Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Education Funding Plan from McKenna

Republican candidate for governor, Rob McKenna, put forward his plan for fully funding education.

You can read a Seattle Times news article about it and a Danny Westneat column about it.

It comes down to this: cap all other spending to inflation plus population growth and direct all of the savings to education. But how can he cap healthcare spending when the costs are rising so fast? I guess someone isn't going to get their healthcare.

Tuesday Open Thread

Lots of news:

- the Rainier Beach PTSA is being honored with one of twelve Champion of Change awards  next Friday at the White House.  From RBHS PTSA:

We will travel to Washington, DC and stand together as we accept one of the most significant public honors for this community in some time.  Recipients of this award will enjoy a guided tour of the East Wing, Policy briefing, lunch, Champion of Change event, photo opportunity and story featured on the White House website.

Yes, yes and yes!  Congrats to those wonderful leaders at RBHS, Carline Brown, Rita Green and LaCretiah Claytor.  This is how we get it done. 

- it looks like Bryant has posted its teacher list at The Source.  Check it for your teachers as well.

- from the Columbia Legal Services, the number of homeless students in Washington State has gone up by 19% in 2010-2011.   All but nine counties have a greater than 2% population.  Almost a third are in rural areas.  Over the last four years, most counties  have seen student homelessness go up by more than 50%.  (And note: charters also underserve this group of students as well as Special Ed and ELL students.)

- From the district, an announcement that tomorrow, August 1st, there is a Green event at Denny/Sealth joining the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, WA Green Schools, SPS, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Storm.   Volunteers and students will join Superintendent Banda, former Seahawks Forey Duckett and Kerry Carter, Mariners pitchers Lucas Luetge and Steve Delabar, Camille Little and Svetlna Abrosimova from the Storm and former Sounders' defender, Taylor Graham to work on the Joan Allen Memorial Garden.

10 am to noon - work party
10:45-11:45 am - Banda and athletes will be working
noon - Zero waste lunch served
1 pm - event concludes

Thank you to sponsors Skanska, Vulcan, McKinstry, Cedar Grove Composting and Washington Green Schools. 

What's on your mind?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Yes on 1240 Website -Up but not Live

So the early Yes website was a placeholder and now there is this /http://yeson1240.com/.  I tried some of the links but they do not work so it is not live yet.  I'll be interested to see what they come up with for the FAQs.

Update:  the site appears to be live but I'm not sure it helps.  Let's look at it:

- These schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes.

Again, that "strict oversight" comes from either one of two authorizers. 

Those are school boards that have applied to be authorizers and have been vetted through a process by the State Board of Education and the newly created Charter Commission.  The Commission does NOT have to be vetted by the Board of Education.  Now, keep in mind, these people do NOT have to have any kind of education background so you'd think they would need to go through the process.  But apparently being selected by the Governor, Speaker of the House or Senate President fully qualifies them.

And, as the Washington State School Directors Association, in their firm stand against 1240, have said, a charter can shop their proposal around if it gets rejected by one authorizer.   Hint to charter operators - go to the Commission because they will be the ones least qualified to know what they are looking at. 

- There will also be an evaluation of the charter school program after the initial five years to determine whether expanding the number of allowed schools is appropriate.

This is part of their "Get the Facts" which is interesting because you'd think explaining the accountability and how charters get chosen would be more important to voters than the fact that there is a way to have even more of them come on-line after five years.

- We’ve heard from opponents in the past that we should keep to the status quo and let it work – and it does work for some students – but not for all students.

Whaaa?  Wait a minute, first the status quo is bad, bad, bad and now it works for some students?  We actually DO have schools that are working well?  That's quite a different tune. 

(However, the status quo works both ways - 20 years and 41 states and charters STILL don't fulfill the promise of more innovations, better outcomes and more accountability. How long will that take?)

- there are four whole FAQs and guess what?  Nothing specific.  That's an interesting thing.  The argument seems to be "other states have it and we should too." 

There is nothing about current outcomes.  Nothing.

There is nothing specific about how charters help struggling students.  Nothing.

There is nothing about how charters would work in Washington State (because folks, what's in the initiative is what will be the LAW here no matter what they have in other states).  Nothing.

How is it that you are expected to vote for an initiative with no specifics given? 

It almost seems like they DON'T want to educate you about it.  So charters will better educate some small group of students but you, the voter, don't get the facts to educate yourself on how that will happen? 

You should wonder about any group that would push a law they don't want to explain.

Sunday Open Thread

Better late than never.

What's on your mind?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What's a Program? Why does it matter?

The Board will soon adopt a new Program Placement policy. The new policy, if it isn't amended, won't do much. It won't give the superintendent any guidance on how to make program placement decisions, it won't direct him to make good ones, and it won't require transparency. But it will do one thing: it will define a program. You will be very surprised to learn what is a program and what is not. Very surprised.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Banda Won't Vote for Charters?

Haven't had time to listen but a reliable source tells me that Superintendent Banda, in an interview today on KUOW's The Conversion, said he wouldn't be voting for 1240.  Listen for yourself. 

Understand that this is man who already has his hands full - put a few charters in and/or have a charter takeover a couple of existing schools (maybe yours?) and our district will be on very weak footing.

I have a feeling he is only going to be the first in a long, long line of district superintendents in this state - particularly in the Puget Sound region and the small/rural districts - who will say no to this poorly-written initiative. 

Times Provides Real Data and Real Insights On Funding of 1240

Well, it's not exactly hell freezing over but the Times has a very good piece about the small group of big money tech people pushing 1240 and examines the spending from previous charter elections.  To whit:

State voters voted down charter school ballot measures in 1996, 2000, and 2004. But some wealthy individuals are committed to these schools and are funding I-1240. 

Where's the money coming from?

Of the $2.3 million raised by the “Yes on I-1240″ campaign as of the July 6 signature filing deadline$1.6 million came from seven families tied to Microsoft. Add one Amazon family to this tech millionaires club, and the total is $2.1 million. to get the initiative on the ballot, the state’s Public Disclosure Commission reports

Microsoft executives Bill Gates and Paul Allen have been major supporters of this family of ballot measures to the tune of more than $5 million.

Other heavy hitters have joined the cause since the filing deadline. Specifically, Alice Walton of the Walmart family donated $600,000 while Seattle philanthropists Bruce and Jolene McCaw ponied up $100,000. 

Note: in 2004, it was another Walton, John, who gave but let's give it time.

According to FollowTheMoney, here were the top five R-55 contributors (accompanied by percentage of total money raised) in 2004:
  1. John T. Walton (Walmart) — $1,020,000 (25.86%)
  2. Bill Gates (Microsoft) — $1,000,000 (25.35%)
  3. Donald G. Fisher (The Gap) — $965,388 (24.47%)
  4. Eli Broad (Real estate & insurance magnate) — $200,000 (5.07%)
  5. Reed Hastings (Netflix) — $190,255 (4.82%)

If voters adopt I-1240, they will be saying “yes” to a new state agency — the Washington Charter School Commission. They are directing the state’s Board of Education to manage the process for approving charter schools.  

They are also politically appointed, have to practically take an oath of love for charters, have ZERO oversight and no mechanism to get rid of any low-performers (and there's that accountability issue again).

Linkage to other charter groups?

They agree Washington charter schools must follow practices developed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Robertson Foundation – some of the very people bankrolling this initiative. (bold mine)

The poison pill of the initiative (which the reporter doesn't fully spell out, neglecting to say ANY school, failing or not, could be taken over by a charter with a majority of signatures on a petition) :

In addition, I-1240 enables an existing public school to be converted to a charter school if the applicant has majority support of the parents or of the teachers. The resulting charter school would not pay rent to the public school district that owns the facility.

(And, the district has to pay major maintenance on the building as well from capital dollars.)

Information to know and consider.  Even if you like charters, you have to wonder about the huge push by a small group of very wealthy people AND why this initiative is so flawed. 

Interim Executive Director for Special Education

In a comment on the Tuesday Open Thread, pseudonymous commentor "Sick and Tired" wrote:

Anonymous said...
They are hiring an interim ex. director, again. BiHoa Caldwell-- no offense to her but really!!!

Sick and Tired

If this is correct, then there are two matters for discussion:

1) An interim as opposed to a long-term hire.

2) The choice of BiHoa Caldwell, who was principal at Aki Kurose for years and most recently at TOPS.

I think we also need to think a bit about the job. What exactly do we expect from the Executive Director of Special Education. What authority does this person have and is that authority commensurate with the job responsibility? What change can this person effect? Does this position have any authority to direct principals or teachers? Assuming the new Executive Director for Special Education had a clear and compelling vision for inclusive classrooms, how could they work to realize that vision in Seattle?

I think some people would like the Executive Director for Special Education to appear like an avenging angel and smite principals and teachers who discriminate against students with disabilities, neglect - if not aggressively violate - IEPs, and fail to offer any real academic instruction to Special Education students - the vast majority of whom have no cognitive disability. Is that within the authority of the job? Can we get an avenging angel? Is that really what we want?

If the Executive Director of Special Education does not wield a firey sword, then this change will have to come through years and years of slow, incremental wheedling and coaxing of principals and teachers and we will have to suffer through years and years of no apparent change. Is that really what we want?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Start School Later

Start School Later Seattle is gearing up to testify for a second time before the Seattle School Board on August 15 and we need your help. The focus of the testimony will be on the health and safety issues associated with middle and high school start times.

If you are an adolescent health care provider (school or community based) and/or sleep clinician and would be willing to give a two minute presentation to the board please contact Dianne Casper at: glen_casper@hotmail.com (cut and paste this address).

Accepting Nominations for School-Family Partnership Committee

Seattle Public Schools is seeking nominations for its School-Family Partnerships Advisory Committee to the Superintendent. The committee will be comprised of parents/families/guardians who reflect the diversity of Seattle Public Schools families.

This committee sometimes serves as a stand-in for broader community engagement.

See this notice if you're interested. I've done it.

Traffic Tonight

A quick heads up from WSDOT - Obama arrives at 5:50 p.m. and will be headed for the eastside.  Also M's versus Yankees at 7:10 p.m.

Plan accordingly.

Latest Poll Shows Major Measures Without Strong Support

From the Times, a reporter that the latest Elway poll shows, same-sex marriage, tax limits, charter schools and pot legalization are ahead but only one - Tim Eyman's - is over 50%.

“Because support typically fades as the campaign goes on, a ballot measure needs to be polling at 60 percent or better at the start of the summer to still have a majority in November,” Elway wrote.

Elway’s poll showed I-1240, which authorizes publicly funded charter schools, led by 46 percent to 37 percent. Charter school measures have lost three times previously, in in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

That leaves 17% of voters undecided.  

The poll surveyed 405 registered voters from July 18 through July 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

It's not money that will decide the charter vote; it's education on an education issue. 

It's telling the full and complete truth about charters and, very specifically, about this initiative.

It doing a cost-benefit analysis - what will public education in Washington state get and lose bringing in charters.  

I think it's fair that some might think the idea of charters valid but read the initiative.  It is neither modest nor reasonable and need the hard, cold light of day shone in the vague and - in the case of the trigger petition - dangerous places.

Tuesday Open Thread

Looks like the School Board's manager, Erinn Bennett, is leaving as her job is being advertised.   Rumor has it she might be the next in line for Holly Ferguson's job in Governance.

I haven't read it but the Washington Policy Center has put out a "Guide to Major Charter School Studies".  The brief is not inspiring.  Nowhere does it mention "peer-reviewed studies" which are the gold standard for any study.  They also, right from the top, try to discredit the widely-used CREDO study.   And they continue with the use of "ban" to say that Washington State "bans" charters.  Show me that law.  We don't allow them and that's because voters (remember us) have said - three times and we will a fourth - no.

Let's read it and we can discuss it further.

What's on your mind?

Monday, July 23, 2012

TFA update on Dr. Royal's Speech

First, I thought Dr. Royal's speech in Philadelphia to TFAers had been taken down at YouTube but apparently not. 

This inspired Trish Millines Dziko, noted educator and head of Technology Access Foundation and the TAF Academy in Tacoma, to weigh in.  She, like Dr. Royal, is an outspoken advocate for children and public education.  She is strong and fearless.  Here's what she had to say in reference to Dr. Royal's speech:

Not A Good Day and now a Worse Day

Ichiro traded.  To the Yankees.  Say it ain't so, Joe.  What a classy professional who gave his all for the Mariners.  Now, there was a baseball player to show you kids because he took his work seriously and was never a clown or show-off.

And now Sally Ride has died.  She was just 61 years old.  God, I hate cancer.  Bless her for all her work and continuing to help another generation learn about space travel. 

From the AP:
She was also a physicist, a science writer, and after retiring from NASA she became the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, which promoted science and technology education and helped students pursue careers in science and engineering.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

News Round-Up

In the ever-continuing line of "is there nothing Michelle Rhee won't say to get her way", comes this latest video from her group, Students First.  It's a play on the Olympics (by the way, Michelle, you might want to watch that usage because the REAL Olympics is highly territorial about the use of the word).   It's a cheap shot video that has earned her a lot of criticism. 

There are rumblings coming out of Chicago, which may have a teachers strike, that TFA is going to roll in with 5,000 TFAers.  There is a word for people who cross picket lines and if that happens, it will not be pretty.  It will be ugly and it may mark a very dark day for TFA.  We have many, many teachers in this country and if you are in a union, as hired TFAers are, you NEVER cross a picket line against others in your union.  Quit the union and then try it - you'd be better off.   I have to shake my head at the idea.  

On the upside for TFA, a story of bravery and one young woman's willingness to stand with her city and not TFA. 

From the Huffington Post, we have the story of a very brave former TFAer who was not going to play the TFA party line.  Camika Royal, a former TFAer, asked to give a speech at the opening ceremonies for TFA's summer institute for new teachers in Philadelphia.   Now, what is interesting is that Dr. Royal had given a closing speech at TFA's 20th Anniversary summit last year and here's what she said happened:

...after having that speech unexpectedly reviewed and edited, after having my tone and demeanor critiqued as "angry" or "sound[ing] like a preacher" only to receive a standing ovation from the room and tears from my critics when the speech was over, I was hesitant to endure this process, again. Fortunately, I've earned some credibility that allowed me to give the Philadelphia speech without having it reviewed by anyone on Teach For America's staff. That also made me nervous. It's hard to be a responsible critical friend. But I gave this speech anyhow. I did it afraid.

Wow, TFA makes everyone who gives speech at their events give them the text AND do a preview? 

She explains that she wanted friends and family to see her latest speech so she put it on YouTube.  After several days, she got a lot of angry messages that TFA critics were using it as fodder. 

My speech was characterized as 'anti-education reform,' which is inaccurate and inflammatory. By no means do I suggest that the public education system in Philadelphia, as it exists right now, works for the majority of the students who attend them or the educators who work in them. However, I do not think the solution to this multi-faceted, multi-layered behemoth conundrum is the plan to dismantle the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), to release the education of its students to charter management organizations as is being currently touted by the mayor, the School reform commission, and the former Philadelphia gas works leader turn chief recovery officer of SDP. I realize this view is contrary to those espoused by many neo-liberal education reformers, some of whom are also TFA alumni. And perhaps earlier in my career, I would have agreed with them. But I've done too much research on charter schools in Philadelphia and the history and sociopolitical context of schools in Philly to think that this plan will be effective in the long-run for students, families, educators, or communities. This current plan to dismantle the District is not reform. It is refuse. It places financial concerns and constraints over the educational needs of people who need education the most, and it is, therefore, political and unacceptable.

Again, Friday I'm in love. 

Honesty borne of life experience - this is what this young woman brings to the discussion.

She goes on to say:

Teach For America recruits its new teachers under the notion of closing the so-called "achievement gap." Though I resist the inherent anglo-normativity of the so-called "achievement gap," I know that TFA's recruitment model has led to some its teachers approaching the communities they've been assigned to serve with missionary zeal and notions of martyrdom in efforts to close this gap. Addressing that mindset was the point of my speech. wanted our new teachers to know that respect and humility matter; that good things are already happening in Philadelphia's schools; that our city and its schools existed before they got here and will when they're gone.

From her speech:

Our schools are more than the lie of successful charters and failing district. Our educators are more than the false dichotomy of good versus bad, of us and them. By and large, educators here are not bad. Educators here are tired. Educators here are reform weary. Our students are more than test scores, graduation rates, and disciplinary issues. They are the babies that parents prayed for and over and read to and work for and dream about. They are people who want the best for themselves whether or not they know how to articulate it or how to seek it out. Our education is more than the failure rhetoric and the achievement gap misnomer. Our problems are systemic, and endemic, but THEY WILL BE SOLVED BY PEOPLE: resilient people, unrelenting people with an edge.

A teacher is a servant. And you are not here to save. You are here to serve. Whether you've been here for all your life or you will be here for the rest of it, whether your commitment is two years or five weeks, thank you for bringing your energy and excitement. Thank you for bringing your humility and your questions. Thank you for being flexible and gracious. Thank you for being hopeful and persistent. Thank you for being friendly and joyful. Thank you for your desire to learn much so you may teach well and be more. Thank you for leaving our city, our schools, our colleagues, and our student better for having spent time with you. While here, your job is to be swift to hear and slow to speak. Swift to hear and slow to speak.

I wish I had been there to hear this in person.

Winners and Losers (So Far) in House Appropriations

From the House Appropriations Committee work of last week, comes these results (via Ed Week):

Extension of allowing teachers in alternative certification programs to count as "highly qualified" through the 2014-2015 school year.  This would include those "higly qualified" TFA 5-week trained teachers. 

Losers:  organizations, many of whom support disabled/Special Ed students, like the council for Exceptional Children, National Center for Learning Disabilities and the NAACP who do not want the provision extended.  Here's what they said:

Absent expiration of the problematic provision ... low-income students, students with disabilities and English-learners will continue to be disproportionately taught by teachers-in-training and that fact will be masked from parents and local communities.

Yes, because while TFA thinks the world of their teachers, they don't feel districts have any obligation to tell their parents where their teacher came from.

Middle ground (and this is interesting):  This is an interesting debate, but soon, it might not matter quite as much in many states, at least as long as the department's NCLB waiver plan is in place. The conditional waivers allow states to move away from many of the highly qualified teacher requirements, as long as they adopt a system of teacher evaluations that takes student achievement into account. So far, more than half of the states have been approved for waivers. 

Well, Washington State has a waiver so does that mean we no longer have to consider TFA teachers "highly qualified"?  It would seem so.

But in other parts of K-12 spending, other winners and losers:

Winner: Special education grants would go up by $500M to $12.1B.  Title One would not change.   (Obama had proposed no changes to either.)

Winner:  Head Start, up $45M raising their total to $8B.

Winner: A head scratcher - abstinence education up by $15M (from $5M).  Yes, that'll work just like Tennessee saying hand-holding is a "gateway activity" to sex.

Winners: Promise Neighborhoods (wraparound services for ed programs) and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF).  

LosersRace to the Top, axed totally.  Ditto on School Improvement Grants and Investing in Innovation grants.

From Ed Week:

The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved its own version of the fiscal year 2013 spending bill. And there are some big differences. The Senate version would keep Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, SIG, and other key Obama initiatives, while providing some very modest boosts for Title I and special education. 
This isn't the first time House Republicans have attempted to jettison many of the programs on the Obama administration education-redesign hit parade. Last year, the committee also proposed scrapping Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, SIG, and other programs. But, the Democratically-controlled Senate—and the administration—ultimately won out in budget negotiations.

So when we will know the outcome this year? Probably not until after the presidential election. It's unlikely that Congress will actually finish its work on the bills before that deadline—it's become tradition for them to pass stop-gap measures extending funding until they can work out a deal.

PAA - Ideas that Work

From Parents Across America (PAA), a video of their forum on May 31st at Rainier Beach High School, Moving Forward in Public Education; Ideas That Work.  Worth listening to for insights.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Meeting to Talk Charters

As you recall, CRPE's Robin Lake had invited us all (well, most of us) to come for a discussion over coffee today.  I attended part of the discussion as did a couple of SPS parents, two administrators from other districts and a colleague of Ms. Lake's.   I can't tell you what the discussion was about because I was asked not to.

I can tell you that it seems apparent that not everyone knows this initiative as well as you might think.  

And, it certainly help me see that CRPE is not exactly neutral on this topic of charter schools.

But honestly, how could they be?  A large portion of their research is about charters and how great they are and how to grow them.  They are funded (and have been funded) for years by the Gates Foundation which also loves charters.

I can only say that while I would never challenge their expertise about charters, I'm not sure I would believe everything they say is neutral or balanced.  In the coming months as we battle over this initiative, I can see where a media outlet might go to them, thinking they are an academic institution and would give objective statements but at least you'll know what their focus is and who funds it.

Required Reading

One of the BEST things ever written about public education here at The Answer Sheet at The Washington Post.   This is a guest post by Jeff Bryant, a marketing and communcation consultant for nonprofits.  He writes about public education policy.

Here's his bottom line (to me - emphasis mine):

Furthermore, nothing about school choice, regardless of the form, guarantees parents get the kind of school quality they desire. Studies have shown that in a typical school choice program, the private school services that parents mostly desire — small class sizes, well-rounded curriculum, individualized services — will still be out of reach for most parents.

He  talks about people getting a laugh over the Texas GOP's education plank of their platform but goes on to say we really should be worried about Dems.  He's right.  If Obama doesn't watch out charters/TFA will be his NCLB (as NCLB is the tattered legacy of George W. Bush).

Speaking of Bush, here's something about Jeb:

Like so many “signs of progress” that school “reform” enthusiasts like to crow about, Bush’s recipe for “reform” is little more than a policy checklist that invariably includes instituting some form of school choice (Parent Trigger, charter schools, etc.), grading schools A-F, and evaluating teachers based on test scores.

Hardly ever do Bush and his followers connect this checklist of reforms to actual positive impacts on children — because, in fact, they can’t.

Friday Open Thread

From the Eastlake Ave. Blog, concern over by TOPS from neighbors about a new development that says it is just 5 units but:

"...neighbors note that it will actually have 39 individual units grouped around common kitchens on each floor (a basement and four other floors, with one kitchen on each floor).

The neighbors also question locating such a project, which they fear will have transient occupants, just two doors from the TOPS@Seward School and two houses away from a daycare center."  There are also concerns around parking (which really is difficult around TOPS). 

DPD seems to think it about the size rather than the number of units and that it part of the Residential Urban Village (under the Comprehensive Plan).  

I've heard of this kind of "apartment" which is basically a small room with a bathroom (smaller than a studio).  I'm sure it fills a need but it seems like the City should take into account how many people could potentially live there and the impacts on a neighborhood.  

The district reports that four SPS high school science teachers are attending a summer camp of sorts at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  They get to work with scientists one-on-one on projects they are interested in.  They also spend time in a teaching lab to learn new science skills to use in the classroom.  

Along with the knowledge the teachers will bring back, they also will be able to borrow SEP science kits for the year. While some cost up to $10,000, the kits include items from the more exciting microcentrifuges down to every day plastic wrap and dishwashing detergent. The kits have all the pieces to conduct experiments on topics such as DNA gel electrophoresis, bacterial transformation and fruit fly genetics.

Further, the teachers will be provided with donated surplus lab supplies, a resource library, a $500 stipend and graduate level credit through the University of Washington.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Here's What the Charter Initiative Should Be

Update:  the final word? From Jennie Shanker, Albert Shanker's daughter; she passes her father's legacy NOT to neo-liberal ed reform but to Diane Ravitch:

Your stance on this issue is diametrically opposed to his values and intent, and you are dead wrong to shame Diane Ravitch for her position. Indeed, if you consider your thinking to be in line with my father's, I recommend that you champion her work, as my family does. 

If anyone can speak for my father in this day and age, the person who should be most trusted is Dr. Ravitch. It's unfortunate that many people who read your article will not see this comment. I would like to respectfully request that you reconsider further publicizing your characterization of my father's position on this topic. From what is in evidence in this article, despite your love for the man, you are in no position to speak for him. 

Kind of a "I knew Jack Kennedy and worked with Jack Kennedy.  You sir, are no Jack Kennedy."

 End of update.

So there was a bit of a kerfuffle between Diane Ravitch, the noted educator and Chris Cerf, New Jersey's Education Commissioner, over what he said about Albert Shanker, who is thought to be the father of the charter school movement.

Now, I outlined Mr. Shanker's role in charter schools in my multi-part series on charters, saying that he approved of lab classrooms within schools where teachers could try different methods and then to push out the ideas that worked to the larger school group.

Unfortunately, as time went by, Mr. Shanker saw the writing on the wall and denounced charters.

But Mr. Cerf just took the early history of what Mr. Shanker said.

Mr. Cerf said in an editorial:

Comm. Cerf tells us that he wants to "go beyond the frequent misrepresentations to have an honest conversation about what charter schools are and why they are important to New Jersey." While not part of the local district, they "are public schools, with public school students and public school teachers, funded with public dollars. Like district-run public schools, they are open to all students and, unlike many magnet and vocational schools, they are legally prohibited from using admissions criteria."

He (and all charter supporters) can say until the cows come home that charters are public schools but public schools do NOT have application forms (and many charters do) and public schools have some elected accountability (not the case for many charters).  The minute you have some private interest - non-profit or not - overseeing them, they are NOT public schools.  (Yes, magnet schools have application forms but they are specialty schools.) 

Diane Ravitch weighed in saying Mr. Shanker would in no way approve of what was happening today.

Mr. Cerf and others say otherwise but hey, let's go to a reliable source (since Mr. Shanker has passed on) - that would be his wife, Edith.  She said this when NY ed commissioner, Joel Klein, tried to use the Shanker name:

It's Not Teachers - It's Poverty (and when will that get the attention?)

A heartfelt guest post from The Washington Post's Answer Sheet written by Brock Cohen about the REAL issue that holds back schools in closing the achievement gap. 

This was written by Brock Cohen, a teacher and student advocate in the Los Angeles Unified School District who contends that we can no longer afford to trivialize the critical role that poverty plays in a child’s learning experiences – and that true school reform begins with social justice. Brock’s students were recently featured in an NPR piece that charts some of his students’ daily struggles as they pursue their education.

He starts off with hearts and flowers from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and even the President.  That's all good and well but charters and TFA are just distractions. 

What had grown increasingly clear to me was that my students’ academic struggles did not simply stem from inaction, ineffective parenting, drug use, or neglect. While these elements were usually present in various forms, or to greater or lesser degrees, they weren’t the root causes of their failure; they were the effects of poverty. What I’d learned in less than a semester of teaching was that poverty wasn’t merely a temporary, though unpleasant, condition — like a hangover or the sniffles. It was a debilitating, often generational, epidemic.

There are relatively few schools -traditionals and charters - who are making progress at closing this gap.  To do that, you need what many of these students don't have - parents who are able to be present in their child's academic life.  KIPP succeeds because it is able to find parents who are determined to get their child on track and find the discipline (and longer days) something that both the parents and KIPP believe will do the trick.  But even with KIPP, many kids fall by the wayside.  Their attrition rate is very high.

It is quite easy to talk about changes at the school level.  It's easy to point the finger at teachers (although why it's just teachers and not administrators and school boards is a mystery). 

It is VERY easy to say "have a 'no excuses' culture" at a school and that will do it.  The realities, as Mr. Cohen points out, are quite different but we do not want to talk about those. 

Poignant writing:

Despite, in many cases, being less than a school year away from graduation, many of my students were not doing – or even attempting to do – even the simplest assignments. And yet some of my most apathetic kids routinely offered to straighten up my cluttered desktop or sweep my classroom. What I was gradually seeing was that many of them wanted to take pride in doing something well; maybe they’d just surmised that academic success was too far beyond their grasp. I started to wonder if at least some of their apathy was actually a white flag being waved in the face of repeated failure.

Many parents were cobbling together livelihoods by working multiple low-wage jobs that often took them away from home for the critical late-afternoon and evening hours during which kids rely heavily on caregivers for guidance and discipline. Others were dealing with their own personal demons wrought by drugs, alcohol, or destructive relationships. Some were simply M.I.A., and I never found out why. Because many of my students were saddled with learning disabilities — a frequent characteristic among high-poverty populations of children — I attended scores of I.E.P. meetings in which my special needs students were left to discuss their challenges, progress, and goals without a caregiver in the room.

In education, there are choices to be made that can indeed move the needle of student achievement. Developing a collaborative model, for example, can lead to improvements in the skills and study habits of disadvantaged children. But closing the so-called achievement gap between rich and poor will first require Americans to recognize a far more uncomfortable reality: The policies employed to purportedly address the struggles of low-income children have ushered in a new era of school segregation. Claiming that poverty is no excuse for student failure trivializes the damage caused by years of actions and inactions that have widened the gaps between rich and poor communities. Good schools aren’t molded through harsh sanctions, private takeovers, or even soaring rhetoric. They emerge from healthy, stable communities. That is, they emerge from a commitment to justice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Grants for Youth Problem-Solving

From Youth Changing the World (via the Mayor's office):
Want to make a difference? Take action? Solve a tough community problem? YSA can help! Each year, YSA supports youth-led service with over $1 million in YSA Grants.  
Deadlines for many of our programs for the 12-13 school and program year are fast approaching! YSA Grants with application deadlines this month include:

YSA Grants & Awards for K-12 Schools
YSA Grants for Community Organizations
YSA Grants & Awards for Youth
More information about each of these programs is available in the "Grants & Awards" section below or at www.YSA.org/grants

White House to Pay More for STEM Teachers

From the White House (partial):

Today, the Obama Administration announced the President’s plan to create a national Science, Math, Technology, and Engineering (STEM) Master Teacher Corps. The STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin in 50 locations across the country, each with 50 exceptional STEM educators. Over the next four years the Corps will expand to include 10,000 of the best STEM teachers in the nation. In joining the STEM Master Teachers Corps, these educators will make a commitment to champion the cause of STEM education in their respective communities, and will receive additional resources to mentor math and science teachers, inspire students, and help their communities grow.

In a roundtable today with a group of K-12 math and science teachers at the White House, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz, OSTP Director Dr. John Holdren, and PCAST Co-Chair Dr. Eric Lander announced the proposal, which the Administration will launch with the $1 billion allocated in President Obama’s 2013 budget plan currently before Congress.

At the same time, the Administration also announced the immediate dedication of $100 million from the Teachers Incentive Fund to help schools establish well-defined, attractive career paths in STEM education for teachers who excel. The program will require these highly effective teachers to model STEM instruction for their peers and take on additional responsibilities in their school districts.

Already, 30 school districts across the Nation have expressed interest in competing for this funding to boost their STEM programs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Holly Ferguson to Leave SPS

Yes, it is true; governance leader Holly Ferguson is leaving on July 26th.  She says after 11 years, she has "determined it is time now for me to seek other opportunities."

While I certainly haven't always agreed with Ms. Ferguson, no one can deny that she is an exceptionally bright person.   It's always a loss at some level to lose smart people in our district.

However, this leaves Superintendent Banda another open space to fill at the top.  It is important that he surround himself with people who share his vision and agenda.

The Onion's Hilarious Point/Counterpoint on TFA

Thanks to Southpaw for the laugh of the day.

From the kid's side:

You've got to be kidding me. How does this keep happening? I realize that as a fourth-grader I probably don't have the best handle on the financial situation of my school district, but dealing with a new fresh-faced college graduate who doesn't know what he or she is doing year after year is growing just a little bit tiresome. Seriously, can we get an actual teacher in here sometime in the next decade, please? That would be terrific.

Just once, it would be nice to walk into a classroom and see a teacher who has a real, honest-to-God degree in education and not a twentysomething English graduate trying to bolster a middling GPA and a sparse law school application. I don't think it's too much to ask for a qualified educator who has experience standing up in front of a classroom and isn't desperately trying to prove to herself that she's a good person.


From Superintendent Banda via SPS Communications:

Today I am pleased to appoint two new Executive Directors of Schools. Kim Whitworth, principal at Eckstein Middle School, will be Executive Director of Schools for the Northeast region. Carmela Dellino, principal at Roxhill Elementary, will serve as Executive Director of Schools for the West Seattle region. The new positions will start in mid-August.

They join four other Executive Directors of Schools, who support principals’ instructional leadership in order to increase student achievement and close opportunity gaps. This includes using data to monitor school progress, coordinating professional development, one-on-one coaching and principal evaluations, and conducting frequent learning walks through school buildings to ensure quality instruction. Together, they supervise and support more than 100 principals.

Ms. Whitworth is replacing Phil Brockman, who has been appointed to a new grant-funded Executive Director of School Operations position. Ms. Dellino replaces Aurora Lora, who left her position this month to be the Assistant Superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District.
Both internal and external candidates were reviewed by interview teams that included Executive Directors of Schools, principals and Assistant Superintendents. There were three rounds of interviews in total, and the committee recommended finalists for interviews with me and members of my Cabinet.

These appointments leave vacancies at two schools. We will work with both the Eckstein and Roxhill communities to develop a hiring plan that will include family and staff input. We will be in touch soon with each school community to ensure we have a highly qualified principal in place for the start of the 2012-13 school year.

And in the seemingly neverending chain of wealthy people from outside our state donating to I-1240, here's the latest from the Times.

Alice Walton, the daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, donated $600,000 last week to an initiative to allow charter schools in Washington state, helping to bring the effort’s fundraising to $3.3 million.

Also last week, Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer contributed $250,000, bringing his total investment to $450,000, according to public disclosure documents. And Mike and Jackie Bezos, the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, kicked in another $50,000, bringing their total to half a million.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is still leading the group, however, with $1 million donated.

And they say the union folks are bullies?  Nothing like a small group of wealthy people trying to force change with money.  Again, why are all these out-of-state people trying to influence this election?


Tuesday Open Thread

Interesting article from Ed Week on yet another thing Finland gets right - its school buildings.

School design has become of increasing concern to American and international educators alike, as buildings age and research emerges on the effects of schools’ physical structure on student health, safety, and motivation.

The buildings are laid out in clusters, with multiple gathering places inside and out. In part, this is necessity: While American schools are cutting recess, Finish schools set aside a 15-minute break after every 45-minute lesson, coupled with a half-hour lunch break, even though they traditionally have shorter school days overall than those in the United States.

In the current issue of the research journal Children, Youth, and Environments, published in the spring, Ellyn M. Dickmann, associate dean of education and professional studies at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, found building design could exacerbate bullying problems. Schools that included few windows, isolated classrooms, and little public-gathering space were harder for adults to supervise, leading to more bullying.

The Kirkkojärvi School in Espoo, the second-largest city in Finland, even orients its play yard facing east, so that students with morning recess get more sun exposure and Vitamin D.  A study found in an analysis of 71 schools that students exposed to more natural light had higher vocabulary and science scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and students in classrooms with views of the outdoors had higher mathematics, vocabulary, and language arts scores on the same test.

Mr. Bunton agreed that expanding the amount of openness and light in a school can boost student safety and motivation. He noted that one recent new campus, Christopher High School in Gilroy, Calif., south of San Jose, opened in stages over the course of three years; in each year the students moving to the new campus from the old 1920s-era Gilroy High School experienced a 7 percent increase in test scores.

“It’s the same students, same teachers, but a different environment,” he said.

Something to keep in mind for BEX IV.

What's on your mind?

Monday, July 16, 2012

UW's CRPE Dumbfounds with Lessons on Charter Law

Over at UW's Center for Reinventing Public Education, they wrote a one pager about "lessons for Washington State" on getting high-quality charter schools.  I have to laugh as I wonder if they even read I-1240.


• Strong authorizing is key to quality
o Districts cannot be only authorizer, but authorizers need to build competency

o Weak or negligent authorizing leads to many low-performing schools
- Promote authorizer clarity/accountability in law, implementation 

So the CRPE must be against I-1240 because:

- the Charter Commission does NOT have to be pre-authorized in the same way School Boards do.  It seems odd that an elected board would have to go through a process that the members of the Charter Commission don't.  (This isn't explained in the initiative.)
- also, CRPE doesn't like "weak or negligent" authorizing?  Well, unfortunately, the Charter Commission has no oversight, elected or otherwise AND there's no way to remove low-performing members.  So much for strong authorizing (and accountability).

You cannot get good schools without paying for them
o Provide for equal access to resources (state, local, federal funds) and facilities access or funding     

- Predictability, flow of funding are as important as amounts

Well there's a knee-slapper.  Yes, we do need to pay more for our schools and yet we're not discussing that.  We're discussing how to divide up the funding to be in even smaller amounts with charters.

And "predictability" of funding?  I think charter schools will be quite surprised how many people will not be voting for levies if charters come in.  That Seattle has to run a levy every three years for 23% of its operating budget is not "predictable".   Lose that and see how many fewer dollars will flow to charters.

• Provide strong autonomy and accountability
o Do not bother to create more schools with limited autonomy (charter lite)

o But balance that freedom with no-nonsense accountability (i.e., closures)

Again, they must not like I-1240 because it has vague accountability.

•  Clear language,oversight, and financial incentives are best guarantees for equal student access    to  charters
o Special education and other pots of funds should follow kids

o Avoid quotas or other rigid input requirements

I don't know what they mean by "financial incentives" for charter schools to guarantee equal student access. 

Well that's odd.  CRPE well knows that Special Ed money is federal money and DOES follow the student.  But the problem is that charters don't like to have to set up programs for those kids and they counsel them out in high numbers. 

Interesting about the quotas and "input requirements" because that's not what public schools do except for magnet programs.  Hmmm, why would you have to say this if charters are public schools?

But the two biggest whoppers on this list?

• Do not expect to get it right the first time         

• Do not expect the law to take care of quality

I thought we went through all this figuring out in the OTHER 40 states and their experience.  I thought this was best charter law ever written.  And now, the experts at the Center for Reinventing Education are saying probably not? 

Not too reassuring.

And it's not possible to write a law tight enough to have solid expectations of quality, like making sure that we get the most high-performing charters?

Again, not too reassuring.

Why do we want charters again?

Privatizing Public Education - There is Money to be Made

If you read nothing else about the takeover of our public schools by people who want to control the system (and some who want to make a buck), please read this article from The Nation Institute.  It is probably one of the best written and in-depth articles around. 

  • If the national movement to "reform" public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of "virtual schools" — charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet — as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits.  (More on Florida which has continued it fall in education AND business rankings.  Scientology in charters in Florida.
  • But some in Florida are fighting back against these reforms and winning.  Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should "spread" the unions thin "by playing offense" with decoy legislation. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly "under the radar."
  • Who did Levesque say this to?  She was giving it to a group of education philanthropists at a conference sponsored by notable charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Indeed, Levesque serves at the helm of two education charities, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national organization, and the Foundation for Florida's Future, a state-specific nonprofit, both of which are chaired by Jeb Bush.

Talking Education in Ballard

This from reader CT.  I would go but it's only an hour and I'm sure it will be tightly controlled.  But if you go, let us know what is said.

Oh look! Here's a chance to ask the creators of the "model" charter legislation directly.


This week, there will be an opportunity to join a community discussion about local education. Two groups, the Excellent Schools Now Coalition and Stand for Children are posing the question, “If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?” in a forum at the Ballard Library on Thursday, July 19 from 6 to 7 p.m. They say children are welcome and food will be provided.

From Anne Martens with Stand for Children:

The Excellent Schools Now Coalition and Stand for Children invite you to join parents, teachers, students, and community members like you for a discussion about our schools, our kids, and our future.

This is an intimate discussion about local and statewide education issues, such as access to high-quality early learning programs, teachers and leadership, innovation, and college and career readiness. We are especially excited that Stacy Gillett from the governor’s Office of the Education Ombudsman will be joining us.

RSVP to Brittany Gibson at bgibson@stand.org. Learn more about the event here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Five Steps That Take Five Minutes

Here is link to a blog post on another blog, 5 Steps That Take 5 Minutes and Can Supercharge Your Child’s Education.

Note the reference to the Washington "Choice Law". All of these people saying that we need to pass the charter school initiative to give families school choice when, right now, families HAVE school choice.

The other tips are also good. There's some emphasis on digital learning because this is a digital learning blog, but there is a place for online learning. I do it all the time and you're doing it right now.

Friday, July 13, 2012

You Tell Me; What Does This Mean?

 There are several passages in I-1240 that I cannot discern what they mean.  I have read them out loud, had others read them and we can't find a consensus on the meanings. 

First up, how the Board of Education picks its final cut, once it receives all the approved charter proposals from authorizers (either approved School Boards and the Charter Commission). Unclear part in italics:

Section 215, Pages 21-22
(2) To ensure compliance with the limits for establishing new charter schools, certification from the state board of education must be obtained before final authorization of a charter school.  Within
ten days of taking action to approve or deny an application under section 214 of this act, an authorizer must submit a report of the action to the applicant and to the state board of education, which
must include a copy of the authorizer's resolution setting forth the action taken, the reasons for the decision, and assurances of compliance with the procedural requirements and application elements
under sections 213 and 214 of this act.  The authorizer must also ndicate whether the charter school is designed to enroll and serve at-risk student populations.  The state board of education must
establish, for each year in which charter schools may be authorized as part of the timeline to be established pursuant to section 214 of this act, the last date by which the authorizer must submit the report.  The state board of education must send notice of the date to each authorizer no later than six months before the date.

 (3) Upon the receipt of notice from an authorizer that a charter school has been approved, the state board of education shall certify whether the approval is in compliance with the limits on the maximum number of charters allowed under subsection (1) of this section.  If the board receives simultaneous notification of approved charters that exceed the annual allowable limits in subsection (1) of this section, the board must select approved charters for implementation through a lottery process, and must assign implementation dates accordingly.  (4) The state board of education must notify authorizers when the maximum allowable number of charter schools has been reached.

What would you say "simultaneous notification" means?  The same minute? hour? day?  I keep thinking this is some sneaky backdoor way to allow the Board of Education to select out who they want.  (You'll note that the authorizer has to tell the BOE of proposals that serve at-risk kids but then what? Also to note, this is where the lottery comes into play.)

District Seeks Calendar Sponsors

From District Communications:

Local businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can now partner with Seattle Public Schools to help defray the costs of our annual calendar, while at the same time reaching a large audience with sponsored advertisements.

The calendar, which reaches an audience of 55,000 families, staff and community members, is an essential resource to the district. Becoming a sponsor is a great way to help support the district, staff and students by helping us to fund the printing of the calendar and increase community involvement. 

“During these lean budget times, many school districts have eliminated their calendar or placed it in an online-only format, which isn’t easily accessible to all families, especially those without regular Internet access,” said Lesley Rogers, Chief Communications Officer. “With these sponsorship dollars, we can continue to provide our staff and families with this useful information.”

Interested businesses can sponsor one or more months on the calendar on a first-come, first- served basis. Advertisements will appear alongside information about school events, School Board meetings and other dates of importance. The sponsor’s ad must go through a review process to ensure there are no conflicts with any District policy. The newly updated Advertising Policy 4237 is online.

Another way for organizations to gain visibility is through a smaller sponsorship in the family resources informational section of the calendar. This section refers families to information about transportation, lunch menus, testing schedules and key contact information.

All revenue earned from calendar sponsorships will be used specifically to defray calendar production costs. Without this money, the district would eventually have to stop publishing the calendar, which is used throughout the year by students and families.

Initial interest from potential sponsors has been strong, and those who want more information can contact publicaffairs@seattleschools.org. Deadline for sponsorships for this year is July 30.

Friday Open Thread

Love those Seattle sunsets - stunning. 

From the West Seattle Blog, it's not Apocalypse Now or M*A*S*H - it's the Museum of Flight taking delivery of 23 (!) helicopters today and tomorrow for their show, American Heroes Airshow, “Courage at the Speed of Flight."  It's a free show at the Museum tomorrow between 10 am and 3 p.m.  

From Ed Week, a summer reading list around family engagement in schools

Fun fact that I learned from doing some research on SPS, the late John Stanford, beloved superintendent?   He modeled some of his reforms on charter legislation that was in the Legislature.  But charters themselves?  Not so much.  He said, "We've prepared ourselves to be competitive."  Interesting.

Hearing rumblings of a couple of parent/community driven campaigns against I-1240.  Gee, I thought it was only the union against it.  Guess not.  One early "no" out the gate?  Those solid citizens at the Washington State League for Women Voters.  One interesting reasoning:

* The Washington Supreme Court has stated that a common school is open “to all
children . . . free, and subject to, and under the control of, the qualified voters of the
school district.” (School Dist. No. 20 v. Bryan, 51 Wash. 498)

What's on your mind?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh Texas - Not Much for Thinking, eh?

From The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss says it best:

"In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff department, here’s what the Republican Party of Texas wrote into its 2012 platform as part of the section on education:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

And there you have it.  No smarty-pants thinking for Texas kids.  They obviously do not get that critical thinking - and thinking broadly - brings the kind of entrepreneurial ideas and innovations that built this country.   

They also oppose:

"..early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but supports “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.” 

They do like things like corporal punishment ("effective and legal in Texas").  Interestingly they do like charters (but like local control) but they oppose "Foreign Culture Charter Schools" and I think they mean the Gulan charter group who get money from outside the country.  

That race to the bottom seems to be among Texas, Florida and Louisiana (who has the early lead). 

Factual knowledge is worthless

I read an article by Esther Dyson in a 1992 edition of WIRED magazine about where to find value in the information economy. The article was so good that I still have it. It turns out that in an information economy, information itself is essentially worthless. The rules of supply and demand remain the same, and, thanks to the internet, there is a grotesque surplus of information. So where is the value and how can we educate our children to prosper in the 21st century?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pro-Charter Op-Ed in the Seattle Times

Here it is, the first of many:  High-performing charter schools can close the opportunity gap

I have nothing to say about this. It is impossible to have a discussion when we cannot even agree on the facts.

Private Public Meeting

 Update: KOMO had it wrong.  The presentation is only being done by the Downtown Seattle Association.  It is not presenting with the district and the event has nothing to do with the district.  It's a presentation for the neighborhood group, Uptown Alliance. 

There will be a public meeting tomorrow evening at which Seattle Public Schools will present, jointly with the Downtown Seattle Association, a study showing the need for a downtown elementary school. The District has made no announcement of this meeting, but KOMO News reported it.

Here's the entire story by KOMO News Communities Reporter Michael Harthorne:
Facing overcrowding and growing numbers of children living downtown, Seattle is considering building anew elementary school in north downtown.
At Thursday’s Uptown Alliance meeting, the Downtown Seattle Association and Seattle Public Schools will present a study outlining the need for a new school in the area.
For anyone uninterested in schools, there will also be a round robin to talk about any other current issues facing the neighborhood.
The meeting takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 12 at the Uptown Metropolitan Market. Everyone is welcome.
Let's remember that the District, using their own process and their own numbers, estimated the need for additional elementary seats in the McClure Service Area for the next seven years to be 70. They already planned, in BEX IV, to add 200 seats to Queen Anne Elementary, which would more than satisfy the expected demand.

Now, all of a sudden, they are suggesting that maybe they got those numbers wrong and that actually, that part of town needs another 800 more elementary seats than they originally thought. Don't question their estimates anywhere else in town however, they have perfect confidence in their estimates everywhere else. Miraculously, however, no additional middle school or high school capacity is needed for downtown students. Weird, huh?

Then there is the process that was used to accept a new program proposal. What exactly is that process? There isn't one. That way they don't have to be fair. They can send some proposals directly into the recycling without reading them and they can promote others directly to BEX IV planning. See how liberating it is when you don't have to reveal your process or make it fair?

How Much Did It Cost To Get I-1240 on the Ballot?

That would be about $2.1M, most of it going to a consulting company in California for "petition services."  That would be about $6 a signature.  Yes, all very grassroots.

Nearly $2,000 was spent on "meeting services" at the Washington Athletic Club. Because, of course, you want to meet somewhere nice (but couldn't Gates have offered up space for free at the Gates Foundation?)

Understand, all the money that Gates and his wealthy friends have given?  It's mostly gone but don't worry; there's more where that came from.

In the 2004 charter referendum, it was defeated by a group - Protect our Public Schools - at just under $1.5M.  It mostly came from the NEA, WEA, AFL-CIO, and various ed associations.

The other side supporting charters?  That would have been Bill Gates ($1M), John Walton of Wal-Mart ($1M), Donald G. Fisher of the Gap ($965k), Eli Broad ($200k) and Reed Hastings of Netflicks (4190k).  I note that only one of those people lives in Washington State.  It added up to nearly $4M.

There are very deep pockets out there but frankly, it may not matter in the end (as it didn't last time).

This fight will be won, not with money, but with feet on the ground going out and telling the truth about I-1240.  Watch the campaign and see if the Yes folks go into any kind of specifics.  They won't because it's a terrible initiative.

I'm almost done with my FAQ on the initiative and I will put that up here (and yes, I cite the specific passages in the initiative.)

I will also be sending out an analysis of the entire initiative to various media sources.  I regret that I will not be able to make the analysis available to all but I'm protective of that work.

It's 7-11 - Free Slurpee Day

Yup, 7-11s are giving away free Slurpees from 11am to 7 p.m.  A nice summer treat for all.

What Knapp Says

As you may recall, on the same day as the Creative Approach MOU was remanded back to the Board by a Superior Court judge, there was an interview in the Seattle Times with Jonathan Knapp, the new head of the SEA.  It was quite a nice profile and had some telling bits.   Here's Knapp on change in relationships:

"Simply saying 'no' is no longer an option," said Jonathan Knapp, a shop teacher who crafted the approach as union vice president.

"The climate has changed, and we have to be advocates for public education in a way that 20 years ago we didn't," Knapp said. "And the way that we do that is building relationships, not by confronting people and saying it's our way or the highway."

I agree.  Being adversarial is not the way to build relationships and work for better academic outcomes for children.   However teacher Robert Murphy fires back:

We've already compromised too much," said Robert Murphy, a Franklin High math teacher who described Knapp's approach as too weak.

Murphy's anger reflects the passion behind a question dividing teachers unions here and across the country: How best to respond to a well-funded national movement demanding greater accountability and other major changes in public education?

It's not like anyone can say there's isn't some kind of movement that seems bent on blaming teachers for all that is wrong in public education.  You don't just get this swell of a wave of articles and attacks where teachers are the problem and testing and assessment are the solutions.

Yesterday, there was a more revealing editorial in support of Knapp which has new info and an odd echo from the article.

To his credit, Knapp is building a relationship with Teachers United, the progressive group of teachers who've taken on the union's reflexive opposition to education reform, including charters. The union is also facing pushback over its support of innovative schools intended to be an alternative to charters.

First, Rosenthal's article didn't reference any relationship with the so-called Teachers United group so I'm thinking this comes from Lynne Varner talking to Knapp.  Knapp should be applauded for wanting to build relationships with district staff so that when tough negotiations happen, they are looking at each as people.  And, he should have his door open to all teachers who teach in SPS.

However, Teachers United is a front group and they are working to undermine what real unions do which is to protect their members as they make sure they uphold best practices and accountability.   Teachers United is there to push an ed reform agenda and frankly, I'm not sure how that serves teachers.   I hope Knapp is very careful in his dealings with them.

The Times says "paranoid suspicions of union-busting" should be ignored - you mean like what happened in Wisconsin?  I sometimes think the Times' editorial staff lives in some bubble-world where they think their readers have no idea what is really happening in the rest of the country. 

I will also point out that the SEA should push back on charters.  The initiative does NOT allow charter teachers to join the SEA.  The initiative does NOT allow charter teachers at different schools to band together as a group and form their own union.  Under this initiative, the only thing charter teachers can do is create a charter at their own school.  Unions power comes from numbers and this inability to create numbers undermines the whole idea. 

The second sentence in the editorial about "pushback" on the Creative Approach MOU, hey, Times it's called the law.  It's funny because at one point in the editorial they say the union has to follow the law for teacher-evaluation and yet they don't want to recognize that the CA MOU failed precisely because it didn't follow the law.

The CA MOU can easily go forward if that's what the Board and the SEA want (I leave district staff out because again, this is a Board job).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not About Program Placement

I swear, this post is not about Program Placement, but a lot of folks will think that it is.

The District staff is making a new distinction, between things that are programs and services and schools that have a distinctive "curricular focus". All of the things that they will recognize as programs and services exist to address student academic needs. They are pretty much limited to special education, bilingual education, and advanced learning. Nothing else - including a lot of stuff that you might think are programs - is a program.

Language immersion? Not a program. Montessori? Not a program. Same for alternative schools, STEM schools, and international schools. None of these are programs. They are each, instead, a curricular focus.

So what? So this: since they are not programs, they will not be governed by the proposed policy 2020, Equitable Access to Programs and Services. In other words, the District won't be under any obligation to provide equitable access to any type of "curricular focus". This means that the next three schools to get language immersion programs can be B.F. Day, West Woodland, and Laurelhurst. Sure, all of them are in the Hamilton Service Area, but that's not a problem because the district has made no commitment to have language immersion be equitably accessible. In fact, the geographic distribution of schools with a specific curricular focus will be completely un-governed by policy or the Board.

Also, since they are not programs, the superintendent isn't under any obligation to provide transparency in how their locations are determined. The process does not have to be open, honest, or fair.

The Board does not appear to have clued into this. When discussing the proposed Policy 2020 at the July 3 Board meeting, Director Carr used the example of a language immersion program. She apparently didn't realize that language immersion is not a program and would not be governed by Policy 2020.

TFA - The Beat Goes On (in more ways than one)

So first up, it looks like Renton is getting the full-court press from TFA (even though Renton previously announced they wouldn't be hiring any  TFAers).  We'll have to see what happens.   As well, I'm sure Dr. Enfield's first agenda item is to convince Highline to sign on. 

I suspect this is happening for two reasons.  One, TFA is probably getting pressure from Stritikus and UW to fill that program.  Operating it at a loss (as they did last year) when UW is pressed for money doesn't look or sound good.  Two, TFA is probably quite embarrassed that they have gotten any pushback at all. 

Also, there's this video from the HBO show "Treme" that features one character doing an anti-TFA rap.  The whole thing is funny.   (Thanks to Reader X for the tip.)

I also saw this article from US News and World Report about "tips for finding the right college" and look was at the bottom:

Who do you want to work for? A financial conglomerate? A small business on Main Street? Yourself? This isn’t just a hypothetical question—it’s also fairly actionable. Find a handful of companies across diverse interest areas that might seem like a good fit and do some research on which colleges they hire from the most. Some digging might reveal that the companies attend regular career fairs at a particular college or hire a large portion of their employees from a small handful of schools. Enroll at that institution and your ability to network for your dream job will be significantly greater. Teach for America is one example of an organization with virtuous goals and a large hiring footprint. If you start investigating early, you’ll have the leg up on your competition come senior year of college.

TFA is "virtuous"?  Well, the large "hiring footprint" and TFA benefits are certainly truths for any graduate.  It's like having a gold star on your resume that says, "I'm in the club." 

Then there's this from the Teach for Us blog by Gary Rubinstein who is a former TFAer who wants the program to be better. 

Speaking for myself, four major adjustments would make TFA something positive.  1) Fix the training.  Truly make the 5 weeks as good as possible with ample student teaching, and if that turns out not to be enough, then make a one year training with a lot of subbing and student teaching, 2) Make the commitment at least three years (four if there is a year of training), aggressively encourage successful corps members to become career teachers, and make it clear that nobody should become any kind of ‘leader’ until they have taught at least five years, 3) Shrink the corps to an appropriate size.  Maybe it is more than the original size of 500, but it is a lot closer to that than it is to the current 6,000.  There are so many corps members, the only way to get jobs for them is to lay off experienced teachers in some districts and 4)  Be humble about how little progress TFAers have made in addressing the achievement gap.  Use the fact that even the ‘best and brightest’ weren’t able to close the gap so maybe it will take a lot more than ‘great’ teachers to conquer it.

Sounds good to me but Wendy Kopp says that for these young graduates two whole years is a lifetime.  Seriously, she said that.  Are they coming from college or middle school? 

He finishes:

Unfortunately, the universe we’re in has TFA and reformers in a bizarre symbiotic relationship.  TFA supplies the leaders and the reformers always make sure to look out for TFA.  Reformers even make sure that the legal term ‘highly qualified teacher’ somehow encompasses people who have student taught for 12 hours.  Reformers make sure there is a big chunk of taxpayer money subsidizing TFA.  TFA and the reformers are so co-mingled, I don’t see how this can ever change.