Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Now, for the second year in a row, the most objected to book in libraries is...Captain Underpants.   Do these boys "defy" authority and do silly things?  Yes.  Do I think it needs a warning label, "Kids, don't try this at school?"  Not really.  (I even have a tiny Captain Underpants toy in my car who serves as my parking diviner.  Works 95% of the time.)

You've probably all heard but Senator Rodney Tom is NOT running for re-election, citing health concerns for himself and his elderly father.  Whatever the reason, he has been more of an obstructionist than a leadership (not to mention betraying his party).  As I mentioned elsewhere, Superintendent Dorn told me I would never get a student data privacy bill passed with the current Senate leadership. Well, that now becomes less of an issue.

Here's an interesting feature by National Geographic on what the U.S. population will look like in 2050. 

The U.S. Census Bureau let respondents check more than one race for the first time in 2000, and 6.8 million people did so. By 2010 that figure had increased to nearly 9 million, a spike of about 32%.

What's on your mind?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Common Core Roundup (with trends and memes)

 Update: Finally! An thoughtful piece about why Common Core is failing (and likely will be weakened).  It's by Jay P. Greene at Education Next and he has it right. 

Supporters of Common Core have made some of the same political mistakes that opponents of gay marriage did.  They figured if they could get the US Department of Education, DC-based organizations, and state school chiefs on board, they would have a direct and definitive victory.  And at first blush it looked like they had achieved it, with about 45 states committing to adopt the new set of standards and federally-sponsored standardized tests aligned to those standards.  Like opponents of gay marriage, the Common Core victory seemed so overwhelming that they hardly felt the need to engage in debates to defend it.

But in the rush to a clear and total victory, supporters of Common Core failed to consider how the more than 10,000 school districts, more than 3 million teachers, and the parents of almost 50 million students would react.  For standards to actually change practice, you need a lot of these folks on board.  Otherwise Common Core, like most past standards, will just be a bunch of empty words in a document.

It’s not as if local officials, educators, and parents are unaware of the existence of informational texts or just waiting to be told by national elites about when they should start teaching Algebra.  They have interests and values that drove them to the arrangements that were in place prior to Common Core.

Having the Secretary of Education, state boards, and a bunch of DC advocacy groups declare a particular approach to be best and cram it into place in the middle of a financial crisis with virtually no public debate or input from educators or parents did not convince local officials, educators, and parents to change their minds.  These are the folks who need to be on board to make the implementation of Common Core real.  And these are the folks who are organizing a political backlash that will undo or neuter Common Core.  

A direct path to victory by Common Core supporters sowed the seeds of  its own defeat.

To which I say:

Too many of our public education reforms are coming from people who have what I call, "I'm the smartest person in the room" syndrome.

Keep the "public" in public education or your outcomes will NOT be what you think they will be.

And lastly:

Power to the people (right on).

End of update.

I'd been meaning to do this for awhile but every single day - in multiple news outlets - there are stories about Common Core.  I occasionally see some "good news" ones but frankly, those mostly come from Gates Foundation funded groups (or more often than not, seriously, in Forbes magazine).

Let's be clear - this is not some small-scale, scattered uprising.  It is happening everywhere in this country and there are those with a lot to lose.  The loss is time, effort, resources and, of course, revenues.

Never, ever doubt the will of people who have a lot of money to lose.

Problem is, you can never, ever doubt the will of parents to protect their children.  And voters to protect constitutional guarantees.

Quite the deathmatch, no?

Here' the latest one that caught my eye.  This weekend was the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" co-sponsored by no other than the Koch brothers and their "Americans for Prosperity" group.  (I know I make Bill Gates sound like a problem - these brothers are magnitudes of scale much worse and more dangerous to public education and this country.  I'm not kidding.)

This story was in service to the idea that the Bushes as a political family are going to have a fight on their hands if they push Jeb Bush (but I'm going out on a limb - right now in 2014 - to say the next Bush with a real chance is Jeb's son. He's also - God help us - another George Bush.  Young, smart and part Hispanic.)

So the "summit" was a round-up of likely conservative candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  And a more hilarious bunch you cannot find - Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, etc.  (Honestly, I think the next election will be more fun than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Basically, it's Spring Break week so no meetings.

Saturday, April 19th
Director Blanford finally has a community meeting.  It's from 10-11am at the Douglass-Truth library.

I attended both Director Carr and Director Martin-Morris' community meetings yesterday.

Seattle Times editorial on Initiative 1351

The Seattle Times wrote an editorial to discourage people from signing petitions to put Initiative 1351, Class Size Reduction, on the ballot. The editorial was, of course, full of lies, misrepresentations, and unprincipled statements.

I don't know where other people stand on initiatives. Lots of states don't have an initiative process. They are certainly open to abuse. We have seen Costco use the initiative process to buy themselves the law that allows them to sell liquor. We have seen a dozen millionaires and billionaires use the initiative process to buy a charter school law. Tim Eyman writes frivilous initiatives to provide himself an income as the manager of the campaign. There was a time when Tim Eyman was the de facto political leader of this state - it was a time when there was no leadership coming from Olympia.

A number of Mr. Eyman's initiatives, though successful at the ballot box, were reversed by the Court because they failed to meet constitutional requirements. A number of other initiatives which won approval were also revealed to be badly written law. Right now there is a legal case being argued about the constitutionality of I-1240, the Charter School initiative. It is also undergoing some legislative corrections and refinements to fix some of the bad drafting.

Initiatives have also created a number of unfunded mandates. They have to. The law requires that an initiative be about just one thing. If it included a funding source then it would be about two things - the spending and the revenue. So all initiatives, by design, are unfunded mandates.

Despite all of this, there is also a proper role for initiatives. They can allow the state to take necessary action when the political leadership in Olympia is frozen, broken, or going wrong. That pretty much describes the current status when it comes to public education. The Court has ruled, but the legislature is clearly incapable of taking the necessary action. Now comes this initiative to direct immediate action on at least some of the work. When the leaders fail to lead, then the People need to take the lead. That's what we're seeing here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Goodbye, Charlie

This is likely to be one of the most difficult posts I ever write because how do you say goodbye to someone who has been a constant in your life over the last six+ years?

Charlie Mas is something of an enigma.  Even to me.  He's brash, outspoken and yet, a big softie.

At times some people thought that Charlie and I were one person.

Or that we were joined at the hip in our thoughts.

Or that we confabbed on every post.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

It makes me smile because Charlie and I also never consulted on who wrote what.  We had our own reasons and our own interests.  I think the most important concern for Charlie is (and always was) accountability, no more, no less.

I have sometimes groaned at his words, cheered at his words but always admired his ability to cut thru the bullshit to the core of the matter.  That it may have upset others was no matter to him (or me) because the cleansing light of day is what this district has needed (whether they believe it or not).

But we recognized in each other, as did Beth Bakeman who started this blog, a recognition of the relentlessness of our thought and our desire for better for public education in this city.  I know that some may not have always (or almost never) agreed with us but gave us grudging acceptance for our longevity and our refusal to give up when others might have.

If nothing else, Charlie has taught me to stand by my words and not be afraid of what others might say.   
I would almost call it a "To Sir with Love" moment except that I'm older than Charlie and it is admiration and deep regard,  not love.

His mind is quick, his focus clear and his devotion to his beautiful daughters always his mission.
But my favorite thing about Charlie is his love for, and use of, sarcasm.  So many in Seattle shy away from tough talk and sarcasm - there are a lot of seemingly delicate ears in this town.   (And I'm sure there are those that just think it isn't "nice.") 

Fine.  But for the rest of us there is Charlie and all the Brits who seem to make a sport out of being sarcastic. (See Countess Violet on Downtown Abbey "We can't have him assassinated. I suppose.")

Some thoughts on the joy of Charlie (and sarcasm):

I'm not so good with the advice... Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
Chandler Bing

“It’s a sad state of affairs when I’m the one bringing sanity to the equation”
M.A. George


“I can be quite sarcastic when I'm in the mood.”
Holen Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Goodbye, good luck and keep in touch, Charlie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Did your senior write a great college essay?  Here's a link to an award for $5,000 through Medium.com.  The deadline is May 19.  (Great judges like Anna Quindlen, Wally Lamb, and Mary Roach.) 

This is not "new" news but the Gates Foundation invests in a private prison company as well as a company with 19 juvenile detention facilities in the U.S.  This from Mother Jones.  A Gates spokesperson attempted to, according to The Slog, "philanthro-splained" "The trust invests in a lot of things to make sure we have the most money we can have to do that job."  Oh.

Nothing like creating - via your work and your investments - your own school to prison pipeline.

A horrible week for students in two high schools.  First, the stabbings at a high school in Murraysville, Pennsylvania where 20 were stabbed with one in critical condition on a breathing machine.  Second, the news this morning that bus with seniors from LA/Fresno going to visit Humboldt State when a Fed Ex truck crossed a median and slammed head-on into one of three buses.  Both drivers died as well as 5 students and 3 chaperones. 

Could you please keep these students, their schools and their families in your thoughts this weekend?

What's on your mind?

Special Ed Open Mic nights



Families are invited to give feedback on Special Education services at Seattle Public Schools during two “Open Mic Night” meetings


Families of Seattle Public Schools are invited to join experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) during two Open Microphone Nights to give feedback on Special Education Services.
Join us:
  • Tuesday, April 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Rainier Beach High School, 8815 Seward Park S., Seattle Washington 98118
  • Wednesday, April 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Nathan Hale High School, 10750 30th Ave NE, Seattle
Seattle Public School’s Special Education Department is undergoing a Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (C-CAP) to help improve results for our students in special education. As part of this plan, the department is working with experts from Louisiana State University and the TIERS Group for consultation on activities related to C-CAP targets.
They will be visiting the district the week of April 21 to collect data for initial analysis on the special education department. Part of their data collection will incorporate family input. Families and community members are invited to give feedback verbally or in writing during this meeting. There will be a sign-in sheet for parents and they can leave comments, respond to a paper survey or stay and speak publicly.
The sign in sheet will be used to determine the order in which people speak.  Individuals will be allowed three minutes each to speak and any other comments can be written and left with one of the TIERS team members.

Interpreters will be provided for Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese and Cantonese. If you need an American Sign Language interpreter please contact Mary Perrigo at mmperrigo@seattleschools.org for arrangements.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Required Reading on Common Core

One of the most calm, well-thought out op-eds on Common Core that I have read from Elizabeth Phillips, principal in NYC's PS 321.  Read the entire thing but here are highlights:

So teachers watched hundreds of thousands of children in grades 3 to 8 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for three days taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were.

We want to be clear: We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools.  We were protesting the fact that it is our word against the state’s, since we cannot reveal the content of the passages or the questions that were asked.

In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards.  And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.

Center on Reinventing Public Education; All Charters, All the Time

It used to be that you could give CPRE a little credit for caring about other education issues than just charters schools.  It would appear that time has passed. 

I'm on their listserv and if you go just by that, it's all charters, all the time.  What is worrying is that if they feel this way about charter schools in other states, I can't wait to see what they think should happen in Washington State.

For example, you may have heard that newly-elected NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office with a willingness to stop giving favors to charters in NYC and quit forced co-locations.  This has turned in to quite the epic battle with one charter operator (and quite a big mover and shaker in NYC), closing her schools and requiring parents and students to march in a rally.  (Try closing a real public school for this kind of thing - not going to happen.)

The issue really was that the former mayor was not charging state-mandated rents to charters and the new mayor was going to charge the charters.

CRPE frames this in a larger way as a "governance" problem.  (They are all about taking governance away from school boards.) 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Charter Schools - What is Really Happening

The first thing to understand is that Congress is considering a bill to support and expand charter schools.  

The other, a charter school bill, is aimed at growing more high-quality charters and encouraging them to better serve students with disabilities and English-language learners. That bill also won swift approval, but not before a number of committee Democrats lambasted charter schools for siphoning off resources from other public schools—before voting for the legislation anyway. The bill passed 36 to 3.

Wait, what? 

It would combine two main federal programs for charters, meshing together grants to help charter school developers open new schools, with money to help charters find and fix up facilities. And the bill would make it easier for charter organizations with a track record of success to open more schools. 

Oh, but what about the bad charters?  The mediocre ones?  Those that are taking public dollars and were suppose to be successful and innovative? 

I have to shake my head that it takes an ACT of CONGRESS to try to get charters to better serve students with disabilities and ELL students.

What's new this time around: The bill would allow districts to give students with disabilities, English-learners, and other disadvantaged groups a leg up in charter lotteries. 

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., bemoaned the fact that the bill doesn't require charter schools to hold open meetings, a criticism also levied by the National Education Association.

But the American Association of School Administrators came out against the bill. "We have this crazy idea that all entities receiving public dollars should face the same accountability, flexibility and transparency requirements," the group wrote on its website.   

Yeah, call me crazy as well.

And the charter school bill is slated to be on the floor the week of May 5, which just happens to be National Charter School week, a Cantor spokeswoman said. 

You might want to consider contacting your House rep or Senators Murray or Cantwell and asking them to say no to this bill.


What else is happening in NYC? Here's the NY Times editorial titled, "Charter School Refugees":

LAST week, the New York State Legislature struck a deal ensuring that charter schools in New York City would have access to space, either in already crowded public school buildings or in rented spaces largely paid for by the city. Over the next few years, charters are expected to serve an increasing proportion of city students — perhaps as much as 10 percent. Which brings up the question: Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?