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
Monday, May 10, 2010
What I found even more interesting than those questions are the comments that were made about President DeBell's description of the educational system in Korea by Koreans who now live in Seattle.
What I will do is first post President DeBell's thoughts as seen in the Seattle Times editorial. Then, following that will be the comments from Koreans who now live in Seattle.
Korea's lessons for Seattle Public Schools and beyond
Korea's educational success offers some lessons to U.S. schools, writes Seattle School Board President Michael DeBell. There are some differences but Korea is reflecting back what No Child Left Behind should look like.
By Michael DeBell
IN 60 years, the Republic of Korea has gone from a poor agrarian country devastated by war to an economic and educational powerhouse. South Korean students place at the very top of international comparisons in math and science and their 96 percent high-school graduation rate is the best in the world.
Meanwhile, the United States is in the bottom third of international comparisons for industrialized countries and our 70 percent graduation rate has been stagnant for years.
How does Korea do it? The recently completed International Study Mission of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce provided an opportunity to tour elementary schools, poke around high schools and universities and speak with Korean educators, students and parents. The conclusion: Universal educational success is possible but is neither cheap nor easy, requires sustained commitment and more time and effort from students and educators.
Our visit focused on Seattle's sister city Daejeon, located in a pleasant river valley and surrounded by forested hills. It prides itself on being a research and innovation hub. American-educated Kim Shin Ho runs the school system and, like all superintendents in Korea, is elected in municipal voting. The elementary school we visited looked remarkably similar to Seattle's International Schools, flags and cultures of the world prominently displayed.
Instruction in a second language, primarily English, begins in third grade and continues through high school. Courses on morality and character begin in second grade. Class size is 25 students, all of whom treat their teachers with great respect. Standardized tests do not figure prominently, emphasis is on grades in coursework. A teacher's paramount responsibility is to move all students successfully to the next grade level in all subjects. Teachers are well paid and enjoy high social status. They can voluntarily join a professional association but have no union we would recognize. I was told that 20 university students pursue a teaching career for every one eventually hired.
Korean families seem universally to value education and the Korean state has built its economic development on a technologically sophisticated, highly educated work force. Korea began with Confucian traditions and the stark reality that human capital is it's only important national resource. Add the constant threat from North Korea and intense national pride and you get incredible focus, broad consensus and an inclusive vision of national progress.
The real secret to Korean success, however, is probably the simplest factor of all. Their students study more hours than the competition. Not only is their school year 200-plus days (compared with Washington state's 180), most students also attend private tutoring classes in the afternoon and evening.
The hogwans or private after-school programs are a source of debate in Korea as they claim an increasing share of Korean childhood. Along with pride in their educational success, Koreans are beginning to worry about too much stress on their children.
Our delegation was deeply interested in education, especially in what we could apply upon our return to Seattle. We are culturally and ethnically diverse, Korea is quite homogeneous. We have the many fault lines of a mature democracy while Korea has youthful nationalism.
Still, I believe these insights apply: Teachers are at the center of the system, respected, rewarded, consistently high quality and professional. It takes a longer school year and more hours to successfully educate all children, as true in the Harlem Children's Zone as the Republic of Korea. Every family and neighborhood can reinforce the importance of the schoolhouse. High expectations and lofty targets must be backed with sustained tax dollars and political will.
Korea is reflecting back to us what "No Child Left Behind" actually looks like. We should pay attention.
OK, that sounds good. Now, let's hear from two Koreans who know the system better than any outside would.
From Seoul to Seattle
(My previous comment was cut off, so here's the rest of it.) “The hogwans or private after-school programs are a source of debate in Korea as they claim an increasing share of Korean childhood.
Along with pride in their educational success, Koreans are beginning to worry about too much stress on their children.” This part is true, except that Koreans have expressed their concern over hogwans not so much because of the stress placed on their children, but the extra costs resulting from these private cram schools. The result is that Korea has produced young citizens who are “human wikipedias” who are excellent at following instructions, but have very little intuitive skill. Until now, this system has worked for Korea as it rose from the ashes of the Korean War into an economic powerhouse. The reason is that its government and business structure has followed a top-down decision-making process. However, it’s hardly an appropriate model for the United States. Indeed, as Korea’s fledgling democracy and economy continues to mature, its education system will likely require restructuring as well. Finally, perhaps you’ve noticed that children of Asian immigrants generally have had greater academic success than their peers in the American school system. I would suggest that this demonstrates that, rather than systematic flaws, the problem lies in cultural perceptions toward the importance of education—particularly at the nuclear family level.
Pocheon, South Korea
I signed up for an account simply to make a comment with regards to this article written by the President of the Seattle Public School Board. The citizens of Seattle should be mortified that the president of their school board can be so easily hoodwinked into believing that we have anything at all to learn from the Korean education system.
I have not been living in Korea for as long as Seoul_to_Seattle has, but I have been here long enough to ascertain that each and every point he made in his rebuttal is spot on in accuracy.
There is no education system in Korea...there is simply one 18-year long test preparation system. The university entrance exam literally determines the rest of a Korean's life. There entire educational value system is based on standardized tests. Where Mr. DeBell got the idea that they grade coursework is beyond me. There is virtually no coursework in Korea, zero, none.
Your grade is your test score...end of story.
I teach at a university and literally 100% of my students had NEVER written a single essay, report, or term paper before coming to my class, neither in English nor in Korean. I am so angry after reading this article I can hardly see straight and don't even know where to begin. I can fully see how Seoul_to_Seattle ran out of space in his/her first post as I could literally write a dissertation on reasons why Mr. DeBell's arguments are completely unfounded, erroneous, and as another poster pointed out, creating a Utopian view of a foreign country's education system after a short visit and undoubtedly a "guided" tour.
When I taught at a high school in Korea I had 50 students in my class. They were for the most part extraordinarily lazy and disrespectful. The notion that Korean students have this undying devotion and respect for their teachers is a completely outdated concept. The idea that corporal punishment is gone is also false.
For one thing, Koreans are adept at 'hiding' away problems in society...according to Korean officials Koreans no longer eat dogs, false, there are at least a dozen dog restaurants within 5 miles of my apartment..according to Korean officials there are no gays in Korea, no drug abuse, no rape, no child molesters, and so on.
I was just talking to one of my Freshman classes the other day and a student told me that he had his fingers broken by a teacher in high school. They had a vocabulary test where they had to memorize 1000 words in English. For every word they got wrong they were hit with a stick (similar to a drum stick) across their palms. He had missed 138 out of the 1000 words and was therefore hit 138 times. Upon learning that the teacher had broken several of his fingers, his parents' response was "I hope that you learned your lesson and study harder next time." This situation is so much closer to the norm than an out lier.
I have also worked in one of these "wonderful" hagwons, where children were routinely beaten, not spanked, beaten with sticks after coming to class without their homework, or similarly by not scoring well enough on their quiz. While our education system certainly has room for improvement, we have nothing, nada, nil, heck, I'll even say it in Korean, we have "kong" to learn from the Korean education system, and I'm sorry, but anyone who believes otherwise is entirely ignorant on the subject.
Mr. DeBell also forgot to mention that on average high school runs from 6 or 7 am to 11 pm in Korea....does that mean we need to start sending our kids to school for literally 14 to 15 hours per day? Koreans have high test scores because they study to take tests...everything in Korea has a right or wrong answer.
They literally take multiple choice tests for subjects such as art, music, and physical education. Well over half of the Korean populace cannot swim...why? Because they learn to swim from a book. I'm serious. They learn to swim from a book and then take a test that shows drawings of which strokes are which and what you do next in order to swim...mark A, B, C, or D. So hey!
Koreans are scoring higher than Americans in their swimming tests! What are we doing wrong? What are they doing right? Take 10 Americans and 10 Koreans and throw them into the lake and you'll have 10 wet Americans and 5 drowned Koreans....use this same analogy for society and you'll find the same results. Koreans don't learn how to problem solve, how to analyze, how to synthesize, or how to think for themselves...they learn how to take tests and that's that, and that's precisely why they are good at it. Some more figures that are missing here is the fact that despite Korea's economic growth, Korea is one of the most inefficient countries in the world in terms of GDP per hour worked. Economic growth is spurred by 15 hour work days, and not by innovation and efficient work practices. I will stand 100% by
Pocheon, South Korea
(My post was cut off)
Some more figures that are missing here is the fact that despite Korea's economic growth, Korea is one of the most inefficient countries in the world in terms of GDP per hour worked. Economic growth is spurred by 15 hour work days, and not by innovation and efficient work practices.
I will stand 100% by my assertion that the American populace is FAR FAR better education than the Korean populace. The difference is so great that it's laughable that anyone would believe otherwise, regardless of what the test statistics show. What these statistics also don't show is that these tests do not require that students synthesize mathematical or scientific knowledge, simply that they are able to circle the correct bubble that correlates to the right answer.
Pocheon, South Korea
EDIT #2...sorry, I'm just so dumbfounded by this article that I can't type fast enough American populace is FAR FAR better educated than the Korean populace.
Pocheon, South Korea
Sorry...one more edit.
Although this one is more fact based and not grammatical. I shouldn't have said that Korea is one of the most inefficient countries in the world in terms of GDP per hour worked...they are one of the most inefficient industrialized nations. Currently they are ranked around 30th. Guess who is number one? The most efficient workforce in the world, producing more for every hour of input than any other country in the world? Hmm...any guesses? Well, it's the USA, and by a decent margin. Even small oil rich countries like Norway have a lower GDP per hour worked....our country is built on innovation, not memorization, and let's keep it that way. I don't believe that our standard of living in decreasing...what is happening is that our "idea" of what our standard of living should be is being artificially inflated in our minds.
In the 1950s and 1960s how many childless couples bought 4 bedroom, 3 car garage homes that they couldn't afford? How many blue collar families bought $35,000 cars (adjust for inflation) that they couldn't afford? We have been living beyond our means for the past 20 years and are now having to check our spending and lower our debt. Our standard of living is not declining as much as we are simply being forced to live the standard of living that we can truly afford, and not an inflated one based on borrowing.
I couldn't have said that any better myself.