Friday, November 13, 2009

McGinn may try to take control of SPS

Go to Table of Contents

Here is a quote from Mike McGinn, Seattle's new mayor as of November 2009:

"As mayor I will refocus our efforts and create working partnerships to improve our school system. And if, after two years, there has been no improvement I will move to have the mayor’s office take direct responsibility for the school district as recommended by Obama’s Education Secretary."

This quote can be found at this URL:

In this questionaire, Mr. McGinn does not say what he means by "working partnerships." I don't know if anyone knows yet what Mike would consider acceptable improvement.  So faced with the possibility of Mike's getting control of the school district, a reasonable person would be wondering whether Mike's having this power is likely to be good or not for SPS teachers, students, and their families.

Since Mike used the word "partnerships" in his statement, I am concerned that he is talking about "public-private partnerships,"  which in every instance I have seen it used without ambiguity, it signals reform of the perverted, corporatist kind, which is to say, the kind of reform that Maria Goodloe-Johnson is delivering to SPS, with the willing acquiescence of the DeBell-Chow-Carr-Sundquist-Meier-MartinMorris sextet of directors (Director Martin-Morris got big campaign contributions in 2007 from the same big donors as did Carr/Sundquist/Meier - he can afford to give the appearance of being a non-cooperator, since his dissenting votes have no consequence).
What follows is a comment posted to the SPS community blog on 11/13/09 at  1:28 AM.

"Are elected school boards equal to the challenges of twenty-first century school governance? Eli Broad, a leading educational philanthropist and founder of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, has argued, “I believe in mayoral control of school boards or having no school board at all. We have seen many children benefit from this type of crisis intervention…You should craft legislation that enables school board members to be appointed by the mayor…[and] limit the authority of school boards.”1 Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, has written, “School boards are an aberration, an anachronism, an educational sinkhole... Put this dysfunctional arrangement out ofits misery.”2 The most popular alternative is the call to disband elected boards and give their authorities to school boards appointed by the mayor."
I found the above quote in this pdf:
This same article goes on to cite Boston (under Tom Payzant - maybe a familiar name to some blog readers) and New York (with Mayor Bloomberg at the helm) as success stories for mayoral control. "Mayoral control smoothed and sped enactment of Payzant’s reform strategy, including the 1996 adoption of Focus on the Children, a comprehensive five-year reform strategy for the schools (which was renewed in 2001); and efforts to reorganize the bureaucratic structure of the school department, promote technology initiatives, and establish citywide learning standards aligned to state standards.18"
(T-Payzant is a Broad Faculty member, and an advisor to MGJ.)
The report acknowledges that there have been ''...controversy and concerns about the adverse impact of mayoral control. Sol Stern, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has charged that NAEP results show that New York City’s performance did not improve from 2003 to 2005, that barely one in five fourth-graders are proficient in reading according to NAEP (compared to the 60 percent figure reported on the state test), and that “New York education officials – city and state – have indulged in unwarranted self-congratulation about student achievement.”25 Other critics have warned that mayoral control has reduced transparency and made it harder for the community to assess or monitor district activity. Education historian Diane Ravitch and United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten have argued, “The Department of Education now operates in a secretive manner that denies the right of the public to have a say in important decisions or even to know what policy is being considered. Even the once customary practice of announcing contracts at regular public hearings has stopped…It has also now become routine for journalists and other public officials to have to file Freedom of Information demands to obtain the most basic information about the [Wa D.C. city] Department of
Education’s decisions and practices.”26''

The authors go on to say ''For all the optimism that developments in New York City and Boston have generated, there is remarkably little evidence that mayorally appointed boards are more effective [at bringing about the kind of reform that the Broad Foundation favors] than are elected boards. Existing evidence is only modestly illuminating, recommending caution when making strong claims about the merits of appointed boards."

This report does not help us to know whether elected or appointed boards are more effective at bringing about the kind of reform that I personally would favor -- constructive, humane, fair reform that closes the racial gap in authentic measures of student and highschool graduate achievement.

I think I'd rather have an elected board, since otherwise it is up to a succession of mayors as to what kind of reform the board will try to enact.

Furthermore, this report holds up Chicago, Boston, and New York as success stories. I have read some about these school districts, and I certainly wouldn't call these success stories.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where will unchecked reform of SPS lead to?

Back to  Reform of Seattle Public Schools [parent index]  |  Table of Contents

This is an email exchange on Nov 9, 2009
[Joan writes] In comments I saw tonight on Melissa's blog, I am seeing indications that the purpose of the SAP is in fact to increase the % low-income and %minorities within individual buildings.

This is really alarming to me, because it will surely lead to more school failures than would have occurred if we were to keep the open enrollment scheme. Failures, in turn, lead to "district interventions.

Have any of you read about what "district intervention" means? It is the most harmful thing that can happen to public school children and the teachers that care about them.

I think this is a deliberate policy, because more school failures means more business income opportunities for private tutoring services, and -- if this State should pass charter authorizing legislation (I am told that is very unlikely - but I don't see it as so unlikely)---for charter management organizations

Does this worry you at all?

[S. writes]Yes it does.

Two other thoughts cross my mind on this: the SAP curtails school "choice." This may lead to new parent discontent and demand for other options, and could prime the community to be open to charters

If your prediction plays out, Joan, and many or all SPS schools fail, then yes it could lead to an "intervention." But wouldn't that also look terrible on the resumes of MGJ and the board members? Imagine the headlines -- on MGJ's watch, SPS went from XX % passing/successful schools down to -XX %. Do we think she would be willing to have this on her record


IF -- she and the reformites can shift the blame for "failure" entirely onto teachers (though it would still look bad that SPS schools plummeted under her leadership).

Or, and here's a totally Machiavellian theory: If the reformites's goal is to prep SPS for takeover and are paying MGJ enough and padding her nest enough with all these board memberships, affiliations, job security and perqs, is it possible that MGJ is willing to be the saboteur of SPS?

What comes to mind are all the toadies who were willing to give bogus 'data' and testimony and be the fall guys to help Bush/Cheney in their rush to war in Iraq. Are we possibly looking at players and scruples of that order?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I would really like to be wrong about these darker theories....

[Joan writes] I have read tons of stuff about what's happening in other districts, and your description is pretty much my interpretation. The people behind school reform have devised a brilliant strategy, and it is highly successful in serving the true goals of the movement. It has not been successful in serving the ostensible goals of the movement.

The corporatist reformer's plan is not to make all schools fail, but to ensure that some fail (those that serve low-income minority populations), and to make the rest of the non-charter public schools mediocre. Then families who put a high priority on education but can't afford private school will start to demand charters. The New School fits into this as a demonstration project: It shows that charter schools can be better than public schools. A successful program like New School also engenders low-income/minority community support for more of the same, since it primarily serves students from this community.

There will need to be a few charter schools and theme-based non-charter schools to satisfy the voting public. A few good charter school will also serve to deliver public subsidy to wealthy parents who otherwise would send their kids to private school. For those who can afford private school, this is the second best option after vouchers, which very few states permit.

Most charter schools will serve low-income minority populations. This fits in with the privateers' emphasis on closing the achievement gap. The problem is that most of the schools serving these kids will be either military charters or militaristic, highly regimented charters, like Mastery Charter Schools. I have seen recently that the Mastery model is being replicated outside of Pittsburgh, where it started. These are the charter schools that are most profitable, and do not require foundation support.

[A more honest name for MGJ's strategic plan is this: "Industrialized Education for All Non-Charter Public School Students".]

I am certain that it is the profit motive that explains why the reform movement focuses on "closing the achievement gap [artificially defined]." and why the movement seeks secretly to promote school failure. This emphasis also serves the longstanding business community's desire to have the non-elite schools produce submissive, literate work-ready graduates. Remember tha the Mastery School Model requires all students to participate in a non-paid job internship as a graduation requirement. They go to their "job" every Wednesday afternoon during the school year. The elite schools won't go away- these schools will continue to produce well-qualified graduates who are ready to go on to college and then to successful productive careers in science, enginerring, technology, and business.

Even if we don't get charter legislation passed (there is advocacy at the state level to get the legislators to pass a law that paves the way for charters, in order to qualify for the RTT funds -- never mind that the one-time prize [max $0.4 billion] is trivial compared to the annual state spending on K-12 [about $13 billion this year] and the profundity of change that charters will bring to K-12 education for decades to come.)

I do believe that MGJ is a sabatuer. It doesn't matter if her resume looks bad. Any way, interventions are good, from the pro-charter reformist point of view. MGJ can afford taking the risk of getting run out of town by anger parents and teachers, since the Broad Foundataion will make sure that MGJ has future jobs. Look at Arlene Ackerman: I heard she was "run out of S.F.", After that, and until recently she worked on the Broad Faculty, Now she is a superintendent again in Philly or Pittsburgh (don't remember which just now). Another Broad sup that left her job in disgrace was set up with a consultancy, but the Broad arranged for her to become one of the finalists in the search for teh replace in Pomona Calif (the Broad-sponsored sup there was called to D.C. to work for Arne as an Assistand Sec. of Educ.). By the way, Arlene Ackerman, along with Tom Payzant and Mark Roosevelt (Mark was Arlene's predecessor in Pittsburh) were three consultants MGJ listed on her Plan of Entry as her prefered candidates for her Strategic Plan development team.

MGJ's affiliation with the Broad is the biggest conflict of interest. I already have all the documentation to show that the Broad commits to providing on-going career support for their Fellows. This is exactly why the Fellows don't mind antagonizing the public. I believe this is why MGJ is able to sleep at night (remember the quote I am referring to?)

Why does the Broad like African American and Hispanic recruits to their "fellowship" program? I do not doubt that it is because it is harder for people to recognize the racist intent and effects of corporatist reform when the Superintendent does not have white skin.

I browsed the Curriculum Aligment section of the SPS website very recently. I see there evidence of business-people (probably our beloved Broad Residents) having a lot of influence on the curriculum. What I noticed was the economics section of Social Studies is far more developed than the Science Curriculum. The other subjects in Social Studies (civics, geography, history) are also better developed than the Science Curriculum. This is so weird, but understandable: School Reform wants students to be respectful of governent, law, and order, and capitalism. The economics curriculum is very capitalism-center. It starts in KG or 1st grade, with teachers expected to introduce the laws of supply and demand to these youngsters! The twelvth grade Economics Curriculum looks comparable to the introductory macroeconomics course I took in college - way more advanced than I think is needed for a high school graduate.

I think the whole scheme is modified Machiavellian. The ends and the means aren't exactly what the reformist portray to the public. Nor will the ostensible ends lead to success in achieving the ostensible means. The whole scheme is SO perverted.

And its well underway in Seattle. I don't think we will have a better change than this (putting conditions on pro-levy votes) to get Seattle off the perverted reform track, and on to a path of genuine, constructive reform.

Even if my proposal is wildy successful, we still have the problem that Mike McGinn intends to make the School Board directors appointed positions. If he succeeds in this, then all the efforts are moot. We have to figure out how to prevent Mike from succeeding in this. I fear that he may try to bring this about much earlier if he sees that a true grass roots movement is succeeding in averting continued corporatist reform.

[P. writes] Joan, S, et al., we should meet up soon and line out some objectives. We've researched and read ourselves to death on this stuff and we know what's going on. We've seen it all before, haven't we?

We've done a reasonably good job at the lower and middle levels in our community, and praise Meg Diaz for getting the financial scandal onto the TV news, but we need to start getting our concerns out into the community and amongst the politicians.

Perhaps we should write a letter to McGinn, making him aware of our concerns and dissatisfaction with our current crop of talking heads, but making it abundantly clear to him that Mayoral Control or Charters are NOT THE ANSWER, and why. From there, maybe we could meet with him and outflank the Stand For Children/League of Ed Voters/CPPS organizations that will be looking for the first seat at the table. I think the time to act is drawing near. ?

Strong Leadership

Back to Pillars of Strong Schools and Strong Districts [parent index]  |  Table of Contents

10/19/09 9:04 AM  SolvayGirl1972 said...  "...Our school had huge issues with leadership after they pulled our beloved principal to head-up the development of a Montessori program at Bagley. We had NINE principals in SIX years (for a variety of reasons, some beyond district control). For our last two years at the school, we endured one of the District's yo-yo principals (in and out of schools-central office-back to schools).

The response from the District with every principal issue was terrible. And the lesson learned for me was "A school is only as good as its principal, and the District can yank your great principal at any given moment and replace him/her with someone that should have been fired years ago."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Industrialized Education


Back to School reform  [parent index]   |  Table of Contents

"Industrialized Education"  is a term I coined, as it seems the most appropriate moniker for the the educational strategy preferred in the School Reform movement for non-charter public schools, and military charter schools.   I write more about the aptness of this term in my article Two sides of school reform.

The terms that are associated with Industrialized Education are listed in School Reform Lexicon .

Industrialized Education takes the form it does because it is the most cost-effective way to serve the intent of the Federal legislation No Child Left Behind (NCLB; click here to access the U.S. Department of Education NCLB informational website) student, teacher, and school accountability to be based on norm-referenced high stakes testing. Not incidentally, Industrialized Education provides the best opportunity for private business income profits.

What does Industrialized Education look like?

  • The curriculum is to be uniform throughout the district and is narrowly-focused on the knowledge and skills that are tested on the high stakes tests

  • teachers teach to the test

  • principals (as Instructional Leaders), instructional coaches, and "teacher mentors" conduct "Learning Walks" (google it) to make sure that teachers are adhering to the teaching of core curriculum with utmost fidelity.

Charter schools defined


Back to Charter schools [index]  |  Table of Contents

Charter schools are institutions of public education.  The authorizing legislation for charter schools is state-level. State legislation exempts charter schools from having to follow most of the state rules governing public schools.  As of this writing, there are only ten states that do not allow charter school. Washington state is one of these ten.

The administration of President Obama favors charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and regressive school reform. All of the 2008 Stimulus Funding package for education is designed to promote the school reform agenda.

Charter schools can be operated for profit or as non-profits. Charter Management Organizations (CMO's) can also be organized for profit or as nonprofits.  CMOs may operate more than one charter school.  Charter schools get the per-capita state funds for K-12 education for each student that enrolls. Typically, enrollment at charter schools is by lottery, unless the demand for seats is less than the number of available seats.

All public schools - both charter and non-charter public schools -- must operate in accordance with the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. The most significant aspects of this legislation are the definitions given for school failure, annual yearly progress (AYP), and intevention, and the consequences of school failure. The provisions for parent choice and school interventions come in to play when a school is classified as having "failed" under the terms of NCLB.

Seattle has a school that resembles a charter school in many respects. You can read more about this school in the internal article New School - SPS' psuedo charter school.

Newest Articles


Back to  Table of Contents

[See end of this column for list of articles in preparation]

Where will unchecked reform of SPS lead to?  

McGinn may try to take control of SPS

Industrialized Education 

List of local organizations and wealthy individuals that promote reform of SPS

External Support for Pro-Education (Anti-Reform) 

NCLB (see "NCLB has got to go")

SPS has a weak school board as of Nov 2007

Race to the Top Competition: Is this a good deal for Washingon? 

Two sides of school reform  (What is School Reform?)

Alternative schools instead of charter schools -- go to Charter schools [Index]

High Stakes Testing

Coming Soon:
  • List of wealthy donors to 2007 SPS school board candidates (coming soon) < Reform of SPS
  • Pro-reform SPS Board Members and their wealthy campaign donors (coming soon) < Reform of SPS
  • What has School Reform accomplished in other large urban districts? [coming soon] < School Reform

List of local organizations and wealthy individuals that promote reform of SPS

Back to  Reform of Seattle Public Schools [parent index]  |  Table of Contents
  • Alliance for Education  - member of the national reformist "Public Education Network; recipient of Gates Foundation grants for school board training, "community engagement", "teacher quality"
  • League of Education Voters has no membership! just a paid staff and board of directors). Started by local Nicholas Hanauer, with his wife, two of the most generous donors to the 2007 slate of reformist candidates (Carr, Maier, Sundquist, Martin-Morris) see SPS has a weak school board as of Nov. 2007 (internal link)
  • List of wealthy donors to 2007 SPS school board candidates (coming soon)
  • Pro-reform SPS Board Members and their wealthy campaign donors