Getting Desperate over at LEV

Every week, LEV's leader, Chris Korsmo does a column at their webpage.  She tries pretty hard to be funny but it usually falls somewhat flat.  (If you are not a naturally funny writer, efforts to be funny just don't work.)  This is part of what she had to say this week on charter legislation:

I don’t know about you, but if one more person tells me that they wish we could do something about the achievement gap, but bringing public charter schools to Washington will only help a few kids, somethin’s gotta give. I swear I’m going to go buy every copy of Schindler’s List I can find and hand them out like a human Pez dispenser.

Here's my reply:

Well, as LEV has itself pointed out, only 17% of charters do better than traditional public schools so yes, there is a very real chance that if charter legislation passed, it would only help a few kids. 

What does the holocaust have to do with public education in Washington State?

It is a bit baffling that she chose Schindler's List to illustrate her point on closing the achievement gap with charter schools (and, Pez is a candy so it would be used to hand out books?).

She goes on:

As in previous years and iterations, the issue is not without its controversy. Goodness knows change doesn’t come without its dissenters. But even of those who support the issue, some think it has no chance. They are wrong.  But we have to act now. We must push to get these bills voted out of committee over the next five days. While we wouldn’t be completely sunk if they didn’t it would be optimal if we could get the bills out of the house and senate committees by the Tuesday, January 31 cutoff.  

The bill doesn't have "no chance."  From those I know who know the Legislature, it has little chance.  Word is that it won't make it out of one (or both) committees. 

Mostly, I think it's about timing.  This is just not the time to bring on more spending and more bureaucracy that isn't going straight to the classroom.  And, of course, if we aren't fully-funding existing schools, how is bringing on more underfunded schools going to help?  

Between the lack of funding and the low rate of success for charter schools, I wouldn't be surprised if this legislation fails.

However, Ms. Korsmo is right about one thing; it's not over until it's over.  We do have a link on the homepage (to the right of the blog threads) to the Legislature.  Let your legislator know what you think.


seattle citizen said…
"change doesn’t come without its dissenters."

Right. Those pesky "dissenters."

Same old trope: Change is always good, YOU aren't making any changes, WE have the change that is good...Those "dissenters", and I love that word - anyone who sometimes dissents is by nature therefore a dissenter and will fight simply everything - are the status quo! Dinosaurs, un-data-driven (the GOOD change is ALWAYS quaintifiable!), stuck-in-a-rutters....rotters, all, and should dismiss everything they say out of hand. For WE have the new-new thing!

And bringing up the Holocaust is just...grossly inappropriate. If I were to make an analogy using the Holocaust, I would argue that reducing education to Reading and Math, sans civics and history as seems to be the wont of modern charterification, is much more apt to produce the unknowing, unquestioning masses that helped enable the holocaust than the less scripted, more liberal arts oriented education that has emerged in the last fifty years or so.
Eric M said…
Here's what a lot of us teachers want, rather than charter schools.

We want resources.

Smaller classes, of course.

Better trained and experienced teachers, of course. With time for collaboration. With time for kids with special needs.

Graduation specialists, that establish relationships with struggling kids and see them through.

College, career, internship, & employment specialists, that help students transition to the world beyond high school.

Attendance specialists, that help get kids in school and keep them there.

Teaching specialists that run math tutorial centers outside of classtime, and that keep school libraries open.

Trained Instructional assistants that can help students transition from their 80 native languages to English.

Full day kindergarten, and early childhood specialists.

We want that for all our schools & all our kids.

We want the Legislature to step up to the Supreme Court's challenge.

Eric Muhs
candidate for SEA president

If you're not going to the School Board meeting Wednesday, look for us at the Westlake Mall 6-8 pm. Teachers will be there, grading papers, because that's what we do in the evenings.
Chris S. said…
I'm gonna channel Sahila here, I think...

17% of schools are better than public schools. More are worse. If you translate that in to kids it's even more skewed for the worst, because that stat doesn't count kids who are counseled/kicked/dropped out.

Someone should be doing a study on who DOES benefit. Because someone undoubtedly does. Follow the money.
Anonymous said…
It sounds as if these people want charters for the sake of privatizing education. They ignore the data which means they ignore the need. It is simply ideology with them.

What else can it be?

Anonymous said…
And bringing up the Holocaust is just...grossly inappropriate. If I were to make an analogy using the Holocaust, I would argue that reducing education to Reading and Math, sans civics and history as seems to be the wont of modern charterification, is much more apt to produce the unknowing, unquestioning masses that helped enable the holocaust than the less scripted, more liberal arts oriented education that has emerged in the last fifty years or so.

Well said, Seattle Citizen—it is IMHO—probably the most terrifying aspect of what's happening in public education. Our electorate is being dumbed down on those deeper subjects—history, sociology, philosophy—to the point that they will be easily bamboozled into thinking whatever the "powers that be" want.

Is it a planned conspiracy...or just human nature? That is the question. Those in power usually do whatever they have to to keep that power. Altruisim is the ideal, but power corrupts. It IS human nature. Well...I'm getting way to philosophical now...

Sahila said…
Long post chopped into several entries:

The Strange Genesis of “Education Reform”—How A Crackpot Theory Became National Policy

Mark Naison
Fordham University.

In future generations, historians are likely to tell the following story. Some time during the early 21St Century, a cross section of the top leadership of American society began to panic. They looked at the growing chasm between the rich and poor, the huge size of the nation’s prison population, the growing gulf in educational achievement between blacks and whites and poor and middle class children and decided something dramatic had to be done to remedy these problems.

But instead of critically examining how these trends reflected twenty years of regressive taxation, a futile “war on drugs,” the deregulation of the financial industry, the breaking of unions and the movement of American companies abroad, America’s leaders decided the primary source of economic inequality could be found in failing schools, bad teachers, and powerful teachers unions.

No serious scholar, looking at the economic and social trends of the previous 20 years, or the major innovations in social policy that unleashed the power of big capital, would have given to slightest credence to this analysis of the sources of inequality, but the idea that educational failure was the prime source of all other social deficits took hold with the force of a religious conversion. Corporate leaders, heads of major foundations, civil rights leaders, politicians in both major parties, bought this explanation hook line and sinker and so began one of the strangest social movements in modern American history- the demonization of America’s teachers and the development of strategies to radically transform education by taking power away from them
Sahila said…
Part 2:

The consequence of this leap of faith, supported by no serious research, was the idea that there has to be a centralized effort to monitor educational progress though quantifiable measures, coupled with accountability strategies which called for the removal of teachers and the closing of schools, if they didn’t meet those criteria. Through policies developed at the federal level but implemented locally so that they effected every school district in the nation, scrutinizing teacher effectiveness became a national mission introduced with as much fanfare as was America’s efforts to put a rocket in space during the 1950’s and 60’s.

The centerpiece of this mission was that teachers had to be judged on student performance of standardized tests, as there were no other “objective” criteria that could generate meaningful statistical information on a national scale. But America’s states and municipalities did not have consistent testing policies, so federal policies called for universal testing related to a nationally developed set of Common Core Standards, with the loss of federal funding being presented as the consequence of failure to comply.
Sahila said…
Part 3:

This all sounds very rational until you look at it from the individual school level. To evaluate teachers via standardized tests, and do it across the board, you have to have tests in every grade and every subject. This not only means tests in English, Math, Science and Social Studies, it means tests in Art, Music and Gym...

No school in any country, at any time in history, ever tried doing something like this, and for good reason. It means that all that goes on in school is preparation for tests. There is no spontaneity, not creativity, no possibility of responding to new opportunities for learning that events that occur locally, nationally, or globally. It also means play, and pleasure are erased from the school experience, and that students are put under constant stress, maximized by teachers who know that their own job security depends on student performance

What you have here, in short, is a prescription for making the nation’s schools a place of Fear and Dread, ruled by test protocols that deaden minds and stifle creative thinking. Make no mistake about it, there are people who stand to benefit handsomely from this insanity, especially the companies who make the tests and the consultants who administer them, but anyone who thinks this level of testing will make America’s schools more effective or reduce social inequality has a capacity for self-delusion that staggers the imagination. Only people with no options would choose to send their children to schools that way. The wealthy will send their children to private schools which eschew testing, the well organized will withdraw from the system and create their own cooperative schools or engage in home schooling

The sad part about all of this is that the Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration, continues to push this program, with the support of both major parties and a cross section of America’s corporate leadership.

There are not to many other examples in American history where such a crackpot theory guided social policy this way. The last example I can think of was the passage of the Prohibition Amendment to the US constitution, based on the conviction that the banning of alcoholic beverages would somehow create greater social stability and save America from corruption.

Someday, Test Based Education Reform will go the way of Prohibition. But not before incalculable damage is done to the nations children

Mark Naison
January 19, 2012
Anonymous said…
There was a time people would have branded me as crazy for what Im going to say: It is a conspiracy and it is being led by the richest of the rich: Google "ALEC" and "The Fascinating History of How Corporations Became "People" -- Thanks to Corrupt Courts Working for the 1%" at Alternet and Lewis Powell and the Powell Memorandum Powell titled his 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” He explained, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.” In response, corporations must organize and fund a drive to achieve political power through “united action.” Powell emphasized the need for a sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to shape “social, economic and political change” to the advantage of corporations.

It is conspiracy and we are losing to the money that supports it. The top 1% want their money back. And their media propaganda is working unbelievable well. It is as simple as that. Look at what Murdock gets away with.

Sahila posted the Barkan article - "billionaires rule our schools." I don't know why the question keeps coming up. it is frustrating.

mitt said…
To Eric M:

Right on!! These are the things that are truly needed to close the gap -- ideas that help students and teachers alike. Your priorities are my priorities, and you list them with strength and conviction. If you as SEA president will fight for these things, you will be getting my vote!
caroline said…
Extrapolating Godwin's law, Korsmo loses the debate and the discussion has to end. Begone, charter pushers!

(That might be the most incoherent reference to Nazis and the Holocaust that I've ever seen, too.)
Sahila said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sahila said…
and in relation to what ed deformers are pushing - data, data, data:

"" rests at the very bottom of the so-called knowledge hierarchy — below information, knowledge and wisdom."

what happens when data disappears?
hschinske said…
I keep wondering what this "17% are better" means anyway. If 17% are better than the AVERAGE, well, so are lots and lots of non-charter schools better than the average. Probably more than 17%, depending how you define "average." For instance, if the "average" for non-charter schools means those schools that fall between the 33rd percentile and the 66th percentile, well, obviously about 33% of non-charter schools will be better than that, which would mean that only half as many charter schools were in the top third.

But the thing is, unless you go back to the source, you don't KNOW. Maybe they meant "average" went up to 92nd percentile. Then twice as many charters as non-charters would be above average.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
A hat tip to Sue Peterson if I may. This time last year Chris Korsmo blew up at the Seattle Channel forum over a comment that was never made about children who can't learn. Then as now LEV's public face doesn't make sense. Sue P's takeaway makes sense:

"Her accusation (which she fleshed out in her “round-up” post on the LEV blog) about those of us in the audience — “person after person said we can’t get kids ready because they’re poor, black, brown, abused, homeless, the kid sitting next to them didn’t do his homework”-- is a misconception at the very least, a downright lie at the worst. No one there said any child couldn’t learn. In fact, the very reason many of us were at the forum that night is because we are deeply concerned about how poorly this district is treating all our children, including the poor kids of color Korsmo apparently believes to have a monopoly on supporting."

"But many said that poor kids and English Language Learners often need more help to be able to learn well. And teachers alone can’t give these kids everything they need. Many in the audience that night agreed that changing a teacher without changing everything else that affects a struggling child’s life will not alone make enough of a difference for that child."

"The ed reformers seem to think they alone care about poor kids of color. That’s not true. What’s more, the reforms they push are actually doing harm."

Can someone explain why people like Korsmo keep politicking with the lives of children?

Mr. White
Anonymous said…
Regarding my question, thanks to everyone who posted in this thread. My question and suspicions answered.

Mr. White
suep. said…
Thank you, Mr. White!
Melinda said…
My husband and I have been public education supporters our whole adult lives even though we have no children.

If Korsmo and McFarland are able to put this issue on the ballot again, we believe it is only fair that they allow us to vote on re-directing our property taxes AWAY from education in future.

We are all for "providing for the common good" but draw the line at private profit at public expense.

Let them use their own money to fund "little Lakesides" for their kids.
Anonymous said…
Apparently Lisa Macfarlane from DFER has come up with a procharter petition aimed at getting democrat signatures.

It contains any number of whaaaa's??? including "public charter schools are serving a more diverse group of students than traditional public schools"

Flat Out Not True.

It is being publicized by Chris Eide's Teachers United page on facebook.

I Am: Not Convinced And Not Impressed
Anonymous said…
And why isn't Mr. Eide, like the infamous Crissy Coxxon, in the classroom this year? Those who can't, or don't want, to teach, found or join Special Interest think tanks: Where the Real money is!

WSDWG, Eide was over at the LEV blog, whining about how people here are mean to him (apparently he believes some here have "slandered" his name)and that a few of you won't even look him in the face when you see him in person.

It's a education world out there; you gotta have a thick skin.
Anonymous said…
I'll look him in the eye, shake his hand, and discuss his track record with him. He can teach, and has done so, apparently with great success. But for someone who loves it so much, its disturbing that he won't stay in the trenches and lead by example.

He's given many interviews, including stating that getting kids to succeed required "religious devotion" to the task. Now that's all great, but how can a person do that, like he did, for 70-80 hours per week, for 25 years, and craft any kind of life for themselves and their families?

What it all comes down to is sustainability. Eide & Co. might be brilliant for a year or two at a time, but they cannot cite an example of a teacher doing the same thing by only working 50 hours a week, raising a family, and paying a mortgage.

We need a dose of realism in the midst of all the high-fiving, back slapping and motivational speeches about the "greatest civil rights cause of our generation."

I love that Eide taught at Mercer. I just wish he still was. That he isn't given his talents, speaks volumes toward how unsustainable the Superman Teacher myth is.

I don't enjoy trashing Korsmo either. But she says a lot of dumb, untrue things, and she will not relent. I'd love to have a peace treaty and genuinely work together with these folks, but it has to take place above board, in broad daylight, and without Gates/Walton/Broad's thumb firmly held on their side of the scale. Why would I listen when my bread is buttered by the guy holding my strings? WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Where is Eide complaining, Melissa. Have you got a link by chance? WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Nevermind. I found it.

WV says "tritepin" - Indeed.

Anonymous said…
They are just doing their job. They are lobbyists afterall. Not teachers or educators anymore. So I guess I'm not bothered by much of being said. They can compare their cause to the civil rights or themselves to Mathama Ghandi, but it's all overused hyperbole anyway. We are so used to the screaming, I think many of us have tuned out.

plain Jane
Anonymous said…
Why did Mercer (Eide's school) get to teach Saxon math, ostensibly without a waiver or formalized district permission?

Sue P. speculated immediately that it had something to do with the principal's background (TFA) and/or some type of reform agenda. Now, it looks like more resume padding may have occurred in the form of Chris Eide, who seems to be taking exclusive credit for the gains at Mercer.

Has Enfield ever been made to account for this whole fishy situation (besides trying to look like she wasn't AWOL on the matter when she publicly contradicted Smith's Blum's ST quote during the school board meeting)?

It is imperative that Enfield be made to answer these simple questions. Who allowed Saxon math at Mercer? Who paid for it? Why were they given permission to use it? When and how was the decision reached that Mercer was exempt from the district math program?

It's time for the administration to provide solid answers to the public.

--enough already

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