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Thursday, August 29, 2019

In How We Talk about Race and Equity

As some of you may know, I have had issues with a small cabal of people who think that loud namecalling and hyperbole can change the landscape around race and equity in this district (state, nation). 

Here's the problem with that - it will not work.

The reason I say that with confidence is because as I have seen through the years, many people shrink back from any kind of talk they feel is aggressive.  I think some of it is the sensibility of any given person who prefers a more civil or engaging way of talking about issues. Some of it is a dislike of hearing talk about tough issues in a blunt manner.

(And note to everyone - don't even try to engage.  It will not work, they will not listen.  They seem to hang out at the SPS Community Discussion and Resource Exchange Facebook page. It's a sad thing because that Facebook page in question does sometimes have good information/discussion. But let a couple of these people go at it like whirling dervishes and see people leave in droves.)

Make no mistake, there will be tough talk around race and equity and it will be uncomfortable.  But it does not have to demean and tear down.  It doesn't have to be "I'm right and you are wrong, wrong, wrong on every single point."  There are ways to bring the horse to the water AND get him to drink without shoving his head in and near-drowning him.

To this point is the op-ed in the New York Times by Loretta Ross called I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic. She explains the situation much better than me. (Bold mine)
Ms Ross is an activist and the author of the forthcoming book “Calling In the Calling Out Culture: Detoxing Our Movement.”
From her piece:
Call-outs happen when people publicly shame each other online, at the office, in classrooms or anywhere humans have beef with one another. But I believe there are better ways of doing social justice work.
Call-outs are often louder and more vicious on the internet, amplified by the “clicktivist” culture that provides anonymity for awful behavior.
She is both honest and thoughtful in her reflections:
My experiences with call-outs began in the 1970s as a young black feminist activist. I sharply criticized white women for not understanding women of color. I called them out while trying to explain intersectionality and white supremacy. I rarely questioned whether the way I addressed their white privilege was actually counterproductive. They barely understood what it meant to be white women in the system of white supremacy. Was it realistic to expect them to comprehend the experiences of black women?

I, too, have been called out, usually for a prejudice I had against someone, or for using insensitive language that didn’t keep up with rapidly changing conventions. That’s part of everyone’s learning curve but I still felt hurt, embarrassed and defensive. Fortunately, patient elders helped me grow through my discomfort and appreciate that context, intentions and nuances matter. 
That last paragraph? We ALL have learning to do.  I lean on my sons to correct me on new gender nomenclature.  When I make a mistake, it's not me trying to be hurtful; it's me trying to get it right and grateful for helpful corrections. 

People of color, please help us.  Obviously, we need it.  But it is rare that people - even those of good faith who DO want to see change in the world and WANT to be part of it - will listen if they are slapped across the face.  

Another place where Ross is incredibly brave:
Can we avoid individualizing oppression and not use the movement as our personal therapy space? Thus, even as an incest and hate crime survivor, I have to recognize that not every flirtatious man is a potential rapist, nor every racially challenged white person is a Trump supporter.
She then speaks to the greater society:
We’re a polarized country, divided by white supremacy, patriarchy, racism against immigrants and increasingly vitriolic ways to disrespect one another. Are we evolving or devolving in our ability to handle conflicts?
The way forward:
The heart of the matter is, there is a much more effective way to build social justice movements. They happen in person, in real life. Of course so many brilliant and effective social justice activists know this already. “People don’t understand that organizing isn’t going online and cussing people out or going to a protest and calling something out,” Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in “How We Fight White Supremacy,”
She makes a really fine point here.
Nor should we use social media to rush to judgment in a courtroom composed of clicks. If we do, we run into the paradox Audre Lorde warned us about when she said that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
I have found it easy on Twitter to read a quick bite and say (almost), "Well, off with his head."  There are very few people in the world who deserve that.  I need to stem that reaction.

But I will also state that in today's overheated climate of chatter, that terrible behavior should not be normalized at any level.  The number of truly shitty people in videos saying the worst, most prejudiced things DO need to be called out.  Sure, they have First Amendment rights but know that the majority of the country has/is moving on and we embrace the great diversity that built this country and are not standing by while some try to demean others.

As white people, this is one of the key things we CAN do.  (I'll have another thread on what white parents can do to support change in their schools.)

She goes on:
These types of experiences cause me to wonder whether today’s call-out culture unifies or splinters social justice work, because it’s not advancing us, either with allies or opponents. Similarly problematic is the “cancel culture,” where people attempt to expunge anyone with whom they do not perfectly agree, rather than remain focused on those who profit from discrimination and injustice.
She also says this which spoke to me because of what a few have said about me and this blog:
Call-outs are justified to challenge provocateurs who deliberately hurt others, or for powerful people beyond our reach. Effectively criticizing such people is an important tactic for achieving justice. But most public shaming is horizontal and done by those who believe they have greater integrity or more sophisticated analyses. They become the self-appointed guardians of political purity.
Am I deliberating hurting anyone? Of course not. Am I powerful? That's an interesting question because, on the one hand "she's just a blogger, no one listens" and yet there's this blunt force attempt to discredit me.  Why so much effort if no one listens? 

If you use race and equity as a club of righteousness, you can stop all discussion you don't like or agree with.  Congrats to you and how did that work out for you?  It's astonishing to see not only the tearing into of white people but, if you are a non-Black POC, you, too, will be attacked.  That's some "political purity."

At last night's Board meeting, former SCPTSA president, SebRena Burr, called out both me and Julie Van Arcken (separately).  Of course, Burr does not have the courage of her convictions to say our names but it was fairly clear who she meant.  She used some pretty strong language with zero proof to back her claims (for me, that I am "lynching" one of the D7 candidates and for Van Arcken, that's she's a Trojan horse for HCC).  This kind of ridiculous talk doesn't make me recoil for myself  - it makes me wonder about any candidate who aligns with people using those kinds of tactics as being a candidate I would want making decisions on behalf of all kids in this district.

What does Ross suggest?
We can change this culture. Calling-in is simply a call-out done with love. Some corrections can be made privately. Others will necessarily be public, but done with respect. It is not tone policing, protecting white fragility or covering up abuse. It helps avoid the weaponization of suffering that prevents constructive healing.

Calling-in engages in debates with words and actions of healing and restoration, and without the self-indulgence of drama. And we can make productive choices about the terms of the debate: Conflicts about coalition-building, supporting candidates or policies are a routine and desirable feature of a pluralistic democracy. 

In 2017, as a college professor in Massachusetts, I accidentally misgendered a student of mine during a lecture. I froze in shame, expecting to be blasted. Instead, my student said, “That’s all right; I misgender myself sometimes.” We need more of this kind of grace.
More of this grace indeed.

In closing this thread, I note another passage for this blog, from my Stats page:

Pageviews all time history - 13,003,509

So to my critics, this blog has been around about a decade. It could not and would not have lasted that long if it was all supposition, gossip and "lies."  It certainly would not be recognized by the district and others like Senator Patty Murray's office as a media source if there was not integrity here.  Charlie and I created that and I have kept it going.  

The little blog that could.

92 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Person who keeps putting up this truly obnoxious, racist thoughts - go away.

You are not welcome here. Your racist words are not welcome here. It's a free country - go start your own blog.

Cease and desist.

Stuart J said...

Something everyone needs to remember: words that are overused lose their meaning. Overused words also cause people to tune out, they think "I know what's next in this comment" and they move or tune out.

Anonymous said...

@Get overit I started to write about how centuries of slavery, and institutionalized racism being starkly different than "indentured servants or internment". Not to minimize the experience of people who went though those events (which was also terrible) but they are different!

But have you been asleep? Despite everything these groups of people have faced and still face, there are many blacks and latino's flourishing! Latino's are reaching the middle class much faster than previous generations of immigrants, but this is sometimes obscured by the fact that so many poorer latino's are still coming to this country. Previous generations of poorer immigrants came in large numbers then their numbers dropped when they were restricted from immigrating through the terribly racist immigrations acts of 1917 and 1924. And as a professor once told our class back when I went to college, it often takes at least a couple of generations for the poor to be able to get out of poverty in the US.

This country has a rising black & latino educated and middle and upper class. This is DESPITE everything they have had to endure. But your comments seem bigoted and I suspect you really don't want to have a conversation.

Yuck

Watching said...

Congratulations on reaching over 13 million viewers!

Anonymous said...

Predictably, Tracy Castro-Gill is busy attacking this op-ed and the Black woman who wrote it even as some of the people in her comments are pointing out the article is actually pretty good. The article itself is radical, and TCG's actions are fundamentally reactionary as they empower the wealthy elite.

It's sad, really. I think most readers of this blog would empathize with her struggles to get ethnic studies funded, share her distrust of the JSCEE leadership, and would be interested in helping her achieve racial justice. Instead she just attacks anyone who disagrees with her. She seems to save her most potent venom for POC women. TCG wants power, not change. She would rather be queen of the ashes than have to stand arm in arm with white parents against entrenched white male billionaire power.

Her approach won't get us anywhere, that approach has been tried before and fails every time. The only path ahead is solidarity, and that means treating people with a modicum of respect if you want their aid. It doesn't mean overlooking things that need to be corrected. In a beloved community we can point out where each other needs to grow and improve in order to be successful. White folks have more to do than others. But we all need to working together toward a common goal, because if we don't hang together, we absolutely will hang separately, and at this point, that is not a metaphor.

Porter

Anonymous said...

Tracy Castro-Gill is not at all edgy or original, just more of the same academic-speak on racism and power. For all she preaches inclusivity, this framework is anything but. She’ll shout you down or shut you down, but has no real interest in listening or dialogue. The Ross article is great perspective, and good discussion for how we engage over tough topics. I worry the progressive left is sabatoging itself. That’s not to say there aren’t racial and power dynamics that need addressing, but the TCG approach Is more of the same burn the house down approach of the times vs the building bridges that creates lasting movements and changes.

Reader

Siobhan said...

Dear Melissa, I just read this post, and I have some critical thoughts. These words are offered with compassion. I’m a white woman. I’ve done racist things and made mistakes. When I was lucky enough to be called out, I learned and I did better.
Your language is racist. You use language throughout this post that invokes false and racist tropes of white victimhood and black violence. No one is “slapping you across the face”. There is no “cabal” against you. No one is “tearing into” white people. No one is “taking you to water and shoving your head in and drowning you”. (I know that last phrase what in reference to a metaphorical horse. But in the metaphor either you or other white people are supposed to be the drowning horse.) The use of heightened language to describe the real or imagined suffering of white people at the hands of Black people demanding equality has a long, ugly, racist history. You have played into that racist practice here. I presume you have done so unwittingly. It’s easy to repeat racist tropes because racism is so pervasive. We live in a society where our language and our institutions are all built around the false legacy of white supremacy. That said, unwitting does not mean without responsibility and I think the language here is harmful. White people’s false fantasies of the danger of blackness, and use of language that invokes it, puts Black and brown people in danger and makes their lives harder.
It’s not classy, or fair, to write a column criticizing the racial justice advocacy of a group of people of color, and in the midst of your criticism ask them to help you. You ask for people of color to help “us”. I assume that by “us” you mean white people. White people struggling with racism often look to people of color for help. Racism has taken freedom, wealth, safety and so much more from people of color, for generations. To ask those who have suffered this harm to explain to us why it’s happened, what has happened and how to fix it, but only to do so in a way that we can tolerate emotionally, is asking quite a lot. In the context of this post, it’s unfair.
I hear the natural follow up question; “But if I can’t ask people of color for help how will I get better at being anti-racist and working for racial equity?” It’s a good question. Here is an answer. First – it’s ok to ask people for help sometimes, in the context of relationships, collaborations, trainings, and perhaps others. Context matters. Second there are nearly endless ways to learn how to be anti-racist. Read books. Go to trainings. Listen when people of color talk. Learn from history. Watch movies. Listen to podcasts.
You claim knowledge beyond your expertise. You provide a lot of advice about how people, including people of color, should and shouldn’t advocate for racial equity. But you discount the historical context. Throughout history there have been White people who have claimed that people of color advocating for racial justice would have more success if they were not so “aggressive” and didn’t make people uncomfortable. When history has shown the opposite to be true. You cite extensively a recent article by a Black woman activist, Loretta Ross. She writes about the complexities of relationship building across bias and racism, and how to “call-in” with love rather than “call-out” toxically. However, you seem to misunderstand and misuse her message. She writes “Calling-in engages in debates with words and actions of healing and restoration, and without the self-indulgence of drama.” Yet within this very blog post you employ tactics of insults, exaggerating, dismissing, innuendo and hyperbole.
As you have noted, you have a blog that people read. I think that if you want to change how “we” are collectively talking about racial equity, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to look at your own sphere of influence, including this blog. Lastly, if you want to talk about my comments, please reach out. I believe we are in this together.

Anonymous said...

Siobhan, thank you for modeling “calling in!” Your words, while not easy to receive, were from a place of shared interest, compassion and relationship building. The Ross article was not intended to be a blunt force axe as to why anyone is wrong or right, but some practical thinking about how do we engage with each their around a sensitive topic, I think this is SO important, particularly in the age of social media. It really is a bummer that MW and the so-called “cabal” cannot find a way to graciously co-exist since they agree on most things and have much to offer the Seattle education advocacy community. I’ve personally left some of the FB groups they both participate in because the drama swirling around their own bad history with each other and the toxicity of the environment in which race is discussed is counterproductive to the groups mission. Anyway, thanks Siobhan.

Anne

Anonymous said...

@Siobhan First of all our entire society white, black, brown, male, female etc use metaphors such as Melissa used. IMO you are not seeing the forest through the trees regarding her post and message. The nature of your criticism taking apart every little word serves in practice as an attempt to belitte her opinion and feelings. You are defending the bullies. They are what they are, I have also seen their posts. I am horrified these people are working around children. They need therapy in my opinion.

Melissa is stating through this post that she feels attacked. Now before you over interpret my chosen wording of "feeling attacked" as some sort of "racist trope", choose any language you want but don't ignore the message. She has an important message she is trying to relay in this post.

You are not giving the same sort of scrutiny to the people she is referencing who are bullies. You are ignoring them. This is something that is often done to women and although you state you are female, I interpret your ignoring her message as sexist.

Another Reader

Hafiz said...

Very good Opinion Piece.

I saw the post on the former Soup for Teachers facebook page. It was a disgrace. I'm concerned the same tone is about to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Siobhan, Melissa is not white.
Yes she is getting attacked. She has been insulted, defamed and threatened.
So are others who disagree with these self-righteous, self-appointed equity police.
They have created their own strain of toxicity.
Some are running for public office. Castro Gill for one.
Bigger picture -- these toxic people are splintering the left instead of uniting it.
Great way to ensure a path for unapologetic racists like Trump to win again.
Great way to ensure the folks at the John Stanford Center can continue to pit SPS communities against each other like they've always done.
It's easier to beat up on Melissa than to tackle the real enemies.

Divided WeFall

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Siobhan, for such a comprehensive and insightful response.

This blog is no longer the main educational site for SPS. It has been dominated by those with power and privilege. Other voices are now calling that out.

Dissenting voices here have been met for years with ad hominem attacks and pile-ons, told by Melissa to "move on/find another blog" or even had their workplaces called. See some current posts for examples.

SPS has been divided for eons. These warnings are about three decades too late. In fact, the current political climate is the effect not the cause.

Instead of playing the victim, it is time to own that you are reaping what you have sown.

Enough

Anonymous said...
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Another View said...

With 13 million views, it is inconceivable to think of Melissa's blog being irrelevant.

Mellissa is a respected member of the community.

It appears to me that there are a few angry people on the SPS Community facebook site. IMO, community members have learned that they will attack those with dissenting opinions. Bao Ng posted about D7 candidates. Comments were turned off.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Siobhan, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

I fear I should have divided this particular post into two threads. But, I was so taken by this NY Times Op-Ed and the issues that it raises in this particular time and place that SPS sits in, that I thought I would combine the two.

To note:
- We are all racist to some degree. It does take education to alter that thinking as well as raise consciousness of it.
- I admit some of my own failings in this area.
- I have never claimed expertise on race and equity. This thread is me, saying that here's a way to think about trying to bring people together, not divide them. That's my opinion.
- I have done all the things you suggest. I just this week sat down with an amazing African-American leader and asked her, "Giving credit to any parent who has kids in public schools, who works to make their child's school better thru volunteering or fundraising or advocacy - how do we get mostly white parents to think beyond their own child to the greater SPS community?" She sat back in her chair and said, "That's a tough question."

Because to make change in this or any other district to meet the goals of educational justice, we need as many people involved in the work as possible. Period.

- I asked for help NOT to put the work/burden on POC but to try to follow their lead. It's odd that you think I believe I have expertise on race and equity when I quite openly say I don't and ask what would be the best way forward.

At some point, one of my last threads on SPS was going to offer help for white parents in how they can be allies in their own schools to create educational justice. Because I think many parents truly aren't sure what would help and what would help the most. Maybe that is the work of the Racial Equity Teams that are supposed to be at all the schools.

PTA funds uneven among schools and/or being used - wrongly some say - to buy staff?

Again, where is the district on this? Where is the SCPTSA?

This blog has said, over and over, we need discussions on this. But that hasn't happened and I wonder why. Is it easier to blame parents for too much PTA fundraising while taking the money because the district is SO happy to have it? It smacks of hypocrisy to complain and yet the Superintendent and the Board have it in their power, with the help of SCPTSA, to change that and yet they don't.

I used blunt language because 1) that is what Ms Castro Gill uses and 2) because I want people to hear how much that will not work.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Siobhan, you probably do not know the issue as it pertains to me. This is why I used that language - not because I'm "hurt" but because I wanted to make it clear that all the angry and harsh rhetoric is no way to start a dialog.

To myself, here's what you might need to know to understand this thread:

Castro Gill started this with an angry tweet months ago about me being a racist, blah, blah. Apparently, what set her off was my opposition to the Amplify curriculum. She believes that Amplify and its online use would help more than hurt kids of color and therefore, anyone against it is wrong.

Did she come to me and ask to talk? No. Did she advocate for Amplify for its positive virtues? Nah.

Have I ever met or talked with her? No. She says that we had one interchange when the initial Black Lives Matters day started in SPS. I had just wondered about sitting in on one class to report back on what the day looked like and she blew her stack over that idea. How dare I interfere with what a teacher and class were doing? Sitting and taking notes isn't interfering and I submit if a journalist had asked to be in the class, I don't think the district would have said no. So I wisely backed off.

I am a quasi-public figure. I know that and I get that when you are in that position, you will get attacked. I've been a public education advocate for over 20 years and writing this blog for 10. I have a fairly thick skin.

But the real issue is that she and her small group want to shut me down. They fear the integrity and reach that this blog has. So why not try to discredit me? Why not take things out of context, condemn this blog and all its readers as racists? Sure, that's the way to start dialog on the work of educational justice.

Of course, it's not working because the blog is about real community discussion, not being an echo chamber.

But a couple of things won't fly with me.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, NO ONE, not Castro Gill or Chandra Hampson gets to tell anyone else about their race/ethnic heritage or their background. Castro Gill and her pals have made fun of my grandmother and my relationship to her. They seem irritated that I identify as white and yet I have a Mexican heritage AND grew up right on the Mexican border in an isolated, rural town where yes, the majority of the town was Mexican. That I wasn't raised within my own household as Mexican is something I won't discuss because everyone has complex family relationships and it's no one's business. But I am very much tied to Mexican culture and I don't give a rat's ass about anyone's opinion of that. I know who I am.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know the use of words because I write a lot of the time. I understand that some words, when used in the context of black/brown people, become code. I get that.

But aggressive is the right word when someone comes out swinging without even trying to have a dialog first. So I do not regret that at all.

"Yet within this very blog post you employ tactics of insults, exaggerating, dismissing, innuendo and hyperbole."

I'm sorry you believe it reads that way. I'm not sure I know on each of your issues how they relate to what I wrote. I think some of this may be your own opinion and you are entitled to that.

As to trying to have that dialog, well, yet another amazing African-American leader came to me recently, on her own accord, and said she would offer to be a go-between so Castro Gill and I could sit down and talk. I said absolutely, my schedule is open and flexible. Castro Gill flatly said no. Her reasoning is that I am trying to get her fired and that's just not true. I have never said that publicly or privately. In fact, I have said extolled her work, both to the Superintendent and the Board.

So, I have tried to talk.

I have said good things about Castro Gill. She has never said one good thing about me nor tried to find common ground (she and I actually have things in common but she doesn't want to acknowledge those).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Circling back, what matters is the forward progress of Ethnic Studies in SPS. For all her intellect and drive, her inability to speak about Ethnic Studies and educational justice in SPS is what may make this initiative fail. THAT is the issue and THAT is what I am trying to point out.

Because I believe only public education can change the outcomes for kids of color and, of course, that needs to start with Ethnic Studies as well as the REAL history of our nation being taught. We cannot go forward until we fully acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. (I also believe this country needs a national reconciliation as South Africa did.)

So when I said you can't get a horse to drink and especially not if you hold its head underwater, I'm not speaking of violence. I'm speaking of using the carrot, not the stick.

Clearly this is a topic full of passion and person. But, you can help people see, as Ms. Ross did with those partners of KKK members, how that racist thinking and action hurts others and destroys lives, without personally attacking them. And, if you read her op-ed, she got a good outcome that way.

Because most of all, you need people to listen.

This district needs all hands on deck but I'll tell you something you probably already know - there are people who don't care. Either because they only have room to care about their own kids or they believe things aren't that bad for POC or they are truly hateful and have prejudice against POC even kids.

I think alienating parents won't work but again, that's just my opinion. I think the district or PTSAs via SCPTSA giving white parents tools to think about and hopefully use in their schools could further the work and give it legs. What would the curriculum look like when Ethnic Studies is fully realized? What could parents on the ground do in their own schools?

But again, I circle back to Castro Gill. She thinks the stick method is the best.

Meanwhile, she admits the Superintendent has repeatedly told her that what she writes on Facebook and Twitter isn't helpful. (And I note that this is on Castro Gill's own time except that if she's the head of Ethnic Studies and writes about race and equity, then I would suppose for the Superintendent that's an issue.)

Meanwhile, she's been instructed not to directly contact the Superintendent or Board. (I saw the email that may have prompted this - with Castro Gill calling the Superintendent's aide "offensive and racist.")

Meanwhile, she has a budget that has money for two FTE because after all, she's one person trying to enact Ethnic Studies for 100 schools. And yet, the district won't let her hire people.

Meanwhile, a news story at the SPS website two weeks ago about Ethnic Studies Summer Institute didn't mention her name at all. How could that have happened? (I see they updated it to mention she "organized" the event. Kind of like she made copies and had some cookies there. Again, weird.)

Meanwhile, she has told Board committees that fully one-third of principals have not answered her emails about the work. One-third. There could be several reasons for this but more than one teacher has written to me and said that Castro Gill has come into their school and told them all that they were racist and their teaching was completely wrong.

I'd lay money that NO teacher appreciates someone coming into their school and saying that. Castro Gill is herself a teacher and this is how she treats teachers?

So while I think the district supports Ethnic Studies, I'm not so sure they support her.

That's my concern and worry, not myself.

Siobhan, I'd be happy to sit down with you but since you offered no way to contact you, I'm not sure how that would happen.

Mike said...

I understand this thread is a discussion of how to talk about race and equity. Will there be a thread to remind us specifically what definition of equity we're using? I couldn't find anything but generalities and platitudes about social justice in SPS materials. Nothing beyond talk can come from such. So I assumed I either missed SPS's working definition or a different definition was already given for use here. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I remember Melissa was warned about stepping over the line with Castro Gill. Westbrook did not take the advice and now must pay the price.

Remember, no justice no peace!

--NJNP

Anonymous said...

It doesn't look like very many people did the reading. Maybe everyone but Melissa should go back and read the NYT op-ed again. You'll learn something.

Professor

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

@ Enough, so if it's not this blog, what now is the main educational site for SPS? I'm not aware of another decent source that is open to everyone. I'm interested in learning more.

My two cents, is that educational justice needs to start early. We need to invest serious resources into our youngest students (and their families) so that we can reduce the disparities in educational outcomes at the outset. The disparities we now see are already present in K, and they persist. We need intensive--and more effective--efforts during the early years (incl. pre-K) so that students are in a better position to be on the same trajectory in later years. Strategies that rely on optics to supposedly (but not really) reduce the gaps once the gaps have already been entrenched in later grades is backwards--and is bound to meet opposition from parents on all sides who (rightfully) see that their child is being artificially held back or is not fully supported in rocketing forward.

Rather than trying to lower the ceiling on some kids or deny them access to future learning opportunities that are consistent with the learning opportunities they've already received, we need to work on raising the floor for incoming students from groups that have historically had poorer outcomes. Build a stronger foundation and more opportunities for such students and we can reduce the gap over time.

@--NJNP, "Melissa was warned about stepping over the line with Castro Gill. Westbrook did not take the advice and now must pay the price." WTF? Is that intended as a threat? And who is the all-powerful one that is in a position to "warn" Melissa not to step over some "line" that someone imagined? If it's Castro-Gill, she is sounding more and more unhinged, to me, every time I read more about her.

AT

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well for one there is Liz Rankin. Rankin made it clear to Westbrook not to try and speak for POC and not to open POST on the subject. Westbrook is white and affluent. Westbrook pushed for racist programs that excluded blacks from participating. Westbrook flip flops and denies her own published words. Their are a few other that have told Westbrook to stop in comments on Facebook.

Westbrook is rude and disrespectful.

--NJNP

Professor ReRead said...

Melissa is perfectly capable for speaking for herself. There is such a thing as first amendment. No one can take that from her. Nor, should they try.

I re-read the op ed. Here is what jumped out:

1,Can we avoid individualizing oppression and not use the movement as our personal therapy space?

2.The heart of the matter is, there is a much more effective way to build social justice movements. They happen in person, in real life. Of course so many brilliant and effective social justice activists know this already. “People don’t understand that organizing isn’t going online and cussing people out or going to a protest and calling something out,” Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in “How We Fight White Supremacy,”

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mike,I put the district's definition of racial equity up elsewhere but here is what is posted at JSCEE.

The Equity Manifesto (not written by SPS)
"It begins by joining together, believing in the potency of inclusion, and building from a common bond.

It embraces complexity as cause for collaboration, accepting that our fates are inextricable.

It recognizes local leaders as national leaders, nurturing the wisdom and creativity within every community as essential to solving the nation's problems.

It demands honesty and forthrightness, calling out racism and oppression, both covert and systemic.

It strives for the power to realize our goals while summoning the grace to sustain them.

It requires that we understand the past, without being trapped in it, embrace the present, without being constrained by it; and look to the future, guided by the hopes and courage of Those who fought before and beside us.

This is equity; just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in all of us."

Link to the Racial Equity Tool and key wording:
"It is the moral and ethical responsibility and a top priority for Seattle Public Schools to provide Equity Access and Opportunity for every student, and to eliminate racial inequity in our educational and administrative system."

"Educational and Racial Equity: Providing equitable access to opportunities, resources and support for each and every child by intentionally recognizing and eliminating historical barriers, as well as the predictability of personal and academic success based on race, background and/or circumstance."

https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/DREA/racial_equity_analysis_tool.pdf

Equitable Access:
"The District shall provide every student with equitable access to a high quality curriculum, support facilities and other educational resources,even when it means differentiating resource allocation."


Melissa Westbrook said...

NJNP, first, it's Liza, not Liz. At least have the good grace to get her name right.

"Westbrook pushed for racist programs that excluded blacks from participating."

Nope.

"Westbrook flip flops and denies her own published words." When was that?

"Their are a few other that have told Westbrook to stop in comments on Facebook."

Largely incoherent but yes, I have stopped commenting at the SPS Community Resource page because the moderators have decided anything goes and if TCG is there, she will beat everyone down. Even POC.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa you have more more than generous to the bullies and in particular TCG. She also does not have any authority to speak for POC. She is not open to any other viewpoints, nor self reflective and seems full of hate for those not in 100% agreement with everything she says. She does not seem interested in growing as a human being, nor in intellectual dialogue. She seems like a difficult person and those kind of people eventually burn themselves out, and alienate those around them. I have had similar experiences with these people in life. Nothing you say or do will every lead to her acceptance or her understanding or liking you. It's her issue.

Jane

Anonymous said...

TCG had a post on the SPS Community Discussion and Resource Exchange Facebook page recently that among other things stated doing well in reading, writing and math were "white people" values and inherently racist.There should be no separate curriculum for kids working at different levels. She is instead for a radical restructuring of values and subjects taught in public school. Also no tests.

She states and I quote "My suggestion is that instead of teaching subjects and content, which is almost always translated into teaching tests, we teach humans. This means culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogies. This is how we shift our value systems and begin to see students as whole and complicated human beings instead of test scores and cognitive capacities. The students I taught are being harmed already..... Dismantling and replacing these segregated, and therefore racist, systems will benefit everyone.

I suggest she leave SPS and start her own separatist school for like minded people, where she can focus on teaching instead "oration and art. Two subjects according to her "not highly valued by whites".

Fango

Anonymous said...

Liza Rankin is a very privileged white woman who has a record of speaking over or silencing women of color, especially in her takeover and neutering of Soup for Teachers. She is also driven by resentment at other parents, envious of what they have and determined to get revenge. She should be kept far from the school board.

NE Voter

Hi Tracy!! said...


NE Voter gets it right.

Hi Tracy!! I figured it is only a matter of time before you are reading and reposting content from the blog. G'Day!

Anonymous said...

Fango, what a fascinating things for a school board candidate to say - basically, I'm not preparing your children for the world as it is, but one that does not (and may not ever) exist. I'll be very curious if the voters/taxpayers are on board with *not* teaching their high poverty students to read, write or do math. I'd want to give those students every advantage they could get, upward mobility is as hard as it is.

Curious

Someone Said said...

One persistent problem with ethnoracial identities is that there's a real risk they will become an obsessive focus of the lives of those who identify with them. They lead people to forget that their individual identities are complex and many-faceted. Obliterating the identities we share with people outside our race or ethnicity makes it harder for us to identify with others. Collective identities have a tendency to "go imperial," dominating not only people of other identities, but all of the other identities each of us have besides just the ethnoracial, all the bits that make us who we individually and distinctively are.

We aren't just black or white or brown, gay or straight or bisexual, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. We're also brothers and sisters; parents and children; Democrats, Republicans, and Socialists; bus drivers and office workers and cooks and gardeners; fans of the Mariners and the Seahawks; amateur musicians and kayakers; movie buffs; social media-holics, mystery readers; hikers and singers; poets and pet lovers; students and teachers; friends and lovers. Racial identity can be the basis of resistance to racism; but even as we struggle against racism, let us not let our racial identities subject us to new tyrannies.

Tyranical Behavior said...


Individual identities are complex. Perhaps this is what some individuals leading ethnic studies, and their followers, are forgetting.

There are discussions amongst extreme left regarding call out culture. Expect some action on this issue. The goal is to attack civility.



Tryanical Behaviors said...

I wish the state were more involved with the district's ethnic studies program. I'm seeing concerning behaviors.

Anonymous said...

If there’s going to be an ethnic studies curriculum, doesn’t it need to be reviewed and formally adopted?

The board would be foolish to let someone’s unvetted and likely extremely biased curriculum sneak in under the radar.

HF

Anonymous said...

Pretty rich that TC-G apparently says we need to “see students as whole and complicated human beings” while at the same time she pushes for a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Head Scratcher

Anonymous said...

Real mature, TCG posting screen shots of all these comments on her personal FB page (but still driving page views over here, I mean, drama!) Then she and her friends snark it up with inner circle graduate school sociology language. They’re looking for a new word to call MW, oh no! Classic middle school cool girls behavior. This is our public schools support network?

Face Palm

NoRankin said...

I checked out TCG's facebook page. School board candidate Liza Rankin weighed -in:

" Castro-Gill yes, exactly. They should be offering a different kind of education and be accessible to everyone, instead of vaguely “better” and encouraging white flight from neighborhood schools.
Hide or report this
Like
· Reply · 11h

Liza Rankin Ooh white flight jinx!"

These fools don't know that people on this blog are trying to reopen the African American Academy. Rankin also does not seem to understand that people on this blog are trying to save UNEA.

What does it mean for a candidate to speak in such a foolish and ignorant fashion? I think NE Voter is correct.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So folks, I appreciate that some of you realize how petty and pathetic TCG and her ilk are. That's a lot of head space I occupy.

And,I note that Liza Rankin seems lined up with them so apparently she, too, thinks it's a good idea to talk like this. Keep that in mind when you vote. Keep in mind that if she and Chandra Hampson get on the Board, you are going to get group-think, particularly as they served together on the SCPTSA. Add in Emijah Smith and you will get three people who will group-think. That is not a good thing. From reading their comments,know that if they do all three get on the Board, parents who testify are going to be silently judged by them. You are not going to get non-biased thinking.

(I note that when Soup for Teachers started,I was a consistent fan and supporter and wrote about their work on a regular basis. How it all morphed into the current iteration, I don't know.)

However,for the purposes of this thread, please move on. Let's talk about how parents can support racial equity in their schools (diverse or not). Let's talk about what parents might want to see in elementary schools around Ethnic Studies. Has that been discussed at all at your school? Has your principal talked about it?

Siobhan said...

Your statements about Emijah Smith are incorrect and seem uninformd by facts or her credentials or track record. She is a wise, thoughtful, independent thinker. Her leadership style, which is relational, considerate and accountable would be one of her best assets on the board. I worked with her for a decade. Since I only know her among the people you are mentioning here I can't comment on the others. Although I did see an earlier negative comment about Sebrena Burr, who is someone I have also known for years and is honest, committed to kids and families, and an amazing advocate for equity and opportunity. I wish you would not insult and denigrate people you don't seem to know know much about. This is my first time really following your blog. I'm disappointed. What are you trying to accomplish?

Anonymous said...

I have been following the TCG discussion w/out comment, but now a few things come to mind.

If a person wants to elevate themselves to that of a public figure, as she has, they ought to expect to be criticized. That comes with the territory. How people handle it (degree of overt retaliatory hostility) is a mark of their qualifications to serve in that role.

Second, if I were in a responsible position, I would not give this person any authority over another employee. Doing so would incur an obvious risk legally, in terms of the fallout from when someone is potentially harassed to the point of constructive discharge. That might speak to why the department is suffering by not getting additional staff.

This whole "HCC cabal" stuff smacks of Trutherism. The fact that no evidence can be produced to substantiate those claims is itself "proof" that there is a conspiracy. See also Birtherism. It's not a great example of reasoning for our kids. It is a great example of projection and a glance at the social media remarks would make that obvious.

Lastly, TCG is on a crusade that is ableist, and shows animus toward people in need of services who are classified as gifted, in that it is often co-occurring with issues that do qualify for SpEd services under 504s/IEPs. "Giftedness" needs to be accommodated when an institution teaches toward "averages". If such an employees were expressing in such a public way bias against race, gender, etc., we would all demand human resources peek under that particular rock to see if that is reflected in job performance. I want to say this ableism is based in profund ignorance, but I have a hard time believing that with all of the academic degrees. Maybe OSPI does need to intervene, since the district seems politically constrained from doing anything and we are talking about a protected class of kids.

Anonymous said...

@ 8/31/19, 9:48 AM, forgot to sign, "Another SE Parent"

Anonymous said...

Conflating HC qualification with disability is ignorant at best.

In fact, since SPS HC qualification does not recognize single subject giftedness, many 2E students go without HC services.

If you don't like TCG, argue on the merits.

There really isn't a much lower way to go than to falsely use disability to bolster your point.

Enough

Anonymous said...

@MW

These blanket and globalized dismissals of these diverse women have one thing in common: They have all criticized you at some point.

You are revealing a thin-skinned vindictiveness and it is making whatever criticisms they have made seem more believable.

Pathetic

Anonymous said...

@Enough "If you don't like TCG, argue on the merits.

Then refute the rest of the post. You dismissing one point doesn't invalidate the others.

Another SE Parent

Anonymous said...

Siobhan - I live in the affected district, with one kid in college and one starting high school (go Bulldogs). I am trying to follow the selection of Patu's replacement. The process has been so poorly rolled out by SPS that it's difficult to feel well informed about any of the contenders. When I view Smith's credentials - particularly her time at Children's Alliance - I feel encouraged.

I believe the negative perception of Smith came about after the youth-led candidate forum where Smith was in attendance with a number of supporters, but other candidates to replace Patu were not present. At least that's my recollection.

I would be very interested in learning more about why you believe Smith would be a good choice. I am a very long time follower of this blog and appreciate your thoughtful comment.

Ruthie

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I wish you would not insult and denigrate people you don't seem to know know much about. This is my first time really following your blog. I'm disappointed. What are you trying to accomplish?"

If you consider it "insulting" to say someone has a group-think mentality, so be it. I'm just pointing out what I see and my opinion. It is not denigrating to do that. If you disagree, that's fine. Sebrena Burr has said terribly insulting things about me and I reported what she actually said at the Board meeting. I'm happy to put up the entire video where she complains about changing the name at Van Asselt and says that only an African-American person can represent D7.

What am I trying to accomplish? Look at our mission statement at the top of the page. As well, consider my last comment which is to steer the discussion about real issues.

Ah but Pathetic, I have many diverse women who DO support me. How do we explain that? No, this particular group cannot win on the merits of their beliefs so they try to tear me down in order to invalidate this blog.

If I report what people actually say and then express my opinion, that makes me vindictive? And note, I have said good things about all those people - Ms. Smith, Sebrena Burr, TCG, Liza Rankin and Chandra Hampson - at one time or another (including this thread). Have they been fair? No.

Again, onward to the discussion which is more important.

Anonymous said...

TCG wants to have it both ways. She says she wants a humanist curriculum that is inclusive and not rooted in white supremacy. But she began this latest war by claiming opponents of Amplify Science - a standardized curriculum developed by wealthy white elites that goes against everything she professes to believe. She even once acknowledged it’s a bad curriculum but not only supported it, she attacked its critics. This shows TCG doesn’t care about equity, doesn’t care about justice, doesn’t care about ending white supremacy. All she cares about is power. She wants to be the one in charge and doesn’t care how many kids she hurts or how many lies she tells to get there.

Freire

Anonymous said...

Haven’t we had HC white elitist group think on the board for forever? Sue Peters, Rick Burke, Leslie Harris, Eden Mack etc, all believers in prioritizing separation and cohorting and always ready to say “we’re not there yet,” when it comes to reimagining inclusive all school based HC services. The outcry over Honors For All at Garfield, (wasn’t Sue Peters going to lead a rally against it on the school steps) etc all point to endemic racism and aggressive privilege that has found a welcome forum in this space. And they were getting ready to install a sympathetic figure Julie Van Arcken to maintain their control.

Good for people of conscience, such as Chandra, Liza and Emijah for stepping up and taking on the corrosive special interests that have hurt the students in our district for so long.

Advance All



Stronger Together said...

No, we've not always had white elitists on the board. Harium Martin Morris wanted to bring Teach for America into our classrooms.

I don't know who the board will install. Will they install a charter school supporter? Will they install in individual that supports Teach for America, again?

There is no evidence that Honors for All is reaching all students.

The Race and Equity Team at our school is doing great. Students feel supported.

Anonymous said...

I am not a defender of HCC nor do I have a child in it. Yet I cannot see how anyone can look at a country where Trump is putting kids in cages and then killing them, where white billionaires are gutting our schools, where cops still don’t believe black lives matter, and conclude that the “corrosive special interest” is an HCC parent. There is something really wrong with you if you reach that conclusion.

The op-ed Melissa cited demonstrates how important it is that we reject the TCG-style approach to racial justice. She is a huckster out for herself alone. She traffics in racial essentialism and spews ridiculous claims that somehow people from nonwhite cultures don’t care about literacy or STEM or success. And she wants to be on a school board! God help us all.

Freire

Anonymous said...

We are addressing group think here and thanks for reminding everyone that Harium Martin Morris was not white. Glad you noticed.

Advance All

Stronger Together said...

I need to thank Melissa for fighting efforts to put Teach For America into our schools. It was an enormously difficult battle. I believe this to be an issue of equity. Teachers with 5 weeks of training were to be put in low income schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The process has been so poorly rolled out by SPS that it's difficult to feel well informed about any of the contenders."

Explain that because I don't think that and I want to understand what I am missing. As I previously reported, the last time this happened, I believe people just applied, there was a meet-and-greet and the Board interviewed people individually and then voted. I think the whole thing was over two weeks. This was in D3. This process has been a lot more open.

Advance All, I think it's the Superintendent who is dragging her feet on HCC. Two years for the Taskforce to do its work? No changes to outreach or application? That's on her.

Honors for All feedback? AWOL despite President Harris asking, over and over. That's on the Superintendent.

But folks, really? You have no thoughts or questions about race and equity or rolling out Ethnic Studies at your child's school?

Anonymous said...

If your child was clustered in a high poverty setting while the bourgeoisie were seated together in separate classrooms in the same building, while their parents communicated to them that they would be harmed educationally should they be forced to learn in those parallel classrooms, or those same parents testified before the school board that their children had been irrevocably harmed by having their schedules switched and were now being taught by those teachers who had previously taught those other students, then you might have a different reaction to the corrosive affect of HC.

Advance All

Anonymous said...

The fact that Leslie Harris keeps asking for Honors For All feedback is an inditement of her. She should be a cheerleader for inclusion not its inquisitor.

Advance All

Melissa Westbrook said...

Advance All, that is not good thinking. The Board is NOT there to be cheerleaders, far from it.

If there are changes to ANY program, then the Board has the right to ask,"How is that going for all the students in those classes?" "Course corrections?" "How to expand to other schools?"

That's not being inquisitive or nosy; that's doing the job of oversight.

I ask you to stop this line of discussion as again, for the third time, that is not what this thread is about.

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

Advance All, I deleted your comment because I had explained the topic of this thread and asked ALL to get back to that. You didn't.

The Friday Open Thread is open if you want to continue it there. Not here.

Anonymous said...

I want ethnic studies curriculum in Seattle schools. As a single, white mom, I would love the support to help teach my child to be a better human.

Seattle, situated in a region mired in the ugly history of racist and exclusionary practices, needs an advocate to help bring this much needed curriculum into every classroom. But instead of an advocate who can build a longer table of champions for children, they hired someone who thinks of herself as the self-righteous queen of call-out culture and hides behind her monitor to lob insults and spread fake news, taking out her mommy issues (#mommysoracist) on anyone who she sees as a threat to her personal agenda to make herself the face of Seattle POC and ethnic studies.

Ask yourself, what does she have to gain from the name calling and false humility while also promoting self-importance? Maybe we should start a Go-Fund Me page to help pay for therapy.

- HH

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

Advance All, you clearly are new. You don't know the rules here or you have never been to a true community forum.

I keep people on the topic of the thread because when readers come to a thread, it will be about the topic at hand. It drives off readers when they see a thread dissolve into something else.

I've been doing this over a decade so I know what I'm talking about.

I gave you another place to put your comment and you reject that.

It's seems a little childish to keep this up.

Move on.

It's not censorship; it's running a blog.

Anonymous said...

Melissa

Fair enough. I didn’t see your previous response. Perhaps our postings clashed.

Advance All

Anonymous said...

Racial Equity requires that people recognize racial privilege. It’s hard for a lot of folks to see it, sometimes because down deep inside themselves, they know that they have benefited from the racially rigged system that has been in place in the Americas since the Europeans arrived and started stealing and conquering.

The remnants of that system remain. I don’t think most Americans even acknowledge the stolen labor of slaves or the stolen lands of the Native people.

When people recognize how racial privilege pervades our culture, they want to keep kids of different backgrounds in school together and in the same classrooms together as much as possible. This is arguably the most productive method to achieve equity.

At the same time, all students should be challenged.

I think our highly trained teachers are up to the task.

JJ

Anonymous said...

It is reprehensible to equate HCC with special education. Special education is a federal mandate that comes with significant funding. There is no equivalent for gifted ed. There never has been, nor ever will be, some OSPI or other remedy for the denial of excess educational perks for giftedness. It isn’t a mandate. Everyone is entitled to basic ed, and that is very basic indeed. Nobody would deny education to HC students. In fact people with disabilities were consistently denied any education at all until the Education for All Act passed at the state level, and then IDEA in 1970. That means no school at all. It does mean a right to being challenged and delighted everyday in a rarified and excluding venue. Families with disabilities seek inclusion, and a seat at the table, which is in marked contrast to the proponents of HCC who seek exclusive special privilege. Nobody gets a pony, nor a perfect education daily ,nor catering to every whim. For all the crying about evaluations for Honors for All, where is the commensurate request for an evaluation of Honors for Some? Crickets.

Crickets

suep. said...

@Advance All

If you had the courage to put your name to your comment I would be happy to discuss with you in more detail about what I did on the school board with regards to gifted ed, HCC and "Honors for All." But it’s difficult to have a constructive conversation with someone who wants to traffic in false accusations anonymously.

But, for the record, what you insinuated about my actions regarding "Honors for All" is a lie.

What I did do was invite an expert on giftedness and education to present to the Board at one of our retreats about how to make the school district’s gifted program and advanced learning more diverse. Austina De Bonte’s informative presentation can be found here: “Peeling an Onion”. (She is president of the Northwest Gifted Child Association.) I and other members of the board asked staff to implement the various best practices and ideas she outlined.

I and other members of the board also asked for a report on Garfield's “Honors For All” at the end of the first year, to find out how it had fared, if all students were being engaged in the classes, if the teachers had what they needed to differentiate as necessary, if an academic standard that merited being called “Honors” was being maintained, etc.

Eventually we received an email from a teacher with limited feedback but which told us that students of different racial backgrounds were interacting more with each other. That was good news. But there was little to no information provided about how the class impacted academic achievement for all the students in the class. I also heard that some students required a supplemental lesson in order to work at the level expected in the Honors classes. The board also received emails from families telling us their students were not being challenged in these class, and some teachers told me they had to simplify their lessons in these classes in order to accommodate the wide range of student preparedness they encountered. This included limiting or eliminating reading assignments.

None of this adds up to a complete analysis of whether the “Honors for All” model is accomplishing what was promised or hoped. I believe current board directors including President Harris have asked for a more complete update. This would be helpful information, since other SPS high schools are also requiring mandatory Honors for 9th and 10th grade LA and Social Studies.

Lastly, this is not an "inquisition" but a Board oversight duty. Board policy requires board oversight of curriculum issues. Consequently, staff brings annual reports to the board on these various areas (ie. curriculum waivers, Creative Approach Schools, advanced learning, Head Start, etc.).


-- Sue Peters

Anonymous said...

RE: ethnic studies, what I want is:

- a carefully vetted curriculum, one that the public can see and comment on before it is implemented to be sure we have something fact-based, not biased, age-appropriate, etc.;
- for the proposed curriculum to be piloted in a representative sample of schools prior to full implementation, so that we can address any challenges before widespread implementation;
- for the Board to take responsibility for formally approving the curriculum prior to adoption, even if staff finessed things to make it so that this normally wouldn't be the case;
- for there to be specific, measurable outcomes that we want to achieve, with a clear commitment to evaluating the outcomes;
- for there to be sufficient and effective teacher training to ensure that teachers are able to deal with the sticky issues that are likely to come up, and that teachers often struggle with;
- that there be pre-and post- surveys of students, with results disaggregated by race/ethnicity, to see if the curriculum is having different impacts on different groups;
- for the curriculum be implemented with fidelity across schools, so that different students aren't getting different messages;
- for TCG's role to be minimal, given her apparent inability to listen to, respect, and collaborate with diverse members of our community;
- and so on.

This is too important not to get right, and SPS has a history of...well, you know.

HF

Anonymous said...

Crickets

Exactly. Where is the examination of the effects of HC exclusion on the children not receiving the service? How about Leslie Harris leading a charge for that? Why so much concern about HC students and what effects them, but not their effect on others? How can the district authentically embrace and infuse Ethnic Studies into our schools when those schools are academically segregated and board members support exclusion.

Advance All

Anonymous said...

JJ,

I agree that mixing kids is a good way improve cultural exchange. Maybe if our teachers had only 15 kids per class and 4 hours/day of planning/grading time they could teach all the kids on the bell curve of each subject. In fact I have volunteered in inclusion classes that came very close to this, having a full-time sped & full-gen ed teacher share the classroom of 28 kids along with IAs.

However, as a special ed parent, I can tell you that in our current classroom configuration, most teachers are not able to teach even just gen ed & sped students. Sped students do not get the different instruction that they need. I never even expected it. I felt triumphant if we just got the called for accommodations since even that was rare. So I don't know what your confidence is based on.

But what I really think that SPS equity team wants is standardized instruction. Every student on the same page every day, as MGJ use to put it. They see that as equity. That is just carrying water for corporate ed reform.

Sped parent

Anonymous said...

Sped parent nails it. The goal of the SPS equity work, especially as embodied by Tracy Castro-Gill, is white male corporate standardized instruction. It is why TCG went nuclear against opponents of Amplify Science. It is worth noting that is where this fight began - it did *not* begin over HCC or ethnic studies. Castro-Gill went to bat for white male billionaires and used claims of racism against her opponents - many of whom were people of color and women of color. I have it on good authority she was about to be fired but wound up saving her job by demonstrating her usefulness to Juneau by attacking those who oppose standardized online curriculum.

Every time TCG tells you that she just wants humanist curriculum, that she just wants equity, wants a whole curriculum, doesn’t want standardization, know that she is lying. She just wants power for herself. That’s it. That’s why she is at her most vicious with women of color. This op-ed Melissa cited points out to all of us why TCG is so massively toxic and will do nothing but undermine actual racial equity work. We will take on white supremacy and racism and we will do so with or without her help.

Vesey

Anonymous said...

@Sue.p

You were a vociferous opponent of Honors for All from the get go. Your opposition went well beyond asking for reports back to the board. You continue to express concern for “all students,” which is your way of indirectly advancing the HC conversation in favor of the privileged.

Ms de Bonte, the “expert” that you so proudly invited to the board retreat is not an educator with any credible peer reviewed published studies, but rather a self appointed promoter of separate schooling for what she terms “giftedness.” Having to sit through acts of self indulgent political propaganda is not the best use the board’s time.

Advance All

Anonymous said...

It is the legal requirement of a board member to care about the needs of all students. Racial equity is indeed about “all students” and the recognition that different things are needed in order to effectively serve all students. Advance All (ironic name, isn’t it?) seems to be suggesting that SPS should deliberately neglect the educational needs of some students, which is a horrifying concept that should lead us to not worry much more about anything Advance All is saying.

Non toxic

Anonymous said...

Having small classes would of course be great. But large classrooms and less than ideal environments are not a reason to support self containment. In special education kids are assigned by the IEP process to a range of alternative placements. Those are not optional, they are legally required. 28 students in a general education classroom represents one level of effort from a general educator. But 15 kids with vastly disparate needs from potty training to emotional outbursts to intellectual disability spanning as many as 6 years difference in age is even harder and usually way less effective. How much education is your kid getting if the staff is attending to tantrums in some and potty training others? Additionally, special educators are not trained in any content area. So, poof, all the subjects are also the responsibility of the sped teacher who simply will not provide it. Then, there’s the problem that your kid will be stuck with that same teacher, with limited content knowledge for MANY years. How can a special educator provide every level in every subject to every kid for years on end. What really happens is extremely reduced instruction is delivered year after year. Some kids take the same computer based “modified math” for years on end in high school. Learning actually nothing new. General ed inclusion isn’t perfectly done in SPS, but it isn’t nearly as bad as any other option. General education teachers aren’t expected to do it alone. Schools have lots of sped staff to make that work. You say it doesn’t work. Many would disagree. The problem most parents I know encounter is the refusal of some regular educators to accept their students with their basic disability. That is, simple discrimination. And to circle this back to racism. Self contained special ed classes are populated mostly by minority students. Inclusion programs are mostly white, self contained rooms are mostly, or disproportionately poc. For that reason alone, they should be reviewed regularly with high degrees of skepticism.

Another Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

@ "Advance All" (although you don't really seem to mean ALL All...),

You asked/stated: "How can the district authentically embrace and infuse Ethnic Studies into our schools when those schools are academically segregated and board members support exclusion."

Oh, so is your problem with neighborhood school segregation in SPS? That's clearly a different issue than HCC, since if you sent all the HCC students back to their neighborhood schools you would probably INCREASE racial and socioeconomic segregation. If decreasing demographic disparities is your real goal--and particularly if that's necessary for a strong ethnic studies program--why not focus on that instead of misplacing your attention on HCC, which is not a means toward the ends you claim. You're focusing on the wrong thing.

HF

Anonymous said...

@ Crickets,

I don't think you're being completely honest here... You said "Special education is a federal mandate that comes with significant funding. There is no equivalent for gifted ed. There never has been, nor ever will be, some OSPI or other remedy for the denial of excess educational perks for giftedness. It isn’t a mandate. Everyone is entitled to basic ed, and that is very basic indeed. Nobody would deny education to HC students."

While true that there's not a federal mandate for gifted ed like there is for special ed, special services for highly capable learners ARE required by WA state law. And while true that special ed comes with significant federal funding, HC services come with some state funding--which makes sense, since the HC services law is a state law. How is the lack of a federal mandate or funding really relevant?

And really, "excess educational perks for giftedness"? C'mon. We're talking about basic education. You know, a chance to learn. As the state law clearly says, for HC students access to accelerate learning and enhanced instruction ARE access to "basic education." Because what YOU consider "basic education"--the basic education designed for students who fall within that more typical middle 2/3 of the bell curve--does not actually provide a basic education for most HC students...because they have already learned that material and/or are beyond those concepts.

When you say "nobody would deny education to HC students" you are being disingenuous. By "education" do you mean the opportunity to be taught new material in classrooms? I didn't think so. It would seem you either mean the opportunity to put butts in seats since they have a right to take up space in a classroom (which most do not necessarily equate with "education"), or that they can just learn on their own outside of school, since nobody can deny them that opportunity for education even if they don't really have an opportunity to learn inside the classroom?

You never seem to have an answer for how exactly a student who is working several SDs above the rest of the class is supposed to get "educated" under this magical one-size-fits-all approach you seem to love so much. What do you have against HC students, and why do they not also deserve to go to school and learn something new?

Please clarify

Anonymous said...

It’s pretty simple Clarify. Students with disabilities were denied the most basic right to even step a foot into a classroom or school before idea. That’s a huge difference right there. Tons of kids in special ed are also bored and aren’t given the opportunity to learn something new. So are lots of kids. Don’t equate getting the absolute best that could possibly offered (what you want), with the right to simply be a student in the first place (what idea offers students with disabilities). It’s infuriating. But for you, it’s all about you and yours.

Crickets

Another Name said...

My child was in a self contained classroom for a sever disability.

I believe that advanced learning students need a cohort.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Crickets, when you say "Honors for Some" are you talking about HCC? Because if you are, there have been several Highly Capable/Advanced Learning committee/taskforces. And staff guided the work and did not always listen.

I have a copy of the review from 2000-2001. Lots of good stuff in there.

It is the district that has not stepped up - not parents, not teachers, not principals and not the Board.

HF, thank you for the great suggestions. I'm going to compile a list for the Board.

Advance All, did you look at Austina De Bonte’s presentation? I posted it when she gave it. It has GREAT suggestions about changes that should be made to make gifted programming available to more kids.

But, as I have said previously, it took me awhile to realize the goal is not finding and serving gifted kids of color - it's just getting everyone in a seat in their neighborhood school.

I do find it hard to understand why people who seem to hate HCC won't just say that out loud.

One thing I do know - at least for elementary - there's tracking. Teachers divide kids into reading groups all the time. Yes, they are all in one classroom but doing that allows teachers (hopefully with volunteers and student teachers) to give personalize attention at the level each group needs.

HF is right and it's yet ANOTHER oddness from those who are anti-HCC. Sticking everyone in their neighborhood school will only make some schools more segregated. But sure, everyone stay put in your own neighborhood.

And Crickets, there is no magical place where HCC get "the absolute best" in SPS. YOu may be thinking of Lakeside or Country Day, but not SPS.

Centrality of Difference said...

When current SPS students enter the job market after high school or college, they will be competing for jobs against other SPS students and against students from private school. There are about 17,000 students currently in private school in Seattle. They will also be competing with students from other local school districts, many of whom are doing MUCH better than SPS at educating students of color than SPS is (especially Bellevue, Everett, Edmonds, Issaquah, Lake Washington, Northshore school districts). And they will also be competing with the children of all the people moving to Seattle. According to Geekwire there's currently about 15,000 people moving here every year from California alone. That's closely followed by PNW states and Texas, Florida and NY. One in every 4 people in King County was born abroad. The largest numbers have been coming from India, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Philippines, Korea, Canada, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Taiwan. Many of these immigrants bring their children with them. Pramila Jayapal came to the US herself from India at the age of 16 to go to college.

We need a racial equity conversation.
We also urgently need a class conscious conversation.

So, 20% of our students don't graduate from high school and our 4-year college graduation rates are high (63% at UW, for example). We need a school system and an equity conversation and a school district that can educate all these kids and all the ones in between. 44% of the students receiving advanced learning services at Washington Middle School last year were students of color. Our conversations about equity must not exclude those students.

We need to recognize both the centrality of difference within human identity and the fundamental moral unity of humanity.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bravo, Centrality of Difference, on that last sentence - nailed it.

Also, yes to talking about class differences (which feed into the white privilege narrative).

Anonymous said...

I did not say there shouldn’t be a cohort for gifted students. I simply note what most people already know. The struggle and rights of people with disabilities has nothing to do with the minor issue of which classroom a gifted kid should sit in, or who they should be entitled to sit with. Absolutely nothing. Kids with disabilities were denied ANY education, and some still are. To equate a trifling 2 year acceleration, with classrooms with no teacher, no curriculum, no transportation, restraint, isolation etc etc. Sorry no. Your issues are not equivalent. So don’t try to ride special education wave for your own benefit. Go ahead and sue, file a complaint. You’ve got no case (or you would have won already.) OSPI won’t grant you entitlements you don’t have.

Crickets

Melissa Westbrook said...

Crickets, man, if you think all the problems of this district are because of HCC, I want whatever kool-aid you are drinking.

I'm amazed that anyone thinks this will work.



Anonymous said...

@MW

Flexible grouping for instruction, like a reading group, is not tracking.

Do some research before stating such a blatantly incorrect assertion as fact.

Enough

Anonymous said...

@enough. How do you think reading groups are different than tracking? What about Walk to Math? Is that tracking or do you think of it as flexible grouping.
Curious

Acceleration is Cheap said...

It would be easy to keep kids in their neighborhood schools and meet the needs of most gifted kids with one simple, very cheap accommodation: grade skipping. This intervention worked for:
Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activist (skipped 2 grades in high school)
Shari Huhndorf, Professor of Native American Studies in the Dept. of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley (skipped 2 grades)
Rafael Corrales, venture capitalist (skipped two grades)
Kevin Johnson, former Phoenix suns player and mayor of Sacramento (skipped fifth grade)
John Legend, singer-songwriter (skipped first and seventh grade)
Thurgood Marshall, supreme court justice (skipped 2 grades)
Michelle Obama, lawyer and first lady (skipped 2nd grade & so did her brother)
Chi-Bin Chien, neurobiology professor (skipped multiple grades)
Grace Hopper, computer scientist and rear admiral (skipped 2 grades)
Mae Jemison, engineer and astronaut (skipped 2 grades)
Yo Yo Ma, cellist (skipped 2 grades)
Oprah Winfrey, executive (skipped 2 grades)

Read about how affordable and effective grade skipping can be here in A Nation Deceived (free and available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, German, French, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Russian):
http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Nation_Deceived/Get_Report.aspx

And most importantly, it will keep all the students right there in the classrooms at their neighborhood schools, the most fervent, desperate wish of some in this district. Win, win.

Anonymous said...

MW, woman. Hmm. I must have touched a nerve because I never said there should be no HCC, or that all the district’s problems stem from HCC. Can you not whip up a frenzy on any other topic? I simply dislike those who hitch a ride on special ed, as if their situation is similar. It isn’t. Why put words in my mouth? Drink your own koolaid.

Crix

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough, you are right; flexible grouping is not tracking as we know it. But since you put that out there, I did some reading and found it interesting enough to generate another thread talking about it. Thanks.

Acceleration is Cheap, you are kidding, right?

1) Grade skipping is not for every child. It's not just about academics, there is a whole social-emotional part to school. Some kids could not make the adjustment.
2) Do you know how many kids there are just in HCC? What if one third grade class had 5 HCC students who then moved into a 4th grade class already at 28?
3) Go ask teachers how they would feel about this. I'm not sure you'd get a majority even agreeing with the idea.

Crix (who I assume is Crickets - do not change your moniker mid-thread), you didn't touch a nerve so much as an irritation.

First, I am the one who, over and over in many threads, told people to stop getting whipped up by HCC discussion. That it happens more on this topic than any other is something I don't get. I wanted

Second, despite me asking, over and over in this particular thread, for people to stay on topic, you come in talking about HCC and Sped. Physician, heal thyself.

Third, my irritation is this constant bringing up of SPed and HCC. If there are those who don't believe in 2E, that's fine but apparently the district and OSPI do. Also, it's as if some believe HCC kids are taking something away from Sped kids. Not so.

One thing that bothered me in the D7 discussion is that the one white parent - Jason Hahn - has such an understanding and focus on Sped due to his own child being special needs. His child has been taken out of class and suspended due to behavior issues. Unlike Jill Geary who ran on her Sped cred, I believe that Jason would have really forced the issue. But he couldn't be considered - at all - because he isn't a minority candidate.

It is absolutely true that Sped parents are among the most unhappy parents in this district. At the Equal Right to Representation Facebook group, parents appear to be gearing up for the usual fight with their school/district to fulfill IEP plans, transportation issues, etc. It's an exhausting, worrying situation to be in.

But trying to put Sped issues and HCC issues together and say HCC parents are trying to take from Sped is false.

Anonymous said...

MW,

Several commenters on this thread deliberately conflated SpEd and HC. Crickets refuted these ignorant claims and so did I.

Reread. It happens on this blog often when people are trying to pose special rights for HC. HC is not SpEd. SpEd is federal law. HC is a state law. Districts can provide HC services however they deem to be compliant, including having a general ed teacher provide differentiation. Not so for SpEd which requires legally binding services for the individual child, hence IEP.

Blaming and lecturing the messenger for correcting these claims is perpetuating ignorance and a false sense of special rights. It also short sells the rights of students with IEPs.

Enough

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough, certainly there are people who join Sped and HCC; the district and OSPI recognize 2E. You can have your opinions about that but it's a reality.

But about the feds, you are right, however:

"The Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act (Javits) was first passed by Congress in 1988 as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and was most recently reauthorized through the Every Student Succeeds Act to support the development of talent in U.S. schools. The Javits Act, which is the only federal program dedicated specifically to gifted and talented students, does not fund local gifted education programs.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly called “No Child Left Behind”) is the primary umbrella K-12 federal education law (note that the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is the other key federal K-12 law). ESEA includes programs large and small including the Title I poverty-related programs, Title II in-service teacher education provisions, and the Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act. The law dates back to 1965.

Parents, educators, and other concerned adults involved with gifted children should know the legal framework in which the education and related services are set forth. The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Act of 1994 was not established by Congress to protect the legal rights of gifted children, but rather to provide for model programs and projects. In contrast, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 does give extensive legal rights to persons with disabilities."

I myself have never said gifted ed is covered by feds as are Sped students. That Enough and Crickets have been repeatedly asked to stop diluting/changing the thread is super annoying. It will not continue in threads to come. Know that.

So I'll be ending this thread here since very few people want to actually talk about race and equity work in individual schools.