Excerpt From an Open Letter to Arne Duncan from Herb Kohl

"...I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.

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)

Nova High School Relocated

Nova High School Relocated

Merit Pay

"I would like to know who in our country would like their pay to be based on the actions of a group of children."

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?

The basic difference between a traditional public school and a privately run charter school is that with a charter school there is complete control of the school by a private enterprise within a public school district. Although taxpayer-funded, charters operate without the same degree of public and district oversight of a standard public school. Most charter schools do not hire union teachers which means that they can demand the teacher work longer hours including weekends at the school site and pay less than union wages. Charter schools take the school district's allotment of money provided for each student within the public schools system and use it to develop their programs. In many systems, they receive that allotment without having to pay for other costs such as transportation for students to and from the school. Some states, such as Minnesota, actually allocate more than what is granted to public school students.

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.

"In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Thomas Jefferson

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?
"This is the point, and why mayoral control and Eli Broad, Gates, The Fisher family and the Walton family (and a host of other such charitable capitalists) along with Green Dot schools and other EMO's who seek to privatize all of education are so giddy. Creating a sub-prime school system that breaks the backs of the teacher's union is the goal of the new managerial elite who seek only to turn over public schools to private operators and entrepreneurs. This way they can reduce teachers to at-will employees, de-skill them with the "best practices," force them to work longer hours for less pay and less benefits and of course eliminate collective bargaining; that will then give the new managerial elite and their corporate masters, control over the entire educational enterprise - from curriculum development to the hiring and firing of teachers."

Dan Weil

Dollars and Sense

December, 2009

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.

The Cooper Building: Program DIscontinued, 2009

The Cooper Building: Program DIscontinued, 2009

Regarding Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010

" The purpose of Renaissance 2010 [in Chicago] was to increase the number of high quality schools that would be subject to new standards of accountability - a code word for legitimating more charter schools and high stakes testing in the guise of hard-nosed empiricism. Chicago's 2010 plan targets 15 percent of the city district's alleged underachieving schools in order to dismantle them and open 100 new experimental schools in areas slated for gentrification.

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?


The African American Academy: Closed 2009

The African American Academy: Closed 2009

Alternative Schools in Seattle

Alternative schools in Seattle have a rich and varied history. Established in the 1960's by parents and educators and based on the principles of Summerhill, the programs that have developed over the last four decades in Seattle offer an opportunity for all students to succeed within the Seattle public school system.

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.

Summit K-12: Closed 2009

Summit K-12: Closed 2009
An alternative school

Please Note

All of the schools and programs that will be shown on this page were closed or split in 2009 for an alleged total savings of $3M for the year. A drop in the bucket considering the $34M budget shortfall claimed by School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson. Was it worth it? Let us know what you think. Enrollment for the fall of 2009 is 1,200 students more than the district anticipated. With schools closed based on capacity and financial management issues per our superintendent's statements, where will these students be seated?

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.
See: http://sites.google.com/site/seattleschoolsgroup/meg-diaz-analysis

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
Viewlands: $11M
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.


"I think it high time Congress enact similar mandates for other professions that utilize a single measure to determine success. Dentists should be evaluated on how many teeth they save, doctors should be evaluated on how many patients they save, lawyers should be evaluated on how many cases they win, accountants should be evaluated on much money they save clients, and engineers on how many buildings they've designed get built. Congress should also enact national, comprehensive standards for each profession without any input from members of said professions since we know they can't be trusted to make informed decisions or contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way. Anyone who won't come on board should be fired and labeled a dissident. Conformity and control are a must, so teachers should be thankful they are first in the firing line."

Priscilla Gutierrez, Huffington Post comment

Lowell Elementary

Lowell Elementary
The Lowell APP program was split with half of the students sent to Thurgood Marshall.

Our Declaration

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
May 2010

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Happened in Oakland is Happening Now in Seattle

Hi Sue and Dora,

I just discovered your blog this morning when my hit counter showed that someone was directed to my blog via yours.

Local control was just returned to my public school district (Oakland) in late June, after being subjected to six years of Broad-trained leadership, courtesy of our state superintendent. The experience left a sour taste in everyone's mouth and permanent damage was definitely done during their stay. The top level (state administrator) is gone now and I think our new superintendent is clean, but a few Broad Residents who worked in the district during that time still lurk around the corners.

The thing that is freaking me out this week is the revelation about a $4 million donation given to Learn NY that covered propaganda costs for preserving mayoral control in NYC. Limits need to be put on this man (Bill Gates); his near-infinite wealth gives him a frightening amount of power. NO single human, no matter how rich or smart they are, or well-intentioned they think they might be, should have that much power.Gates is only one person, with one set of ideas, but he is so vastly wealthy that he can purchase whatever type of local and national educational policy he prefers. This country is still supposed to be a democracy, right? And what if the way to go that Gates imagines is right, is completely wrong? Putting it in perspective, consider that for Gates (with a net worth last listed by Forbes at $40 billion) a $4 million donation is the equivalent of a $5 donation given by a person who is making $50,000. In the world that dictates public policy, Gates has become omnipotent. We’re in dangerous territory when single individuals are unrestrained with buying public policy because they have unimaginable wealth.

Take care,


PS: Even lesser billionaires have an amount of power that we, as average people, can’t imagine... If Eli Broad ($5.2 billion) paid $4 million to buy propaganda that pushed a public policy he preferred, it would be the equivalent of an average person (net worth of $50,000) donating $38.46 to a cause they preferred.Where is the transparency? Where are the restrictions? Even political campaigns have those rules.

I asked Sharon about the Broad Foundation in Oakland and this was her response.

This is how the Broad Foundation took over our schools.

In 2003 a budget deficit required us to take a state loan, the conditions of which required the management of OUSD to be placed under state control. Our State Superintendent assigned state administrators to the district. We had three of them consecutively in six years, and all were Broad Superintendent Academy graduates. Once they took charge, they brought in a number of Broad Residents and appointed them to important positions, too. Just a couple of years before this happened, Eli Broad, along with his pro-charter friends, had been very generous to the State Superintendent's campaign. In return, he gave them OUSD to be their plaything. See "Eli's Experiment" by Robert Gammon.

The first thing these people did was to block public input. The elected school board had no power, the voice from the community was not solicited or listened to. OUSD was basically under the Broad Superintendents' authoritarian rule, and they consulted with people at the Broad Foundation regularly.

As the Center for Education Reform report says, this group wanted a "politics free zone." That means a situation with no public participation. This is exactly why this cabal likes mayoral control so much; it's much easier for them to be able to influence one person who is already ambitious, power-hungry and somewhat removed from the people, than it would be to convince 7, 8, 9, or 10 more-intimately-connected-with-the-average-person school board people to climb on their train.

You can read the report “National Model or Temporary Opportunity: The Oakland Education Reform Story.” It can be found at http://www.edreform.com/_upload/CER_Oakland_Education_Reform_9_07.pdf. I've written about it here: http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2009/02/national-model-or-temporary-opportunity.html

The Broad leadership independently decided about, and rapidly implemented, school closures and other major permanent changes to our district. Their program of attack was called "Expect Success." Schools became portfolios and were assigned different colors (green to red) depending on their test scores. This clearly outlined and justified school elimination. Charter schools were permitted to spring up rapidly during this time. In a district that already had a problem with declining enrollment (people moving to the suburbs to buy houses with cheap mortgage deals), this exacerbated things.

In the meantime, veteran site administrators were driven out because they weren't willing to embrace what was being done. Hiring preference for principalships was given to people who were involved with New Leaders for New Schools, an organization originally launched by Broad which offered lots of extra perks to entice people to apply (like no tuition, guaranteed placement, salary while learning, etc). For instance, people who were involved with the principal training program at UC Berkeley couldn't equally compete for positions. Other than to produce an unraveling of what had been before, this strategy was, I'm sure, to make sure the desired mentality was planted broadly across the district. The central office structure was completely revised. You would talk to someone in a downtown office and the next month they would be gone, and a month after that, the new person would be gone. It was that type of ongoing disruption. Institutional memory was wiped out. Hardly anyone knew anything; it was all being created from scratch. Even though the district has struggled for a long time, and could always have definitely been run much better, what happened during those six years heightened the turmoil. The top leaders kept themselves away from having to listen to the community and it's views or needs. In the end, it's pretty much concluded that the focus of this group was to upset the scene and to implement a district of their own dreams. As education reporter Katy Murphy wrote: “Although financial problems triggered the Oakland school district's takeover, the state administration appeared to be more focused on redesigning schools and overhauling central office services than on stabilizing the district's finances.”

Here's her article with more details:


(Don Shalvey just took a position w/the Gates Foundation)


The siege that public education is under is extremely progressed at this point, and it’s been (and still is) very, very, very well-funded. Most people are unaware of what’s happening. The spirit of the teachers has been suppressed with the constantly repeated propaganda which nationally broadcasts their enormous “failings” over and over again. This is an intentional strategy to make them question their own worth and to break down the solidarity of the profession. Have you read The Shock Doctrine? I'm about half way through and highly recommend it. It talks about the movement of the corporatists, and how it was designed by Milton Friedman (the "intellectual architect") in Chicago several decades ago.

Also, you may be interested in this piece about Gates' domineering influence over world health programs. There are near exact parallels to the affect he is having on public education: http://www.ghwatch.org/ghw2/ghw2pdf/d1.3.pdf


Friday, December 11, 2009

Seattle Public Schools: Budget Deficit Part Two

Notes from the Field

I sat in on the Audit and Finance Committee meeting today.

I was looking forward to hearing our CFO’s ideas on how the budget deficit could be rectified as he had suggested would happen in the school board meeting the night before. I was expecting some creative ideas that could be implemented, fat that could be cut, just about anything to get us back on our feet and boy was I amazed. Not impressed, just amazed.

Let me start at the beginning.

The people in attendance in the meeting were Maier, Sundquist, Carr, DeBell, Kennedy, our CFO, and a host of other folks from the district side who for the most part didn’t say a word but were there because….they needed to be there I suppose. Our tax dollars at work. There were eight of them at one point. The one person who was not in attendance was our superintendent and “CEO” as many liken her to be.

First the monthly reports were presented for September and October. I guess we’ll see November’s report sometime in the spring. There were a lot of numbers.

Something got picked up by DeBell about the 111 coaches that were part of the central administration costs. He asked how many were paid for by grants and maybe we could do something there to “help the debt”.

OK. A decent call. The district would get back to him on that by the end of the meeting. I didn’t stay until the end so I don’t know if that happened or not.

Another really hard question from DeBell, was the hiring freeze still in effect? Don Kennedy said that they would get into that later motioning to another person who later made a “presentation” to the board members. To make a long story short, that question never got answered. A simple yes or no would have been sufficient. Did Mr. Kennedy really not know? Hmmm.

Then DeBell asked about a $3M reconciliation that he had requested and had not received. Well, Mr. Kennedy would have to get back to him on that too.

I’m starting to wonder what this guy does all day. He certainly doesn’t prepare for his meetings, his big moments in front of the board. Or maybe they aren’t such big moments for him. Maybe he thinks that the board members will forget and move on just like with those rif numbers that DeBell asked for in two different meetings that were to substantiate the superintendent’s decision to fire teachers and staff. Another, hmmm.

Well, finally to the big anticipated moment that we had all been waiting for since the board meeting the night before, Mr. Kennedy’s ideas on how to rectify the deficit.

What we were handed was a copy of the PowerPoint that we had seen the night before. Everything was in really big letters, using an entire page for just a few words and not double sided. Boy, they sure do know how to save a buck downtown.

There was no new information, no breakdowns, just those numbers again in a really big font.

It was interesting that no one asked the obvious question. Why, when we are in a deficit, did the superintendent think that it was worth increasing the deficit by $9,284,000 (A number that you could see on the other side of the room on that piece of paper) in such a financially difficult time? Couldn’t the SAP have waited a bit? But that elephant in the room was never questioned about its’ presence.

The number for “Academic Assurances” was questioned by DeBell. How much would be on-going? Kennedy said that he would provide a breakdown…at another time.

I was thinking that one of the board members would have requested a breakdown for the SAP cost of $3,596,000 but no one did. Was I on another planet or was I the only one wondering where $3.5M goes to pay for the SAP for one year? I’m sorry, but in my profession, if a contractor comes to me with an invoice for $3M, I want a detailed explanation. Pronto.
So on page six in the largest font possible were five lines;

“Projected GAP” (shown just like that) $35,026,000

“New Student Assignment Plan” $9,284,000

“Budget Enhancements” (don’t you like that phrase?) 4,826,080

“TOTAL SHORTFALL” $49,136,080

By the way, on the bottom of every page were the words “Every student achieving, everyone accountable”. Hmmm

And now to the “Proposed Solutions” in huge letters on the next page.

“Delayering/Central Reductions” $6M (I kid you not)

And what is “delayering”? Well, first of all, it’s a pretty cool word don’t you think?

It is something that the Department of Finance learned about in a seminar, that hopefully was in town and not really in Texas, and it describes how many layers there are between the superintendent and the students. Well, fortunately in Texas there are only seven layers, which apparently is a good thing, and it also is in Seattle. Of course they will need to work further into that analysis but hey, doesn’t look like we need to cut any costs down here (meaning downtown).

The layers would be superintendent, CAO, directors, principals, assistant principals, teachers, students. I was wondering about all of the other people that surround each of these levels, like assistants for the superintendent and the staff for the CAO, but I guess that doesn’t matter. It’s a layering thing.

There was nothing about four day work weeks, a week off without pay each year or just plain layoffs, something that the rest of us have had to live through, just “delayering”. Fortunately DeBell and Carr did mention “furloughs”, which was a very nice way of putting it. Someone said that they would look into that. Who’s wants to put money on that actually happening?

Another term used by the presenter was “span of control”, yet another pretty cool term you can use at your next family gathering. It means that some managers might have two people who report to them and another manager might have 17 people who report to them. The number of mangers could be consolidated. OK. This is not rocket science. Just start culling through staff like the rest of us have had to and start the layoff’s.

Then came “WSS Cuts (Core staffing, Class Size, Weighting)” $6M

This meant free and reduced lunches, wouldn’t that be better than losing some of that bureaucracy(?) and discretionary funds. This would be up to each principal to figure out where they could, and would have to, cut their budgets. Don’t worry, we are all going to get to feel this pain. That is, everyone but out superintendent.

“Freeze on Purchases and Contracts” $3M

“Shifts to Grant Funding” $1M

“Translation Efficiencies” $1M

(That means having interpreters at all SPS meeting with the public. The proposal was to have them as requested.)

For some reason at this point someone from the district brought up the fact that they would look at summer school. No additional explanation was given.

“Reduced Extra-time/Overtime” $2M

“Non-essential Hiring Freeze” $2M

“Increased Revenue” $1M

Pay for play came up here, meal costs, rental of buildings and rental of instruments.

“Other Cost Savings” $4M

Mr. Kennedy would provide more detail about this (blah, blah, blah).

“Total Solutions=” $26M

Yeah right.

DeBell did bring up that in other countries there is a greater percentage of teachers as compared to school bureaucracy. He also suggested eliminating elementary school counselors and eliminating some security and replacing them with police officers.

Anybody ready to propose a state income tax?

But the best part was saved for last.

I was curious as to what the “Southeast Education Initiative” meant so I decided to stay for that presentation.

The handouts were distributed with great fanfare ( The Emperor’s New Clothes came to mind) and someone commented that it must have been written using invisible ink because there was nothing in the columns. No, Don Kennedy said, the columns would be “populated” tomorrow. So basically, that presentation was not quite ready yet. Oh well, maybe we’ll get that information when Don Kennedy finally gives us the analysis on the rif’s. The worst part, could it get any worse (?), is that DeBell said that the matrix didn’t include information that he had requested.

This entire presentation was sad.

In the real world, Mr. Kennedy would have been on the short list for folks to be laid off in the first round. But, he is the superintendent’s CFO who she brought with her from Charleston and her right hand man. He is apparently very influential and someone to be feared. What a sad state of affairs.

The board is working with one hand tied behind their backs with this guy. I just hope that they can free themselves of this and demand a real and professional accounting of our finances.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seattle Public Schools: Budget Deficit Part One

Last night at the school board meeting, our CFO, Don Kennedy, made an announcement about our budget deficit for this year.

Instead of providing a blow by blow description I thought instead that it would be more interesting to read an exchange that I had with two people about the subject. It went as follows:


"OK. I have a question for everyone.

I was at the board meeting tonight. I did not give my testimony as intended but ceded my time to Chris Stewart who talked about how several of the schools receiving an award for most improved and recognized at the meeting tonight were alternative schools. It seemed more appropriate. I plan to testify about MAP in January.

Anyway, whenever I listen to our CFO talk, I learn something new and interesting. Tonight Don Kennedy talked about the budget gap this year. Last year the gap was $35M and this year it is $49M. Much of the difference is the SAP plan that for this year, for one year only, will cost us $9,284,000. There will be additional expense next year but I didn't note the projected cost. Kennedy included STEM in this amount. STEM cost $1,668,000 for the first year only as well. There will be additional cost next year for STEM. The central office budget made up the remainder. There was $4,391,000 for General Counsel and yet only $2,250,000 for math in the central office. I'm assuming that the lawsuits brought the counsel number up.

Kennedy said that they would come up with some ideas on how to decrease this gap in the finance meeting tomorrow which I plan to attend.

How could our superintendent cause so much pain to save $3M in closing schools and then turn around and spend $9M on the SAP when SPS already had a deficit that it couldn't close? And where was the board on this?

With such a deficit and such a big deal made about being over budget and having to rif teachers and close schools this year, how could our superintendent turn around and present a new SAP that just got us deeper into debt? Couldn't the new plan have waited until we were back on our feet financially?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Any thoughts?"

First respondent:


MGJ and Kennedy were mum at the June 2009 School Board meeting when the board was looking for economy measures to reduce teacher RIFFING....Mum on the fact they were going to spend $10+ million on 111.5 academic coaches while the teacher RIF proceeded.

Money and these folks and plans ...I haven't a clue. {Ask Meg Diaz}"

Second Respondent:

"Dora - how does the nearly $50M cost incurred by injudicious closing of schools relate to the numbers you gave? Does the upward revised budget deficit reflect this? If not, where does this mistake show up in the numbers?

Am I naive to be astonished that this Sup is not being excoriated for the nearly $50 million school closure debacle? Is it fair to compare this mistake to the reasons that Olfshevske was induced to resign? After all, didn't the District have the demographic data BEFORE closures, that showed that too many schools were being closed?

When we compare the estimated savings for various decisions, the magnitude of suffering and hardships that decisions would cause, and the size of the annual District budget (now exceeding half a billion dollars), many of the biggest initiatives by this Sup (especially school closure, SAP) seem to me, on the balance like very bad ideas.Any thoughts on this?"



Good question about the money spent on closing and opening schools. That wasn't mentioned.

We have a budget gap of $49M as opposed to last year when the gap was $35M. That's a difference of $14M. $9M of that money was from the SAP and the STEM project at Cleveland.

Our superintendent might think of herself as a CEO but in my book, a CEO who spends money faster than we can make it should be fired, not given a bonus. That is unless you're head of AIG.

Interesting aside that the president of AIG is on the Broad board. Eli Broad has a financial connection with AIG. I believe that he sold some of the interest in his Broad/Kaufman company to AIG.

Anyway, I am digressing. The main point of this is, just like with the financial failure of this country, it's going to be the rest of us who take the brunt of our CEO/Superintendent's decisions by trying to figure out how each school will manage with even less money. Each school is now going to have to determine how they can cut back and still keep going. And if you don't believe me, ask your principals."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MAP Testing in Seattle

This is testimoney that I will be giving in front of the school board this evening regarding student assesment testing that wah recently instituted in Seattle.

You should have in front of you two documents, “An Open Letter to Arne Duncan” by Herb Kohl and “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation” by Kenneth Saltman. Both documents can be found on the website Seattle Education 2010 and tie into what is happening within our school system in terms of MAP testing.

My attention was drawn to the MAP testing when I understood that kindergarten students would be tested on computers twice, maybe three times a year, to evaluate their academic progress, an idea that I find ludicrous at best. The MAP test which stands for Measures of Academic Progress is to be used to determine a student’s progress grades K through 9 and it is my concern that this narrow measure of academic achievement will be used in short order to evaluate a teacher’s performance which would be tied into the concept of merit pay. I have read Directors Sundquist and De Bell’s remarks in the press about how the superintendent’s raise is an example of what they would like to see follow in terms of merit pay for all teachers and by that I am greatly alarmed.

Not only is this test simply a snapshot of one day in the life of a student, a day that might be fraught with hunger, fear or general malaise, it is at this point a false representation of a student’s level of understanding of various subjects.

I have read and heard that the students already know how to manipulate the test so that they get easier questions and can finish the test more quickly. These students have learned that if a series of questions appears to be too difficult for a student, the questions become easier. This was to be a hallmark of this test, the ability for the software to adjust to the level of a student’s understanding of the subject matter.

This, as with any test, is not an accurate measure of a student’s ability and yet I could see it being proposed as a basis for the evaluation of a teacher’s performance as is happening in many parts of the country under the guise of determining “teacher quality” and instituting “performance pay” and “merit pay” as a way to reward teachers on how well their students can take a test on a narrow set of academic parameters.

With the MAP test used as well as the WASL, which many teachers already teach to narrowing their scope of academic understanding by the students of the subject, the idea of testing appears to be redundant and a waste of time and money.

Many of us are assuming that the $9M that the Gates’ Foundation provided to SPS for testing students was used to evaluate the MAP test and now administer it to our students. If that’s the case, wouldn’t that money have been better spent on decreasing the size of classes or providing additional enrichment programs for our students or keeping some of our schools open or our teachers in place last spring? I am not comfortable with the idea that the Gates Foundation provided this money because their emphasis is on student assessment testing and linking the results of those tests to merit pay for teachers. That is well documented and again information regarding that can be found at Seattle Education 2010.

As Herb Kohl states in his letter to Arne Duncan, “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."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The War on Kids

I wasn't sure where to put this film. It doesn't fit into any category so we are showing this information as a post.

The movie is called "The War On Kids" and we think that it deserves our attention.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Who are the "Reformers" Really Trying to Help?

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large writes a thoughtful piece today about the true causes of inequity in public education and the troubling aspects of the latest "education reform" agenda. He cites Gerald Bracey, the sensible public education champion and essayist who recently passed away in Pt. Townsend.

It's worth noting that if Washington state is allocated Race to the Top funding, whose total budget is $4.1 billion for the entire nation (of which only 10-20 states will be deemed worthy), it would amount to an estimated one-time-only infusion of about $200-400 million. That's better than a kick in the pants, as my grandpa used to say, but is it worth changing our laws, trampling the will of the voters and embracing flawed and failed "solutions" that may do more harm than good just to get this money? Why don't we instead invest in what already works in our schools and replicate that? If the Seattle school district has the money for 110 "teaching coaches" as SPS parent Meg Diaz's recent analysis showed, why doesn't it fund more actual teachers instead and lower class sizes?

Here's Large's article: "Red flags on the road to reform: Washington is trying to get some of the Race to the Top money the other Washington is dangling to entice states to conform to its ideas for improving education" by Jerry Large, Seattle Times, Nov. 16, 2009.

Here's my response:

Thank you, Jerry, for taking a closer and thoughtful look at the latest incarnation of "education reform." Bracey (RIP) was right: poverty is a major underlying factor that affects a child's chances at having a solid learning experience in school.

Rather than addressing this difficult issue of societal inequity, the "education reformers" are instead pushing privatization of a public resource (again -- see past efforts to privatize social security, push for vouchers, etc) with lots of strings attached, endless testing, and blaming teachers. They are also trampling over the rights of local school districts and states to decide what works best for them and instead demanding they change their laws and contracts – or else no Race to the Top funding for them.

In addition to the disturbing arm-twisting this approach represents, the "cure" that's being forced on schools districts and states across the nation by Pres. Obama and his controversial Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is false and politically motivated. Take a look at who is behind it, the pro-privatizing Broad Foundation of AIG billionaire Eli Broad, and all-computerized, pencil and paperless (and failed) "School of the Future" creator Bill Gates (“School of the Future: Lessons in failure How Microsoft's and Philadelphia's innovative school became an example of what not to do”. Such dubious education luminaries as Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton have also jumped on the "education reform/close the achievement gap" bandwagon . That fact alone should raise another red flag -- or two.

Privately run charter school franchise operations like KIPP and Green Dot and numerous others, along with companies that manufacture and sell standardized tests to school districts, also make up this potentially lucrative industry with an agenda to privatize public education under the guise of helping underprivileged kids of color do better in school.

Aside from the surreptitious nature of what they are trying to do, the main problem is, their solutions don't work.

As the recent report by CREDO at Stanford University demonstrated, charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent perform worse.

As for vouchers, that was the failed panacea and agenda of the Bush administration and others, which was to basically redirect public funding away from public schools and into private enterprises and mostly parochial schools. It was another angle of right-wing "faith-based initiatives." A boon for the religious types who support such typically Republican machinations, but the children left behind are those who can't afford private or parochial schools even with vouchers who are left in the public school system which is being systematically starved of funds.

In the process of "reforming" our public education system, the reformistas are breaking much that wasn't broken in the first place. (See the havoc wreaked in Portland recently, under a superintendent who was then hired by the Gates Foundation(!): Hurricane Vicki -- The Gates Foundation hires Portland's former superintendent as its new head of education."

Here in Seattle our superintendent and school board this year uprooted a successful alternative high school (Nova) and put it in an inappropriate and seismically unsafe building (Meany Middle School), they split apart the successful (and highest scoring) elementary school in the district (Lowell) that served the district’s highly gifted and most fragile special needs kids, split apart the Accelerated Progress Program again at the middle school, now creating two separate but unequal schools at each level, they closed the naturally diverse elementary school (T.T. Minor) and moved its successful and popular Montessori program to another location (Leschi). Despite passionate pleas by the eloquent and sometimes fragile students of Summit alternative K-12 school, the district closed their school and sent them in various directions only to cobble together a K-8 in their building that hardly anyone wanted to attend.


In the process of closing and splitting schools and programs, guess which kids got uprooted and dispersed the most? Underprivileged kids of color -- the very kids our district and the education reformers like Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson claim to be most concerned about helping.

I would like to see a follow-up by the district on what happened to all the children who were displaced by the school closures. Where are all the children of T.T. Minor, the African American Academy, Cooper Elementary, Summit, Meany? How are they doing?

So one has to ask who these “reformers” are really trying to help.

And at what point does "education reform" become "education deform"?

It's not insignificant that Seattle's own school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of directors of the pro-charter Broad Foundation and on the board of the Northwest Evaluation Association from whom the Seattle school district bought its Measures of Academic Progress™ (MAP™) tests (which are currently being administered to SPS students as young as kindergarten age three times a year). Many in the Seattle schools community are troubled by these apparent conflicts of interest.

What’s more, do kids really need all this testing?

What do kids really need?

Smaller class sizes for starters. This is a key reason people who can, choose private schools. Here in Seattle kids are packed into classrooms of 25-30-plus kids, even though parents and voters have voted for funding to lower class sizes. Why? How many parents and teachers agree with our superintendent who has said that class size doesn’t matter? (Interestingly, the superintendent has chosen to send her own daughter to the New School/South Shore, which touts as one of its key features smaller class sizes.)

Kids need stability. And parents want predictability. And yet we have a school district that closes and opens schools senselessly and is now gerrymandering a new Student Assignment Plan that forces families into schools that the district has failed to make equitable or desirable.

This superintendent and school board closed 5 schools this year allegedly because enrollment was down and money would be saved -- and now they are asking to reopen 5 more starting next year because enrollment is up, and for a cost of $48 million. Meanwhile thousands of kids are being uprooted and shuffled around in this messy erratic process.

Equity. Why doesn't this school district distribute its resources fairly? Instead it is millions of dollars behind in basic maintenance on many school buildings, some of which are seismically unsafe or have broken heaters and undrinkable water, while it funnels $130 million or so into favored schools like Garfield High.

Here in Seattle we have many good schools and some that need attention. But this superintendent and board apparently do not know how to manage them. And the “reforms” being implemented under the leadership of this superintendent are making our schools weaker – not stronger.

Mayor-elect McGinn's idea of a mayoral takeover of the district is not the solution. In fact, this can lead to even less accountability, especially when you have mayors like Michael Bloomberg in NYC and Antonio Villaraigosa in L.A. who make executive decisions without public input aided and abetted by the privatizers like Eli Broad and Bill Gates. The LA school board with Villararaigosa’s backing recently handed over as many as 250 LA schools to private charter operators. (Also see: "Defend Public Education! No More Charters! Our Public Community Schools Are Not For Sale! Stop the Break Up of LAUSD!" http://www.bamn.com/doc/2009/090928-savepubliced-lausd.asp)

The solutions to improving our schools are in some respects simple:

Don't break what isn't broken. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson said this herself during her hiring interview with the Seattle school district back in 2007:

"And one of her philosophies that she would bring with her to Seattle: ‘If it's working and it's not broken, then I'm not going to fix it.’"(Maria Goodloe-Johnson, April 10, 2007, West Seattle Herald)

Unfortunately she did not keep her word on this (see Nova, Lowell, APP, TT Minor, current student assignment plan, the end of fresh cooked lunches for middle and high schoolers, debate over lowering graduation grade to D average, etc.)

Fully fund public education. This currently isn't being done. Let's give our public schools a fighting chance to be good.

Channel more money directly into the classrooms and make cuts instead in Seattle Public Schools' bloated central administration (see: "Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools”.)

Use solid curricula and texts -- and not the latest "reformers'" fad (such as "Discovering" math high school textbook -- which has already been rejected by the San Diego school district and many SPS parents -- and yet selected this year by our superintendent and board).

Invest in all schools equally.

Listen to what parents want.

Hire enough teachers to make smaller class sizes possible.

And how about this radical idea: Let’s teach our kids a love for learning and not just how to take a test.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mr. Oki, A Primer on Tenure vs. Seniority with Teachers in the Seattle Public School System

After Mr. Oki's presentation, I wanted to get clear on the difference between tenure and seniority. Mr. Oki had mentioned tenure and the necessity of eliminating it from the Seattle teachers' contracts but it was my understanding that teachers in Seattle were not tenured.

So after a few e-mails to those who know more than I do on this subject, I got the skinny.

It goes as follows:

Seniority ensures effective teachers in the classroom

1. Eliminating seniority from the contract works against the goal of a high quality teaching staff. Studies indicate teachers are "learning the ropes" during their first five years on the job; thus it is illogical to suggest teachers in their early years of the profession are of the same quality as seasoned teachers. Therefore, in order to keep high quality teachers in the classroom, the less experienced teachers must be let go first, whenever conditions for a Reduction in Force exists.

2. Seniority makes it more difficult for employers to cover up an arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory layoff, safeguarding whistle blowers and anyone who speaks up regarding wrongdoing. Teachers often speak up at staff meetings and testify at school board meetings on the behalf of students. Without seniority, issues of student safety and a deeper understanding of student achievement might go unheard.

3. Seniority is not the same as tenure. K-12 teachers are not tenured, so unlike a judge or professor, they are not protected for life. Seattle teachers can be dismissed without reason in their first two years of teaching and thereafter can be dismissed as ineffective with two consecutive years of Unsatisfactory evaluations, which can include student performance as a factor.

4. Seniority does not preclude dismissals for ineffective teaching. In the recent district audit, McKinsey & Co. noted the district underutilized the dismissal mechanisms in the current teacher contract. This is due to principals who are unable or unwilling to do their state mandated job of teacher evaluation. The Superintendent evaluates the principal corps. (No Seattle principals were dismissed last year.)

5. The Union can not stop dismissals; they can only ensure workers have their due process protected. In the uncommon case of an ineffective teacher still in the classroom after the first two years, it is the principal who is responsible to insist on rigorous improvement plans followed by dismissal, if needed.

6. What is to stop a district from seeing the financial benefits of laying off the most experienced, ergo most expensive, teachers? What controls would otherwise prevent the dismissal of a teacher just prior to retirement eligibility?

OK, that makes sense.

Now, Mr. Oki, is there anything that you would care to retract?

CPPS and Scott Oki: Kool-Aid Anyone?

OK, first, you know how I like my context.

The presentation by Mr. Oki was set in the enormous cavern of a library at Garfield High School.

In the heyday of corporate interior design, this space would have been a striking example of how to spend the most money possible. The library is a two story space with this skylight roof system that is well detailed and probably one of the most expensive ceiling systems that you will see in Seattle. I kept thinking that I was in a corporate headquarters in New York or LA and I have been in many. I have managed the construction of several corporate spaces in both cities. There are built in bookcases that are finely crafted, top of the line light systems and all of the shelves were filled with books in perfect order. In the middle of the space is another room which is one story high and again beautifully designed and detailed. In this space are computers and a lectern. The library space would have been top of the line for any corporate office but for a school in Seattle with so many financial problems that schools purportedly needed to be closed? The expenditure is highly questionable. I understand that the cost overruns on this building went into the millions and I can see why. Did someone actually tell the architect to go full steam ahead and spare no expense? It certainly looked like that was the message.

It’s a shame to know that money was taken from such programs as SBOC, $10M from SBOC to be exact, to pay for some of these cost overruns when it is apparent that much of this cost was completely unnecessary. It’s also a shame to know that so many other schools are in such disrepair and seismically unsafe and yet so much money was poured into this remodel.

But, I was not there to critically view Versailles, I was there to listen to Mr. Scott Oki.

Mr. Oki was introduced by another former Microsoft employee, Andrew Kwatinetz, who is Vice President of CPPS. Mr. Oki made his fortune working at Microsoft as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

The first thing that Mr. Oki said is “I am not an expert” which was an excellent way to start his presentation since he has never taught in a classroom, or had any experience with public education since going to a public school in Seattle when he was in grade school. We found out later that all four of his children attend Lakeside, an exclusive private school that Bill Gates attended also when in high school. So his experience with Seattle Public Schools by his own admission is limited.

He explained that over the years, his focus in terms of philanthropic work has been in child healthcare. Then, two years ago, his wife approached him regarding dealing with public education, telling him that “if anyone can fix the problem, you can”. With those words, Mr. Oki found out as much as he could about public school education. A few Google searches later and a trip to KIPP and he had all of the answers that he needed.

He said that he looked at both sides of the issue, which to me was interesting because I didn’t know that there were two sides to public education, and decided that the approach to K-12 education was to see educational reform as a business. Hmm, teaching children is a business. OK, that’s a relatively new point of view.

He went on to say that he had, as he termed it, a 2X4 moment, which for some of us might be called an epiphany, when he realized that nothing about K-12 education made sense.

His talking points went like this:

In the United States, there are more non-teachers than teachers on our public school payrolls and that we have the highest ratio internationally in that regard. OK. A good tidbit of useful information that someone can run with.

Tenure. (Oh no, here it comes) Do teachers really need tenure? (In Seattle, teachers are not tenured so at this point I can see that Mr. Oki has not done his homework.)

We need an objective way of evaluating teachers. (The rallying cry of the educational reformists. Step One: Teaching Assessments). There is no difference in pay between “really good teachers and crumby teachers”.

Principals should be the CEO of their schools.

Standardized curriculum doesn’t work, as in the standardized math that was used in the Seattle Public School system.

Some school districts in the state of Washington have six students, some have 100 students and some districts have 200 students and yet they have a bureaucracy and one would assume a well paid superintendent as well. Again, the issue of bureaucracy. A person at Microsoft would definitely be able to know a bureaucracy when they see one.

We should have choice in terms of schools.

OK, good talking points. And then he began with “How to affect change” and said that it would take many years to change the system and that grassroots activism was a good start and then that was it! It was time for Q and A. I was just getting ready for the good part, a solution to the problem and then it was over!

So then we went into questions from the audience.

Regarding student testing: We don’t need testing for teachers to evaluate a student. What is needed is to provide resources to teach when help is needed.

I don’t know that there was a question for this statement. Mr. Oki would kind of go off topic sometimes but at one point during his answer, he said that “I will go on record. The superintendent should be fired for suggesting that students be graduated with a “D” average.” On that one point we could agree.

Again, kind of off topic he said that “every single school should have a board of directors”, like charter schools. I was wondering when this would come up in the conversation.

Mr. Oki said that the mayor or the state government should establish these boards in the schools. OK, now we’re talking mayoral control.

Now it was my turn to ask a question and I admit, by this time I was tired of hearing that teachers were the root of all evil and that teachers thought more about themselves than they did the children they were teaching. Of course, my feelings were based on the fact that I have a child in public school and against all odds, most of my daughter’s teachers had been wonderfully caring, supportive, capable and able to challenge my child’s abilities and make going to school something to look forward to.

My first question, OK, since you think that teachers are just in it for themselves and don’t care about the students who they are in charge of educating, what so you think that the merit pay should be based on? Well, Mr. Oki responded, that would have to be worked out. He went on to say that merit pay would make the teachers focus on the child.

He said that “it is a business” and of course, I had to disagree.

I came back and said that at this point it is based on standardized, high stakes, testing, what would you suggest?

He then brought up KIPP schools as a good example of a charter school.

According to others, that is not the case. See:

Bay Area KIPP schools lose 60% of their students, study confirms

Charter school faces withdrawals over punishment

Recess: Happy playtime or hellhole of fighting and bullying?

Mr. Oki started to talk about a principal that he met at a KIPP school who received her MBA at Stanford who was always on her Blackberry. He asked, how often does that happen in public schools? (I answered to myself, thank God, never) He said that teachers in charter schools like KIPP couldn’t be hampered by “silly laws” like having teaching certificates. Of course, that could mean that they would have to pay the teachers more. You have to keep your cost down in charter schools because of course, it IS a business.

It was obvious that the presentation lacked substance. There were a few good talking points but there was no depth in terms of an understanding of how public schools work, the challenges that teachers have to deal with everyday and how little money there is for school funding.

It was interesting to me that he had no knowledge of our alternative school programs that fit the bill to most of his talking points. Fortunately someone else after the presentation provided him with an education to that and other points about public school education in Seattle.

Signing off for now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Conflict of Interest for Our Superintendent?

As per an update on this blog, we discovered how the Gates' $9M grant money was being used to do MAP testing of students at least in one location, Lowell Elementary School. The testing starts at the kindergarten level and continues to the 8th grade. The test is administered three times each year to each student on a computer. We will save the discussion regarding the testing of students, the rationale behind testing children in kindergarten, the number of times a child is tested and the wisdom of having a child as young as five years old using a computer for testing of their knowledge, in a future post.

What we find most egregious at this time is the discovery that we have made that our superintendent is on the Board of Directors for the NWEA, the Northwest Evaluation Association. This is the organization that handles the administration of the MAP tests. MAP is trademarked and was created and is sold by NWEA. Our next question would be, is the software that is used in this assessment provided by Microsoft? This could be quite an industry managed by just a few players considering that this test is used across the country by millions of students per NWEA's own claims.

It is also of great concern that this test is given along with the WASL. Isn't taking the WASL enough testing for a student within a year's time? It is also starting to look like the beginning of high stakes testing where teachers will be evaluated by how well their students do on a test. This is the next step to merit pay and more emphasis on teaching to a test.

Other questions also come to mind. How objective can our superintendent be in regards to the accuracy and analysis of the testing as well as the validity of such testing? We have heard that some students have figured out that if you don't answer the questions correctly at first, the questions get easier. Sounds like the kids are smarter than the creators of these tests.

Was there a competitive bid when deciding to use NWEA's product?

Does the superintendent profit from this relationship with NWEA in any way? Why is she associated with this organization at all? Didn't she think that there might be a potential conflict of interest when accepting a position on the NWEA Board of Directors?

And that brings us to another potential conflict of interest and that is the fact that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is also on the Board of Directors of the Broad Foundation. Many people in the educational community here in Seattle have posed the question directly to our superintendent in School Board meetings regarding her relationship with the Broad Foundation and their interest in establishing charter schools throughout the country. There has not been a response to those questions. A request has been made by one of our school board members to the superintendent to provide a white paper regarding the Broad's involvement in SPS and that foundation's agenda of establishing charter schools in urban areas. The request for a white paper was made this summer and no response has been provided as of this date.

We need answers to these questions and they need to be addressed now by our superintendent.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

School Board Candidates

This is an e-mail that I sent to the Alternative School Coalition and other interested parties regarding the school board candidates and their understanding of the alternative school programs in Seattle.

Hello all,

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

The Hoaxby Study

Based on an article in the Charleston Post and Courier titled "High Marks for Charter Schools", I posted a response that I wanted to share with you:

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.

Dora Taylor

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

The Alliance and the NCTQ Study

The Report: Human Capital in Seattle Public Schools


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”?

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.

“Performance pay
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

The NCTQ Presentation

Note to self: Bring a laptop next time so that I look like a blogger.

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

Michael Goldstein
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

And finally,

Board of Directors' Chair
Stacey Boyd
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

A Letter to a Friend

My friend Dora and I started Seattle Education 2010 (http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com) in an effort to amass and share all the info a group of us had accumulated this past year that connects the dots on our superintendent and the "education reform" agenda and how that is wreaking havoc on Seattle's schools. Our goal is to protect, preserve and invest in public education without the influence of privatizing agendas.

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):

gavroche said...
"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

Susan Ohanian.org

Our Global Education

Gotham Schools

Schools Matter

Save Seattle Schools

-- Sue