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
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Do you see what they've been able to do with Arne Duncan at the helm? The Broad and Arne Duncan developed a close relationship when Arne was in Chicago. There are very close ties involved.They have gotten all but two states to fall in line with this education reform agenda without having to pay most states a penny. It's the best business acumen I have seen in a long time and just about everyone has fallen for it.
Wave that carrot in front of enough political noses, say that they may receive the money but either way they have to play the game and see what happens. No one questions the motives, the agenda or even if it's the best thing for our children.
Don't get all caught up in the minutia of these plans. Zoom out and see the larger picture. Understand that the state of Washington is now on the way to the Federal Government controlling what our teachers teach, how they teach it and the scope of information that our children are to learn thanks to education reformites like Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Waltons with a lot of corporate entities trailing behind to pick up all of the cash that will go the way of testing, student and teacher assessments and charter schools.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Teacher seniority helps ensure quality education for students, writes guest columnist Patricia Bailey. The Seattle School Board should not try to undo seniority in upcoming negotiations, as some community petitions are urging.
By Patricia Bailey
With community petitions calling for the Seattle School Board to undo teacher seniority in the upcoming negotiations, it's time to put an end to the myth about ineffective public-school teachers being protected from termination. Those of us who teach in the K-12 public schools use seniority, like all union and governmental jobs, to determine the order of layoffs, but seniority is not the same as tenure.
We do not have the lifetime job security afforded a tenured judge or professor. Unlike them, we can be dismissed for doing an ineffective job. In fact, the recent district audit by McKinsey & Co. noted the district's underutilization of the job-termination mechanisms already in place in the teacher contract. In Seattle, student performance has long been a part of teacher evaluations and can factor into an unsatisfactory evaluation.
If principals are doing their state-mandated duty to evaluate teacher performance, how could there be unsatisfactory teachers in the classroom? During a Seattle teacher's first two years of employment, he or she can be dismissed without probable cause. This is the time for principals to evaluate and counsel out those new, but unsuited, to the profession.
After two years, teachers are afforded due process before termination, but this does not prevent a principal from evaluating someone as "unsatisfactory" and pursuing dismissal. After giving the teacher a chance to improve, employment can be terminated. It is as simple as that.
Using seniority to determine the order of layoffs is the only fair way to decide between who should lose his or her job when two workers are both evaluated "satisfactory." Seniority eliminates any possibility of layoffs being capricious, arbitrary or discriminatory, or from using layoffs for retaliation or domination purposes. It also encourages the retention of experienced teachers.
High-quality teaching comes with experience. Studies show it takes about five years for teachers to reach optimum knowledge and skills and become truly proficient in the classroom. There is no denying the exuberance of a new teacher can be a delightful addition to a school, but this should not be confused with high-quality teaching, which occurs in classrooms featuring perhaps less fanfare and more-refined techniques.
If a district wants high-quality staffs, then it should protect those teachers with five or more years. It should also recognize that teachers of four years have more professional growth under their belt and are closer to reaching their optimal teaching years than a first-year teacher. Consequently, the "last hired is the first fired" ensures the best professional services for our students.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to keep seniority is as a voice for student health and academic achievement. Generally speaking, it is senior teachers who speak out on controversial decisions including school closures, textbook adoptions, increases in class size and other student-impacting issues. If teachers feel their jobs are threatened, I fear these voices would be silenced.
Contrary to urban lore, the teacher's union cannot prevent terminations if the district administration has done its job properly. In Seattle, student performance is already part of teacher evaluations, so when organizations call for the elimination of seniority or the use of high-stakes state test scores in determining layoffs, they are misguided.
Although it might financially benefit a district's budget to keep inexperienced teachers over their seasoned counterparts, it is sheer folly to suggest it could lead to better student outcomes. As the saying goes, "a new broom may be stiff, but an old one knows the corners."
Seniority comes with a cost, but for the student, it is priceless.
Patricia (Pat) Bailey, a veteran Seattle teacher, is a former executive board director of the Seattle Education Association.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I walked into the gymnasium of the Garfield Community Center where it seemed like hundreds of people were either milling around or sitting in large circles waiting for something to happen. I had no idea what was going on or where to go. I checked out the formal entrance into the gymnasium and there were people at tables selling baked goods and providing information about other groups or events that had nothing to do with this forum.
OK, let’s try this again.
When I returned into the gymnasium someone walking by told me just to sit in one of the circles. First, I had to check this out. If I was going to sit with a group of people in a circle for a couple of hours and talk, I wanted it to be a good one.
I looked around and chose the most diverse group that I could find. Why? First, because that is what the Central District is and, I figured, it would make for an interesting conversation.
There were African Americans, Ethiopians, Hispanics and Caucasians (for lack of a better word) in the group that I chose.
I settled in, signed in and was ready to go. More time passed and I still couldn’t figure out what was going on and then finally folks got up to the mic and started to talk, and talk, and then talk some more. OK, it wasn’t that bad but the mayor could have cut his spiel in half and still gotten his point across.
The mayor said the “We need to do better”, he gave us some data about the reduced lunch program, that there were huge gaps, more data on missed days of school and then after more than enough time, he gave the mic over to the next speaker.
Then more phrases like “We have to hold ourselves accountable”, “I believe change is possible” and “…Go to the people and learn from them”. OK, I’m ready now.
Tim Burgess was introduced and then we got to the specifics of the evening’s plan.
It was explained that each group, which had around 11-14 people in them, would elect a delegate who would attend the Youth and Families’ Congress in June.
At that point the meeting was turned over to our facilitator and a person who would be taking notes on large sheets of paper. There was also someone recording the information in a notebook. We introduced ourselves, first name only, and got started.
The facilitator said that we would be discussing three things. “What should Seattle look like in five years”, “What is standing in our way” and “Solutions” or basically, how do we get to that vision.
There were many answers for each one of these categories and I will include as many as I can.
“What should Seattle look like in five years?” Job training so that parents can support their families; smaller class sizes (that was mine); a second chance program for people exiting prison; early learning education for all (I asked about the Head Start program but parents said that it was full, that there were not enough classes and teachers) and guaranteed higher education. There were other comments and I strained to hear everyone but the gymnasium space is the worst place to try and hear someone speak especially when there are so many people in a space speaking at once and I was not able to catch everything. It was very frustrating.
“What is standing in our way?” Lack of funding; uneven distribution of support and services; not enough funding for Head Start and not enough student enrichment programs. There was prioritizing at this point in terms of what was most important to everyone in the group. We had five red stickee circles that we could use to “vote” on our priorities by placing them next to an item on the list. The top three were: Not enough funding for Head Start, lack of funding for education and large class sizes.
And the “Solutions”: Smaller class sizes; having liaisons and/or advocates for newly arrived immigrants and their children who are in school; use of school buildings in the evenings for community activities; student based learning; more interpreters to help guide our new immigrants through the process of the public school system and more support for families when, for instance, their electricity is turned off or they need food. Wow.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself!
If we are serious about closing the acheivement gap in this country it has to start with the family, making sure that they are fed, warm and safe and then the community. Is there sufficient support in terms of child care and preparation for children to be ready for kindegarten? Are the streets safe? Is there a place for the child to play to grow strong? Then, and only then, can the child go to school and have the opportunity to focus on their school work and succeed.
All of the tests in the world, wholesale teacher firings and closing of schools will not close the acheivment gap. Supporting families and neighborhoods will.
The information that was collected from this meeting will go back to the Mayor’s office and his team and the conversation will continue at the Youth and Families’ Congress on June 5th.
It will be interesting to see what ultimately comes out of this effort.
Signing off for now.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
For more than a hundred years, educators in America have been paid essentially the same way, based on their number of years on the job, not the quality of their work in the classroom. Broad Academy and Residency participants and alumni are leading the way, however, in a seismic shakeup of the old foundations of teacher compensation.
In cities like Washington, D.C., Houston and Denver, Broad Center leaders and alumni are rattling the bureaucratic and political cages that have kept teacher pay trapped in the last century, leading closely watched efforts to tie compensation to performance in the classroom.
Performance Pay in Houston Independent School DistrictIn Houston, Broad Superintendents Academy graduate Abelardo Saavedra, head of America's seventh largest school district for the past four years, worked with his reform-minded board to enact a teacher performance pay system that gives large cash bonuses to teachers who help students make the most academic progress. Over the past two years, Houston Independent School District teachers and staff earned nearly $40 million in performance bonuses, and school district officials believe the new pay system is one factor in strong academic gains in classrooms around the city.
"Performance pay is one of the most important reforms in education in our lifetime," said Dr. Saavedra, a 2002 graduate of The Broad Superintendents Academy. "For more than a hundred years in this country we basically paid teachers the same amount of money, depending on how much seniority they had, not based on actual classroom performance. Now, everything has changed. Teachers can earn huge bonuses based on how much children grow academically from one year to the next."
Houston is leading the nation in performance pay for teachers, just as it has led the nation in so many important education reforms.
"It's taken a lot of hard work, plenty of mistakes, and several do-overs, but we have a system now that rewards with big money those teachers who are getting the most academic growth out of children. That's real reform"- Abelardo Saavedra, Houston ISD Superintendent and Broad Academy Alumnus
"It's taken a lot of hard work, plenty of mistakes, and several do-overs, but we have a system now that rewards with big money those teachers who are getting the most academic growth out of children. That's real reform," Saavedra said.
New Compensation Plan for Teachers in KIPP Houston's Charter SchoolsHouston's teacher performance pay revolution isn't just the province of Saavedra and his veteran reform board. At the nationally renowned KIPP charter schools, officials are preparing to roll out next fall a new teacher compensation system based on performance. Bradley Welter, a current Broad Resident, was handed the challenge of his young career five months ago when he arrived at KIPP Houston. He was assigned to work on the new teacher performance pay program.
"This is an amazing opportunity for me," said Welter, who is in The Broad Residency class of 2008-2010 after having been an engineer for a prominent petroleum engineering and construction contractor. "A few months ago, I was designing refineries, and now I'm helping to design a new way to compensate teachers."
Performance Management Initiative in Denver Public SchoolsIn Denver, school district officials have been a mile high in the teacher compensation reform business for five years with their ProComp system, which rewards teachers financially for their professional accomplishments while also linking pay to student achievement. The Denver program was designed jointly by teachers and administrators and approved by Denver voters.
Two Broad Residents are in top leadership positions at the Denver Public Schools. Shayne Spalten, who is in The Broad Residency class of 2008-2010, is chief human resources officer in Denver, and Connie Casson, class of 2005-07, is deputy strategic officer.
"It has had an incredibly powerful impact on the culture of Denver Public Schools," Casson said of performance pay. She is heavily involved in the school district's new performance management effort, which will include a new performance pay plan for operations staff. "External incentives are part of the culture. It's one of the things that really attracts people to work in Denver Public Schools."
Casson, like all Broad Residents, came to education with experience in other sectors. She has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. "It's a good time to be in Denver," Casson said. "There's really great leadership here who value the business perspective. This is a great place for someone with a non-traditional background to shine."
Innovative Teacher Contract Proposed in Washington, DC
There's nothing traditional in the way Michelle Rhee is shining as chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, a Broad Center board member, has commanded international attention for her bold effort to shake up the status quo in Washington with a performance pay system for teachers. Her compensation and other reform efforts recently landed her on the cover of Time magazine and, she admits, in the crosshairs of some who don't want public schools to change.
Rhee has proposed a teacher contract that would give big pay raises to teachers who agree to be judged based on how well their students perform in the classroom. She has run into substantial opposition from the teachers union, which didn't surprise her.
"Absolutely," she said when asked if she expected the opposition from the union. The chancellor said she has been in negotiations on her proposals for 15 months, and that she's put in her last, best offer. She offers other leaders advice when taking on an issue as controversial as teacher performance pay.
"We can't continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening to kids every day in the name of harmony amongst adults... To make the hard changes, you're going to have some unhappy people."- Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools and Board Member, The Broad Center
"You can't get caught up in the compromise of all of this... We can't continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening to kids every day in the name of harmony amongst adults. That is essentially what it boils down to. To make the hard changes, you're going to have some unhappy people."
Rhee said she couldn't have undertaken any of her reforms without the leadership of Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty behind her, and she advised current and future Broad Academy Fellows and Residents to work closely with political leadership."You cannot underestimate how important really high quality political leadership in the city" is for educational reform, Rhee said.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I was not prepared for what was to unfold.
First of all, I got there early to meet with some people and there was a work session going on in the board meeting room. The supe was sitting in her usual spot and everyone else was seated at a table in front of the podium. It seemed odd that she was just sitting there and at one point she was mentioned in the meeting and then suddenly one of the board members realized that she was in the room. As this meeting was happening, people started to arrive and gather in the atrium outside of the board room. There were signs being distributed and greetings all around. Most of these people were teachers and counselors with some parents sprinkled in including myself.
Eventually we all got to our seats as the meeting began and De Bell announced that the supe would not be in the meeting (she had disappeared!), that she had to attend an event that her daughter was in. There were hisses and boos and even I was really surprised by that move. I also thought that she was just ducking out to avoid the confrontations that would follow. It was obvious that this was going to be similar to the session regarding the school closures. Sixteen out of the twenty people who were to speak were going to talk about the Performance Management plan, that draconian measure where if students don’t perform, staff gets fired, principals let go and schools closed, right out of Arne’s RTTT playbook. At that moment, when people realized that the supe wasn’t going to be there, any and all respect for that woman was completely lost and Michael DeBell had to take the brunt of it by trying to make excuses for her.
It was quite a moment.
But it gets better.
To briefly recap, Meg got up and was p----- off. She had all of her numbers down and was rattling off one fact and number after another. She figured that $3.1M had been set aside to implement this Performance Management Policy and that some of that money, $1M of it, would be taken away from certain programs that directly affect children. What made her doubly p----- was the lack of transparency about this money getting moved around.
She received huge applause all around.
A few more speakers with great points got up and spoke and then a Nova student came to the podium and ceded her time to Olga. Olga got to the mic and I was truly impressed with her grasp of the facts and her perspective in terms of the big picture. She said that the rif’s were all about the supe’s opportunity to point out seniority as a hindrance (something that Heidi and Ramona jumped all over in their communiqués and CVS presentation when talking about the teacher’s union), even after HR had told DGJ that there was no need to rif teachers. At this point she was on a roll. There were whoops and applause in the audience several times then…her time was up. At this point DeBell interrupted her and said that she could not continue speaking. What!?!. DeBell said that the rules said that each person could only speak once in every session.(I had seen someone do this same move in another board meeting without any admonishment from DeBell. I remember thinking that it was a pretty cool move that I could use sometime. I guess not.) At this point people were getting upset. There was a boisterous breakout of boo’s and various other comments and then everyone started to chant “Let her speak! Let her speak!” Olga pushed back but finally she left the podium. I was again shocked. That was two times in less than an hour and I don’t shock that easily. He was not allowing the leader of the teacher’s union to speak with all of those teachers standing there. I couldn’t have imagined a more intriguing scenario. The supe and DeBell have now officially p----- off the union. And I mean, really p----- them off. At least half of the teachers walked out with Olga and they went outside where they spoke and held up signs in the windows.
Then Dan Dempsey got up and said his piece and then ceded the remainder of his time to someone else who served papers to the supe and the board about the new math program. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Why stay home and watch TV when you can be shocked, thrilled and entertained at your local school board meeting for free?!
After that, one person after another got up and spoke quite eloquently and with passion about how this Performance Management Policy would affect various schools, programs and specific children. There is no need to go into detail about this, I really couldn’t anyway. I would highly recommend that you watch the broadcast online to catch all of the comments that were made.
Definitely check out Jennifer Matter’s testimony about her time teaching in Oakland and how the same thing was instituted there, something that I had read on the SPS site but didn’t have time to look into, and that was used by our supe as an example of how SPS had decided on their policy.
Remember Oakland, the Broad superintendent and how he was kicked out?
Suffice it to say that I see this as a turning point. People are starting to get it and they are getting pissed off. I use that term because these people are beyond angry, they are pissed off and want to do something about it.
By the way, at the end of Part One of the meeting, DeBell announced that the comment portion of the meeting had ended and in the same breath announced that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, our supe, had just returned for the next part of the meeting. It really did seem staged. Coincidence or not?
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Letter to WA State Senators and Governor Gregoire opposing SB 6696 & the "Race to the Top" Frenzy, from a Concerned Parent
Dear Governor Gregoire and State Senators,
I am a Seattle Public Schools parent and voter.
I am also an advocate for public education that is free of political and corporate agendas. I support a collaborative, cooperative learning environment for all our children. I don't believe in scapegoating teachers or principals for the greater socioeconomic issues of our nation that affect how well children do in school.
I believe there is an opportunity this session to do damage to our kids and schools, spurred on by the budget crisis. So I urge you to vote NO on SB 6696.
I believe that the Obama administration's mandates for "education reform" are heavy- handed, at times downright draconian, and show a complete disregard for local autonomy and disrespect for the profession of teaching. The recent spate of mass firings of teachers and sacrificing of principals in Marysville and Rhode Island and now Tacoma is unconscionable and alarming. Surely you agree.
Do you really want to be a party to that? Unfortunately, that is where this current form of "education reform" is leading. I urge you to stand up and say "No! Washington does not need this kind of destructive 'reform.'"
This brand of "education reform" also puts a heavy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, which I believe is of limited use. Here in Seattle, for example, the district is making children as young as 5 take a computerized test (MAP) three times a year -- kids who may not yet know how to read, hold a mouse, and should not be subject to such stress so soon.
Studies by esteemed universities, Stanford and Vanderbilt, show that two key components of Education Secretary Duncan's "Race to the Top" frenzy are seriously flawed and do not amount to positive change. The CREDO report out of Stanford showed that charters perform no better -- in fact, most perform worse -- than regular public schools.
A recent report by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt Unviersity, showed that "merit pay" does not work. It does NOT improve student achievement. Even the Gates Foundation's latest survey of 40,000 teachers supports this fact.
Please also see: "The Pillars of Education Reform Are Toppling."
Also, do you realize how little money a RTT grant amounts to per child? As little as $85 a child. Why should our state be strong-armed into changing its laws and adopting questionable "reforms" just for a one-time cash infusion that really amounts to a mere pittance?
For these reasons, I oppose legislation that is geared toward helping our state achieve dubious and damaging "Race to the Top" goals.
Therefore, I urge you to OPPOSE this effort to win a "Race to the Top" grant: Senate Bill 6696.
This bill will NOT improve our schools and NOT lead to better outcomes for kids.
We already have innovative schools and programs in Washington state -- high scoring Nova Alternative High School and numerous other alternative schools, the popular Aviation High, as well as the top performing Accelerated Progress Program in Seattle.
Let us retain our local autonomy and replicate what we know works for us, and not capitulate to demands from the federal government that we embrace two extremely flawed "solutions" -- privately run charters and "merit pay" tied to high-stakes standardized testing.
Washington can do better.
For more information, please visit: Seattle Education 2010: http://www.seattle-ed.
Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Issued by the Alliance for ChildhoodMarch 2, 2010www.allianceforchildhood.org
WE HAVE GRAVE CONCERNS about the core standards for young children now being written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The draft standards made public in January conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.
We have no doubt that promoting language and mathematics is crucial to closing the achievement gap. As written, however, the proposed standards raise the following concerns:
Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math. Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences. New research shows that didactic instruction of discrete reading and math skills has already pushed play-based learning out of many kindergartens. But the current proposal goes well beyond most existing state standards in requiring, for example, that every kindergartner be able to write “all upper- and lowercase letters” and “read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.”
They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing. Current state standards for young children have led to the heavy use of standardized tests in kindergarten and the lower grades, despite their unreliability for assessing children under age eight. The proposed core standards will intensify inappropriate testing in place of broader observational assessments that better serve young children’s needs.
Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning. Young children’s learning must go beyond literacy and math. They need to learn about families and communities, to take on challenges, and to develop social, emotional, problem-solving, self-regulation, and perspective-taking skills. Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their later engagement in school and the workplace, not to mention responsible citizenship. And it interferes with the growth of healthy bodies and essential sensory and motor skills—all best developed through playful and active hands-on learning.
There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success. While an introduction to books in early childhood is vital, research on the links between the intensive teaching of discrete reading skills in kindergarten and later success is inconclusive at best. Many of the countries with top-performing high-school students do not begin formal schooling until age six or seven. We must test these ideas more thoroughly before establishing nationwide policies and practices.
We therefore call on the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to suspend their current drafting of standards for children in kindergarten through grade three.We further call for the creation of a consortium of early childhood researchers, developmental psychologists, pediatricians, cognitive scientists, master teachers, and school leaders to develop comprehensive guidelines for effective early care and teaching that recognize the right of every child to a healthy start in life and a developmentally appropriate education.
Ask the Executive Committee of NCTE and IRA why they haven't expressed similar concern.
Ask your union.
Ask the PTA why they are, at Bill Gates, behest, out stumping for these harmful standards.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
It went as follows:
Regarding Bill 6696.
The Race to the Top agenda is to:
1) Force states, by way of a financial carrot, to convert a certain percentage of their schools into charter schools. This is to be done by closing schools and then opening them again as charter schools (this process also eliminates the lowest performing students and send them elsewhere) or establishing charter schools within an existing school building which the public school has to share. Because these schools are a charter franchise, the business is about making money, a new school is not built or a building leased. They simply take over an existing school building.
2) Destroy the teacher's union by getting the public involved in a campaign that gets behind the idea that most teachers are ineffective and that teachers hide behind the protection of the union to be lazy and "ineffective". The reason to bust the teachers' unions is because charter schools, to keep their cost down, higher young, inexperienced teachers, right out of school, who are willing to work longer hours, including Saturdays, for less pay with no union protection. Charter schools do not hire union teachers.
3) Emphasize a need for student testing, assessments. This is how charter schools can continue to exist. They have to show to the state that the school is performing to a certain standard. The pressure is then placed onto the teacher to ensure that the students perform. This can and sometimes does become an exercise in simply teaching to the test. This student testing rating system is also used to determine by the state which schools are the "lowest performers" and therefore can be "turned around" which means changed into a charter school.
4) Institute merit pay based on a student's performance. The student's performance is based on assessment testing, eg: the MAP test for Seattle. Merit pay again, causes the teacher to focus on the test and little else. This is the carrot that dangles in front of the teachers in charter schools. The higher the test scores, the "higher" the salary (which isn't much to begin with).
It is a market based system where teachers are referred to as "human capitol" and our children become commodities.
This system evolved in Chicago where Arne Duncan went from a professional basketball player in Australia to the CEO of the Chicago school system appointed by Mayor Daley. Mr. Duncan has no background in teaching or any other aspect of education. There was a close relationship that developed between Arne Duncan and Eli Broad, yes Eli Broad as in the Broad Foundation. Mr. Duncan started to close schools and set up charter schools and military schools. In the process, he fired about 2,000 teachers, most of them African American, and displaced children out of 75 public schools. The Broad Foundation boasted in their annual report last year that Chicago and Oakland received the greatest amount of financial support. Fortunately, Oakland ousted their Broad trained superintendent and the Broad has since pulled their support.
During Arne Duncan's tenure as CEO of the CPS system, he became basketball buddies with the now President Obama. Mr. Duncan, who is now Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, has full reign of the public school systems throughout the United States and he is using the carrot of cash, which is to only go into the programs that I listed above, to ensure that the Duncan/Broad model of education happens throughout our country. Because we do not have charter schools in our state, we will not receive funding. That's the bottom line So when you hear people say that we need to make changes to our educational system in Seattle and the rest of the state to receive RTTT funds, that is somewhat true but not really. It's a possibility that we would receive funding but the chances are basically slim to none. That is what the state legislature is weighing right now. They know that we will probably not receive RTT funding and in that case, the cost of these changes would have to go into the state budget and we all know about that issue.
So, how is that affecting us here in Seattle?
The Alliance, with their NCTQ report in hand (the one that refers to teachers as "human capitol"), The League of Education Voters and the PTSA have pushed for the Race to the Top demands listed above with the exception of charter schools. They have been lobbying relentlessly for at least the last year to get a bill through that addresses the RTTT demands. That has developed into Bill 6696.
They have also been using the Community Values Statement as proof that all of us want what they are demanding.
I have been following this bill as it has gone through the state house and senate and at this point it is less than these organizations would want but there is language in the bill that suggest the notion that a teacher's performance in some way be based on student assessments. For us that would be MAP testing. How this is interpreted by the state superintendent, our Broad trained superintendent and the school board will play a large part in how this will be carried out.
It is my recommendation that before you sound the alarm to your representatives, that you take a look at the bill or an abbreviation of it, and understand what this is all about within the context of this "Education Reform" movement.
Below is a portion of the bill, which was added to the original bill, that describes student performance in relationship to a teacher's evaluation. There are also links to the bill and a summary of the bill.
23 (c) The four-level rating system used to evaluate the certificated
24 classroom teacher must describe performance along a continuum that
25 indicates the extent to which the criteria have been met or exceeded.
26 When student growth data, if available and relevant to the teacher and
27 subject matter, is referenced in the evaluation process it must be
28 based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-
29 based, district-based, and state-based tools. As used in this
30 subsection, "student growth" means the change in student achievement
31 between two points in time.
Links to the bill:
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Because of the time limitation, I will speak to one item on the Performance Management Policy 2.0. The wording in the policy goes as follows:
“Schools that have three years of low growth and sustain low absolute performance will be subject to one or more of the following actions taken by the Superintendent:” (The one that I will be referring to is…)
“Close and/or reconstitute the school”
First of all we know that there are no quick fixes or “bumper-sticker solutions” as one blogger stated, for what has been created over the years by social inequity and schools impoverished by lack of funding from the Federal and State governments.
Closing a school can devastate a community and there is no data at present that proves that these drastic measures even work.
But first let’s see where these ideas originated.
Up until 1991, Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, played pro basketball in Australia. In 1992, Duncan became director of the Ariel Education Initiative in Chicago, he moved up to Deputy Chief of Staff for the former Chicago Public Schools CEO. Then in 2001, Mayor Daley appointed Duncan to serve as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. During his tenure there he also became basketball buddies with the now President Obama. Secretary Duncan has no experience teaching a class or managing a school.
Under Duncan’s control of the Chicago school district, the Chicago Public School system endured a relentless wave of school closings, privatization, militarization, union busting and blaming teachers for the problems of urban schools.
Between 2001 and 2008 Chicago's public schools, under Arne Duncan’s leadership, closed 75 schools and eliminated the jobs of approximately 2,000 teachers and principals, the majority of them being African American.
The only people who seem to benefit from this were the charter school franchises, testing companies and the developers who needed to restructure a large portion of the Southside of Chicago referred to as the Mid-South which was an historic African American community. This community ran parallel to the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation which required the dismantling of public housing and which Arne Duncan referred to as his Renaissance 2010 plan which was actually the Mid-South plan.
Mr. Duncan has stated on several occasions that his Renaissance 2010 plan was a success but in reality it was just a little fizzle. During his time as CEO, Chicago public schools’ 4th-grade math NAEP scores rose from 214 to 222 (out of 500 points), or 8 points. In Washington, they went from 205 to 220, a rise of 15 points. The average large city math score went from 224 to 231, a 7-point gain.
Also during that time, Chicago’s 8th-grade math NAEP scores rose by 10 points, Washington DC’s 8th-grade scores rose by 8 points, and the average for large US cities rose by 9 points.
That was a lot of pain for very little gain.
We have already seen what happened in this scheme called “school transformation” or “turnaround”. It didn’t work then and there is no reason to consider it here in Seattle.
“When all else fails” as a education reformer stated, “You have to take drastic measures”
The problem is that we have not tried “all else”.
"All else" is funding schools adequately by the State and Federal Government, smaller class sizes, retaining teachers not riffing them particularly when enrollment is increasing and taking a more thoughtful and respectful approach by including our communities, our students, parents and educators in the process of transforming our schools.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Which prompted this first comment:
David Ziffer on 2010-03-02 23:41:38
Comment: If anyone wants a most astounding testimony to the fact that our public school system has collapsed and should be completely dismantled, one needs only to look at the story of this man. Check out his little biography on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaime_Escalante
Which in turn prompted this comment from me:
smp on 2010-03-03 01:08:37
Response:"Completely dismantled," you say? Why? So that private interests can move in and take over, resegregrate kids with privately run but publicly funded charters? Studies show that charters, by the way, do not perform better than public schools, and many perform worse.
(See Stanford University's CREDO study from 2009.) Studies also show that charters are resegregating America's school kids.
No, Escalante's story is as much about all the societal injustices and hurdles that each child brings to the classroom each day and which teachers must work with, through or beyond.
It's the story of the triumph of a teacher despite the fact that our nation undervalues education and teachers, underfunds public education as a whole, and has as its economic engine a system that leaves the vast majority of Americans in the dust while a few at the top -- including key ed "reformers" like billionaires Eli Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates -- holding most of the wealth and believing they have the right to decide how to run public schools despite never having attended one themselves.
You want to know what's wrong with public education? Poverty. Social inequality. Broken homes, bankrupt families, and schools impoverished by years of local, state and federal neglect.
Those who want to "dismantle" public education are often the same ones who want to "dismantle" (read: privatize) Social Security. Chances are they oppose the public option in health care reform as well. They oppose anything that resembles a public trust. They believe the answer to everything is free-market competition-driven capitalism.
Well, look where that's got us. Ten percent unemployment nationally and the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The American Way of Business has run our country into the ground. Why should we hand over our public schools to these types as well? Their credibility is shot.
Free public education is a sound and noble idea -- a fundamental component of a healthy democracy. As well as available and affordable to every child in the land, public education should also be free of corporate influences and political agendas.
There are great schools, great teachers and there is great learning going on in our public education system. Could it be better? Yes. There are also those that are failing. But why throw out the whole system because of the failings of some? That is essentially what such comments and the ed. reformers are proposing with their "Race to the Top" extortion.
We don't need to dismantle our public school system -- we need to fortify it.
We need to identify what works well in our public education system and replicate it.We need to fully fund our public schools -- something that is rarely if ever done.
We need to acknowledge and address the societal factors that greatly determine how well a child does in school.
We need to support teachers like Escalante, instead of engaging in the current ed reformer tag-team sport of demonizing teachers.
We need to ask who these people are who want to "dismantle" public education and what their true agenda is. You'll find that many of these paths lead back to the same people, from Bush era No Child Left Behinders to Obama's continuation of conservative, corporate animosity toward public education -- and desire to profit from it via privately run charters and computerized, standardized testing.
I hope you will take note of this important documentary that is waking up parents and educators nation-wide at this time. It played Mar. 1 at Bainbridge Island HS, and is showing this evening in Mercer Island. I was unable to make either of these initial screenings, but am working to try to get another screening in Seattle in the near future, which I intend to invite you all to attend. I heard the Bainbridge screening was a nearly packed house.
As we talk of rigor and fret over our children's futures, I hope we will remember that our children's futures are their own, and not for we adults to dictate to them. This film highlights how the AP craze is robbing college bound teens of their opportunities to grow, mature, and discover at their own pace, in favor of capturing as many AP notations on their transcripts to make them competitive to college admissions offices. As you will see, many colleges are beginning to reconsider and/or dispense with AP altogether, as they are seeing the programs do more harm than good. (I need not mention the 2.3 million exams at $83 apiece the AP testing companies conduct each year, need I?)
With college costs continuing to out-pace income growth over the next ten years, making it less available to most students from the middle of the middle-class on down, many of these same children will be encouraged to bury themselves in student loans if they want a college degree, only to discover when they graduate that most white collar jobs they see today will be outsourced to other nations.
This obsession with the almighty dollar that has defined our working lives for the last 20 to 30 years has trickled down to where it grinds our children into the ground, as this film reveals.
I hope, as board members, that you will enlighten yourselves to the fact that a school is indeed not a business, and should not be run like one. It is an extension of the family and the community, and the best opportunity we have to do the least we can for our children, who will inherit the most corrupt, dysfunctional, polluted, indebted country of any generation since the 1930s. And we, the grownups, bear the responsibility for it.
I'm tired of hearing about "jobs of the 21st century" and "competitiveness" from you all. Are you trying to equip our children to survive in a Terminator-like, ultra-competitive world of the future, or are you trying to make good citizens and critical thinkers? I hope you will see this film and deeply consider what you can do as board members to make sure that our children not only have opportunities to get good educations, but to have enjoyable lives that children ought to be entitled to as a matter of right. Education is not job training, yet that seems to be the Board majority's view. I hope this film will restore some balance to your discussions in the future.
Thank you for your time and consideration.