Friday Open Thread

Princeton University has come to the conclusion that we don't really live in a democracy but that we are basically an oligarchy.  No real surprise there - the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the people in-between worry about that their children won't even live at the same standard as they do.  Just to be clear:

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

Their main conclusion?

As Gilens and Page write, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

We see this in public education reform and discussion every single day.  There is endless blathering by any number of Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation or Walton Foundation astro-turf groups created by these foundations about "representing" the public.  They don't.

On another note, I was reading a story at Publicola about Rodney Tom announcing that he is not going to run again for state senate.  Ross Hunter, another roadkill Dem, had considered running for the senate seat vacated by Tom.  But he said this:

"He had feared negative ads from independent expenditure groups (done on his behalf) that would have prevented him from running a "clean" campaign.

He writes:
Outside forces control ever-larger slices of campaign expenditures. I could run a clean campaign, but I cannot imagine that the external forces would agree to do so as well, and they would have probably outspent my campaign by over a million dollars. I was concerned about “wearing” this negative advertising against someone I consider a friend. It’s too bad we are are in a world where campaigns are no longer controlled by the candidate. This specific concern is obviously gone today, but it still a problem in the campaign world in general that I do not know how to solve.
Very troubling.  A candidate wants to run a "clean" campaign but because there are groups who can operate in favor of the candidate but independently of the candidate, candidates don't just worry about opponents but about supporters.

That is a very sorry state of affairs but it's probably true.  I think that if Suzanne Dale Estey had truly run her own campaign, she might not have lost the race to Peters.   In person, she comes off as a lot more of a straight shooter than she did in her campaign.  But while a candidate cannot control what others say and do in their name, they can to do the basic move of distancing themselves from people who try to speak for them and/or disavowing such tactics.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
Without campaign finance reform and term limits there is no motivation for politicians to even fight back for their constituents -- and no reason to fight for term limits or campaign finance reform.

Change is going to have to come from the citizenry.

Ann D
Josh Hayes said…
FYI, David Brooks (natch) has an op-ed in today's NYT scolding everyone for making a fuss over common core. We're all so SILLY, you see.

It's behind a paywall, so feel free to find it yourself, or better yet, skip it and enjoy the sunshine that seems to be peeping through out there.
Steve said…
FYI: Enrollment/Wait List information is now online for option schools for next year. Healthy wait lists at most places
mirmac1 said…
State Rep. Reuven Carlyle decides not to challenge state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles

When I first read that he might challenge her I figured he was hoping to step into Rodney Tom's roadkill shoes.
Anonymous said…
As someone relatively new to town, with a child not yet kindergarten age, can someone explain to me the difference between APP and Spectrum? And why someone might want an option school? And anything you wish you'd known before your kid started school?

-New and bewildered
BF Day Parent said…
Anybody know anything about why the principal of BF Day is being transferred to Northgate Elementary?
Anonymous said…
Dear New and B,
There are two programs for "academically advanced" kids, requiring different testing scores. Think of Spectrum as "gifted" and APP as "highly gifted". Elementary APP (and Spectrum) starts in first grade, though that may be changing. Some neighborhood schools offer Spectrum or other advanced learning. For elementary APP, you have to go further away to a regional (non-neighborhood) school that only has APP kids. Look at the Seattle School district web site under advanced learning for more information.

Option schools are schools with some special focus and you have to pick them, apply and get a space via lottery. They can be great for some kids. It's nice that everyone (theoretically) is there because they want to be there. But they aren't for everyone.

What I wish I knew before my kids started school--well, lots, too much to list. Like everything, it's a balancing act. Consider the location of the school (especially if you are your kid's transportation). How is the principal? What is the philosophy of the school? Do you feel welcome when you tour? If it's a program (option or APP or Spectrum), do you like most aspects of it? What do other families and friends say about it? How's family involvement? Do you need before or after care on site? Does it have after school programs (if that matters to you)? But don't overthink it. There's not a single "right" school and if you have more than one kid, the school should ideally fit those kids, so you aren't at two schools. In general, I think things work out, unless you are at a school you really, really dislike. Good luck!

--Mom of more than one, no longer in elementary
Stu said…
New and bewildered:

In addition to the differences in the APP and Spectrum programs, there's one other HUGE difference. APP is a guaranteed seat in an advanced learning program. Yes, you might not get to go to a neighborhood school, but your child is guaranteed a spot. Spectrum is not a guaranteed spot nor is it a guaranteed program. A number of schools that are supposed to have Spectrum have either redefined the program virtually out of existence -- the principal gets to decide what the program is -- or the single classes are full and, therefore, not actually available to many students.

- stu
N&B, those are some big questions.

The Advanced Learning program is in flux right now as the district is reviewing the program. I would say APP is here to stay, Spectrum may see changes.

Your best bet is to review the Advanced Learning page at the district and make sure to test your child in first grade in the fall in order to keep all your options open.

Why option schools? Again, choice but also fit. Some people like K-8 (most SPS K-8s are options but not all). STEM may appeal to your child so K-5 STEM might be something.

What do I wish I had known before my child started school?

1) your child will, indeed, have one or more mediocre teachers. It's not the end of the world but knowing this in advance might make it easier when it does happen. Will your child have a "bad" teacher? Possibly but pretty unlikely.

2) YOU are your child's best advocate. Remember, the principals have their association, the teachers have a union and the district has its lawyers. YOU are there to protect your child. That said, please don't be a parent who thinks, "My kid, right or wrong." Sometimes kids will do things that they might never at home. But get ALL the facts before you pass judgment on either your child or a staff person.

3) Heard about Common Core? It's a new set of standards that are going to change curriculum and probably teaching and learning. Math will likely not be taught the way you learned it and it may be a challenge to help your child with homework.

4) Please support your parent group at school. A school needs parents to help support its efforts but parents need a strong parent group to support each other. Even if you can only go to one parent meeting and work at one school event, make that effort.

5) Also, don't burn yourself out in elementary school. It is very easy to want to plunge in and support your school to make it better. Elementary school is your longest stretch (usually) at one school, six years, so don't give your all and then have nothing left for middle and high school.

6) Speaking of middle and high school, things change. The team you feel in elementary school between you and your child's teacher generally is not the same for middle/high. They have multiple teachers and it's harder to get that partnership going.

7) Middle school goes by in a flash but it's pretty important in your child's development. Middle school IS generally much larger than elementary school; don't worry. Kids adjust; it's the parents who worry. Don't freak out but also don't look away. Kids needs you just as much - if not more - in middle and high school.

8) Re; Seattle Schools itself. If you use the website, you might think you are crazy because you can't find information easily. You're not. It has a terrible search function.

By and large, most elementaries are good. As you can see from this thread, the district does shift principals around and you may love (and then lose) your great principal. A good principal is the backbone for a great school.

Middle schools, as well as, high schools are definitely getting better. I think the high schools are moving faster than the middle schools.

8) Protect your child's student data privacy. Do not give out any more information than you need to. Tell your child to not fill out any school form without you knowing about it.

9) There are quite a few half-days and no-school days in the SPS schedule. Be aware of this so that you can plan ahead.

Good luck and welcome.
Linh-Co said…
I heard they are doing away with 1/2 days next year since OSPI will no longer grant waivers for less seat time. Does anybody else know if this is true?

I hope this is the case since those 1/2 days are a waste of time.
One last thing on Advanced Learning.

APP is a district program for Advanced Learning students.

AP is a nationwide program for high-rigor classes given in high school.

Many people, given the names, get these mixed up.

In the future, I'm going to try to write:

AP (national)

so that this confusion does continue.

Patrick said…
What I wished I had known earlier:

Once your child is in a school, go to them first, even if it seems like it should be a district function. For example, calling Transportation at the district office the first two weeks at school is a good way to spend the entire day on hold -- if they even have enough phone lines to put you on hold. If your transportation needs to be changed, your school can give you a temporary pass to ride a different bus for a while until Transportation gets caught up.

Melissa, I think you means "so that this confusion does not continue" above :)
Yes, Patrick, that is what I meant.

Does not.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, everyone, for your responses! They've all been helpful. Funnily enough, the one thing I did know was the APP/AP distinction, but only because I took a few AP classes when I was in high school myself.

I thought of another random question: I see that both full day and half day kindergarten is available. My kindergarten was half day, and my husband's was full day, but neither of us remember much about any of it. I've never seen a school district offer both. Does anyone have opinions or advice on that?

Thanks again! I've found this blog fascinating, even though I have a little time to figure it all out.

Matt said…
Candidates can speak-out against the actions of PACs. Estey refused to denounce the actions of her supporters. She wasn't willing to bite the hand that fed her.

On election night, Estey admitted that her "experts" told her that the positive aspects of negative campaign out weighed negative aspects.
#notcarlylefan said…

Carlyle decided to run for Senate. Carlyle set-up a meeting with the highly respected Kohl-Welles and asked, now that he was running, if Kohl-Welles would step aside. You know, get out of Carlyle's way. Kohl Welles responded with a resounding "NO" and ran the quickest campaign in history. Kohl-Welles received an astonishing level of support and Carlyle backed down.

NewB, well understand you have to pay to be in full-day K unless your family meets a certain income level. So there is a cost to full day K.

So to consider:

1) will your child be a younger K? Meaning, just turned 5? Half-day might be better.

2) not being in full-day means your child might miss out on other activities that full-day Ks get to do. (Or your child will do them less often.)

3) do you have daycare for your child to go to (if you and your husband both work). Not all schools have on-site daycare.

Yes, that quick backdown of Carlyle was interesting. But I do respect Reuven as someone who is willing to discuss public education issues with an open mind.
Lynn said…
I don't think there are separate half day K classes anymore. You just pull your child out at noon. My friends who have done this received a lot of discouragement from principals and teachers. My older children attended a school for K that allowed three full days and two half days - that worked for us.

I think which is best depends on the child's age and energy level.
Disgusted said…
Person, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core and profit:
seattle citizen said…
Oh, look, Gates Foundation gave over $2,000,000 to Pearson Foundation in 2012 to assist them in their "charitable philanthropy" (flying educators to Singapore and other places and taking orders for Pearson products whilst there)

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you, that the Gates Foundation would be giving millions to the Pearson Foundation to advance "reform" agenda items such as standardized and streamlined standard->curricula->test systems. I'm shocked!

Pearson Foundation 990
seattle citizen said…
That $2,000,000 Gates gave Pearson is almost one quarter of Pearson Foundation's fundraising that year. Pearson, Inc itself gave about the same.
Anonymous said…
Teachers and principals might not like it but our experience was that kindergarten was not a rich, child-led, developmentally appropriate learning experience. There was no free choice time, just recess and tons of worksheets. If you don't need to have your kid attend full day K and are able to offer enriching activities, or even part home school, it might be worth it.

Lynn said…

I agree - was just pointing out what seems to be the norm now. My children started out in a private school and the goal there for kindergarten was for the children to develop a love of school. I'm surprised there aren't more preschools that continue for another year to cover kindergarten - especially because we have to pay for kindergarten in the public schools.
Impressed said…
Seattle Citizen,

Awesome document. How did you locate the document?
Joe Wolf said…
To New & Bewildered:

- A friendly addendum/correction to the "Elementary APP is an all-school program" response from earlier:

That response is correct for a specific geographic area; generally north of the Ship Canal, plus Queen Anne/Magnolia (the Whitman, Hamilton, Jane Addams, Eckstein and McClure Middle School service areas). Current home is the Lincoln campus; will move to a new facility on the Wilson-Pacific campus starting 2017-18.

For central and southeast Seattle (Washington, Mercer, Aki Kurose middle school service areas) the elementary APP assignment is to Thurgood Marshall Elementary, which also has a neighborhood attendance boundary/students.

For West Seattle (Denny and Madison middle school service areas): Starting 2014-15 there will be an option to choose APP elementary assignment to Fairmount Park Elementary, which is re-opening this fall and will also have a neighborhood attendance boundary/students. Assignment is also guaranteed at Thurgood Marshall.

If you are interested: Photos of the in-progress Fairmount Park project at

Please contact me if you need information/have questions on school planning and facilities.

Joe Wolf said…
P.S. to New & Bewildered:

A family can automatically receive free full-day K *regardless of their income level* if they live in the attendance area of a school that - by its *overall percentage of students that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch* - has free full-day K for all. SPS has provided funding to expand the number of schools offering this for 2014-15.

I would contact the Ombudsman (206.252.0305) for more detail, maybe another reader can suggest a contact(s) as well.
seattle citizen said…
Impressed, thanks but 990 forms are readily available for any "non-profit" - they have to file and Pearson Foundation did us a favor by linking to it (along with the three years prior, which I haven't looked at. I'm assuming each one has substantial contributions from Gates ;) )
seattle citizen said…
I stand corrected: Pearso Inc donated over six million to its own foundation - they have three donations, not jyst the one I glanced at. Nokia is the other major contributor at 1.7 million in 2012. I'll have to look at previous 999s, once I'm off the phone here...

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