So Much News - Here's a Round-Up

A big shout-out to all of you who first posted about these items. I thought them important enough to start a news thread.

A lawsuit has been filed against the district and Board directors over the Teach for America contract. Here's a story from KOMO-news. Steve Sundquist certainly clear about the fact that TFA recruits are getting certification at the SAME time they are first-year teachers. He doesn't give a single reason to be doing this and claims there is no "obligation" to hire TFA recruits. (Yes, the claim is true but we didn't go to this trouble and cost to NOT hire them.)

Then, from the Huffington Post, a story by the lawyer, John Affeldt, representing the plaintiffs in the California case in the 9th Circuit over this issue. He found that in a Senate appropriations bill, there had been an amendment slipped in to allow novice teachers to be called "highly qualified" and to concentrate their numbers in poor, minority schools. It is unknown which senator inserted this amendment. The bill has since been pulled. From the story:

The provision, which has grassroots and community groups across the country up in arms, would have permitted teachers still training in night or weekend alternative preparation programs (known as interns in some states) to be labeled as "highly qualified" teachers. That designation relieves districts of having to tell parents of the teacher's sub-par preparation and allows their continued concentration in poor and minority schools.

The attempt to insert the controversial language comes just weeks after a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Renee v. Duncan agreed with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not "highly qualified" under NCLB and, as such, would have to be publicly reported and equitably distributed. Teach for America, which has vociferously opposed the lawsuit and has substantial clout on Capitol Hill, is the most likely suspect behind the covert attempt to overturn the court's decision through stealth legislation.

The community groups in their letter to Congress and the plaintiffs in Renee have been clear: they are not seeking to end alternate route programs. They do object, however, to the disproportionate placement of alternate route trainees in low-income communities of color--especially when doing so obviates the need to enact policies that attract and retain permanent, fully-prepared teachers versus the churn of temporary interns--and they want full disclosure of the under-prepared teachers' qualifications.

Another story I found interesting was an article at Crosscut comparing SPS capital building and Portland's efforts. Portland is very similar in size to Seattle as well as having the problem of aging buildings and not making improvements. Seattle, though, has a much larger property-tax base. Portland and Seattle have similar voting patterns for school levies. Portland, though, likes its superintendent, Carole Smith, who has support from her Board and many constituencies.

From the article:

Smith brought much-needed stability to the school system after the district went through six superintendents in 15 years since Matthew Prophet left following a 10-year tenure.

In an era where big-city school leaders are likely to come from a business background, Smith's career is in alternative education and programs for urban youth. Smith took over a foundering open-schools program Portland offered for non-traditional learners in 1982 and made it into a model program before leaving for central office administration in 2005.

She's been with the district for 28 years. Insiders praise her work with students and parents at Jefferson High School, one of the district's most-troubled schools, as well as with the alternative Open Meadows School. She is considered a good listener and communicator as well as an innovator; the district has initiated several experimental programs for students with learning problems in recent years and she is driving a high-school reorganization plan that will be advanced if the bonds are approved in 2011.

I might have to interview this woman.

Also, just a few senators (both Democrat and Republican) dashed the hopes of minority students by voting against the DREAM act. Whatever you feel about illegal immigrants, the children brought here who are trying to make something of their lives and have nothing to go home to (as this is the only home they know), now won't be able to be better members of our society. Until the day we deport all illegal immigrants and/or pass a comprehensive immigration bill, we might want to not shoot ourselves in the foot by not allowing them access to higher education and/or military service.


Sahila said…
Three camera crews were there at court yesterday, for the filing of the TFA lawsuit.

I've only seen the Komo piece, which was really badly put together... not balanced reporting at all...

I was there when Joan and Cecilia were interviewed and both of them gave really good soundbites about what's really going on, soundbites filled with data that Steve Sundquist could not refute...
peonypower said…
Portland has the right idea. Someone with education background who believes in making public education better. In my dream world MGJ is gone and P.Brockman is the new sup. He would be fair and level.
dan dempsey said…
Proposed Rally
on January 5 to Fire
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

with cause

Well peonypower stop dreaming and lets make it happen ASAP.

Steve Sundquist has had a tremendous truthiness problem at various times.

We shall finally get a written decision from Judge Inveen on Dec 22, 2010. It will state that our recall attempt lacked sufficiency. It is very likely that we shall appeal it in January to the State Supreme Court.

If the Board does not take some substantial action against the Superintendent, they will be looking at another recall action based on deliberate failure to fulfill oath of office by not supporting the laws of WA State.

The Directors are already on really shaky ground with the growth in achievement gaps as they are also to be supporting the State Constitution and look at the preamble to article IX.

Anyway let us do some thinking about the January 5 Rally.

-- Dan
seattle citizen said…
P. Brockman would be a fantastic superintendent.

Can we write him in?
Yes! Phil Brockman would be great. He knows teaching, he was a great principal and most of all, he listens.
StopTFA said…
I wonder how KOMO will follow up their TFA lawsuit once they identify the slimeball Senator who tried to do Wendy Kopp's bidding.

Write to our Senators, thank them for not supporting that amendment (presumably), and urge them to listen to parents NOT TFA lobbyists.
Carrie said…
I'm a parent of three Portland Public Schools graduates and a critic of PPS leadership.

I think the author of the story gave Superintendent Smith far too much credit. She doesn't have widespread support. If she did, the school board would have sought public input on the renewal of her contract but they didn't do that. They renewed her contract without seeking ANY public input. They met in twos or threes so they wouldn't have to invite the media. The board acknowledged that she failed to meet all of her performance goals.

I follow your blog and I have my own blog in Portland. Smith is just about as bad as your superintendent. She's just better at hiding it.
suep. said…
Carrie -- Thanks for giving us the local insight on Smith. Can you tell us more about her? Is she any better than her predecessor, "Hurricane" Vicki Phillips (now w/the Gates Foundation)? What is the name of your blog?


--Sue p.
Seattle Education 2010
Sarah said…
Plan the rally after the audit.
Carrie said…
Seattle-Ed 2010, Superintendent Smith was Vickie Phillips Chief of Staff. Yes, she's better than Vickie Phillips but Vickie sets the bar pretty low.

The district just completed (or so they think) a 2 year process for redesigning high schools. Initially, the redesign was supposed to address equity issues.

The process was anything but transparent. In the end, Smith recommended and the board voted to approve closing Portland's newest high school which is also the high school making the greatest gains in closing the achivement gap.

The student population at the school slated for closure is 80% poverty with high percentages of English Language Learners, students with disabilities, minority students, teen parents and homeless students. The students weren't even guaranteed transportation to their new schools which are 30-45 minutes away.

Once the decision was made to close the school, PPS moved forward on plans for a construction bond. It's become clear that the goal of the redesign was really to create swing space for schools that are being rebuilt.

As things stand, closed school buildings have been sitting vacant for years contributing to falling property values. Smith claimed that it would cost millions to reopen them. Sound familiar? When pressed on the issue, the district backtracked and said the figures quoted included the cost of staff.

Another leadership issue with Smith is that the OCR has found PPS in violation of the civil rights of English Language Learners for 13 of the past 17 years. It was just a few weeks ago that a board member recommended reconstitution of the ESL department.

Clearly, the ESL issue has been around longer than Smith has been superintendent but she hasn't done anything to address it.

I find it both sad and fascinating that PPS and Seattle schools have so much in common. PPS is generally behind Seattle though and PPS leadership isn't smart enough to learn from other district's mistakes.

My blog is
Thanks Carrie for the insights. Nothing is ever as it appears on the surface so good to get a fuller picture.
dan dempsey said…

When is the audit expected?

Given weather and darkness this time of year. Would se be better off with a Saturday Rally than a before the school board rally?

I am so confused.

I think waiting for the audit is a grand idea.

-- Dan
Dorothy Neville said…
Exit interview is to be near the end of January, and it turns out that the formal exit interview between the SAO and the board is an open meeting. We can all attend. And behave of course, but attend. You think the media will be there? LOL.

Perhaps there should be a rally before the audit public meeting, which is to be held within 30 days of the exit interview. Of course we don't have to wait until then for a rally...
MAPsucks said…
Well, Dorothy, if that's the case I want to go so I can hear their findings on the two fraud complaints filed regarding MGJ, SPS and NWEA...
Dorothy Neville said…
Oh, sorry, wrong audit. The audit to hit the fan in January is the long overdue Capital Audit. Will not have the MAP fraud covered, but just you wait. It will be quite interesting nonetheless.

For the regular general fund annual audit, we will have to wait until Spring.

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