A Thoughtful Stance on Charters

One of the perks of doing this work and getting out there in the community is meeting people who don't just talk - they act. 

Trish Millines Dziko is such a person.  Trish and her partner, Jill Hull Dziko, started providing STEM programs for students of color back in 1996.  They then founded Technology Access Foundation which now has two programs: TechStart and TAF Academy. 

TechStart is an after-school program (middle school) and school-day program (elementary) for STEM, to help them learn about it and be prepared for classes in it.

TAF Academy, in the Federal Way school district, is a 6-12th grade model for STEM. 

So when I heard Trish giving testimony at a recent state senate committee meeting about TAF, I contacted her and thanked her for her work.  I also asked her about charters because TAF has done tremendous work in creating their programs and doing the tough work to create partnerships to support their work.

So, it seems like TAF might be a natural for starting a charter school.   Here's what she sent to me - a thoughtful position sheet that they sent to their donors on this issue.  It is well worth reading as she lays out what it would mean, pro and con. 

TAF has decided to take no position because she supports ALL schools who reach even the hardest-to-reach kids.  

And who knows?  If the legislation passes, TAF might start a charter (although their cons do point out items I hadn't even thought about - again, a signal to the thoughtfulness with which Trish and TAF approach their work). 

There is good work being done out there for kids and TAF is one place where it is happening. 


Anonymous said…
I thought TAF was trying to set up a program at Rainier Beach but the community was against it? Anybody remember that? I don't know the facts but remember Dave Ross talking about it several years ago.

Charlie Mas said…
TAF was going to establish a program, I believe it was going to be a 6-12 program, in the unused space at Rainier Beach High School. The District handled the public relations very badly - really very badly - and the principal contributed to the community's opposition. Ms Dziko also stumbled a bit on the PR front - she was very new to it. The community opposition was so vocal that the District backed off.

It was a good lesson in PR for everyone involved - for the district and TAF to see the value of it - and for the community to see the danger of it. A mob doesn't make well-reasoned decisions.
uxolo said…
Good to see the TAF letter and that her perspective is being heard by legislators.

BIG congratulations for the award-winning work sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka Changemakers.
Yea, Charlie you pretty much summed that one up right. From a personal perspective I learned a lot from that experience--PR, politics and knowing the status of previous relationships.

I think the biggest mistake on TAF's part (and ultimately my part since I lead TAF) was thinking that just because we had successfully served hundreds of SE Seattle students for 10 years that the community would be behind us starting a school. What I didn't understand was the community's relationship with the District and that aligning with the District and expecting them to open the door for us was not in our best interest.

Our experience in Federal Way was completely different because their superintendent had a totally different relationship with the board, principals and the community. So far our relationship with Renton is just as fruitful. I do hope that one day we can bring TAF Academy to Seattle.

As an organization, we've grown up a lot. Every day brings new experiences we try to build on. We have a great team and we're still having fun (which is a requirement for anyone who wants to have any longevity and success in this line of work)!
Jack Whelan said…
TAF con on charters: "There would be no partnership with the district (if the district was not the one to authorize the charter school) and therefore no incentive or mechanism to share best practices."

This is a point that tends to get lost in the shuffle. We all tend to think of "freedom" as an unmitigated good, and so the more of it the better. But as we've seen in the last 30 years individual freedom has to be balanced by a commitment to the common good--to the idea that we are all in this together. Fundamental to the mission of public schools is this commitment to "we're all in this together", and it's precisely this value that charters undermine.

So yes, more freedom for individual learning communities and innovative initiatives like TAF or others, but let them develop in the context of "we might be taking different approaches, but we're still part of this larger commitment to work together to achieve the 'public' mission of public education." The privatizing forces behind charters could care less about that commitment.
Anonymous said…
Agree with what you said except for the mob because I don't think the mob represented the splintered community. Politics and mistrust tank that whole deal. Sad.

Yeap, focus should be to reach all kids in the district not just in the SE. We've done plenty to know what works with kids fallling behind. SSD get sidetracked easily by swinging trends and politics (i.e. TFA, standardization vs. alt/innovation, centralization vs. decentralization, scandals, board/Superintendent/ed reform politics, SE intiative). Now the state is fixing education by focusing on charter and teacher eval bills. Oh boy! But no word on how to fund basic ed. Sigh.

-- tinkerbell
Anonymous said…
To me this highlights the difference between community collaboration and hegemony. TAF demonstrates the former, while too many charter proponents push for the latter.

Complete replacement of a system that has many working parts is wasteful and often results in no progress or regression. If only more Ed Reformers would abandon the top-down "decapitation strike, then purge the ranks" mentality, in favor of collaborating within the working parts of the current system, we'd move a lot further, faster, on the opportunity and achievement gap fronts.

But, instead too many Charters insist on burning the villages to save them. Emotion and rhetoric - often disquised as "research" rule their days while logic and reason go in the rubbish bin.

Imagine what all that private & foundation money poured into the 83% of charters that do no better than regular schools could do if it was instead invested into existing public schools. WSDWG
dan dempsey said…
This report may not be thoughtful.....
Here is yet another report card ....

This one Report Card on American Education by ALEC {The American Legislative Exchange Council} , with the push for Limited Government · Free Markets · Federalism.

Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform

by Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips

WA gets a performance rank of #25/51

and an education policy grade of C.

It seems these grades are just how aligned the state is with "what is being pushed as Best" ...... usually no analysis of why what is promoted as best .... is best or even any good.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carol Simmons said…
The TAF Program proposal at Rainier Beach High School was not only handled by the District badly, but the Program was not what the school wanted or needed. Director Patu was teaching at Rainier Beach at that time and could provide important history as to why the Community and the School had concerns and serious objections to TAF at R.B.H.S. Hopefully, Ms Dziko wil decide to continue her good work in "Public" schools and take a position against charter schools.

This comment has been removed by the author.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous at 6:44, I'm sorry you did not get the position at TAF Academy. We are creating a culture of achievement for students and staff. Not sure what the Microsoft reference is.

We learn from critical feedback, but it's much easier for us to respond to that feedback when it's factual and not appearing to be coming from a position of sour grapes.

I hope you found a great teaching position in a school that fits your talents and expectations.
Peter Pan said…
Reposting for Anon @ 6:44 because this blog doesn't allow for unsigned comments.

And could you explain what you mean by "selective elective" and how TAF has no presence in the community? I thought TAF Academy, (like other Federal Way schools) has to take neighborhood students first (without any kind of admissions criteria) before opening up spaces to other Federal Way residents and only allows kids from other districts if there are still openings after those first two pools are exhausted?

The original comment:

"As a teacher who interviewed with TAF I realized that they are very good at finding people and concepts that fit with their mold.

In other words not a lot of diversity unless it fits into conventional Microsoft versions of what defines it.

This is the overall problem in Seattle the overwhelming need to fit everyone and everything into a little box.. I live in the community where TAF is located and they have zero presence.. not shocking. Selective elective and basically another version of 1% elitism disguised as philanthropy."

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