A "Constitutional System" for Schools

Gee whiz, what level of craziness out of Crosscut via Paul Hill at the CRPE and his new idea about a "constitutional system" for schools and the role of school board.

Here's the comment I put in:

Dr Hill gets a few things right and several things wrong.

He's right that rearranging who gets to be on a board or whopicks the board hasn't shown any major promise. (And it's interesting that Mayor Murray still seems to want to try this takeover with the Seattle School Board. It would be good political theater but bad policy.)

I would also agree that the confusion/tension over the role of the school board (and being on the school board is a team sport, not an individual one) vis a vis the running of a district can be a problem.

But he gets much wrong - at least for Seattle - one what the Board does. The Board does not:

- decide how the money will be spent - the Superintendent and staff do and the Board okays it.
- hiring and assign teachers - the Board has zero to do with this
- choosing instructional practices - not sure what he means but yes, the Board does approve books but not how they are used
- manage real estate - again, that's the Superintendent and staff's jobs to do and the Board only approves what is brought to them
- running a bus system - nope
- negotiating favorable terms for the teachers contract - absolutely not. No Seattle Board member sits in on a single negotiating session. Those are planned and run by the Superintendent and staff. Again, the Board only approves the final contract.

What boards need to do is create policies for the Superintendent to then create procedures to guide the work of a district. And then, enforce them thru accountability measures. That's all. The Board has nothing to do with the actual running of the district.

Then we come to Dr. Hill's REAL premise - you might call it vouchers or "schools as districts" (kind of like it is for charter schools) - whatever it is, it's one hot mess.

In A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, a new book coauthored by myself and Ashley E. Jochim, we propose that state laws be amended so that local boards have only two powers: to approve an annual slate of schools to operate in their locality, and to employ a CEO who will track school performance, identify children and neighborhoods whose needs are not being met and find school providers who can meet those needs. Individual schools, not the local board, would employ teachers, rent or buy facilities and technology, and decide how to deliver instruction. Families would choose schools and money would follow children to the schools they attend.

Under the new “constitutional” system, local boards would not have the power to operate schools, employ teachers or principals, set pay levels, or create and oversee big central bureaucracies. Individual schools would set salaries and decide how to allocate budgets between salaries, support services for students and families, and individualization of instruction via technology.

What is the point of having a board to "approve a slate of schools?" Wouldn't that mean some kind of assessment to make sure they are good, functioning schools? Would the board do this?

Employ a CEO? You mean a superintendent or is the business model, once again, being touted for public education?

Individual schools - like charters do - would employ teachers, buy/rent facilities, and decide instruction? That's quite the free-for-all and how is that working out for charters? Not great. The one single open charter in Washington State - located in Seattle - is one probation. Nationally, the picture is not much better.

And would these little fiefdoms fight over state capital dollars? Who decides what is the "best" school that would get those dollars?

And the only way to "individualize" instruction is via technology? Oh ye, of little faith. I would assume he means that some part of the day must be in front of a computer.

Charters are NOT parent cooperatives. Far from it and I would believe you would see less, not more parent input and engagement.

There aren't "constant struggles over attendance zones." The Board, working with staff, approved an attendance plan based on neighborhood assignment which is what the Board and district had been hearing was the desire of parents for years. The problem today is our district - unlike other urban districts - is growing. That's not something to be called a major problem (unless you don't know how to handle capacity issues).

If you want to start over with redefining school boards in Washington State, this is not the way to go.


mirmac1 said…
What are they smoking in Bothell? Whatever it is, it's potent.
Anonymous said…
There's no need for a Seattle type board AKA a rubber stamp for the dysfunctional. Mayoral control will work here. Lets give it a chance, how could it possibly be any worst.

Pete S.
Patrick said…
Pete S. -- It can always get worse, and some other districts that have mayoral control or state control are worse.

Most of the dysfunction in Seattle Schools is not by the board, it's the senior staff in headquarters who are insulated from consequences to their actions. They're shielded by superintendents because the supers are short-timers who don't know the district well enough to replace anyone.
Anonymous said…
Melissa hits the nail squarely on the head. Paul Hill clearly has a misunderstanding of Washington state statutes regarding the roles and responsibilities of school boards. While he might work out of UW, little of the work of CRPE is Washington-focused.

And again, Melissa is right in that ALL of his remedies are essentially governance structures for current charter and other charter-like schools.

He's transparent to anyone who knows even a little about education policy. And Melissa knows a lot.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Thanks Patrick for your answer.

I think the Mayor wants to keep his job and is willing to fire those who will jeopardize him being reelected which is much better than ". They're shielded by superintendents because the supers are short-timers who don't know the district well enough to replace anyone"

Pete S.
Patrick said…
Pete S. - However, the mayor will be reelected or not based on completely different criteria. Will the City end up having to pay to fix Bertha? Do the streets get plowed when it snows? Remember, over half the households in Seattle have no school-age children, so at election time they will vote on issues that are visible to them.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Maybe a full-time, paid school board. Maybe dispensing with the board and electing the superintendent directly. But I really don't think the solution is removing democratic accountability from schools policy making.
Eric B said…
The DC mayor got taken down by public dissatisfaction with Michelle Rhee. That might be an extreme example, but it's a cautionary tale for anyone that wants to do mayoral control. I can't imagine why any mayor would want everything from the Garfield rape case to the coming capacity crisis to be laid at his/her feet.
Anonymous said…
Perhaps Paul Hill should do a little research into how his pet project "portfolio districts" are doing. I'm sure the Tennesee public school parents facing a takeover by the ASD (Achievement School District) would have plenty to say, and none of it good.



"Mayoral control will work here. Lets give it a chance, how could it possibly be any worst."

You base the first answer on what?

How could it be worse? Well, which person would bother you more running SPS? Kshama Sawant? Murry? Burgess?

Because you give mayoral control to the mayor...whoever that is. You may like Murray but you may really not like the next person (and their ideas).

Greenwoody said…
Paul Hill's article is nothing more than an attack on democracy. The City of Seattle is currently under two federal consent decrees - one for the police, one for stormwater outflow. Should that mean the City Council gets either abolished or its powers substantially limited? The state Legislature is under an order from the state Supreme Court to properly fund K12 schools. Should that mean we abolish the Legislature or substantially reduce its power? And we all know Congress is a hot mess. No, Hill's motivated by something else, some reason why he wants to take away power from the people and parents of Seattle. What is his real motivation?
Watching said…
Edu-babble that sounded a lot like charter schools.

Paul Hill claims that the LA superintendent got pushed out of the district- despite raising test scores. Hill neglected to mention that the LA school district is under federal investigation related to computer sales worth $1.2 BILLION dollars.


Let's not forget that Ed Murray sponsored BERTHA legislation and supported a campaign that was financed by the contract company. Murray enjoyed tickets to the Seahawk game, courtesy of Vulcan. And, what about this little dittie?:

Watching said…
Systems have struggled between centralized and decentralized systems.

I found it interesting that Marguerite Roza- a pro-charter school supporter- wrote an article on decentralized funding.

"In other large cities, school districts have moved beyond these fights by adopting a student-based allocation formula that allows each school to decide for itself how to use district funds. Under a student-based allocation structure, the district gives each school a known amount of money per pupil (adjusted upward for harder-to-educate students), and each school makes its own tradeoffs with the money."

Anonymous said…
Aren't schools funded by number of students attending - a weighted method - already? Isn't the problem that projections and budgets are constructed in the the spring but student numbers change in the fall resulting in a loss of money for some schools while other schools may gain dollars?

How do these other cities manage that problem since they, too, are funding per student?

late night reader
Anonymous said…
Paul Hill is a mercenary for Gates. Same as the "Center for Reinventing Education" at UW Bothell. Period. End of Story.

It's basic human hegemony folks. No different than the biggest baby ruling the sandbox.

A School Board like the Gang of Four elected in '07 was A-OK for Hill, Gates, LEV, and every other Ed Reform oriented special interest and profiteer. But when their double agents get tossed by the electorate, well then TO HELL WITH FREE ELECTIONS! WE NEED REFORM, NOW!!

Hill & Co. want SPS to be their own Banana Republic. Screw democracy. They want a Dictator, er CEO.

We've all seen this movie before, a hundred times or more. Democracy is fine as long as their side wins. When they don't, or the electorate gets wise to their real plans and intents, then its time to take away the power of the electorate.

I won't debase the debate by calling them Nazis, but Hill & Co repeatedly fall into the trap of Fascist thinking and one party rule/group-think mentalities. It's a trap that academics who will go to their graves trying to prove their erroneous theories commonly fall into.

If it weren't for Gates's money, the free market would clear the air of Hill & Co's bad ideas. But Gates doesn't believe in free markets either. As we all have experienced. So he keeps the Puppets like Goldhaber, Hill, etc. permanently standing on Gates's side of the scale.

It's all part of the political fix Gates and Co relish on every front, and an outright rejection of free debate, free markets and basic, simple, one-man, one-vote democracy.

Don't we just love living under the thumbs of economic dictators like Gates, Bezos & Allen? Isn't it great? As long as we do what THEY want, at all times, sure!!


Marguerite Roza? She used to work for CRPE as well.
Anonymous said…
WSDWG says,
"It's basic human hegemony folks. No different than the biggest baby ruling the sandbox."

First grin of the morning, thanks!

Watching said…
Yes, Melissa. Roza also worked for the Gates Foundation. For this reason, I'm wondering why Roza is pushing decentralized budgets. Do the research and you will find that decentralized budgets might be an asset for charter school funding.
Anonymous said…
It's simply ridiculous to believe that Bill Gates, Paul Allen or Jeff Bezos has some sort of malicious master plan for Seattle Public Schools (SPS). Each man has more money than they could ever spend, they have much better things to do than plot. A fact many people don't know is they have already given millions of dollars to SPS just to see it wasted. They would like to give BILLIONS, but they are tired of the capricious monetary polices/behavior and in many cases out right theft of funds by SPS administrators and their friends.

Once Murry gets SPS administration in order there's going to be millions of dollars flowing into SPS from our local billionaires and SPS will become the envy of every school district in the nation.

Don't let the fear mongering WEA or SEA scare you into thinking otherwise.

Pete S.
Anonymous said…
Pete - no city with mayoral control of schools is doing a great job. Murray is certainly no magical wizard, and honetly, he has enough issues within the city to deal with. He has no educational background, and showed his utter cluelessness about education during his time in the legislature.
As for billions flowing into SPS - perhaps, but are the strings they come with worth the cost? Ask Mountake High School why they dumped Gates funding for small schools? Ask parents if they want their kid being data-mined starting at age 5, so that by the time they graduate, every computer click, wrong answer, website visited, book read, learning disability, or discipline issue is recorded and available to ed tech companies online.
I've not heard any fear-mongering from SEA or WEA, or anyone else. Instead I've heard legitimate concerns from parents, teachers, and other informed individuals who keep track of educational trends and issues here and across the country.

mirmac1 said…
Interesting post by Gerry Pollet:

Jaw dropping admission re state's first charter school in House committee hearing:
1st Charter School's President just admitted to House Education Committee that the school should never have been allowed to open in September!!
I had just asked the Charter School Commission director and chair how they allowed a school to operate without special education teacher or background checks, and what they were doing to provide every student with the special assistance and instruction they have been missing for months. The Charter School Commission was glib and assured that they had strong requirements and oversight.
Then the jaw dropping testimony came from First Place Board President Dawn Mason that the charter school "should not have been allowed to open."
"A new school should not be on probation in 3 months after opening," Dawn Mason testified. "(There is) no way to open on September 3 and have 16 violations" in October if there was real and meaningful oversight by the charter school commission.
Mason noted that the school was allowed to open without a safety plan or a good financial system in place.
"There was a special ed teacher on staff but unfortunately there is evidence she never saw students," Dr. Linda Whitehead responded to one of my questions. Unlike the glib assurances of the cheerleading Charter School Commission, First Places' leaders were not glib and agreed that compensatory time will be needed for every student who has not received the special instruction and services they should have had for months.

Parents have pushed for SPS to provide compensatory education in the many instances they deny our students a FAPE. crickets.

Not impressed with the new sheriff blaming everything on the old sheriff and others. This has been the script at SPS for...how many years now?
Dream On said…
"Once Murry gets SPS administration in order there's going to be millions of dollars flowing into SPS from our local billionaires and SPS will become the envy of every school district in the nation. "

Well, Pete, perhaps Murray should get the city in order-- first. In case you haven't noticed--the City of Seattle is a mess.
Dream On said…
Gates uses our children for educational research. I don't want his billions.
Anonymous said…
CT, maybe no "fear-mongering" but hyperbole aplenty here and many other places.

--- swk
Pete, that is some bunch of statements.

"It's simply ridiculous to believe that Bill Gates, Paul Allen or Jeff Bezos has some sort of malicious master plan for Seattle Public Schools (SPS). Each man has more money than they could ever spend, they have much better things to do than plot. A fact many people don't know is they have already given millions of dollars to SPS just to see it wasted. They would like to give BILLIONS, but they are tired of the capricious monetary polices/behavior and in many cases out right theft of funds by SPS administrators and their friends."

1) I don't think any of them are malicious (the Koch Brothers, though, in my opinion, are evil). But if you think Gates has no "plans," for public education in this country, you have not been keeping up.

2) None of those people - to the best of my knowledge - have EVER "given" money to SPS. All of the money came with strings and parameters. Also, could you provide the source of your info on Allen or Bezos?

3) Interesting how Gates has very, very few wins in his public education side despite spending billions.

Dawn Mason saying that First Place opened too soon is very funny. Here's the backstory:

Honestly, I think the Charter Commission IS doing a good job but, in this case, were likely under tremendous pressure due to the nature of the charter school. A charter school for homeless kids is pretty much the ultimate in low-income, high-need students.

And I tutored there and thought the staff was great. But I believe the move to be a charter is a heavy lift and that's just why the big names (with Gates $$$ attached) will end up being the main charters. You need help and grass-roots schools - albeit ones that know their communities best - can't do it on their own.

What is interesting about that testimony is this:

1) when Whitehead and Mason came on-board, the Commission had asked for a complete picture of what they were going to do to satisfy these deficiencies. They sent back a very lame explanation.

THAT's what prompted the Commission to put them on probation - the lack of real details from the new team.

2) that led to the Commission having a special meeting - that the public could listen to via phone and I did - and explaining why First Place was going on probation.

Mason was to be on the board of the Gulen charter (but that fell thru). Interestingly, she's one of Murray's ed advisors but she has said a lot of random things that I'm not sure serve him well.
Anonymous said…
Hyperbole, swk?
I think most claims here are pretty just, aside from the random Pete-like comments about billionaires dying to give SPS millions.
Too much is happening elsewhere to deny that back room discussions about taking over public ed aren't happening here too.

Here's Utah today:


And good old Arne's mess in Chicago, the model he'd like to subject the entire country to.

Watching said…

I am disappointed in you. You blamed the author of this blog for being fear mongering and promised to do research. It appears you need to commit to that research.

Thanks for the links CT. YOu have my respect.
Watching said…
BTW, CT, Do you know much about SB 5946?

This 41 page piece of legislation has concerning language and respectable legislators voted against this bill"

Anonymous said…
Oh, but Pete S. is always right. You just wait and see!

Anonymous said…
Watching, I'm not sure to what research I committed.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Suspect in about 3 years, we'll get another reflective opinion piece by Bill G. about how naive he was in thinking it was possible to reinvent public education just like his heartfelt Global Health "grand challenges" initiative. It's not too late for Gates to shake loose from the Roza and Hill groupie types. But it all depends on how well Gates has learned his lessons. He doesn't seem to look for and listen to people who have been in the trenches. He's a geek who likes and surrounds himself with academic pedigrees. So you get these extremely tone deaf folks whose practical, on the ground experiences are non existent or not very up to date. And they get so much wrong. What a waste.

Anonymous said…
Oh and for those who like to read this stuff, here's a takedown on Hill and Roza's research work and why you see what you see coming from Gates' effort.


Anonymous said…
Watching -

If I remember correctly, that is the third grade reading/retention bill, with no basis in research. It is a milder version than what has been passed in other states - school staff and parents "meet" to discuss placement options - but still had essentially that same outcome. There were other pieces - more assessments in K-4, more wiggle room for online schools - but that was the major portion of it. Ironically, several states that did pass the draconian "can't read at grade level by third, can't move on" laws have since rescinded them or are working to rescind them. Retention is only helpful in a few situations (like when a Kindergartener is really too young and immature to be in Kindergarten), and to use it as broad stroke punishment on kids who did not have all the food/medical care/preschool, etc. is ludicrous (since the majority of the kids affected will be the ones living in poverty or ELL families). This bill also greatly increases the paperwork load on teachers (documenting all of the interventions, new report cards, etc.) on top of all the other paperwork-intensive things the legislature has passed (like eVal - the evaluation system for teachers). That means less time for lesson planning, researching materials and strategies, grading, etc.

As usual, the legislators focus on punishing schools for the output, without really doing anything to impact the input. Assessing kids multiple times and legislating the interventions does not help - smaller class sizes, good & engaging materials (well-stocked libraries!), time for silent reading of choice books, well-trained teachers are the factors the research points out as those needed for success in an in-school setting (see Richard Allington's decades of work), as well as other out-of-school factors that cannot be controlled by teachers. The really bad thing about this one now is that these decisions are all based on the ELA portion of the SBAC starting this spring, and the cut scores for the SBAC are set unnaturally high, much like the NAEP. (Google Gene Glass, a well-respected ASU professor emeritus in stats who had plenty to say about cut scores...and the SBAC.) What kind of fool(s) make(s)high-stakes decisions based on the results of a brand new test?


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