Scott Oki's Solution Looking for a Problem

A story in Crosscut ("The Parents Union: A new force for education reform?") describes an effort by Scott Oki ("self-described 'serial entrepreneur' and community activist") to form a "parent's union" to counter the strength of the teachers' union and promote public school reform in Washington State.

What an idiot.

Mr. Oki has no idea what he's doing or what he's talking about. The article makes that pretty clear.

* He says that the teachers' union blocks reform, but all of the other folks in the article acknowledge that the WEA is supportive of reform.

* He says that the problem is bloated central bureaucracies, but the teachers' union didn't create and doesn't maintain those.

* He says that parents should be able to send their child to the school of their choice - as if we have never tried that - but he has no solution for when 5,000 families choose Garfield.

* He says that school families have no voice, but the Washington State PTA has 148,000 members.

* He says that the problem is that there are too many school districts, but his solution is for each school to operate independently. That would make the duplication and waste even worse.

* He says that he wants local control of schools, but he wants the governor to appoint local school boards - how is that local control?

Mr. Oki's Parent Union would "provide the political will to pass much-needed legislation at the state level, work to improve the educational system at the school district level, and steer changes at the school, classroom, and individual student level." Hmmm. Isn't that already the mission of the League of Education Voters, the Partnership for Learning, and Stand for Children? Why doesn't he just join one of them?
The key tool of The Parents Union is what Oki terms the Knowledge Action Network (KAN) — a parent-driven, proprietary technology platform. "KAN will be the central hub for engaging our parents," Oki explained.
Oh. Maybe that's why. He can't sell his software to the PTA or any of the other Education Reform organizations.
Among the information gleaned from the network, parents will be able to submit reviews of individual teachers at their children’s schools and access reviews written by other parents. Aggregating school ratings and rankings would enable parents to choose which schools match their children’s needs.

The network would also alert parents to issues facing local and state school systems, provide access to information about school board meetings and agendas, and provide an online "bulletin board" for information sharing about school- and district-specific issues. Armed with up-to-date data, Oki believes, parents will be empowered to advocate for change at the state and local level.
Why doesn't he just start a blog?

In the end, Mr. Oki will be disappointed because even if he were to get his Parent's Union with 250,000 members, they would not support the raft of reforms that he supports. The fact is that although these Education Reform proposals have support from corporations and foundations, they do not have support from the citizenry.


Contrarian said…
"The fact is that although these Education Reform proposals have support from corporations and foundations, they do not have support from the citizenry."

Is that really "the fact" Charlie? Have you done a survey of parents/citizenry across the state? An unscientific survey of Facebook "likes" for groups like LEV (3,976), Stand (10,192) versus PAA (487...nationally, 1,196 supporters of their poll) counters this claim.

Do you hold the key to the opinions of all citizenry in the state? In a comment on the Crosscut article you state: "More than anything else, Mr. Oki's problem is his hubris."...for one who claims to have a true pulse on the citizenry of our state, that's quite an accusation.
seattle citizen said…
Taken as a sweeping statement, Charlie's claim that these "reforms" don't have support of the citizenry seem pretty accurate. Where do we find long lists of supporters for these reformers? Not on LEV, certainly not on Our Schools Coalition...These "reform" groups, with their own blogs and everything, have very little action going on except for the actions they initiate and that they might be able to get (buy) the support of minority group leaders to sign on.

I'm with Charlie on this one: There is very little evidence that the citizenry supports the package of reforms pushed by the Reformers. Of course, many citizens (if we can use this blog as an example) are open to discussing individual reforms, asking how they might work, looking for the nuance...but supporting Education Reform as a movement? Not so much. Particularly as more and more citizens awaken to the realities behind "Reform," the citizenry is certainly no demonstrating support, and, in my opinion, is increasingly speaking out against it.

(LEV's Facebook likes are generated in the same way that jobs are generated in the Education Reform business: incestuous sucking up. "I'll like your reform group if you'll like mine! Then you can hire me later." My guess is most of the "likes" on LEV are reformers.

Stand's likes? Same deal, except they are more nationally famous for their deceptive recruitment. A teacher I no had the whole spiel given to her by a Stand representative (a young, eager, bright young person, natch) about how much they CARE about minorities. This teacher delcined to participate in Stand's craptitude, but is surely still on their lists of "supporters" for having once spoken to one of them.
MathTeacher42 said…
I saw him speak at some deform event in the last few years. He is well credentialed, well titled, well paid, casually well dressed, ...

When I was a lowly fine dining cook 25 years ago in Boston, at the time at the Four Seasons Hotel on the Public Garden, and when I was a microserf keeping email servers running in Microsoft's operations group over 10 years ago, I had to serve countless well credentialed, well titled, well paid, well dressed and casually well dressed ... Masters of The Universe.

Scott Oki is rich. This is America - get on your knees and quake and tremble before the rich man!

Of the scores and scores of the well appointed I served over the decades, I don't know who exactly made it to the promised land of big bank accounts and big adulation.

I do KNOW what this $ocial cla$$ has accomplished in the last 30 years - WE the community have the worst economy and the worst job market in 80 years, and their $ocial cla$$ has big job titles, big expense accounts, big bank accounts and big adulation.

Wouldn't it be really really cool if the people at the top were on top by ... making the health care system of a large city, or the state, or the nation run efficiently? transitioning our energy and power systems to green sustainability? helping make education systems which leveraged the talents of all of us to participate in and improve our community? running capital markets which weren't corrupt crony casinos?

People who want to worship at the feet of the Oki $ocial cla$$ who've given us robbed pensions in the leveraged buy out savings and loan scandals, wiped out 401(k)s in the dot.bomb debacle, and The Great Recession -

IGNORE what Charlie has pointed out about this charlatan, and keep worshipping at the Oki's $ocial cla$$ - cuz ... how can they be on top without serfs, doormats and supplicants?

Steve said…
I am unaware of anything Scott Oki has done since leaving the cozy confines of Microsoft that has produced any societal or even economic value. I remember a project to provide parents with blankets when they leave the hospital (nice thing), some work helping Social Venture Partners to start (another good thing), and something about golf courses (not valuable to me). He invests in things, which is not the same as doing things. We have to get to a point where we stop giving every rich person a forum for their views just because they are rich.
seattle citizen said…
Let's say an average of 70% of students are doing well (a number supported by "state tests").

Why on earth would the parent/guardians of these 70% of students want to reform ANYTHING? One would imagine that while they know their kid isn't getting everything they need, and there are some problems here and there in the huge, multifaceted system of public education, they also are perfectly happy to watch (and participate) as their child navigates their way up and out.

So we might well assume that 70% of parent/guardians are happy: Their kids are getting a good education.

Why would we assume that those parents support Education Reform? Why would those parents want the whole system destroyed and refashioned into something more palatable to investors?

Yes, some students are struggling, but Education Reform would have us believe that we must destroy the entire system because of these struggling students. What sane parent of a successful student would go along with that ridiculousness?

Common sense supports Charlie's assestion that Education Reform is not supported by the majority of citizens.
Noam said…
Ah yes. Another old idea dusted off, a dash of political window dressing and lip service, presented as "new".

Anybody around here remember a fella named Scott Barnhart?

Yeah, he had one too. Before becomming a school boad member annd fading into being part of the problem and then quitting after a couple unremarkable terms.

I have a copy of their manefesto if anyone is interested.

Easily forgotten.

This guy will too. In time.
zb said…
"We have to get to a point where we stop giving every rich person a forum for their views just because they are rich."

We can try to do that individually (and I personally have always taken it as a point of pride to separate someone's status, wealth, credentials from the value of what they are saying). But, I fear that we're powerless from preventing the growth of this mutual admiration society among politicians, administrators, and wealth.

Well, we still have the value of our vote, but I think that counteracting these forces is going to require strategic voting. In my case, that means I'm going to vote for all the school board challengers, now that I've verified that none of them are actual nuts. This goes against my philosophy of stability and of supporting the "best" candidate. I think we "little guys" are going to have to do that (potentially even actively working for instability as a goal in and of itself so that the coalitions between wealth & government get disrupted).

What's brought me here? the casual disregard of what Melissa does in those emails on TFA I've been reading through. They continually and casually dismiss her as a "crank mom." But even if they disagree with her (and I also sometimes do), she's someone who has worked, hands on with our schools for decades (?). She knows more than Scott Oki (and, at the very least, she doesn't know less than him). I've spent enough time on the "credentialed" side of the equation not to realize how dismissive people can be, and it's an awakening.
Anonymous said…
Isn't there already a [controversial] platform for rating teachers?

(It opens with a quote from Michelle Rhee)

someone said…
It would be interesting if we could get to the point where we cared more about - well to poorly paraphrase Dr. King - the "content of their character rather than the color (or in this case quanity) of their money"

I don't know - is that possible? I totally share zb's views on this - the arrogant disdain of those emails for opposing views is something I want to find a way to effectivley counteract.

However, and just to play devil's advocate for a bit- I do think sometimes both the writers and commenters on this blog are not too far above that kind of dismissive attitude toward the Reform crowd. There are good ideas on both sides, if we are honest.

Frankly it does as much disservice to the cause to continually bash the other side (I dislike the use of the word "deformers" for this very reason. There's a middle ground in all the rhetoric, if we can stop instantly negating a viewpoint solely for who it comes from.
Charlie Mas said…
For what it's worth, I have had a number of meetings with folks in the Education Reform camp. All of the meetings were not only civil, but courteous and cooperative. We agree on a lot of the facts.

I am not an advocate of the status quo. I just don't support the reforms that the Education Reform movement wants to push forward. I don't support them because I don't think they will be effective and I think that many of them would have dire negative consequences.

The Education Reform movement continues to believe that the path to reform runs through the teachers' contract. I see no evidence to support that belief. The teachers' contract is not the problem. The problems are nearly all rooted in district-level bureaucracy and extraordinarily poor management at every level of public K-12 education.

We should look for the solutions, therefore, in changes that can be made by (or to) principals and the district administrators.

I totally support certain reforms in the organization of schools and classrooms to allow for more individualized instruction, but, once again, those decisions are made by administrators, not teachers, and the resistance to reform is among principals and administrators, not among teachers.

The Education Reform movement may have pure intentions, but those intentions have been corrupted by business-minded folks and foundations that are more focused on reducing costs (and, therefore, taxes) than improving education. They have, therefore, chosen the teachers' union as their enemy, when their real foe are the managers. It's sad, really.

When I speak to them calmly about this they often realize it, but they cannot go against their funding sources who have that cost reduction focus.
Charlie Mas said…
Want proof that the citizens don't support Education Reform? How about three statewide votes against charter schools? How about the continued public resistance to Teach for America corps members in Seattle Public Schools? How about survey after survey that shows that the public likes and supports teachers - despite the efforts of the Education Reform movement to demonize them? How about the continued failure of Education Reform bills in the legislature?
Charlie Mas said…
Here is a link to Mr. Oki's organization: The Parents Union
It was a funny article because I pointed out that the principals as CEO thing was done under Olchefske.

Also, principals reported to a board of appointed people, how confusing would that be? The Board would essentially be the Superintendent and I thought he thought there are too many of those.

I love PTA but I do believe there is room for more advocacy for parents at a school and district level and I wish there were more of that from the Seattle Council PTSA.

I also put in a comment to beware of wealthy people starting "grassroots" groups (see Stand for Children) and that Parents Across America is a better choice.

I think Charlie is saying that ed reform is starting to run off the tracks. The reformists are getting worried because they want public backing and aren't getting it. Either people don't care (and I think most Americans do care about public education), don't understand (that's a communications problem) or maybe just don't buy into the solutions being offered.

I pick the latter.
zb said…
"I do think sometimes both the writers and commenters on this blog are not too far above that kind of dismissive attitude toward the Reform crowd. "

I agree with this -- but mostly in the matter of tone, rather than content. I'm starting to believe that some of the points on which I might agree with the "reform" crowd (and to refer to them that way at all is an issue, unless they really are linked, and not "reformer" shares the same views) are a cover for some points that I am never going to agree with (for example, a temporary teaching work force and the diversion of public funds to private charters, for profit education models). So, that makes it hard for me to engage. But, I can be careful about my language, and that's important to me (no deformer, for sure, and care when referring to "ed reform" as a monolith).
zb said…
But when it comes to engaging on an issue -- for example TFA? Well, I believe in alternative certification. I think there should be a means for those with subject expertise to move into teaching without the barriers I see as sometimes being driven as a means of restricting entry (rather than gaining skills). I don't pretend to have answers about exactly how to teach those skills, and I wholeheartedly believe that here are significant skills to teaching beyond subject expertise, but I question whether the standard teaching degrees should be the only route. I also think that methods of attracting students who may only think of teaching as an option after they graduate from college is a good thing.

But, TFA's entry into Seattle makes me wary of raising those questions at all, because it seems driven towards building a temporary workforce, not to ease entry of qualified individuals. Instead TFA seems to function as a gap years for privileged college graduates, alternative certification wasn't provided to other potentially qualified individuals, TFA teachers don't stick around long enough to become good teachers. SO, the current model just serves to provide temporary low paid labor, not for all the other things that I might actually think were good.
seattle citizen said…
Someone said "I do think sometimes both the writers and commenters on this blog are not too far above that kind of dismissive attitude toward the Reform crowd. There are good ideas on both sides, if we are honest."

As one who is sometimes (often) dismissive toward the "Reform crowd," I'll say that I am specifically dismissive BECAUSE it's a "crowd." The crowd speaks with one voice, and mouths the same three or four "Reform" points as if they were some sort of magic key to the kingdom, where every child is at 100% of...something...These three or four "reforms" are posited on three or four grand claims about public education that are shouted, hosanna hey, in chorus: "Schools fail, not students; teachers are...overqualified; Collaboration with teachers is impossible because of their evil union, and collaboration sans union would be competitive and worth the teachers' whiles, as they'd get $10.00 for each state test result that shows "growth".

You write, someone, that "there are good ideas on both sides," Well, yes, but many, many individuals contribute good ideas to the national, state and local discussions about education. These are varied and nuanced. The Education Reform contributions are all of one mind, having determined, somehow, that The Four Points And Data to Support Them are THE answers.

I disagree. While there are elements of The Four that bear discussion, Ed Reform is too insular and self-propelled that discussion is impossible. Look at the myraid blogs (even on a local level Ed Reform maintains, what, six blogs?) and how they "moderate" their "free" discussion about their pet agenda items?

Ed Reform might, incidentally, have some good ideas floating around. I fear these good ideas were generated by earnest and thoughtful people, but when they became the monolith of Ed Reform they lost their ideas to the Machine, the competitive model of education Ed Reform so values, where classroom experience of two years (sans preliminary training) is enough to move one up and out into the great halls of Edu-Business - climbing the ladder out of the hold and up to the helm, captainships of edu-industry await those who have been able to rise above the mean classrooms and pontificate down to the workers about their failure to produce better numbers as they sail the ship blithely onto the rocks.

So of course there are good ideas everywhere, but those on the bridge have become monolithic, un-nuanced, overly competitive, overly quantitative...And the new captains brook no discussion from the lower decks, the public clamoring, it's full speed ahead!

It's funny, we require captains of ships that carry passengers to get hundreds of hours of experience at the wheel, train in navigation for years, demonstrate proficiency in ship-handling to critical inspectors, and know the intricacies of the ship, every system. They also, was known to captains past, must be able to work with the crew so as to avoid mutiny. Yet somehow the captains of the edu-industry are able to move from investment banking into charter school management (of an investment-themed K-8) and then on to the top national post (Arne Duncan)

I prefer the open sea, where all work together to weather the storms, to the ship we are on ashore, public education, and its captain of industry.

Word Verifier agrees, so we head out together sou'west on a long reashe. Word Verifer is at the helm.
Anonymous said…
Right on Contrarian and Someone. Scott Oki is right on that parents need something like the WEA/SEA. Hard to see how anyone could argue with that. We hear the same old same old "but he worked at Microsoft". That simply isn't a liability for anybody except a bunch of disgruntled bloggers who wish they were he. You might disagree with some of the details, but the basic message is right on. SCPTSA surely isn't that. As to the reformers and TFA. It's hard to see how trying something new would be a huge problem. Status quo etc doesn't seem to have worked for years and years. Why not try something new? What if, for example, we found that a revolving door of TFAs works great for Aki? I think this crowd is afraid of what that might imply. As to the 70% of the "it's working families". Guess what? Reform isn't going to effect them.

-another parent
Sahila said…
I'd bet money on it that he's trying to get a group together that will work for a "parent trigger" piece of legislation, and then pull the "turnaround" trigger on "poorly performing schools"....

see what's been going on in California...
ZB, ha! I like to think I've moved from "crank mom" to any number of other roles.

On great thing about my work/this gig is that I have no boss.

I have no funders.

While it makes me poor in monetary terms, I am quite wealthy in my ability to say what I want based on my research and observations over many years. I'm sure it bugs the hell out many up the education food chain in this town no end.

Another parent, I know a few Microsoft millionaires and they are not all cut from the same cloth. To their credit, whether I agree with what they spend their money on, many have become philanthropists and that is to the good of our community in many ways.

Having said that, no I don't want to be Scott Oki.

I don't want to try "something new" as an experiment on kids. TFA has had 20 years and have never, in any school or district, closed the achievement gap. If you listened to TFA, EVERY single one of their teachers raised scores in their classes by 80%. It's just not true.

A revolving door of undertrained teachers at a high need middle school? No, I don't think that's a good idea.

Also, that's an ed reform line "status quo." There isn't one person on this blog who will say things are going great, why change? So that's a straw argument.
Sahila said…
I wish that the people here who dont like the tone in which those of us who are ed deform naysayers write, would spend the hours and hours of research we have done - locally and nationally - and really look at what is going on...

If you havent done the research - both academic and investigative - you will not know that the ed deform strategies/agenda being put forward HARM OUR CHILDREN .... and that the ed deformers have a complete disregard and disdain for parents and communities - that they use and manipulate them to embed their agenda....

You think the Enfield/TFA/Ortega/Stritikus stuff is unsavoury??? I just wish you would get off your butts and EDUCATE yourselves.... it would make you sick to your stomach to really know what is going on out there...

But I bet most of you wont.... easier to just dismiss those of us who have as a bunch of stubborn, uncivil die-hards fighting for to keep the status quo...
seattle citizen said…
Another Parent, are you serious?

"As to the 70% of the "it's working families". Guess what? Reform isn't going to effect them."

What?! "Reform" to teachers, testing, curriculum, policy, pedagogy, content, delivery, expectations "isn't going to effect them"?

Surely you jest. The AIM of Reform is to effect every one of these important and universal areas of public education (using the barest set of metrics) and you propose that Reform only effects some students?!

You yourself write of Aki as some monolithic building filled, every seat, with struggling students ("a revolving door of TFAs [might work]for Aki") Of course there are successful individual and teachers at Aki, but you would propose that the students that are currently successful at Aki won't be effected by Reform?

You can't be serious.
Disgusted said…
Really tired of wealthy individuals meddling in public school issues.

Their ideas such as data, merit pay etc. take scant dollars out of our classrooms.

Incumbents (with the exception of Sherry Carr) seem hell bent on reducing classroom expenditures- while funding research, data and merit pay.

Ed reform is a blueprint. Wealthy individuals foist their ridiculous ideas on our children, and directors lack common sense by removing essential supports from our classrooms.

BTW..Is Mr. Oki have any educational background? Or, is he just another rich guy minimizing poverty.
someone said…
Another parent - I think you misundertood me - I don't agree with much of the rhetoric of the Ed Reform movement - if you want to call it "crowd" whatever. And I totally agree there has become an insular "in-kids" kind of persona to it all.

I just think, sometimes, the anti-reform rhetoric is a bit insular too - sorry, I'm a Libra - I can always see both sides of an argument - doesn't mean I agree with that argument however ;o)
Anonymous said…
SC. The 70% of students who are performing well - that's your quote. You seemed to be worried that some reform efforts might not suit those 70% of happy camper SPS students, and that their families wouldn't support reform because of that mismatch in needs. I think you're absoltely right. We've got TFA coming to 1 school. A school that isn't serving students well. And, only 2 teachers. So, those students (the ones in great schools, doing well) really are not going to be effected by those 2 TFA teachers are they? Is their school changing?

As to the fact that Enfeild wanted TFA and has supported TFA all along. A big fat: So What?. Good for her. She's entitled to a professional opinion, and to work with them, and to bring them in - even without "board approval". People should be happy she consulted the board at all, and most of them approve of the experiment. This expose thing is completely ridiculous. And, likely will backfire.

As to who is qualified? Charlie Mas and Melissa Westbrook aren't qualified either. Having a blog, and digging up people's old email isn't really qualification for anything. To claim that Scott Oki has "hubris" because he wants to start a parents union, or has an opinion as to what works, is really the pot calling the kettle black. Sounds like sour grapes to me, just because his opinions are a little different than the holders.

-another reader
LaCrese Green said…
Charlie has posted what Mr. Oki has to offer. I'd like to examine that.

Charlie posted: “A story in Crosscut ("The Parents Union: A new force for education reform?") describes an effort by Scott Oki ("self-described 'serial entrepreneur' and community activist") to form a "parent's union" to counter the strength of the teachers' union and promote public school reform in Washington State."

Charlie adds: "What an idiot!”

I say Amen and to read further is an idiot’s trip because you’re forced to check off each idea as another idiot’s idea. How so? The foundation for his premises crumbles.

He’s going on the assumption that We the Parents are the underdog and if we join Mr. Oki, he’ll give us a place at the top with him.

I’m not buying that. No more than I bought the bull of the current White House occupant. Robin Hood’s “change” was to steal from the rich to enrich and empower the poor and look what a mess he’s made of that! And another broken promise he’d get us out of war in 18 months!

Mr. Oki is going on the assumption that We the Parents are powerless and joining him would empower us? Like Hell he says. Since they’re our kids, We the Parents hold the power and he wants us to place that power into the hands of a non-elected, self-appointed dictocrat while charging membership dues?

I say, Mr. Oki is gambling big time for he seems out of touch with the pulse of society for “reform” is not the majority’s wish.

In the movie, Keeper of the Flame, it seemed that the whole populace, including children, had joined Robert Forrest’s fascist campaign to take over the U.S. government. After he’s accidentally killed, the doctor tells Spencer Tracy, “Some of us held out,” or didn’t join him. And the cab driver said, “I’m not a joiner. If I’m gonna fight, I like to pick my fights.” (LaCrese agrees.)

Those who fall for Mr. Oki and his ilk are gullible individuals chasing for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, as always, the profit to be gained is a dangling carrot, an ifish proposition. Where’s the Math wanted traditional math and I agree; but Mr. Oki does not offer one such concrete goal, so how can I be sure that I’m on board with Mr. Oki?

His selling point is dual. He claims that he’s the only one with an “in” with the legislators or school board members? I’d like to see anyone with an insight to either, eh? Or implies that there’s power in numbers? That didn’t work in preventing closing of schools and neither with the math adoption. We do have an abnormal breed of school board members, don’t we?

But, as always, laying a guilt trip upon the entire populace that it’s because we won’t join or vote for some idiot that we’re in such a fix. True or false? How long will educated, grown adults continue to fall for such idiocy?

This is just LaCrese Green's take on what Mr. Oki has to offer.

To all have a good day.
"A big fat: So What?. Good for her. She's entitled to a professional opinion, and to work with them, and to bring them in - even without "board approval". People should be happy she consulted the board at all, and most of them approve of the experiment. This expose thing is completely ridiculous. And, likely will backfire."

The big fat So What is not that she isn't entitled to her professional opinion. What is So What is that she was disrespectful to those who disagreed with her opinion AND mocked them with the entity involved. That is unprofessional behavior and that's not my standard; that's a business standard.

Most of who approve of this experiment?

The Board is lucky she asked? You must be new because the Superintendent works for the Board. They are HER bosses. So yes, she does have to go to them and it's not just to rubberstamp her work.

And how will telling the truth backfire? I find that exposing the truth about someone and their work tends, especially public officials, makes them more accountable. It's kind of theory that the State Auditor's office works under.

I never started any parent group and I didn't say Scott Oki wasn't qualified. I said I didn't like his proposal. Those are different things.
Charlie Mas said…
another reader writes:

"A school that isn't serving students well."

By what measure does another reader conclude that Aki Kurose isn't serving students well?

Surely not based on MSP scores? It would be impossible to use MSP scores to determine if Aki Kurose were serving students without knowing what the students' MSP scores were before they came to Aki Kurose. There is no reason to believe that these students would have done better at another school. There is no basis for the conclusion that Aki Kurose isn't serving them well.

We don't know how many TFA corps members will be hired or how many schools will hire them. So far there are two hired at one school, but there could easily be more before all of the hiring is done.

Yes, Dr. Enfield is entitled to her professional opinion about TFA. And she didn't need Board approval to bring them into Seattle. In fact, I think the Board should not have voted on the matter at all. Dr. Enfield should, however, make a well-reasoned case for her decision, and she has not yet done that. So far, the only rationale provided for allowing TFA corps members to apply for teaching jobs is to broaden the hiring pool. That's a rationale for changing the application requirements, but not for changing them for only 35 people from a specific teacher recruiting/training organization. It would also require some sense of how many candidates for teaching jobs is enough. What's the benchmark? How will we know when the pool is broad enough?

I'm not sure how it could "backfire" to make the emails public. What does Melissa have to lose? Certainly not her credibility with the Education Reform crowd.

I'm not sure what Melissa and I are not qualified to do, but I assure you that I'm not doing anything that requires any special qualifications. I'm not applying for a teaching job, for example.

Scott Oki isn't hubristic because he wants to start a parents union, or has an opinion as to what works. He's hubristic because he thinks he has the only answer and he thinks that his answer is right for everyone. He's hubristic because he thinks that only an organization under his leadership can effect the change that a lot of other organizations are working to achieve. Mr. Oki is free to have whatever opinions he wants, but his are grotesquely ill-informed.
Maureen said…
Ok, I do see several red flags in the Crosscut article (the idea of balancing the power of the teachers' union, the reference to Green Dot...) but there is good stuff there too (cutting central admin, more school level autonomy...). The Knowledge Action Network sounds like a good way for parents to exchange information and learn about education issues.

If Melissa were the president or CEO most of us would love the idea. Oki is (in my opinion)something of a dilettante, but there were some good ideas in his book.

If tons of right minded people (and by that I mean of course people who think like me!) joined his union and encouraged it to work with the teachers against National Ed Reform agenda, maybe it could be a counterbalance. Almost everyone here seems to assume that he has already been co-opted. Do we know that to be true?

I read through to the end of the article after I wrote the above, and now I really don't know what to think. Liv Finne clearly thinks it is being crated to help push through Reform with a capital R and to weaken the WEA. And her organization published Oki's book. Oki, on the other hand, is hardly quoted at all compared to Finne. He does say: I want to work with teachers unions, not as adversaries but as advocates for change. If we are going to reform our public education system, it will largely be on the backs and shoulders of great teachers.

I haven't gone to his web site yet or read the comments on Crosscut.
Charlie Mas said…
His web site is largely blank.
Anonymous said…
Teachers Union, bad. Parents Union, good. (My Orwell) Black/White. Heads/Tails. Rebublican/Democrat.

Oki's in the trap. He says he wants to work WITH the teacher's union? Then why would he assemble an army of parents in opposition? The media loves two-sides to a fight. Good for ratings.

I can hear the classic two-sided jargon a la Fox News already: "The TEACHERS union says, blah, while, on the other side, the PARENTS union says, blah, blah, blah, as the couch potato, big time wrestling fan parents stand on the sidelines hoping somebody gets the metal chair to the back of the head (figuratively speaking).

It's a war. Whose side will you be on? Patriot? Or union-loving traitor?

I've watched this movie for way too long, and the ending is always the same. It bears repeating what Sinclair Lewis said: When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross. It always starts under the guise of populism and giving a minority of know-it-alls free reign to come to the rescue of the populace.

Oki may be great with computers, and God bless him for it. But I do not want his digital fetishes infecting my kids' brains anymore than they already do.

If the Ed Reform lobby is reflective of anything, it is reflective of a dictatorial, no dissent, one-party-rule philosophy, unburdened by empirical data or serious discussion or debate. It already has the answers, it thinks. It's really quite scary. WSDWG
Jan said…
First of all, thanks "someone" for the reminder that when I let sarcasm and contempt lead, my comments may be as unpersuasive to others as I find the mean-spirited, jingoistic comments of many of those pushing Ed Reform are to me. Having lived close to chronically annoyed folks, it seems to me that sarcasm and contempt can be used almost as drugs -- short "ha! THAT felt good" zingers that in the end do not lead to reasoned argument or informed debate (at least, when I indulge in them, they don't). To Sahila's point,though, I am not entirely against "anger" -- when people wield power malignantly, or negligently, and dishonestly -- and really important things (the fabric of democratic society, my children's education, etc.) are damaged -- anger is appropriate -- maybe even required. But I think I maybe need to aim more for deep, implacable dislike -- and less for the frisson of flippy, sarcastic remarks, no matter how much I enjoy making them at the time. There are many well-reasoned, logical voices on this blog. You remind me to try to be more like them.

As for Scott's position, I have no idea how "sincere" (and therefore potentially amenable to changing his positions based upon reasoned argument, logic, research results, etc.) he may be. Unfortunately, he sort of "lost me" when he suggested that boards for individual schools should be "selected" by the governor -- it is so overwhelmingly inappropriate to take ALL the control from the parents' hands and put it into the hands of a partisan governmental official, elected at the state level, and with accountability to voters for a thousand different issues (budgets, abortion rights, tax policy, environmental positions, transit, export and trade. What does Gregoire know about Bryant, or WSHS, or Hawthorne that she should be appointing the policy makers for those schools. And how would that work if we had a Rick Perry as our governor? Why is Oki so dismissive of the intelligence and deep interest of parents that he would totally rob them of any influence whatsoever (far far less than they have now). It made utterly and completely NO sense to me, and flew in the face of everything I believe about community based school change (and I would LOVE to talk to Scott about it -- but I don't know him).
Charlie Mas said…
Could we talk to Scott Oki about it?

Is he open to that?

He claims that he want a legitimately grassroots organization (although it isn't funded that way), so the positions taken by the Parents Union should come from the bottom up, not from the top down. That would indicate a willingness to hear what people are saying.

So I wonder again: would Scott Oki be willing to talk to us about this? Would he be willing to listen to a view different from his own? Would he be willing to consider an opposing view?
Anonymous said…
Ok Charlie. You don't like Aki's bad MSP scores as a measure of failure. It is a title 1 failing school, the ONLY title 1 failing middle school in the district. (So, it means families can opt out of it. They can opt out of it if they don't like the TFA experiement. So, not such a bad place to have an experiement like that. ) Then, there was the small matter of the on campus rape a few years ago. Have they put up the "No Raping Allowed" signs now? Oh well. I guess that probably doesn't mean anything either to you either. It's just to same old "struggling students" again, staff has nothing to do with it. And those same old strugglers couldn't do any better anywhere else. Isn't that your line? What would it have to be to be failing? When we send our kids to school, we want the staff to keep them safe at a minimum. We expect the staff to create a positive school climate. As I recall, that one was never even reported. Would you want to send your kid there Charlie? Of course not!

And no Melissa, really, the board doesn't do that much. Almost everything, including hiring TFA, or any other contrators is well within the pervue of the superintendent. The board? They can fire her if they like. But how many times can you play that card?

And, the big deal is that she "showed disrespect in email?" Wow. Let's all cry a river about that. You guys need a dose of reality.

-another parent
Another Parent, I cannot follow your argument. What is your point? (Not being snarky, I just don't understand what you are trying to put forth.)
Anonymous said…
"I can hear the classic two-sided jargon a la Fox News already: "The TEACHERS union says, blah, while, on the other side, the PARENTS union says, blah, blah, blah, as the couch potato, big time wrestling fan parents stand on the sidelines hoping somebody gets the metal chair to the back of the head (figuratively speaking).

Wow, Anonymous at 5:49. You're attitudes worse than mine! Right on!

CT said…
Here's the part the "reform crowd" leaves out (feel free to read in whatever dismissive attitude you want into those two words).
Larry Cuban goes over the UNICEF report called, appropriately enough, "The Children Left Behind".
Charlie Mas said…
another parent,

The poor pass rate for students at Aki Kurose is indicative os something, but it is not necessarily indicative of poor quality instruction at Aki Kurose.

More likely, it indicates that a lot of students come to Aki Kurose working below grade level. A number of them enter the school working so far below grade level that even if their education is accelerated while at the middle school they will still be working below grade level when they leave three years later.

More likely it indicates that a lot of the students at Aki Kurose are not well-supported in their education. They may lack stability in their home life, proper nutrition, or just encouragement. They may have language barriers, their family members may have issues with violence or substance abuse. Some family members may just be absent.

The strong correlation between household income and performance on standardized tests is real. Therer are real reasons that children living in poverty under-perform. Quality of instruction or "school quality" (whatever that means) simply don't rate high among the determinants.

So, no. The poor pass rate on the MSP for students at Aki Kurose does not indicate that Aki Kurose is a bad school or a failing school. It just makes it an ordinary school.

Is the school un-safe? More unsafe than other schools? I can't say. That data isn't available. There was the incident in June of 2008. There have been un-reported or under-reported assaults at other schools as well. The one at Aki Kurose was under-reported (an unanswered call to the police non-emergency police number on the day of the assault and another call made and completed to the police the following day). Aki Kurose has a new principal since then. There is also, I suspect, heightened compliance with procedure around such matters.

Tell me which middle school is the safe school. Are any of them free of violence? Is Washington? Is Mercer? Is Hamilton?

As for the the superintendent's attitude revealed in the emails, the concern was not for the mocking tone for any individual concerned citizen, but the mocking tone and dismissive regard for community engagement as a whole. The community was clearly held in contempt, and the community's input was regarded with even greater contempt.

A review of the motions brought before the Board since Dr. Enfield was named interim superintendent shows that nearly every one of them came to the Board with no community engagement at all. This is another measure of the interim superintendent's regard for public input.

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