Disqus

Friday, June 17, 2011

Uh, Who Took Over the Editorial Board at the Seattle Times?

I ask that question because of the meat of this editorial.  You'd think that Charlie or I wrote it because it is strong medicine down to its last line.

I'm not even going to excerpt it - just read the whole thing, please.

Maybe it's all the churn between Pottergate and the sale of the MLK, Jr. building.  Maybe it's one poor state audit too many.   Maybe it's the discouraging knowledge that despite having some exceptionally bright and capable people on the Board, we still cannot get our act together as a district.

I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe these people on the Times' editorial board, are tired of making excuses for when - when - when? will the district stop flailing around with crises and settle down to the real business of educating students with no education-word-of-the-day named plans.  Just good teaching with good supports for teachers/principals AND students.   Just well-maintained buildings.  Just a website where you can find information you need and can use (without tearing your hair out).  

Maybe it's the realization that in a mid-sized urban district, in a city full of smart people who care about education, it shouldn't be this way.  Maybe that's what the Times is trying to say.

Let's start the conversation.

Update:  The Times has an Op/Ed area called Ed cetera where they weigh in with thoughts prior to an editorial coming out.  Lynne Varner muses here before this editorial was printed.  A few interesting items:
  • I knew that there was one community person on the committee to make a recommendation to the Superintendent, Chanin Kelly-Rae.  (The other members were all staff.)  She had expressed surprise that their unanimous decision for the Bush School was not what came out at the Board meeting.  
  • I need to get this clear but it seems that Reps. Kline, Pettigrew and Santos-Tomiko had been finding money for a non-profit to buy the building in hopes that a local group could do it (meaning a neighborhood group).  They either knew First AME might be in the mix (and end up using the money as they did do) or they got caught off guard when it happened.  
  • DeBell thinks that if they had sold to Bush, they would have received criticism in that direction, but the value-added of new playfields in an area that needs them would have blunted that (plus the extra money).  
  • She says:  The School Board must learn when to choose playfields over money and vice versa. Indeed, as it relates to the King school, this was a false argument since none of the three bids proposed shopping centers or condos but rather public amenities. The board could've voted for the most lucrative and best bid. It chose not to.

33 comments:

seattle citizen said...

I like the way you wrote "when" in teeny letters, regular font, and bold. Nice!

I agree that this appears to be a sea-change for the Times editorial board. COULD be representative of a productive new position. I need to wait and see. I'm still suspicious. This is what the Times (and SPS) has me doing, looking under the neatly made bed for the monsters...

But yes, it bodes well. Maybe. I'll have to deconstruct it.

mirmac1 said...

Can Seattle be like Sacramento and kick this reform can of sh*t to the curb? I hope so. Oh, I'm sure Mr. Bill will pout in his multi million dollar mansion. But we could party all night long (no-host bar of course).

Seriously though, do you think the Blethens would deign to let the rabble decide? We don't move in their circles (at least I don't). They will look to anoint the next king or queen that is to their liking.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me why "Reform" has gotten a negative meaning or are we comfortable with the way kids are being educated today? I don't believe our children are not being prepared enough and there is a large achievement gap. If this is true, how do we bring about change and if the change needed is substantial, wouldn't it be through "reform"? I believe that local schools can bring about some of the change to help our students; however, I also believe that there needs to be system-wide change not just at the District level but at the state and national level. Would this required change occur without reform?


A Friend of Seattle

Anonymous said...

if you're going to get hired in a large organization, you frequently must be able to market yourself as an outside the box innovative leader to be - who is really just a cowering don't rock the boat boss suck up toady.

the 2007 crop of cowering toadies weren't innovative enough with hiding their gates-broad suck up strategies to avoid the consequences of their suck up to gates-broad work.

they'll either be dumped so the man behind the curtain can get the curtain pulled back to hide the man, or, maybe the shock doctrine will persist and the man behind the curtain will let his toadies continue to be sacrificial lambs.

Ba. Ba.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Can someone explain to me why "Reform" has gotten a negative meaning or are we comfortable with the way kids are being educated today?"

Okay, you asked this in a calm way so I'll try to answer in kind.

There is NO one, repeat no one, I know who is content with the status quo at any level.

There is no one here saying SPS just needs a little tidying up and it would be okay.

My repeated line to the Board is that I want my Board to look at national trends through the lens of what would help/serve OUR district. I don't want them doing things just because the cool kids in D.C. are.

But if you run through the ed reform list, we've already worked through some of it in this state.

Charters? Not once, not twice, three times we have rejected these things. Charters do no better than regular school overall. If we gave more autonomy to our alternative schools (which are parent created and driven), they would be virtual charter schools. It can be done and without legislation.

TFA? Been there, done that but still they are back. Again, overall have not made a real dent in expanding the national teaching pool (and they themselves say that's not their goal), haven't closed the achievement gap in any district in the country and it's most ancedotal gains.

Testing and more testing. We're doing that.

Community schools? The district and the Alliance are working on that.

Teacher assessment? New contract, new assessment. Is seniority still in there? Yup but it was agreed to by SEA AND the Super AND the Board. If anyone is unhappy, make sure you point the finger in all directions.

But the issue of this thread is the people charged with oversight and accountability in our district. We will NEVER get ahead, no matter what reforms are in place, if that isn't happening.

What I would still like to see is direct supports and interventions available for all students.

seattle citizen said...

Friend,
The main issue I have with Capital R Reform is that it uses some "failures" of individual students, staff and parent/community members to make broad (pun intended) and sweeping changes to the entire system. "Reform" wants to turn the entire education system into a production line (and, not incidentally, break the union and deprofessionalize education so as to lower labor costs and, perhaps, realize a healthy profit for investors.)
"Reform" uses race categories to (after categorizing children racially) declare that the whole system must change. The tool to rationalize such a declaration is the Standardized Test. HSPE, MAP, whatever...While these tests can have beneficial applications, in their use to break schools and educators they are used to quantifya very difficult thing to make a sure judgement about: Student learning. They are being broadly (pun) used to attribute knowledge gained to individual educators and then expanded to declare whole schools "failing." This is an absolutely ridiculous concept, that whole schools fail, yet there we have it, the key to "reform."
This demonstrates its problem, and it is an intentional, evil declaration that allows entire schools to be destroyed in order to "save" them, entire districts destroyed in order to turn them into simplified production lines.

Rather than "treat" the individual student or staff (or parent or community member), "Reform" tears the whole system apart. As we have seen lately on this thread, one way to get rid of the achievement gap (which many of us call, rather, the opportunity gap, not incidentally) is to lower the top. Reform achieves this by turning edcuation into mere number-crunching, data points, supposedly reflecting the depth of learning regarding, lately, only Reading and Math (MAP tests). History, civics, art, social studies...these are not tested by Reform. A child's education thereby is diminished, demeaned,into the merest wisp of what education is capable of.

Yes, some students are struggling. Yes, some educators are struggling, Yes, some parents/community members are struggling. THESE should be addressed, but that is not Reform's intent. THAT is too expensive and unprofitable. Civics is not immediately profitable, and its "profit" is actually counter to the efficiency desired by a well-oiled production line: An active and aware citizenry could be counter to the goals of business.

Two things about reform that really irk me: 1) It is built on race categories, calling children this, that, or the other thing, when in fact children are complex aggregations of a multitude of factors; 2) It requires only that ONE of these "groups" of children to be "failing" Reading and Math to restructure an entire school. Each school that gets federal money (only the poor schools, one might note) is divided into all the different "categories" of children (not individuals.) If ONE "group" (and remember kids are not "Black," or "White," they are kids) "fails" then the entire schools is supposedly failing. Ridiculous. Yet the school will then be subject to destructive Reform.

THOSE are the problems of "reform."

Anonymous said...

@ "A Friend of Seattle"

As a teacher, I can say that I (and all of my colleagues) take educating our students very seriously. I am not a teacher for the pay...I am a teacher because I love watching the joy on a student's face when they "get it".

The acheivement gap bothers us. We spend considerable time looking for and trying strategies to bring up those that are falling behind, while not losing those that are further ahead.

It's not as easy as it sounds.

The problems that I have, that most of my colleagues have, and that I interpret most of the posters on this blog have with the "education reform" movement, are as follows:
_________________

1) It is controlled and paid for in large part by private individuals who are neither elected by the people (thus have no accountability for their actions) nor have any real training in education.

This leads to bad consequences. If the person plowing huge $$$ into changing the system to meet their vision has a vision that is actually leading to WORSE outcomes, and there is no mechanism for stopping that person (e.g., vote them out in x number of years), it is darn difficult to stop the damage!
_______________________

continued...

Anonymous said...

2) The people behind the "reform movement" want to hide their involvement.

Broad has his foundation and trains "leaders", but that's about as "out front" as any of the big reformists get. Gates donates huge amounts to entities that promote his agenda for him. Other examples are regularly posted on this blog. If they don't want to be seen, that bothers me. A lot. I teach my students that if you can't be proud enough of what you're doing to have it on the front page of the paper, you probably shouldn't be doing it...
________________________

3) The strategies the "reform movement" advocates are demonstrably damaging to students.

Putting people with only five weeks of "training" into a classroom--people, by the way, who are only committed to staying for two years--in the name of "saving education" when the real stated agenda is to "train leaders" damages kids. Furthermore, the organization targets their work toward putting these essentially untrained rookies into classrooms in schools that most desperately need the most highly trained teachers they can get! It's totally upside-down!

Then there's the obsession with testing. The problem is that you can make a test that EITHER is an INDIVIDUAL accountability test, or a SYSTEM accountability test, but NEVER BOTH. The "reform" movement doesn't understand this, so it takes the results from tests designed to measure student learning (Individual accountability tests) and tries to make conclusions about the system from those tests. A set of scores that would be useful to teachers in determining which students have learned what material and which students need what support suddenly is being used to label whole schools as "successful" or "failing".

Meanwhile, instructional time is lost. Meanwhile, the teachers are pressured to teach to the test instead of teach the curriculum. Suddenly the curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep. Meanwhile, the students get so stressed out by tests that they freeze up, so burnt out on tests that they stop trying, or so bored of tests that they don't care. Rare is the student who starts state testing day with an attitude of "yippee, another standardized test! I can't wait!".
__________________________

continued...

Anonymous said...

4) The initial strategy of the "reform movement" was to demonize teachers. Label us as lazy, incompetent deadbeats. Tell the public that we don't care enough to do our jobs and "hold us accountable".

This just pisses me off so much it's hard to respond without becoming profane and violating blog rules. Let's just say that if helping students every day during break, lunch and after school, grading papers for hours every night and purchasing hundreds of dollars of supplies out of my own pocket is "lazy", they need to recalibrate their expectations.
____________________________

5) The "reform movement" fundamentally misunderstands education. It's not about teachers teaching...it's about STUDENTS LEARNING.

A teacher can lead a student to the fountain of knowledge, but we cannot MAKE them THINK! Our job is to set the motivational conditions to get the student to WANT to learn the material, then support them as they learn. We set a high bar for them, then give them the support they need to get over that bar.

The "reform movement" wants to punish teachers for students not learning fast enough. They want to beat the horse twice as hard and feed it half as much. You can get a lot of work out of the horse this way, but only for a short time, and the quality of the work the horse puts in during that time is always suspect. In the long term, the horse dies. The whole perspective of the reform movement is backwards!
____________________________

In summary, I agree that as long as students are falling behind, something needs to be changed (reformed, whatever...), but that change needs to happen at the classroom level, not at the top of the Educational Bureaucracy. We as educators can never be satisfied with "good enough", we as educators have to always strive to do better for our students and find a yet better way to motivate them to learn. We all want to improve our practice--we all want students learning at a higher level. We just want to do it the right way...not follow the dictates of an unelected "savior" whose ideas cause more harm than good.

Sign me,

A passionate teacher unafraid of change -- as long as it is change for the BETTER!

mirmac1 said...

Passionate teacher - wow, you said it! Hope you'll be my child's teacher. : )

Charlie Mas said...

All the District needs is for all of the people in it to start doing their jobs.

Begin with the Board. The Board's jobs are governance, oversight, and representing the public. The current Board does none of those things. If the Board would enforce policy, then we would take some steps towards making every school a quality school. If the Board would perform oversight then more resources would be directed into schools and the public's trust in the District would be restored. If the Board would represent the public, then the community would be more engaged and more supportive.

The Central Administration has to do its job, which is to support schools. The whole headquarters has to become lean, focused, and effective. HR needs to clean up its act and start working properly. IT needs to be a whole lot faster and more effective. Facilities needs to be more honest, more transparent, and more rigorous in their contracting. The role of a couple departments, Teaching and Learning, and Evaluation, Assessment and Research, need to be narrowed. They are doing things that they shouldn't be doing. The resources going into these departments should be re-directed into schools.

In the schools, the principals need to start doing their jobs. They need to be intentional about the culture they foster in their communities. They need to spend more time as instructional leaders who are a benefit to their teaching staff. And, yes, they need to help some teachers either get better or get out of teaching.

Teachers need to do their jobs. They need to teach the grade level content. They need to find ways to serve their students of various levels of preparation. They need to motivate students.

Finally, students and families have to do their jobs as well. The students have to find their motivation and do the work. The families have to provide support by taking an interest, getting involved, and advocating for their kids.

Right now, the biggest failures are on the Board and in the Central Administration. There are deficiencies elsewhere, but the failure of the Board to do its work and the misdirected central staff focused on internal politics and bureaucratic fief building represent the most urgent needs.

Anonymous said...

A Passionate Teacher and Seattle Citizen - thanks for being expansive in describing what you don't like about "education reformers"

When I read A Passionate Teacher's account, I can't help but think that no one would ever call him/her lazy or incompetent - and that s/he should not presume the criticism or the reform is directed at him; but I bet s/he knows a number of teachers past or present to whom the criticism DOES apply.

Personally, I would never use those terms, but I have seen a number of teachers in my small universe who aren't what I wish they would be - and there pretty much is no accountability. A person can do in his classroom whatever he wants to do, say whatever he wants to say, and particularly at the elementary level, can do it with the huge power imbalance that exists between adults and kids. OK - an observation happens here and there - a teacher can put on her best self and then go back to doing whatever she wants to do. And the current rules preserve that teacher's power and position regardless of what happens to the students in her class.

I understand the fear that testing might hold teachers to outcomes they can't possibly control - huge deficits in family life, nutrition, early learning - but there has to be a middle ground.

I understand the assumption that the imposition of a standard curriculum indicts a teacher's professionalism and capability - but again, there has to be a middle ground - and I just can't believe that it wouldn't be one that not only protects but celebrates the teachers who believe and do what A Passionate Teacher does - and at the same time identifies the teachers who need additional training, a bit of coaching, or just maybe, to be shown the door.

As Friend of Seattle suggested - what about the current system is working so well, is so essential to preserve, that anyone who suggests changing it is demonized?

Just as A Passionate Teacher should not be lumped in with the teachers nowhere near his/her caliber or passion, neither should anyone proposing change be damned as "REFORMER" and dismissed, regardless of his money. It's simplistic and serves no one and the polemics and name-calling ("toadies"?) are incredibly discouraging.


mom of 4 in sps

Melissa Westbrook said...

"..that anyone who suggests changing it is demonized?"

As soon as teachers are stopped being demonized, I'll be happy to stop lashing out at the big ed reformers.

I already said the status quo isn't working so I have to wonder why the cry of "what are you trying to preserve" keeps coming up? No one is saying that.

Other ideas and voices are out there to create positive educational change. Mom of 4 you make it sound like Eli Broad and Bill Gates are just like you and me. They're not. We all know it.

Also, the Gates Foundation's education wing has found it incredibly hard to make any kinds of inroads. That's because education is hard and education is mostly local control. And, of course, because every community and every child is different.

But, if you control, the schools, well, then you can make inroads. Trouble is, many of us don't want a few non-elected/hired/appointed people guiding the education decisions for a nation.

That the Gates Foundation doesn't have any real standing to base their authority on education (based on their outcomes so far) means that other voices should be heard in this debate (and aren't).

Anonymous said...

Education reform is not something recently invented by that noisy group of impassioned, self-styled reformers one hears about so much today. In this country, it can fairly be said to go back to the Puritans. Thomas Jefferson is perhaps the most famous education reformer of the revolutionary and early republican era. In the 19th century, women's study groups grew out of civil war relief societies. These study groups helped to educate the grandmothers and mothers of the Progressives who brought major reforms to education. Out of the kindergarten movement came, in 1897, the National Congress of Mothers, the forerunner to our modern-day PTSA's. John Dewey blended Progressivist reforms with Pragmatist philosophy, and re-envisioned the interplay between the individual, community and democracy. Among our most intelligent voices in contemporary education reform is philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum, author of, among other books, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities and Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach.

It may come as news to the ideologues of the neo-education reform movement, but they do not have a monopoly on how to improve and democratize education.

DWE

Dorothy Neville said...

Ed Reform: Well, the main rhetoric blames teachers too broadly and I think that beating and starving the horse metaphor is apt.

However, I agree with the statement that there are actually quite a few teachers out there that should not be. My son had a total of 24 teachers in SPS (regular, not PCP) and 8 of them, a whole one third, were, quite frankly, quite bad. So IF I thought that the Ed Reform movement looked like it were an effective way to strengthen education by identifying and removing the bad teachers and supporting good teachers to be great then I would be all for it.

For many reasons though, I do not see that happening. What I see happening is instead chaos and a slash and burn that hurts everyone.

Example: identifying good teachers by their students' growth on tests. This might seem useful in a simplistic way, however, examining the details and the statistical measure just doesn't work. It's junk science. It's not useful yet and it may never be. But if it does have the potential to be useful measure we are destroying that by relying on today's broken version now.

I pointed out to Susan Enfield that the 8 teachers I felt were damaging and did not teach my kid much would not be identified with student growth scores, partially because they taught highly capable kids. She said oh no, that's where the MAP with its adaptive nature and high ceiling will work. Well when I said that for older and/or high performing kids, the standard error on MAP is larger than the expected growth, she was genuinely startled.

That does not give me a lot of confidence.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. But those in power are not getting the full picture. Those of us who question the implementation of the Ed Reform movement are branded as not wanting the same goals of better education. But we do want the same goals, we acknowledge at least some of the same problems, but we disagree emphatically with the methods for getting to the goals.

Just one more quick example. Waiting for Superman praises Finland for great teaching, yet many many of the changes the Ed Reform movement pushes in US are the antithesis of what Finland does to create such a strong teaching force.

Anonymous said...

Our recent experience at Ingraham was suggestive. It brings to my mind a contrast between the methods and strategies of neo-education reformers and those of community-based education reformers.

The neo-education reformers are nationalized. Politically, they are led by President Obama and Arne Duncan. Financially, they are funded by rich elites represented by the Gates Foundation and Eli Broad. They tend to impose generalized solutions from the outside--obsessive standardized testing, Teach for America, Inc., charter schools, and so on. Neo-education reformers don't build on what works to correct what doesn't work; they replace what works and what doesn't work with what they theorize will work.

What the Ingraham experience suggests is that reform can and should come from a community-based effort that puts a premium on staff and community cohesion and cooperation. Solutions and improvements, as they long have at Ingraham, should largely come from the bottom up rather than the top down. At Ingraham, this effort has been a decade-long process that has brought improvement to Ingraham even as the district has been withdrawing support and resources.

What the Ingraham experience also teaches us is that the ideologues of neo-education reform are no match for a smart, powerful, unified, organized, and committed education community.

DWE

Anonymous said...

"When I read A Passionate Teacher's account, I can't help but think that no one would ever call him/her lazy or incompetent - and that s/he should not presume the criticism or the reform is directed at him; but I bet s/he knows a number of teachers past or present to whom the criticism DOES apply."

Ahhhh...but that's the rub, isn't it! The "Education Reform" movement DOES lump me in with everyone else!

To be sure there are teachers who need to improve or be counseled out of the profession. What most people don't realize is that we their peers WANT that small minority to improve or move on.

When one of my colleagues does damage to kids, it falls to me to help clean up the mess. If the teacher that had them the year before does not teach them what they need to know, it leaves them in a hole and makes my job that much harder. If one of my colleagues at the same grade level but in another subject is not pulling their weight, it affects how well the students can learn in my classroom.

I agree with my esteemed colleague DWE...if there's anything our experience at Ingraham has taught us, it is that the best reforms are those that percolate up the chain of command--not those that are pushed down it.

A leader willing to listen for the good ideas coming from within the organization can do a lot of good. Couple that with the willingness (and courage) to take a stand and stop doing what does not work, and you'd really have something....

That Passionate Teacher Unafraid of Change--as long as it is change for the BETTER.

Chris S. said...

Wow, lots of good explanations. I was going to start with the real simple one about language: Reform is a positive word that has been co-opted by some to describe what THEY want, a well-known strategy used by the far-right. That way if you oppose them they can all you a bad name: "anti-reform." Reform is perfectly genius because they can also label opponents as "supporting the status quo."


So I, and others on this blog, like "education reform" by the dictionary definition but believe the current political definition of "Ed Reform" is destructive and dishonest. I like seattle citizen's idea of using capital letters to distinguish - although that's yet another thing that would have to go in the "Blog Glossary."

Anonymous said...

If the Ed Reformers possessed the humility and decency to act like benevolent mechanics and custodians, fixing what needs to be fixed, and cleaning up what needs to be cleaned up, I think they'd be welcomed with open arms.

But instead they act like conquerers, not giving a damn about what does work in today's schools, uniformly believing their ideas are inherently better, for all kids at all levels. So, out goes the baby with the bathwater. Burn the village to save it by starting over from scratch. How is that not completely unjust, juvenile, ignorant, and disrespectful to all who have gone before them and given so much to our schools?

And the Reform Movement is patently dishonest and manipulative in their efforts, by manufacturing consent through propaganda, heavy lobbying of policymakers, the creation of multiple fake grass-roots interest groups, and co-opting of parents and community leaders as they march toward privatization and conquest of the public interest and, of course, the public money trough. While I'm sure not all reform efforts are about money, enough are that any true reformer would reject the Faustian bargains so many of them willingly make with those so-called "reformers" who only seek to profit from our schools by diverting ever more dollars intended for classrooms into their pockets.

cont'd WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

Sorry P of 4, but there simply is no merit to "reform" when it is conducted in such ways, and at the expense of everyone it drags into its net. There is a right way to "reform" or fix problems without casting such a wide net, but that would require the reform lobby to admit that a lot of the public education system works very well, which would undermine and belie the opportunism they exploit by convincing enough people our education system is in "crisis." It's nowhere near a crisis in Seattle, but every reformer will claim it is. (Even SPS: 17% ready for college; oops, no actually 49%; then MGJ is fired and oops again we really meant to say 63%...(An honest mistake? No chance. Propagated by reformers? Completely.)

I was taught growing up to never throw the first punch. But if somebody else did, then I was duty-bound to throw the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th until the instigator was on the ground praying for mercy. Why? Because you don't mess with an innocent person who plays by the rules without paying a heavy price. The Reformers "started it."

In the education context, the Reformers have thrown the first 5 punches at least, and they deserve a bloody nose, if not a broken jaw for all the pain and havoc they've wreaked upon many communities that were doing fine.

Take note of this irony: When Obama was running for President, people decried his opponents for using "guilt by association" to convict him of poor judgment for knowing Jeremiah Wright and William Ayres.

But when the local Superintendant in Rhode Island closed Central Falls High School and fired every single staff member, both Obama and Arne Duncan praised the Superintendent for doing the right thing "for the kids." No due process. No respect for the innocent and good teachers and staff. Nada. Guilt by association, all the way. This is but one shining example of the arrogance and hypocrisy of the wealthy and powerful who seek to control our lives. The Gates Foundation literally dictates what the U.S. Department of Education policies are, unlike ever before in our history. Diane Ravitch, in her brilliant work "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" writes at length about this "billionaire boys club's" influence over the Secretary of Education and nationwide public schools.

At the end of it all is the utter lack of respect and arrogence shown by reformers who give no deference or consideration to the families, students, teachers and communities fighting the battles in the trenches every day. Instead they demonize teachers for kids who get no support at home, have learning disabilities, or walk through the school door miles from being ready to learn. Big Pants Korsmo of LEV accused anti-reformers of "saying poor kids can't learn," which, while being a total lie, was also never said, anywhere, anytime, by anyone who opposes her pet reforms. So long as our local "reformers" engage in such lies, falsehoods, and gutter tactics, they deserve to be maligned.

When they stop throwing the first punch, and decide to lend an honest, genuine hand to our schools, I'll put my hands down and quit punching back. Until then, I'm behind the teachers 100%. WSEADAWG

Kathy said...

A Passionate Teacher Unafraid of Changd,

I hear you. Please contact me at
KSmith1965@aol.com

Joan NE said...

"COULD be representative of a productive new position. ... still suspicious. ...looking under the neatly made bed for the monsters..."

I am worried that the Times is going to come out in favor of mayoral control. Seems like Tim Burgess is angling to be mayor, and I expect he wants controla of the schools. Isn't he on the education committee?

My guess is that if the corporatist reformers lose control of the Board, the Times will come out strongly in favor of mayoral control, since a non-corporatist board might bring in a superintendent in a year that would actually try to improve the schools!

Joan NE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As the Pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty has taught us, sometimes the best way to win an argument is to change the subject. I don't think we will defeat the neo-education reformers politically as long as we're unable to present a credible vision for how public education can be improved and democratized. We need a fuller understanding of what human beings are and can be. We need a vision of how human beings fully manifest these capabilities within the context of community, including an educational community.

Bree Dusseault is reported to have said that what she learned from Ingraham was the importance of relationships. Indeed. She did not understand the school she was trying to change precisely because she pursued a vision for the school that was alien to its community and traditions.

For community-based education to work, there must be a high degree of cohesion, trust, and cooperation. That does not preclude differences or even divisions of opinion, but the moment an administrator or even a teacher undermines the ties that bind a community, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in word or in deed, that administrator or teacher becomes alienated from her own understanding of what contributes to the health of that community.

At the risk of going all Wendell Berry on everyone, I suggest that we should think more carefully about what kind of relationships we must have with each other to manifest more fully what each of us—student, teacher, parent, sibling, graduate, administrator—is worthy of living.

DWE

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joan, there's connecting the dots!

Entirely plausible.

Linh-Co said...

Jack Whelan running for school board against Sherry Carr wrote:



06/15/2011
This Election Is Extraordinary
This election is extraordinary because it will define the direction of SPS for the next decade. No decision the board faces will be more important than determining the district’s administrative leadership for these critical next several years. In the last decade we’ve seen the SPS seduced by the so-called educational-reform agendas of foundations that have tried to reshape American education system in its own privatizing image. We’ve seen this influence in the hiring of the Broad-trained Maria Goodloe-Johnson. We saw this influence in the recent agenda-driven firing of Martin Floe at Ingraham High School, and we saw it in Goodloe-Johnson’s bringing in Teach for America last year.

I’ve heard the argument that the current board is doing a good job in a difficult situation and that we need continuity and stability in district leadership to move forward in rebuilding our district. But you cannot have stability if you build on a foundation that is profoundly flawed, and I think that anybody with even a little knowledge about what has gone on within the district recognizes that Sherry Carr and other members like Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist are themselves elements composing this flawed foundation.

I will advocate for a nationwide search for a new superintendent. Ms. Enfield’s candidacy for the position needs to be considered alongside other qualified candidates.

I would move to suspend the district’s five-year plan for excellence, which is in fact a five-year plan for guaranteed failure.

I would work hard to prioritize resources allocation to support teachers in classrooms and ongoing teacher development.

I would work within the limits of state law to mitigate as much as possible the destructive effects of high-stake testing on our educational priorities.

I will work hard to support the development of readiness programs for preschoolers to mitigate as much as possible the deficits that low-income kids have when they enter kindergarten.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dorothy Neville said...

15 year teacher, I agree with you. Yes, I have been talking about the bad teachers my son had. I suppose I should be more clear. There are some teachers and students who are a bad fit for each other. There are teachers who happen to be dealing with a life crisis of their own. (I know one student who had a rash of these, teacher after teacher diagnosed with cancer or another chronic illness or a dying parent. His mom was quite frustrated and disappointed, but in this case it just seemed bad luck, random coincidence. That does happen.)

The stories that I have about the damaging teachers my son had are shared by many but not all the parents over the years. And some years with a teacher are better than others, depending on what is happening in that teacher's life and the makeup of the class.

I've tried to be careful and call out the bad because of clear procedural issues that should be within the teacher's control. What about the teacher who simply didn't teach any math? What about the teacher who boasted that she did an excellent job teaching writing. So she gave 6 assignments, one for each of the strands in the DWA then after that was administered in February, Zero writing. And those 6 lessons were simply that, lessons, with no synthesis or complexity, just how to game the DWA. I could go on. I don't expect a perfect fit between my child and his teacher every hour of the day, but I do expect the teachers to act like professionals.

But this myth of the super teachers taking over all the schools and fixing life's ills is a damaging myth, it is a main myth of the Broad-Gates-Rhee-Duncan-Obama movement and it is simply worsening education.

That Passionate Teacher said...

Reposted on behalf of "15-year Teacher" who forgot to sign her post (blog rules forbid anonymous posting, but wanted his/her comments to be preserved):
______________________________

I have been teaching for 15 years and I want to say something about "bad teachers".

I have worked in 6 different schools, at three different age levels in four different curriculum areas. Pretty average career story. There were jobs where I wasn't a good match for the building or the curriculum. It was the only job I could land. It took me years to get the best fitting job. Now I am in the right classroom with the right curriculum serving 150 students per year. I am still not the right teacher for every student who lands in my classroom through computerized assignment systems.

Parents are justified when they decide am a “bad teacher” because I am the total of the conditions, resources, expectations, curriculum level, and grading system that is not working for their child. I am a bad teacher if their child doesn't pass my class, get an A, pass the state tests, do well on the MAP tests, enjoy the class, happily do their homework, attend class every day or meet whatever criteria each family sets for measuring their child's experience (and believe me, the criteria are very, very different for different families and different parents).

I think a lot of parents understand at some level that teachers don't control all the conditions, but I don't know if parents really understand the full extent of how that plays out. We don't control our early job placement, our cumulative learning experiences, our principal supervision (or lack of mostly), our curriculum, our student demographics, our class size, our physical resources, our support resources, our requirement to complete endless paper work and use funky computer programs (as many as seven daily), our schedule, our colleagues, parent expectations, etc.

Yet all that stuff is what really determines to a great extent what kind of teacher we become and how we are judged. We want to be one thing when we start teaching, but we all end up wherever the system takes us. When you work in a stressed system, you become a teacher that learns how to survive in stressed conditions. That isn't the same as becoming a great teacher.

You become a survivor because that is what the system absolutely demands first and foremost. And of course, we have kids, and mortgages, and illness and sick parents, and divorces, and all the other hopes and dreams that everyone else has.

I also know from experience that there are substandard working conditions and substandard growth cycles and substandard employees in every other trade as well. You can't eliminate "bad teachers" anymore than you can eliminate "bad plumbers", “bad bureaucrats’, "bad kids" or "bad parents". Our "bads" belong to all of us in an imperfect society.

I had teachers I didn't like in school too. But I survived and learned that I don't get to choose the other riders on the bus of life.

There are plenty of parents out there who advocate for their children aggressively, who might be viewed as experienced "judges", but who lack ability to build positive relationships with teachers and schools, don't do good research, and are generally uninformed on many fronts even after they ask lots of questions. I hope you ponder that before you decide to label a teacher a "bad teacher" next time or pile on with another parent or four.

Your child's "bad teacher" may be a great teacher for the other 2/3s of the class and actually may be a great teacher for your kid, even though neither you nor your child likes them (ponder that possibility). Ask first if you are the perfect teacher, principal, co-worker, parent. That is the only thing you really have control over. And if you aren't the perfect human, forgive yourself. None of us are.

kellie said...

15 year teacher -

Thank you for so eloquently describing this dynamic. I agree with your assessments completely. There are many "bad" situations and circumstances. IMHO, those situations and circumstances, greatly outweigh the number of bad people.

We had one terrible year in school. It had very little to do with the teacher.

Thank you for adding so much to this conversation

Anonymous said...

Thoughts from a 15 year teacher made me ponder and want to ask many questions. I am not sure if I understand it correctly, but it sounds like what makes a good teacher vs. bad teacher depends on the fit of the individual kid and teacher, fit of class and teacher, fit of curriculum and teacher, fit of building culture and teacher, fit of parents and teacher, fit of adminstrators and teacher, and fit of life's experience and teacher. That is a lot of dots to connect to determine the fitness of a teacher.

-in need of better eval and better work conditions

SC Parent said...

Melissa, I thought the same thing when I first started reading the editorial, but by the time I finished, I didn't see it as a sharp criticism of the board. It seemed to be just a slap on the wrist to justify supporting them in the upcoming election. Sure, there was a little wagging of the finger but, in my opinion, it was done in a Leave It To Beaver kind of way.

Maybe I see the Times education editorials with a bit of bias, but I read this: "An A for effort is deferred for a more meaningful grade dependent on long-term outcome" as justifying giving the 2007ers another 4 years to 'see how things play out.'

Then the Times cowtows with: "This is a good start toward raising the level of policy research and the information flowing to the board."

Then, "The board has essentially sat atop a pyramid relying on information that time and again proved insufficient" and "Good for them for making up for their inexperience by adding community volunteers with strong accounting backgrounds to the board's Audit and Finance Committee."

That seems to be building a base for the 'this-is-so-complicated-that-replacing-the-board-with-newbies-when-they've-just-gotten-up-to-speed-would-be-premature-and-hurt-our-kids' argument.

I thought the last two sentences were a total cop-out. "The board is taking its overhauls public in search of an honest appraisal. The upcoming election should give them one," says to me - gosh these people are so likable, let's give them a chance to finish the hard work they've started here, don't take two steps backward by electing the challengers.

Mark T. Weber said...

I have to agree with Friend of Seattle and ack said. You can't build on a flawed foundation.

Dow sent this out to all KC employees:
Dear fellow King County employee:

In May we were fortunate to have Ken Miller, an acclaimed speaker and author known for his insights in the business of government, talk at Town Hall in Seattle. You can view his presentation at http://www.vimeo.com/23974325


The basic premise of Ken’s new book, Extreme Government Makeover, is that we must focus our attention on making the systems that we operate more efficient, to in turn deliver fast, quality services to our customers. This doesn’t mean asking employees to simply work faster or do more with less. This means finding the blockages in the system so we can remove those barriers, and make the process go faster.


If the process were a pipe, the twists and turns in the pipe represent barriers we have to navigate that slow us down. The twists and turns in process may have made sense when we built them into the pipe a long time ago, but they may no longer add value for our customers. We need to look at our process and ask of each step “how does this add value?”, and if the answer is “it doesn’t” or “I don’t know”, we may have identified an opportunity to examine and improve our systems. Changes can be small or large - the goal is to look for any opportunities to improve.

No one doubts that the system needs reform, afterall, our current system of school governance was developed in 1870 with parts going further back than that.

Maybe it is time to move into the 21st century use some 21st century thinking.