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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Meanwhile, Over in Bellevue

I sometimes get asked, "Do you cover all of Puget Sound in your blog?" It makes me smile.

I have, on occasion, looked into other regional districts and what they are doing.  For example, it's interesting how much more it costs SPS to build a school than anyone else in the region (and they already own the land).  Another recent example - I had one reader saying Bellevue didn't have separate HCC classes so I went and looked it up (they do but they also have many other fine options.)

But the main reason I don't cover other districts is that SPS has way too much going on for me to ever look in another direction.   But again, I am (slowly) turning away from SPS coverage.

So I read with interest a story over at Crosscut about Asian-American parents who rose up against Bellevue SD's new equity initiative.  And, this group is fighting against I-1000 that that uses affirmative action for minority groups.

I'll note that there is a group of Asian students who are currently suing Harvard over their admission policies that are directly related to race. 

Three key, if sensitive, takeaways:

-  one Bellevue parent says: “Nowadays all children have equal access to the public education in this country, regardless of their skin color,”

Well, that's true that all kids have access to public education but you can't overlook institutional racism even over in Bellevue.  Equal access? Also another topic.

I think it is a zero-sum way to look at things: that if somebody is gaining something, then somebody else is losing something,” Thai said. “In my opinion, that is a misunderstanding of what 1-1000 is about.” State Representative My-Linh Thai. 

Equity is NOT about taking something from someone else.  It's about making sure the supports are there for those who need them.  If it means resources directed from one school to another, that's what needs to happen.

- Lastly, this brings up a two-pronged issue.

First, who speaks for whom? In this article you read about two different Asian-American groups who do not disagree on this issue.  Is anyone truly wrong? No. They are just thinking about it differently.

 I recently read an account of being at a conference by a POC guy,who was African-American.  He said another African-American guy was giving a talk and criticizing how the conference dealt with issues of race in their presentations.  He said he sat there, getting madder and madder.  Because he didn't agree with (most) of what this guy was saying and felt really annoyed that the speaker was assuming he spoke for every Black person in the room.

The assumption that any one POC person or group speaks for an entire community is one that the Board and the Superintendent might want to consider that in their equity work.  They might consider that some voices are quieter on race and equity issues but that doesn't mean they don't care.

The other prong is the data that shows many Asian students tend to do well in school. (And again, "Asian" is an umbrella word for people from many differing cultures so there is nothing uniform about who does well.)

And it's not that any given community doesn't care about public education. I've rarely met any parent who didn't truly care.

But what is it in Asian communities that drives their children to work hard in school?  Is it the Tiger Mom effect or something else?

I have no answers but clearly, this issue exists.

The Story from Crosscut's Melissa Santos:

Last year, Kan Qiu stood before members of the Bellevue School Board and made a bold demand: Get rid of the school district’s Department of Equity.

“I call for the disbandment of the Equity Department and make the district accountable to the taxpayers,” Qiu told the board members in April 2018.


Qiu and other members of his group, Washington Asians for Equality, frequently attended Bellevue School Board meetings last year to oppose the district’s development of a new racial-equity policy. Qiu and other members of the group said such a policy would focus inappropriately on students’ race, resulting in racial divisions and unfair treatment.


A year and a half later, Qiu is making a similar argument to voters throughout Washington state. He is the primary sponsor of the effort to overturn Initiative 1000, an affirmative-action measure the state Legislature approved in April.

In both settings, the parents — many of whom said they were Chinese immigrants — claimed it would put Asian Americans at a disadvantage if government officials began looking at racial identity when making decisions.
On Bellevue's Equity Initiative
But Tim Mills, former superintendent of the Bellevue School District, said that over time, the district found students of certain racial and ethnic groups were not experiencing the same academic outcomes as their peers of white or Asian descent. Like it or not, those racial disparities were part of the district’s story, he said, and something district officials wanted to change. 

“Bellevue was very definitely changing in terms of student population,” Mills said in a recent interview, referencing how the district has become more demographically diverse. “There were some subgroups of students where it was obvious that we needed to do a better job in terms of the educational process.” 
District officials created the Department of Equity in 2013 to try to narrow those performance gaps, which were particularly acute when it came to standardized test scores
In Bellevue, meanwhile, members of the group had criticized the district’s equity work as trying to force identity politics into schools. At times, Qiu and other members of Washington Asians for Equality questioned why the school district offered mentoring programs specifically designed for Black, Latino, Native American and Southeast Asian students, instead of geared more broadly toward students of all races and ethnicities.
Jie Xie, a Bellevue parent who said she came to the United States from China about 10 years ago, called the district’s proposed racial equity policy “divisive.” She later testified against I-1000, and has donated to the campaign to reject R-88. 

“Nowadays all children have equal access to the public education in this country, regardless of their skin color,” Xie told Bellevue School Board members in 2018.
She said she didn’t understand why district officials wanted to bring race back into the conversation.

“Do not just subscribe to a single story: race,” Xie said, adding, “Would you judge your kid’s school performance by their skin color?”
But Tim Mills, former superintendent of the Bellevue School District, said that over time, the district found students of certain racial and ethnic groups were not experiencing the same academic outcomes as their peers of white or Asian descent. Like it or not, those racial disparities were part of the district’s story, he said, and something district officials wanted to change. 
Bringing in a former Bellevue School Member, Now a State Legislator
State Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, served on the Bellevue School Board through November 2018, when she left the board after winning election to the Legislature.


While on the school board, she said she had numerous meetings with members of Washington Asians for Equality to discuss their concerns about the district’s work on racial equity. 


In particular, Thai said members of Washington Asians for Equality worried the district’s equity focus could lead to fewer spots for Asian students in the district’s highly capable program. Members of the group had previously raised similar concerns when state lawmakers considered a policy to increase access to highly capable classes, as well as when the Northshore School District took steps to diversify its gifted program.


In response, Thai said she told members of Washington Asians for Equality that the district has an obligation to meet the needs of all of its gifted students. That means if more students are identified as gifted, she said, the district is supposed to serve them all, not cut anyone out.


At the same time, Thai said she told the parents that the district had an equal obligation to help the other students being left behind. To her, that meant making sure students of all races and ethnicities have their needs met, she said.


She said she doesn’t see those kinds of targeted efforts as disadvantaging anyone else.

That was where she and members of Washington Asians for Equality seemed to disagree, Thai said.

“A question being asked to me at a personal level was, ‘My-Linh, why are you doing this? You are Asian, you are supposed to fight for us Asians,’ ” Thai recalled in a recent interview. “And my response was, why wouldn’t I? Why would you not see this work is about all of us? And there’s that gap between how we perceive things.”

“I think it is a zero-sum way to look at things: that if somebody is gaining something, then somebody else is losing something,” Thai said. “In my opinion, that is a misunderstanding of what 1-1000 is about.”

Another group, Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE), drafted a letter to Washington lawmakers in February expressing the group’s support for I-1000, while disputing Washington Asians for Equality’s claim that the initiative would hurt Asian Americans.

“This group does not represent the views of most Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” the letter read.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is as if culture and stable families have some influence...

--UnTruths

Carol Simmons said...

Until the Disproportionality Task Forces examined, separated and reported comparisons between Asian and South East Asian students, Pacific Islander and South Pacific Islander students, and Hispanic Black and Hispanic White students in academic achievement and discipline sanctions there was little reporting or acknowledgement about cultural learning styles and differences between student groups. Director Patu worked hard to explain this in workshops that she and her husband presented in the Seattle Public Schools, Board meetings, and at Universities. These important teachings need to be re examined.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa "The other prong is the data that shows many Asian students tend to do well in school. (And again, "Asian" is an umbrella word for people from many differing cultures so there is nothing uniform about who does well.)"

I have to stop myself when I hear these comments, and remember I am in Seattle. "White" is also an umbrella for people from many different cultures. Across the US there are also many people with diverse ethnic heritage that identify under the "white" umbrella as well.

Transplant

Unknown said...

Hi Melissa and All,

MW, look at the contradiction:

"Equity is NOT about taking something from someone else. It's about making sure the supports are there for those who need them. If it means resources directed from one school to another, that's what needs to happen."

The only way that can make sense is if there's no such thing as scarcity. As long as there is, giving one person more of anything means giving everyone else less.

Like it or not, allocating finite school resources is a zero sum game. That's why the conversation has shifted to"justice." "Equality" stopped being the goal decades ago, and "equity" in its sense of "giving every kid what they need to succeed" is financially untenable.

SP

Anonymous said...

@SP, if "equity" in its sense of "giving every kid what they need to succeed" is financially untenable, why am I supposed to bother even sending my kids to school if they are not in a group that SPS considers "furthest from educational justice"? If there are certain types of students the schools just can't afford to serve, they should tell us so we can find a district that can.

shop around?

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

A teacher told my daughter one reason she would no longer assign math homework was that "It's not fair to the students who don't have someone at home to help them." Most administrators are savvier. The line from the principal to my daughter was, "all of the latest research shows that homework is not helpful." My daughter looked and couldn't find any research that showed students in 7th-grade math shouldn't be assigned homework. It'soften very much about, "taking something away".

I realize that lots of people object to too much homework. But what we are essentially saying is that if Asian or other students study more, have private tutors, practice Kumon Math, attend preschool, take piano lessons, etc., that this is not fair, and that the school should make up for it in order to obtain "equality of outcomes" and "educational justice".

If you look at that statistics for kindergarten readiness, you find that certain minority groups significantly underperform when first entering school, whereas other minority groups such as Asians, outperform. If Asians are ahead of other minority groups by 50% when entering public school, it's not surprising that they are still ahead by 50% years later after attending public school.

I once saw a class photo for an HCC class in Bellevue, and the thing is that "whites" were a minority and People of Color were the majority, though most of the "People of Color" were Asian or East Indian.

Anonymous said...

@Seattle Parent
Yes whites are actually underrepresented in gifted programs in Bellevue in relation to population. It may also surprise some people that not whites, but Asians are also the highest income earners in the US. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/asian-women-and-men-earned-more-than-their-white-black-and-hispanic-counterparts-in-2017.htm

However whenever we lump people together by race it can be misleading. There are differences between ethnic groups in the US, and we also need to look historically not just at a snapshot in time in 2019. We actually lump pretty diverse people together under broad racial categories. This pertains to not only Asians, but also whites, blacks (ex Kenyan-American immigrant versus native born African American etc) Hispanic/Latino groups etc. People also need to be looked at as individuals, race and ethnicity do not predetermine everything. Disabilities, being native born in the US versus an immigrant, gender, educational level, socio-economic status, generational wealth etc etc etc all have influence.

JK

Anonymous said...

A teacher told my daughter one reason she would no longer assign math homework was that "It's not fair to the students who don't have someone at home to help them."

So maybe they should assign HW that students can do independently?? Teach the concepts. Practice them in class. Practice them at home for reinforcement and retention.

old school

Anonymous said...

I agree that generalizations don't really help us. It's not necessarily that Asian students study more--income is likely the driver. Control for family income, and I'm betting the outcomes disparity for Asians vs. others pretty much disappears. Perpetuating the idea that Asian success is due to hard work implies that non-Asian groups who don't due as well are less hard-working and that their lack of success is their own fault, rather than a product of historic and current racism.

The homework vs. no-homework issue mentioned above begs another question: What is the purpose of our public education system? Is it intended to educate all students up to a certain age, regardless of ability? Or is it intended to get people to a certain level of knowledge deemed sufficient? If the former, it should meet students where they are at, adjusting to their current level of knowledge and abilities (with an even more intensive focus on helping develop those who are underperfoming). If the latter, students should take placement exams upon entrance, and test out when they have fulfilled the requirements. Or is it some odd hybrid of the two, in which grade-skipping is inconsistently allowed, but then because of its infrequency is associated with social-emotional development challenges for students who then lack age-based peers?

Or is, perhaps, the public education system intended to level the playing field by accelerating the progress of some groups while holding others back? I've never seen that as a stated goal, but sometimes it seems like the is actually the case. However, if that is the underlying intent, shouldn't those who are underperfoming get MORE homework, not less (or none)? How exactly do teachers think it will help if students who are working below grade level to do less work or have lowered expectations? Lowering the bar is not the solution--RAISING the bar is. I understand a teacher's emotional reaction to a student not having a parent to help them with homework, but they need to look at the big picture and see that that is precisely why that student needs more of a push, not less. Put out a call for after school homework volunteers. Find ways for volunteers to help provide some 1-on-1 during the school day. Find a library- or community-based program that can help. There has to be a better way. If your school doesn't have many volunteers, find a neighboring school that does or might--many parents are willing to help a school in need even if it isn't their own child's school. Community members without kids in schools are also willing to help. It's extra work to find that help, but it's not fair to give up on these kids and essentially throw in the towel. It's also hubris to think that what you teach them in class is going to be enough and that they don't need some extra practice if they are already struggling.

This is all so frustrating and depressing. We do not seem to be making much progress. How do we

get there?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Transplant, thanks for pointing out that "white" encompasses many different cultures and ethnic groups.

SP, I'd split the difference with you. The district has, in writing,said they will reallocate resources for the work of race and equity. You are right there. But some of that work is for all teachers, administrators and staff to receive PD on cultural competency and race and bias. So if resources are reallocated, everyone benefits on that point.

"But what we are essentially saying is that if Asian or other students study more, have private tutors, practice Kumon Math, attend preschool, take piano lessons, etc., that this is not fair, and that the school should make up for it in order to obtain "equality of outcomes" and "educational justice"."

You hit the nail on the head and everyone should understand that - schools CANNOT change whatever a home situation is. There are always parents who have more money and spend it in helping their child - with music lessons, specialty teams, etc. No district can change that and so yes, there will always be kids who have certain life advantages (or privilege).

What school districts CAN do is try to make sure every school has the same number/kind of offerings as another one.

What school districts CAN do is limit how PTAs spend their money at schools.

What school districts CAN do is continue to form partnerships with arts groups and others to give as many kids as possible, exposure to the arts.

Get There, you are exactly on point. And the district should be leading the way on this discussion about moving forward.

Teddy R. said...

You know, anyone who has had more than one kid (or siblings of their own) also understands that even genetically related kids raised in the same culture and home environment and school vary. Kids all have their unique strengths and weaknesses. If you do great in school (salutatorian, say) and your brother doesn't, was the problem with the school? In some cases, yes, in other cases, no.

But since Lakeside has 36 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists and
Garfield 13
Ingraham 8
Ballard 3
Roosevelt 4
Holy Names 4
Bush School 3
U Prep 3
Seattle Preparatory School 3
Seattle Academy 1
Transition School and Early Entrance Program 1
Bishop Blanchett 1

From that, we can see that either Seattle schools like Sealth, West Seattle, Cleveland, Rainier Beach, Franklin, and Hale can't provide this competitive a level of education or they can't convince the families of students who could score that high to trust their kids to their care or the kids who attend those schools don't care about that stuff or choose not to take the test...

Interestingly, at least one of the SPS kids who won this year had a sibling who won in recent years. To me, that suggests that it's more than just the school that's doing it.

Anonymous said...

@ Teddy R, did you find the 2020 NMSF list, or are you using 2019 numbers? Just curious, as I have not been able to find this year's list anywhere yet. If you have a link, please share!

HF

Teddy R. said...

Whoops. That was from a 2018 article about the class of 2019. Now we need a 2019 article about the class of 2020. It's not out yet.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. What’s up with the Seattle Times? Edmonds school district is reporting that it has the highest number of National Merit Semifinalists in the state. So, Seattle who bloggers contend is practically one of the gifted epicenters in the universe, who can only be served in rarified environments... has been bested by Edmonds after years of special cultivation. Hmmm. https://edmondschools.net/news/2019/district-has-most-national-merit-semifinalists-of-any-district-in-the-state/

reader

Anonymous said...

reader, that's Edmond Oklahoma.

FNH

Anonymous said...

Seattle PI, are you still there? Maybe they could publish the NMSF info.

Some people just seem hell bent on tearing down academic achievers. At every opportunity. It's sad, really. It's a small person who can't support others in their achievements, whatever they may be.

@reader's post brings up a few points: 1) Many districts take PRIDE in their students. They post accolades on the DISTRICT website. They take their pictures. SPS? 2) NMSF status is NOT necessarily a reflection of school programming, good or bad. NMSC expresses similar disclaimers with their announcements.

another reader

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt has posted names of their NMSF.

congrats