Monday, December 21, 2015

Charter school proponents, a thread for you

I am very glad to see that a number of charter school proponents have been active on this blog.

That's wonderful. We all benefit from an open discussion that includes a variety of perspectives.

It's true that Melissa and I both find charter schools an unnecessary distraction that detracts from public education, and it is also true that a large proportion of those who read this blog share that view.

It is also true that we welcome - sincerely - opposing views. I like to think that I could be convinced to change my mind on a large number of topics and charter schools are certainly among those. I have had a number of very lively, civil conversations with well-informed and well-intentioned charter school proponents and I have benefited from those conversations. I am grateful for an understanding of their views and concerns and I am equally grateful for the opportunity to examine my own views more critically and deeply.

I don't particularly despise charter schools. Honestly, I like any school that's a good school, whether it is public, private, or charter. There isn't anything about the public school format that precludes the creation of a good school, so I figure that the best path to follow is to create good public schools instead of creating new formats. I find them unnecessary. Tell us why charter schools are necessary.

So let's have a space for this. Let's have a space for charter school proponents to make their case.

But first, some provisos:

  1. This isn't about disputing the Supreme Court decision or finding fault with it. That's simply not germane. This is not the place to say that Running Start or Skills Centers or anything else is unconstitutional if charters are and for the same reason. Attacking the Court decision or Running Start doesn't support charters.
  2. If you're going to claim that after there are charters, that choice and the invisible hand of the market will create better schools across the state, then please tell us which state has already benefited in this way by the presence of charter schools. If you're going to say that things will work this way then tell us where and when that has ever happened before.
  3. If you are going to claim that charter schools provide families with an opportunity for a better education than their child could get in a public school, then you're going to have to say HOW they do that. Is there some instructional practice at work in charter schools that public schools could not duplicate? Is it through some sort of family engagement that is out-of-bounds for public schools? What is it that charter schools can do for students that public schools cannot do? And why do you think that charter schools in Washington State will do that thing?
  4. If the benefit of charters is that they are outside the control of school boards then please tell us how school boards are impeding children's education. What are the school boards doing that works against children?
  5. If the benefit of charters is that their teachers are not union members, then please tell us how unionized teachers are impeding children's education. What could non-union teachers do for students that union-member teachers cannot do?
  6. Finally, what could charter schools do that could not be achieved by the creation of more option schools or service schools?
Help me to understand why you find the public school system incapable of creating a school like the one you envision, and help me to understand why you think that a charter school operator will create that ideal school.


Teacher Greg said...

This thread, I suspect, will have to wait a long time for a cogent response within those parameters. Until then, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Maybe while you're waiting, you could answer a question.

Some charter schools (in other states because there are no charter schools in WA)that have good academic outcomes have a mentor program to help students keep on track, apply to college, develop skills they would need in college, etc. And as you point out "there isn't anything about the public school format that precludes the creation of a good school." In fact, one high school, Hale, in SPS has a mentor program. Hale also has a much higher graduation rate than other high schools.

That's great for the 1000 students at Hale. But what about the other ~15,000 high school students in the district? Why wouldn't SPS try to duplicate a successful program at other high schools?


n said...

I'm curious about Hale's mentor program. How was it established and how is it supported? What and who does it take to make a successful mentoring program for a public school? And who are those charters that are making it work by providing such supports?

The devil is always in the details. I'm not against anything that will make public schools work for all kids. We are back in the circle of generalities that "some charters..." So, please, share what you know about Hale's mentoring program. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sure. Public schools, SPS in particular, could do everything a charter can. Fact is, they refuse to. Everywhere you look, sameness, and institutional thinking prevail. At every turn, district seeks to chop off alternatives for students. Chop off EEU - it has a sped model we aren't doing. Clamp down on ALL alternative schools, assign principals to them who will return them to the mean. Happening at SB, Tops, everywhere. Stop teaching writing, COMMON CORE mandates CER hegemony. Students can no longer write a reaction to anything, they're too busy looking for quotes, usually meaningless. Teachers are muffled from teaching, only following in lockstep some ill conceived standards, implemented by an unrelenting management class.

Charters offer at least the potential to escape from the hegemony and a choice for something different when students simply can't make it in SPS.


Charlie Mas said...


While Seattle has a number of option schools, service schools, and Creative Approach schools which are exempt (or could be exempt) from this sort of uniformity, you are, of course, correct. Although public schools have license to do everything that charters can do, they often do not exercise that license. Worse, they often institute top-down standardization that creates barriers to innovation.

It is also true that the bulk of charters also fail or refuse to exercise that license and that Charters are just as susceptible to top-down management as public schools.

So the real challenge is how do we get schools - whether public or charter - to exercise their license and how to we stop management - whether public or charter - from implementing top-down standardization?

As unresponsive as the public system can be - and believe me, I know how unresponsive it can be - I feel like a family would have a better chance to influence the leadership of a school district than the leadership of a charter school. It has to do with constituency.

In the public school district the families and the community are the constituents. We can advocate for change and we can put forward candidates for school board who will represent our views. Here in Seattle families elected school board directors who pushed forward with an improved math textbook for elementary students. Families can meet with our elected school board representatives and, with a show of numbers, we can convince them to stand up for our wishes. They hold community meetings and listen to their constituents.

Who are the constituents of a charter school? Is it the student families, or is it the donors and investors? Who do they answer to? If you wanted a different math curriculum at a charter school, why wouldn't the leadership of a charter school simply answer "If that's what you want, then this isn't the school for you."? That's the "choice" they represent, isn't it? Isn't a charter school invested in its brand? Why would they alter their fundamental views on education, their existential core, to accommodate a few families who want something else? Or is Reader holding out for the hope that there will be a charter school with their desired style that just happens to open within range of their home? That seems a thin chance to me.

If the idea is to create a school in the style you want, or to create a school that is free to innovate, I don't have much confidence for either type of school, but I would have significantly more with a public school.

Anonymous said...

The point is not that - overall charters are better. The point is, they are an escape. They are an option. And if one appears that will work well for an individual - then it is a possibility. Now, for example, students needing whatever Nathan Hale offers - have no chance to receive it under the current incarnation of the assignment plan. If a student could attend a charter that offered the same thing then that would be a plus.

I don't believe charter schools, individually would necessarily be more responsive to student needs and values. But their existence might. Nothing else has pushed the district to be responsive. The existence of outside choices creates an avenue of responsivity.


seattle citizen said...

A great deal of the problem for both charters and public schools is the standardized tests they have become predicated upon. Over the last two decades, these tests have become, in the public eye and legislatively, the be-all and end-all of public education. Under NCLB, particularly under RTTT, they became the tool by which the charter industry could rationalize it's existence: "Look at the test scores! The schools, whole schools themselves, are failing! We need charters!" Of course this ignores a myriad of other things, but no matter; it justified the vast expansion of the charter industry.
But it also led to test scores being THE only metric by which charters are "held accountable" - 1240's only metric is test scores.
So now we see the bizarre claim of some charter supporters that they are free of Common Core, yet had 1240 remained legal, the only metric they would have been held to was test scores based on Common Core tests...
If we could ease away from over-reliance on these very base and overly-simplified test scores, students everywhere would benefit.

Charlie Mas said...

Reader writes: "Nothing else has pushed the district to be responsive."

I write a lot of unhappy stuff about the district, but I think it is simply false to say that the district has not responded to anything other than competition from charters. First because I don't think the district has EVER responded to competition from charters - it just hasn't happened. Second because I can name a long list of examples of district responsiveness.

Here are a few RECENT examples:
Math in Focus replaces Every Day Math in elementary schools
The creation of K-5 STEM at Boren
The creation of Queen Anne Elementary
The creation of STEM at Cleveland
The implementation of IB at Rainier Beach High School
The implementation of IB at Chief Sealth International High School
The creation of IBX at Ingraham
The creation of a language immersion program at McDonald
The creation of a language immersion program at Beacon Hill
The creation of a language immersion program at Dearborn Park
The use of the school improvement grant at Hawthorne Elementary
The use of the school improvement grant at West Seattle Elementary

These things really happened.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, Math in Focus has been replaced by something called Scope and Sequence. A few administrators gummed up elementary math to better align to Common Core testing. Their actions went against the vote of the past board and parents who advocated for Math in Focus.

Hopefully, new board members will reinstate MIF and expand better math curricula to middle and high schools. I am not a charter supporter, but the central office interference in what students learn is an ongoing problem. They make math more difficult for students, especially those with ADHD or language challenges.

S parent

Eric B said...

I can give one example of where charters did a valuable service to the community. My father-in-law is a founding board member of an homegrown independent charter (ie not Green Dot, Summit, etc.). The teachers that founded the school were unhappy with the district's unresponsiveness in creating an advanced college prep curriculum and that the district used equality between the old high school and the newly-opened one to reduce offerings at both schools (it wouldn't be fair to have advanced German at only one school, so nobody gets it). Sound familiar?

Not too long after the school was founded, the district noticed that their best students were being siphoned away by the charter school. Were those easy and cheap students? Hard to say, maybe not. But it hurts a district's pride when they no longer have National Merit honors. Within a few years, the district really upped their game to compete.

That is the ideal vision of what a charter school can be. I have no illusions that this is what is common. It has also taken a great deal of effort by the remaining founding board members to keep the charter on course and not drift off into flat-eartherism and/or quasi-religious education. In other words, it can be done, but it's very hard. Seeing that challenge was part of why I was so active against I-1240.

Anonymous said...

Let's augment your provisos, Charlie:

1.This isn't about disputing the Supreme Court decision or finding fault with it. That's simply not germane. This is not the place to say that Running Start or Skills Centers or anything else is unconstitutional if charters are and for the same reason. Attacking the Court decision or Running Start doesn't support charters.

2. If you're going to claim that because there are traditionally structured public schools, that a popularly elected board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices will result in better schools across the state, then please tell us which state has already benefited in this way by the presence of arbitrary and racist districting practices and the districts that serve predominately low income students. If you're going to say that things will work in these low-performing districts (or, to adopt your paternalistic and biased language, that have low-performing students), then tell us where and when that has ever happened before.

3. If you are going to claim that traditionally structured public schools, with a popularly elected school board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices provide families with an opportunity for a better education than their child could get in a charter school, then you're going to have to say HOW they do that. Is there some instructional practice at work in traditionally structured public schools, with a popularly elected school board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices that public charter schools could not duplicate? Is it through some sort of family engagement that is out-of-bounds for charter schools? What is it that traditionally structured public schools, with a popularly elected school board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices can do for students that charter schools cannot do? And why do you think that traditionally structured public schools, with a popularly elected school board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices in Washington State will do that thing?

4. If the benefit of traditionally structured public schools is that they are in the control of a popularly elected school board (of which local unions play a big role in terms of voter turnout and election promotion) based on arbitrary and racist districting practices then please tell us how charter boards are impeding children's education. What are the charter boards doing that works against children?

5. If the benefit of traditionally structured public schools governed by a popularly elected board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices is that their teachers are union members, then please tell us how non-unionized teachers are impeding children's education. What could union teachers do for students that non-union member teachers cannot do?

6. Finally, what could traditionally structured public schools, that a popularly elected board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices do that could not be achieved by the creation of more charter schools?


seattle citizen said...

Nuance, why do you keep repeating "popularly elected" in regard to our elected boards? Do you hate elections? What's your point?

And what are "arbitrary and racist districting practices"? Could you give us some examples, and explain how charters wouldn't have these, whatever they are, particularly since they are less accountable to taxpayers (partly because they have no "popularly elected boards")

Anonymous said...

"What are 'arbitrary and racist districting practics?'

Look at neighboring districts and cities across the country: cities like Milwaukee Wisconsin or Memphis Tennessee, where the urban core districts are separate from the ring suburban districts (rather than one district representing the whole urban core). These were put in place during the time of housing covenants and exclusionary/segregationist housing policy. While Seattle Public Schools is one district, the housing covenants in specifically north of the canal neighborhoods (Crown Hill, Bryant, Laurelhurst) were subject to such convenants. The result is policies that ultimately benefit these racially structured neighborhoods. It's telling that SPS has just two board districts that represent our highest-needs schools. These are a likely legacy of their mold.

Charters don't have these because they're not bound by these archaic and racist structures. In theory, they're less accountable, but they can be shut down because parents and students vote with their feet. If their school is under performing, the dollars follow the students and the schools shut down. Meanwhile, in our traditional structure, students and parents are stuck.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

That was me above


Anonymous said...

We're in Washington here, and charter schools are unconstitutional, and therefore illegal. Your apparent goal is to legalize and legitimize them here. So before you go telling us how messed up local governance is, and how charters can do so much more because they are "freed from these restrictions" -- which to me means only that they can pocket our tax dollars with less transparency and less accountability -- suppose you tell us HOW charters in Washington can be made legal, and constitutional, and in the process, satisfy all transparency and accountability requirements that our REAL public school districts are required to fulfill, and let's discuss that. We know WHY you think so.

As Melissa always says, the devil is in the details. Since you're so into "nuance," that should come easy for you.

-- Ivan Weiss

StringCheese said...

While I will not argue the myriad issues surrounding districting practices (and SPS boundary maps), I fail to see how this applies to the the School Board. The Board is elected -- all districts -- by ALL voters. All Board members are accountable to all students and parents, no matter where they live, can engage with any Board member on any issue.

Anonymous said...

n @2:04 asked about Hale's mentor program.

I learned about it from "HP" who commented on the "Baffling News from OSPI..." blog post.

HP wrote "So Hale has a system much like Summit Charter School. The kids are in mentorship classes all 4 years. The mentorship teacher has around 30 students. In mentorship, the kids plan their next semester at school and ensure that they are meeting all requirements to graduate. They also work on their college essays, college applications and their plans for after graduation. They have to have a plan for after high school. There is a college fair at the school that all students are required to attend. They have to talk to at least one college rep Sophomore year, 2 Junior year and 3 Senior year."

I did see that SPS in its Closing Opportunity Gaps action plan (http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Friday%20Memos/2015-16/August%2014/20150814_FridayMemo_ClosingGapsActionPlan.pdf) says "Every student will have a personal learning plan and an advocate/mentor to keep him on track to high school graduation and successful post-secondary transition." So there is a possibility that other high schools may have mentors in the future.

Also, the Tacoma school district (http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/education/article49137820.html#storylink=cpy) attributes its recent improvements in graduation rate to creating a college-going culture and receiving tutoring and mentoring support from local colleges and community organizations.


Anonymous said...


See Charlie's provisos above: We're not arguing about the constitutional legality of charters in Washington State. It's likely the rules will change given the intransigence of elected Republicans, who will not be dislodged any time soon unless the Supreme Court does something dramatic. Thus it will not be up to me to define the how. That's not the issue.

Charters would be subject to the same transparency and accountability requirements: student achievement, Title IX, FOIA (once their systems are established in the first place. There will be lag, but they should be subject to the same strictures say, our police department or fire departments are). Again, one could argue charters will be more accountable because they are at the mercy of their students and parents. If they leave, the schools get shut down. This is not the case for historically under-enrolled boutique programs in traditional public systems.

"I fail to see how this applies to the School Board...elected--all districts--by ALL voters." Correct, but the primaries are by District. Individual districts decide who will compete in the district-wide elections. Generally these elections are slim-pickings (one or two candidates, maximum) and this last election had a whopping 39% election turnout. Yes, Charlie, you'll discount this as inactive voters empowering other active voters, but the result is election turnouts that may not represent the majority (or may, it's fuzzy, sure). I think the big question is who the real constituency for a publicly elected board is: who has the most influence on their being re-elected? Who are the most active voters within that paltry percentage of voters? Who are the organized voters?


Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas asked who do charter schools answer to?

Since there are no charter schools in WA, I'll answer for CA.

In CA, charter schools can be approved by a school district (and there are hundreds of thousands of students in school district approved charters in CA), a county board of education, or the State Board of Education. But no matter who approved a charter school, every five years a county board of education has to reapprove the charter. (It's also possible for the approver to revoke the approval)

And the county boards of education actually do decide to not renew, so accountability is real.


Charlie Mas said...

Nuance, I see that you have gripes about local democracy. I don't see how those gripes about local voting structures translate into support for charter schools.

This pretty much brings us to my primary problem with charter schools. They are exactly like public schools EXCEPT in their ownership and governance. Public schools are owned and governed by the local school district, you know, the popularly elected school board based on arbitrary and racist districting practices. Charter schools are owned and governed by the charter school operator. The sole difference is in the boardroom.

Changes in the boardroom aren't going to make any differences for students. To make a difference for students, the changes have to be in the classroom. And when it comes to the classroom, there is no significant difference between charter schools and public schools. Most of them follow a traditional model. Some make a few variations on that model. Very few are meaningfully different from that model. That's true for charter schools and public schools alike because - they may be different in the boardroom, but they are not different in the classroom where it matters for students.

Jet City mom said...

My oldest reached school age almost 30 years ago.
Our neighborhood school was not suitable according to the kindergarten teacher, and I tried to get her into Summit K-12 for several years, but it was oversubscribed. I expected the district to expand their alternative options, and attended several commitees and meetings toward that end.
That didn't work out so well.( She never got in before end of October, and I did not want to force her to change schools several months into the school year. Of course now, Summit has also been closed, despite being our only K-12 all city option for decades) I do not see greater alternative options available now, in fact they seem fewer.
When popular & successful programs & classes have also been discontinued at schools like Garfield, where the strength of the community (staff and teachers, as well as parents & students), have kept the fires lit despite a series of ineffectual principals, its pretty obvious that the priority of the district is not developing the intelligence and imagination of the next generation.

I don't know what the answer is, but after reading so much which is biased one way or the other, I am close to not caring anymore.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you're right. I do have gripes about local democracy. It historically has under-served communities of color and low income communities. In its truest form, local democracy is Jim Crow and "State's Rights." In its perverted form, we get instances like East Ramapo (see above).

These translate into charter schools as an escape because they aren't held hostage by these structures. I recognize the difference is governance, but that's not the only difference. These schools are outside of the local districts and are able to operate autonomously. And you haven't debunked my main accountability point: if the school is not serving its constituency, that constituency votes with their feet and the school shuts down. The board becomes void because they have no more school to govern.

You keep deploying that most charters follow the traditional model. Are there statistics? Do we have a sample size to show that "x out of x charters are 'traditional'?" How do we define 'traditional'? Are we referring to charters nation-wide or the nascent charters in Washington? Models like Rocketship or Summit follow pretty different models and are significantly different experiences from the traditional model. Have you visited charter classrooms and compared them with traditionally public classrooms? Is there research we can find?


Charlie Mas said...

Ah, accountability!

I'm glad the topic has been raised. Are charters more accountable because
1. They have to attract students (none are assigned) and
2. They are subject to closure by the entity that granted the charter - whether it be a state commission or a local district?

I guess the proof of these ideas are in the track record. In the whole history of charters, how many have been found lacking by the community and withered due to underenrollment? Not very many. Is that an endorsement? I'm not convinced that it is. Student families are loathe to move their children from school to school. Keeping a child at a sub-optimal school where they have established relationships may be preferable to moving that student to another school - even if the other school has a better reputation. After all, the primary determinant of your child's academic achievement is you. It won't be much changed by another school. When we had a choice system here in Seattle families didn't often leave schools that they had been forced into, even when the opportunity to leave was available. As for new families choosing a charter, I don't know what to tell you except that popularity is a poor measure of quality. Or is McDonalds the best restaurant in the world? There are a lot of reasons that a family chooses one school over another. I would not jump to any conclusions about what those may be.

How common is it for a charter authorizer to rescind a charter? It almost never happens. Does that mean that all of those continuing charter schools are great? No more than the low incidence of school districts closing under-performing schools is proof that all of the continuing public schools are great.

I'm not particularly impressed with charter school accountability.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I think that public school accountability is so wonderful. According to No Child Left Behind a number of Seattle schools (most notably Aki Kurose) should have been closed, reinvented, and reopened. Yet that did not happen. Not even close.

Basically, I give them both a failing grade for accountability. There is no clear advantage to charters.

Anonymous said...

"How common is it for a charter authorizer to rescind a charter? It almost never happens."

False. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/09/17/7-key-facts-about-charter-school-quality

"5. Low-performing charters are closing. Even as new charter schools emerge, however, others are closing. The charter bargain of increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability requires that charters that fail to perform must be closed. And closure data suggests this is happening: Over the past nine years, 3-4 percent of charter schools have closed every year – more than 1,100 schools in the past five years. And these closures are increasingly due to performance, rather than finance or other factors."


Jet City mom said...

I will say, that it was refreshing to have in the private school, a view that students did not need to undergo standardized testing for their teachers to select appropriate curriculum. I also liked that the school did not require teachers to jump through multiple hoops to be hired, several of her best teachers did not have an education degree. Conversely, if a teacher was not working out, the school did not have to jump through multiple hoops to release them.
I've witnessed some astonishing contortions to either release or retain teachers in the public district, let alone administrators.

Both my kids have " special needs", and although my youngest had an IEP, we still had to fund regular outside help for her for years. ( which I put on the backs of certain teachers who really should have been doing something else, as she was not the only one who fell through the cracks)
The private school included that in tuition.
Yes, I realize that charter schools don't neccesarily take students with IEPs, but what I have seen of their self contained programs, the district is not doing students any favors.
They might as well give their parents the money they are receiving for them and let them make their own program.

How can the schedule for a student who read Harry Potter in first grade not include academics?

Anonymous said...

I was looking on Hale site for an official explanation about the mentorship program at Hale, but I couldn't find anything. I'll have to just relate my kid's experience. Hale's schedule is set up such that there are 2 periods a week of mentorship and 2 periods a week of reflective scholarship. Mentorship classes start in 9th grade and around 25 9th graders are grouped with one teacher or staff member. They meet twice a week. They can stay together all 4 years or split off to other groups after their Sophomore year. My kid's group chose to stay together so they have been together all 4 years with the same teacher. During mentorship period, the kids do many different activities depending on their class year that year: plan their schedule for the next year, register for classes for the next year, plan their academic years at Hale, work on a college plan, go over their academic history to make sure they are on track to graduate, make sure they are on track to apply to the type of college or career they want after high school, work on their after high school plan, plan for running start, work on college essays, work on college applications, etc. They also do fun bonding things together like make pancakes or waffles. During the week they also have something called reflective scholarship where they can go see a teacher if they have questions or need help with a class or they can do their reading assignments. There is also after school homework help. It is what the Hale foundation pays for. Everyday after school there are teachers in different subjects are available in the library to help kids with their homework.

Hale considers 9th grade to be the most crucial year for getting kids on track to graduate. If kids can pass all their classes 9th grade year, they are more likely to graduate than fall behind.

Hale is very inclusive which you either love or hate. Honors are mixed in with gen ed. Only in the later AP classes do they have special academic requirements for being in those classes but even for those, they will make exceptions for special ed kids who have a strong interest in a particular subject like environmental science while not watering down the class material.

Every high school in SPS has its strengths and weaknesses. It is a shame that things have gotten so overcrowded that there are few choice seats available. Some kids might want the Hale mentorship program while others might want the specialties offered at Ballard or IB at Chief Sealth/Ingraham or the music at Garfield or the theater at Roosevelt or the myriad of other programs offered at other high schools.


Anonymous said...

In 2014-15 in CA, 42 charter schools closed (although 4 of these "closed" before actually opening) http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/lr/chclosures1415.asp

3 were revoked by the authorizer
4 were not granted renewal
35 voluntarily closed (or did not try to renew)


Charlie Mas said...

I am much more familiar with charter schools closing due to financial issues than accountability issues.

If they are being closed as a result of under-performance, well, I can't say that I'm happy about that. First because that means that a community is losing their school, but also because I'm suspicious of how school performance is measured. A school closing is always bad news and nothing to crow about.

Honestly, isn't there some other sort of accountability available other than closure? Is the only tool a sledge hammer?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you're unhappy about that. What is of consequence are the educational options under-served populations have access to. I also disagree with the tactic of shutting down schools and dramatic 'swaps' (removing existing teachers/staff, firing, etc.). That said, if a school doesn't have the people attending it, why keep it open?

"As for new families choosing a charter, I don't know what to tell you except that popularity is a poor measure of quality. Or is McDonalds the best restaurant in the world?" I don't know where to begin on this statement, but there is explicit bias and privilege in it. The logical extension of this statement is that low-income communities lack the civic or intellectual fortitude to make choices that are in the best interests of their children. If your viewpoint is there, I shudder to think about that viewpoint guiding education policy in this country.


Charlie Mas said...

Nearly all of the calls I hear for charter schools, and I listen to a lot of them, begin with a problem in the public schools. Review this thread and that's what you'll see here as well.

LisaG asks why all of the schools don't duplicate the successful mentorship program at Hale. Of course, that might be regarded as top-down standardization if it were implemented. Still, I have heard district officials say hundreds of times that they want to duplicate successes. I have only seen them do it once or twice. TOPS is over-subscribed for decades, but they never open TOPS II. They could have filled it from the waitlist for TOPS.

Maybe it's because, as Reader rightly complains, Seattle Public Schools was antagonistic to their option schools.

Nuance complains, rightly, that the entire local government structure rests on a foundation of classism, racism, and sexism and functions as an instrument of those biases.

The bureaucracies, the culture, and the institutional structures create formidable barriers to reform. People have spent decades, fruitlessly, working to overcome those barriers. At some point doesn't it just make sense to walk away from the rigged game and create schools outside of that system?

I hear that. I understand that. I empathize with that. Honestly, if this is your pitch - that local democracy is dysfunctional, that the culture of K-12 public education, locally and nationally, is dysfunctional, that the institutions are classist, racist, and sexist, and work against our children, and therefore we are going to build our own system - then the school you make cannot be anything like the schools you leave. I see a legitimacy for this rationale, but that legitimacy is lost if the schools are not radically different from traditional public schools, and I'm just not seeing that with charter schools. I see a legitimacy for this rationale, but that legitimacy is lost if there are not significant differences in the student experience, and I'm just not seeing that with charter schools.

When the families of Summitt went to the legislature to lobby for a charter school fix, they said that their children loved their new school. They said that their children were happy and successful in their new school. They didn't say that their children were having a student experience that was radically different from their public school experience. They didn't say that Summitt was free of classist, racist, sexist biases or the education industry's dysfunction, or an unresponsive Board. Or did they say that and I missed it?

Charlie Mas said...

See, this is why we can't have nice things.

I write that popularity is no assurance of quality - a premise that I doubt many would dispute - and Nuance starts right in with "The logical extension of this statement is that low-income communities lack the civic or intellectual fortitude to make choices that are in the best interests of their children."

When did I say anything about low income communities? I didn't. When did I say anything about civic or intellectual fortitude? Never. In fact, I wrote "There are a lot of reasons that a family chooses one school over another. I would not jump to any conclusions about what those may be."

Every family situation is different and they make decisions for reasons of their own that I will never know or understand and I will not pretend to know or understand. I barely understand my own motivations, how could I possibly make claims to know what is in the hearts of others?

Nuance, I'm presuming good intent on your part. I'm reading and paying attention to what you write. Not what I think you wrote, not what I assume you mean by what you wrote, not to some extrapolation that I invented about what you wrote, but what you wrote. I would really appreciate it if you would extend me the same courtesy. I don't think it is too much to ask.

As for your presumption, that I think that low-income communities lack the tools (outside of civic and intellectual fortitude) to make optimal choices for their children, yes, I do. Why should they be any different from the rest of us? I think nearly all families lack the tools to make optimal choices for their children. That was certainly my case. The absence of these tools is one of the primary reasons that this blog exists.

If you want to explore my beliefs about how poverty - including multi-generational poverty in a context of racism, mass incarceration, and the economic embargo on our inner cities - impacts families' ability to prepare, support, and motivate their children to do well in school, we can have that conversation. This isn't the time or place for it. Charters are not exclusively for children living in poverty and damn few of them address themselves to those issues.

If you want to explore my beliefs about how children living in poverty are ill-served by traditional public schools and, more to the point, the current mission, license, and resources granted those schools, this is not the time and place for that either. Unless you're going to say that charter schools will provide children living in poverty with an equitable opportunity for academic achievement because they have a different mission, license, and set of resources. If so, then by all means, make that case. There are a few charter schools which work that way, but I don't believe that any of the Washington State charters did and I'm very sure that no anticipated charter school law will require it.

Anonymous said...

Color based Redlining in Seattle is a urban myth, Bryant and Laurelhurst have been expensive areas for decades. It's the cost that have keep most people from buying in those areas and not REDLINING. Perhaps there might have been pressure not to sell to minorities back in the 60s applied by real estate companies, but I challenge anyone to show me a deed from Crownhill with language prohibiting selling to blacks. Crown Hill, Bryant, Laurelhurst are now redlined to anyone not earning > $100K+ and not by the color of someones skin.

Our local socialist think all of these areas should be forced to build section 8 housing and when anyone speaks out against it then they are automatically labeled with the R word.

Seattle real estate is trending similar to SanFran where anything within 5 miles of downtown will soon be $1 million and it's economics will keep driving various groups out of these areas, not anyone's color.

Race bait socialist talking points are worn out and I think only serve to create an artificial divide around color when we should be looking only at economic inequalities.

There has NEVER been a era with more economic opportunities than now, who's going to grab the brass ring and who's going to keep asking for it to be handed to them?


Anonymous said...

When the students and their families went to the legislature to plead their case for keeping their charter schools open, the students absolutely said that their experiences in their new schools were radically different from their public school experiences. You can watch the archived hearing.

These children did not speak in terms of classist, racist, sexist biases or otherwise. Child after child got up and said they felt welcomed, loved, supported, and challenged. They spoke about identity and agency. So if you missed that, you were clearly listening to something different than what was said.

But this is neither here nor there. This is why I ignored until now this inane thread, where Charlie hilariously invited charter school proponents to make their case. Why the hell would we feel the need to make our case to you? That's laughable.

The only people at this point to which we need to make our case is the Legislature and the Governor. And I can tell you without reservation that those legislators who truly listened to those children that day were moved. Authentically.

Charlie, you have ZERO influence in this debate. ZERO. Why would I waste my time making my case to you.

--- aka

Anonymous said...

"If you want to explore my beliefs about how children living in poverty are ill-served by traditional public schools and, more to the point, the current mission, license, and resources granted those schools, this is not the time and place for that either"

I would say you don't need to be in poverty to be ill-served. Most traditional middle class families are also struggling and can't afford to pay for outside educational enrichment or collage.

These families tend to earn above the threshold to receive social welfare support, but are still just squeaking by month to month.


Anonymous said...


The statement was biased. If it does not represent your real viewpoints on institutionalized racism, classism, or sexism I recommend changing your statement. Tying the popularity of charter schools exercised by low-income communities to McDonalds, a fast food chain, is a biased statement (and a false comparison).

I noted the logical extension of your statement, not that you said it. Words have power, this blog has an audience, and some could misinterpret what you said. I'm glad you clarified. Your statement could be interpreted by some (myself included) as biased. It's too bad we can't have nice things.

And yes, your beliefs regarding institutionalized racism can absolutely be addressed by more limber schools (and under our current model, charters have that autonomy and flexibility), unless we throw out the results of schools in the KIPP network or Harlem Children's Zone (to name just a few).


Charlie Mas said...

aka asked "Why would I waste my time making my case to you."

I don't know, aka, I wouldn't presume to speak for you or why you should do anything that you regard as a waste of time. Why post a comment saying that there is no point to posting comments? Why participate on a blog when there is no point to participating on a blog?

The time to make the case for charter schools to the general public, rather than exclusively to the legislature and the governor, was when I 1240 was on the ballot. Could charters be on the ballot again or subject to a referendum? Maybe. Why be unpleasant to people that you hope to persuade? Again, I couldn't say.

Did you think that I was the only reader of this blog that is open to hearing a case for charter schools? Do you think that when you post comments here that they are just to me? They aren't. There are a lot of readers.

Of course, if you have influence on this debate and you can affect the decisions by the legislature and the governor, why not have them extend the benefits of charter schools - whatever that may be - to all children? If you're going to influence them, then do it for a million children, not just 1,200.

And, to TRUMP 16, yes, of course, children from all socio-economic levels can be ill-served by the public education system. To say it about children living in poverty is not to say that it is otherwise for other children.

Charlie Mas said...

Again, "Tying the popularity of charter schools exercised by low-income communities to McDonalds, a fast food chain, is a biased statement (and a false comparison)."

Okay, but I didn't tie them, so why do you persist in the claim that I did? I did not write that charter school were particularly popular in low-income communities. Not here. Not anywhere else. Never.

Here is what I wrote:
"As for new families choosing a charter, I don't know what to tell you except that popularity is a poor measure of quality. Or is McDonalds the best restaurant in the world? There are a lot of reasons that a family chooses one school over another. I would not jump to any conclusions about what those may be."

There is no reference to low income families or communities in that. None. Let it go.

I wrote that popularity is a poor measure of quality, not a poor person's measure.

I was, in fact, specifically thinking of the Harlem's Children's Zone when I mentioned the mission, license, and resources granted to schools to provide equitable access to academic success. I don't see any movement in Olympia to grant that sort of mission and license, let alone resources, to public schools - or charters for that matter.

Jon said...

This discussion seems very far off track.

The only thing I've been able to extract so far is that there is dispute over the meaning of "better schools". When I say better schools, I mean better academic outcomes for students and improved economic outcomes when those students become adults.

What I am seeing here is that some in this discussion favor charter schools not because the schools yield better outcomes for their children, but because they want more choices on which school to attend. That does raise the question of whether charters give most parents more choice, which is not obvious, or whether they are better than other ways that may give more choice like option public schools.

In any case, so far, that is the only thing I can see here of substance. The charter proponents here reject the idea that charter schools need to yield better academic outcomes. That charters may increase choice for some parents and students is supposedly enough reason to have them. Is that right?

Anonymous said...

I don't know TRUMP 16. I think you need to talk to your base about this being the greatest time for economic opportunities. Fear is what people are hearing. And all the financial gains and peace of mind they've lost. Your base is unhappy, angry, and ready to go round up lots of people.

Pew confirmed the decline of middle America. Lowest since 1970 from 61% to 50%. Outnumbered by the growing poor, up to 20% of the population. A huge chunk of them are kids! The rich have gone up from 4% to 9%. Personally, I think they need to tighten the definition of rich to filthy rich. The definition of middle class is annual household income (includes household with 2 wage earners) between 42K to 126K for 2014. Might be ok in Spokane or Topeka, but not so much for Seattle. It's good news in some ways in that more middle class are moving up into upper income and the very rich are getting rich quicker and in ridiculous astronomical billions. But we also have a growing poorer class to bookend that.

The other big numbers which explains why why race and ethnicity still matter. If you look at demographics breakdown and see who's poor. Blacks and Latinos are at 43%. Almost double that of Whites and Asians. Look at the percentage of Whites and Asians for upper income and well, I'll let you make an educated guess.



Eric B said...

Assuming 3-4% of charter schools close each year, I still think there must be something rotten in Denmark. The last numbers I saw said that ~30% of charters were worse than the public schools in their area, ~50% were roughly the same, and ~20% were better in terms of student test scores. That means that a charter has to be underperforming for ~10 years to get closed, whether that is financial or closed by the authorizers. That doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzy feelings about accountability.

If someone has more current achievement data than what I had above, I'd be glad to see it.

Anonymous said...


overall for math: 43% better, 33% same, 24% worse
overall for reading: 38% better, 46% same, 16% worse

There is variation. In the SF Bay area where I first became aware of charters, it is for math: 59% better, 24% same, and 17% worse
for reading: 57% better, 33% same, and 10% worse

Eric B wrote "That means that a charter has to be underperforming for ~10 years to get closed, whether that is financial or closed by the authorizers. That doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzy feelings about accountability"

Except, in CA at least, charter schools need to get reapproved every 5 years, so if they are underperforming, they close after 5 years.


Anonymous said...

By economic opportunities I mean, a time when those so inclined, have the advantage of using available technologies to earn money.

The type of market reach available today for pennies used to be limited to companies with large advertising budgets. People will need to look outside the traditional economy for these opportunities, but they are here in abundance.

For some, it's just easier to except the handouts than it is to rise above them. The current situation we are seeing here and now in Seattle is a population boom. Seattle is attracting those who have plenty or have drive and it's they who are driving out the people that used to be comfortable just treading water.

Unless there's a market trend reversal, it's predicted Seattle will see an annual increase of 5 - 7% in housing purchasing cost and even possible higher rates in rental cost. This will happen regardless of building more supply, again you simply need to look to the south at what has happened in S.F area. We will see the same happen here. Perhaps, once again, the rise of the DINKs, for it appears, only the well-off or DINKs will be able to afford housing.

I don't think our schools are preparing our next generation for the realities of Seattle's transformation. More importantly, our schools should be teaching our students how to take advantage of the situation. Our schools are stuck in a limbo somehow valuing social justice over a rigorous classic education or an entrepreneurial education. A social justice education will place you on social services else where and the later will allow you to live and prosper in Seattle. Social Justice deserves some minor attention, just not as a primary directive, perhaps as a 11 grade optional elective class.

Our Seattle public educational system believes it's more important how you FEEL about something rather than your knowlage of something. They want to shame those who are successful, because they must have had privilege. They believe it's better to FEEL something is good v.s whether something is good. These are teachings and behaviors that breed complaisance over competence. Our system used to foster and create the best working class population in the world, but I'm afraid that knowlage or desire has been lost or perhaps simply devalued.


Eric B said...

LisaG, thanks for posting the numbers. That puts time horizon for closing an underperforming charter school more in the 5-year range, which is more reasonable.

Jon said...

That study from CREDO that LisaG pointed to is interesting.

On the one hand, it's from Stanford's CREDO (which is credible) and shows a substantial benefit from charters in urban areas (details).

On the other hand, it may be cherry picking to focus only on urban charters. For example, the California report, which LisaG also discussed, doesn't look as good, saying, "32 percent of the charter schools have learning gains that are significantly more positive than their local TPS options in reading, while 21 percent of charter schools have significantly lower learning gains. In math, 29 percent of the charter schools studied outperform their TPS peers and 37 percent perform worse."

I'm personally neutral on charters. I'd support them if they worked, but the record isn't clear. The examples where they do work seem to rely on more money (like the excellent Harlem Children's Zone) or cherry picking (ignoring rural areas or ignoring some states).

Po3 said...

The students who went to Olympia were 9th graders correct?

I am betting I could take a group of 9th graders from ANY Seattle High school and have them also give moving testimony about how much they love their school, how welcomed they feel bla bla bla.

They are 9th graders, fresh from middle school hell. So of course, October of 9th grade is unicorns and puppy dogs. And given the emotional hype these kids were given beforehand about the prospect of losing their school I am certain it was quite the performance.

On the otherhand...here is a parent review from the CA counterpart, which really does a good job summarizing what I gleaned from spending time on the Summit corp website:

"Summit's approach seems idyllic, & is refreshing in many ways, but also falls short . On the plus side: project-based work & student mentorship. If your child is a solid to high performer or comes from a well performing middle school, they may not be challenged. There is no tracking in this HS: kids at all levels are combined (even special needs). My child has expressed that classes are catered to the lowest common denominator. Students have Chrome books and "self learn" from Playlists. My child has shared that teachers don't spend much time teaching in class, and much of their time is online. Teachers are well educated, but for the most part are very young. Summit's goal is to have every child prepared for college - it does not differentiate student's preparedness based on drive, talent, intelligence, etc. The student will self-learn and self-differentiate themselves based on how may "playlists" they accomplish. There are little extracurricular opportunities, no PE, and limited sports teams. There is little school spirit & parental involvement, and Summit administration continuously struggles with building a cohesive, involved parent community."

SPS has its problems, don't get me wrong I know that! But the thought of my kids on a computer all day working through a playlist does not entice me one bit.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize how many fortune 100 companies successfully use ebased learning for training? When properly balanced with support, ebased learning is preferred over traditional classroom training.

Funny, my student, who attends Ingraham, told us his class learned chemistry from youtube videos. They resorted to using youtube, because the teacher was incompetent and had given up. MIT instructors vs SPS teachers doesn't seem fair to the SPS teacher, but I applaud the class resourcefulness.

The biggest problem I have with ebased learning is it's just too effective. Once you experience learning from the best, it's hard to go back to an average teacher or worst. The contrast is dangerous for traditional teachers.


n said...

Thanks Lisa G. and HP for the specific information. Now I wonder who the Hale Foundation is. If they are budgeting this support and not the district that says a lot. Isn't that almost what you'd expect a charter to do if it wants to really support kids and do something different? And if we want all public schools to do this, where does the money come from. (Well, beyond our overpaid and vast overhead down at JS but that's never going to happen.)

Also, same with the Harlem Children's Zone. How many public schools can offer that? How many charters for that matter?

I agree with Jon that so much of this has gone off track. Nuance and Charlie are very good at expressing their opinions but to what purpose. Where has it led?

I've been against charters because they siphon money from what should be a public responsibility and that is to maintain an educated citizenry. But today the waste and overhead down at Stanford seem almost commensurate with CEO pay and profits. So what's the difference. This school district wastes money to the degree it might actually surpass anything spent on profits and pay in a private charter. I don't know. But I can't believe private would employ an administration that is six percent of its budget. Or am I wrong about that? I know teachers usually get paid less but the trend toward charter teachers unionizing may put an end to that.

I want public ed to continue but the waste, corruption and lack of support at the school/classroom level may be its own undoing. Luke, some online learning is awesome and some of it stinks. Finding the right mix is key and we're still learning what works and what doesn't and at what level. Online learning isn't a panacea for all. Technology is expensive to maintain, requires maintenance and doesn't work for all children.

Trump 16 is ignorant about redlining. Redlining lasted into the 80s in this city and may still be a problem. Read Taylor Branch and probably others for a few facts on Seattle's history of racial disparity. Such ignorance, Trump 16, should be kept to oneself. As for Seattle housing becoming more expensive, where on Planet Earth is that a surprise? Supply and demand. An idea as old as antiquity.

And aka, ... ?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Boy, Nuance, you sure pull out every single charter canard there is. It's dizzying.

This blog has been through this before and I'm not sure we need to revisit all of the answers. I would suggest readers review how things are going in other states with charters on accountability, services to homeless/Sped/ELL students, corruption, etc.

Then you bring in the issue of voting totals! Whose fault is that? I'm not sure but don't blame candidates for School Board (or any other office.)

I can tell you both from my own experience and research on charters that NO one -whether in a public or a charter school - wants their school closed down. I recall a study about closing charters where it was explained to one parent that her son's charter school was doing no better than the public school they left. She said she didn't care because 1) they chose the school (meaning, "the choice") and 2) they were happy.

School is often more than academics to families. However, for taxpayers, it's about academics. You will always find unhappiness between those two places and parents who do not want their child's school closed.

Trump 16 (good luck with that) - you need to read up on Seattle history - redlining was real.

I agree with Po3 - any number of kids attending a new school could have told legislators the same story. Kids transfer with SPS to find a school that fits (see Option schools) and are much happier. That's why we have Option schools.

This is all an interesting conversation but, of course, I have to wonder who some people are. I wonder because how much questioning there is here from people who could look up answers on their own. I actually don't have a lot of time to be the person to answer basic questions on charters that I have already written about many times.

I also wonder because a lot of the talk I hear here sounds like during the actual initiative campaign and so I wonder if someone is being paid to be here. Which is fine but understand I'm not believing everyone is an interested parent just asking questions.

I got some fascinating answers from my public disclosure requests to some charters as well as from Superintendent Dorn on his actions on the ALE program for the charter students.

Boy, there are a LOT of people working very hard to bringing a dead (and still very poorly-written) law back to life. And I think some of them are here.

Lynn said...


Career-related training of adults is not even close to equivalent to teaching children. Excellent teaching and learning depends on the relationship between a student and their teacher.

The online charter students lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year, the study found. In other words, when it comes to math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.


Joseph Rockne said...

This website breaks down the particular racial restriction language by community If you are a seattle are homeowner you can find the particular restriction on your property in your deed or chain of title.


Your title insurance policy will have a disclaimer that restrictive covenants like these are no longer enforceable.

But "redlining" is not de jure discrimination. Redlining refers to the de facto discrimination that was pervasive in Seattle for several decades after the de jure restrictions where no longer enforceable.

n said...

And redlining had consequences way beyond just where minorities could live. It affects self esteem, quality of education available, and acquisition of wealth over time. It was hugely injurious to minorities.

Maureen said...

So many things to comment on:

There is variation. In the SF Bay area where I first became aware of charters, it is for math: 59% better, 24% same, and 17% worse
for reading: 57% better, 33% same, and 10% worse

Eric B wrote "That means that a charter has to be underperforming for ~10 years to get closed, whether that is financial or closed by the authorizers. That doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzy feelings about accountability"

Except, in CA at least, charter schools need to get reapproved every 5 years, so if they are underperforming, they close after 5 years.


LisaG, so the Stanford study had a snapshot of 17% of CA charters performing below average. Are you saying that all of those schools were less than 5 years old? (i.e., that all schools below average are closed every 5 years). My former statistically competent self has a vague visual on a moving probability distribution function where the lowest x% slowly moves to the left as the poorest performing schools are closed and fewer(?) under-performing schools are opened, but I haven't seen anything like that from Stanford. Would love to see it from you.


Social Justice deserves some minor attention, just not as a primary directive, perhaps as a 11 grade optional elective class. TRUMP16

Really???? Social justice should be infused into every class every one of our kids take (do you have kids?) This is, perhaps the best reason Seattle Alternative Schools have historically deserved support. It may not be true today, but those schools were generally focused on social justice and creating diverse communities. That has been rare in the charter schools I have heard about (I'm happy to hear about exceptions.)


Reader vs. reader? Are there two of you? It would be nice if the new one picked a different nom de plume (or keyboard, as it were.)
Funny, my student, who attends Ingraham, told us his class learned chemistry from youtube videos. They resorted to using youtube, because the teacher was incompetent and had given up. MIT instructors vs SPS teachers doesn't seem fair to the SPS teacher, but I applaud the class resourcefulness.

Luke, Yeah, my kid had that teacher. Glad your kid's classmates figured that out. Mine just floundered. Makes me sad because she loved Chem in MS. I will say that her older sib went to RHS and still had to teach himself Biochem. I think it's more a systematic problem: who wants to teach HS science when they have options in the private sector? We need to do better there. (Do charters?)

Anonymous said...

This blog is a perfect example of why properly supervised and regulated charters are a good idea. As long as this blog has existed, contributors have exhaustively documented the waste, fraud, abuse, criminal behavior and bureaucratic ineptitude of SPS. A constant complaint is the district's unwillingness to meet the needs of students and parents. Why should we expect the future to be any different?

30% of Seattle parents have rejected SPS and voted with their feet by placing their kids in private schools. Unfortunately, this option is not open to families without financial means. Why not provide all families an alternative to SPS?

Public education in this country is clearly not producing results up to international standards.

Why not use charters as a laboratory to experiment with new approaches that may or may not produce better results? Parents can opt in as they see fit, so they willingly take on the risks associated with trying out new educational methods. Some charters will succeed and others will fail, but valuable lessons learned can be applied to the whole educational system.

Tired (of banging my head on the SPS wall)

seattle citizen said...

Tired asks, "Why not use charters as a laboratory to experiment with new approaches that may or may not produce better results?"
Charters started out as this concept, as labs WITHIN public schools. Alternative schools also "experiment," as do traditional schools. We learn new things regularly.
My question to you, Tired: charters have been around for decades, so you should be able to tell us all the great things they've experimented with and found success with. Can you list those for us here so we can use them in public schools?
What IS this magic pixie dust that charters use, purportedly with great success?
Do tell. Specifically.

Anonymous said...

Dear "Tired":

"Properly supervised and regulated" is likely to constitute 100 different standards for every 100 people who have standards for what is acceptable supervision and regulation. Suppose, however, we start with just one item: Freedom of information requests.

Do you think charter operators should be immune from these, or subjected to lesser requirements than our public schools face? After all, don't they call themselves "public charter schools" at every opportunity?

Charter proponents trumpet to the skies their schools' "freedom from burdensome regulations." Just what level of regulation is acceptable to you, then, to ensure that our tax dollars would be spent properly? What is supposed to happen if your acceptable levels of supervision and regulation is more stringent those of the charter operators?

Do you think charter operators are a privileged class, that they are entitled to a lesser level of regulation and supervision? Or do the thousands of horror stories about charter corruption, fraud, incompetence, and utter lack of performance from across the country mean nothing to you? Maybe those are just hallucinations.

As for your statement: "Public education in this country is clearly not producing results up to international standards," it's nonsense. It has been debunked so many times for so many years by so many studies that it falls into the "Big Lie" category.

Alternative schools and programs in SPS have been both successful and productive. My daughter is a graduate of one of them. I share your frustration with SPS bureaucracy. I experienced it as a parent, as so many of us did. But unlike you, I do expect the future to be different, because finally we have a board that will hold the bureaucrats' feet to the fire, and in the best case scenario, will work with Nyland to clean house if need be.

Watch what they do. Talk to them. It will be a long, hard slog, but I think that together we can make SPS into a district that will serve the needs of a wider range of students and parents, and remove altogether the need (if any such need exists in the first place) for charters.

-- Ivan Weiss

Eric B said...

"Who wants to teach HS science when they have options in the private sector?"

I'm not sure that's the right question. For example, Ingraham has an excellent biology teacher, and I've heard good things about some of the other science teachers. My students have also had classes from about 5 teachers who were in the private sector but decided to start a second career in teaching. For example, my younger daughter's middle school science teacher used to work at the Hutch in biochemistry. That said, both of my kids have had teachers who shouldn't be in front of a classroom. Both have also had teachers who worked OK for them, but didn't work for most of the kids in the class. To be fair, I've also seen a totally unqualified biology teacher at a small expensive private school.

To minimize thread drift, do charters make it easier to exit teachers who truly should not be teaching? If it is easier, do they actually do that? Is teacher quality higher at charter schools? Although I don't have any measures of teacher quality other than "I'll know it when I see it" I'd be willing to accept some of the more flawed teacher quality models for the sake of argument.

Anonymous said...

Maureen asked some statistics related questions about the CREDO study and CA charter schools.

from the overview of the study: "Positive results for charter school students increased on average over the period of the study. In the 2008-09 school year, charter attendance on average produced 29 additional days of learning for students in math and 24 additional days of learning in reading. By the 2011-12 school year, charter students received 58 additional learning days in math and 41 additional days in reading relative to their TPS peers." So charter schools in urban areas are getting better.

The 5 year renewal for charter schools (where they need to demonstrate they are not underperforming) is a CA thing. I do not know whether other states have such requirements.

Another Stanford study (http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/Online%20Charter%20Study%20Final.pdf) shows that online charter schools do not perform as well as traditional public schools. Lynn @8:55 linked to a newspaper summary of the study. Although I don't think the chemistry students at Ingraham qualify as online students.

Not all urban charter schools outperform the traditional public schools. I included data for SF bay area because that's where I first became aware of charter schools. In other places like Fort Worth, TX the charter schools are evenly split between being worse and the same as traditional schools.


Anonymous said...

"...But unlike you, I do expect the future to be different, because finally we have a board that will hold the bureaucrats' feet to the fire, and in the best case scenario, will work with Nyland to clean house if need be.

Watch what they do. Talk to them. It will be a long, hard slog, but I think that together we can make SPS into a district that will serve the needs of a wider range of students and parents..."

Sounds like 'battered wife' reasoning.

'This time...this time is different, my husband said he'll change, and I believe him...'


Po3 said...

"Do charters make it easier to exit teachers who truly should not be teaching? If it is easier, do they actually do that? Is teacher quality higher at charter schools?

I would also like to know what the salary structure is for a charter teacher. Higher or lower than public school teachers? From the comments I read on Great Schools for the CA charter schools, there seems to be a common thread of staff turnover, which leads me to believe that salaries are low and hours are long.

Anonymous said...

Green Dot page http://jobs.greendot.org/teachers which links to their salary schedules for different locations.


Another Name said...

Some might be interested in knowing that OSPI provided Seattle Summit Sierra charter school is receiving $11K per child. The state provided Summit Sierra with a "small school" stipend as well.

It should be noted that OSPI provides $6K per each child in Seattle Public Schools.

Why is Summit Sierra receiving preferential treatment?

Another Name said...

Correction: Some might be interested in knowing that OSPI provided Seattle Summit Sierra charter school with $11k per student.

It should be noted that OSPI provides Seattle Public Schools funding for those that receive hospital care. I did not see this type of need within Summit Sierra. I'm interested in knowing if Summit and other charter schools do not accept this type of student.

Another Name said...

Lisa G,

I just read your second comment. Clearly, you need to learn more about Seattle Public Schools, mentorship and other student supports. I don't feel the need to educate you. Please do your research. There is plenty going on within the district.

Another Name said...


I just noted that one of your comments pertained to "hope' and charter schools. I will counter that the Charter Commission and charter school operators opened unconstitutional charter schools and "hoped" they would be Constitutional.

I've not seen evidence that charter school operators informed parents that I 1240 was in the courts.

Charter schools filled unconstitutional schools with children and are using them as pawns.

I would never put my child in a charter school- ever.

Anonymous said...

I was called last year from Summit Public Schools: Sierra High School (funny that they call themselves public school not charter). Odd things were:

-It was to my cell number which I would think would not be included in telemarketing data.

-They denied that there was an issue of stability with the program.

-Said they would be prepared to get my kid through Calc BC online and that it would be better than having a teacher.

I am glad for this blog keeping me up to speed on these issues as I am not sure how I would have reacted.

-merry christmas

Charlie Mas said...

Tired has offered the best case I have heard so far for charter schools. It would have been a stronger case if the last two paragraphs were omitted.

But even that argument is not so much a case FOR charter schools as a case AGAINST public schools. There is nothing inherent in the charter format that assures us that a charter wouldn't be just as unresponsive as a public school. And, given the lack of accountability to student families, there is no reason to believe that a charter school will be more responsive.

So long as the school has a waitlist, the threat of leaving - the only real threat a family can make - will fall on deaf ears.

Another Name said...

"-They denied that there was an issue of stability with the program. "

Enough said.

My experience: Charter school supporters will withhold information and mislead.

One does not need to look beyond the expensive tv commercials. The pro-charter organization paying for these ads fails to mention that charter schools are unconstitutional.

Given an opportunity, charter organizations will continue to push propaganda, and half truths. They have quite a budget, and have the ability to hire communication specialists and make stench smell like roses.

Anonymous said...

The issue poisoning this debate on this blog is the almost-religious insistence by many commenters (and one moderator) that charter schools are ipso facto bad and that their proponents must be motivated solely by their own self-interest. Comments such as "I wonder if someone is being paid to be here" are unfortunate, but unsurprising, given that stance.

Charlie, I appreciate your perspective that there is nothing inherent in the structure of a charter school that makes it more likely to be responsive to parents or educationally superior. Those are the weak and strong forms of the same argument, and it's one I find personally persuasive at a systemic level of analysis.

But for parents and other concerned community members, it's not about the mean level of responsiveness across all districts. It's about what their individual district does. And if they have tried and failed to effect change within that system, the creation of a charter school can provide them an option they would otherwise not have.

"The Prize" is a very interesting read in this regard. The vast majority of the schools in Newark were educationally woeful for children, but the system's incentives for change were extremely weak, given the district's status as the employer of last resort for so many adults in the community. Charters provided a way to prioritize the needs of children over the desires of adults, with at least some educational success to show for the effort.

This reference to Newark surfaces perhaps the most important point in this discussion, and yet it's one that we almost never get to: If charters are neither the devil's schoolhouse nor a panacea for every issue in education, then how do we decide where their use is appropriate and where it is not?

I am as ready to concede that charters may not be helpful in Seattle as I am to argue that they have been a critically important piece of transformation in a number of other underperforming urban school systems.

The question is not so much if a system -- or a school -- can change, but if it will.


Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, SDD. I think you've put your finger right on the squishy bit of all of this.

IF the school district is unresponsive, and IF the district doesn't provide enough alternative programs, and IF the school district has fallen into dysfunction academically, THEN charter schools provide a needed relief - again IF the charter is responsive and IF the charter provides the flavor of alternative education you're looking for, and IF the charter school is reasonably close to your home and IF the charter provides effective education.

That's a lot of IFs and it sounds like some very narrow conditions for support.

Except that they are not actually so narrow because so many school districts are unresponsive, and so many school districts don't offer enough alternative education, and because so many school districts are ineffective academically - at least with certain types of students (ELL, disabled, FRL, Latino, African-American, Native American, South Pacific Islander, etc.).

But even in those cases, where is the assurance that the charter will be responsive and effective? It's something that we would have to rely on people to judge - I don't think it could be written into law. But I'm just not comfortable trusting people to make those determinations and act on them. After all, the charter school commission people are just as susceptible to the human frailties that afflict the public school people.

There's no way to write a charter school bill that will allow only this type of charter under these conditions.

Anonymous said...

I did not come away from “The Prize” thinking Newark schools were better off after billionaires got finished spending money. My takeaway was that poverty and lack of community involvement led to a failed effort. “Transformation” was promised by politicians like Corey Booker but they they backed away when they didn’t get immediate results.

Public schools are closer to their communities than charter chains from other cities. Online learning seems inappropriate and impersonal, especially for younger children. Even some for profit online colleges have come under close scrutiny.

No magic bullets with charters. With all types of schools, success depends upon their student populations and the families behind them.

Anonymous said...

S parent wrote the above statement

Outsider said...

To understand the appeal of charters, or lack thereof, you need to start with the real problem in bad public schools. It’s not lack of innovation, or unions, or egotistical bureaucrats, or graft (though all of that might exist). The real problem is "inclusiveness" enforced by both law and PC ideology. In low achieving schools, every classroom must have its allocation of disruptive, contemptuous, disabled, and hopelessly far behind students, so no classroom functions very well. Classroom management is the paramount teaching skill, and a lot of teachers will be burned out and checked out. Kids tend to know which way the wind is blowing, and in the absence of other guidance, tend to go with whoever they perceive to be the winners. When they see that disruptors rule the school, and teachers are made fools, more kids go to the dark side and the fate of public education is sealed. No amount of money or "innovation" will make any difference.

No matter how impoverished and traumatized, any community has a segment of students who are good-natured and eager to learn, whose achievement will leap upward if they are cherry-picked into safe, orderly classrooms that function. 90% of the charter advantage comes from cherry picking. All of the other so-called innovations are just faint noise. That is why charters only appeal in poor neighborhoods with bad schools. In rich neighborhoods, there is no leverage to be had from cherry picking, and the charters’ disadvantages would predominate (profit skimming; less qualified and lower paid teachers; administrators whose core competence is sucking up to rich people rather than running schools.)

To me, that is the whole story. Charlie is right that charters have no magic of innovation that public schools couldn't do if they wanted. Charlie is na├»ve in not understanding that charters do have a secret sauce – cherry picking – that public schools adamantly refuse to do. Also in not admitting that lots of parents, faced with bad public schools, would choose charter and be very grateful to have the choice.

Outsider said...

I should add, just to be clear, that charter schools really can increase the achievement of cherry-picked students relative to what those same students would do in public schools. The way they do it involves no brilliant pedagogical innovation. It's only the natural effect of putting capable and eager students into a more productive environment. The same could be done within the public school domain by cherry-picking the same students into exclusive magnet schools or rich schools on the other side of town (if the town has a rich side).

But it's important to note that charter schools can easily do more than just get the identical outcomes per student with a better mix of students.

Eric B said...

Outsider, I would argue a little differently. To me, the root problem is that some students (many in some areas) have the deck stacked against their success by a variety of factors within and not within their control. A short list of factors include malnutrition, homelessness, disproportionate discipline, drug use, societal pressures against academic achievement, etc. etc. While many of these factors are primarily in higher poverty and higher minority schools, they can exist anywhere. Addressing those issues so that children can learn is where you get skyrocketing achievement. It isn't rocket science to say that students aren't going to learn well in school if they don't have breakfast or if they have no time for homework because they need to work to support their families.

My understanding of the issues in Newark was that they didn't address the background, so they were trying to treat symptoms rather than the disease.

I also agree that a productive discussion can't be had if either or both sides assume bad intentions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SDD, I have never, ever, once said charters are "bad." I don't care if you put "ipso facto" in front of it, I didn't say it.

Do not put words into other people's writing.

Outsider said...

Eric B -- the students with life stacked against them do poorly in any school, charter or public. Of course those students exist. No, charters have no magic to solve their problems or turn them into good students. But that's irrelevant to the appeal of charter schools (which also exists). I don't understand what you are arguing.

Students with life stacked against them do more than just not learn. They drag down their peers with potential, by sucking up all the school's resources; by disrupting the classroom; and by forcing every classroom to adopt a very low lowest common denominator standard. Very often those kids with life stacked against them become the source of the societal pressure against academic achievement to which you refer, and they become the de facto rulers of the school. Charter schools benefit the kids with potential by providing an escape to an alternative, safer and more productive environment. That is not how charter schools promote themselves, but it's the truth, and it's why some families are very happy to have the choice.

Where charter schools are rigorously PC-policed, and don't get away with any cherry picking at all, and must serve the exact same students in the exact same way, they don't outperform public schools.

Anonymous said...

I find it fascinating to read that we need charters because of "arbitrary racial districting" and the need for "innovation laboratories." When my family entered SPS we had school choice (=less racial districting) and much more site-based autonomy (innovation.) Then the supreme court came down on the former and Maria Goodloe-Johnson came down on the latter.

In reality, neither of those things addressed the problem of improving education of children from families with fewer resources, because both school choice and alternative/option schools required some knowledge and savvy to play the game. And, like Hale's mentor program, any innovation was regarded as "unfair" because not everyone could access. Rather than spread any of the successful innovations over the years, the district shut them down. Why? They take money. It all comes back to money.

So innovation and options are verboten in a public school system because they are "unfair." Yet when a charter does the same thing, it's good. I have some sympathy when charters get the "cherry-picking" rap because the public alts always got the "boutique" label. It's the same thing, and I don't know how you can get away from it because anyone with resources is going to use them to get the best outcome for their kid. Those without resources are not going to be able to use them because they haven't got them. I'm not saying that poor people can't be knowledgeable and savvy but that in my experience it takes quite an investment of TIME to find the best school for your kid and I realize my privilege in having that kind of time. See also from Gerry Pollet's post the Summit attendees who are former TOPS students, or live in Ravenna.

To wrap this musing up, I'm sure there is no easy answer. I wish charter supporters would stop pretending that it is an easy answer. I do think that building on site-based innovations in public schools is just as valid an approach as charter schools, if anything more promising since it hasn't been systematically attempted or had the money thrown at it that charters have. I wish we could wind the clock back 15 years in Seattle. The only place the charter struggle has taken up is backward.

Chris S.

Anonymous said...

Noticed my comment above was deleted referencing the This American Life episodes that I think highlight the problems with our existing system:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/534/a-not-so-simple-majority highlights how a local board representing a specific interest group can completely short-change the community it serves.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with highlights the efforts and challenges with integrating traditional districts.

Definitely worth a listen and relevant to this thread because public charters operate outside of these arbitrary and archaic methods of governing traditional public schools.


Eric B said...

Outsider, the appeal that charter school proponents make is that they educate students better than regular public schools. If the problem is that some students have life stacked against them, then the problem is not the public schools. It's life. Successful public schools will start chipping away at those things stacked against students. Tacoma is doing a really good job of this.

"Students with life stacked against them do more than just not learn. They drag down their peers with potential, by sucking up all the school's resources; by disrupting the classroom; and by forcing every classroom to adopt a very low lowest common denominator standard. Very often those kids with life stacked against them become the source of the societal pressure against academic achievement to which you refer, and they become the de facto rulers of the school. Charter schools benefit the kids with potential by providing an escape to an alternative, safer and more productive environment. That is not how charter schools promote themselves, but it's the truth, and it's why some families are very happy to have the choice."

This is incredibly offensive. You seem to be saying that we need to make the public schools a space for all of the students that have life stacked against them. We as a society are going to give up on them and leave them there. Sure, you'll pull out the ones you deem worthy, but what about everyone else? Students who have life stacked against them due to no fault of their own just rot in a crap school? We'll just abandon 10%-75% of the students in a given district?

All I can say is that I hope this is a false flag comment by someone opposed to charter schools. I hate to think that this passes for an acceptable view of public policy.

n said...

Thanks, Outsider. Your post has merit and I appreciate your saying it honestly.

Anonymous said...

So.....let the good kids escape from the bad kids and the burned out old teachers who are only there because of the unions. Cherry pick away so OUR kids can be safe.

Too bad many charters do not take up the big challenge of working with disadvantaged students. Flip the argument so the hardest to educate kids get the tutoring they need and their social and behavioral challenges addressed. Maybe if we funded per McCleary we could even do that for public school kids.

S parent

Outsider said...

Eric B -- I am for real, not a charter supporter. What I sad is not offensive to anyone who lives outside a PC echo chamber.

Compare these two statements:
"One child has incurable cancer, so no children shall get medical care."
"One child has life circumstances that make education nearly impossible, so no children shall be educated to their potential"

One sounds silly, and the other is the standard orthodoxy of public schools and apparently of you also. Aside from that, the statements are logically more or less the same.

Children with life stacked against them won't accomplish much school-wise, no matter what school they are in. Schools are "crap schools," to use your phrase, because they have mostly students with life stacked against them. They aren't crap in the sense of having less money (usually they have more money per student than non-poverty schools); and they aren't crap schools in the sense of having teachers who aren't ed-school certified and don't care (or didn't care when they started). They are crap schools because they have very difficult populations that schools by themselves can't help. Any school can be made into a crap school by being forced to orient its operations to impossible student populations, and let disruptors rule.

I believe students with potential who want to learn should be sprung free of such schools, I really do. I don't think it hurts or even matters to the ones left behind. (Just like giving one child antibiotics for pneumonia doesn't hurt a different child with incurable cancer.) Leaving behind the impossible students would actually help a few, because it changes the perception of who are the winners. It would make the escapees the winners, and would cause some kids on the fence to come down on the side of committing to school and going with the winners who respect the teacher and try to learn something.

If you want to solve the social problems of the kids with life stacked against them, go ahead. That is between you and the taxpayers. But education of the rest should not be held hostage while you are working on that.

Anonymous said...


There is no such thing as a "public charter school." The Constitution says that's an oxymoron, and the Supreme Court has reinforced it. As many times as you want to say it, I'll be here to rebut it.

-- Ivan Weiss

Outsider said...

S parent -- charter schools are a very mixed bag. There are for profit schools run by Wall Street and Silicon Valley greedbags; save-the-world projects run by Gatesian dilettantes who need a hobby in plutocratic retirement; ideological projects by wealthy right-wingers; and the occasional sincere effort by caring and competent people. Some of them do probably think they are taking up the big challenge of working with disadvantaged students. Certainly the Wall Street greedbags would say so if it was necessary to land contracts. Most of the dilettantes would embrace that mission. But they are unlikely to succeed. Public schools have better paid, more qualified teachers, more experience, and no profit skim, so all odds favor them.

I hope I am not seen as diverting this thread, but I really think there is a fundamental deception / misconception at the core of the charter school argument. Whether motivated by profit or a desire to please the dilettante sponsor, charter managers will try to deliver "success" however it's defined. The easiest, and probably only way to do that is cherry picking, so that is what they will tend to do, whether or not it was part of the charter school's promise or the sponsor's intent.

It would be nice to provide unlimited resources to disadvantaged students. But in education as in medicine there needs to be financial triage. It would be nice to cure incurable cancer, and some amount of money might accomplish that, if the taxpayer would pony up. But meanwhile, it would be stupid bordering on criminal to deny care to patients with conditions that can be helped right now within the existing budget.

Medical Professional said...

"It would be nice to provide unlimited resources to disadvantaged students. But in education as in medicine there needs to be financial triage.'

What the hell are you talking about?

Lynn said...

Moving children out of high-poverty schools does improve their academic achievement - even if you don't cherry-pick those with the least problems.

Here's a quote from a study on moving poor children into neighborhoods (and schools) with lower poverty levels:

School-based economic integration effects accrued over time. After five to seven years, students in public housing who were randomly assigned to low-poverty elementary schools significantly outperformed their peers in public housing who attended moderate-poverty schools in both math and reading. Further, by the end of elementary school, the initial, large achievement gap between children in public housing who attended the district’s most advantaged schools and their non-poor students in the district was cut by half for math and one-third for reading.

The academic returns from economic integration diminished as school poverty levels rose. Children who lived in public housing and attended schools where no more than 20 percent of students qualified for a free or reduced price meal did best, whereas those children in public housing who attended schools where as many as 35 percent of students who qualified for a free or reduced price meal performed no better academically over time than public housing children who attended schools where 35 to 85 percent of students qualified for a free or reduced price meal. (Note that fewer than 5 percent of schools had more than 60 percent of students from low-income families, and none had more than 85 percent in any year, making it impossible to compare the effects of low-poverty schools with truly high-poverty schools, where 75 percent to 100 percent of the families are low-income).

Taken from page 6 of this document: https://www.tcf.org/assets/downloads/tcf-Schwartz.pdf

Anonymous said...

Ivan, the Supreme Court never said there's no such thing as a public charter school. They said that I-1240 is unconstitutional. It's not the same thing. As many times as you want to say it, I'll be here to rebut it.

Citizen Kane

Outsider said...

Lynn --

It probably matters a lot whether you are talking about elementary students (who are still easy for adults to influence in a healthy environment) vs. middle to high school students, who are more willful and difficult to influence. I'd definitely believe that moving elementary students in small numbers from a high-poverty school to a rich public school would help them a lot regardless of their starting point, more so than converting the high-poverty school to a charter school. The threshold effect mentioned in the research speaks volumes. The threshold has nothing to do with money spent in the school, or teacher quality, or unions. At some point the tone of the classroom changes, the teacher loses control, and the classroom becomes less effective. I don't think it's a matter of metaphysical necessity, but rather the way PC classrooms are required to operate.

But in middle school or high school (where most charters seem to operate), cherry picking would come into play. You read lots of stories about how charter schools cherry pick by simply suspending disruptive students so many times that they give up. The charter schools seem to have no magic method to reach disruptive teenagers, and just drive them out. Then the classroom becomes easier to manage for the rest.

Pm said...

Imagine that you live in an area with high poverty schools (e.g. specific parts of South Seattle). Without charters and with the current assignment plan, you have no school choice unless you qualify for Spectrum or HCC. I think it's easy for north end parents with resources to criticize charters because there are several great options for north-end kids. Your child by default will be assigned to a high-performing school and if you are lucky enough, you may be able to access other popular options like John Stanford or Thorton Creek or Hazel Wolf. If you are assigned to a low performing school, your class will receive instruction targeted at a low level because so many students are below grade level. Good charters help students without resources to succeed by offering perks like highly involved teachers who work longer days and are willing to work in an extended school year. They offer targeted enrichment to give underprivileged students a chance to compete in a world where more affluent children are often parented in a different way (music lessons for toddlers, Gymboree, swim lessons, etc.).

NO 1240 said...

Citizen Kane,

I 1240 is nonexistent. Existing charter schools are neither public or private. I will be here to rebut, as well. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Wow, NO 1240, we are in agreement. The Supreme Court declared I-1240 unconstitutional; therefore, it is no more. No reason to rebut. LOL.

And I say further, there are no charter schools in our state at this time.

We are in agreement. Hallelujah!

Citizen Kane

No 1240 said...

aka wrote:

"The only people at this point to which we need to make our case is the Legislature and the Governor. And I can tell you without reservation that those legislators who truly listened to those children that day were moved. Authentically."

If Seattle Public Schools bussed the students from NOVA and Middle to Olympia, legislators would have been moved, as well. Students from NOVA and Middle College attend school board meetings. They are incredibly articulate. As Charlie says, there is nothing public school can't do that charter schools would do.

n said...

S Parent, it is all part of the picture. All of it. You are the cherry picker. I appreciate your posts but the number of hard-to-manage kids is off the charts at some schools and a problem at most. Sorry it offends you.

n said...

When Charlie posted his commentary, I didn't think many would respond. We've been there and done that so much. Also, I still don't see a huge difference between us except that we all find a way justify what we want. But I was wrong!

We all wanted better education. Why not pull together and make our public schools great? Get the legislators of one of the richest states in the union off their d**m bank accounts and raise some taxes. R. Carlyle included. Start marching parents to get money out of JS and back into classrooms. You have the power. Become the squeaky wheels and don't be so nice about it. While charters may be an answer for some of you, think about the kids still in public school. What's left for them if all your energy goes into providing paychecks for private companies whose main goal is profit margins.

Anonymous said...

n, I agree that we need to fully fund public schools and get more money from JS into the classrooms. My point is that the hard to manage kids need to get some of this funding. You cannot put all the resources into new charters and leave the hardest kids in the public schools. That is a challenge that needs the hardest effort.

S parent

Medical Professional said...

Don't worry, S. Parent. Outsider's comments are amongst the most twisted I"ve encountered. Lack of motivation may be a sign of depression. Who gets to decide which kids are throw- aways? I can only hope that Outsider isn't in a position of authority.

I am still awaiting Outsider to respond to my question regarding this statement:

"It would be nice to provide unlimited resources to disadvantaged students. But in education as in medicine there needs to be financial triage.'

You never know which moment or which teacher changes the life of an individual. Many people have such stories.

Tis the New Year. Would Outsider only provide best wishes to a few?

n said...

Oh for heaven's sake. No one called them throw-aways. Such reactivism. Get a grip. Outsider brought up an element of management that is part of the problem. S parent, I agree with your comment entirely. In fact, I would put much more money and much smaller class sizes into those schools even at the expense of our kids who are not in such jeopardy. And it always brings the same response - well, we have to be fair regarding all schools. And we do. But some students and their schools need more and it has to come from somewhere. If we actually prioritized those schools and were patient with our expectations, it might actually make a difference for all kids. I think we are agreeing more than disagreeing. I meant to say above (I thought I did say but...) that charters syphon money away from public schools. I don't like it. But until public schools are adequately funded, perhaps well-intended charters with private support are better at some things. Not my choice but more of an observation which acknowledges there may be some value in them as public education is currently managed and funded.

Medical whatever, yours is a vicious response. "triage" to me means our financial support for schools has become an emergency. We cannot serve all kids well with the funding we get. You might reread Outsider with a little less emotion. It makes me wonder if she didn't hit close to home with you.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds like 'battered wife' reasoning.

'This time...this time is different, my husband said he'll change, and I believe him...'


Really bad to analogize public policy like this.

Very, very offensive.


Medical said...

'Students with life stacked against them do more than just not learn. They drag down their peers with potential, by sucking up all the school's resources; by disrupting the classroom; and by forcing every classroom to adopt a very low lowest common denominator standard."

I stand by my words and I'm not the only person on this thread that felt offended.

Charlie Mas said...

It's an equity question. How do we dedicate all of the resources needed to educate students who arrive at school without preparation, support, or motivation and still provide an appropriate academic opportunity for students who arrive at school with all of those needed elements from home?

The charter school has a solution - take all of the prepared, supported, and motivated students out of the public school and put them in the charter school. There. Problem solved. Now the students who are ready to learn can be the focus instead of the students who are not ready to learn.

People show statistics about how poor, urban students do well in charter schools compared to traditional public schools. They should. They don't necessarily select students for affluence or race, but they do select for motivation - and that's what really drives academic outcome. Poverty and culture are correlated to motivation; motivation is causative to academic success.

The parallels with self-contained Spectrum and HCC are unavoidable. This is a big part of how I began to drop my support for self-contained gifted ed. It would be hypocritical of me to oppose that if I continued to support self-contained Spectrum - even though Spectrum in middle school is just two class periods a day and there is no Spectrum in high school. HCC, similarly, is three classes in middle school and just a cohort in high school - oh, right, plus the opportunity to do IBX. But they have a similar consequence on the general education classroom.

It's a tricky balance. I want all children to get what they need, but when there is only one teacher who can only do one thing at a time, then some children will be served while others are not. That's the industrial model. I know that model isn't the rule all day in classrooms any more, but it remains the structure. It is a structure that isn't set up for differentiation. We can jerry-rig work-arounds, but we need a deeper reform that replaces the fundamental structure with one that supports differentiation. The reform wouldn't be necessary if children came in convenient 24-packs - like they do at schools, like charter schools, that can cap their enrollment and select their students. Charter schools tailor the children to fit the school instead of tailoring the school to fit the children. It's a great luxury and advantage.

Anonymous said...

We've been hearing that it's "about the cohort" and "it's not exclusive" from Charlie and Melissa, respectively, for YEARS now whenever a commenter would point out that Spectrum and (then) APP were analagous to the arguments against charters they were making on this blog on a regular and sustained basis.

And, just like Obama joined the marraige equality bandwagon when it was clear that the political winds had fully shifted toward legality, we have Charlie coming to terms with the issue.

Never a dull moment.

Better late than never.

--about time

Melissa Westbrook said...

So I never said the "it's the the cohort" for Spectrum. I said that for APP and I stand by it.

I'm not sure I think Charlie's comparison to charter schools is accurate because the Spectrum kids are part of an entire school and are not the entire school.

Anonymous said...

I quoted you as saying that neither Spectrum and HCC (nee APP) "is exclusive". I quoted Charlie as having the "it's the cohort" mantra, which is what is meant by "respectively".

In fact, you stated "it's not exclusive" as recently as last week, Melissa. At the same time, you have consistently upbraided charters for not having a comparable population of students with IEPs. You can't logically have it both ways.

Siphoning the "motivated students" (which is a very offensive term because it's not about the students but the role of parents--especially in the younger grades) away from the general population in Spectrum is actually very comparable to what happens with charter schools. BTW, some charters do share buildings with the other public school, but that point is largely irrelevant to the underlying ethics.

To Charlie's credit, he's even addressing the fact that this issue extends to a protected population, HCC. However, I think he sees the writing on the wall that having a one size fits all program for HCC is against the state law and is on borrowed time. It's been clear for several years that Spectrum violates LRE for students with IEPs, but the state law that separated HCC from Spectrum=general ed. sealed that legal question for SPS.

Your credibility on charters continues to be weakened as long as you defend exclusion when the situation is local but condemn it for others.

--about time

Jon said...

I'll say again that this discussion is very far off track.

I'd like to see some discussion of why charters actually work. Show me data either that charters produce better academic outcomes consistently (with the same money and without turning away expensive students) or that they provide all parents more choices in a meaningful way that public schools are unable to replicate.

All the evidence I'm aware of says that charters don't really work. Please show me why you think they do work.

n said...

Excellent point, Joe. We're in the fog of semantics again.

Siphoning the "motivated students" (which is a very offensive term because it's not about the students but the role of parents--especially in the younger grades) away from the general population in Spectrum...

Nobody is siphoning anybody away. At my school, some "motivated students" are in self-contained classrooms due to parent selection. Many, many more are still in the regular population. It is offensive that anybody thinks Spectrum removes all the highly motivated, smart, sophisticated - whatever - kids from the rest of the school. Unbelievable. Only those children whose parents want them in such a classroom are there and they do not constitute the entire group of kids however you wish to describe them.

This is sounding ominously similar to the Dem/GOP threads on certain websites. It is becoming opinionated to the extreme and ridiculous. Instead of polarizing kids and their needs, why not find equity and think about what is best for all kids. In my opinion, most parents do that. Some think their children are best served in a classroom that is supposed to be paced and taught to a higher level - "challenge." Others prefer less pressure, more play, and a more social environment but still expect children to be taught well. Frankly, it doesn't sound like Charlie thinks Spectrum is particularly challenging from what I've read in his posts. I don't think any of you really understand developmental learning and kids. You put everything into your own polarized us/them juxtaposition and argue like little kids.

Get over it. And answer Joe's question. It is a lot more adult and thoughtful.

n said...

One more thing: most kids who are in spectrum have parents who sit at night and teach them. Not every one but the majority. Those parents take education very seriously and are there reteaching all the time. Of course, that's not equal is it. So I guess some of you would have those parents prohibited from providing that extra attention - you know, the "level playing field" and all. But those parents are why their kids can do and learn as well as they do.

Not every one can do that and I don't expect it nor demand it. But I'm tired of the whacking away at the notion of equity in favor of equal. My parents couldn't do it, I was never in the fast track, and when all was said and done, almost all of us turned out to be thoughtful, educated, intelligent people. And not all the students that came out of the fast track did as well as I did. There is a lot more to growing up than what class you're in at school. Most kids could care less about where each one of them is and who is teaching them except for all the opining they hear at home.

This conversation is about siphoning money out of public education. That is a different conversation. Back to Joe.

n said...

Sorry, the charter schools conversation is about siphoning money out of education. At least for me.

Anonymous said...

N, I spend all day in school teaching kids too. Cherry picking students and creating segregated environments is a real problem created by zealous parents seeking social advantage for their kids you should already know about. Not so obvious in elementary, but a bonafide problem in secondary. Tracking minority students with students with disabilities is a disservice to all. And a real problem, known about for a ling time. And that's the net result of segregation. The "equity not equal" claim, is really the modern day "separate but equal" notion. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.

But, the "siphoning" claim is also absurd. In the case of schools, bigger is not better. We are long past the advantage of economies of scale. If a the district shrinks by a percentage - that would actually be a good thing. And choice is always good, if equally accessible. We need relief from hegemony, standardization, and top down group-think. Unfortunately, our Alt schools have succumbed to that too. And, they cherry pick and counsel out just the same as the charters. Charters appear to be the only escape hatch. So long as they serve everyone, it's good to inject a little friendly competition into the system. And no, we're also done with uber academic "accountability" as measured by tests. Voting by choice with feet and long term graduation rates, would be fine.


Pm said...

...and how is it equitable to force children to attend schools that are >80% FRL with very low test scores? Why shouldn't those children have other options, including programs that are targeted at helping low-income children succeed in school?

n said...

Cherry picking students... No cherry picking. Testing students is by the choice of parents. All have access to testing.

zealous parents... Boy, that's a mouthful of bias if I've ever heard one. No judging here . . . not! Should we regard parents who want charters to be zealous? Are you zealous because you use words like "segregated" that is tied to a civil rights movement and a population for whom "segregation" was real and forced? Let's keep words in their proper and righteous context.

tracking - your opinion. Tracking has been around for years. Walk to math is tracking.

I agree that our district is too big. And choice is always good, if equally accessible. Yes, I agree. Programs need a threshold. Just as a blind student in Seattle gets special help, she must show a need for that help. Same with advanced learning. Those students show an academic need be achieving at a certain level on a series of tests. I am against wait lists. Speaking as someone who has taught Spectrum in the past, I could have taken five or six more kids beyond my district-imposed quota easily. When you have children ready to learn and with home support, teaching is easy. Any teacher that refuses to pack her classroom with high achievers shouldn't be there. A Spectrum teachers biggest job is keeping his/her students engaged. They want to be there and they want to learn. Management is also easier.

We need relief from hegemony, standardization, and top down group-think. More big words. Give examples. All schools have standardization. Standardized tests of one sort or another have been around as long as I've been around. So, what would you replace standardization with?

... our Alt schools have succumbed to that too. Perhaps this is where you could teach me. I'm thinking Salmon Bay which is a school I've learned recently has become more like "every school." Rather than siphoning money to charters, what can we do to stop that trend and keep a school like Salmon Bay operating in a way the clearly is loved by its community.

And, they cherry pick and counsel out just the same as the charters. Charters appear to be the only escape hatch. That sounds like a contradiction.

You see, you haven't really addressed anything substantive nor offered workable solutions. I think districts have become too large as well and too much money has already been siphoned off upward. Parents and kids have always self-selected. For Bill Gates it was Lakeside. And Lakeside is very generous with scholarships. I bet a lot of people didn't know that if they test appropriately, their kids could go to Lakeside.

You're asking that public schools be cookie cutter for everyone. There's no equity in that. Only equality. And until someone comes up with a legal way to change it, separate will remain the status quo because that, too, is a self-selection in most cases. Free and reduced is clearly a reflection of a neighborhood and the SES of that neighborhood. Those schools need more money. The district can do that. It is a problem of money and how the administration uses it.

n said...

@PM: I totally agree. Within the public system, there should be programs to address all needs. We should have more equity and less sameness. We need more money at the school level and less money in politics, administration, PR, and paychecks. But we have created a behemoth at the management level. The charter choice is all about money and that's exactly what we should be talking about. Making public schools even poorer by siphoning the money off into private hands will not help children. If there are charters doing better, then public schools should learn and duplicate. We have lots of examples: private schools, parochial schools, and existing charters nationally. But we are stuck with a nineties mindset that all the money should stay at the top and a legislature that still can't come to terms with the notion that education is key. Until we start attacking in a meaningful, mobilized way the inequity in funding and the destination of those dollars, we'll still be arguing the merits and demerits of Spectrum till the cows come home. Spectrum is not the problem. Funding is. Children do not come with equal needs. Equity insures that each child's needs are met. That takes money, diverse programs, and more generosity in how we value the needs of all children - those at the top as well as those at the bottom.

Money, money, money, money, money. We used to have it when the top paid its fair share. I still like Ike. A republican who thought 90% tax rates were just fine and that social security should be protected like gold. All the little people arguing amongst ourselves about who should get what part of that very small piece of the pie that is now our share when it is how the pie is divided that is the real problem.

And speaking of pie, I think I'll have a piece of delicious pumpkin pie right now.

Anonymous said...

Wow. N, you are really out of touch. Racially segregation is a reality in advanced learning. Ability segregation is a reality for students stuck in the worst of the worst special ed self contained. And those are heavily concentrated with nonwhites. Ever see a principal review one? Nope. Nobody gives a rats axx what happens there, so 0 quality control. Also 0 quality. And yes, segregation. This isn't some PC make believe, it'sreality. Sure more money could possibly help, but evidence points to simply more and more and more suits downtown being the true siphons. If students leave with their basic education allocation, they aren't somehow sucking money away. They aren't incurring the cost of their educations which offsets the money going to their alternate educational facility. Duhhhhhh! It's hard to imagine a charter able to bear the administrative costs of education, but heck, the waste downtown is so massive I can imagine it might be possible to beat. If the district can't provide options, yes because some people want them, and because some others truly need it, then that space will be left for charters. That is pretty simple. Guess what else? The public wants charters, and voted them in by initiative. Since you ask, we did pretty well without CCSS. Alts like SB did just fine with winter enrichment OF THE TEACHERS' DISCRETION. Imagine that. Staff teaching without a playbook. Maybe you can't do it, but plenty can. Viva la difference!


PS. Lakeside has about 12% admission rate. You seem pretty ignorant on that point too. And, it isn't by test score. So, it really doesn't matter how well you do on district tests. I know a kid who scored a perfect MSP score who was rejected from Lakeside. That test (like SBAC nowadays) has little correlation to anything, and will get you into no institution - of higher or lower education. Too bad every school spends student time mindlessly preparing students (there's the hegemony coming in) for SBAC, and mindlessly teaching CER writing, with pointless quotations littered everywhere. This really does nothing for students. Nothing useful, that is.

n said...

Racially segregation is a reality in advanced learning.

Yes, of course it is. Under Bob, we tried to tap as many minorities and south end schools as we could. Again, it is sometimes about self-selection and sometimes about readiness.

Since you ask, we did pretty well without CCSS. I did?

You're a little emotional and determined to be right. Fine. If you want to pay for private schooling, that's your choice. But education is still a public right and responsibility in this state. That's where my tax dollars are expected to go.

As for Lakeside, I didn't say all kids got in just like not all kids get into Spectrum or even charter schools.

And I am actually pro alternative schools.

That was a mindless response.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Alts would be great, so long as they adhered to the same no cherry picking rules. Since they both cherry pick and are not really "alt" any more... people understandably have started to support charters. So long as those issues are not fixed, and Nyland ain't gonna fix those, charter support will grow.

Sounds like you dislike dissent and a variety of opinion. Guess that is your prerogative...


Outsider said...

Medical Professional -- Usually discussions age below the fold by this point, and rarely does anyone hang on my words, so sorry if I was derelict in responding. I used provocative rather than soft-spin language, but stand by what I wrote completely. If I offended you, good. The smug and certain need offending.

What I am essentially arguing for is a return to old-fashioned tracking in public schools. That would kill off charter schools (the whole point of the thread) in short order. Charter schools represent crony capitalist looting and plutocrat meddling, and it's unfortunate that they can survive and grow by exploiting a fault line in the public schools created by "inclusive" PC ideology.

It's fine with me if the public schools do the best they can for every child, with one limitation. The lives and human potential of some students may not be sacrificed for the alleged benefit of others. I never said anyone should be thrown out of school or not have teachers who could change their lives; only that severely disadvantaged children should be served in classrooms designed for them which do not commandeer other children for the purpose. All children should have opportunity commensurate with their character, ability, and motivation. By opprotunity, I don't mean money. More money will be spent on those most difficult to teach; but for the bright, respectful, and motivated students there is plenty of money already. Tracking should be based on motivation and character as well as prior achievement.

It would be unfair to sacrifice the human potential of some students for the alleged benefit of others even if that benefit could be demonstrated. Given the dismal results and dismal social statistics, where is the alleged benefit? We can easily see the cost to those held back (and their longing for escape) but the alleged benefit is nowhere to be seen. Why is Medical Professional so pious then?

Public schools have betrayed their core constituents -- the children who are motivated and respectful and love learning. That has a profoundly demoralizing effect that the PC crowd does not understand. It harms economically disadvantaged communities most of all. Other institutions can carry the banner of social justice, but only public schools could carry the banner of learning and scholarship. When they betray their core mission, public schools deprive students of an important type of guidance (which matters most to those who don't get that guidance back-filled by family or community.) Without that guidance, a lot of students make the wrong choices. Who decides which children, you ask, accusingly. The children themselves decide, mostly. If you have no idea what I am talking about, never mind. I must be a fool and not worth your time.

I am not so naive as to think tracking could actually come back to public schools. The more viable alternative will be to build a political coalition to end the public school concept, and switch to a pure voucher system. If you think that sounds crazy, dial back a couple of months in this very blog and read what MW posted about the evolution of school choice in Arizona. The writing is on the wall. The best outcome would be a system in which teachers are licensed professionals like doctors and dentists, free to practice in a variety of settings, and families are free to choose for their children without any constraints from the dead hand of PC ideology.

n said...

@Empl: How do alts cherry-pick? (I've left room for an answer.)

Diverse opinions or mindless emotional responses?

@Outsider: Nice post. Again, we have tracking. That's what walk-to-math is. So it is coming back. Everything old is new again. Also, can't really disagree with your take on vouchers. Vouchers for all. Maybe that is the answer. We can do away with all public regulation and accountability. Why not?

Medical said...


I can't even begin to decipher what you are saying. I'm not sure what you mean by severely disadvantaged and/or why you think those students should be separated. Are you only implying that only the 'severely disadvantaged" disrupt classes? It doesn't matter because I won't be back to read this thread and/or waste my time on your thoughts.

Thoughts that tracking would stop the charter school movement is absolutely laughable.

Outsider said...

Oh well, Medical Professional went back to his home planet. Glad I could give him a good laugh. But just in case anyone else has doubts, here is how tracking eliminates charter schools:

Charter schools depend on parents choosing them. If public schools restored tracking, respectful and motivated students would be consistently well served in public schools even in poor neighborhoods. They would not want out, and would not choose charter schools. To survive, charter schools would need to attract students in lower tracks or with discipline problems who felt the public schools were not being fair to them, or whose parents thought a charter school could get better results. I doubt there would be enough demand from that segment to keep charter schools in business.

A key assumption that I make is: charter schools are not actually better than public schools at educating hard-to-educate students. On average, they are worse.

Charters tend to have their own anti-public-sector ideology. Their proponents think private sector management styles, teachers trained outside the ed-school orbit, and absence of unions make for better outcomes. I think that is baloney, as do the blog owners probably. The reality is opposite: public schools have better paid, better trained teachers, more experience, and no profit skim, so on average they will always do better at any particular task they are willing to do. Whatever charter schools claim to be about, they actually survive and grow by attracting students with the tacit promise of cherry picking to create more effective classrooms.

Public schools sabotage themselves by betraying their best students and creating a negative feedback loop in school morale. If they stopped doing that, charter schools would lose their appeal.

Anonymous said...

Geez n, why so angry?

In case you haven't noticed, option schools have been "cherry picking" (as you say) students by excluding students with "disabilities" for a long time now. And, it is getting worse with the new, inexperienced executive triumvirate. Isn't that the main thing we're complaining about? Basically ALL the option schools say the following to parents: sorry serving those challenges (special ed)isn't part of our mission.

Isn't that a form of cherry picking? Isn't that the accusation against charter schools?

Examples are at almost every single option school. There's absolutely no provision for students with disabilities at any language immersion school. In the north, these schools are also so prevalent, that this drives students with disabilities out of their region. Salmon Bay has repeatedly tried to move out their programs, and now are down to 1 middle school program. One year, the disability community made a huge effort to save the special education programs at Salmon Bay, and was successful. But the very next year the district did it again. Clearly, they are trying to rid the building of the oldest, and most successful program in the district. Pathfinder cancelled programs, even as students were in them. Parents weren't even told, and the students aren't able to communicate that information. Hazel Wolf also flip flopped it's programs. Bottom line, it told prospective students " we can't serve you", ensuring they don't select the school, before they even enroll. Likely those programs will be cancelled. TOPs DHH program boots out students in when they reach middle school. No room for them in middle school. Other challenging students have been encouraged to return to their neighborhood school. The pta said that the wss doesn't support students with disabilities in their community. But the wss is the same everywhere. Orcas tells any "disruptive" student with a disability - choose something else. They suspend students with disabilities, basically without cause.

And, while all this is mostly done at the school level, it is now basically part of district policy. The latest, new district fad... includes pushing all students with disabilities (above the resource room level) to giant comprehensive schools by middle school. There's no way to even sign up for an option school - because putting those programs in option schools isn't in the new grand plan. With the new contract, inclusion programs are so large, (13), option schools say that the programs are too large. The CBA does have provision for underages by reducing IAs, but they never use it.

I don't know if charters hurt or help. It seems like the district is now so large and inflexible, charters might actually be a necessary evil. Especially since the district isn't improving, it's getting worse.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"...seeking social advantage for their kids you should already know about."

What? Now Spectrum is about so-called "social advantage?" What is that?

Empl, you also say that "shrinking" the district would be good. Making it smaller by a small percentage is not going to lower class size BUT charters, they DO get to determine their size. Again, when you are a district that has to take all comers and not restrict your size, it's a much easier job.

Sped Advocate, you need to be careful of what you are stating and be able to back it up with facts, not just one person's experience. Please tell us where your documentation is for Salmon Bay, Pathfinder, TOPS, etc. You could be right but it's wrong to paint schools with a broad brush of intolerance without proof.

I have a couple of new charter threads coming up but, in the future, you want to debate charter schools, it will be in the open threads. I'm done.

Charlie Mas said...

So we have heard from a proponent of tracking who offers an explanation of how and why that would serve students better, but we haven't really heard much from charter school proponents about how or why charters serve students better - except for students who could benefit from an alternative instructional strategy and cannot gain access to a public alternative school but have a conveniently located charter school that offers that instructional strategy.

That's a pretty narrow market. If there were a lot of students in this situation, then wouldn't it be easier for the public school district to offer that alternative school?

n said...

I know that a lot option schools are losing programs and I concur with the view that it is wrong. I believe in alternative schools just as I believe in appropriate programs for all kids. You seem focused on sped and what I learned during the blog postings during the strike led my to support the idea that sped is not well-supported in the district.

Serving all students takes money. That's my claim. If you want better schools and programs, don't pit kid-against-kid, but give all kids what they need. It is all about money. So when you siphon off money for private ventures which may or may not work, you are making poorer the public education that you have a right to and that you have some say in how it works.

Necessary evil? Be careful what you wish for. You want a fix that will actually make things better. Not one that is vengeful and temporarily a feel-good fix but does no good for anybody in the end. You have far more influence with a public institution than you will ever have with a private one.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, everything I wrote is a fact. Ask any of your disability sources. Salmon Bay has only one special ed middle school program. Used to have 2. The program run by Jeff Callahan was sacked. He was displaced to Eckstein. TOPs has no middle school DHH program. Those students are all displaced to Eckstein also. Pathfinder cancelled it's inclusion program. But students were still in it. There has been some attempt to restart it. That's a fact. Hazel Wolf went from inclusion, to self contained with the swipe of a pen. Parents wanting inclusion for their middle schoolers were advised that the school has no open program. But actually there is an inclusion program. The point is to phase it out. That's a fact. All those closures may indeed be hard to discover. But that's because the district hides the information and prints nothing. If you want to verify, you'll have to ask mirmac. Sped ptsa has long fielded complaints about various option school behavior issues. Suspension problems. A former Sped ptsa vice prez student was shockingly inappropriately treated at Orcas. Her kid was told he couldn't go to the ADHD program at Blaine K8. It was cancelled. I'm not painting anything with a broad brush if intolerance. It's really very obvious that the district has very low regard for students with disabilities, it's pretty hard to deny that! And, because of that low regard, it does nothing to make alternative schools accessible, or to solve problems in alternative schools for students with disabilities. Is that intolerance? I'd say it's more like simple neglect most if the time. But the net result is that students who need option schools the most, can't get them, and don't have equal access. Not by a long shot.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't support charters. But after EEU was spitefully closed by the district, for no real reason except that it was a very high quality offering, I'm leaning towards supporting them. Maybe it could become a charter.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm supposed to check your facts, Spedvocate. No, that's not in my job description.

I know Sped is not being properly implemented but I believe much of that issue is at the district, not the school level so I do take issue with naming these schools as trying to rid themselves of Sped students.

I do find it odd that you think -somehow - that charters will do better where there is zero evidence of that.

Maureen said...

Spedadvocate, I find your description about Option Schools excluding students with special needs confusing. Are you saying that the schools (Principals? BLTs? Site Councils? Families?)exclude those students or that the District Admin closes/moves the programs/students out of the Option Schools? (Your description of the issues with Salmon Bay is particularly confusing.) Like Melissa, I would like to see some documentation.

As far as TOPS goes (which is the Option school I knew best-though my knowledge predates the NSAP and the GeoZones), specifically: TOPs DHH program boots out students in when they reach middle school. No room for them in middle school. I brought this up with the Principal when I was on the BLT there and she (with nine years in the position and as the parent of a deaf child) said that it was better for the kids to go to Eckstein for Middle School because there were more resources and opportunities for them there and it wouldn't be right to force them to stay at a small K-8. Having chosen a small K-8 for my own kids, and thinking that continuity would be particularly important for deaf kids, I didn't agree, but I can see the argument. TOPS has room for about three K-8 programs that require some self contained space in addition to the Resource room and the DHH inclusion PreK. Keeping the DHH kids there K-8 would entail booting out one or two of the other Sped classrooms, or keeping the DHH groups together K-8, which does seem problematic.

n said...

I have a student in my classrooom who is vision sped. He is smart and social and wonderful. His parents navigate the system very well have demanded and received all the services anybody could ask for. The cost of these services and the number of staff who support them is very large. Sped accommodations are expensive.

My student deserves all of them. But money is still at the bottom of decisions at the district level and until we get full funding again, it will remain so. That is a fact. I doubt very much that you will find a charter school that will accommodate the needs of sped kids. If charters do find a legal route, I hope I'm proved wrong.

It's all about the money. And if you look at the proposed prioritization list posted in a subsequent thread, you'll see how the district prioritizes. It is shocking to me.


Anyway, sped seems to drive an awful lot of the conversation and angst. Serving students takes money. It keeps getting back to money. Or do you take it from the regular programs? And keep taking? My posts on this blog have never been ambiguous. The money poured into admin is absolutely unwarranted.

mirmac1 said...

Spedadvocate gets most things right, however I want to clarify a few things. SpEd Program placement has been a haphazard mess for years. Exec Dirs, Fac, SpEd have had to go hat in hand to principals and ask if a program can be at a school. There's often whining and complaining involved. It was not until recently that an actual "pathway" existed for SpEd students.

There remain far too many stub programs where a child in a K-2 program has to move to another school for a 3-5 program. OR, the child stays in what becomes essentially a ludicrous K-5 program. Who learns in that? According to budget documents, these schools contain ZERO Level4a and only 120 Level 4e (SM2 and SM3).

I think we will see a greater focus on equitable access for our kids in K-8 or non-traditional schools. Like the corrective action re: ELL services, we must provide choice for SpEd families and serve students where they are. No bureaucrat or administrator should be able to say "sorry, we don't serve your kind"

As for EEU, it was not closed because it's high quality. I fully expect the program for SPS will continue there. The budgeting for it much change, however.

mirmac1 said...

Oops, meant to say the K-8s and non traditional schools have zero SM2 and only 120 SM3 middle schoolers.

Jan said...

Pm asked: "Why shouldn't those children have other options, including programs that are targeted at helping low-income children succeed in school?" Well, they can -- by going to private school, or by lobbying their public school district to create such a program (South Shore was meant to be one) -- or even by coming up with a charter law that passes constitutional muster (public control, given that they are asking to use public dollars). But I will even go one more -- and say that I would be willing to give the implied "charters" in your question more of a shot -- as long as they add one word -- in two places:

"Why shouldn't ALL those children have other options, including programs that are targeted at helping ALL low-income children succeed in school?"

If your school wants to take on ALL those kids -- including the fidgetty one who can't sit still and who sometimes impulsively interrupts, the kid who goes home to an alcoholic gramma and a mom who is a pusher (and thus doesn't get homework done, and has never owned a book), and the special ed kid who deserve inclusion to comply with FAPE and who thus needs an aide in class. If your charters will really take ALL comers -- do the SAME job that the public schools do, but do it better, if they will forgo cherry picking and really serve ALL kids, I might be more willing to support them. As I see it, the only charter school I know that was willing to step up to this bar was First Place -- ironically the one that got the least charter org support, and the least likely to survive (though in my opinion they were the most deserving of public funds, if they get their accounting and other systems straightened out.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, same as you, what's good for kids with disabilities is an individual issue. Some need continuity, some need a comprehensive environment. The point is, the district always says their choice was the best for kids. It isn't their decision. It's supposed to be the decision of the iep team, who actually know the student. Placement of programs in the district has nothing to do with quality of services for those students.

Also the idea that "we only have room for 3 classrooms so WE have to kick somebody with a disability out". Also a wrong idea. And indefensible. And, we hear it all the time. Space is tight everywhere. We all have to figure out how to share it without marginalizing certain groups of students.

Mirmac, nice to be optimistic but I guess you gotta be. Option schools are taking fewer and fewer special ed programs. As the district expands, nearly every new option school has been able to open with no program for students with disabilities. Without some sort of effort to have diverse special education programs in option schools, they will simply be inaccessible. Even if schools serve the students they choose to enroll, they still won't be serving students with all disabilities that never have the opportunity to enroll.

Melissa, not sure what you don't understand about Salmon Bay. In 2012, the district told families of the disabled they hadn't gotten into SB. They were all next on the wait list. Families got together, and noticed the waitlist discrepancy. A SB teacher informed sped ptsa that she was notified of her program's closure due to lack of interest. SB was cancelling it's programs. Plenty of families selected the school, but the the district said the closure was due to lack of interest. That was a bold faced lie. And, they were caught (again). Board was notified, petitions were filed, lawyers retained. District caved. SB opened in 2012 with 2 middle school programs. Now, SB has indeed cancelled one of its programs. Three years later.... different parents, different advocacy arrangement, and the district successfully cancels it's oldest inclusion program in middle school. There is still 1 program. But, that's 13 seats for students with disabilities that are now unavailable. Worse yet, the seats that are available in middle school will be for SB's elementary students - not new ones.


Anonymous said...


I'm not a Salmon Bay parent, but I have a 5th grader who would do well in that inclusion program and we were planning to consider it. My understanding is that they used to have two Access classrooms in the middle school -- with 8 students in each classroom, for a total of 16 students. I've been told by another parent that because of the new ratios in the collective bargaining agreement, they reduced the program to one classroom of 13 students for a total reduction of 3 seats. I have no idea "who" made that decision or whether other options were considered (like looking at demand for the program and maintaining two classrooms because of that demand).

Sped parent

Lynn said...

Aren't they doing this backwards? All Salmon Bay students should be assigned to general education seats through open enrollment. After the student enrollment is complete, those children's special education needs should be determined (by reviewing their IEPs) and the school should be staffed accordingly.

Put another way, I don't think a 1:13 contract ratio means a school should be able to limit their enrollment to 13 children who need special education services, it should mean the school is assigned a special education teacher for every 13 students who receive services. The difference is that the ratio determines where adults work - not where students attend school.