Friday, November 13, 2009

McGinn may try to take control of SPS

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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?

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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

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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


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"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


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[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 

External Support for Pro-Education (Anti-Reform)

Back to Opposition to Reform [Topic index] | Table of Contents

Education and Democracy (San Francisco)
  • URL: [not sure if this site is still active]
  • Website of researcher/author Dr. Kathy Webster [email link], blogger on Education Justice blog;  
  • "Welcome to our website! Are you interested in promoting democracy? Have you lost influence over educational policy? Need help in fending off the high-stakes testing agenda? This web site provides analysis and curriculum materials that can help community-based movements implement democratic goals in our public schools.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NCLB has go to go

Go to NCLB  [parent index] | Table of Contents  

On this strand,,  11/5/09 5:11 PM  seattle citizen said...

I'm just starting to figure out that while teh Supreme Court ruled two years ago (in the Ballard/Kentucky co-case) that schools can't use race as a tiebreaker in assignment, evidently race CAN be used in closing schools: NCLB uses "failing school" designations to target schools, and those are based on race categories.

Likewise, where the district closes a school using WASL scores as one of the deciding factors, it is using race as a means to close the school.

(If the school were then sold to a predominantly white private school then that would be just the icing on the cake, eh?)

NCLB has to go, as does the use of race categories in WASL result grouping. It's, well, racist.

SPS has a weak school board as of Nov. 2007

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

What follows is a paraphrase of comment I submitted Nov. 6 to the Blog Entry titled "School Board Elections" on the SPS community blog -- URL

Dorothy wrote "I will do my part and let the board know that my decision on the levy vote will be directly related to this issue."

Dorothy's comment has inspired me to suggest the following:

Tell the board that we will organize to raise strong public opposition to the upcoming levy UNLESS the Board agrees to adopt John Carver Policy Governance Model.

The John Carver Policy Governance Model is a brilliant strong-board model. It eliminates micro-manageing by the Board (if it is implemented with high fidelity). and hold the chief executive officer (that would be MGJ in SPS) accountable for upholding Board policy.

I think many of the problems in SPS are related to our having as of Nov 2007 a majority on the Board that favors a weak school board. I include Harium Martin-Morris in the group that favors a weak board. I am happy to explain my reasoning if any one cares to ask. Furthermore, Michael DeBell seems to me to be the strongest advocate for a weak school board.  [But see the original post at for an account of M.DeBell being very conscientious in interrogating the District about Meg Diaz' report.]

A weak school board does not enforce policy, rubberstamps the Superintendent's actions and decisions, and acts as a buffer between the Superintendent and the Public. In the weak board construct, the main purposes of the Board are to promote the Superintendent's policies, act as the community-engagement intermediary, and take the heat for unpopular actions of the Superintendent.

I talked to Sally Soriano today. I understand from her that prior to 2007 policy was quite important to the Board. That certainly isn't the case now.

Did you know that as of a policy revision in Jan 2008, the Board no longer requires the Sup. to uphold Board policy?

Did you know that the Broad Foundation (and Gates,too, no doubt) favors the Superintendent to have more authority than the Board, and to be the chairman of the board? The evidence for this is at Click on the heading "Setting and Implementing Board Policy," read the brief text there, and then look at just the first several clauses of the downloadable pdf of the NY district bylaws.

Did you know that The Broad and Gates Foundations have paid for/are paying for our Directors to attend trainings that are designed to get the Board to put more and more weak policies in place, and to teach the Board how better serve the promotional and buffering purposes of a weak school board?

Did you know that currently there is no limit on the amount that individuals may contribute to school board campaigns, and a few wealthy individuals account for most of the extraordinary funding that Carr, Maier, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist received in 2007?

Did you know that the Broad Foundation (and Gates,too, no doubt) favors mayoral appointment of school district directors?

Did you know that Mayoral Candidate Mick McGann favors mayoral appointment of school district directors?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Authentic Assessment

Go to Table of Contents_19
See also High Stakes Testing

Authentic Assessment and Accountability
  • Authentic Accountability (external link to Accountability means informing parents and the public about how well a school is educating its students and about the quality of the social and learning environment. Too often, accountability has been reduced to standardized tests that measure a limited range of academic skills, thereby narrowing curriculum and teaching. This approach has been used to attack rather than help educators, parents and students. FairTest supports authentic accountability systems that provide a rich array of information on academic and social aspects of education to parents and the public, and use that information to improve schools
  • Empowering Schools and Improving Learning (external link). Initiative released by Forum on Educational Accountability, chaired by FairTest, and signed by 84 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent and civic organizations. It calls for a thorough overhaul of NCLB.

District-induced Instability


Back to School Reform  (parent index) | Table of Contents

See also Importance of Stability (internal link)

Closures of failing schools leading to charters: "In 2009, Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman introduced a five-year plan that calls for up to 35 underperforming schools to be shut down and reopened as district authorized charters or privately managed schools. The first 10, which have not been selected, will convert in 2010." (p. 93")

Denver: "The district has also used school closure as an accountability mechanism. In 2007, the school board approved closing eight schools that were under-enrolled and lower-performing. The board projected that moving students from these schools to higherperforming schools would save $3.5 million annually. That money is being used to improve the education of students who will be affected by the school closures, deliver additional resources to underperforming schools and to make money available for new schools and new programs." (p. 94")

Tuesday, November 3, 2009



Back to  School Reform Lexicon (parent link) | Table of Contents

Article:  NCLB has go to go!  (internal link)
Major elements of NCLB

Foundation abandonment of charter demonstration projects

Go to Importance of stability (parent link) |  Pillars of Strong Schools and Strong Districts  | Table of Contents

Case Study:  T.T. Minor K-5, Seattle Public School.  (19xx - 2009)

These comments copied from the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog (and then rearranged) (
  • 10/31/09  uxolo said...  The[Sloan] foundation's commitment to T.T. Minor was for eight years and ended in 2006....TT Minor had part of their building's programs operated by funds from the Foundation. It was not a good thing for those who were not provided with their dollars. Where were those dedicated Sloan/New School people once the funding ended? Did they lobby to keep TT Minor open? Did they admit failure? I don't think so....The [Sloan foundation's] commitment to The New School is for ten years and is scheduled to end in 2012." What's the point? Is this foundation trying to prove that if every school has a bunch of outside donors and can get the supt or other political figures to enroll their kids that the school will work and/or be protected from the idiocy of the central district decision making?
  • 11/1/09 1:21 PM adhoc said... So, what happens to New School if the grant isn't extended? How do they fund all of the "extras" without the private dollars? Do they all just go away, and New School becomes just like every other public school? And are parents who enroll aware that this could happen?
  • 11/2/09 9:00 AM  Charlie Mas said... There was a reluctant admission of failure at T T Minor, but there was also a lot of blamestorming.The Sloan people blamed the district and the school, the school blamed the district and the Sloan people, the district blamed the Sloan people and the school. None of them ever acknowledged that they did anything wrong. The school was torn apart in every possible way. Then it was isolated from its community. Then enrollment was messed with. Then it was abandoned. Then it was closed.

The Pillars of Strong Schools and Strong Districts


Go to Table of Contents |

1. Strong School Board:  SPS has a weak school board as of Nov 2007

2.  Importance of stability (internal link)

Importance of Stability


Back to The Pillars of Strong Schools and Strong Districts (parent index) | Table of Contents

See also District-Induced Instability

Here, 'stability' refers to several factors:
  1. duration of program consistency
  2. duration of individual student's enrollment in a school
  3. consistent classroom roster over the course of an academic year
[Documentation needed.]

Several studies strongly suggest that typically developing, underachieving students can often make grade level expectations after about three years in a stable strong program.

Conversely, studies show that moving a student from one building to another or changing the program or staffing in a building, whether for family reasons, or due to a district intervention, can set a student back academically. Multiple transfers over several years puts students at increased risk of drop-out or late graduation.

Anecdotes from SPS:

NYT - New York State tests are too easy

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U.S. Math Tests Find Scant Gains Across New York

Published: October 14, 2009

[A version of this article appeared in print on October 15, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition. Michael Barbaro and Robert Gebeloff contributed reporting.]

New York State’s fourth and eighth graders made no notable progress on federal math exams this year, according to test scores released on Wednesday, sharply contradicting the results of state-administered tests that showed record gains.

In state exams, 80 percent of eighth graders met learning standards in math this year, a jump from 59 percent two years ago. But judged by federal standards, only 34 percent were considered proficient, up from 30 percent in 2007. Fourth-grade students actually performed worse than in 2007.

Across the country, many states posted disappointing results, with fourth-grade students stagnant nationally for the first time in nearly two decades.

The results of the federal exam renewed criticism that the state exams have become too easy. The gulf between the state and federal exams also put Joel I. Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, in a difficult position, because he has staked much on the state exams, tying them to consequences like student, teacher and principal bonuses and the city’s A through F grading system for schools. And the results come at a politically potent time for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is trying to ride his record on education, and test scores in particular, to a third term.

While the results of New York City’s performance on the federal exams will not be available for several weeks, in previous years they have tracked closely to New York State’s federal results.

There has long been a chasm between what the state tests and the federal tests, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, deem proficient. But perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the latest federal results for New York education officials was that they showed little or no improvement during two years in which the state was claiming huge jumps in student achievement.

The state’s Education Department renewed its promise to raise standards and ensure that the state tests include less predictable questions next year.

“It is clear to us that this gap cannot stay,” said Merryl H. Tisch, the chairwoman of the state’s Board of Regents, who added that she considered the national exam the “gold standard” that did a better job of measuring overall student achievement. “We are going to start to address that this year and we are going to make the state tests more transparent and more truthful.”

David Steiner, the state education commissioner, said he was “particularly concerned by the tragically stubborn gaps” between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts. According to the federal exam, 50 percent of white fourth graders are proficient in math, compared with 25 percent of Hispanics and 19 percent of blacks, contradicting results from state tests showing a significantly smaller gap.

“What this amounts to is a fraud,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who has been one of the most vocal critics of both the state exams and Mr. Klein. “This is a documentation of persistent dumbing down by the State Education Department and lying to the public.”

Christopher Cerf, a former deputy chancellor at the Department of Education, who is now advising the mayor’s campaign and spoke on its behalf, said that when the New York City numbers become public, they could show that city students outperformed their peers in the rest of the state.

“It would be impossible to draw any conclusions about New York City’s progress at this point,” Mr. Cerf said.

The federal exam, which is given every two years, uses what it calls a representative sampling of students. In New York, roughly 4,050 of the state’s fourth graders were tested, while nearly 198,000 students took the state test, which is given every year. In the eighth grade, about 3,800 students were tested on the national test, compared with 209,000 on the state exam. The state also tests grades three, five, six and seven every year.

The federal results for English tests are not expected to be released until the spring.

Critics of the state tests have said that they measure a narrow slice of the curriculum. And under state law, tests from previous years are publicly available, allowing teachers to give students many practice tests and predict what kinds of questions will be asked. The federal exam, on the other hand, does not encourage such preparation, in part because there are no consequences for teachers or schools if students do not perform well.

Mr. Klein said that the city has no choice other than to use the state exam to reward and penalize schools, because it is the only test that measures all city students. And he said that eighth-grade scores on the tests are reliable predictors of whether a student will graduate from high school. “This doesn’t in any way undermine what we’ve accomplished here,” he said.

In 2007, only 34 percent of New York City’s fourth graders and 22 percent of eighth graders were considered proficient on the federal math exam. On the state exam that year, those numbers were 74 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

The city made huge gains on the state math exams in 2009, with 85 percent of fourth graders and 71 percent of eighth graders passing.

“I have said many, many times that we should raise the bar,” Mr. Klein said. “The state’s definition of proficiency needs to be tethered to a more demanding standard.”

But in a show of the politics involving test scores, a spokeswoman for William C. Thompson Jr., the Democratic candidate for mayor, called the Bloomberg administration the “Madoff of the American education system” and a “national disgrace.”

“Bloomberg’s D.O.E. has systemically lied about test scores, graduation rates and dropout rates,” the spokeswoman, Anne Fenton, said in a statement. “Our children deserve a quality education; instead, they have become pawns in Mike Bloomberg’s 200-plus million-dollar public relations campaign to rewrite history.”

Defending the mayor and the city’s school system, Mr. Cerf, the Bloomberg campaign adviser, said that there were important differences in scope and content between the state and federal tests. And he and Mr. Klein noted that the even the federal No Child Left Behind law uses state tests to measure schools’ performance.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union, said the federal results showed that the state tests were not reliable yardsticks.

“We’ve designed a school system that is just test-taking prep, and we have teachers saying, ‘I know I am not teaching children what they need to learn,’ ” he said.

Race to the Top Competition (2009-2011)

Go to Table of Contents
See also High Stakes Testing vs. Authentic Assessment (internal link)

Condemnation of the philosophy and strategies underlying US Department of Education's "Race to the Top" (RTT) competition
  • Board of Testing and Assessment (BOTA) A prestigious panel of national experts convened by the National Academy of Science.   Oct 2, 2009 Letter form BOTA to The Honorable Arne Duncan.  This letter expresses strong reservations about the use of standardized tests for high stakes decision making.

High Stakes Testing vs. Authentic Assessment

Go to Table of Contents
See also  Race to the Top Competition | Authentic Assessment (internal links)

High stakes testing is a fundamental element of  School Reform, and is the primary instrument states use to fulfill the NCLB requirement for 'accountability.'

The Case Against High Stakes Testing
  • Board of Testing and Assessment (BOTA) A prestigious panel of national experts convened by the National Academy of Science.   Oct 2, 2009 Letter form BOTA to The Honorable Arne Duncan.  This letter expresses strong reservations about the use of standardized tests for high stakes decision making.
  •  http\\ ~The Case Against High Stakes Testing~  ( "The materials selected for this page make the case against relying on test scores to make critical educational decisions about students or schools - or what is called high stakes testing. Common examples include retaining a child in grade or withholding a students high-school diploma solely on the basis their score on a test, or relying on test scores to determine whether a teacher or school should be sanctioned or rewarded. "
  • The Need for a Moratorium on High-stakes Testing by David C. Berliner on September 14, 2009 "...I hope that the Obama administration learns that there are alternative accountability systems that could work and are cheaper to administer. It is time to admit our nation got it wrong and must start over."
  • "Teachers noted ..efforts to align instruction with standards and efforts to improve their own practices... narrowing of curriculum and instruction toward tested topics and even toward certain problem styles or formats. Teachers also reported focusing more on students near the proficient cut score (i.e., “bubble kids”) and expressed concerns about negative effects of the accountability requirements on the learning opportunities given to high-achieving students....[Teachers and principals noted and effect of] declining staff morale.

  • New York Times, 10/15/09 (external link)  (internal link)  The passage rate of New York students on the state exam is much higher than their passage rate on a national test, suggesting that the state test is inordinately easy.  This finding throws into question the significance of a recent report by Hoxby et al. (Sept. 2009).  The Hoxby student showed that students at charter schools in New York City outperformed their peers in non-charter public schools. Most of the data in the study pertained to elementary school. 

NCLB Supplemental Educational Services

Back to NCLB  (parent link) |  School Reform Lexicon | Table of Contents

STATE OF WASHINGTON complete list of SES providers: Go to B056-07, and click on SES attach C

See comments on for discussion of (lack of) efficacy of SES, math coaches, and District-adopted aligned math curriculum.

Description of Supplemental Educational Services (SES)

[This material was copied on 11.03.09 from this URL:]

Low-income families can enroll their child in supplemental educational services if their child attends a Title I school that has been designated by the state to be in need of improvement for more than one year. The term "supplemental educational services" refers to free extra academic help, such as tutoring or remedial help, that is provided to students in subjects such as reading, language arts, and math. This extra help can be provided before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer.

Each State Education Agency is required to identify organizations that qualify to provide these services. Districts must make a list available to parents of state-approved supplemental educational services providers in the area and must let parents choose the provider that will best meet the educational needs of the child.

Providers of supplemental educational services may include nonprofit entities, for-profit entities, local educational agencies, public schools, public charter schools, private schools, public or private institutions of higher education, and faith-based organizations. Entities that would like to be included on the list of eligible providers must contact their state education agency and meet the criteria established by the state to be considered for the list of eligible providers.

NCLB Assessment and Accountability

Back to NCLB  (parent link) |  School Reform Lexicon | Table of Contents

Source of following quote:

The standards-based accountability (SBA) provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires each state to
  • develop content and achievement standards in several subjects,
  • administer tests to measure students’ progress toward these standards,
  • develop targets for performance on these tests, and
  • impose a series of interventions on schools and districts that do not meet the targets.
Reported Changes at the Classroom Level Included Both Desirable and Undesirable Responses.  Teachers noted ..efforts to align instruction with standards and efforts to improve their own practices... narrowing of curriculum and instruction toward tested topics and even toward certain problem styles or formats. Teachers also reported focusing more on students near the proficient cut score (i.e., “bubble kids”) and expressed concerns about negative effects of the accountability requirements on the learning opportunities given to high-achieving students....

Conclusions.  This monograph suggests reasons for both optimism and concern...SBA is leading to an emphasis on student achievement...but teacher and administrator responses suggest that a single-minded emphasis on student proficiency on tests has some potentially negative consequences such as a narrowing of curriculum and a decline in staff morale.'

The following articles were found by entering "NCLB" as a search term at this URL: This URL was found as a link on the website.

  • Herman, J. (2007), Accountability and Assessment: Is Public Interest in K-12 Education Being Served?, CRESST Report 728 (33 pp.); Summary: The report  defines 'public interest' and examines "whether and how accountability assessment influences students’ learning opportunities and the relationship between accountability and learning."
  • Mintrop, H. and T. Trujillo (2005), Corrective Action in Low-Performing Schools: Lessons for NCLB Implementation from State and District Strategies in First-Generation Accountability Systems, CSE Report 657. Summary: "This paper explores what lessons we can learn from the experiences of [two larger districts (Chicago and Philadelphia) and three smaller and four larger] states that instituted NCLB-like accountability systems prior to 2001...[Our analysis revealed] eight 'lessons': sanctions are not the fallback solution; no single strategy has been universally successful; staging should be handled with flexibility; intensive capacity building is necessary; a comprehensive bundle of strategies is key; relationship-building needs to complement powerful programs; competence reduces conflict; and strong state commitment is needed to create system capacity."
  • Haertel, E. and J. Herman (2005), A Historical Perspective on Validity Arguments for Accountability Testing, CSE Report 654. Summary: "...Those students and schools that are [failing to meet learning standards] should be held accountable. Of course, the rationales for accountability testing programs are much more complex than that, as are testing's effects, both intended and unintended. In this chapter, we describe various rationales for accountability testing programs over the past century. .. Our goals are first, to illustrate the diversity of mechanisms whereby testing may affect educational practice and learning outcomes; and second, to show that while many of the same ideas have recurred over time in different forms and guises, accountability testing has become more sophisticated."

NCLB Highly Qualified Teacher

Back to NCLB  (parent link) |  School Reform Lexicon | Table of Contents

This material copied on 11.2.09 from

The law set the important goal that all students be taught by a "highly qualified teacher" (HQT) who holds at least a bachelor's degree, has obtained full State certification, and has demonstrated knowledge in the core academic subjects he or she teaches. In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) reinforced this goal by aligning the requirements for special education teachers with the NCLB requirements.

The law also requires states will lose Federal education funding if they fail show that they are taking steps and making progress on the goal of ensuring that "highly qualified teachers are distributed equitably among classrooms with students from affluent and disadvantaged families by offering extra training or financial incentives to teach in hard-to-staff schools."

States must have a test in place to assess subject-area knowledge in the key subjects in the standard elementary school curriculum. Further, for new middle and high school teachers, a State must either test content knowledge or require those teachers to have a college major, a major equivalent, or an advanced degree or credential, in each subject taught, in order to be considered highly qualified. If a State has charter schools, teachers who teach in these schools must have bachelor's degrees and must demonstrate subject-area competence in the same manner as other teachers do before they can be considered highly qualified, but certification requirements can be waived, if permitted by State law. For teachers of special education, States must meet the requirements established in Section 602(10) of IDEA.

Complete and accurate reporting of HQT data to the Department is the third requirement. In January 2006, States must submit complete and accurate data to the U.S. Secretary of Education on their implementation of the HQT requirements as part of their Consolidated State Performance Report (CSPR). In addition to reporting the number and percentage of core academic classes being taught by highly qualified teachers in all schools, States must report on the number and percentage of core academic classes being taught in "high-" and "low-poverty" schools.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Two Sides of School Reform


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

Note: This article is still a draft. I welcome comments that will help me to make the article clear, concise, complete, and easy to follow.

"School Reform," as I have seen it used, has quite a specific meaning.  Before proceding with a definition of this term, it is necesary for the reader to pay attention to the distinction between  charter schools [internal link] and non-charter public schools. Both types of schools are institutions of public education, as both types of schools recieve per capita state dollars designated for K-12 education. 
School reform comprises the school choice movement, privatization of public education sector, and what I call industrialized education in public schools serving low-income/minority student populations.

School Reform refers, first of all, to an approach for re-making public-financed non-charter education with the goal of increasing the readiness of high-school and community college graduates to be submissive, productive members of the workforce.  It also encompasses the School Choice Movement.  School Choice calls for per capita state K-12 dollars to follow a child to wherever the family chooses to enroll child, be that a private school, a charter school, or a non-charter public school. 

To reduce some confusion that surrounds the use of this term, I urge people to refer to this movement as Corporatist School Reform.  ("Militaristic Corporatist Reform Movement" would be more fully descriptive of the school reform movement, but this is too ungainly.) The adjective corporatist captures several features of the movement. Firstly. it characterizes the primary advocates and financial backers of the movement -- this is not a popular grass roots movement, as the noun "movement" connotes. Secondly, it refers to the business creation goal of the movement.

Thirdly, it refers to the belief that bringing systems engineering efficiency, innovation, and competition into the public school realm will lead to cost efficiencies and to a better product, i.e., service-sector job-ready high school graduates. This is not to say that Corporatist School Reform movement discounts the need for a cadre of high school graduates ready for college-level studies in math, sciences, and engineering. It seems, rather, that the movement finds that as long as private schools and a few great public schools are providing opportunities for advantaged children to obtain a superior education, it is cost-effective to have schools serving less advantaged students to focus on providing an education that prepares students for employment in the low-wage sector of the ecomony.

Fourthly, it calls for what I term Industrialized Education in non-public charter schools and in militaristic charter schools.  This is the type of education that I am referring to as preferred by "Reformists" in schools that serve lower income communities.

The reader can refer to Industrialized Education for a description.

 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).  NCLB calls for narrowly-defined student, teacher, and school accountability to be based on state-mandated norm-referenced high stakes testing. Not incidentally, Industrialized Education implemented in charter schools provides at present the best opportunity for private business income profits [see articles by Lisa Snell at the Reason Foundation].

The form of back-to-basics eduation seen in the non-charter schools of reformed school districts is ultra-regressive, and is organized around high-stakes standardized, computer-greaded tests.  I feel that "Industrialized Education" is an appropriate name for the School Reform movement's extreme version of traditional education. In the School Reform construct, the ideal non-charter public school is a factory, where teachers are machinery that punches and molds the raw material (the students) in order to imbue the raw material with the desired attributes. The high stakes tests are the primary means of carrying out Quality Assurance. QA provides feedback necessary to improve the percentage of product that meets the product specification, and can be shipped to customers (business that seek submissive, literate, competent, low-wage non-unionized employees for dead-end jobs) .

Some charter schools are also organized rigidly for teaching-to-the-test.  These tend to be highly regimented.  Military charter schools are of this type.  These schools are less expensive to operate than progressive schools, can succeed in meeting their AYP without supplemental support from Foundations.  Thus, these kind of charters provide the best opportunity for business income and profit.

Notwithstanding the existence of conservative charter schools, it is a fact that educational innovation is welcomed by reformists, as long as the innovation occurs within charter schools rather than non-charter public schools. Anything goes, as long as schools meet their accountability (AYP) targets. To help them meet their targets, charter schools  have more strategies legally available to them than do non-charter public schools. Charters also sometimes have generous financial support from private Foundations, most often one or more of these Foundations will appear on the donor list of  a charter school: Gates, Broad, Stuart, and Walton Family. So charter schools have certain advantages over public schools when it comes to the struggle to meet AYP. We also know that sometimes charter schools engage in activities and strategies that enhance the charters school's chance of meeting AYP while a the same time diminising the public school's chance. For example, charter schools are legally allowed to dump their least successful and their more disruptive students back into the non-charter system, and it is known that this does happen.

The term "public-private partnership" is inscribed on both sides of the metaphorical coin.  On the Charter School side of the coin, public-private partnerships means generous gifts of money to reduce class size or otherwise pay for extra intructional support, maybe to provide extra psychosocial services, great libraries, etc. One has to wonder if the Foundation support will be perpetual: What will happen to these schools when the Foundations loose interest in supporting the school (this happend to T.T. Minor).

On the Non-charter public school side, public-private partnerships go to the Central District instead to school buildings. The private grants pay for part of the data-driven decision making implementation start-up costs of establishing, refining, expanding the infrastructure for data-creation, data warehousing, and data analysis, and data-driven decision making, instructional leadership training, and enforcement of requirements for teachers to teach-to-the-test.

So now I realize "School Reform" does just mean "regressive education." It can also mean progressive education.

Reformists have a different set of values for charter schools on the one hand, and non-charter public schools on the other. In the case of non-charter public schools, reformists are opposed to innovation and progressive education. Within a charter school system, reformists welcome innovation and competition; they set no limits on pedagogical approach. Non-charter public schools, however, must conform to a strict regime of narrowly focused, district mandated curriculum, and teaching-to-the-test.


Let's Get Real About Innovation in Our Schools


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Go to Charter schools and such [Index]

Below is the text of a comment I submited to this Edutopia Blog post:

Title: "Let's Get Real About Innovation in Our Schools" By Suzie Boss10/12/09

My comment (submitted Nov. 2, 2009):

My impression is that when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and school reformists use the term "innovation," they are referring to charter schools. The reformist view, is it not, is that charter schools are the way to introduce innovation into public education? Non-charter public schools, in the reformist view, are supposed to provide strictly regressive, traditional, back-to-basics education:

- 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.

In the reformist view, school choice, and innovations are great and highly desirable, as long as these elements of public education are available only through charter schools. Competition is desirable, but not within the non-charter public system. Charter schools compete against non-charter schools, private schools, and among themselves, but non-charter public schools structured so that they do not compete against each-other.

Here in Seattle, the district has withdrawn all support for non-charter Alternative schools, is aligning curriculum uniformly across the district, and is eliminating opportunity for patrons to choose non-charter public schools (all students will be assigned to their neighborhood school, except when there is not enough capacity; a few "option" schools are available to address overflow).

Washington State does not yet permit charter schools, but the Seattle district has allowed a single psuedo-charter to start up. The District gives this school lots of support. Why is innovation good in charter (and psuedo-charter) schools, but unacceptable in non-charter public schools?

In conlusion I doubt very much that any of the DOE funds for innovation will go to expanding and developing WITHIN the non-charter public school systems the GREAT EXAMPLES of innovation that already exist within the non-charter public schools.

We still have some innovative and very successful Alternative schools within SPS, despite the lack of support from the District. Thornton Creek Elementary school, which follows the Expeditionary/Outward bound model, just received last spring the presigious Imag'nation Award from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Thornton Creek is the first school outside of New York State to receive this award.

Parent activists in Seattle are trying to save the Alternative school system, but it is an uphill battle. Do you have any advice for us?


Alphabetical Index to topics and posts


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curriculum-alignment-in-sps  Filed under Topic: Reform of Seattle Public Schools 

Events Index


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Nov. 18 Wednesday x p.m. - z p.m. School Board meeting

Nov. 11 Scott Oki hosted by CPPS
Meetings Week of Nov 2 - 6  

Event 11-10-09 CPPS meeting with Scott Oki - self-proclaimed school reform sage

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Go to  Events Index

"CPPS Meeting, Tues, Nov 10 with Scott Oki"
Tues, November 10 at 7:00 P.M.
Garfield High School LIBRARY (400 23rd Ave)

Prepare for this event by reading the comments on this SPS community blog post where people compare Alternative schools to charter schools.

Announcement: A Community Conversation with Scott Oki

In his book, "Outrageous Learning: An Education Manifesto," Scott Oki describes the ills facing public schools and applies the same frank, no-nonsense analysis that made him one of the most successful executives at Microsoft and co-founder of the Oki Foundation.

Mr. Oki is meeting with community groups across Washington State in order to offer his common-sense solutions to the challenges facing our schools and solicit input from his audiences. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, please join us in a spirited conversation about ways to improve our schools. To learn more about Scott Oki and read excerpts from the book, including his 11 planks for systemic school reform, visit

posted by Andrew Kwatinetz at 11:48 AM on Oct 27, 2009  on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog.

More than 50 comments on this blog post already!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Charter Schools [Index to articles]


Go to Table of Contents

Article: Charter schools defined

Topic: Alternative schools instead of charter schools
Article: Foundation abandonment of charter demonstration projects

Article: Seattle's psuedo-charter school      
  • State law does not permit charter schools; nevertheless, there does exist within SPS a fairly recently established school that resembes a charter school in a number of ways.  This school is known as The New School, or "South Shore." It is located in Rainier Valley. There are several ways in which this school resembles a charter school....
Charter Schools:  Are they good? Are they Bad?
  • The general view seems to be that there is zero chance of charter schools coming to this state. The voters have three times rejected charter initiatives. Charters could come to the state through a state legislative action. Arne Duncan is offering a financial bribe to states like ours to pass pro-charter and pro-merit pay (student score conditioned) legislation. It seems unlikely that the legislature would endeavor to qualify for this bribe. 
  • For an excellent communal assessment of charters, go to this link: Go to the comments on the essay, and scroll down until you find the first comment by "zb."  Starting from this comment, there are number of astute comments about charter schools.
  • Here is a heartwrenching anecdote that speaks to the problem of parasitical behavior of charter schools, especially when they are co-housed with other schools.
  • NY Daily News 07.19.09: Charter schools pawn off flunking students, says public school principal (external link)  See also the comments and related articles

    •  By Julie Weosterhoff (of PURE).   "District press releases touting the 2010 plan claimed that the CPS charter schools, the model for many Renaissance schools, were outperforming similar regular public schools. This claim is not supported by national evidence on charters. And a recent analysis by the Chicago Teachers Union shows that Chicago charters enroll a smaller proportion of special needs students, a smaller proportion of economically disadvantaged students, and a smaller proportion of limited English proficient students than CPS schools as a whole.  

    Helpful lessons from charter school experiments: 
    • Hoxby et al., September 2009.  Regardless of any flaws and biases that it might have, the Hoxby Study teaches a number of valuable lessons: 1) Stability (freedom from district interference) is important for student and school success - minimum three years worth for each child enrolled and mininum three years for a strong program to succeed in meeting AYP. 2) When student achievement is narrowly defined, significant growth in three-year achievement occurs in the context of a range of pedagogical approaches -- i.e., with pedagogical approach ranging from progressive (hands-on rich engaging student directed curriculum) to regressive (focused worksheet based teaching to the test with scripted lessons). This says that direct instruction is not necessary for significant gains in student achievement.

    New School - SPS' psuedo charter school

    Go to Table of Contents
    Go to Charter schools [index]

    Below find a sequence of comments about the New School copied out of a blog.

    State law does not permit charter schools; nevertheless, there does exist within SPS a fairly recently established school that resembes a charter school in a number of ways. I refer to this school as a 'psuedo'- charter school.

    This school is known as The New School, or "South Shore." It is located in Rainier Valley. It does not have the freedom from regulations district and state regulations that charter schools do have, but in these ways the school resembles a charter school:

    • it has enrollment-by-lottery system
    • it is situated in a part of the city that has higher poverty and higher than average percentage minority school-age children
    • it has a small class sizes and a rich, progressive curriculum
    • it has taken over space from an already-established program (though not all charter schools do this--but non-charter schools do NOT do this); it is now trying to take over the whole bldg--but the original program is fighting to stay (SouthShore high school re-entry program).
    • it receives significant foundation support, as is typical of charter schools that have rich progressive curriculum and small class sizes
    What is somewhat unusual is that the program starts at pre-K. I met an African-American parent of a displaced T.T. Minor child who said she has heard good things about the program. So it is quite an attractive school, from what I understand. I suppose for most parents who tour, the progressive curriculum adds to its attractiveness. I bet it has atypically small class sizes, too.

    This school is interesting to me because of the dual standard it reveals in the District's priorities.  The New School enjoys clear and significant support from the School District. (Rumor has it that the Superintendent's daughter attends preschool at the New School.) Alternative schools, on the other hand, are being phased out. (See "Alternative schools instead of charter schools" on the Charter schools page.)  To compare the New School with Alternative schools is appropriate, because like Alternative schools, the New School has a progressive, hands-on curriculum (the PreK-G1 curriculum is called High/Scope--external link). 

    This next set of comments I copied out of the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog (, and then re-organized for clarity.

    10/31/09 11:41 adhoc said... My son graduated from Bryant last year.

    He had 30 kids in his 3rd grade class, 31 in his 4th grade class, and 30 in his 5th grade class.

    Even at 30/31 the classes are huge. The kids can't walk up and down the aisles in the classroom, and had to turn sideways in some areas. They had to share cubby's. Had 3 lunch shifts. Lost the science lab to form another classroom. New School.......

    adhoc said... From the report: "Grant-supported for at least the next 6 years by the New School Foundation. These additional dollars support Pre-K, small class sizes,instructional assistants and staff training"
    What's the point? Is this foundation trying to prove that if every school has a bunch of outside donors and can get the supt or other political figures to enroll their kids that the school will work and/or be protected from the idiocy of the central district decision making?

    adhoc said... So, what happens to New School if the grant isn't extended? How do they fund all of the "extras" without the private dollars? Do they all just go away, and New School becomes just like every other public school? And are parents who enroll aware that this could happen?

    SolvayGirl1972 said... [commenting on preceding comment] Isn't that pretty much what happened when the money ran out at TT Minor—another Sloan-funded school?  [See internal link - scroll down to "Case Study: T.T. Minor"

    Here is the link to the report: [external link to pdf file]

     uxolo said... [commenting on the scheduled end of the grant support]

    uxolo said... The New School history is not very pretty. Olchefske let them establish before going to the Board for a Memorandum of Understanding was ever presented. I would not trust the district website regarding the funding cycle. I would trust the New School's site for accuracy.

    Robert said... Yeah Gavroche Kay has told me that she is against charters. Send her an email and ask her yourself (I am certain she will respond ;-) ).

     Melissa Westbrook said... I think the parents at South Shore are aware that their school is greatly helped by the funding from the New School Foundation. Do they all know when it runs out? I doubt it. Will New School continue this experiment? Again, unclear. But if the funding goes away, they will be funded just like every other K-8. I have no idea what would happen to the pre-school; maybe a private operator would take over.

    SPSMom said... [commenting on the Superintendent's having enrolled her daughter at New School, says it does NOT bode well for alternative schools], I think it bodes well for charter schools. Two reasons, there is nothing really alternative about the New School and two, it is an example of what a private/public partnership can do. Free tuition and smaal classes, and some enrichment.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Curriculum Alignment in SPS


    Go to table-of-contents.
    Go to reform-of-seattle-public-schools [parent index]

    May 2009: the District communicated to Roosevelt High School that the Language Arts curriculum would be "aligned." This entailed eliminating popular electives. Read about this at; see especially Charlie Mas' entry

    Oct. 22, 2009: SPS District office has just announced that it will schedule community meetings on District-wide Curriculum Alignment just before and after Thanksgiving

    Here are some blog essays on this topic:

    Go to reform-of-seattle-public-schools [parent index]
    Go to Table-of-contents

    Curriculum Alignment in SPS: WHY?


    Go to table-of-contents
    Go to curriculum-alignment-in-sps [parent index]

    This is a quote from the first entry on this webpage:

    "Basically, the district wants to align the curriculum from school to school for a couple of reasons. One is that there are enough students who transfer from school to school and find completely different things happening. Another is that the district wants to have some continuity about what is happening from school to school. I can see their point somewhat."

    Do you want to know why I think the District is keen on Curriculum Alignment?

    [If you don't, you can click here to return to the Table of Contents.]

    The justifications the District has given don't sound very compelling, do they?  Not to me.  My guess is that Curriculum Alignment and Elimination of School Choice (SAP) are complementary parts of an agenda to increase the appetite for charter schools. 

    Notice that SAP cannot be justified unless all the schools are identical in curriculum.
    • Even so, I would still argue that aligning curriculum isn't enough to justify SAP, Within large urban school districts such as Seattle's, SAP has a huge downside: de facto resegregation. We know that the kids assigned to struggling schools having little supplementary fundraising are not getting as good an education as kids assigned to a school with a predominately white and middle-to-upper class student body. 
    • Familes of kids who under the choice system would have elected to go elsewhere (say, Summit?  African American Academy?  Tops? - the first two of these programs were closed, remember?) will soon be--under SAP--stuck going to a struggling school they don't want to be in in the first place, and which is academically inferior to the school they would have chosen to go to.
    Curriculum alignment, as we can see in the case of Roosevelt High School, can lead to narrowing and dumbing-down of the curriculum.  The schools to which the more advantaged children are assigned will become less appealing to families. The familes that can afford to will move their kids to private school.

    Looking at these consequences of SAP and Curriculum Alignment, it is easy to see how families of all income levels will likely show a greater appetite for charter schools. Why? Typically

    • Charter schools are choice schools; if demand for seats exceeds supply, then typically charter school seats are assigned by lottery.
    • A parallel system of charter schools provides the choice that is to be largely (more probably, completely) eliminated by SAP.
    • Charter schools are free to cater to a target clientele.  Some charter schools specialize in serving low-income minority children. Such charter schools are often punitive and highly regimented. Some charter schools specialize in serving more affluent clientele.  So a network of charter schools can provide something for everyone.
    We already have a psuedo-charter school in Seattle. It is called the New School. It is also referred to as South Shore.  The New School will be the topic of a separate blog essay. I will mention a couple things about it here. ,
    • The New School uses a PK-K curriculum "High/Scope" that sounds distinctly progressive. "High/Scope sets the stage for active learning: students have direct, hands-on experiences with people, objects, events and ideas. The children’s interests and choices are the heart of High/Scope programs, and a daily plan-do-review sequence provides the structure."  It sounds like the Grade 1-3 curriculum is similar in philosophy to the High/Scope curriculum: "The New School Foundation supports strong alignment between its pre-kindergarten experience and the K-3 experiences that follow."
    • Rumor has it that Maria Goodloe-Johnson is sending her daughter to the pre-school program at the New School.
    • There is plenty of evidence that MGJ does not support the non-charter public Alternatives schools in SPS, all of which provide progressive education to their students. (See The Sun is Going Down on Board Policy C54 and Alternative Schools .)

    Don't these facts taken together tell us the MGJ likes choice and progressive curriculum as long as it is not within the non-charter public school system?

    The next logical question that someone would ask is this:  Why do Reformists abhor free choice and progressive curriculum when it occurs WITHIN the public school system?  The most plausible answer I can think of is this:


    The individuals and organizations that are bankrolling the School Reform advocacy movement are first and foremost business people, whose most fundamental objective is to Make Money for Themselves and/or for Shareholders.  

    Open enrollment Charter Schools would provide a much better business income opportunity than do open enrollment C54 Alternative schools.

    SAP: Is it true that parents want "predicability"?

    Go to table-of-contents.
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    Links to blog essays on this topic: