Sunday, November 17, 2019

Parents Surrender: Is That Juneau's Message?

In the past, many superintendents have used the term "laser-focused" but Superintendent Denise Juneau is about the only one who really walks the talk on that term.  

But I see signs that there seems to be a parallel, less articulated agenda with the Superintendent and the Strategic Plan.  Let's examine the evidence.
This is what she says at the Strategic Plan webpage:
Seattle Excellence, is guided by four priorities and is laser-focused on supporting students of color who are furthest away from educational justice, beginning with African American boys and young men. This work is not about changing students. It is about changing broken systems and undoing legacies of racism in public education. By actively addressing racism in our educational system, and ensuring students furthest from educational justice thrive, conditions in Seattle Public Schools will improve for all. 

During the 2019-20 school year, we are focused on three initiatives: Seattle Super Readers, making sure all students read well by 3rd grade; safe and welcoming schools; and culturally responsive professional practice and instruction. 
The main "Theory of Action" posited is this (bold mine):
Targeted Universalism holds that targeted and differentiated efforts are required to meet the needs of specific student populations, so every student meets the universal goal. By focusing on students of color who are furthest from educational justice, especially African American males, we will make the greatest progress toward our collective vision.

We believe that an intentional focus on African American males will ultimately benefit every student. We will refine our systems and structures that will ultimately be used to better meet the needs of students throughout SPS. We will also learn how to develop and provide differentiated efforts to meet the needs of specific populations, allowing us to better serve the needs of additional student populations.
See that part in bold?  I initially missed that.  

Learn how to develop and provide differentiated efforts to meet the needs of specific populations 

I'm thinking that sentence does NOT relate to their intentional focus on Black boys; I'm thinking that sentence may be about HCC.  This so that, later on, JSCEE senior staff can point to it and say ,"See, it's been there all along."

And that focus on Black males? Well, we have seen the newest racial designation sheet from the district, the one with just one box for "Asian" and one box for "Hispanic/Latino" but a variety of boxes for "Black." 

Why would that be? Why would the Superintendent drill down to just black boys born in the U.S.? Well, if you had a heavy lift and could shave off a couple of pounds of weight, wouldn't you do that?  Narrow that group and you have a better chance of achieving the goal (and getting your bonus).

Just to note, there are job openings for not one but two people for the new Office of African American Male Achievement. 

This is another part of the parallel agenda that is,  expansion of jobs at JSCEE. And interesting that the district is supporting Mia Williams' work in the OAAMA by hiring two people but refusing to for Tracy Castro Gill's work in Ethnic Studies.

Next, remember the revamping of the district's motto and symbol?  And they hired a consulting firm, right?  Turns out that wasn't the only communications consulting firm they hired.  They sent out an RFP for a communications consultant.  It includes:
  • weekly project management of plan and communications 
  • content creation including internal letters, external letters, social media posts, web page stories, School Beat articles, etc. 
  • media relations and crisis communications as needed
  • what tools and tactics are needed for any communications gap
So at any given time, who is talking to the Board? To parents? To the public? It's hard to say but it's not the folks who currently work in Communications. What's odd about this RFP is that it doesn't mention the Communications department at all.
Here's one tweet the Superintendent has sent out or retweeted from others several times:

Proud to call@ScarlettFevah a colleague. Dr. Scarlett is going to help lead us down the path of realizing educational justice for all our students, per #SeattleExcellence. Take a listen. #proudsupt #SPSConnects
What this is in reference to is a story from KNKX by reporter Ashley Gross about SPS Chief of Equity Keisha Scarlett.  I listened to the whole thing - they don't have the entire story in print - thinking it would be more of a profile.  But it was very much a piece about HCC and Scarlett's own experiences at Garfield as an HCC student.  It's worth listening to but my ears really perked up at the end.

Scarlett was only one of a couple of black students in the gifted program at Garfield.  She says it was a "cultural" struggle for her.  Interestingly, another person in the radio piece was a former classmate of hers at Garfield, Sasha Rabkin.  He runs a group called Equal Opportunity Schools.  They don't say that SPS is part of this group but I would suspect so.

Equal Opportunity Schools’ mission is to ensure that students of color and low-income students have equitable access to America’s most academically intense high school programs and succeed at the highest levels.

And EOS is talking about IB/AP classes. 

But Gross then veers off into the current HCC issue.  She inserts a clip of the Superintendent using an old, inflammatory term for Garfield.  She then provides a couple of short clips of HCC parents speaking about not radically changing the program.  

Then there is this: Scarlett says that "When you ask people to suspend their privilege, it becomes really hard."

Gross then says "Keisha says this is where racial equity does get really hard and it comes down to opportunity hoarding. That families of privilege do a lot to make sure their kids continue to have privilege.  But that it's not a zero sum game if one group isn't thriving, it hurts all groups."

Scarlett then continues: "About gifted education, I would posit that all children are highly capable and gifted - because they are - and they just need the opportunity.  Education is not just a moral responsibility but life or death."

That's a lot to try to decipher. 

First, I believe I understand what "parents of privilege" probably means but if the district is using this term - over and over in messaging - then they should give the district's meaning to parents.  Same with "opportunity hoarding."  If the district is calling this out, they need to explain what it means and what it looks like.

And what would "suspend your privilege" look like for SPS parents? What is the ask? 

I also really don't like this meme of using words that have an educational meaning, like "highly capable" and then applying them to all students.  

Yes, and absolutely, all kids have gifts, of all kinds, but when the state of Washington uses that term in law and the district has a program based on that specific term's meaning in law, then it's confusing when those in the district in senior leadership use it broadly.

Except that I think they use it in order to shut down discussion. 

Meaning, parents, not just HCC parents, but many other SPS parents, you should give up.  Equity is going to be used as a bully club in SPS and there is no way to find common ground when the other person has decided not to listen.

It's weaponizing equity issues to move forward an agenda - both seen and unseen - that the folks at the very top of JSCEE have created. 

( To note, there have been a couple of comments here from readers about how these new initiatives will be going full blast and if the people at JSCEE charged with doing that work don't get it done, that the Board will be directing Juneau to fire them.  Not going to happen - it's beyond micromanaging and Juneau would never, ever stand for it.)

Personally, I would prefer an approach that was less reactionary and more "let's do this together" a lá John Stanford.  And no one can say that the Superintendent is striving to unite and be inclusive in this work. On this point, I find her very Trump-like.

From some of what has been said at this blog recently, I think there are many communities who would say, "About time the district says this and does that."

Okay then but understand that when you silence some active parents, you silence even more people who will not even speak up at all.  And frankly, no superintendent can succeed without parental support.

Lastly, I just have to put in an aside here.  

Since forever, this district has struggled with one basic issue in schools; making sure that when people come into a school building, they feel at least acknowledged and hopefully, welcomed. I know it has got to be hard to be front-office staff especially in middle and high school. And I cannot tell you how many school DO have wonderful front office staff.  

However, there are other front office staff who sit at faraway desks with a tall computer monitors in front of them and barely say anything when you come thru the door. I just had this experience this week and I actually had an appointment with someone in the building.  I can't imagine what you get when you are a parent just walking in. 

It makes all the difference in the world to hear, "Good morning. What can I help you with?" And yet, it is still a problem in many buildings.  So on that 2019-2020 initiative "safe and welcoming schools," I say, "Good luck with that."


Jeff said...

So, I like pieces of this. I definitely support the goal of having all children in Seattle Public Schools reading well by the 3rd grade. Reading is a superpower. Children that can read well on their own have a powerful tool for learning on their own.

But I'm concerned about any statements that make it sound like Seattle Public Schools isn't for everyone. Public schools are public. They should seek to educate every child in Seattle. It's a very dangerous statement to say that public schools are not for certain groups or certain people. The success of our schools depends on broad support from the community, and I fear for our schools if this idea that certain people do and don't belong in public schools manages to take hold.

Differentiated- Only said...

The district's Advanced Learning Plan is about differentiated learning. The district should not pretend to be offering anything different.

I don't see the district working with experts from NW Gifted. I see them working with Justice Activists. Here is the bio of one of the district's Consulting Teacher for Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs.


Invisible Asian said...

When will Seattle Public School Superintendent Denise Juneau incorporate Asian statistics into messaging? The Asians, in this case, are invisible.

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

"She inserts a clip of the Superintendent using an old, inflammatory term for Garfield."

It wasn't old for the superintendent. She heard it currently being used at Garfield.

She is quoting current students who describe their school as a "slave ship."

Also, when you disaggregate populations, subgroups often have vastly different outcomes.
Since the focus is on African American boys who have the worst outcomes, this is likely the reason for the question.


Anonymous said...

When you are a leader who is taking on some of the most difficult and entrenched issues, you will displease some people. A real leader is willing to do the right thing anyway.

"And no one can say that the Superintendent is striving to unite and be inclusive in this work."

Frederick Douglass:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground."


Melissa Westbrook said...

"She heard it currently being used at Garfield."

I have never heard stated that way. Go back and listen.

Yes, Invisible Asian, I have asked this question but apparently Asian students as whole and as sub-groups are doing just fine in SPS.

Facts, I didn't say it should be easy. I said that the district should make it clear when they use terms, what those terms mean. I said that the district will not succeed if the Superintendent alienates parents.

Jet City mom said...

Off topic, but if Frederick Douglass was alive today, I expect he would be an advocate for no till farming.


Anonymous said...

What about AA girls. Are they are privileged group now? lol

I'm sorry, but what some people view as parents who are struggling because they are "don't want to give up their privilege", is actually parents reacting to message that SPS doesn't care about their kids or their kids outcomes or future success (they're part of the problem, they're privileged, they'll do fine etc). The message is loud and clear from the top of JSCEE - my middle class, high performing, white kid is not a priority to the district, but a necessary evil. As a middle class white parent I am viewed as an obstacle to their goal of educational justice to be overcome.

The district may get tons of support form social justice advocates but I think parental support will start to erode as more families internalize the message that public school (at least in Seattle proper) is not for them, not for their kids. And current parents warn prospective ones to go private, buy a house on Mercer Island.

Unfortunately those of us who don't have the political clout to push back, or the financial means to escape, will just have to

suck it up

Anonymous said...

"....Equity is going to be used as a bully club in SPS and there is no way to find common ground when the other person has decided not to listen...."

This is what happened with the science adoption. We were told that Amplify was the only equitable option, so if you didn't like Amplify then it must be because you didn't want equity for all students This shut up many teachers who didn't like the curriculum because they were too afraid of being labeled a racist. This is about shutting down the conversation and censorship.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...my middle class, high performing, white kid is not a priority to the district, but a necessary evil."

And exactly my point. The district wants to provide good academic outcomes for all students (so they vaguely say in the Strategic Plan).

But they have chosen a new way to focus on kids who struggle. That's fine.

But to see the district subtly casting aspersions on some parents (and you would assume their kids), that feels wrong.

Anonymous said...

"...my middle class, high performing, white kid is not a priority to the district, but a necessary evil.”

That seems paranoid. What’s so wrong with a laser focus on someone else for a change? Just because this one time, someone else has gotten a higher priority than a "middle class, high performing, white kid” doesn’t mean anyone else can’t do well. It means the focus will be elsewhere. It just means a focus on those who have never had it before. Not such a bad idea, but doubtful much will change. It’s a big ship after all, it turns slowly, if at all.


HFN said...

It makes perfect sense to decouple TAF and HCC discussions. HCC and TAF discussions have not been vetted through the Operations Committee, Curriculum and Instruction Committee and Audit and Finance. It would be incredibly irresponsible to move forward with the district's proposal.

The district's Honors for None report shows that the district does not have the capacity to effectively differentiate.

The district's link to the ALTF 10/19 minutes is no longer functional.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Boater, I don't think it's paranoid. If you are in public education system, you want to know your child matters. I don't think it's not wanting a focus on the children who need more resources or attention but that the Superintendent is not using language that alienates/worries parents.

You are right about the district being a tanker AND they are not good at big change. Of course, if there was actual and transparent planning and resources, people might have more faith. Hiring two people to add to an office with a chief for one (ever smaller) group of kids seems odd given the district crying poor.

cloudles said...

I read since statistics on race and free and reduced lunch, and nearly 50% of Asians were on FRL. Just saying, they're not all privileged either. I've read other articles that break down Asians and poverty to specific groups that are less privileged, so it is interesting that they are now treated as one group.

Anonymous said...



More Noise Please

Anonymous said...

Boater The wording "hoarding of resources" to me suggests that middle class kids in this scenario who need more advanced classes in anything (because they came to school with more advanced skills/ needs) need to give them up to achieve equity.

This way outcomes will be more equal on the surface between those with resources and those without. So forget about multiple levels of anything, including academics, music or language or anything else.This is one way to narrow the gap. We know the pressure on this superintendent is immense, due to Seattle's gap being so large.

Some of the latest research on the achievement gap suggest it has grown wider because more affluent parents are giving their kids more. They have shown evidence it is due to poverty concentration within schools, not due to race. In Seattle many of our high poverty schools are also majority minority.

But public school is for everyone and this is very very wrong.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Observer, the gap may be wide not only because of parents who can do more but perhaps the district does better with those students.

Again, I have no issue with the focus the Superintendent has taken; what I take issue with are these talking points about "hoarding" and "suspending privilege." I want them to say exactly what they mean to this district AND what their ask is for those parents.

Anonymous said...

You can find articles, studies and blogs discussing this long simmering tension between native born African Americans and foreign born Africans or children of foreign born African Americans. The biggest debating point is if your ancestors were enslaved or not. For some petiole, this is like the one drop rule. For others if your dad was born from a share cropping family and your mom, an Afro Brazilian immigrant, you are not considered quite a true African American. Part of the reasons is the comparison of educational and social outcomes among these groups, especially the better outcomes of some immigrant communities. Note: these outcomes show many non-native students still lag behind Asian and white students. Another area of debate is from the Afro-Caribbean/ Latin American immigrants whose ancestors were brought over on slave ships, but they are still considered immigrants. The third point is those native born AA who are of mixed race and how should they be treated. All of this is nothing new by the way. This was something that was discussed in my family and church when I was a child in the 80’s.

Really, just like many American groups, such diversity reflect the rich and complex diaspora of African Americans.

I don’t know how singling one particular group will help the rest of SPS students or even these students. I have heard by setting up and elevating one group of AA above other AA groups, especially by calling these students “Kings” and encouraging them to adopt this moniker, “we are Kings” is breeding resentment and some tension, which is entirely predictable and understandable.

I don’t understand why to instill pride and positivity, it must come from a place of comparison. It sets up a stratified structure of 1st, 2nd, 3rd.... class. This is not a way to help children develop emotional intelligence or skill sets to become independent or negotiate complex social situation.

-Affected family

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is what I mean - it's the district's tone and rhetoric. I have no problem at all with giving more help/resources to all students who are underachieving or not reaching their full potential currently (all students not just AA males) but the impression the district is giving is that to do so, it means those students who are currrently doing ok or doing very well academically will need to make sacrifices (make do with fewer resources, fewer opportunities etc), and they better suck it up and not complain about having to do so otherwise they shut down with "racists" or "opportunity hoarders" or "check your privilege". This is the tone and the rhetoric thats coming from the top and it's wrong. The district exists to serve all of our kids - all races, socioeconomic groups, genders, etc, and personally, I think the optics of having an "Office of African American Male Achievement' is pretty iffy.

suck it up

Blly Billion said...

How much is the communication consultants costing us? Or, should I say, how many resources are being taken out of classrooms to pay a communication consulting firm?

I guess it costs a lot of money to sew division.

Anonymous said...

"The district exists to serve all of our kids - all races, socioeconomic groups, genders, etc"

Yes. Public education needs to serve all kids well. Is this also some of what the science controversy was about? A district-wide dumbed down cumputer based curriculum that is not appropriate for many kids? I have a kid hating the way the science class is being taught, bored to death. It's a travesty as I heard the school previously had strong science classes.


Anonymous said...

@Blly Billion

A lot.


More Noise Please

Melissa Westbrook said...

More Noise Please, didn't know it was Strategies 360 but the district has used them a lot.

Anonymous said...

Invisible Asian,

In general, WA school districts have local control unless they violate a student’s civil rights.

In this case, SPS has demonstrably violated the civil rights of asian and multi-racial students by excluding them from equity tiering thus robbing them from an equitable allocation of resources and priority of efforts unless they also qualify under another category such as ELL.

Disaggregated data clearly shows that some Asian and multi-racial sub-groups are low performing on key indicators with a high % of FRL. Yet somehow the urgency of “racial justice” has been suspiciously absent among stakeholders.

And from a macro view, whoever decided that a high standardized test score is proxy for exemption from racism? The strategic planning committee and district folks. Note two Board members were part of that planning committee, Geary and Hampson.

So this group of individuals is effectively institutionalizing racism against asian and multi-racial students with barely a peep from their carefully cultivated community allies.

This is Supreme Court material although someone has to take the initiative to be a “McCleary”. The lawyer representing Asian students vs. Harvard, Edward Blum, comes to mind. Whatever you think of his underlying motives, he has the expertise and largesse to fund a contingency fee effort.

Both Obama and Rahm Emanuel have been warning the far left side of the Democratic party to stop alienating moderates and potential swing voters. The same applies to the intensely ideological leaders of this district, Board members and community members.

Exit Interview

Anonymous said...

The Asians just lost that definition of equity in a lawsuit against Harvard for its admission’s decision. The supremes said that seemingly unAsian admissions decisions were not discriminatory as plaintiffs had allege. No reason to think this is any different.

Entrance Interview

NO 1240 said...

Several years ago, the Washington State Supreme Court declared I 1240 unconstitutional. Washington Charters worked with OSPI and Strategies 360. There was a plan to circumvent the court's decision. OSPI worked with Washington Charters and funneled state dollars through a small school district north of Spokane. Mary Walker was the name of the school district. The superintendent was on the Washington Charter Commission. He quit the commission and worked with OSPI to funnel dollars to charter school through his district. As an aside, Joylyn Berge was the person working with OSPI and Mary Walker School District.

Mary Walker School District hired Strategies 360 for crisis management. Their work involved
content creation including internal letters, external letters, social media posts, web page st
media relations and crisis communications. The plan looks very similar to what is being reported. I'm guessing this is Juneau's mechanism to assist the district dismantle HCC.

The district's private communication management staff may manage agendas, minutes etc. I don't expect to see detailed Agendas, minutes etc. The district may be slow to post minutes, too.

The Advanced Learning Task force will meet tomorrow. I am not at all surprised to see an agenda that lacks details. I recently saw an Executive Committee Agenda that looked similar; an agenda that lacked detail.


Write the board. Ask for minutes to be detailed and posted in a timely fashion. Agendas should provide detailed information, as well.

NO 1240 said...

Failing to include Asians in HCC demographics is racist and shows a bias against a particular group of individuals. Horrible.

Ideology Aside said...

District reports indicate that only 63% of teachers feel they have access to strategies and materials to support all learners in schools. Juneau should not create an environment where higher levels of differentiation would be required to meet all students until (if at all) staff feel supported.

Ideology Aside said...

The 63% figure can be referenced under GOAL 1: High Performing Staff


Anonymous said...

Exit Interview There are also many white students who fall into the FRL category as well. Like Asians, they are also not targeted in any meaningful way for equity. Generational poverty exists everywhere. We should be focusing on all the FRL kids without regards to race, especially those heavily concentrated in majority low income schools, as that is primary cause of the achievement gap.

Another view

Melissa Westbrook said...

No on 1240, well, I just might have go to that Task Force meeting. I'm good at taking notes.

I see what many of you are saying but:

- the going meme is that to be white is to enjoy privilege. That poor white children have less of it doesn't seem to matter.
- the district seems to be very aware of the Oakland model for targeted universalism (an oxymoron if every there was one). And Oakland started with Black boys first but has now expanded to include Black girls. I'd have to go research to see if any of the findings from adding supports to Black boys has trickled down to other groups.
- it felt very deliberate on the part of the Superintendent in her Times' op-ed to lay out the numbers and yet - somehow - leave out Asians.

Anonymous said...

Yes. There’s also probably rich, white males with ultra high IQs who aren’t doing well. There are other racial groups, Eg native Americans, who have been disadvantaged for decades, or even centuries. But the district is well within its right to narrow its focus to AAM. That is, it isn’t illegal. They aren’t instituting quotas or failing to serve anyone.

Entrance Interview

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, it's not illegal; who said it was?

And what a snide comment about rich, white men. Just off point for no reason.

The district has rights? Kinda except that they come thru the elected legislature and the elected Board.

They can elect to do what they want for public education but equally, parents and taxpayers have a right to question what, how and cost for their works.

Anonymous said...

@Entrance Interview There are white & Asian & Native and every race of FRL kids in poverty. A high concentration of poverty, according to research, is the main factor of the achievement gap regardless of race. TIME did an article a few years ago that hunger in America is also often white despite stereotypes. Poverty and hunger do not manifest always as thin, as in the US hunger can present as people even being overweight due to eating primarily cheap high carb foods. All children especially low income children deserve compassion, not your sarcasm.

Another view

Anonymous said...

All poor children are at a disadvantage. There are individual disadvantages that can place one individual far behind another individual, regardless of race. The term "white privilege" which is quickly become weaponized in conversations is often being misused. Some assume if you are white, you have no disadvantages or hardships. That is not the intended meaning and the term is often used by ignorant people to shut down conversations.

Another view

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Some assume if you are white, you have no disadvantages or hardships."

Not necessarily but more that, as a white person, you move through society much more easily than a person of color. Because if that is not the meaning of "white privilege", Another View, what do you believe it to be?

Anonymous said...

MW says:

>>>>No, it [failing to equally prioritize Asian heritage]. is not illegal; who said it was?

Well, Exit Interview said exactly that. Asian discrimination, is worthy of a Supreme Court action. The point of the response.

>>>>This is Supreme Court material although someone has to take the initiative to be a “McCleary”. The lawyer representing Asian students vs. Harvard, Edward Blum, comes to mind. Whatever you think of his underlying motives, he has the expertise and largesse to fund a contingency fee effort.

Exit doesn’t seem to know Harvard prevailed, presumably so would SPS.

The most doomed part of Juneau’s plan is this:

>>>>This work is not about changing students.

In other words, we don’t want to change the students (which includes their low achievement and any contributing factors in achievement). The only thing left to change is the test itself, or measurement of the gap. That is extremely unambitious. Maybe it’s possible to realign the definition of success so that the gap is reduced or eliminated. But what happens when SPS students leave the nest and have to swim in the big pond where standard measures of achievement actually matter, for better or worse? In that case SPS hasn’t benefited anyone.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Entrance, the Harvard case is not what is happening in Advanced Learning. So perhaps any mention of it was more broadly based, than being aligned.

Your last paragraph is very much in line what I see.

Anonymous said...


You’re mistaken. The Asian discrimination case was lost in a U.S. District court, NOT the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s far from over. Next step is an appeal to the First Circuit Court and then the Supreme Court if needed.

Some political pundits believe this was always Blum’s goal, because the Supreme Court is stacked in conservative’s favor.

Affirmative action was just rejected by our state again.

I would bet that our state legislators and OSPI would be shocked to see SPS is illegally using affirmative action and excluding whole classes of students by race (Asian, multi-racial, white) as well as sped students in their tiers of students to prioritize resource allocations and strategic efforts. There’s a money trail and this is public school. This is a stunning breach of the public trust.


Exit Interview

Daytime Lawyer. said...

The Harvard decision is not helpful to the district. The Harvard decision upheld Harvard’s admission policy which used race as a factor when considering admissions. The judge noted the benefits of diversity; a benefit particularly in educational environments.

The district is going to run afoul of equal protection laws because it is making decisions with race as the sole criteria.

Harvard could point to the diversity of its student body. The district will have a problem when they dismantle HCC and the segregation of the neighborhood schools increases. They won’t be able to point to their policy has resulting in greater diversity.

They might argue that they were dismantling the discriminatory program that was the product of a racist culture. But wouldn’t a judge rightly question a decision based on a focus on the racial makeup of students that resulted in increased segregation?

I don’t know enough about the state requirements for highly capable education services. But I believe there is plenty of antidotal evidence that the district’s spectrum and also programs were poorly executed (and in some schools not provided at all). What happens when the return to schools that lack resources to provide differentiated learning and they make funding decisions that put a particular racial group ahead of others?

I know that the district wants to improve the outcomes of a group that has historically performed very poorly. That is the justified this.

But what if they chose a different group? What about girls and emphasized getting more females into math and science. Could the district phase out other programs in favor of this? What about a program for white males?

Viscerally we know this is wrong. I would argue that such emphasis would violate the equal protection clause.

The Supreme Court has allowed race to be a factor. But not the sole factor. Probably not even a dominant factor.

The district now has a strategic plan that, at its heart, is an emphasis on a single group. They are exhibiting a willingness to sacrifice popular and important programs for this single group.

The district will get sued. It should.

Anonymous said...

“She [Juneau] is quoting current students who describe their school as a ‘slave ship.’”

Will Juneau quote other students, too?

My Asian child has heard anti-Asian slurs at school. Is Juneau going to start repeating these to reporter, too? Will she ask Asian students and parent if they experience racism or feel they are being treated inequitably?

Another of my kids has heard slurs against students with disabilities. It’s not uncommon. Will Juneau ask about this, and repeat those slurs in her future presentations?

How about the negative terms often used by kids to refer to kids who are exceptionally smart, but maybe also a little more socially awkward? Will future AL and HC reports repeat those slurs?

The divides that exist—and are being furthered under Juneau—are not something that will be fixed by “targeted universalism,” since TE instead highlights divisions, and also doesn’t make any effort to uncover other discrimination.

Playground Names

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Playground Names, I'm not here to help out the Superintendent but her references to the Garfield name are not what kids are being called. And, the whole thing is about those "furthest from educational justice" so she is concentrating on classroom work, not playground work.

That said, Director Geary (along with director-elect Hampson) have been working on an "anti-racist" policy. That should cover playground issues as well. I don't know. Geary said public input would be sought but I haven't seen it.

drum said...

I wish people would stop citing the Harvard affirmative action case as if it is a fight for racial justice for Asian Americans. It's not. Blum doesn't care about Asian American rights--he is using Asian Americans as cover to destroy affirmative action policies for everyone. These are conservative Asian Americans (mostly though not exclusively middle and upper class Chinese Americans) who believe that preferences for other POCs (Black, Latinx) discriminate against Asian Americans. This is far from the truth.

In any case, this case should not be a model in any way for how we talk about discrimination against APA students. I am troubled by the blanket underlying assumptions about APAs and their erasure in the conversations around HC/AL, but this is not the way to go.

Anonymous said...

" what do you believe it to be?"

As a student who began their college journey at community college late in life, and ended up at UW, my partner did an exercise with 30 others in their cohort. For every advantage or disadvantage people were asked to take steps forward or backward. My partner who is white identifying (though their ancestry is complicated) ended up behind the other 30 other students in the cohort. About half the group were African Americans and other people of color. My partner was targeted for support by the equal opportunity program (EOP) at UW, a program that serves students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds to support diversity at UW. With that support they graduated top of the class with a 4.0 GPA.

Appearing white is one privilege in society that does allow a person to move with more ease, in many circles, in a majority white country. However, I would also argue that other factors in one's background, such as class, education, mental illness, being able-bodied and other factors can complicate that statement. There are a multitude of factors that can provide advantages and disadvatages and people's history and background is often very complex. We white-wash people's history by lumping all people into strict racial groups, based upon modern day categories, and make assumptions about not only them but their ancestors lives.

For example, an educated upper middle class African American person, descending from several generations of college educated ancestors who went to elite colleges, could feel more at ease in a university environment and do better academically than a very poor white person with many other disadvantages in their background. That applies to so many other environments/spaces in society as well. Same goes for children in K-12.

According to an August 2014 article in National Geographic, (not TIME), half of the food insecure people in the US are white, and half live outside of cities. That statistic may surprise people. Being poor and educated are great disadvantages in our society. FRL students of all races must be supported if we are working to close the achievement gap.

Being categorized as white is an advantage, but research is demonstrating that being a person of color is not the cause in an of itself of the achievement gap. Recent studies such as the Stanford University studies point to the the concentration of poverty as the root cause of the achievement gap. Many people of color are concentrated in poverty stricken neighborhoods.

My view is we need to invest much more heavily as a country in our poor neighborhoods, no matter where they are located, rural, small town or city to narrow the gap. Regarding SPS, they should indeed be investing more heavily in schools with a higher concentration of poor students. However, they also should strive to support all FRL students.

Another View

Anonymous said...

@drum, no one is naive enough to think Blum is fighting for racial justice. It’s a pragmatic approach for his clients, because justice is expensive.


Anonymous said...

Jenn Lee
If Melissa's post is asking for the district to define terms they are using such as "Opportunity Hoarding", there are other parents wondering the same thing. The district has lots of families who would not know what this means.

People often see things happening behind the scenes without clear explanations. Schools with higher enrollment have their budget cut without explanation leading to the loss of staff. Where did this money go exactly? The district has not been up front or honest with many things.

SPS the largest school district in WA state, represents 53,000 families. It is very diverse and as such people will view events and statements through various lenses. You can share your opinion and be heard without also spewing vitriol.

The district allocates resources and opportunities, not parents. So the idea that parents are hoarding resources or opportunity also makes no sense to me as well. Sorry if I have offended you that like Melissa, I am not all knowing on this topic. If they mean PTSA funds garnered by parents, which is what I think they may mean, they should state it clearly.

SPS parent

Anonymous said...

"Being white is one privilege. It is irrespective of social or economic class. It's its own kind of privilege, and you hold it when you are white."

Yes. Some people continue to misuse the term "white privilege" because "privileged" (historically) has also had a meaning as wealthy. When you are "privileged", you are assumed elite and wealthy and /or to not have disadvantages. People also sometimes misuse the term to shut down conversations. Sometimes those with white privilege who have hardship and disadvantages who don't understand the term and it can sound inflammatory.

Another View

Anonymous said...

@ Jenn Lee

Wow, if I was playing a drinking game and had to knock one back for every SJW buzzword, your comment would have me under the table now. RFLMAO
Don't you see how YOU come off. It's people like you that will get Trump reelected (I loathe the guy but the more you talk about centering whiteness and suspending privilege, the more you push people to the other extreme).

And what does that even mean. As a white person, what else am I supposed to 'center'. Would it be equally wrong in your eyes for an Asian to center "Asianess". I'm just being who I am and why should I be ashamed to be it (As a white-skinned immigrant to the US, my ancestors haven't been involved in historical injustices here).
Please explain how exactly how one 'suspends their privilege' - seriously, i mean what would you expect people like me to do. I can't change the color of my skin. so in practice, in day to day life what does it involve.
Please explain to me exactly what opportunity hoarding looks like (in this context) instead of saying if i don't know its because i've never lacked opportunity.

I cant help but feel suspending privilege and all that stuff, in reality just means agreeing with and going along with whatever the SJWs want.

suck it up

Anonymous said...

While I certainly agree that it is important to focus on groups that are struggling, it should not be the exclusion of other struggling groups. For instance, at one high school in SPS, teachers were told to focus their student growth goals on Black males. That year, there were some academic improvements in that group, which is great, but there were decreases in achievement in LatinX and Native populations [I don't remember if there were also decreases for girls, including Black girls, but there definitely were for non-Black/Asian students of color at that school]. So, the answer shouldn't be a whole department focused on a single demographic. I'd be interested to see the achievement data for non-Black students of color in a year or two. I bet it decreases.

TOO laser focused

Anonymous said...

Too laser focused I agree with you. This district as a public school district has a duty to serve all kids, and should be focusing on all kids, not just all groups, who are struggling. Sometimes I think too much is about what is politically most popular, and not about the actual kids.


Anonymous said...

In light of the way the Superintendent and some members of the Board are using language to shut-down discussion, I'd recommend listening to/watching John McWhorter's talk about "anti-racism" as a new secular religion. It's fascinating and I think helpful in understanding what's happening. McWhorter is a linguist and professor at Columbia University.


It's fascinating. You have to keep asking, what is the end goal? And is there one?

--your dogma ate my homework

Melissa Westbrook said...

JennLee, (which is a moniker, not a real name), you have made your point...over and over.

Go flame me elsewhere as you say you have.

Unless you have something useful to the discussion, cease and desist.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed the blog owner deleted @Jenn lee's original comment and repost of it. Firstly because there are a few responses to it above that make no sense without seeing the original. Secondly because I would like Jenn Lee to explain a things. It's all very well to come here with a SJW buzzword salad but what is the substance behind all this talk about 'centering whiteness' and 'suspending privilege' and the like.

For example, what does "centering whiteness" even mean. As a white person, what else am I supposed to 'center' - that is my cultural identity. Why do you imply its a bad thing for a white person to center whiteness? Would it be equally wrong in your eyes for an Asian to center "Asianness". I'm just being who I am and why should I be ashamed to be it (As a white-skinned immigrant to the US, my ancestors haven't been involved in historical injustices here).
Please explain how exactly how one 'suspends their privilege' - seriously, I mean what would you expect people like me to do. I can't change the color of my skin. so in practice, in day to day life what does it involve. In the context of education what does that look like?
Please explain to me exactly what opportunity hoarding looks like (in this educational context) instead of saying "if I don't know its because i've never lacked opportunity."

I cant help but feel all these things like suspending privilege and so forth, in reality just means agreeing with and going along with the social justice agenda.

But its all just talk - me checking my privilege isn't going to help those AA males achieve the grade level reading and math targets. That requires actual, boots on the ground action, staff and resources in schools. What is SPS actually going to do to achieve this besides talk.

suck it up

Melissa Westbrook said...

Suck It Up, I deleted the comment because it was not posted to aid to the discussion. It is there to make sure that everyone knows to NOT question anything.

YOU are to go and figure it out by research and reading. I have done my homework and still a few are not satisfied. Oh well.

Additionally, as you point out, what is the DISTRICT's meaning of these words/phrases when senior leadership use phrases like:

"hoarding opportunities"
"parents of privilege"
"suspend your privilege"

You can certainly research those terms and have a general understanding of the meaning but the district may mean something else.

If I were a parent in the district, I would write to the new Board and tell them that you do not understand the meaning and you would like the district to put forth a written glossary of sorts so that all parents have a clear understanding.

And, if there is an anti-racist policy created, that any terms used are defined.

Not that much to ask.

Anonymous said...

Surely you jest, MW.

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’"


Anonymous said...

If the district is using terms such as "suspend your privilege" and "parents of privilege", they are misusing or misinterpreting the term white privilege.

The district in these statements seem to instead making white privilege synonymous with the historical meaning of "privileged" to mean wealthy, powerful and elite.

However white privilege has an entirely separate meaning, as all white people including the myriad of working, middle and poor classes and uneducated also hold an advantage if considered white.

Obviously white parents and students are an incredibly diverse group of individuals, and if they are using the term to assume all white parents are elite and wealthy they are of course wrong and should be called out as such.

This language is highly discriminatory and racist and would not fly if they applied it to Asians or any other racial group also made up of diverse individuals and families.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Alice, I can't tell - is that sarcasm or something directed at me?

KL, I concur; I think some in the district are treading a fine line.

Anonymous said...

I think what Alice is saying, is that it means whatever the SPS wants it to mean. If SPS has to pin down a meaning, then they can't shift it to mean whatever they want at the time.


Anonymous said...

I, too, have wondered how one goes about "suspending their privilege." Is it really something you can "suspend" for a while, then maybe reinstate later? Like calling the gym to suspend your membership?

Are parents supposed to suspend their OWN privilege, or that of their students? Are they only supposed to do it for some of their children (based on each child's individual circumstances and/or the school they attend), or are certain parents supposed to do so across the board?

To the extent that students have received "privileges" by virtue of their upbringing (e.g., early learning opportunities, stable home life, safe neighborhoods, good nutrition, access to books and extensive vocabulary, extracurriculars, quality preschools, highly educated parents, and yes, sometimes whiteness), what are parents and students supposed to do to suspend those privileges? Should we dis-enroll our students from sports teams, cancel music lessons, shut off our internet access at home, stop feeding them well? Should we change their enrollment to a school that doesn't score as well on state tests? Should we start withholding their tutoring or therapy or meds? Should we actively try to impose new barriers to offset their privilege? If they have benefited from privileges for years and are thus advanced (e.g., 12th grade level in 9th grade, compared to other 9th graders at 4th grade level), should we suddenly start denying them access to instruction and learning opportunities that are consistent with their knowledge and abilities? Is our system so broken that an appropriate public education is really considered a privilege?

In the context of public education--or even modern life--WTF does it mean to "suspend privilege"?

Suspend Disbelief

Anonymous said...

Is our system so broken that an appropriate public education is really considered a privilege?

What else could it mean? That many if not most students should not have an appropriate education. I take it to mean the district offering the bare minimum to most students, not to provide multiple levels of anything other than grade level or below. Of course they will call the single grade level class "honors standards for all".

wondering too

Anonymous said...

Bravo, @ suspend disbelief. You have articulated it far better than I.
This is exactly what I mean though. If anyone disagrees with the current agenda, we are told to suspend our privilege - but no one tells us what this means.
It seems pretty clear that it implies doing all the things you mention, and yet, of course it is unreasonable to expect anyone to do any of those things. So in reality - its's just a buzzword to shut down the dialog, to get some of us to sit down and shut up.

suck it up

HCC Parent said...

Melissa, What did you say about Juneau's HCC position while in Montana. Will you please explain. Thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

HCC Parent, I will have a thread on that - with links - as it appears that Juneau knows all too well the incredible difficulties of what she is going to undertake.