Excerpt From an Open Letter to Arne Duncan from Herb Kohl
We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.
It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test." (Summer 2009)
Laurie, in response to R. Weingartner, On Point, 1/26/10
Merit pay is an issue that is closely associated with charter schools and is a reiteration of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Basically, it requires that teachers pay be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. For our students, it could be the new MAP test. With the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and staff were pressured to teach much of the class work to the standardized tests. With so much focus on the test, many other parts of knowledge building, creativity and understanding of subjects and their synthesis with other knowledge had to take a back seat. For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.
No one wins in this situation.
Part of the fallout also is that if a teacher's pay is based on how well their students test, many teachers will want to teach in a school where they know that the students will perform well. Those schools are, for the most part, not the schools that are predominately minority in population.
Some students do not perform well on standardized tests for many different reasons and yet a teacher's pay can be tied to that student's performance. High stakes testing also puts pressure and stress on the students who become burdened with the thought that they need to perform well on one test. The test becomes a focus with little opportunity to explore and have fun learning, creating and synthesizing new thoughts and ideas.
Update: The Governor of Texas has decided to opt out of the Race to the Top funding because of the ineffectiveness of the merit pay program that was in effect for three years inthe state.
Update: March 8, 2010 Principal to be removed from school in Wasington State due to low WASL scores.
What Is a Charter School?
A charter school can expel any student that it doesn't believe fits within its standards or meets its level of expectation in terms of test scores. If the student is dropped off the rolls of the charter school, the money that was allotted for that student may or may not be returned to the district at the beginning of the next year. That is dependent upon the contract that is established by each district.
Also, according to a recent (June 15, 2009) study by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent performed worse. Forty-six percent demonstrated "no significant difference" from public schools. Only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than public schools.
The Broad Foundation
The Broad Foundation claims to be a philanthropic organization, created by billionaire Eli Broad.
The Broad Foundation supports privately run charter schools and actively develops a system of charter schools in urban areas.
Broad claims it engages in "venture philanthropy":
"Our Approach to Investing: Venture Philanthropy. We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don't simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice 'venture philanthropy.' And we expect a return on our investment."
Many of us have discovered the Broad Foundation's presence within SPS and are requesting an explanation for why it is here and what its' objectives are.
Seattle has three "Broad Residents", and two Broad graduates now working within SPS. One of them is our superintendent who is a graduate of the Broad Academy which trains superintendents, and is also on the Broad's Board of Directors.
Another Broad graduate and a onetime Broad resident in SPS, Brad Bernatek, is now Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment within SPS. That department is responsible for student statistics including enrollment, demographics, evaluation and standardized testing.
The Broad Foundation provided Dr. Payzant, also a Broad graduate, to be a part of our superintendent’s yearly review in 2009.
Broad recently gave SPS a $1M "gift." That money is now in the hands of the Alliance for Education and no one knows how the money is being spent.
All in all the Broad Foundation has been quite generous to the Seattle Public School system and as Eli Broad states himself, he expects a return on his investment.
Broad also supports and actively promotes mayoral control of school districts. Eli Broad's preferred model of mayoral control means that the mayor selects the school board members and superintendent who are therefore unelected and are beholden only to the mayor, not the people of the city. It then becomes a school district that is run by one person, the mayor, with heavy influence by the Broad Foundation through developed relationships with that individual.
Update: A Detroit School District employee found accepting money from the Broad Foundation.
"Let the games begin: Detroit Teachers vote to unanimously join the current Detroit Public School District in their suit against Robert Bobb".
Update: The Broad - Rhode Island connection.
Rhode Island has had the dubious distinction of making national news recently for the draconian firing/scapegoating of an entire school of teachers. Is it a coincidence that the new education commissioner for R.I., who is pushing the state to do whatever it takes to qualify for federal "Race to the Top" dollars, is a "Broad Superintendents Academy" graduate, Deborah Gist?
Dollars and Sense
What the Gates Foundation Is Doing: The MAP Test
The Gates Foundation supports, and pays for, high stakes testing which is tied to merit pay.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given Seattle Public Schools a total of $9M this year for additional testing. We have not been able to find out the details of this testing yet. We don't know what the test is, what the test is to determine, who is administering the test and how the results of the tests are to be used.
UPDATE: We have heard that the Gates "gift" is funding the new computerized, standardized "MAP" tests the district is administering this year to all students, from as young as kindergarten to grade 9. MAP stands for "Measures of Academic Progress™" (yes, it is a trademarked product) and will be administered to the kids three times during the school year. The test can take as much as two hours each session, according to the district's official announcement letter.
A number of questions come to mind: Is this the best use of the students' school time? Is it appropriate to make children as young as five who can't read take a standardized test on a computer? Is this the best use of such funds? Or would parents, students and teachers prefer to see money channeled more directly to the classroom, to create smaller class sizes, more enrichment opportunities, or to purchase new textbooks?
A SIDE NOTE: Another interesting connection is that our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, is on the Board of Directors for the company that has created and distributes the MAP test. There is $4.3M in the levy to pay for additional use of this MAP test in Seattle.
Regarding Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010
Most of the new experimental schools have eliminated the teacher union. The Commercial Club hired corporate consulting firm A.T. Kearney to write Ren2010, which called for the closing of 100 public schools and the reopening of privatized charter schools, contract schools (more charters to circumvent state limits) and "performance" schools.
Kearney's web site is unapologetic about its business-oriented notion of leadership, one that John Dewey thought should be avoided at all costs. It states, 'Drawing on our program-management skills and our knowledge of best practices used across industries, we provided a private-sector perspective on how to address many of the complex issues that challenge other large urban education transformations.'
Duncan's advocacy of the Renaissance 2010 plan alone should have immediately disqualified him for the Obama appointment."
Henry Giroux & Kenneth Saltman,
Obama's Betrayal of Public Education?
Alternative Schools in Seattle
At this time, the alternative and nontraditional schools in Seattle are basically under siege. Many schools have been closed, marginalized or split apart, including the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) for highly gifted kids, the Center School, Nova, Summit, the African American Academy, SBOC and AS-1. There is also a plan for an Alternative School Audit by SPS in October, 2009.
We see these alternative programs as viable options to the traditional school approach to education. For this reason many of us believe that with the support of these programs, there is no need for privatized charter schools.
Governor Gregoire and our state representatives are speaking to Arne Duncan about our alternative schools and that they meet the requirement of charter schools and should be considered in providing Race to the Top funds to our state.
Meg Diaz, a parent, did a brilliant presentation to the school board in January regarding the school closures, the demographics of Seattle and why it didn't make sense to close the schools.
Unfortunately, the school board paid no attention to Ms. Diaz or their own reports and instead chose to believe the numbers presented by the superintendent's CFO, Don Kennedy who previously worked with our superintendent in Charleston, and Brad Bernatek our Broad graduate and Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment who also handles the demographic data for SPS.
Two schools were closed that, per their own report, would see an increase in school aged children of anywhere between 31%-100% between 2008 and 2012. See page 11 of the DeJong report titled "Seattle Public Schools: Enrollment Projections Report". Those two schools were TT Minor Elementary School and Meany Middle School.
After the closures, Ms. Diaz decided to investigate the administrative cost within the Stanford Center and came up with surprising results. While the superintendet was rifing teaches and staff and closing schools, staff was growing within the Stanford Center and particularly in our superintendent's office where yet another Broad graduate was hired as one of the superintendent's administrative assistants.
Posted on October 6, 2009: The new assignment plan just came out and the proposal is to re-open five school buildings. Between closing five school buildings, shuffling students to different schools and now proposing the re-opening of five buildings within a year's time speaks volumns about the lack of competency of our superintendent and her chosen staff.
We have now wasted money closing five schools, moving students, equipment and materials around just to re-open five school buildings.
The cost of re-opening five of these buildings is as follows:
Sand Point: $7M
Old Hay: $7.5M
Mc Donald$: $14.9M
Rainier View: $7.4M
Total so far: $47.8
The superintendent, along with the school board, plan to take the next capitol levy money, BEX III, to be voted on in 2010 that was to go to the maintenance and seismic upgrades of our school buildings, which would make them safer, and instead use the money to re-open these previously closed buildings.
The decision to close schools last year and close or relocate programs came down from our superintendent's office quickly and there was little time for debate or understanding of what the ramifications would be. It is my opinion that again, we need to have time to evaluate what cost can wait and how these cost can be phased so that we can not only make our existing buildings safer but also provide adequate space for all of our students.
There is also stimulus money that other school dristricts have been able to acquire to upgrade their school buildings through FEMA grants. These grants, part of a Disaster Mitigation Fund, are being used to make school buildings safer. I had presented this information to the school board and superintendent but no action was taken at the time.
I will provide updates on the effort to once again get SPS to pay attention to this opportunity.
Please send comments or ideas to us or share your opinions below. We want to hear from you. All positive and constructive input is of value.
Priscilla Gutierrez, Huffington Post comment
In the current national discussion about education reform, the loudest voices are not necessarily those of the people who are directly affected by what happens in our schools – the students, parents, teachers and school communities themselves.
We are parents with children in public schools. These are our kids, their teachers, our schools. And we would like to be heard.
What’s more, the message coming from the current league of reformers is largely negative, much talk about what’s wrong with our schools, but little discussion of what public schools and teachers are doing right, and what they could do even better if given full support.
Can our public schools be improved? Absolutely. But that begins with fully funding our schools and believing they can work.
We believe they can, when given the chance.
We also believe that too many of the latest proposed education reforms are too punitive and are not changes for the better.We believe there are valuable aspects of public education worth preserving and supporting, beginning with the very principle itself – free public education for every child in the country. We believe this has always been a noble goal and one that we’re not willing to give up on.
So we have created a Declaration of Support for Public Schools.
We invite others across the nation who share our vision for public education to sign on to our statement, to send a message to the president, education secretary and school district officials throughout the country.
The message is simple:
Let’s fix what’s broken, but don’t break what isn’t.
And do not impose detrimental changes on our schools and children in the name of “reform.”
Sue Peters, Dora Taylor
Seattle Public Schools parents
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Please take a look at the answers to the questions that were given to our school board candidates regarding alternative schools.
This election is of tremendous importance in terms of the future of alternative schools.
From what I have read and heard, Mary Bass understands and supports our alternative school programs.
Patu's idea of alternative schools is based on the typical notion of an alternative school that you see in other parts of the country where students at risk have an opportunity to remain in school. It is apparent that she has no familiarity of our unique alternative programs that are based on the ideals of Summerhill and other school program ideas that were considered experimental in the 1960's and earlier.
Blum continues to talk in this edu-speak littered with terms like "data driven", "extended school day" (I wonder where she thinks that we would get the funds for that idea), "metrics for measuring innovation" (not sure what that means or how you would do it), "best practices" (I am really getting tired of hearing this term), "aggressive student-teacher collaboration" (?), you get the idea.
Chin makes sense when discussing alternative schools. It seems that he also understands what alternative school programs are in Seattle.
Please read what they have to say and then make an informed decision when voting for who represents us on the school board in 2010.
Seattle School Board Candidates’ Perspectives on Alternative Schools in Seattle
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Per the Charleston Post and Courier:
"The study did not reach any conclusions about why charter schools succeeded, but noted that many had extended school days and school years, mandatory Saturday classes, performance-based pay for teachers and a disciplinary policy that punishes small infractions and rewards courtesy."
The reason that the scores are high is because these charter schools can and do kick students out of their school if they do not perform at a certain level in terms of test scores. See "Charter schools pawn off flunking students, says public school principal"
19 Charters Pawn Off Flunking Kids
It is of interest that the schools that are referred to in this article are in the same location as the schools that Ms. Hoxby “studied”.
Also, the individual doing this study is an economist, not an educator. If you want to see a study regarding charter schools that was done by a team of educators also from Stanford, see "PACE issues scathing report of charter schools". This study was paid for by the WalMart Foundation who were proponents of charter schools.
A statistical analysis that does not look at potential causes in my view is not a study.
Also, charter schools hire young and inexperienced teachers who don't mind working the longer hours and receiving minimum pay and benefits. They also don't mind the merit pay system where their income is based on how well their students perform on a test.
See: "David B. Cohen and Alex Kajitani: Test scores poor tool for teacher evaluation" .
This one study does not validate anything about charter schools one way or the other. The term “long term study” is not at all what this paper was. It was simply an exercise in statistical analysis based on test scores that were gathered over a certain period of time
An additional note: Ms. Hoxby is a longtime and vigorous advocate of "free-market solutions" in education, such as charter schools, vouchers and privatization. That is how she is primarily known. That discredits any purported “study" she leads. This report is simply an advocacy paper by an outspoken partisan, not an impartial piece of academic research.
Post Script: "The charter school problem: Results are much less positive than a new study suggests" by Diane Ravitch
Post Script: Reardon, S.F. (2009) Review of “How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement.”
And Another Post Script: Headline-Grabbing Charter School Study Doesn’t Hold Up To Scrutiny
Friday, October 16, 2009
Economic definitions for the word “capital”:
“Capital is something owned which provides ongoing services. In the national accounts, or to firms, capital is made up of durable investment goods, normally summed in units of money.”
“In economics, capital or capital goods or real capital refers to factors of production used to create goods or services that are not themselves significantly consumed (though they may depreciate) in the production process. Capital goods may be acquired with money or financia capital. In finance and accounting, capital generally refers to financial wealth especially that used to start or maintain a business.”
On the cover of this report, teachers, the human beings who teach our children every day, watch them grow and develop, use their own money to pay for materials because the district doesn’t have the money to provide those additional resources, are referred to as “capital”.
This is the business perspective that has been the model for the Broad Foundation and Gates in terms of how they think schools should be run and children taught.
This report was sponsored by the Alliance for Education and has received funds, $9M from Bill Gates and $1M from the Broad Foundation. Some of that money was used to pay for this report as is described on page 2.
This report is a precursor to merit pay, high stakes testing and ultimately charter schools. This has been the method that the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates have used in other school districts around the country to introduce their ideas of “venture philanthropy” in our educational system.
I’ll hit some of the highlights.
"About this study:
This study was undertaken on behalf of the 43,000 school
children who attend the Seattle Public Schools."
Or on behalf of Bill Gates? I didn't know that the students and parents of the Seattle School District or any school board members asked for this study.
"Partner and local funder
This report is funded by a grant from the Alliance for Education.
Additional funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates
Well, we got that straightened out.
“Excessive emphasis on coursework. Most notably Seattle’s pay structure is built on a popular but erroneous premise that the more coursework a teacher takes, the more effective he or she is likely to become. Districts that heavily incentivize teachers to take more courses—and Seattle is in the extreme among the 100 districts we track closely—are making poor choices with their limited resources.”
“A popular but erroneous premise” that furthering the education of teachers through workshops and classes on the subjects that they teach is somehow a waste of time and money? Is there (yet another)study that has been done to substantiate this?
“Little experimentation with differential pay. The district could make much better use of funds available for teacher salaries by targeting three important but unaddressed areas of need for the district…more money to teachers who are highly effective”
This is where it starts sounding like an introduction to high stakes testing and merit pay.
“Seattle needs to collect important data on teachers, such as the number of times it takes a teacher to pass licensing tests and scores on aptitude tests, to ensure that teachers are equitably distributed among schools.”
I can only relate to this as an architect but it takes some if not most architectural graduates a few times of taking the licensing exam to pass it. No one would ask an architect how many times they had to take the test before successfully completing it. A client or employer is only concerned with that fact that you are licensed. And scores on aptitude tests? This is all “important data”? Are they suggesting yet more testing and evaluations? And then the exercise to evenly distribute these teachers based on this data to different schools? Trying to accomplish that would be an exercise in futility and an expensive one at that. They can’t be serious with that idea.
“District-wide layoffs. With the high number of layoffs taking place in schools across the country this year, much attention has gone to the policy of using seniority as the determining factor in layoffs. A layoff policy that works in order of reverse seniority necessitates the highest number of jobs eliminated and can wreak havoc on schools, forced perhaps to give up teachers regardless of performance and often dismantling an effective team or program.”
First of all, the layoffs that occurred in the spring of this year are highly suspect. In the same school board meeting in April where Don Kennedy, the SPS CFO was giving his numbers to back up the rifs, the SPS demographer gave a presentation showing that fall enrollment was over by 1,200 students. The demographer suggested that the number would increase the closer that it got to fall. Michael DeBell asked Don Kennedy if the demographer’s numbers had been translated into his report and he said “no, they had not”. Mr. Kennedy said that he would provide those numbers in a Financial meeting in two weeks. I was in that meeting and there was never any mention about revised numbers for the rif. I went to the following school board meeting and again there was no mention of recalculating the rif numbers based on the new enrollment numbers. My belief is that the riffing of teachers and staff was an unnecessary exercise.
Secondly, this is what leads into evaluating the performance of teachers by using assessment tests. These tests are taken by the students and are used to evaluate the “effectiveness” of the teacher. A teacher’s pay is based on these test scores. This is what is called “high stakes testing” and leads into merit pay.
“Problems with the current evaluation system: Student achievement is not adequately considered nor are any objective measures of student learning considered. Student achievement should be the preponderant criterion of a teacher’s evaluation and include objective measures.”
“Objective measures” being high stakes testing.
“What Washington State needs to do
Washington State’s intervention on pay issues is a substantial obstacle to needed pay reforms. The state’s efforts at equalizing pay across districts are ineffective. The state should not dictate how its districts pay its teachers, particularly since the state structure is based on a flawed logic that deems teachers with the most coursework as the most effective.
The state should eliminate the salary schedule and TRI structure—and should support district efforts at creating new compensation systems that reward effectiveness or that provide bonuses to attract teachers to hard-to-staff subjects and schools.”
In how many different ways can they say “high stakes testing” and “merit pay”?
“IV. DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE TEACHERS AND EXITING INEFFECTIVE TEACHERS
Evaluations. Washington State already has a strong state evaluation policy by requiring annual evaluations of all teachers, but it should go a step further and require that all districts include evidence of student learning as the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations.”
“Evidence of student learning” being more student testing that will determine how much a teacher gets paid. They are consistent with their message.
“Last year the district adopted a five-year strategic plan that, among other priorities, calls for better hiring of teachers and principals, system-wide student assessment, and improved teacher evaluations.”
Thanks for pointing that out to me. I had not realized that the idea of “student assessment and improved teacher evaluations” had already been brought in by our superintendent.
“Seattle faces these challenges with a teacher policy framework that has already gone part of the way toward a fully updated approach to human capital.”
I wish that they would stop referring to teachers as “human capital”.
“Seattle also acknowledges the importance of student achievement in evaluating teachers.”
They do stay on message.
Seattle has been able to make little progress on efforts to reward more effective teachers. In the last round of contract negotiations, concluded in August, the district proposed a pay system that would have rewarded teachers for 1) positive evaluation; 2) student achievement growth; 3) working in a school identified for support or interventions; and 4) taking jobs that the district has a hard time filling. The proposals did not become part of the current contract.”
Go figure. I think that the teachers had an idea of where this was going. Before anyone would agree to getting paid based on “evaluations” or “student achievement growth”, they would want to know exactly what that meant.
I could keep going with this but I think that it becomes clear what this report is all about. It is introducing the idea of additional testing of students and basing a teacher’s pay on that assessment. And in the world of education that is called:
High stakes testing and merit pay,
which goes hand in hand with charter schools.
I too can stay on message.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I walked into the ballroom early hoping to pass out flyers and was almost immediately greeted by a happy blonde (no disrespect to other people who have blonde hair) in a red Alliance jacket who introduced herself and asked me who I was. I gave my name and she said "Oh, I know who you are. I've seen your picture!" I asked where she had seen my picture and she said "Well, you posted on our blog". No further introduction was necessary. That “oh, she is that troublesome troublemaker” expression came over her face but I kept smiling and continued the light banter about being a parent of a high school student, etc. She ended the conversation by saying that she hoped that they could dispel some of the pre-conceptions that people had about.... she kind of left that part hanging, but apparently a lot of us have preconceptions about things and that is our only problem.
It was obvious that no Gates or Broad money was spent on this affair. It was cold cuts and mayonnaise with Diet Pepsi's in a can. Two huge containers of water but no coffee. Where do these people think they are?
While I was waiting for the show to begin and munching on turkey and cheese, people in red shirts with A+ on them were walking around and shaking hands with people. I guess they were the Wal Mart greeters.
Looked around the room. No other familiar faces. Oh well.
Finally, the lights go up, such as they are, the mic finally works and the show is on.
D'Amelio says a few words like there will be a "series of community engagement opportunities" and throws in an "equitable access for every student" thought and then the show is on the road.
Oh, just saw our superintendent at the front table and oh, there is Brad Bernatek to the left of me. I wonder if he knows who I am. Hmmm.
Then George Griffin III gets up and talks about the achievement gap, particularly in the African American community. Is it at all a coincidence that this gentleman is African American? Either way, this will be an on-going theme throughout the presentation.
Then finally, Kate Walsh, a no nonsense kind of gal with a lot to say and so little time comes to the microphone and begins her PowerPoint presentation.
She started by saying that she does not bring local context into this report (OK) but can compare other districts with ours. I'm with her so far.
But first, she wants to reiterate that the NCTQ gets all of their funding from private sources. That we know. (Gates, Exxon and Milken, as in junk bonds, to name a few.)
Then she starts in on how no one is able to tell how well a teacher will do and that it is not based on the amount of education that they receive or the courses that they take. She says that someone with a Masters degree is no more effective a teacher as a teacher without an advanced degree. She said that it has to do with experience and that teachers do not reach a point of being "effective" until their 4th or 5th year of teaching. She went on to say that the worst teachers are first year teachers. They are the worst teachers that a child can have. That's what she said.
And after that she said "So that's your primer."
So OK, let’s see, we are to believe this premise, no questions asked. Well, that's a lot to swallow. So she is saying that you don't have to be that well trained or educated to be a good teacher. In that case, maybe my dog could qualify in her program.
She goes on to say that every, and I do emphasize EVERY, study that has been done so far shows that not only does teacher training not have a positive impact on teaching but that sometimes it even hampers the effectiveness of teaching. Please note: The word "effective" and "effectiveness" comes up in about every other sentence. Kind of how the term "9/11" used to be used in every sentence that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld said.
She made a big deal about teacher absenteeism in Seattle. We saw a few graphs and charts on that and then she went on to "objective data to evaluate" a teachers performance. This part got interesting. She said "not necessarily standardized tests" but could have a district-wide conversation about how, let's say, French teachers know when they are being "effective". Whoa, I think that there is a third rail appearing and it might be standardized testing and student assessments.
Again, "huge achievement gap" was thrown into her presentation kind of out of the blue.
Then it was over. Wait a minute. What about all of that stuff in the report about student assessments and teacher's performance being evaluated by, gee, I don't know, using standardized tests? Not a word. It was over and from what I could see, the people were left wanting.
$14,000 for this? I could see people kind of wondering what this was all about. It didn't seem like much from all of the hoopla that had been generated about this presentation. What they didn't know about was the rest of the report.
After that, the SEA Director got up and did damage control about first year teachers and mentors, about losing $9M in state funds and about errors in the report that had not been corrected.
Our superintendent then got up in her red jacket and said a few words like this would provide "more information for dialogue", something about "data points" and the "horrific gap" in terms of, I guess, black students and white students.
Then there was time for Q and A. Someone got up and challenged girl wonder Kate about continuing education. He mentioned the fact that doctors and other professionals take courses that benefit their practice and how could she say that courses taken by teachers and Masters' degrees had no value? He also mentioned the fact that the study that she was referring to that made her case about the fact that additional education was not needed to be an "effective" teacher was paid for by Bill Gates. Oops. She started to back peddle and said that it was the structure that is in place and not the course work itself that was not effective. What? Well, she said, that teachers choose the cheapest courses that they can find to take because they have to pay for them and...
Her sentences were incomplete and when she said "Do you understand what I am saying?". I had to shake my head and audibly said "No" although she was not asking me the question.
Some of the questions were kind of off track and one mom towards the end got up and thanked the superintendent and NCTQ for having the guts to "do this". What? That was out of the blue. In fact, besides myself, there was one other parent there. The rest of the folks were related to the Alliance, Broad or Seattle U with some other educators there who I didn't recognize. Someone thought that the comment had been staged but I don’t know.
There was another question about continuing education for teachers and its’ value, same answer, and another question about how they would evaluate teachers whose subjects are, for example, art and foreign languages. The answer was the same as per her presentation. That teachers in those subjects could decide on district wide “benchmarks”.
They had us break up into groups to discuss the presentation and I took the opportunity to get more information from one of the questioners on the McKinsey Company, the Center for Reinventing Public Education and other good stuff.
FYI. The League of Education Voters is associated with this Alliance group. They have someone representing them on the Alliance Emeritus Board. They also got a mention during the meeting. My buddy, Brad Bernatek, is on the Alliance's "Educational Investments Task Force". Also, 46% of the Alliance's total grant revenue comes from Gates, the Broad, the Stuart Foundation and Boeing. The Alliance also mentions "Stand for Children" in their literature as a local education advocacy group that they recommend joining.
That's all I got out of that meeting except for the cool stuff that I found out about. I will share that at a later time.
Signing off for now.
Post Script: Fasten your seat belts, the Alliance plans more community outreach in the next three years to spread the good word. See:
One more Post Script:
The Advisory Board for NCTQ
Michael Feinberg, Founder
The Kipp Foundation
A charter school franchise
CEO and Founder
The Match School, Massachusetts
It's actually the Match Charter School
Paul T. Hill, Director
Center for Reinventing Public Education
This organization is all about charter schools and receives Gates' money
Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder
Teach For America
Michelle Rhee, Chancellor
DC Public Schools
Board of Directors, Broad Foundation
Stefanie Sanford, Senior Policy Officer
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Laura Schwedes, Social Studies Teacher
KIPP: STAR Prep, NYC, New York
Deborah McGriff, PartnerNew Schools Venture Fund
Backed by Gates
Board of Directors' Chair
Founding Director and Principal of a charter school in Boston, school name not provided.
Update: October 27, 2009
During the NCTQ presentation, it was made clear that there was a database that they had access to that gave them all of the information that they needed from different regions of the country that they based their comparisons on when reporting on the Seattle public school system.
This struck me as odd. I imagined this huge database that took a room fuill of computers to hold. And then I wondered, as any parent would, how much do they know about my daughter and others? What is the extent of this information? I came across an article today titled "States mismanage student information, study concludes" in the Washington Post that might be of relevance.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The Save Seattle Schools blog (http://www.saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/) is another priceless source for what's really going on in the school district from the perspective of some very active and informed parents. It was started about 5 years ago during the last round of closures by 3 parents -- Beth Bakeman, Charlie Mas and Melissa Westbrook. Here is a long thread about the Broad Foundation that will fill you in on a number of things: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2009/07/broad-foundation.html
The Broad (which rhymes with "toad") Foundation is the enterprise of AIG billionaire Eli Broad who is trying to influence school districts and education policy throughout the country promoting an agenda that emphasizes the privatization of public education via charters. He also has a "Broad Academy" that trains superintendents to run school districts like businesses, and he seeks out school districts that he deems "ripe" for takeover and conversion to private control. A growing number of other parents, educators, writers around the nation share our concern and opposition to the Broad agenda and have written and blogged about it as well. To wit: Diane Ravitch, Susan Ohanian, Herb Kohl, and numerous others. I'll include some links to their sites at the end.
Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of directors of Broad, which a number of us believe is a conflict of interest.
(http://www.broadcenter.org/about/board.html) Her recent annual evaluation was overseen by a fellow member of Broad. We believe that at least one school board retreat was funded by Broad. There are at least two "Broad Residents" on staff at the district's central office.
Complicating matters is that Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is also an "education reformer" (with a controversial record) who is affiliated with the privatizers like Eli Broad. Up til recently, Duncan was on Broad's board of directors. Consequently, Obama/Duncan are dangling "Race to the Top" education money in front of all the states -- with demands that states meet certain conditions, and that includes allowing charter schools and merit pay for teachers. So there is pressure from the federal government as well to privatize our schools. (One reformer critic calls this unconstitutional and she may be right.)
Many of us in Seattle believe our alternative and nontraditional schools & programs (like Nova, APP, etc) should qualify us for these funds. Another troubling aspect is that here in Seattle the "reformers" are not being upfront about what they are doing. A parent I know asked Supt. Goodloe-Johnson point-blank if Broad supported charters and Goodloe-Johnson denied it.
Seattle's Alliance for Education pretends to be just a fundraising ally of the district but in fact influences district policy, even though it is not an elected body. It secretly invited the "National Council on Teacher Quality" to Seattle and paid them $14,000 to write a report that basically (and unfairly) criticizes teachers. The NCTQ is a politically connected, privately funded enterprise aligned with reformers -- whose goal is to break the teacher's union. (Charters, btw, almost always exclusively hire non-union teachers whom they can overwork and underpay. The reformers regularly demonize teachers.)
At a meeting that a group of us had with School Board Director Harium Martin-Morris over the summer, he didn't seem to realize how much Broad had infiltrated Seattle's school district, and what the foundation was up to. Broad practices what it calls "venture philanthropy" and says "we expect a return on our investment." Critics have referred to this as "vulture philanthropy."
Here's a link to Stanford University's CREDO report that shows that charters are not the answer. According to this recent (6/15/09) study (ironically funded by wealthy pro-charter types like the Waltons, Dells and others), charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent perform worse.
Here is a theory that a number of us feel is the only logical explanation for what Goodloe-Johnson has done to our district (from the Save Seattle Schools blog a few months back):
"SPS Mom said...'Seattle has voted down charter schools more than once, so how would MGJ/Broad folks start charter schools?' SPS Mom, here's one theory on how and why Goodloe-Johnson's Broad-trained leadership could lead Seattle to charters."
"The Chaos Theory:
Another troubling factor in all this is the Broad Foundation's stated objective (or M.O.) of "honing in on" troubled school districts that either are in bankruptcy or have been taken over by the city/mayor. Neither of these conditions is currently true in Seattle. In fact, despite a poorly run overstaffed central administrative office (full of Broad Residents, apparently -- which may explain its bloatedness!), Seattle's public schools, by and large, are quite strong, with some nationally recognized schools and programs. Yes, there are weak areas and inequities that should be addressed."
"So how does Broad (which rhymes with "toad") plan to make its case for a privatized takeover of Seattle Public Schools via charters if our district isn't asking for this?It would, in theory, need to create an environment that is "ripe" (to use one of Broad's own terms) for charters to move in."
"How does it do that? Looking at all the mind-boggling, reckless, rushed and illogical decisions and changes made by this School District this past year under the leadership of Broad board member and graduate, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, with no clear benefits in sight, one might question this Superintendent's objectives for our District. Are she and her admin staff (larded with Broadies) genuinely trying to improve Seattle Public Schools, make them strong and desirable for all the kids in the city and lure back the high percentage of private school attendees into the public system? Will school closures that ignore demographic trends and community needs, teacher layoffs, mindlessly standardizing curricula, implementing a failed math curriculum, weakening alternative and highly capable schools, abolishing fresh cooked meals for middle and high schoolers in favor of central kitchen airplane food -- add up to a stronger, more desirable School District? Or do these "reforms" create chaos and mistrust and weaken schools and parents' faith in the system, and potentially open the door to a public cry for the city to take over the School District? If so, Mission Accomplished, from the Broad perspective, and the next step would be to present the idea of privately run charters as a "solution."
"This, of course, is just a theory -- a "Chaos Theory" if you will. But it really has been difficult to see how Goodloe-Johnson's erratic, poorly executed "Plan for Excellence," which has disenfranchised parents, has little to no community buy-in, and has elements that seem shrouded in secrecy, is putting our kids and their schools on a positive, stronger path.
This is not a new story. There are always those who come from the corporate world who believe that the corporate way to run a business is applicable everywhere. Well, there's ample evidence that that's just not true. Our country just finished 8 years under the "leadership" of the first U.S. president with an MBA, and look where that landed us -- in two quagmires overseas and an economy in a tailspin such as we've not seen since the Great Depression. We now have ample evidence of the for-profit, oversight-free "business models" of the Ken Lays and Bernie Madoffs, Phil Gramms, Kerry Killingers, et al, of the world, and it has left our nation in ruins."
"The Broad/Gates-types are the same kind of people who wanted to privatize Social Security. Thank God that didn't happen, for look where everyone's retirement savings would be now. Above all -- and this is the heart of the matter for me and for many others on this blog, I would venture to guess -- our children are not commodities. Their schools are not "enterprises." Their principals are not "CEOs."Their learning is not a "profit" opportunity. (These are all terms quoted from Broad literature.) Successful schools are collaborative, creative communities in which parents have a say and teachers are respected, principals are members of the team, and children are the primary focus."
Also, have you seen SPS parent Meg Diaz's new analysis of the bloated administration at the district's central office? It's about 39 percent larger than any similar districts in the state. And then they have the gall to close, split and merge our schools because of a "budget crisis."
See "Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools” http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=0AVRHgOkrxGL8ZGhta2I4cXJfMGZqbjZqampz&hl=en).
"The 2008 state auditor’s report highlighted administrative overstaffing as early as 2003-04. SPS has 39% more executives, managers and supervisors per student than the average.” – State Auditor’s Report, 2008. The report estimated that if unchecked, Central Administration overstaffing would cost SPS $10.5M over five years."
Meg also did an amazing Power Point analysis of the Capacity Management Plan (on which we based the online petition) which showed that demographics indicated that schools should not be closed and money would not be saved. As we now know, the district is now saying that it need to reopen 5 schools at an estimated cost of $47.8 million -- because of demographics & demand. See: Analysis of Final Capacity Management Proposal” (a href="http://andrehelmstetter.com/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis.htm).%3C/">
Here are some informative blogs on education:
Seattle Education 2010
Dolce & Nutella
The Perimeter Primate
The Broad Report
Our Global Education
Save Seattle Schools
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
In time, some of these charter schools will begin to take over the entire building.
In New York City there is an unfortunate situation that will probably be repeated in other cities where a charter school begins to also take over critical portions of a building such as a library.
I am writing this as a post rather than only listing the articles in the right hand column because of the schocking nature of this particular takeover.
The links to this library takeover are:
New Video: The Renovation and Heartbreaking Dismantling of the John Ericsson Middle School 126 Library to make way for a Charter School Teacher Lounge
Charter school in New York kicks public schools kids out of their school library... Educators Need to Know More about Libraries: The Case of JHS 126