Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Bill and Melinda Gates Free Private School District?

Dick Lilly lays out a pretty hilarious idea in Crosscut about the Gates taking over some empty SPS buildings and creating their vision of a good school.  I thought he was kidding at first but no, he's serious.  I don't have time to fully flesh this out but here's what I wrote at the Comments section.

No and hell no.

There is so much wrong with this idea I almost don't know where to start.

First and foremost, our schools are not for sale or lease. Want charters? Pass the legislation.

Second, The Bill and Melinda Gates Free Private School District? Okay, I'll bite. What have they done educationally to deserve this kind of latitude? Breaking up high schools into smaller schools (their first big effort)? It fell flat on it's face and that was after schools and districts had put in tremendous amounts of time "transforming."

Third, the in-fighting for what the Gates's schools would have over the regular schools would be HUGE. Mr. Lilly was on the Board; would he like to run again and be the Board member taking the flack because the Gates school had some benefit that the other schools don't?

It's funny because the UW's College of Education is using this same idea with Teach for America. "Oh, let them in and we can do great research on their methods." Their methods have only had marginal success and it is isn't even long-term success. So why allow Gates to experiment as well?
I love the way Mr. Lilly lumps all the people who mistrust (for good reason) the Gates Foundation. Way to marginalize very different people.

That Mr. Gates and Mr. Broad are aligned in throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at education in every direction doesn't raise any red flags? That Gates is trying to make an effort to hide some of this (read the recent NY Times article on his efforts) doesn't raise some red flags?

"To these folks, former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was a kind of Manchurian Candidate likely to destroy the district from within because she attended the Ely and Edythe Broad Foundation’s superintendent training programs. (That she did seriously damage the district and had to resign was just a coincidence that had nothing to do with her Broad training.)"

I'm thinking Mr. Lilly doesn't know much about Broad training (which I believe Board members used to get themselves) because Dr. Goodloe-Johnson followed a game plan laid out by Broad. Just a coincidence? No, it's not. Her hubris brought her down and it wasn't just a personality quirk.

Tell you what, you get Gates to promise to enroll his own kids in these schools and we'll see. He who believes class size doesn't matter (but his own kids will never see a class size larger than 16 and neither did he) and has nothing but disparaging things to say about our public schools, let him enroll his own children first.

No one is for the status quo. But Gates and Broad are not going to be the men behind the curtain guiding public education in this country. They were not hired, elected or appointed to do so. Bless the Gates for some of the important work they do but for me, I'd like them and ever other ed reformer to to keep their mitts off our district.


seattle citizen said...

Broad training is directly connected to the hurbis and scandal that resulted in MGJ's ouster.

The sole guiding premise of "reform" is that entire schools IN POOR AREAS, WITH MINORITY POPULATIONS, are "failing." The "reformers" (Gates and Broad, et al) need the focus to be on struggling minorities.

It is no coincidence that Our Schools Coalition and the list of players in the Small Business scandal share many of the same individuals and "community groups," as the fix is in: Minority groups are wooed by Reformers because by convincing them that it is the "failing schools" that are the cause of the problems they face, the Reformers gain use of the minority groups' endorsements.

MGJ's downfall is directly connected to her manipulation of minority groups to follow the Broad agenda for "Reform."

That anyone would consider giving such Reformers access to public buildings to run their own little fiefdom is absurd.

Paul said...

Mr Lilly knows ALL about Broad training!

As a minion of the corporate community who took Don Neilsen's place (in many ways) on the board when Don moved "behind the scenes" which included helping later with the "national search" that brought us MGJ (he did the "community engagement" meetings, Dick is dessembling again (and poorly as usual) for the whole "Superman" crew.

His public role of education expert is an invented one meant to spin him as a public education supporter. He has NEVER been.

He's a charlatan and has been pushing the Gate's agenda from day one.

C'mon Dick, get real.

David said...

So, right, the question is whether this is a charter school in disguise or a grant helping fund an alternative school.

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing an experiment like Harlem Children's Zone (at least much longer school hours and summer school that you are in by default, good free meals for all kids breakfast lunch and dinner, and a clinic and counselor in the school) set up in an underperforming school in SE Seattle to see if it helps kids. Unfortunately, significantly extending hours and offering healthy free food to everyone is expensive, so it would take a large grant to do it.

And I am surprised that the Gates foundation hasn't helped more locally here in Seattle. If their mission really is to improve education, I don't understand why they aren't trying to create some successful showcases of how to do it right here in their backyard.

But I do understand the fear that this could be a slippery slope to charter schools and that the Gates Foundation might be heavy handed and clumsy in what it does.

Noam said...


The Gates Foundation did help locally for some time. Then we got the Butler-Wall board that took a principled stand reflecting the will of the citizens against the creeping "Reform/Charter" strings that came with their money and called the Foundation on it.

The money stopped and Dick Lilly couldn't handle it (it might have neen a gender thing) and quit in a snit.

Courage? Not Dick's strong points. Broad spokesperson; a familiar role for him.

Check out how these wealthy donors continue to line up contributing to the incumbents campaigns. Where's your $$ Dick?

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think they should run their own schools. But, they should build them, too. If they want to experiment, set up an experiment. Offer people to go to a Gates Public School, with class sizes of 30 teachers, run by TFA/Broad administrators, and staffed by TFA teachers. Pay the teachers what they want.

There's nothing preventing them, right? And, I think there would be parents who would send their children there.

Then, they could try to tell everyone else how to do it cheaper better faster, but do the experiments on their own dime, not ours.

(Really, I think they should do it, a "clinical" study on school interventions).

David said...

ZB, that is a good point. There is nothing stopping the Gates Foundation from setting up a new experimental private school. This Dick Lilly suggestion of taking over a public school (not a grant, but a takeover) does seem strange.

Salander said...

Off topic but in the same important vein- featuring Mellisa in national media debate.

Dear AR’s,

The following article was sent to us regarding UW’s agreement with Teach for America (TFA). As you know the Representative Assembly voted not to support TFA in Seattle Public Schools. However the School Board voted to support it. The school board vote was prior to TFA having a partnering college of education who would support their work. This article clearly outlines how the UW became that college. Clearly the students in the UW College of Education were not listened to either. What can you do?

1) Read the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-peters/plan-to-host-teach-for-am_b_865642.html
2) Support the fundamental principal of Public Education… it is PUBLIC… yes the UW is a public school.

3) Because Seattle has site based hiring; be certain that ALL applicants have a teaching certificate from an accredited teaching college, which means their resume should say where they student taught and for how long.

4) If the applicant’s certificate is a “conditional” certificate from OSPI, check the following:
a. Is the position in an area such as automotive, photography or other specialty area (usually CTE) where work experience gives you the expertise*?
b. Does their resume show that they have done student teaching? If not, then it is up to your judgment as to whether or not the applicant has the expertise* required to be a “teacher of record.”

5) Make your decisions on who to interview based on the facts about the applicants. While an applicant may have the technical qualifications are they the most qualified applicant?

*The determination of “expertise” for conditional certification by OSPI is a technical determination by the superintendent.

Olga M.Addae and Jonathan Knapp
SEA President SEA VP

Anonymous said...

The letter from Olga and Jonathan is missing one final instruction, that apparently they neglected to include:

6. Tell the principal: I will insist that my child be taught by a fully certified teacher, and will organize other parents to insist on it also.

-- Ivan Weiss

someone said...

I like the comment on Crosscut quoting Dorothy Parker - that woman had such a way with words. Sure, if they want to experiment on their own dime - no one is stopping them - though it's a little too hands on for the Foundation.

I can't help thinking, as an ex-librarian, about some of the damage they did back in the day when Libraries were their primary focus - the grants for computers were fabulous, but then BMGF decided it was bored with libraries and left many small systems hanging out to dry, unable to afford upgrades or new equipment. Which, of course, meant taking money from other resources to meet the expectations of patrons who now assumed computers would be readily available at their local library.

Thinking in the long view is not BMGF's strong suit - which, when it comes to education, seems even more dangerous.

Salander said...

Ivan- good idea! Sounds like something parents could organize around.

Reading between the lines of the message from SEA it appears that teachers can be organized around this issue. Hopefully they will.

Anonymous said...

Next to Lilly's piece, Crosscut "just happens" to link to a national story criticizing the NAACP for not backing charters. Plus there's a link to a 2nd charter story.

Here's Example #1 of the Gates Foundation strategy of using $$$ to support small local news groups and worm its way into turning its ed reform opinion into so-called fact.

This is not paranoia. This is reality and "the NYT had a huge front page story on it last month".

I'd be more disgusted with Crosscut if I thought that more than 500 people paid attention to it. This blog and its well-informed readers dwarf Crosscut's. And we all can sniff out a simpering attempt to gain entrance to the Gates Cocktail Circuit when we see it.


anonymous said...

"The Bill and Melinda Gates Free Private School District? Okay, I'll bite. What have they done educationally to deserve this kind of latitude?"

They don't have to do anything to deserve "this kind of latitude". Gates can create a private school if he wants to. But as ZB said he should do it on his own dime. No public funding, and no public school buildings.

It should be a pure private school - otherwise it to closely mimics a charter.

I'd like to see Gates open his own free private schools. I'd be interested to see how many families who want to escape SPS, but can't afford private schools would jump ship and give it a try.

I'd like to see if Gates would fund smaller class sizes? If he'd pay his teachers better than publics? If he hired TFA? If he used standardized tests? If he utilized interventions for struggling students? How he evaluated his teachers? If the academic outcome for students was better (with the same demographics) than in SPS? It would be a delightful experiment, and one that we could probably learn from....on his dime.

And it would give parents, all parents (not just affluent parents) more choice, more options. And more choice/options are ALWAYS a good thing.

A Voter said...

I hate to derail, but with candidate filing taking place this week was hoping to see an updated list (with candidate websites if possible) of who has filed to run in the School Board elections. If it's on the County elections site, I can't find it. The thread on this topic is several days old and isn't even on your first page.

Central Mom said...

Peon...If Gates were to do this, he could check in w/ Trish from TAF 1st. Hope she comments here. She has already gone down this path (search blog archives). She is admirably committed to her school's mission for the long term, but as she has commented, often, the path from idea to reality is filled with a whale of a lot of hard work, and it never ends.

That's the key here. Reaching every student is hard, hard work. Every day. Over years and years and years. There aren't shortcuts.

Sure, let Gates Foundation open their own private schools with entrance by lottery and do their own ed reform experiments there. Or go open a chain of charters in a state that allows them. I'm sure it will be a fine learning experience for all, and plenty of families would leap at the chance to be involved.

But don't suck up Seattle's already scarce resources of time and funding and physical facilities while doing so. That part of Lilly's idea needs to be DOA.

Charlie Mas said...

Dick Lilly's idea is a solution looking for a problem.

His Gates Public Schools won't help with overcrowding. Except for Wilson-Pacific and Fairmount Park (two buildings he doesn't mention), there are no usable and available buildings in the areas of over-crowding. Cedar Park and John Marshall would be very tricky to re-open as schools. Buildings he mentions, such as Columbia, Van Asselt, and E.C. Hughes, are either in very bad shape or not in areas of overcrowding.

As for the experiment of Education Reform ideas, that's nothing new. Southshore is already there.

Just the same...

This does remind me of the recent Board Policy revisions around Community Partners.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Harlem Children's Zone is not a sustainable model (and hasn't had great results but somewhere in the fair to good). They have millions pouring into that school and it is simply not scalable. You might be able to tease out the top two things that help but will those two be the ones to implement elsewhere?

ZB, nothing is stopping Gates from opening his own schools based on his own model of education. He has the money. But SPS doesn't have to be part of that to do it.

Ed Doc said...

This captures the third leg of what is supporting headquarters operations; dysfunctional culture and mismanagement that permeates headquarters have been fairly exposed recently, now the unauthorized use of our public schools as labs for UW students to test their theories. In education, we are often considered our own worst enemies and the madness that reigns in SPS headquarters is a prime example of this; at the rate things are going, charter schools will become increasingly popular if for no other reason than the implosion of the Seattle Public Schools.

The good people of our great city must develop and sustain a strong grassroots effort to vote the incumbent members of the board of directors out of office; we can and must defeat the deep pockets and puppet members of the board for the sake of our tax dollars and more importantly for the children.

We need a Board of Directors that will truly set policy and serve as good and trustworthy stewards of our public schools. Apply some scrutiny as to exactly who these UW people are that are coming to the rescue of our students? What role are they playing in holding all members of the schools accountable? What role did they play in the creation of the new evaluation tools for principals and teachers that the district is implementing?

The reigning culture is ripe with arrogance ('we know better' , 'who are you to judge?' 'or criticize' 'you all just do not know what we know') combined with unbelievable stupidity ('we will change the homework policy to eliminate the prescriptive times that are research based best practices and allow the schools flexibility to decide what is best because that is what the principals and teachers say they want') and I was taught that this is a bad combination,arrogance and stupidity, especially when it relates to the management of schools.

In the interest of truly saving our public schools and keeping them public, we must rise up to the challenge of the entrenched and vested interests to clean house at district headquarters. I do not have any children in the public schools, but I am passionate about not allowing those children who are in our schools to become lab rats for UW students or TFA summer wonder kids turned systemic reformers and their wonderful ideas.

Maureen said...

David said: Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing an experiment like Harlem Children's Zone . . . . set up in an underperforming school in SE Seattle to see if it helps kids.

Seattle University is pairing up with Bailey Gatzert to do something like this on a more limited scale. See this Central District News article on SU's Youth Initiative.

David said...

That's an interesting new initiative by Seattle U. Thanks for pointing it out, Maureen.

someone said...

Interesting piece over on Education Week re: backlash against Broad trainees

Critics Target Growing Army of Broad Leaders

Maureen said...

Here's a link to that EdWeek article: Critics Target Growing Army of Broad Leaders

someone said...

@maureen - thanks - for some reason my html code never works right.

Jan said...

I agree with zb and Peon: If Bill and Melinda want to do this on a private basis, with THEIR money -- I would be fascinated to see how it goes. They could set up parameters to make it work very much LIKE a public school (in terms of class size, pay scales, high stakes testing, student admission policies, etc.) and then change whatever variables they want -- to see what works and what does not. These folks are surrounded by LOTS of good research folks in the medical field who can give them tips on how to control variables (that is -- if they are really looking for solid research results, and not just trying to "spin" ed reform political theories). But NONE of this should be on the public's dime. If they want to lease (and are the highest bidders for) empty buildings -- that works for me too.
But no more taxpayer subsidies for Gates experiments. They have the money. They need to risk THEIR funds, not ours -- and they need to experiment on whatever kids are willing to be the guinea pigs, not the kids of parents who have vetted some of these ideas and said -- no thanks, not my kid.

Jan said...

Amen and Hallelujah, Ed Doc. You know, Dan Dempsey has been trying (futilely, except for us folks in the choir) to blow the whistle on negligent and ineffective U of W interference in high school math curricula for years. These guys showed up at Cleveland, Garfield, etc., with dreadful math stuff -- smeared it around for a few years -- and then evidently slunk off when it not only didn't make things better, but actually made them worse. It is shameful that this kind of unmonitored experimentation can be done on public school kids, just because they are poor, and are several years behind in math already. If they had tried to pull off this sort of horrible performance at a wealthy private school, (a) they would never have gotten in the door, and (b) there would have been hell to pay when the kids lost years of potential education time. The arrogance and uncaring of these folks is astonishing!

Change Agent said...

I found it useful to visit the Federal Way Public Academy. This is a Federal Way public school, resembling the charter schools in "Waiting For Superman." The school can only take about 1/3 of the families that apply. They have high standards for parent involvement. The budget per student is the same as for the other FW schools. The result: nearly 100% graduation and over 90% bound for college. Longer hours, no distractions. Kids can't bring cellphones to school. If the B&M Gates Foundation could do this in some old industrial building in SE Seattle (the FW PA is in an old check-printing plant) the message would be resounding - WE WANT THIS NOW!

Charlie Mas said...

Change Agent, thanks for this report.

Now, what is it about this school that is different from the neighborhood public school?

Is it the rule against cell phones? If so, then couldn't the public school also ban cell phones?

Is it the longer hours? If so, then couldn't the public school also have longer hours? Yes, there is a cost to that, but if this is what works - instead of another assistant principal - then wouldn't the public school do it?

Is it the building? If so, then couldn't the public school also be housed in an old factory?

Is it the high standards for parent involvement? If so, then shouldn't the public schools be working to increase family involvement? And if it is the family involvement is making the difference, then I have to wonder if the involvement of these families wouldn't be the same at a public school. What happens to kids whose parents and family don't meet the high standards of FW PA?