Saturday, November 06, 2010

TFA Contract not Needed

Nevermind whether or not we need Teach for America in Seattle, I don't see why we need a contract with Teach for America.

The Teach for America corps members will have conditional certifications, which function identically to traditional certification. In Phase III of our hiring process the District accepts applications from certificated teachers who are not already employed by the District. Consequently, we don't need a contract with Teach for America for their members to be allowed to apply for jobs as teachers in our District. Their conditional certification, granted by the state, allows it.

The contract does oblige the District to pay Teach for America $4,000 for each one that we happen to hire out of that pool, but the District has no intention of paying the $4,000. They expect an outside party (Gates Foundation via the Seattle Foundation) to meet the $4,000 obligation. That outside party is willing to pay it, they want to pay it, they are waiting to pay it. They don't need a contractual obligation to justify it.

So why even have the contract? Why not just have the Teach for America candidates in the Phase III hiring pool along with everyone else and have the philanthropic foundation make the payment if a TFA candidate is hired without any need for a separate agreement between the District and Teach for America?

I know that Teach for America wants access to student information, but they don't need a contract for that either. They can simply request it, and the the District will provide it under existing policies. Again, no need for a contract.

This appears to be a needless step that does nothing but irritate the community and upset our teachers. Why are we doing this? If principals want to hire Teach for America trained and supported teachers, they are free to do so with or without this contract. Aren't they?


KSG said...

Charlie is there any more detail as to what TFA wants in this contract?

How do substitute teachers, trying to become fulltime fit into the phase hiring process? Are eligible for phase I or are they phase III?

Charlie Mas said...

Substitutes are certificated but they are not under contract by the District so they could be in the Phase III pool along with any other teacher from outside the District or a TFA conditionally certified teacher, but they could not be hired during Phase I or Phase II.

seattle citizen said...

I'm still interested in how, if there IS a contract, it can let without RFPs and the due diligence to identify need and suppliers, etc. At the board meeting it seemed that they were saying that for services contracts (as opposed to contracts for, say, building) they didn't need to go through that process. Why not? It's public money. Of course, the district will argue that its not paying, so its moot, but does that excuse it from the process? They don't need to do full research, etc, if they just feel like getting some outside group in?

And what was that, in the board meeting, about the superintendent being allowed to grant herself an exemption from process/policy?! Did I hear that right? And why did they bring that up at all, why did she evidently grant herself an exemption, if none was needed because it was a service contract?

Does anyone know what's going on with those two things? It might be "legal" to not do RFPs, etc for a service contract (according to board policy, maybe, but is it legal for a public organization?) but is it ethical or right? And how can the supt grant herself exemption from policy? That's just nuts.

seattle citizen said...

These two issues, contracting and exemption, are by far the biggest erosion of the "public" in public schools that I have seen so far. They concern me deeply: They are blatant acts of usurption of policy and procedure.

I'll ask again: Whose schools are these?

Sahila said...

why does anyone think that even talking about it here is going to change anything, bring answers, bring about public involvement?

It wont... the Super/Board have shown the community they are on their path and nothing will divert them... not due process, not law, not testimony, not writing emails, not lawsuits...

We dont matter, and what we think is good for our kids doesnt matter (what the f**k do we know, is the attitude)...

What next, people?

seattle said...

How does the super/board in SPS compare/contrast to the super/board/admin in Shoreline? Didn't your child go to Shoreline?

Melissa Westbrook said...

YOu can read the agreement at the Board website. (They call it an agreement, not a contract.)

Charlie,I'm sure that TFA would consider their teachers some kind of company property. They were trained thru TFA and thus TFA probably has some kind of agreement with all of them as well. You can drop out of TFA but I'll bet there are penalties.

Bird said...

I keep asking Board members this very question. No one has offered an answer.

You can read the contract yourself. (They call it a contract in their link - tfacontract.pdf)

The contract is short and very readable. I'd encourage everyone who's interested to peruse it.

The Board has assured us that an outside donor is going to pay for these teachers. Did they say how long they would pay?

I notice the contract says SPS will pay $4000 per year for each teacher up to two years after the commencement of the 2013-2014 school year.

So we're committing to paying these fees until 2015.

Is the donor committing to donating till then?

Where's the contract for that?

Sahila said...


I dont know much about Shoreline ... I am doing things my own way at school with minimal pushback ...

see here:

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, Sahila. Why wouldn't you investigate the district, not just the school you send your kid to but the entire district, the way you take apart Seattle Schools? Don't you run the risk of being a part of a district that does some of the same things THIS district does?

I find it odd that you admit you've not looked into the administration, staff and board, super, policies, transparency, etc. of Shoreline, yet send your kid there. That looks an awful lot like you're just hostile to SPS for the sake of hostility. Or that you really don't care about any of those things, as long as YOU get YOURS.

I may be wrong, so please educate me on why you'd do this. It's not a lot different from the S. Seattle people I know who bash the schools there without ever setting foot inside them. How can someone hold one district or school above another without knowing anything about them?

Chris S. said...

I just read excerpts of the contract at Seattle Ed 2010.

I would not sign a contract like that with anyone, let alone people who were going to work with children. Would you buy a dryer without a warranty?

dan dempsey said...

The contract says:

iv. Teacher candidates will be hired for vacancies across the full range of grades and subject matters and not restricted or limited to so-called “critical” or “shortage” subjects or grade level vacancies.

So this is not about alleviating a shortage or even addressing a specific critical need.

C. Requesting Conditional Certificate

i. Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach For America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181.79A.231. Specifically, the circumstance which warrants the issuance of the conditional certificate is the district’s commitment to partnering with Teach For America as one of the strategies the district is employing to address the achievement gap.

But wait ... there is no evidence that bringing conditionally certified TfA teachers into a strongly qualified teaching force has any positive effects. So what kind of strategy is this? {half-baked like most efforts}

WAC 181-79A-231

Agency filings affecting this section
Limited certificates.

Not withstanding other requirements prescribed in this chapter for eligibility for certification in the state of Washington, the following certificates shall be issued under specific circumstances set forth below for limited service:

(1) Conditional certificate.

(a) The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.

The oath of office for school director includes a pledge to uphold the laws of the State of Washington .... NOT circumvent them.

(1) There is no demonstrated shortage

(2) Conditionally Certified teachers will not be restricted to "shortage areas" under the SPS TfA contract.

(3) The WAC refers to individuals yet the TfA contract states the District will seek certificates for all Teach for America corps members. WOW that has to be an enormous group. The District is clearly not reviewing individuals.

The District will be agreeing to perform illegal acts by signing this contract as written.

Violations of Oath of Office are exceedingly common for many of our Directors.

Seattle Public Schools shall provide all the assurances required by the state to enable the issuance of conditional certificates, including the signature from school board or educational service district board......

The Seattle Public Schools agrees to run around both the intent and the spirit of the law. The SPS will pretend these TfA core members possess special skills that are not available from individuals in the fully certificated teaching force available for employment in Seattle Schools.

From the WAC:

(i) The applicant is highly qualified and experienced in the subject matter to be taught and has unusual distinction or exceptional talent which is able to be demonstrated through public records of accomplishments and/or awards; or

As Mr. Knapp pointed out:
Conditional Certs are needed for Automotive but NOT for what the TfA members are bringing.

Jet City mom said...

I am getting the impression that admin @ SPS is trying to pretend that classroom teachers hired VIA TFA, will stay in the classroom as long as other teachers who have received more traditional certification.

Um right.
However, the " best & brightest" have their sights set " higher".
from the TFA website.

Top-ranked graduate schools actively seek Teach For America alumni. They recognize that alumni have engaged in a highly selective process and value the rich perspective that comes from teaching in a low-income area. As a result, many graduate schools offer special benefits to corps members and alumni including two-year deferrals, application fee waivers, and scholarships.*

I have also read that the $4,000 is to be paid- every year to TFA for each individual for as long as they work in the district.- not sure if that is in all contracts.

Must be some kinda 5-week training!

Sahila said...

@agibean... I took my son out of AS#1 because I couldnt fight against deform within the school and at the district level at the same time; I was worried he would be negatively impacted by my BLT-election commitment to keeping AS#1 as "alternative" as possible...

And the lack of a guarantee of AS#1's continued existence was a factor (again its on the chopping block)...

I couldnt get my son into another SPS alternative programme, so I (and a couple of other AS#1 families) took my child to the one nearby public school alternative programme - Room 9 at Shoreline (it too is being gutted of its alternativeness slowly but surely), where so far, I have been able to set some boundaries around how far into the deform agenda we (me and he) will be pushed...

I have chosen not to get involved in the Shoreline issues because the demographic there is completely different... I would be an ineffective voice of one trying to push back... not a useful expenditure of time and limited energy... its better to help get change happening within SPS and watch it filter to other, smaller districts, than the other way round...

I am continuing to work against deform at the SPS level and (with other people/groups) at the national level...

If there is no turn around on that level, I will be looking at unschooling and/or a Sudbury model for my child...

dan dempsey said...

What TfA in Seattle is really about is expanding the turf of a non-profit in search of money. Look HERE.

It is just like the $800,000 NTN contract where a non-profit organization was planning to go from 41 schools to 500 over 5 years. NTN fron KWF an organization that pays some part-time directors at a rate equivalent to $800,000 per year if full time. (From the records of KnowledgeWorks Foundation. 10 hours a week = $200,000/annum)

The SPS Four Board members who voted for NTN will each have a recall hearing in Superior Court before Thanksgiving.

The MAP/NWEA appeal brought by two parents will demonstrate the extent of MGJ's conflict of interest in that matter.

NWEA is another non-profit in search of more money through expansion.

As soon as I receive my requests dealing with the Anderson Memo of 1-29-2010, I will have a better idea of how the NTN Action Report of 3-12-2010 referenced the wrong version of the Memo.

mirmac1 said...

No agibean, it sounds to me like you're just hostile to Sahila just for being hostile. Knock it off.

dan dempsey said...

Remember over the two year span TfA will receive $40,000 to $50,000 per TfA corp member employed by Seattle.

25 members = $1,000,000 @ $40,000 each

With a cool million I can think of several ways to actually close the achievement gap rather than seek help from a NO Results in situations like these organization.

Several strategies actually cost almost ZERO but MGJ refuses to modify instructional practices .... for addressing the needs of individual students must come from extra-money that is not available even though instructional interventions are the core-work of the District.

Instruction based on the actual abilities and capabilities of individual students smacks of discrimination and tracking in her mind. Little wonder the SPS is going nowhere under her direction.

Anonymous said...

No, mirmac1, I'm actually not. I had a lady in my neighborhood tell me recently that she knows how terrible Aki middle school is--without knowing where it is. Another told me she wished there were good dance classes in the south end, while living across the street from Rainier Beach Community Center-where they run a full compliment of excellent dance classes taught by one of the most talented young men I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

Sahila's extensive energy output into trying to stop/dismantle/sue/contradict the plans/goals/assumed path of SPS while escaping to another district she admits not knowing much about is along those same lines. If you stand for something, you'd better have information on your side. She doesn't when it comes to Shoreline-so it makes no sense to me to demonize SPS coming from that angle-if Shoreline has the same issues, who go there, KWIM?

Her answer to me clears things up a little-and mentions the path that I think she should have taken years ago-homeschooling. It worked for me when I lived in a district with no gifted ed when I had a high gifted but quirky son. It's a good choice for someone who doesn't feel modern education is the answer for ANYONE.

mirmac1 said...

Dan, your link makes TfA look to be the same kind of "non-profit" as NWEA. It utilizes backdoor deals and "relationships" to secures sales and market share.

Sahila said...

I didnt escape to another district out of choice, agibean.... SPS provides no satisfactory options... and I know a lot about the District and its schools...

I never make pronouncements about individual schools or communities/neighbourhoods...

I make comments about SPS policy... I didnt move to Shoreline when I transferred my son to Room 9...and as a Seattle resident and taxpayer I had a right to do that...

And I dont think people should have to resort to homeschooling because the public education system doesnt serve their children... any children, actually...

mirmac1 said...

agibean, I don't purport to know everything, but I know when something's broken. Like SPS' new special education model. It's crap. It's hurting many kids. Not mine at the moment, but if it ever does I would do the same thing as Sahila.

Sahila has opened up my eyes to alot of deleterious efforts underway that will hurt our neighborhood schools in this district. For me it was like "doh! you mean the war in Iraq really WAS for oil?!"

Maureen said...

Back to TfA.

Does anyone here (SC, Dan...) know if anyone (you, SEA...?) has been in touch with the Professional Educator Standards Board about the TfA Alternative Certifications? It seems that they would have an opinion the Board should consider.

seattle citizen said...

In my opinion, Sahila has on this blog mainly commented on things that are part of the bigger picture: The bigger picture of top-down reform, using one model developed some years ago, of ALL public schools in America. So Sahila has continued to comment and try to analyze this as she moved from AS#1 up to Room 9 - different districts but both under the jackboot of Reform.

As we are seeing in this current iteration (TFA crammed without voice of opposition or opportunity to oppose into the PUBLIC schools of Seattle) Reform capital R is not some grand concept embraced by parents, guardians and educators everywhere, it is a specific agenda, predicated on high-stakes test scores divorced from standards and rich, deep curriculum, utilized to drive massive pedagogical and operational changes across the institution of public educatoin.

Sahila has her eye on this bigger thing, this monster, really, that is substituting scores on multiple choice, computerized tests in Reading and Math for those rich and deep, content-based standards that use to serve as the basis of curriculum and instruction. Where teachers used to use these rich and deep curricula to work an often-unpredictable magic on classrooms, now they have to use shallow and narrow, non-content based highstake tests to, according to TFA, work backward from these tiny, small test questions to develop curriculum and then modify instruction in order that students hit the right key come test time.

Everything is predicated on these tests, now, and, as we see, it is the poor and minority communities upon which the jackboot grinds. TFA was fine for poor cities to the south of Seattle, right, and now is apparently fine for the poor schools in the south of our city. The recent Ninth Court ruling that inflicting conditionally certified staff on only poor neighborhoods is an inquity, that it infringes on the civil rights of poor children, and makes mockery of the concept of "highly qualified" by assigning it willy-nilly to get these emergency certs into poor schools only, is apparently of no matter here in Seattle. The district argues that a conditional certificate is a certificate, right, so since they both have the word certificate in them, they are both certificates. So we needn't worry about legality, nor think about ethics.

That the district has apparently discussed this cert situation with State means only that State is in on the blatant disregard of its own WAC.

And who else has been talking with State adn Seattle about allowing non-shortage, non=unusual talent condional certs to compete with fully-certified teachers in entering the classrooms of poor? The Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, TFA, NWEA and other arms of this "reform" creature that stalks the halls of Congress and the board rooms of corporations and foundations.

Where does Sahila fit in? As a taxpayer in Seattle, she probably sees, as I do, that our democratically elected board is not a board at all, due to the rubber-stamp agreement some board directors have with the superintendent (their employee), the city, the state, various power/interest groups, and others. Some of the board members are not representing their constituents and practicing their duties to ensure policy is met, deomcratic policy, but are "in on" the Reform, in back rooms and executive session, and are all about nodding in sage agreement with every Reform policy the superintendent brings in.

Taxpayers, even if they've been forced to move their children out of district, have a responibility to ensure public schools are public: for the children in them and to ensure our tax dollars are going to the public good in a demoratic fashion.

dan dempsey said...

SC nice summary of the current state of affairs.

Maureen good question about Professional Standards Board.

Amazing what Four Directors who spent $480,000 to get elected in 2007 have done and continue to do.

Recall Sufficiency hearing for each of the "Four Directors" elected in 2007 will be on Thursday November 18th in Judge Inveen's court room.

At 3:00 PM I believe.

Unknown said...

Perhaps if teachers, parents and taxpayers inundate the directors (let's just skip the deaf superintendent) with letters, that just the sheer volume alone will bring home the point that this is a serious concern. I watched the segment regarding TFA and applaud Jonathan Knapp (sp?) for remaining calm and trying to press his organization's points and concerns.

Charlie Mas said...

I think I now see why Teach for America needs a contract with the District. Their teachers can't be certificated unless the District vouches for them with the OSPI.

Teach for America needs the District to request the conditional certification from the state. Teach for America doesn't get them the certification, the District does.

The Teach for America candidates can't even get into the candidate pool in Phase III without the District's support because they wouldn't meet the minimum qualifications without a certificate.

Still, however, no contract is needed. The District just needs to allow Teach for America corps members into the Phase III pool. Then, if a principal wants to hire one of them, the District just needs to request the conditional certificate from the state.

Really, no agreement is needed, just a change of practice by the District's HR department to allow non-certificated candidates into the Phase III candidate pool.

Maureen said...

oooh, and then if the principal at Mercer Middle School wanted to hire Charlie to teach math, could he get a conditional cert? Or would it only work for TfA CMs?

seattle citizen said...

For TFA to compete for jobs with certificated candidates, Charlie, you write that "no agreement is needed, just a change of practice by the District's HR department to allow non-certificated candidates into the Phase III candidate pool."

Well, that AND the collusion of the state to agree that even though there is no shortage, and even though there is no "unusual skill," and even though the district has not exhausted attempts to fill positions with certificated teachers, the district can apply for these conditional certs.

Braesse said...

Charlie, leaving aside arguments as to whether we need TfA teachers in Seattle at all, IF they are going to be here, TfA DOES need the contract. While SSD doesn't get anything out of it that it couldn't otherwise obtain, TfA benefits a great deal by getting things it wouldn't otherwise have, including:
1. The $4000 fee. SSD says they have a private party lined up to pay these (it better be a four year commitment, because that is how long SSD is on the hook -- 3 year contract, plus the "second year" of TfA teachers hired for the 3rd year) -- but the contract obligates SSD, not any third party, and there is no "out" (termination of the contract or termination of teachers) if the private donor gets tired of this deal after a year or so and pulls out. IS there a "contract" between SSD and the donor? I haven't seen one.

2. TfA needs the contract to make it clear that NOTHING obligates it to refund any of that fee. If a TfA teacher grabs a child and spanks him/her in October, and is fired -- that year's fee remains snugly in TfA's hands. If someone sues on the grounds that this abuses the conditional certification laws, and wins, and these teachers are not allowed to teach -- TfA still gets the fee. I don't know enough about employment law to know whether regular "headhunter" or "placement agency" fees work this way -- very possibly they do -- but the exposure is still there (for SSD or the private donor).

3. Termination -- TfA needs the contract to "stiffen" the termination language. If ONLY one party wants to terminate (say -- SSD), we have to give TfA notice by about February 15 of the prior academic year -- but then we can terminate on 30 days notice. If we wait until, say, April, evidently termination is not allowed until the FOLLOWING year. I have NO clue why this is. It will not give the District any meaningful opportunity to review the effectiveness of this program prior to the 2nd year.

4. Indemnification -- this was the most interesting. It claims to be a "mutual indemnification" clause -- but the two paragraphs are very different. TfA only "indemnifies" for breach of its contract (fairly meaningless, as SSD could just sue them for breach. You don't need an indemnification clause for that. SSD, on the other hand, indemnifies TfA for ANY losses that occur to TfA in connection with the deal (unless TfA is grossly negligent or has engaged in willful misconduct -- both fairly high standards). For example, if someone sues the District on the grounds that these teachers are not validly certified, and adds TfA as a defendant -- SSD pays. If, in the example above, the spanked child's parents sue the teacher, the SSD, and TfA, the District will have to cover TfA's exposure. But -- it gets BETTER. The District's liability is unlimited; but TfA's total exposure is limited to the amount of the fees that the District has paid it under the Agreement.

So -- you are correct. Assuming SSD thinks that it can get conditional certification for TfA teachers, SSD does not need this contract. It isn't getting much (even the agreement by TfA to come up with 20 to 25 qualified candidates is illusory -- the "Agreed Number" is whatever they come up with, not any specific number). But TfA sure needs it, as it gets a number of great benefits that it would not be entitled to in the absence of its proposed contract terms.

seattle citizen said...

Anyone want a job with TFA?

"Director, Student Achievement Measurement Analytics
Team: Teacher Preparation, Support & Development

TPSD Strategy and Research team is looking for a Director of Student Achievement Measurement Analytics to help with one of its most important initiatives-the development of a new system for measuring student achievement...be part of the team to develop this measure, using quantitative and qualitative problem solving skills to transform assessment data into feedback about teacher effectiveness. By 2011, this team will develop tailored benchmarks for a wide variety of teaching contexts and more intelligent metrics that allow us to meaningfully evaluate the performance of our corps members and our program. This role is a fantastic opportunity to apply prior statistics experiences towards transforming the way Teach For America measures student achievement and in turn supporting the organization to have an even greater impact on the teachers and students with whom we work.

About Teach For America
...Our mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation's most promising future leaders in the effort.

We are a high-growth, outcomes-oriented organization, with a $220 million budget and over 1.500 staff. We operate in an entrepreneurial environment, maintain focus on quantitative measures, and are committed to continuous improvement.

Team Overview
The Teacher Preparation, Support, and Development teams work to ensure that new teachers have the initial training and ongoing support necessary to make academic gains and remain lifelong stewards of the movement. The team develops teacher training and staff professional development frameworks, methods, and materials for our pre-service institute and our two-year ongoing training and support program in regions, and drives innovation and consistency in how teachers collect and assess data in order to achieve academic gains with students.
Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:
Helping to design the next generation of the student achievement measurement system for Teach For America
Gathering student assessment data from regional teams, departments of education, and assessment companies
Using analysis and statistical techniques to convert complex sets of student achievement data into benchmarks for high performing teachers
Analyzing and developing actionable recommendations for Teach For America's student achievement measurement system methodology
Adapting existing business processes and tools (including Excel-based tracking systems) to incorporate new student achievement metrics
Using historical data and analysis to help inform goal setting
Conducting student achievement data analysis for Teach For America
Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
Strong critical thinking and problem solving skills
Experience and track record of success with data analysis and reporting
Strong written and verbal communication and presentation skills
Expertise in Excel and PowerPoint
Ability to effectively manage projects
Ability to collaborate with and influence others across organizational boundaries
Education and Experience
Bachelors degree required
4 plus years of work experience required
Experience in statistics (undergraduate and/or masters or relevant work experience)
Experience with statistics software packages like SPSS, STATA, etc.
Experience in the education sector (especially related to statistics) is a plus
Strong communications skills (will need to work with internal and external stakeholders
Prior experience in strategy consulting a plus
Salary for this position is competitive and depends on prior experience. In addition, a comprehensive benefits package is included.

seattle citizen said...

here is TFA's 2008 Annual report.

Fascinating. They havew, it seems, formed a 501(c)4 to support alumin by directing them to resources so alumni can win elections.

Great. And those resources would include....Gates? Broad?

Here are some of TFA's "leadership partners," who help TFA alum get jobs leading schools:
Building Excellent Schools (BES),
Edison Schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Lighthouse Academies, and New Leaders for New Schools.

seattle citizen said...

Here's TFA's funders:

"Our Expansion Funders support our ambitious growth by making leadership investments in our
2010 Expansion Fund:
$10 Million
The Broad Foundation
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Rainwater Charitable Funds
$5 Million
Sue and Steve Mandel
Marsha and James McCormick
Toni Rembe and Arthur Rock
Robertson Foundation
$1 Million-$3 Million
Tina Goldberg and Jide Zeitlin
Joan and Joel Smilow
Joyce and Larry Stupski

Teach For America is deeply grateful to the lead donors who have each invested at least $1,000,000 in our work in fiscal year 2008:
Amgen Foundation
Arizona Department of Education
The Arnold Family Foundation
The Broad Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Glenview Capital
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Melanie and Richard Lundquist
Sue and Steve Mandel
James and Marsha McCormick
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
New York City Department of Education
Quail Hollow Championship and
Champions For Education
Rainwater Charitable Funds
Toni Rembe and Arthur Rock
C.D. Spangler Foundation
Robert Steel
Robertson Foundation
U.S. Department of Education
Visa Inc.
Wachovia Corporation
The Walton Family Foundation

mirmac1 said...

WAC 181-79A-231
Limited certificates.
Notwithstanding other requirements prescribed in this chapter for eligibility for certification in the state of Washington, the following certificates shall be issued under specific circumstances set forth below for limited service:

(1) Conditional certificate.

(a) The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals.

The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options.

The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.

Well, "unusually talented individuals" must be what Harium was referring to when he described TfA recruits as the "best and the brightest". I'm sure 98% of the TfAers would not meet the definition of "unusually talented", except of course in their own mind. Tony Danza however DOES meet that definition because he won an Emmy.

If and when a non "highly-qualified", conditionally certificated not particularly talented teacher is hired, the District will be reported to the Attorney General's Office for being in violation of WAC 181-79A-231.

peonypower said...

I have been reading some research on teacher training the past few days. The post that Melissa had on alternative teacher training programs was interesting, and surprise surprise TFA training is lacking in mentoring and support - both of which lead to success and retention of teachers. Then I looked up the Professional Educators Standards Board and one of the lead presenters next week is a professor from the U.W. , Marge Plecki, who has written research examining teacher quality in
WA. You can find her paper at

The basic gist was that pedagogy is more important than content knowledge and that Washington State does not a have a teacher shortage currently. Also that the majority of teachers in Washington are highly qualified.

I think the TFA ploy is 1) political and 2) a way to cut expenses.

seattle said...

"By 2011, this team will develop tailored benchmarks for a wide variety of teaching contexts and more intelligent metrics that allow us to meaningfully evaluate the performance of our corps members and our program."

Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't more meaningful evaluation what we want? Or, um, at least what families want. Or does SC, believe that we should have no evaluation process at all?

"Great. And those resources would include....Gates? Broad?"

Yup, and I for one am glad to have any resources that I can get.

seattle citizen said...

Read the full job description, FLL - the person they hire to direct their new assessment tool development need not even have and education background. They're developing some sort of MAP test, using quantifiable little bits of "data" to "measure" students and teachers.

Of course I said nothing about wanting no assessments at all. I just don't want top-down assessment: "Here's the State Test; here's the district test that mirrors the state test; here's the school test that mirrors the state test; here's the classroom test that mirrors the state test; here's the curriculum that is designed ("backwards planning," it's called in the jargon) to teach to the test."

Note that our MAP system only tests (if it even does) very narrow aspects of Reading and Writing - If MAP were part of the above scenario, it would be THE tool that drove curriculum. As we all know, there are these other things going on in classrooms; I'd like those assessed, too, and not by multiple choice tests ala MAP. What they say about students (and teachers) not being numbers is true, and the job description for the TFA assessment director is a request for a statistician, not an educator.

As the high-stakes tests at the top (and, increasingly, in the middle, like MAP) are devoid of content and disconnected from any REAL curriculum, I'd prefer that those assessments of students don't drive curriculum. It's teaching to the test at its worst, and evidently, that is what TFA does.

What kind of assessments do I like, you might ask? Narrative assessments. Not a number in 'em.

seattle citizen said...

FLL, if you want the resources Gates and Broad have to offer, go to Edison, KIPP, or any number of charter schools (and, evidently, some public schools filled with poor children and TFA teachers) which are following the Gates/Broad playbook to a T, and utilizing those resources to their fullest.

Just keep them out of my public schools' policies and out of our SPS board room.

Anonymous said...

I've got some news for you.

Check out Bill Gates is At It Again in Seattle

seattle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said...

Yeah, Dora, so? Why would I want to read MORE anti-charter, anti-Gates, anti-reform, propaganda written by you? I think that charters have their place and their merits, and I'd be willing to explore them as an option here in Seattle. And I'm not alone. I welcome private funding too, and I'd be the first to sent Bill Gates a thank you note.

Did we learned anything at all from the TAF (not to be confused with TFA) debacle at RBHS? The kids there continue to suffer the consequences of SPS running Trish, her dollars, and her Academy off. And for what? Really, what? Look at RBHS today.

Anonymous said...


My problem with what is going on in Seattle is that Broad and Gates have not been straight up with us from the beginning.

They have worked from behind the scenes spending millions, money that could have been spent where it is truly needed, on trying to manipulate us, the public, into going along with their agenda.

I would NOT had a problem with any of this if they had come forward at the beginning and been honest and forthright with their ideas of what they thought would work best for our children. There could have been discourse and a consensus but they didn't do that and therefore that is not what happened.

Everything that they have done has been behind the scenes, dishonest and disingenuous.

That's what I have a problem with.

What many of us have been doing is bringing this to light so that everyone understands that this is not some zeitgeist of beliefs but two people who have been controlling the message and therefore trying to control us.

Sahila said...

FLL - feeling a bit threatened, are you, that you have to launch a personal attack on Dora for just pointing out that Billy-boy is at it again, buying the public education system and our childrens' futures...

I'm kinda amazed you'd trust your kids' futures to any old someone waving a fat cheque book around... doesnt seem very discerning to me...

I wonder, if I had a few billion to throw around, and I came to town and said hey, I think this is what needs to happen in education (despite hard, evidence-based data to the contrary) and I want to make that happen, here's my cheque book, would you say yes to me too?

Anonymous said...


If the supe, read Gates/Broad, has her way, there will be substandard teachers at Rainier Beach by Spring in the form of Teach for America.

Has there been any real community engagement regarding TFA? No. Has the teachers' union had an opportunity to discuss this with the supe in a meaningful manner? Nope.

Has the union had 30 days to consider this idea before voting on it? Nope.

Has our community had enough time to consider and discuss the ramifications of TFA, Inc. in Seattle? No again.

If you haven't already, watch the entire video of the last school board meeting.

It is evident that DeBell and the supe did not want to have any discourse regarding Teach for America, Inc. They just want to push it through. Why? Because that is the Broad, therefor the supe's agenda.

And why do we continually bring up the clandestine funding for everything that has been occurring in Seattle? Because if you follow the money, you will have your answers.

None of this has been spontaneous or grass roots as Gates and Broad would portend for it to be. They have paid for everything, from the orange shirts at that school board meeting to everything that the Alliance, LEV, Our Schools Coalition and even the PTSA have represented.

And THAT is not right.

It is not right for people to be fooled into thinking that black is white and white is black. That five weeks of training trumps a teacher with real creds. That merit pay will broaden a child's knowledge and provide them with a basis to succeed upon graduation. That test scores are the end all and be all of an educated individual.

This is a Democratic society still. Let's not have people with more money make the most important decisions for us. What makes them any smarter or better than the rest of us in terms of our children?

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"I'm kinda amazed you'd trust your kids' futures to any old someone waving a fat cheque book around"

So instead I'm supposed to trust his future to any ole activist like you Sahila? You, who, according to the letter you just posted, won't wake your child to get him to school on time, won't allow him to do any homework since you are funda"mentally" opposed to it, and won't allow him to take any standardized tests of any kind (not sure what you are going to do when your kid has to take SAT/ACT but then maybe your opposed to college too)


And now you are considering unschooling him.

You continually post that schools should have no grade levels, and no age appropriate academic expectations. No grades. No tests. Kids should be able to arrive and leave at any ole time their biorhythms feel like it.

I won't be reading any more of your posts sahila; I don't think we have any middle ground.

seattle said...

"I would NOT had a problem with any of this if they had come forward at the beginning and been honest and forthright with their ideas of what they thought would work best for our children. "

Kind of like what Trish Dziko did with her TAF Academy? She couldn't be more open and honest, and have more of a "in the best interest of the children" outlook. But, alas, the activists, and even the RBHS community ran Trish out too. So, don't say "if they are honest, we'd take them". You won't.

Unknown said...

Seattle Times is back at its job of PR for ed reform. It has a story lionizing a fresh, young teacher, most recently a teacher in a charter school, who by the way got her start in TFA, which may be coming to Seattle.

seattle citizen said...

So anyway, FLL, back to the high-stakes-test-driving-curriculum-thing:

You're okay with that? Are you okay with a system that uses JUST narrow test questions that exclude civics, history, art...to create curriculum?

So an elementary school for instance, is only "graded" on the combined average "growth" of its students in these narrow tests (sans art, civics, etc). So the very existence of the school depends on these scores. So people who support "backwards planning" (State test answers, district test answers, school test answers, class test answers, all aligned up to that state test, then curriculum designed and modifiied to "score better" on these tests)such as Teach For America, will, of course, focus more, perhaps exclusively, on this test prep.

You're okay with that? You really think that this is what children need?

Is this how they do it at Lakeside, Bush or Northwest? No? Why not, if this is such an efficacious pedagogy?

High-stakes testing drives the entire "reform" movement, and it's narrow and devoid of critical thinking. Can you provide us with a rationale that defends it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

FLL, TAF got ran out because Trish went about it the wrong way,not because anyone was inherently against TAF. She'll even admit that but it was the district who did NOT mediate and it was the district who said NO to her when she asked about TAF at Cleveland. (Yes, that's what could have gone into Cleveland, ready-made and locally grown.)

owlhouse said...

I wonder if you could add more to the conversation- the reasons for your belief that "charters have their place and their merits, and I'd be willing to explore them as an option here in Seattle."

Also, maybe you could report to us on the success/challenges TAF have found in Fed Way.

The bashing of other contributors doesn't do much to help me evaluate a complicated situation.

Anonymous said...

FLL points out the obvious. Everyone else says.. yah-but, yah-but, yah-but. Trish went about it the wrong way, Gates goes about it the wrong way, charters go about it the wrong way, TFA goes about it the wrong way. And then, finally, SPS goes about the wrong way.

Dora cries about Ranier Beach and TFA. Do her kids go to Ranier Beach? I don't think so. Why don't you let the RBHS community speak their minds instead of speaking it for them? Isn't this the same thing as a donor, except with no skin in the game? Won't there be a hiring committee? Won't parents be on it?

Follow the money. Oh right. That's a tired old song. Did Gates invent charter schools? Did he come up with TFA? Did Broad invent KIPP? These people simply fund things they believe in. That's democracy too. On the one hand we support unions because "there's no profit in education", on the other hand o-follow-the-money bashers cry about all the profit. You really can't have it both ways. Just because you found a donor, doesn't mean you found anything.

Maybe we shouldn't hire any college grads.. because most universities also have large donors? Maybe we should never go to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer institute. You know, that evil Charles Kettering from GM, you wouldn't want to support that!

Say No to Seattle Process

seattle citizen said...

Anonymous 9:07 - repost your comment and either select a user name or add some sort of name at the end of your comment. This b log has a policy of deleting comments that don't have some sort of identifier (it could be made-up, and still anonymous, but something so we can keep track of "who" said what.)

seattle citizen said...

oh, never mind, I see. Your tag line is "say no to Seattle process." That'll work!

seattle citizen said...

Say No to Seattle Process,

This is a public school district. It has policy and procedure, decided by its democratically elected board. They're supposed to follow it. Likewise, the state has WAC - it's supposed to follow it.

I have a big problem with anyone coming in and manipulating both the board and the state in order to bypass policy and WAC.

TFA was given the "honor" of conducting public engagement on this Action Report, the Report that would bring them into the district. Board policy is to conduct public engagement - it is NOT to have the group the board might send money to conduct the public engagement.

WAC allows use of conditional certs IF all other avenues of recruitment are exhuasted - NOT in the general hiring pool.

Yet this policy, and this WAC, have been broken at the behest of TFA, Broad, Gates, and the superintendent (and the SPS board, if they rubber stamp this).

That ain't democracy.

Yes, private donors often control, to some degree, the policies of those who take their money. But that, where it happens in public institutions, just ain't democratic either.

I mean, all sorts of public institutions are underfunded these days, they need money - should they turn over the reins of their institutions to whomever has the biggest checkbook? Because they need to the money?

Sahila said...

at FLL... My son, who was, at six, labelled "at risk" on the DIBELS - a widely discredited measure - at 7 reads 2.5 grade levels above expectation... all due to him having figured it out for himself over the summer holidays... no summer school, no extra tutoring... just letting his developmental milestones arrive in their own good time...

as I wrote in my letter to his school:

I think Connor is a bright, sensitive, curious child, eager to learn. His kindergarten year at AS#1 was a year of emergent learning through play, with very little formal structure or instruction.

Then, coming to Room 9 for grade one last year, he had a difficult adjustment to make. He complained often that he had to sit too long, that there was no 'fun' happening and he was afraid to commit what he knew to paper.

He was judged to be "at risk" on the DIBELS ... I thought this was a ridiculous position/label to put on a six year child, not valid given my own philosophy on learning through experience and not valid given the form of his kindergarten year. I did my best not to buy into the 'hysteria' of that label.

Connor began to read independently two weeks before school finished for the summer (we were offered summer camp but I turned that offer down)...

Over the summer he began to devour books and now he's reading (with comprehension) at the 4th-5th grade level, though his standardised test results do not show this...

Each child has his/her own rhythm... at some point you have to take your hands off the wheel and let them grow at their own pace - and that pace has nothing to do with "norms" or grade level expectations or standardised tests...

So, under the tenets of the current education ‘reform’ agenda, do I credit his teacher (Melissa) with his progress or not - seeing he made all those strides over the summer on his own? Or should Melissa be penalised because it took Connor until two weeks before the end of school to begin to read and theoretically he had failed to make adequate progress during the year?

Yes, I credit Melissa for creating the environment where he could absorb all her effort and care and internalise the strategies she was imparting to her class, and carry it inside until it was ready to be processed and utilised...

And no, she ought not to be penalised because a child takes however long he/she takes to reach a developmental and educational milestone.

The point of all this is that we are operating in a nonsensical paradigm. Connor is 'performing' only 'averagely' on the computerised standardised tests, but he's reading 2-3 grade levels above expectations for his age, on the individualised tests he does one on one with you, Aruna..

What factors explain this discrepancy, and which results should I believe? And should I (or the District) hold you, Aruna responsible for Connor's results on an unreliable standardised test?

this letter was published on various blogs around the country... check some of the responses it received:

One Parent Acts to Protect Her Son

seattle said...

"FLL, TAF got ran out because Trish went about it the wrong way,"

Maybe so, but Federal way certainly didn't think Trish went about it all wrong. Federal Way welcomed TAF - and the school is now a huge success. And, unlike STEM, it serves disadvantaged, minority, students.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Right.

seattle said...

"Yes, private donors often control, to some degree, the policies of those who take their money. But that, where it happens in public institutions, just ain't democratic either."

I beg to differ. It most certainly is democratic, if the majority agrees with it.

Aside from you, SC, and handful of other loud voices on this blog, not many people buy into the no private funding, Gates is evil, charters are the devil, standardized tests are destructive, and TFA should not even be considered mentality.

I think you bring up some good points about standardized testing, however, as usual, you can only see one side. You fail to acknowledge that there are also some merits to testing. Standardized tests provide invaluable data to the district, and empower parents to make informed decisions about their children's education.

As a parent standardized tests allow me to know how my kids school is doing. How my kids school is doing compared to the rest of the schools in the district. How our district is doing compared to other districts in the state. How my child is doing compared to the other kids at his school, and other children in the district, and state. It is a quantifiable measure. I know you disagree. I know as a teacher you despise testing. But as parent I can't imagine choosing a school without the data those tests provide. And that data is just as important to me as my kids getting PE, the arts, and civics.

Yes, thank goodness for democracy

Jet City mom said...

But as parent I can't imagine choosing a school without the data those tests provide.

I can. ;)

My kids both attended private schools through 2nd grade- my youngest moved to Summit K-12 for 3rd-8th grade ( because of teachers/curriculum, not test scores)
Oldest ( in private) didn't take any standardized tests ( unless WISC counts), until 6th grade when she took the ERB.
That qualified her to take the SAT the next year.
If the curriculum and teaching methods are evaulated, as her schools were through PNAIS, then IMO, test scores are just a small part of valuable information rather than the only part that is considered.

And speaking of TFA

seattle citizen said...


"that data [standardized test]is just as important to me as my kids getting PE, the arts, and civics."

Putting aside the issue of standardized test data often being inaccurate, perhaps culturally biased, often the quantification and scaling of what often should be qualities, not quantities...

Which data do you use to ascertain the quality (or quantity, for that matter) of the PE, arts, anc civics curriculum and instruction in the school your student might attend?

I understand the attraction of the standardized test scores to parent/guardians on an individual level - they appears to show how your child is doing according to similar metrics accross the classroom and the nation, but I was referring to the use of standardized tests to drive curriculum - "backwards planning." This potentially removes the breadth and depth of teh curriculum - all is focused on those mere metrics.

So while you as a parent/guardian have, I hope, the luxury of going to a school and MAYBE seeing what's going on in classrooms your student doesn't or might not attend, so you MIGHT be able to "value" those classrooms, others can't: Parents and guardians who are absent, for instance, or those who speak another language and, at best perhaps, can only see potential schools via online websites or maybe a quick, ten minute visit to a potential school while travelling inbetween jobs. Many people can't "see how schools are doing" in terms of art, science, civics, social studies, history, life skills, CTE, etc etc and might ONLY see the "school report card" which measures none of that and only snapshots of quantification, taken at three-month intervals.
Then there's the tapayer: Me, you, and every other citizen of Seattle and this state. OUR money funds those schools, and we elected a board to do our bidding. We have a say in the schools, much more of a say than Gates, Broad, NWEA MAPmaker, or any of the advertisers, uh, coalitions they fund.

It is my opinion that very few of the taxpayers (or the busy parent/guardians who can't visit schools but rely on the public board to do the right thing)want their child to measured soley by the narrow standardized tests; they want, I believe, for their child to have a deep, broad, thoughtful immersion into concepts that are debatable, ideas that still need exploring, histories yet to be writ; Most parent/guardians (and taxpayers) probably imagine, if they could, and if their hopes could be realized, and if their trust in the their public school board was recognized and honored....most parents and guardians would want for their child a place like Lakeside, or Bush, where such thoughtful learning is happening because HSPE doesn't drive the curriculum.

Public schools aren't just about you being able to find a good fit for your student: They are about long-term pedagogical impact, about public discourse and planning through policy and implementation - Other parents, taxpayers, staff, all have an interest in what's best for students and schools, and, in my opinion, HSPE used as a curriculum planner via TFA-trained conditional half-certs is a poor shadow of the rich education the wealthiest one/fifth of this nation aspire to. If they can aspire to it, why can't we?

seattle said...

"If the curriculum and teaching methods are evaulated, as her schools were through PNAIS, then IMO, test scores are just a small part of valuable information"


RBHS has to teach the same EALR's and GLE's that Roosevelt does. RBHS has to offer the same baseline classes as Roosevelt does (physical science, biology, chemistry, alg I, Geo, Alg II, and so on). They even use the same textbooks as Roosevelt does.

But without standardized test scores you wouldn't know that in 2009 RBHS students math WASL pass rate was 18%, while Roosevelt students math WASL pass rate was 71.5%

Whether you consider standardized testing relevant or not, wouldn't you like to have this information and make an informed decision?

seattle citizen said...

FLL, in your opinion, what is the cause of the disparity between Roosevelt's Math HSPE scores and RBHS's?

Second question:
Besides the EALR's, can you tell us what other information you use to compare and contrast the various teaching and learning going on (or not) at the two schools? What information do you use that informs your thinking about the student demographics at each school? The parent demographic?

Charlie Mas said...

I agree with just about everything FLL has written here.

FLL didn't say that we should rely exclusively on standardized test results to tell us everything we want to know, but that standardized test result do provide valuable data.

FLL didn't say that we should replace all of our schools with charters, but that there is a time and place where charters, if done right, can be beneficial.

FLL didn't say that we should let Gates or Broad decide everything about our schools, but that their donations, if consistent with the District's goals, are welcome.

I would agree with all of that.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, of course you know I disagree on charters - I think charters are a "reformist" name for innovative and unique schools that we already do under public, board control. We don't need charters, we can set policy to do whatever we'd like.

You write that you agree with FLL, that "FLL didn't say that we should let Gates or Broad decide everything about our schools, but that their donations, if consistent with the District's goals, are welcome."

Where do you read this? I had an opposite interpretation - FLL said that FLL would "send them a thank you note," and that was in regard to TFA - so FLA, in my reading, favors, no, might even welcome Gates or Broad or whomever manipulating public process rather than asking them for money to help do things the district already wanted to do.

Of course I, too, welcome public donation - but there is a bright line between hands-off, "we want to help" and "take this money and do this."

My feeling, and perhaps I'm misreading it, is that FLL welcomes donation no matter the implications or situation. Of course, that is too harsh an assessment of FLL, and I apologize, but that is the feeling I've been getting. Just as I probably put out a feeling on the other end of the spectrum, "all donated money is tainted," but as I don't have money to fight these wars of words and "they" do (see today's Seattle Times), I guess sometimes I resort to vitriol and spew a bit.

Fomr my perspective, this well-funded juggernaut is unstoppable, there is little voice of opposition (in the Times, for instance,of NBS with their "education week" Waiting for TFA, uh Superman" advertisement.) So I get a little loud.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this fits on this thread, however, my "red alert" is going off after I had my "goal setting conference" this week. And it might be sensing the "this is how to get the expensive ones out and the cheap ones in" strategy. Either that, or someone really needs to revise the performance scale as it relates to student test scores:
In my conference, I was shown the distribution of my students over a possible 5 levels of "performance." All students fell into two categories: below average, 27%; and average, 73%. This did not sit well with me and after the meeting I looked at my records (I keep everything and monitor the scores achieved by students in my room). My MAP scores for the past year were on par if not above district norms. My MSP scores were 75% of students making gains (increased score over previous year, which means since the test is at grade level, the achievement at a higher grade level resulting in a higher score would indicate more than a year's growth, to me), with some gaining as much as two performance levels (and this is fell into the "average" performance since I had no numbers in the above average and well above average cells?). Those students who had the same score as the prior year (thereby making exactly one year's growth), 6%. Declining students were only 17%, with those who did not make gains (less than a years' growth) and falling below standard sitting at a disappointing 5% (of the total students, not of the 17% decliners). The remaining students were first time MSP takers. All but one student in that population did not meet standard, missing it by 4 points.
My analysis does not look like a binary division of success. If a teacher with 81% of students making a year's growth and more is average (c-) according to their scale, then we have some pretty incredible teachers here in the district. How are these numbers being ranked, rated, and analyzed? I mean, seriously, how is my performance a C-? I guess rating my success as such gets my MAEd and 10 years one foot out the door.

Sign me "Not as good as I thought"

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

"FLL, in your opinion, what is the cause of the disparity between Roosevelt's Math HSPE scores and RBHS's?"

As a member of the community I might philosophize all day long about why RBHS has low test scores (poverty, minorities, low family involvement, violence). You may do the same as a teacher, SC. But as a parent looking for a strong academic institution for my child why RBHS has such abysmally low test scores doesn't really matter. As a parent all I'm concerned about is getting my kid into the highest performing school that meets all of his needs. If Roosevelt isn't my flavor there are plenty of other high performing schools to pick from, including Center and NOVA, two alternatives that are also high performing. But I'm not going to choose RBHS, and I'm not alone. Look at their enrollment numbers.

Maureen said...

I was shown the distribution of my students over a possible 5 levels of "performance."

Not As..., did they give you an understandable explanation of what the distribution was based on? Was it exclusively rate of growth in MAP as compared to the "expected" rate of growth? Or did it include multiple measures-MAP, MSP and in class assessments maybe?

If it was just MAP "growth, " did they explain if it was measured Fall test to Spring test last year or something else? Was your school a pilot location for the test (so the kids had had prior experience with it) or not? How do they measure growth for your (8% I think) kids who didn't take the MSP (and the MAP?) last year? It seems like they should have to have given you a clearly written explanation of how "performance" was measured.

I do worry that some admins don't really understand it themselves yet and are just parroting things they are told by their "data coaches."

Anonymous said...

Example of local TFA instructor:


I have been research TFA teachers on the web, and many do indeed seem to be "America's best and brightest". Though the application requests only a 2.5, the mean GPA for those accepted is 3.6. Around 10% of ivy league college students apply for the TFA program. Additionally, the number of applicants accepted into the program is very small -- it's a highly competitive program.

I'm not going to bash an individual who works 12 hours a day, is passionate about kids, and mentally/emotionally committed to raising achievement for our lowest performing students. So it's an alternative pathway into the field of education, that shouldn't be the barrier.

The web is rife w/ both positive and negative anecodotes regarding the TFA programs. Some of the applicants may be overwhelmed w/ their first year placement in an inner city school for example, but this is true for almost any first year teacher. No program prepares the applicant for real world teaching. Many factors contribute to the overall success of the teacher, beyond the type of training program from which they sprang.

JA K-8 Mom

seattle citizen said...

FLL, as a community member, a teacher, and an uncle, I look at as many metrics as I can to see what I, as the "public" in public schools and as someone with family in public schools, can do to identify "best practice" and to understand what the metrics mean.

I try to look for other metrics besides HSPE scores, and wondered which ones you use to assess art, civics, and other non-HSPE school curricula when you look at schools.

I understand that you want the "best" school for your child, but there are other children with other needs, and more to curricula than Reading and Math.

Maybe we can look at RBHS through lenses other than HSPE and see what works and what doesnt'. Obviously, some things don't work at RB, just as some things don't work at other schools. There is much to improve everywhere, I just don't happen to believe that the HSPE test, or MAP, for that matter, tells us much about what IS wrong (or right) and what to do about it - there are too many variables and I'm of the opion that it is the variables that bear more scrutiny.

But I fear I have retrenched back to my corner, and I'm arguing from the hip, which doesn't do anyone any good so I'll stop. For now!

My last comment is that you keep identifying me only as a teacher. As I mention in the beginning of this screed, I'm much more than that, and I'm an equal stakeholder in this conversation with any parent/guardian out there. Please keep in mind that I'm more than just a teacher. Thanks!

Jet City mom said...

Whether you consider standardized testing relevant or not, wouldn't you like to have this information and make an informed decision?

Test scores are meaningless if we are comparing apples to oranges.
Does one school supplement the "prescribed" curriculum? To what extent? Do parents pay for outside tutoring? How much turnover is in the leadership of the school?

( for example my older daughter attended a school from 6th thru 12th, where the director was the founder & she only recently retired, her sister who attended mostly Seattle public schools, attended one school that had three principals in just the 6 years she was there)

How are the teachers supported & evaluated & are they involved in the selection and evaluation of the curriculum and materials that they will be using?

If we don't know these things- comparing test scores doesn't mean a lot to me.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"I try to look for other metrics besides HSPE scores, and wondered which ones you use to assess art, civics, and other non-HSPE school curricula when you look at schools."

Of course I look for other metrics SC, but those metrics are in addition to, not in place of, decent HSPE scores. When we looked at high schools for our son our process looked something like this.

1) We made a list of all high performing schools, and yes, that would be by using their HSPE scores.

2) Then we narrowed down that list so that it only included schools that offered core academic classes that met our sons needs (such as advanced math, and AP, for instance).

3) Next we looked at what electives, arts, and specialty programs the schools had to offer. And their extra curricular activities, clubs, and sports, and we narrowed the list down yet again.

4) By this point there were only a few schools remaining on our list and we ordered those schools by closest to our home first, and furthest from our home last. Having our son go to a school close to our home was important to us (and him).

5) Next we grabbed our son and went on school tours. We wanted him (and us) to get a first hand feel for the school and it's vibe. We wanted to see if the students looked happy and engaged, and we wanted to check out the art studio, band rooms, and science labs. We wanted to meet the principals and a few teachers, and we asked TONS of questions.

6) Two schools emerged as our top contenders, so we read those schools climate surveys, we looked at those schools suspension rates, and asked friends and neighbors who had kids at the schools what their experience was like. Then we checked out the Schools that care survey (a survey of SPS HS students that compares drug/alcohol use and anti social behavior among all SPS high schools).

7) Lastly, we went back to the two schools one final time, unscheduled, to see what they looked like when a structured tour was not in progress. Were kids hanging out in the hallways? Were classes unruly or disruptive? What did hallways look like during passing period? What was security like (would anyone notice us in the school before we got to the office)? How did the office react to us being there? Were they pleasant? Or irritated?

And, yes, I know not all parents have the time or privilege to do all of this, but we do.

Though HSPE scores are certainly far from my only consideration, they are a prime consideration, and you can see from my process that a school like RBHS, based on it's well below average HSPE scores, would not make my initial list, let alone my final list.

seattle said...

"Test scores are meaningless if we are comparing apples to oranges.
Does one school supplement the "prescribed" curriculum? To what extent? Do parents pay for outside tutoring? How much turnover is in the leadership of the school?"

Emeraldkity, when choosing a school for your child you certainly can, and certainly should compare apples to oranges. You just listed many reasons a school may get low test scores (high turnover, no outside tutoring, no supplementation) none of which are good. If Apple school gets low test scores due to any one of the reasons that you listed, and orange school doesn't because they are not dealing with those negative issues, why wouldn't I compare school apple to school orange and choose school orange? It's really pretty simple.

seattle citizen said...

FLL, you started your search by first looking at "high performing" schools based on HSPE scores, and excluded those without "high" HSPE scores.

So you might have excluded, or not even looked at, schools which might have been better at meeting your student's needs than one of the schools that ended up on your list.

It is great to see that you spent such time and effort on the process. Many other parent/guardians do, to. Many, as you note, can't or don't, and it is the responsibility of everyone (parent/guardians, taxpayers, staff...) to try and look at a variety of metrics aside from the HSPE to determine what work and what doesn't, so as to provide good educations to those students who come to the schools without the extensive review process you describe.

HSPEs MIGT mean something, on this larger planning level (and I'm not referring to its use as an individual's rating system, as you describe your use of it) but there are so, so many other factors that pertain. And, frankly, some people (myself included) don't necessarily believe the HSPE scores to be all that accurate, particularly as stand-alone data without variables being considered.

While the HSPE, and other tests such as MAP (heck, MOST assessments) might be better predicators of who DOES have the skills or knowledge or whatever, they give us little information about those who don't do well. As we've seen in discussion on this blog, there a variety of reasons for low scores, including lack of effort, inattention, etc. In other words, it's harder to get high scores than it is to disconnect and get low scores: A high score is more likely to be accurate than a low score.

It almost seems as if we're discussing two different aspects of these test scores: The use parents put them to, comparing schools etc, and the use they are increasingly being put to in directing curriculum development. Apples and oranges again.

Jet City mom said...

WHen we looked at schools (K-12) we didn't have test scores to compare-
I talked to the teachers- got an idea of the curriculum, even went as far as contacting current parents to ask questions.

As far as I can tell, schools don't know or keep track of when parents have to hire outside tutors, or whether the parents are doing the tutoring themselves.

When you compare test scores- you have no idea why one class has higher ones than the other- they may be putting all those things into play or they may not. Maybe one year the parents all have an undergrad degree in math, but what happens when the boundary changes and that block goes to a different school?

Only time we looked at test scores for school was for colleges, to get an idea if the kids were in the ballpark ( using SAT/ACT & GPA) for admission

SolvayGirl said...

I'm with EmeraldKity on this one. My daughter tended to perform poorly on standardized tests. She's a bit on the ADD side and rushes through them, over confident, and not prone to double-check her work. She did not even qualify for Spectrum, yet she did very well in her actual classwork and homework, and got good grades all through public elementary. I have no idea how she'd do on a computer-based test like MAP.

Because we live in the southend and could not take advantage of Washington's Spectrum program like many in our area, we opted for private. She was accepted at a rigorous, non-parochial, middle school and performed very well. Teachers there used a complex evaluation system based on test scores, class participation, quizzes and homework. 3X a year we would get a full sheet from each class with a description of the curriculum, how my child performed at the various aspects culminating in a overall grade for the class. The sheet ended with a 2-3 paragraph narrative about how my child performed in the class. She ended up with good grades and a strong work-ethic that got her accepted at three of the city's private high schools.

Her current school has a similar review process and I appreciate it more than any standardized test score. An acceptable "B" grade loses some weight when the teacher writes "I know you're not working to your full capacity." A "C" loses its sting when a teacher writes, "I know you're having a hard time with this particular concept, but I can see that you are working very hard. Make an appointment with me and we'll work on it."

One test on one day means nothing to me...and I know that SATs etc. are a part of reality, so we'll have to work within that system when it comes. But I wish all students/parents and teachers could work with a system that looked at the whole child over each semester rather than putting so much weight on one test that may have hot on a bad day.

Rather than a bunch of multiple choice tests, we need smaller class sizes, more time for teacher prep and a system that recognizes that children/people are not all alike and their talents and skills cannot always be quantified in such simplistic forms.

SolvayGirl said...
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Sahila said...

First, Do No Harm

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"I'm with EmeraldKity on this one."

It's easy to say performance on standardized tests doesn't matter, when your kid doesn't have to go to one of those low performing schools. But if say, you had to send your kid to RBGS, instead of your private HS, would the fact that RBHS has far below average HSPE scores be of any consideration to you?

Besides it being a signal that the majority of kids at the school are working far below standard, would it indicate anything else to you?

Charlie Mas said...

Again, I see everything that FLL has written here and I'm totally fine with it.

FLL brought a thoughtful process to selecting a school and should be commended for it.

It may not be the process that you would choose for yourself, but FLL isn't trying to impose his or her process on you and I don't see any reason why you should try to impose your process on others.

While you may find fault with FLL's process there is merit to reasoning on the other side as well. Does it matter WHY a school has a lot of low-performing students? Or, for the purposes of selecting a school for a high performing student, is it sufficient to know that they would not have a peer group of sufficient size?

Is FLL - who apparently doesn't even live in the Southeast - any more guilty for not choosing Rainier Beach High School than any of the thousands - and there are thousands - of families who live close to the school and did not choose it? Why vent your spleen on FLL?

As for what FLL wrote, when there is no nuance specifically stated, it is wrong to presume that no nuance is meant. It is possible to welcome donations from Gates and Broad for some things but not for everything. It is possible to agree with them in some part without agreeing with them in everything.

Let's give FLL a little credit and a little benefit of the doubt.

SolvayGirl said...

FLL: RBHS would be my high school—that's just one reason we're in the private school and there are a number of reasons we did not choose the school.

I was just making the case for a more rounded assessment system for students from my own personal experience. If I had JUST looked at my child's test scores, I might think she was not capable of doing better. She reads like a fiend, and was obviously bright. I knew it wasn't her teachers, they were great and worked hard with her to help her become a better test-taker. One even offered to remind the entire class to double-check their work during the WASL if she noticed that my child had finished sooner than the others.

So, like Charlie, I agree with some of what you say, but can't see using standardized tests for anything but a broad base. That means NO to using them as a qualifier to test for APP, or as a way to evaluate a teacher, etc. There are far too many extenuating circumstances behind the scores to put so much weight into them.

I wish our public schools could use the more thoughtful approach to assessing kids that the smaller, private schools have the luxury of doing. That's where I'd like to see MY tax dollars spent rather than on TFAs who will teach norrowly to a high-stakes test.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

Does it matter WHY a school has a lot of low-performing students? Or, for the purposes of selecting a school for a high performing student, is it sufficient to know that they would not have a peer group of sufficient size?

Thank you Charlie. This was exactly my point, but you articulated it so much better than I did.

As a community member I give a great amount of thought to the relevance of standardized tests, why some schools do better than others, what role ethnicity and socio economics play in outcomes, whether tests are culturally appropriate, etc.

But as a parent, I have to switch hats, and the how and why a school is low performing is no longer relevant to me. As a parent of a high performing son, I want to find a school that has a large enough cohort of high performing, motivated peers, so that will "fit in" and the school will be able to offer the classes that he needs.

For a myriad of reasons (most of which don't have a thing to do with the quality of teaching at a school) the higher a schools HSPE scores the larger the cohort of high performing, motivated students there are at the school. That's why HSPE scores play a large role in my selection process, and that's why I said I can't imagine choosing a school without this data available to me.

SolvayGirl said...

Sure, FLL—I see your point completely. A cohort similar to your child is definitely a big factor to consider when choosing a school. I just hate that high-stakes test scores are becoming the end-all for evaluation of a child or teacher.

Using it as a baseline for judging a school is fine as long as other factors are at least considered. For example, I'd be more concerned if a school had low FRL AND low test scores, than high FRL and low test scores. Graduation, college acceptance and truancy rates are important considerations too—note I am talking high school here.

seattle said...

The two comprehensive high schools with the highest HSPE scores in the district are Roosevelt and Garfield. They are consequently the two most sought after high schools in the city, and have the largest waitlists.

Solvay, I believe that you have posted in the past that Garfield and Roosevelt were the only two schools that you would have considered sending your daughter to, and had you had access to them, you would have kept her in public school instead of going private.

I understand that you don't place much value on test scores, and that's fine, it's certainly a personal decision. I do however wonder what the correlation is to you deciding that the only two schools that would meet your daughters needs just happened to be the two schools with the highest HSPE scores in the district.

Jet City mom said...

I am not attacking anyone for the criteria they use to decide on schools- I was just stating our criteria.
For my oldest- we really didn't look at high schools as her private school went from 6th through 12th. At that time, test scores were not available or used even in the public schools as often as they are now to bring accolades or alarms.

When we looked at middle schools we looked at class size & at curriculum. As we needed lots of financial aid for her to attend & as private schools are need aware for admission, this limited her choices-( not to mention that several schools began @ 5th grade) however it so happened that one of the schools that admitted her was the 1st choice anyway.

When we looked at colleges, some may consider graduation rates or rankings on US News. However the college that clicked for her, had neither a great graduation rate ( 4-yr below 60%) or USNews rank ( 2nd tier)- although COA was up there with the top 25!

But you have to look beyond the numbers & we felt that the numbers were misleading.

( I also appreciated that her college looked beyond the numbers for admission- while her SAT score & GPA was lower than the median of students who applied & even though she still needed financial aid- they meet 100% of need, they took other things into consideration and she graduated in 2006)

Numbers can be useful sure- but only in context.

SolvayGirl said...

Actually FLL I didn't even look at Garfield's or Roosevelt's test scores. It was their arts programs and overall course offerings (my daughter could continue on with Latin at either, the Marine Biology was appealing, etc.) that made the difference to us. Sure, I knew the APP kids are at Garfield, but I didn't look at numbers at all.

Jan said...

I think that various commenters have hit the nail on the head on testing. While there are certainly some questions that can be raised with respect to the "validity," "necessity," reliability" of testing generally, many (including me) would concede that when looking at a school with a pass rate in the 70th percentile, and one with a pass rate in the teens, it says something about the academic environment with respect to an individual child's placement. The biggest problem with the tests is not that they are given (though that CAN be a problem for some kids, and can be a problem if it overly invades instructional time), or that they are published for use by parents in selecting schools or by schools in evaluating the success of their programs (especially if parents become informed over time with respect to test score reliability and other issues). The problem is their use as high stakes determiners of -- anything.

The WASL developers specifically cautioned that the WASL should NOT be used as a determining measure with respect to any individual. It was supposed to give feedback to schools generally. BUT -- if kids knew that it was not important, the fear was -- they wouldn't make an effort to pass, and the "value" of the test would be lost. The data would be corrupted not only by the low scores of those who don't test well, but also by the low scores of those who drew pictures on the test forms, or pencilled in random answers and left after 10 minutes (there is some truth to this concern, if the stories my children have told me about what kids did on the WASL science test--which was NOT a graduation requirement--is any indication). Plus, NCLB came along, etc. etc. And so -- an assessment that was not supposed to be high stakes became the ultimate in high stakes tests -- a barrier to graduation. The exact same thing is now happening with the MAP -- but with much more wholehearted support from CA, as they now "truly believe" in high stakes testing.


Jan said...


FLL - your admissions process was impressive, and it is good that you had the benefit of HSPEs or WASLs in your first "cull" of schools (although I suspect had the tests not been there, you would have found alternate data -- college acceptance rates, SAT/ACT average scores, etc.). But, the creeping use of high stakes tests -- with what I think is an inevitable "narrowing" of the taught curriculum to teach to the tests, is what sets me at odds with much of what education reform is currently all about, and the focus on high stakes testing is what I dislike about some of the "private money" that is coming in.

The other thing I dislike about the private money piece is that it is entering in a manner designed to avoid any public discussion or debate. I would be happy if the District declared that within X years, each attendance area would have an option school (or even 2) that would heavily push ed reform (TfA teachers, high stakes testing in every subject taught, constant, rigorous statistical analysis of student progress, with teacher retention and/or salary tied to acceptable increases in test scores, and with a full complement of Special ed, ELL, programs to match the rest of the district.) Then, we could see, over 4 or 5 years, if the kids who chose those schools actually learned more, if they were happier, if parents selected those schools for their children at increasing rates, etc., if the school communities thrived. If we had to "reopen" some closed buildings for this -- why, the private donor money behind this agenda could do that, as well as paying for the testing, the TfA placement fees, etc. I do not think it would be a successful experiment, but what do I know really? Nothing! It would be a fascinating and informative process. But, that is not what is happening. ALL SSD children are being funneled into this experiment. Private money and influence are being employed behind the scenes, PR is being spun, and spun hard, to "fabricate" community support that is not genuine, and any attempt at genuine debate or conversation on the issues is being silenced through things like the avoidance of any genuine community involvement by the Board or District staff, "fake" community involvement with groups that are closed to any dissenting views, footdragging by District administration and staff on community-requested projects and community-identified concerns, etc.

Anonymous said...

I just came back to read through this thread. I had heard that my name had been called out in vain. ;-)

Wow, I didn't know that just stating the facts could bring out the venom in some people.

I am concerned about all students. It doesn't matter if they go to Rainier Beach or Queen Anne.

The point is that the target for TFA, as clearly stated in the supe's proposal, are the "low performing" schools, meaning schools that are made up largely of a minority population.

I would have been as upset if they tried to push TFA recruits into my daughter's school as in any other school.

The notion that a person fresh out of college with five weeks of training would make a satisfactory teacher for any child is ludicrous. Then to place them into a situation that they have no previous experience with, in a school that would be challenging even to the most seasoned teacher and think that they will succeed is beyond belief. It's naive.

And yes, I do relate to those students in Rainier Beach more than you might think but I won't bring my background into this, just my brains and common sense.

And no, I don't appreciate being manipulated and I imagine other people don't either. Broad and Gates have been pulling strings around the country for a long time now and have only recently come out of the shadows mostly because folks like us around the country have been writing about them and making the connections.

The more that people know and understand the means of manipulation, the better prepared they are to make up their own minds.

I saw how the TFA rep in the board meeting manipulated what she said, even convincing Smith-Blum that 50% of the TFAers remained in TFA but that is not the case. 50% of the TFA alum might eventually go into policy or administrative positions as stated on their website but they don't stay in the schools. Only about 20% stick around after the 3rd year.

It infuriates me to see people basically lie and manipulate others no matter what the reason but if it has anything to do with our children, any children, then I am all over it.

Anonymous said...

During the forum with Diane Ravitch that we had in Seattle, I asked Dr. Ravitch her thoughts on TFA.

The first five minutes of this video provide her response.

Diane Ravitch on Teach for American During the Forum in Seattle .