Open Thread Friday

What an interesting week. 

From the district:  the State of the District speech will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Saturday the 19th on cable channel 26 (Comcast).  This is the speech the Superintendent gave on Wednesday. 

Also this weekend is the College Application Help: Dream Project Admissions Workshop at UW from 8:00 am to 4:00 p.m. for seniors working on college applications.  There are parent information session from 8:30-10:00 am in Kane Hall.  Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided as well as computers, printing and in-person advice from college admission counselors. 

Contact your high school counselor or or
Lily Ly

And for middle school and high school students there is See it. Be it:Explore Your Future Career.
This is at Seattle Center, Rainier Room from 10 am to 2 pm.  Sessions include STEM, Arts and Design, Service sector, Sports and Wellness, Trades and Business and Entrepreneurship. 

A raft of School Board community meetings:

DeBell - 9-11 am at Cafe Appasionato
Carr - 8:30-10 am at Bethany Community Church
Patu - 10 am-noon at Tully's at Rainier Ave South/Genesee
Smith-Blum - 10-11:30 am, Capitol Hill library
Sundquist - 3-4:30 p.m.  at High Point Library

What's on your mind?


Christina said…
I couldn't go to the Diane Ravitch talk at Town Hall last night. Maybe a blog reader did and is willing to share any notes or memorable moments?

I understand Diane Ravitch appears Saturday at the Washington State School Directors' Association conference in Bellevue.
RosieReader said…
I know she is roundly despised by most commenters here, but I thought Lynne Varner's Op-Ed piece today on Ravitch was great.
Anonymous said…
I'd just like to take a moment to thank the district for reminding me (on Wednesday) that there would be no school on the previous Friday.

Well done!
Anonymous said…
Great in what way? I had a hard time following it, though I did come away with the distinct impression that Ms. Varner really does not like Diane Ravitch, nor folks who may agree with some of her observations.

I thought the best line in the piece was

"Unhelpful rhetoric soon returns."

by which I believe Ms. Varner refers to her own writing, such as...

"The problem is that when Ravitch is performing for the anti-reform crowd, she lobs verbal howitzers that, upon reflection, lack nuance."


"Not if charters don't exist, which is the Faustian bargain charter opponents have struck in Washington state."


"Later in the conversation, a more reasoned Ravitch explains..."


"Ravitch takes the expected swipe at TFA..."


"I'm not optimistic that the anti-education-reform crowd will suddenly become interested in having their tightly held notions challenged. Instead, they'll spend this chilly weekend lapping up Ravitch's rhetoric like sweet cream."

Charlie Mas said…
I generally work on Saturday mornings, so I can rarely attend those Saturday morning community meetings. Unfortunately this is the one time that people can speak with Board members.

I would love to get the opportunity to ask them why they have not enforced the Program Placement policy.

The policy calls for transparency. I thought they supported transparency. Maybe they only say that they support transparency, but don't really support it.

This continues to disturb me and only the Board Directors can answer for themselves. They have not responded to my emails on the topic. I would dearly love the opportunity to ask them face-to-face and get an answer.
Charlie Mas said…
I read Lynne Varner's op-ed about Diane Ravitch, but I found it odd and self-contradictory.

She railed against "verbal howitzers that... lack nuance" but fires off a number of them herself.

Again and again, point by point, Ms Varner initially stakes out an extreme position for Ms Ravitch, then an extreme opposing position for herself, then finally acknowledges the truth, that they both share a moderate position.

First it is testing. Ms Varner falsely claims that Ms Ravitch is against it, then falsely claims that students only take one standardized test a year, then finally acknowledges that both she and Ms Ravitch share a belief that a minimal amount of testing is what's appropriate.

Then its Charters. Ms Varner puts words into Ms Ravitch's mouth, saying that charters are all bad. Then Ms Varner spanks the voters a bit for refjecting them (three times!) before reaching the middle ground (shared by Ms Ravitch) that innovation is good.

After that comes the role of Bill Gates. First Ms Varner misrepresents Ms Ravitch's position (Bill Gates is the debil), then she stakes out a ridiculous position of her own on the other side, then Ms Varner reports that she and Ms Ravitch agree.

Finally she plays the same trick with the impact of poverty on education. She makes a straw man arugment for Ms Ravitch, poses an unrealistic counter-argument, then admits that Ms Ravitch's position is actually more moderate and nuanced and... oops.

My model breaks down here because Ms Varner didn't return to reality at this point.

I read the column a couple times over but all of the snapping back and forth made my neck ache.
Anonymous said…
Varner & Co. didn't get their way in the election, so now they have 2 choices: Wake up to reality, or dig deeper into the trenches of Ed Reform, getting nastier and more personal with every deepening inch. Seems she's opting for the latter, truth be damned. If they choose to be sore losers instead of taking the blinders off and realizing that Ed Reformers don't in fact have all the answers to our woes, then we'll have to witness the Varner & Co flush their few remaining threads of credibility down the toilet as the Stranger, yes, THE STRANGER, for God's sake, eats their lunch on education coverage.

It sucks when your candidates loses. But it sucks even worse when you hitch your credibility and stature to those candidates, waiving bye-bye to your objectivity and credibility along the way, because when they get rejected, so do you. Time to own it, LV.

And FYI: Soft-peddling bullshit is not being "nuanced." WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Finally cancelled my Times Subscription this morning over the ridiculous anti-union crap in Varner's column.

--Tired and cranky
Maureen said…
Brian Rosenthal wrote a (well balanced I think) piece on Ravitch's talk at Town Hall: Historian blasts education reforms. I thought it was kind of weird that Varner wrote her piece after a private phone conversation with Ravitch instead of waiting one day and writing an op ed based on what Ravitch actually said to a Seattle audience of 800.

I couldn't make it to the talk. I second Christina's request that someone give us the highlights. Though I'm guessing Dora and Sue were there and will post on Seattle Education when they get a chance.
Jack Whelan said…
Varner's piece this morning was fatuous. Charlie explains why.

As far as Ms. Ravitch's talk last night, if you read the book, you heard the talk. It was interesting that both Susan Enfield and Michael Debell were there. Perhaps other staff and other board members attended a reception before the event and left early. Don't know.

Here' s what it comes down to: Either you think corporate ed reform is a serious threat to public education or you don't. Cognitive dissonance works on both sides of that divide; nothing is black and white, nothing unambiguously right or wrong when it comes to complex, multi-layered human systems like American Public Education. But sometimes you just have to take sides.

Ravitch has credibility because she's been on both sides. She was an early supporter of reform and changed her mind. She's someone who has an insider's understanding, and while she is very evidence-based in her arguments, she makes no pretense of being objective, because she understands public education is fighting for its life.

During her talk Ravitch described this time as "dark days" for public education. An older gentleman asked her during the Q&A when it hadn't been. She responded that the difference between now and earlier was that whatever problems public education had in the past there was a universal consensus that the challenge was to improve public schools, not privatize them.

So it seems to me either you get that or you don't. You can't look at Charter Schools, TFA, the increased focus on standardized testing, incentivized teaching, test-based teacher accountability, and all the other elements on the reform agenda in a political vacuum.

If we lived in a different political climate, we could look at any one of these dispassionately and evaluate them on the merits, but we don't and we can't. These attacks on the foundational ideal of public education have to be seen for what they are--not as positive innovations, but as tactics in a larger, ideologically driven strategy to take the public out of public education, and they must be fought with passion, and Ravitch understands her role in that fight.
Anonymous said…
What is Seattle Public Schools base level of competence required for teachers? We are shocked at the low level of basic skills exhibited by one of our child's teachers.

Parents have documented poor and grossly inappropriate curriculum choices, belittling of students, irrelevant assignments, poorly written tests, etc. What's a parent to do?

concerned parent
Anonymous said…
From an old post by Melissa:

Okay, I'll tell you how.

One, principals need to follow the process. It is a detailed process to get rid of a bad teacher and that's because if you made it easy, every principal with a grudge would be getting rid of teachers that he/she doesn't like. It can be done and I know this because the principal at Roosevelt High School got rid of not one but two bad teachers in a year's time. (Sadly, my kid had both these teachers but at least they aren't there anymore.) But it takes effort and time and some principals just won't do it.

What is "the process" and how can parents provide support and documentation? How does a parent know if the process is underway? What timeframe does it involve? What constitutes a "bad" teacher according to the District?

Julia Clifford Lathrop Relation said…
Here's an idea for a series of posts:

"So You'd Like To..."
- help a poor teacher improve
- learn how to identify and collect staff sponsors so you can volunteer in your children's schools
- help Seattle Schools children overcome inadequate curricula
- help Seattle Schools children get textbooks

Consider it a do-it-yourself series. Invite guest bloggers who've succeeded at these activities.
Jamie said…
Sharon Peaslee is now up by 945 votes.
Anonymous said…
There are some teachers that benefit from and welcome support from parents, and some that don't. I'm guessing it's the latter that the concerned parent was referencing.

It is a principal's job, not a parent's, to help a poor teacher improve.

-been there
suep. said…
Big gaffe by Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro in the latest edition:

Seattle School Board Stays Put
Why voters chose to leave the bums in.
By Nina Shapiro Wednesday, Nov 16 2011

Seattle Public Schools had one of its biggest financial scandals ever this year. And yet, given a choice to throw the bums out, voters mostly decided to keep them in, giving three of the four incumbents re-election victories. Why?

Perhaps because many of the people who vote in down-ballot school-board races—read: parents—know what the larger public doesn't seem to: Seattle has a good school system. (...)

Shapiro has since added an update about Peaslee leading Maier, but this was another case of a publication that should know better jumping to conclusions -- and inaccurate analysis -- before all the ballots are in.

I agree that many of SPS schools themselves have good things happening in them. But this election was, I believe, mostly a referendum on district management and how things are being run at the JSCEE HQ, and to that, voters gave a pretty big thumbs down. Kicking out two out of four well-financed and politically connected incumbents is not easy and not a small deal.

The fact is, every one of the challengers earned respect and a decent number of votes. The fact that the board president has been ousted and now another rubber-stamping incumbent is also being shown the door indicates that voters have indeed had enough of this current board. So the real story here is the success of the challengers.
Jan said…
As of 4:43 today, the Peaslee/Maier count is:

Director District No. 1

Peter Maier 73115 49.38%

Sharon Peaslee 74404 50.25%

Write-in 561 0.38%

She leads by 1,289, which I think expands her spread to about .87%
Anonymous said…
Yeah but. It was hardly a landslide. And certainly not some sort of mandate.

Geez. That was a "gaffe"? It really did look like Peslea had lost. So what? She turned it around in a suprise late vote count. I think most people were pretty surprised by it.

Jan said…
Yeah, parent -- I am pretty sure that calling an election that was always "too close to call" with that many of the votes outstanding counts as a "gaffe," -- in ANY reporter's book. There were SO many ways to have reported this more fairly and accurately ("if Maier's numbers hold" "likely, with X percent of the vote still out" "early returns indicate" etc. etc. -- and neither Nina nor the Times editorial could be bothered to. Do you think, if the votes had been switched, they would have "called the election" for Peaslee at that point -- with that many votes outstanding? I don't. When your prejudices (pro-incumbent, pro Ed Reform, whatever) get in the way of accurate reporting, and you blow the call, it's a gaffe.
anonymous said…
" It is a detailed process to get rid of a bad teacher and that's because if you made it easy, every principal with a grudge would be getting rid of teachers that he/she doesn't like."

Kind of like all of us in the private sector do, huh. I guess those of us without a union have some incentive to do our work well enough that our bosses will not have grudges against us.

fed ip
Christina said…
I found the YouTube upload of Diane Ravitch's Thursday appearance at Town Hall.
Jan said…
fed ip -- I see your point (I have a private sector employer, too). And I agree that many unions (not just the SEA, WEA, and NEA) have spent far too much time bargaining for termination provisions that are too expensive and unworkable (all those rubber rooms of the past?). But there is much more to the issue than that. Absent some reasonable process for getting rid of teachers, one bad principal (and there are lots), left to his/her own devices, can decimate a school of good staff in no time. But teachers, teams of good teachers who have worked together in schools for a number of years -- do not "belong" to the principal. They are, in a way, a "public asset," and deserve enough protection so that we have some hope that we will not just "lose all that value" over one or two years with a bad principal.

Now -- in private schools, this is kept in check by parents with big checkbooks. If they leave and don't pay tuition, the school dies. THEY know what works and what doesn't, and ordinarily, the principal leaves long before the worst of the damage can be wreaked by bad school management. I have seen this happen personally.

In private business, if a bad boss starts firing all the good employees, well -- the clients/customers leave, the contracts don't get renewed. Worse yet, the ex-employees may call their old clients -- and pretty soon, the business is all at the competition, down the street. This is all "free market stuff" at work -- except that none of this stuff works very well (and sometimes not at all) in public bureaucracies. Parents hate it? Tough! It's their attendance school, and all the other good ones are full. You can't just open a public school "down the street."

I am not necessarily advocating for whatever the current system is -- both because I don't KNOW what it is and because I have a vague sense it is too creaky and moribund and time consuming. But really, the comparison should not, in my opinion, be with the average "at will" employee of a private enterprise.
Anonymous said…
if SEA jonathan had a different kind of political savvy, he'd be addressing the baloney in Varner's piece. Sadly, his concept of 'savvy' seems to be -

bask in the lite of king maker!

don't bother telling him the lite is a 5 watt bulb.

Anonymous said…
more McClure:

Students at risk again.

Why were McClure staff and teachers not notified during the recent lockdown at nearby John Hay?

Could it be because is was during an ASB activiites day and students were freely roaming the McClure halls and teachers had no lists of students whereabouts?

Teachers are legally responsible for their students in the event of a natural disaster, fire, or other calamity.

So, here was a perfect storm of teachers at legal risk, students at physical risk, and the admins once again ignoring the whole situation.

It might be hard to get rid of a bad teacher. I'm learning it is impossible to get rid of a bad principal even with lives at risk.

Will it be like the Silas Potter or Penn State scandals - the powers that be continuing to look the other way and do nothing until real injury occurs?

(Hello, parents, DeBell, Carlyle, Enfield...)

suep. said…
@Anonymous at 11/18/11 5:02 PM...

Many of us on this blog and beyond suspected that Peaslee had a chance. If the Weekly and Times had truly been paying attention to what's going on in the district, they would have known so as well.

As journalists, the Seattle Weekly (and the Times) should know that it ain't over til the last ballot's counted. And maybe even then it still isn't. With the recent history of Rossi v. Gregoire here in WA, and the national Gore v. Bush debacle, and classic history as ArchStanton has pointed out, of Dewey v. Truman, journalists should know not to jump to conclusions, esp. in a mail-in-only election when so many ballots remained to be counted.

What I sense here is the Times willfully ignored the facts and pushed its preconceived agenda and frame that the incumbents deserved to survive.

For the Weekly, it was a matter of jumping the gun.

As for landslides, that's irrelevant here. The mere fact that underfunded, unconnected grassroots challengers won at all is significant. Incumbents have huge advantages, beginning with name recognition. If this were a 100 yard dash, it's as if incumbents start at the 50 yard line, while challengers start at zero. To come from behind and win like that against all the odds requires huge momentum. -- Or damaged or weak incumbents.

I think both elements were at play in this election.

Anyway, cheers to Marty & Sharon.
Jan said…
As of Monday, the Peaslee/Maier vote is:

Peter Maier 74319 49.26%

Sharon Peaslee 75971 50.35%

Write-in 588 0.39%

The spread is now 1,652, and exceeds 1%

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