Monday, November 13, 2017

Durkan Names Transition Team

And there are a few familiar names on the K-12 education side.

One is almost-gone Board member, Stephan Blanford.

Another is Mary Jean Ryan (she ran for the Board once and lost) who is the head of the Road Map project, dedicated to better outcomes for low-income students in south King County schools.

The other is Trish Dziko who started the Technology Access Foundation, TAF Academy and sits on the Washington State Charter Commission.

I can almost hear what Blanford will tell Durkan and I'm sure he would support any overthrow of the Board.

But while Ryan and Dziko lean ed reformer, they are not hard-core.  Both are thoughtful, smart people who just want to move the needle on the achievement gap.

I suspect in the the next couple of weeks/months - given the fast timeline for Durkan taking office - that we'll see more familiar names.


Anonymous said...

Come on, SPS can't spin it's wheels for decades and not expect push back.

It will be interesting to see the angle that will be used to raise outcomes in the south end. They tried money and that did not work, so that leaves perhaps new administrators and staff that are in sync. It also difficult for SPS to hand out funding disproportionately to schools without people calling foul.

Hard cuts in central administration are long over due perhaps it this board that will see the light and move the district into a schools first mode.


Leonard said...

It should be noted that Stephan Blanford supported two school board candidates that support charter schools. He is another corporate education reformer.

Anonymous said...

Blanford has been an obstructionist board member and used to work for the Aliance for Education, which to my knowledge is not doing anything useful to support closing the gap in our public schools. While they could be a supportive foundation for SPS, like the Foundations set up for all surrounding districts, the Alliance has instead turned into an ed reform tool.

That said--I agree SPS has been flailing and failing our underserved students (including HC outliers) for far too long. Something has to give. Dziko is amazing, I welcome her ideas and would love to have TAF in each of our four regions. I wouldn't mind seeing the district just split, I think we are too large to be effective.


Simon said...

I've got to be honest: if SPS keeps on its current track, you're going to find me joining the pro-charter school camp. It pains me to say it, but it's true.

We already have (I believe) the very highest private school attendance rate of any large city in the US, close to 30%. I think the rate would be even higher if there were more private school capacity in-city.

Charter schools offer a way around head-scratching staff actions and boards that just don't have enough power (or exert enough power). The level of exasperation with this district that I anecdotally note among many if not most parents will soon reach a head. I'm hopeful the new board represents some progress on this front, but the person whom they hire as superintendent will say much more about the future of things here.

I noticed that one of the reasons an Amazon spokesperson specifically mentioned about why they've gone looking for a secondary headquarters was the schools. We have this inflow of people from all over the country and the world who understand what college prep should be, and SPS is trying to close equity gaps by not closing them, shuttering successful programs left and right, failing to build up capacity, overrelying on Running Start, and not producing enough students prepared for Seattle's economy. Companies and research institutions here are sometimes having a hard time attracting certain talent to Seattle because of the public schools; I sincerely think this is an underappreciated problem.

Charter schools have tons of disadvantages, which is why I've always been against them. But they will become inevitable I think without immediate course (and personnel) corrections.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It is also difficult for SPS to hand out funding disproportionately to schools without people calling foul. "

Since when? I think most parents understand there are at-risk/nhigh need kids who deserve supports.

Titanic, but split how? If you naturally go north/south, you'd never hear the end of it. I'll also note that Dziko DID want to come into SPS but Goodloe-Johnson had to do it her own way and Dziko went elsewhere. Big lost opportunity.

So Simon, what you say is true BUT the trade-off for charters is 1) the faster downhill slide of traditional districts, 2) more segregation and 3) if parents think they'll get more say or influence in a charter school, good luck with that.

I had not heard that about Amazon. It would be good if the City worked with the district on that kind of issue. I'm not sure internally where this is all coming from - this direction - but I suspect it's Michael Tolley.

Anonymous said...

Michael Tolley drove out Amazon!

This is getting ridiculous.

SPS has been a trainwreck for many years. People moving into Seattle, including from the south, are shocked by the uneven quality of schools, and lack of choices and equity.

Real Story

Melissa Westbrook said...

Real Story, cool your jets. No one said what you are saying.

SPS is not a trainwreck. Nor is public education in general. Nice try,though.

Simon, could you please cite your source on that Amazon statement. It would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen what Simon has said about Amazon and schools. However, on their wish list for their new headquarters location (which, I'd note, is just a new branch, it's not like Amazon is moving out of Seattle) they mention they want good schools, so I guess you could extrapolate and imply they aren't getting it here. But they also say they want good public transit, and as much as I want more and improved transit here there aren't that many cities in the US who are better, so you could just as easily say "these are all things our employees have come to expect."

-Pragmatic Xennial

College Preppier said...

Here's the article with the Amazon quote on schools:


"Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business and a member of the committee that will decide where HQ2 will be located, added a bit of detail that goes beyond Amazon’s public request. In comments at a conference hosted by technology news site GeekWire last week, he said he hoped the company would choose a spot with public schools with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

Question said...

Does Blanford live in the district he represents???

Anonymous said...

"SPS is not a trainwreck"


You can write that with a straight face after hosting this blog?

Charlie regularly referred to the "culture of lawlessness" in SPS?

Just because you are anti-charter (and so am I) doesn't mean you can act
like SPS is suddenly functional as a rebuttal whenever charters are
brought up as antidote to SPS.

Not credible.

Real Story

Tech City said...

I don't believe that SPS is a train wreck, either. There are plenty of people from the tech sector that send their children to SPS.

It seems to me that an Amazon executive would want small class sizes for their children with state of the art equipment. It isn't going to happen. As well, there are plenty of students within SPS that receive good educations and move on to good colleges.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, you could extraplolate a lot of things but that is NOT the same thing as Amazon doesn't like the public school system. Yeah, it sounds more like a wish list to me.

Real Story, there are many flaws in SPS and yes, Charlie and I have pointed them out. There are not near the issues here as in other mid-sized urban districts.

Class of 2017 stats for High School Students Graduating in 4 years or less:
Cleveland - 92%
Roosevelt - 91%
Ballard - 91%
Rainier Beach 89%
Garfield 88%
Ingraham - 84%
WestSeattle 83%
Nathan Hale - 82%
Chief Sealth 82%
Franklin 82%
Alternatives 31%

Those are not the stats of a "trainwreck" district that, as Tech City points out, many people across the board send their children to. The story on privates is not one of just one reason.

Tech City said...

Simon can join the pro-charter camp, if he/she likes. Simon would support

- Teach for America and support the fact that there is no requirement for TfA to disclose lack of teaching credentials to parents

- Taxation without representation.

- A system that further erodes public schools

- Rocketship style learning where 40-50 students are placed in front of a computer with someone walking around the room.

Anonymous said...

People are against TFA, but semn fine with IAs teaching students. Double standard?


Anonymous said...

Why not allow people with PhDs teach in this district? It is done in many others, including the fantastic districts in Northern Virginia. And, speaking from first-hand knowledge, there are more than a few disillusioned folk graduating from the UW with a PhD that decide to try their hand at teaching high school. They tend to know their subject, have experience as a TA in college, and are more than qualified to teach upper level science and language course.

-NW Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

MJ, the answer is right in your comment. IAs don't call themselves "teachers" - TFA people do. After 5 1/2 weeks of training. I'd say IAs are probably much more qualified but that's just me.

NW Mom, that's a question for the Legislature. My late husband, who was a UW professor had hoped to end his career teaching science or math in high school but yes, did balk at the hoops to jump thru.

Patrick said...

A PhD means you did original research and are knowledgeable in your field. It often means you were a TA but not always. It doesn't mean you know how to teach and engage high school students or younger.

Anonymous said...

IA's teach classes almost every week in SPS, get your facts straight. There is also a end around by OSPI to allow IA's to bypass a teaching cert and teach.


Simon said...

I think it's important to understand what teacher education and certification is and is not. One thing that happens in teacher education programs - I have been through one in this state - is that it weeds out some very talented people because of the bureaucratic nature teaching in the United States. In many ways, we as a society choose to infantalize teachers by micromanaging every aspect of their professional lives, down to how and when they teach what. This is simply not how we treat other professionals, and this is not how teachers are treated in other countries with successful education systems. Maybe that's too huge a topic for blog comments, but I point it out just because ideas like allowing PhDs who are motivated to teach primary or secondary students isn't actually a bad idea. Other school districts and countries allow it with mentors.

Anyway, a previous commenter provided the link to the Amazon exec's quote about schools.

I do not want to support charter schools, recognizing all the downsides that various people have pointed out, but I certainly don't agree with the notion that SPS is doing a great job. We simply do not have a world-class school system in this city. We could! We could. But we don't. We certainly have excellent teachers, and we have some excellent schools, but the range of quality in schools is undermining the entire system. Even in the so-called "rich" North End, there are several struggling schools amid several thriving ones. Graduation rates in city are too low - the numbers cited above are underwhelming arguments in favor of a thriving school system. We have an environment that could make charters more appealing.

As for, college preparedness, just ask UW math and science professors what they think of their freshmen arriving from SPS - on the whole, not impressive. By many rankings (OK, which are problematic, I admit, but they still can and should be be instructive), college preparedness of Seattle high school graduates is very low. US News has only two Seattle schools state-wide in the top 20 (Roosevelt and Garfield, not surprisingly): https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/search?state-urlname=washington&sort=readiness-descending

It's not that we're not educating kids adequately on the whole. It's that we're getting to be a big city that is a hub of global medical research, biotech, high tech, etc., to say nothing of major world research universities within our city limits. Yet, we don't have a primary and secondary school system to match, and there is little I have observed in the past ten years that inspires confidence in the direction of this school district in terms of leadership. For all the focus on closing the gap, I also do not see progress in this area!

If there were some major personnel and philosophical changes at the top, I think we could embark on something remarkable in this city education-wise. I'm hoping our very strong new board will start that journey. But until that happens, I tend to expect our wheels to keep spinning, and the resistance to charter schools to start chipping away.

Fake News. said...

Where does the 30% of Seattle students are in private schools come from? I know that trope gets trotted out fairly regularly, but I've never seen any data that supports it.

My quick google search landed a couple of cites. A city lab cite from 2014 that listed cities by percentages of students in private schools. Seattle wasn't even in the top ten.

Linda Shaw had an article in 2012 that cited the census as suggesting a private school percentage at 22%.

But I think the census based its calculations on students enrolled in schools. Some of those students most definitely would have come from outside of Seattle.

Anyway, I'm not buying the 30% of Seattle kids are in private school.

Anonymous said...

One thing is very clear in Durkin's team - no friends of public education at City Hall (not a new thing). Durkin has little to no knowledge of public schools as a parent, and it's telling that she has chosen no one - NO ONE - from the profession for her team. I suspect she will be satisfied with continuing the happy, distant d'etant that allows the city to toss the occasional barb at the district without having to really engage. The Seattle way!

Melissa Westbrook said...

MJ, I have no idea why you are arguing with me. I think IAs are fine for the most part; I was pointing out the difference between them and TFA.

Anonymous said...

Fake news, the 30% number includes students in private preschools (3 year olds). People really like that number, but it's not true. 22% is the real number. We actually do ok in terms of private school enrollment, especially given the wealth sloshing around this area. I do think it's uneven.


alex said...

I did TFA, albeit a long time ago, and I have plenty of negative things to say about TFA, some of which I have written here. But I also taught for five years, in two large urban districts, and I think the criticism of TFA jere is too harsh. Based on my experience, TFA teachers were among the hardest working teachers at the schools I worked at. Now, I taught in New Orleans and Los Angeles, and neither district is very good, but I worked with a lot of teachers in those districts that were very burned out...in with the kids & our with the kids. Little prep, if any, and lots of worksheets. And the TFA teachers put in hours & hours each week—late afternoons and evenings all day Sunday planning was the norm.

As TFA teachers, we weren’t steeped in pedagogy, and we could have used more training, but almost all of the TFA teachers I know worked their tails off in some very tough districts & schools. And did some damn good teaching along the way. And, most/many teacher training programs at garbage, so I am not sure how much is lost by not attending one. We had a lot of mentoring from veteran teachers, classes throughout our two years, and weekly learning groups to attend, so to say he whole training was 5 1/2 weeks is not accurate.

As I said, I have a lot of criticism about TFA. But, based on my personal experience (both in TFA and three years more as a certified teacher) I think the criticism should be more nuanced. And I never drank the TFA cool-aid, but it put a lot of hard working people into tough classrooms, many/some of whom are still in education, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Her transition team is a clear indication Durkan intends to move ahead with an aggressive ed reform agenda. She will try to use the Families and Education Levy renewal to force things into SPS that voters have rejected: charter schools, replacing teachers with iPads, even more test-based “accountability.” This is the agenda of Vulcan and Amazon and Mary Jean Ryan and Stephan Blanford and all of Durkan’s other corporate backers. I know a lot of voters were lulled into thinking Durkan would be a continuation of Ed Murray, who backed off his threats toward SPS. Durkan will dial those threats up and carry them out unless we organize to fight back, starting with getting the City Council to reject her proposals for the Families and Education Levy and instead restore that levy to its original purpose of providing support for wraparound services, and getting ed reform and testing out of that levy entirely.


Katie and Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I believe Vashon allows PhDs to teach. I am not certain, but I heard at some point that individual districts in WA are allowed to apply for wavers to accept teachers without teaching certificates if they are having a hard time finding certified teachers to fill those positions. I have also heard that upper level science, math and language classes around here have a hard time finding certified teachers....

I would argue that PhDs are very qualified to make sure students are college ready. Many have experience teaching intro classes at university and even community colleges and know exactly what is expected of these kids. The hardest class I had in high school was taught by a PhD in Physics. We complained so much at the time, but 1st year Physics at University was astonishingly easy afterwards. It is getting more and more difficult for graduates of doctoral programs to find research positions. I think we should be recruiting.

-NW Mom

Anonymous said...

Alex said ... "And, most/many teacher training programs at garbage, so I am not sure how much is lost by not attending one."

I've noted here that over a decade ago as I was wrapping up my B.A., I, along with a couple of friends interested in teaching looked hard at TFA. One of the main reasons was Alex's statement above about the poor quality of teacher training programs available. To us, we felt it was a lot better use of our time and money to go the TFA route to become a teacher rather than pursue a Masters' degree at Ed School.

A couple of my friends applied but did not get in, I never applied because I pursued other opportunities.

I'm much less enamored today with TFA than I was then. The program got really big, really fast, and I'm not certain the quality or "hustle" is still there. MW has documented many issues here before. But for someone who really wants to teach, and does not want to spend the time in a poor quality ed school masters' program, it still provides a much needed alternative pathway to the classroom.


Simon said...

SPS has about 54,000 students, and about 25,000 students are enrolled in private schools (e.g., https://www.privateschoolreview.com/washington/seattle, total at top, scroll down to see individual school totals - preschools and special programs do not have tallied populations). That's right at 30%. This is obviously an estimate because no entity directly tracks this particular demographic.

The available census data don't jibe anymore since it's too old now, but in 2012 the total number of students aged 5-17 in Seattle (https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk) was 61,128. That is likely low for 2012, since many high school seniors are 18 or older. In 2012, SPS had about 48,000 students enrolled, so we can extrapolate about 21% private school attendance in 2012 (i.e., 13,000 kids are not in public school).

Even at 22% in 2017, SPS would have a much-higher private school attendance rate than major cities such as Boston, Denver, Portland, etc., although lower than San Francisco.

Anonymous said...

Ah, maybe that is another source of misinformation. Private schools in Seattle draw in far more students from outside Seattle's boundaries than students who leave Seattle for private school in another area. Some of the big name ones have very wide draws. 22% is a pretty reasonable estimate, even for today. I see Boston's rate at 26%, which makes some sense to me with a large Catholic population. Most private school students are in a religious school.


Anonymous said...

Here's where I got the Boston number:


Anonymous said...

In 2014, the Seattle Times librarian researched this and found Boston's private school attendance rate to be only 13%: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/educationlab/2014/05/28/seattle-school-enrollment-keeps-on-rising/ He also estimated Seattle's rate in 2014 at 28%. The methodology and data sources are not explained, but that original research is another basis for this. I will make an inquiry with the Seattle Times and see if they still have notes on how they came up with this data.

Anonymous said...

Greenwoody is right. There's a disturbing number of corporate ed reformers on this transition team, including the most divisive and least accomplished member of the school board.

Blanford promotes himself and aggressively trashes all the other directors on the board at every opportunity.



And he lies about his voting record and blames others for his own failure to be effective. As Melissa has pointed out, most board votes are unanimous and every member has lost a vote, not just Blanford.

Doesn't sound like a team player. Good luck with that.

-- Bewildered Parent

Anonymous said...

The 28% number in that article is attributed to San Francisco, not Seattle.
"Nationally, Seattle’s private-school attendance rate was lower than San Francisco’s, estimated at 28 percent in 2012,"

In the paragraph above they state Seattle's private school attendance rate, 22%, and this is supposed to be comparing with the other cities, SF being high at 28%. Very curious how they got the Boston number, which is HALF what Boston public schools thinks! You would think Boston public schools would know...


College Preppier said...

OSPI (the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) releases enrollment data for public and private schools in the state of Washington. I believe if you click on the link under "Private Schools" for "Grade Level" you will get an accounting. I have no idea why they include certain preschools, but not other preschools in the list. That seems weird to me. This list also does not include schools like Evergreen that are close enough to be attended by many Seattle students but are technically located in a different school district.

That gives 17,951 private school students for 2016-17 within Seattle Public School's district. Around 1,000 of them are in preschool. It would be easy to weed out the preschoolers if I had better Excel skills, but I just approximated. So that gives about 17,000 K-12 students in private school in Seattle last year. And it was something like 54,200 or something in public school.

So that's a total of about 71,200 K-12 students in Seattle. About:
23% in private school
76% in public school

And OSPI shows 362 homeschooled students, but they only count that from age 8 through 12th grade. And 17 doing part time home schooling.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that is good math, though, because Seattle imports more students INTO private schools within its borders than it sends out. At least the spreadsheets I am looking at just say what number of students are enrolled in each school, not where those students hail from. Is there another spreadsheet? The number we need is the number of school aged children in Seattle, since we already know the number of school aged children enrolled in Seattle public schools. That would probably also include students transferring to other districts, but it would be a better figure to tell us what percentage of Seattle families are utilizing Seattle Public Schools. The best estimates I have seen so far is 22% are opting out, but sure, it could have ticked up. I *do* think cities can and often do reach a tipping point where not enough families with cheaper to educate students use public schools, and things spiral really quickly.


kellie said...

There are few more components to the math of calculating percentages of public students vs total students in Seattle.

In addition to private schools, there are many students who live in Seattle but attend PUBLIC schools in a neighboring district. Historically the outmigration on this is far larger than the handful of students who come into the district. This information is captured by enrollment and OSPI but it is not included in any of the standard enrollment reports. It is pretty readily available if you call the neighboring districts, OSPI or do a public records request with SPS.

This would include Seattle Students who attend schools in Highline, Vashon, Shoreline, Edmonds, Bellevue, Mercer Island and Northshore as well as few enrolled in further districts. In the past this has totaled thousands of students. IIRC, at the time of the transition to the NSAP, the number was over 6,000 students.

Over the last few years, Shoreline, Bellevue and Mercer Island have started to close their doors to new students, so the numbers may be more modest. They are still honoring currently enrolled out of district students.

I would also not be so certain about private school enrollment in Seattle bringing more folks from the surrounding areas, than Seattle sends out. Based on the large number of families who go great distances for neighboring public schools, I would suspect there is also a large number of Seattle residents who travel to private school. The catholic schools in Seattle are very full. Families who do not have enough standing in their parish, regularly go to Eastside Catholic, Kennedy, Forrest Ridge, etc.

Finally, I have no idea is this should be a factor or not but ... There are lots of Running Start students who go out of district. Options like Digipen are quite attractive and I don't know if there is anything comparable in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Back to Durkan,

I am so glad she won. This town needs a corruption cleaning from the Police to City Light. If she keeps an eye on SPS corruption I'm all in.

As far as ramming charter schools through, that's really a state issue and now that we have a democratic trifecta in Olympia, I'm focusing my energies there.

We should work with the mayor to help the district work better. Give her a chance.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Jordan, public education - except for pre-K - is not in the domain of the city. Now it would be great if the City wants to help, support, give input but the Board is in control of the district.

As for "SPS corruption" - what are you speaking of?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking back to the Potter fraud case. The city has resources for investigation that the district does not.

I also think the city and the district need to work together in the management of the growth in Seattle. The "urban village" concept needs to be coordinated with the public schools.

I would also like to see more cooperation in the areas of disaster response, mainly for the inevitable earthquakes.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the Potter case was awhile back, the district did use the City’s help and moved on.

I agree with your other suggestions but I see more pushback from the City than vice versa. It was HALA that said schools are “amenities” and that’s a terrible attitude for the City to take. Schools are infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

Plus the city charges SPS to rent the Seattle Center for The Center School but receives free space in elementary schools for the city pre-K program. If the city wants to help, it should give that rent money back to the district or pay rent on the pre-school space they use in SPS properties.


Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, I totally agree. There is zero reason at this point for the City to charge for use of Center School space.