on the blogs, on letters pages in various media, at Board meetings etc and please know, we are certainly repeating that its ridiculous to expect teachers to be the ones to pull kids out of the trap of poverty...

I'm in a hurry, and feel I have oversimplified what I am trying to say, but I wanted you to know that there are quite a few here on this blog who do completely support teachers and understand what they have to deal with...
hschinske said…
I think you guys are way oversimplifying TechyMom's point. If you look at her whole post, it is certainly more nuanced and quite close to what you're saying. Yes, the one sentence is perhaps badly phrased, but geez. Sahila, I think the reason you didn't notice that statement as troubling before was because *in context it made more sense*.

Helen Schinske
seattle citizen said…
I'm not sure that the context helps, Helen.
From Techymom's post: (4/8 2:13pm)
"I think one of the things the reform movement is trying to do, and I should say that I'm not really sure it's realistic, is to push teachers to push kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to meet the same standards as other kids, to not cut them so much slack that they continually fall farther and farther behind"

Um, is there some research that says teachers "cut slack" for students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
If anything, this again points to social promotion, where students are routinely moved up the ladder even if they haven't mastered skills.

Nonetheless, where do find evidence that teachers don't have high expectations for "some" students?
Sahila said…
Didnt notice it because I was in a hurry, juggling several competing priorities...

My activist energy has been back on the rise lately and demanding expression quite forcibly, to the cost of other matters I also need to focus on...

I shall be a little more deliberate from here on in...

I responded to Mary because those words she was triggered by, sound just like the words the Alliance uses to spin its efforts - the words it used recently about needing to build in acceptance by teachers for their responsibility for student success...

As though teachers dont already know and accept that as part of their profession/commitment/vocation....
seattle citizen said…
Now that I think about it more, I believe what Techymom said about "cutting slack" has some merit, but only in context:
Here's a question - Student comes in way behind, no time to study, trouble at home, no support. So far behind that they just WON'T make a leap of four or five grade levels in one year. Is it "cutting them slack," or "having dimished expectations" to understand that the teacher will NOT get that student to "level," but will instead to their best to address that student's levels and try and raise them?

SHOULD a teacher expect every student to be able to learn at level? Should a teacher NOT expect the same level of learning from some students because they are incapabable of it due to being far behind?

Of course, this begs the question: why are they behind? Are those lousy "non-quality" K-5 teachers all lame? Or are there other endemic problems that those great teachers struggle to work with to their limited ability?

Will putting all those K-5 students into the machine fix them? Or might we better address their individual needs, as their teachers do?
zb said…
"Teachers are on the front lines in this societal war. Sure, some are battle-weary. Some are not always at their best. But we're the peacekeepers. We're the ones trying to bandage the wounded. "

I know Mary. I hope someone not on the Internets thanks you today. I'm not a teacher, but I have been in the position of trying to man the battlefields, while the world sits in comfort and theorizes about what you're doing wrong (and, no, not in the army). So, if you have a child in the SPS, and you think your teacher is trying to do their best for them, go out and tell them (as well as remembering to say that when debating the theories).
wseadawg said…

If you canvass the record of this entire blog, you'll find mountains of support for teachers throughout.

Let's not confuse differences of opinion, devil's advocacy, and speculation with attacks or insults against teachers. Though we should choose our words more carefully at times, I'll concede.

We're all trying to get our heads around what SPS is doing, why, and to what end. Free exchanges and debate will occasionally rankle, but overall I'd say this blog, throughout it's history, has been overwhelmingly pro-teacher.

I get it. And God Bless our teachers for all they do, in spite of an administration hell-bent on undermining them.

If it was just about the proverbial "bad teachers" folks, then why did the Alliance's Phone Survey ask if we should "open up" and bring in TFA and the like? Where the hell did that come from? (Answer: The Education Reform Lobby & Movement).

This is about one hell of a lot more than "bad teachers." This is about changing the course of public education as we've known it, turning students from future citizens desirous of, and entitled to, the best education we can give them, into CONSUMERS of educational products, and turning teachers into salespersons of those products. Bye, bye democracy, hello profits.

Have we learned NOTHING from Wall Street? Have we learned NOTHING from outsourcing our best jobs? Have we learned NOTHING from the failure of trickle down economics? Have we learned NOTHING from tax cuts after tax cuts to the richest among us, while hollowing out the middle class?
spedvocate said…
Nonetheless, where do find evidence that teachers don't have high expectations for "some" students?

Are you kidding SC? Did you just arrive on the planet? Let's take for starters the special education review. That was the key finding. The district is plagued by a "culture of low expectations" for some students. And guess what? That culture starts with the teachers. And who do you think those students are? Mostly, they are poor and minority students. It's easy enough to dismiss students with disabilities, but if you really look at it... the dismissing attitude reaches a lot of places.

If we fix the "culture of low expectations", does that mean everyone will accomplish the same thing? Will everyone be at the same level? Of course not. But, we've got to actually try, and we've got to actually do better. Way better.

And Mary, do you really think teachers have no blind spots? Of course they do, we all do.
Unknown said…
Thank you Sahila and ZB. And wseadawg, I'm pretty sure I'm not confused. The statement " to balance being fair to teachers, and making it clear to teachers that all kids must learn certain things if they are going to have any hope of escaping poverty" is an insult. Perhaps badly phrased? --- Come on. It's like saying, "we need to make it clear to doctors that their job is to diagnose illness and cure it, or to prevent illness." Or "we need to make it clear to lawyers that their job is to advocate for their clients." Or "we need to make it clear to the parents on this board that their job is to care for their children as best they can." Well, I could go on and on.
And yes, there is much support for teachers on this board, but the fact that this statement went unchallenged hints at a great big blind spot in the collective conversation.
wseadawg said…
If you want to talk about a culture of low expectations, look at the Ed Reformers and our Gang of Four on the Board. What are any of them doing for struggling kids, kids behind grade their grade levels, etc.? Not schools, kids.

The only remedy Arne Duncan seems to blather about is "discpline, silence, and rigor" within the confines of militarized charter schools or something close to it. In other words, "these kids just CAN'T learn like other kids (like our kids)." So, they need to be put in tough institutions and worked like animals until they get up to snuff. (And if they can't, we quietly dump them back into regular public schools. (Shhhhh!))

Talk about dehumanization. Talk about low expectations. It's the old "Noble Savage" treatment, with our Board and the edu Mucky-Mucks acting like the Christian Missionaries coming forth to "civilize" the struggling kids. Except even the missionaries worked directly with kids. Our board and SI (along with NCLB) just shuffle them around until they disappear into the ether.

This time they steal money from Marshall's non APP kids to give it to Hawthorne & West Seattle. What will it be next? If one cares about kids, they don't artificially adjust threshold aid requirements to take away resources from children who need them.

Yes, I'm rambling, but I just can't believe there's any venom aimed at teachers with all this corruption going on in the district. As if teachers have any control over the money and their hands aren't already slapped or tried every time they try to help kids.
Lori said…
I believe TechyMom was responding to my post about what it might take to even attempt to use MAP data to gauge teacher effectiveness. It was a sort of an applied mathematics problem about how to control for confounding variables when teasing out how much of the MAP score change (or lack thereof) is due to teacher effectiveness vs. other factors outside the teacher's control.

I did not read her comment as slamming teachers or questioning their professionalism. I believe she was simply asking what we as a community would do if our mathematical model found a school with so many negative prognostic factors present at baseline that it would be difficult to show movement on the MAP, even with excellent teachers. It's a hypothetical question about a mathematical model, not an indictment of the teaching profession, at least by my reading of the post.
seattle citizen said…
spedvocate - first, I have a question about your statement that most Special Ed students are "poor and minority students."
Is this true? If it is, why?

Second, I asked for the research on this supposed culture of "low expectations" because just saying it is there doesn't make it true. I'm NOT saying it isn't there, but to use the term too generally does a dis-service to teachers who do their very best to help students where they are at, at the levels they are at.

I'm not saying no teacher has low expectations, I'm saying that to just say teachers have low expectations without showing us what that means and the research, i.e. how many teachers and to what degree etc, merely throws out inflamatory remarks.

I am curious, tho', if you did mean that most of the Special ed students are poor and minority, or did you mean most of the students affected by these supposed low expectations, district-wide, were poor and minority.
Sahila said…
Latest developments in Florida's education reform debacle... Seattle/Washington wont be far behind if the Alliance et al get their way... the groundwork is already being laid with this focus on "teacher quality"...


Already approved by the Senate, the legislation now rests with (Florida Governor Charlie) Crist, who first said he supported it but has been hinting that he may now use his veto because it is so unpopular.

Teachers, parents and students have been loudly protesting the legislation, which, if it becomes law, would:

*Make Florida the first state to eliminate tenure for new teachers, putting them all on one-year contracts for the first five years.

*Eliminate class experience and advanced degrees (in most cases) as factors in teacher evaluations and pay increases.

*Require that at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and pay increases, be based on standardized test scores. Test experts say this method is faulty because teachers can’t control every factor that affects the test-taking process.

*Require the creation of a slew of new standardized tests for every subject, in every grade that is not already assessed. This must come as good news to companies that create tests and that prepare students for taking tests. There could be a lot of new business for them in Florida [Disclosure: The Washington Post owns Kaplan, an education company with a test prep divison.]

A look at some of the details of the bill passed by the House helps explain why critics say it was not thought out or written with much care.

It requires all school districts in the state to develop end-of-course exams that will determine “learning gains” made by students ( a plan that also would require exams to be given at the beginning of the school year, too, so that student progress can be measured). It doesn't, however, explain what a student “learning gain” -- on which teachers will be judged-- actually is.

Within a few years, Florida second-graders could, perhaps, sit down, with pencil in hand, to take a test on how well they did in art class that year. What kind of test? Nobody knows. The bill doesn’t say.

The new tests will cost millions of dollars. A legislator from Duval County told the House that the state Education Department is developing three end-of course exams right now, at a cost of more than $1 million. The Miami-Dade County school system alone has something like 900 course offerings.

To pay for the course development and performance pay for teachers and other parts of the legislation, 5 percent of federal, state and local Florida Education Finance Program funds are to be set aside beginning in 2011. That’s about $900 million.

But here’s the catch: It’s not new money. It would come out of the already stretched budgets of county school systems. School officials say they can't possibly afford this.
Sahila said…

The bill also doesn’t mention how special-needs students should be factored in, although Crist said this week he was concerned about this omission.

The backers of the bill say these are details that can be worked out later in rules by the Department of Education.

That’s the same thing they said when former Florida governor Jeb Bush pushed through a statewide standardized testing program called the FCAT. The legislation had few details, which had to be worked out over years. The adults fiddled while students had to suffer taking tests that had no meaning.

The bill has been hailed by some conservatives outside the state, including Stanford University economist Eric Hanusek, who praised Florida in the April edition of Education Next magazine for being "poised to lead the nation in crafting student policies."

Hanusek was a big supporter of then-president George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform, once writing that it was "raising overall student performance." Bush's own administration issued reports showing that it did not, in fact, raise overall student performance.

Education historian Diane Ravitch, a former official in the administration of president George H.W. Bush who once supported NCLB, has looked at data and changed her mind, saying it actually harmed education, in part by emphasizing high-stakes standardized tests. The New York University professor wrote an open letter to the Florida legislature expressing her opposition to the state's reform approach.

The legislation's supporters have repeatedly said that its reforms will improve schools and encourage good teachers to stay in the profession because they will be paid more for their good work. Supporters may indeed believe this. But good teachers know that they can't fairly be judged by test scores alone. It isn't surprising that no teachers were involved in the drafting of the legislation.

Certainly there are teachers in every school system who should not be in the classroom, and certainly principals should have the flexibility to remove ineffective teachers. In fact, in some counties, they do already. Nobody wants bad teachers to be forced out better than good teachers. But taking away job security, linking pay to test scores and forcing kids to take more tests is going to hurt the good teachers as least as much as the bad.

Opponents of the bill accuse its sponsors of disliking teachers and trying to tear down public education. Sen. John Thrasher, sponsor the Senate bill on teacher tenure and testing, who was recently installed as chairman of Florida’s Republican Party with the help of former governor Jeb Bush, denied this. Incidentally, he didn't ask any educators for their input on the reform.

During a recent debate on the Senate floor, Thrasher pointed to his daughter who was sitting in the gallery. She’s a former teacher, according to this piece from WUSF, Tampa Bay’s public broadcasting station.

“She’s told me she’s not fearful of this bill. Because she thinks that when this bill passes, it’s gonna inspire teachers to get into the classroom, and do a better job than they’ve been doing, even now,” Thrasher said.

Of course she's not fearful. She doesn’t teach anymore.

suep. said…
Mary said...And yes, there is much support for teachers on this board, but the fact that this statement went unchallenged hints at a great big blind spot in the collective conversation.

Mary, honestly, please don't read a lack of response to that point as agreement or indifference on the part of the rest of us. If I were to respond to every point on this blog with which I disagree or to which I feel I have something worthwhile to add, I would be here all day.

I come from a family of teachers, my own teachers have been hugely influential figures in my life, my children have had amazing teachers, and I am utterly aghast at the vile tone and acts of vilification that the "education reformers" are directing at this underappreciated profession.

In fact, please see a piece I wrote about this on the Seattle Ed 2010 blog:

"The Art of Teaching (and the Automatons of Education Reform)"

By the way everyone -- Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up in May. Let's show our support.

hschinske said…
It's like saying, "we need to make it clear to doctors that their job is to diagnose illness and cure it, or to prevent illness."

I'm the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of doctors, and am very pro-physician in general, but if you have never met a doctor who needed to be pulled back to that obvious reality above, you have been very, very lucky.

Helen Schinske
ttln said…
Imagine if we had to find a way to measure all teachers based on a measure relevant to their curriculum. PE- kids must make gains in PE as measured through improved times on mile run, more sit ups, more push ups, and a decrease in BMI.

Same stakes as those associated with WASL and MAPS.
Unknown said…
"I'm the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of doctors, and am very pro-physician in general, but if you have never met a doctor who needed to be pulled back to that obvious reality above, you have been very, very lucky.

And do they all need it, Helen? And shall we band together and draft a legislation to show them the way? Or do you think maybe most of them already have this in mind?
seattle citizen said…
That's a good point, Mary - most teachers already know to try to address the various needs and responsibilities in a classroom. To draft legislation that constricts good teaching merely to address some problems is counterproductive.

I mean, let's use their own numbers: If, say, 40$ of students aren't passing the Math HSPE, does that mean we should reconfigure 100% of the curriculum and teachers? Mess with the success to address the "failure"?

Which, again....makes me wonder what the real agenda is.
Sheesh, go out of town for awhile and look at you people go. Good for you for this rich dialog.

First, those at the Alliance are thinking of their donors and no one else. I think they risk alienating parents but maybe, like the district, they think they really don't fear or need us. Big mistake.

Second, I have been asked throughout the years,"well, why don't you go work for the district?" And that would help how? Join a disfunctional organization and get muzzled by them? No thanks. If I thought it would have helped, I would have applied long ago.

Great discussion.
Joan NE said…
Very interesting conversation. I have been trying to connect to people whose kids go to title 1 schools, to find out what they think is needed. I am finding that parents in these communities very much want accountability. The Director of El Centro De La Raza told me yesterday that her families were most interested in the fifth element of the Our Schools petition, which calls for linking teacher evaluation to growth in student scores on standardized assessments.

A parent in southeast seattle wrote this to me: "-I am interested in SE Seattle schools having the same rigorous standards and expectations as the highest achieving schools in the nation. I find it demeaning and damaging when I hear school staff saying that they cannot expect their students to do homework because of family life. I believe that it is the job of every school to maintain demanding standards. If outside services are needed for families, then these should be provided -however, by allowing standards to drop, the school leadership allows these students to receive a sub-standard education. There has to be equal education standards in every school. Every child should be achieving. It is not up to school leadership to decide arbitrarily who they think can "handle" difficult work."

In response to a long email I sent to her explaining my concerns about high stakes testing, explaining how it differs from valid use of standardized assessment, how accountability need not include high stakes testing, how teaching to the standards differs from teaching to the test, the problem of narrowed curriculum, and why I think high stakes testing will cause harm and especially to low income and minority children, she wrote this:

"-I think that all this terminology is a form of smoke and mirrors
-students need to receive good quality education. Testing should be administered to ensure that
A. the teacher is actually teaching what they are supposed to be teaching
B. that the child understands what is being taught

"The testing needs to be done in a timely way so that intervention can take place as needed. It is as simple as that. It is not rocket science. It is done in many places and many countries that don't have huge budgets."

"It is a crying shame that parents don't have faith that the Public School System is adequately teaching their children."

There must be a reason why parents want this accountability, and this suggests strongly to me that there is a genuine problem in the Title 1 schools having to do with low expectations.

Perhaps the Ed Reformists are so successful because they are offering a solution that speaks to a real frustration in the communities served by Title 1 schools, never mind that the solution they are offering is only going to help the kids who have families that provide strong academic support at home (KIPP does wonders with such kids), and never mind that they are going to make some easy money in the school restructuring business as educational entreprenuers and software vendors!

Is it not entirely reasonable for parents to have an accountability expectation from the teachers and school district?

If not the form of accountability that the Our Schools Petition is calling for and the SPS is giving via its performance management policy, then what?
Dorothy Neville said…
Yo, Melissa! I was wondering if you were out of town and was going to drop you an email to see if all is well.

I was just watching the first half of Wednesday's board meeting. There's the first annual report on facilities, information for transparency on BTAs and BEXs and all that. Lots of allusions to citizens wanting to know this. I almost expected him to give you a personal shout out.

Anyway, the report, which includes reconciliation between money temporarily going willy-nilly between accounts, is supposed to be on the web. I hope when you have time you will read it over and give us your opinion. And if you haven't watched Wednesday's meeting, please watch this part and tell me they weren't all channeling your presence.
seattle citizen said…
In response to your comments about high-stakes testing, you report this quote by a parent:
"The testing needs to be done in a timely way so that intervention can take place as needed. It is as simple as that. It is not rocket science"
I wonder if this parent understands that there are tests that are done regularly in a classroom to check knowledge and inform instruction, then there are the "high stakes" tests (the HSPE is high stakes because it determines graduation and it determines, in aggregrate of scores in a school, the outside and public determination of how that school is doing).

The past 15 years of WASL/HSPE are high stakes tests, administered yearly, scores "available" the following year to teachers who haven't even taught the student yet (meaning the student's teacher in March can't use the results to inform instruction, the results can only be used to inform instruction down the line, if one is to place some credence in the scores)
THAT is a "high stakes test," and it has very little to do with classroom instruction and on-the-spot assessment of learning. The MAP might provide some deeper and more useful information, but the jury is out on that one.

It sounds to me that the parent is referring to regular old testing like it's been done (done well or not) for decades, just good teaching - teach, check, reteach...

Whole lot of differeence. Perhaps the parent would like the tests to be both formative AND summative AND high stakes....that may be possible (it's the premise of the MAP) but I believe this parent might be mixing test types.
seattle citizen said…
Regarding "Title One" teachers, I wonder what this means. Teachers move about, schools are Title One or not, depending...I think what this refers to is, perhaps, schools that are, over time, more populated by students of color and students of poorer parent/guardians. Is the parent saying that there are whole cultures of low expectations in these schools, and when a teacher enters, or is transfered there due to RIF or whatever (i.e: newer teacher, less seniority, laid off, when rehired, old slot is already taken, so teacher, since they're discplaced, are allowed job and opening is at poorer school) are these newcomers met with a whole culture of low expectations in the building? The story of a teacher transferring "north" and not having the same high level of expectation is illustrative: Did that teacher experience a whole culture of low expectations in a building, or did just that teacher have them?

It makes a huge difference, because culture of a building is set by students, principal, parent/guardians, not as much by the staff. IF a whole staff somehow decided to go low expectation (unlikely), shouldn't the leadership be raising them?

That wasn't clear: teachers DO have some impact on setting expectations, but are Title One teachers somehow all low? If they are, where are the leaders?

If a teacher transfers to a "north" school, and is this supposed "Title One" sort of teacher with low expectations, does the "north" principal whip them into shape? If they DO, that again suggests it's management.

Not letting teachers off the hook, I'm just interested to know what exactly is the font of these low expectations: Teachers? Admin? Politics? Parent/Guardian involvement?

The questions is: what is the source of this, where and when it exists, and how do we fix it?

Regular classroom tests that inform instruction to high expectations should be ensured by management - that's their job. But are do we want "high stakes tests," as currently in place, to inform instruction? Do we want them to substitute for good leadership? Do the tests in this picture actually replace leadership?

Why are the high stakes tests currently only addressing three skills (reading, writing and 'rithmitic) and one discipline (science)?

Does Parent believe that these are the areas, and these areas only, are what are part of the "high expectations" of the "wealthier" schools?
spedvocate said…
SC, Seattle PUblics Schools has been plagued by "Disproportionality" in special education for a really long time. Read the audit. Read the special ed demographics published every so often by the district. OSPI and other govt agencies, rattle their chains every few years on this issue. That much is indisputable. And what it really means, almost all categories of special education are vastly over-represented by minorities and FRL's. For example, most students identified in the "mental retardation" category by Seattle Public Schools are African American. Most students identified in "behavior disordered" catergory are African American. Most students identified by SPS as being in the "communication disordered" are hispanics. (Duh. If you can't speak English, are you really disabled?)

This is nothing new. It started when the courts ordered racial desegregation. Schools elected to maintain segregation using special ed departments as a tool. Yes, there is a "culture of low expectations", that was documented in the special education audit as well.

All I'm saying is that 1) there is a culture of low expectation, and it has been found repeatedly. It exists for sure amongst special education students. 2) Because special education is actually a dumping ground for lots of people, the culture of low expecation actually cuts a wide swath.
seattle citizen said…
who or what is responsible for the continuance of this culture of low expectation you identify in the disproportionately minority/FRL Special Ed programs in the city?

What would fix it?

What will fix the disproportionality?
spedvocate said…
General educators need to take responsibility for ALL students, and stop pawning certain groups off on special education. That is a source of low expectations. Teachers need to assume that all students can learn, and that it is their job to teach all students where the students are. It may be true that students come in with different native abilities and at different levels for a variety of reasons, but teachers still need to pick up the ball and bounce with it. School pscych's and principals need to recognize issues of disproportionality and stop signing off on these moves. But for them, it's a lot easier to just put kids in special education, where there is zero accountability, than to make the effort.
seattle citizen said…
then you see Gen Ed teachers pawing students off (into SpEd)? How does this work? Does the Gen Ed techer make the recommendation that a student receive services?

Or are you referring to Gen Ed teachers who, upon finding out a student is already SpEd designated, has low expectations of that student?

I've heard that the jury is out on whether the new "inclusion" model of Sped service works - like with the new "inclusion" model of ELL service, Gen Ed teachers are being asked to modify instruction ("differentiate") to accomodate these needs yet don't have the promised support (IAs, time to collaborate with IEP teacher...)

So I guess I still wonder what is at the root of the low expectation (and this would generalize, perhaps, to the larger sphere, to non-"SpecialEd," non-"ELL" students - WHY is there low expecations? Are teaches lazy? Unprepared? Unsupported?

Is this a problem disrict-wide, or just in some schools? Again, it gets to the school "culture": Who's in charge of THAT? Who's in charge of making sure teachers are...

hmmm...modifying to meet various needs, or maintaining the saem expectations for every student and NOT modifying to meet every need?

This is part of the problem, perhaps: Teachers are told to
a) have "rigor," "high expectations," push all students to the same level of success; and
b) differentiate, accomodate (by law) and otherwise hold each student to different levels of expectation (sometimes generally, sometimes in specific areas of learning)

I personally believe that students ARE different, they learn differently, they're at different levels of knowledge with different I could see where what appears on the outside to be "not pushing the kid to the same level of rigor" might in fact be "working with the kid at their level of knowledge or ability."

Of course, this also allows "I'll SAY I'm working with each student at their level, but really I'm just being a bit slack, not holding to high expectations.

So it's the difference btween actually DOING the differentiation (which takes hard work and support, collaboration) and SAYING you're addressing various needs/levels while generally not.

I worry that the Times editorial omitted all the "survey's" popints about extra time, collaboration etc and just focused on the dang techer quality. It can't be had both ways: You want quality? Support it. You want Collaboration and differentiation? Support THAT. It appears that teachers are merely to be judged while having classroom sizes increase, not having time to actually work together (which is a form of evaluation all in itself)....The Times omission of the stuff that might actually cost something, prep time and collaboration, is telling. Teachers would do well to add another ten hours a week unpaid to make sure they can do all they're asked to do and not be "judged" deficiant as new expectations are placed on them (differentiation from MAP; in-class response to discipline, instead of sending the kid out, under RTI; a wider variety of student levels under inclusion of SpEd and ELL; Less time to teach with increased MAP use....)
Joan NE said…
I haven't read the response to my earlier comment yet, but got an email that suggested this clarification was needed:

I looked into KIPP, and found out they the graduates of their program do indeed do very well. But it turns out the kids that are successful are the kids that have strong support at home. The kids without the strong support appear to drop out. KIPP won't publish their drop out data. Also, many of the kids that enroll in KIPP have heard about it from their teacher. The teachers tend to refer kids that have the factors that are important for success in KIPP.

As for the Our Schools petition, I don't support the petition - except the first three clauses.

I do support a system the provides parents with a way to get assurance that their children are being taught to the standards, and that teachers that don't do this are held accountable. I don't favor the high stakes testing form of accountability however.

I am suggesting that there does need to be some form of accountabiliyt. That is why I say, if not this, then what? My intent was to provoke answers from the blog community of thinkers/readers/writers. I am very interested in the question of how to provide "academic assurances" if you will, to parents, but in a way that is fair to parents, students, and teachers, and doesn't deprofessionalize the teaching profession, as does the tying of teacher evaluation/pay/promotino/retention to growth in student scores on standardized tests. In any case, this is not valid, because this leads to score inflation, so any growth in scores is always suspect as being meaningless.

I am not really playing devil's advocate, because I do feel that the District must provide some assurance to parents. In my view, the problems of low standards in Title 1 schools, (which I strongly suspect is real) have much, much more to do with District policy (such as inadquate psychosocial resources, too large class size, and so on) than with "teacher quality." Students should not be punished for the failing of the student. The students must not be failed! This is a crime that the District failure is tolerated by the haves, and then the District punish the students for its own failings.
Unknown said…
emeraldkity said:
"What is provided to teachers that people in other unions not get?

Well besides a much better pension and COL than union workers outside of the public sector receive"

This is just wrong. Like was pointed out earlier, teachers in Seattle (or any public school in Washington) do NOT have tenure. They do NOT have COLA, though they did on again and off again after passed by a majority of voters in Washington. I think it was maybe five years total. There are 3 retirement systems in the state for teachers. They work out to about 2% of their salary per year of experience. So, a teacher who retires after 30 years gets 60% of their salary. They cannot get more than 60%. And there is no COLA. So, if they live 30 more years, they are still tied to the same check.
uxolo said…
More frequent assessment can be done and even exists as an option to monitor progress on IEPs in Seattle. It is called Curriculum Based Measurement.

Curriculum Based Assessment. To compare CBM and CBAs see
seattle citizen said…
Uxolo, thanks for the two lonks, I think everybody might be interested in these alternatives to high stakes tests. I haven't browsed to much on the website of the first one, the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring website
but here's their list of partners, wihch makes an intersting juxtaposition to the "usual suspects we see rallied around WASL/HSPE/MAP etc (The list of partners is of interest, perhaps, to those who advocate for special ed):

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The AFT strives to improve the lives of members and their families; to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic, and social aspirations; to strengthen the institutions in which they work; to improve the quality of the services provided; to bring together all members to assist and support one another; and to promote democracy, human rights, and freedom in the union, in the nation, and throughout the world.
Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)
ACEI has a mission to promote and support in the global community the optimal education and development of children, from birth through early adolescence, and to influence the professional growth of educators and the efforts of others who are committed to the needs of children in a changing society.
Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE)
CASE is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children that provides service to local administrators of special education. Its 5,200 members are primarily local administrators, although some members are state level administrators and others are faculty engaged in the preparation of special education administrators. Students in the field of special education administration are also members of CASE.
Council for Educational Diagnostic Services (CEDS)
CEDS is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children that ensures the highest quality of diagnostic and prescriptive procedures involved in the education of individuals with disabilities and/or who are gifted.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
CEC is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides continual professional development, advocates for newly and historically underserved individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.
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