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

Links to blog essays on this topic:

SAP Plan to Elimate Choice

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

Links to blog essays on this topic:

Curriculum Alignment - Good or Bad?


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

An exellent report that address this question as the main theme or as a sub-theme:
  • Questions that this report speaks to include the following:  Is Curriculum Alignment best practice? [No, since the district doesn't necessarily always pick the best curriculum. Think of SPS' adopted math curricula!] The experience of teachers in a curricularly aligned, data-driven, standardized-test-oriented reformed district.

Whole Language and Phonics
  • Why do I list "Whole Language and Phonics" as a sup-topic this index?  What if the District chooses, of these two approaches, the inferior approach?  Public school children will suffer the consequences.
  • Best article so far to give pros and cons of Phonics Wins out. This article indicates that Whole Language curriculum leads to lower levels achievement on broad measures of achievement.
  • For some interesting blog essays/comments on this topic, search the Core Knowledge site:, and use the search string "whole language phonics"
  • for more interesting articles, search the web: google "whole language versus phonics"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Method challenges some education myths [Commentary]


Go to Table of Contents

This  blog entry is a commentary on the article Method Challenges Some Education Myths By Jason Song and Jason Felch, published October 18, 2009 in LA Times.

I suggest you read the article (click on the link) before reading this essay.

This article purports to summarize research that debunks as myth commonly held beliefs having to do with education. Notice especially that if the assertions of the article are accepted at face value, then we are forced to draw the following conclusion:

"The teachers that command the highest salaries in public schools (due to credentials and years of experience) "add" less value than less-qualified and less-experienced teachers. The less-experienced, less-well credentialed teachers are just as successful, and often more successful, at closing the achievement gap. This is true regardless of class size (smaller class size does not lead to higher achievement)."

Under the following circumstances, the assertions in the news article are very likely to be true:

1. One only looks at schools that have implemented and exhibit high fidelity to a reformist core curriculum and reformist teaching methods.
2. Teachers at the schools constrain the content of their lessons to the core-curriculum, which is to say, all of the teaching is geared to the test.
3. The only measure of individual achievement considered is individual scores on the district- or state-mandated standardized exam.
4. The only measure of teacher success considered is year-over-year aggregate change in achievement of the students in his/her classes for that school year.
5. The only measure of school success considered is the year-over-year aggregate change in achievement of the students enrolled in the school.

Research studies that only look at schools that conform to some or all of these five criteria will likely produce results that support the assertions of the newspaper article. Such research cannot, however be considered as constituting fair and valid tests of the stated hypothesis.

Now lets add another criterion to the five listed above. Let us limit our analysis to inner-city urban high schools, and test whether disadvantaged students at charter schools outperform their peers in public schools. We will mostly find that on narrow measures of achievement, charter schools outperform the public schools. We will also notice, if we are looking, that in violence-ridden neighborhoods, the charter schools are either sponsored by a branch of the U.S. Military, or are highly regimented and punitive.

Consider now asking the same research question, but this time of student performance at schools that have NOT been reformed. Suppose the researchers limited their study to schools that meet these criteria:

1. School located in large urban area, and having very high proportion of low-income and minority students.
2. Teachers do not "teach to the test." Instead, a small proportion of cumulative annual lesson time is devoted to test preparation. This lesson time focuses on test-taking skills, not on test content.
3. The school curriculum and educational philosophy is progressive; that is to say, it is rich and broad in scope, has a strong hands-on/active learning/project-based emphasis, is intellectually-engaging and challenging for students, and students are invited to help determine study themes.
4. The only measure of individual achievement considered is individual scores on the district- or state-mandated standardized exam.

I predict that a high proportion of students at these schools will pass the state standard exams. If the measures of achievement are broadened to include student return rate, first choice rate, drop out rate, college-application rate, college entrance rate, advanced-degree achievement rate, etc., then students at these schools will strongly outperform students at the military and militaristic charter schools, and at non-charter public schools that follow the regressive Reform prescription.

I have found analyses that supports this prediction. In other words, there does exist data that shows that progressive education is more successful at closing the achievement gap than is reform education. The contrast in outcomes is especially stark when achievement is defined by authentic measures.

This blog essay is long enough. I will defer discussion of relevant research for a separate blog essay, to be written on another day.

I am interested to hear what others think of this LA Times article.

Method challenges some education myths


Go to Table of Contents

Blog note: Please comment on this article and/or go to Joan's commentary on this article.

Related articles:
Blog note: The last of these related articles lists very few high quality scientific sources. Many of the sources are reformist advocacy organizations.  The source lists leaves me with little faith in scientific credibility of the Times assertions in this series of articles.

Here is the article:

Districts and states that use the 'value-added' approach have had some surprising results: Class size, student background and schools' funding appear to be less critical than has long been believed.

By Jason Song and Jason Felch
October 18, 2009

LA Times. 

For years, schools and students have been judged on raw standardized test scores. Experts say this approach is flawed because they tend to reflect socioeconomic levels more than learning.

The "value-added" approach attempts to level the playing field by focusing on growth rather than achievement. Using a statistical analysis of test scores, it tracks an individual student's improvement year to year, and uses that progress to estimate the effectiveness of teachers, principals and schools.

Academics have also used the approach to test many assumptions about what matters in schools. Scholars are still puzzling over what makes for a great teacher or school, but their results challenge orthodox assumptions like these:

All teachers are equal. For decades, schools have treated teachers like interchangeable parts. Value-added results suggest there are sharp differences in teachers' effectiveness.

More money, more learning. The highest growth among students is often in poor schools with low achievement scores, according to districts and states that have adopted the value-added approach. Students at affluent schools sometimes have high proficiency scores but make little new progress year to year.

Teachers can't overcome a student's background. Recent research shows that with several effective teachers in a row, students can overcome disadvantages. Some studies suggest minority and poor students make as much progress as other pupils when placed with the same effective teachers.

Class size is key. Modest changes in class size have been shown to have little to no effect on student learning.

Bad teachers tend to teach in poor schools. Several studies suggest that there is more variation among teachers within a school than across schools. Effective instructors are often distributed across rich and poor schools, and they tend to stay at challenging schools longer than at ineffective ones.

Teacher experience matters. Although teachers are generally paid more for years of experience, research suggests that instructors show dramatic improvement in their first few years and then level off. Teachers with 20 years of experience are often no more effective than peers with five.

Teacher education matters. Schools routinely pay higher salaries to teachers with graduate degrees. But several studies have found that educators with advanced degrees do no better than those without, with the possible exception of high school math teachers.

Teacher credentials matter. Most public schools pay teachers more for certifications and advanced credentials. But several studies have shown that non-traditionally prepared instructors -- such as those in the Teach for America program -- have similar or slightly better outcomes than certified ones.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times,0,4278154.story

Please comment on this article and/or Go to Joan's commentary on this article

Teachers, their unions, and the "Human Capital" reform agenda

Go to Table of Contents

An essay is being prepared for this page. The essay will outline the "Human Capital" strategy of the school reform movement, as it relates to teachers.

The school reform movement calls for teacher assessment, promotion, tenure, compensation decisions to be "driven by data." This is an anti-professional, disrespectful agenda that serves one of the fundamental reformist priorities, this being to reduce the cost of labor.

I am concerned that few teachers in SPS are aware of the efforts that are being made, particularly at the state and federal level, to get legislation passed that supports the anti-teacher agenda.

This lack of awareness may be due to union leadership cooperating with reformist advocates. I will document the nature of this cooperation.

In this article I will attempt to explain what the Human Capital strategy is, and why it is not good for the students of SPS, and why it is not good for teachers and their profession.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yes! Examples of successful opposition in other districts

Go to Table of Contents

Back to Opposition to Reform [Topic index]

San Francisco
  • Education and Democracy 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.

San Diego

Teachers' Unions successfully block reformist Superintendent from  implementing a reformist strategy for teacher evaluations | LA Times article

Favorite Links


Go to Table of Contents 
Seattle Ed 2010 blog by Dora Taylor and Sue Peters

More anti-reform blogs and websites



Local blog:


Go to Table of Contents
Return to Local anti-reform blogs and websites [Index] ===============

- This blog serves as a warehouse of links to on-line articles, reports, studies, and websites. The owners of this blog (Seattlites Dora Taylor and Sue Peters) have compiled many dozens of articles, and are adding new articles daily. The links are organized by topic.

- The current topics, in order of presentation on the right bar of the seattle-ed blog, are the following:
  • Regarding Charter Schools and the Privitization of a Public Trust
  • Charter Schools and Public Funds
  • Arne Duncan [U.S. Secretary of Education; pro-charter & pro-reformist]
  • President Obama
  • The Race to the Top [Federal Dept. of Edu. pro-charter bribes to states that don't yet allow charters; funds to promote school district reform]
  • The Broad Foundation: "The Underground Department of Education"
  • About the Gates Foundation and Charter Schools
  • Mayoral Control of School Districts
  • Alternative Schools in Seattle
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Merit Pay and High Stakes Testing
  • Kipp Schools [KIPP is a network of charter schools]
  • Teachers' Unions (e.g., "This is What Happens When You Don't Have a Teachers' Union")
  • Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Seatte Public Schools Superintendent; documenting that she is reformist, and has very strong connections to the Broad Foundation)
  • Seattle School Board
  • School Closures
  • Food for thought [miscellany]
  • Ideas on Education
  • Recomended Sites on Education (locally and nationally)
  • Don Fisher: Union Buster, Egomaniac, Rube, In His Own Words


TQ Assessment agenda in SPS


Go to Table of Contents

Article: Teacher Quality Assessment: Open Letter to Patrick D'Amelia, President, Alliance For Education from Joan Sias
  • Excerpt: "...What are appropriate objectives for any TQA program? Can we conceive of a sensible, cost-effective, meaningful, and respectful TQA system which serves well the intended objectives, and which is likely to be well-received by teachers, principals, Directors, and the public? I suggest that the answer would not look like a Reformist-friendly solution--such as NCTQ (a Reformist advocacy group) might propose--..."
  • Posted to on October 18, 2009

[Blog note: additional articles to be added from google docs]

Uncategorized essays

Go to Table of Contents

Consequences of school reform in other large urban districts.html

Commentary on 10/18/09 LA Times article Method Challenges Some Education Myths.  According to authors, research suggests that the statement "Smaller class sizes and better qualified teachers generally lead to better student achievement" is a myth. This article is a good example of biased misinformation and constitutes Reformist propoganda.

SAP: Plan to Eliminate Choice Is Especially Disadvantageous to Minority Students

Go to table-of-contents | reform-of-seattle-public-schools | sap-plan-to-elimate-choice [parent index]

The New Student Assignment Plan (SAP) strikes me as racist.

I have a number of reasons for taking this position.

For the moment, I will only point to the following:

Click on balloons on this map, and take note especially of
  • percentage of returning students (this is the percentage of students at end of each year that return to the same school the following year; of course, students leaving the highest grade at the school are not counted in this statistic).
  • percentage of students at the school for whom this school was their guardians' first choice.
The SAP is a Plan to Eliminate Choice.  This data shows that
  • The best schools are those that have the highest rate of return.
  • the schools with low-rate of return tend to be the lowest performing schools in the district,  
  • In most cases, the majority of children attending low-performing schools did not get placed into their firstc-choice school.
I infer that children whose neighborhood school is low-performing and has a low-rate of return, very often do not want to attend their neighborhood school.

Once the Plan to Eliminate Choice is implemented, the percentage of children who attend low-performing schools, and for whom the school would have been their first choice (had they been allowed to choose) will decrease. This can be tested by recalculating the "First Choice" statistic for each of the past five years, but under the scenaria that children were assigned to their neighborhood school.

How do parents describe the contrast between north-end and south-end schools?

10/14/09 9:20 AM  adhoc said...  []

Robert it sounds like you live in the North end where most schools are high performing, full of motivated students, and have a very high level of parent involvement. They are full of primarily middle class and upper middle class families put tremendous value on their children's education. Many north end schools have Spectrum, and those that don't will now offer ALO's, making already great schools, even greater. They have strong PTA's and fundraise piles of money to support enrichment, field trips, camping, chess club, and on and on and on.

But have you visited schools outside of the North end? As a parent who lived in the Central area before moving to the north end, I can tell you the disparity in the schools is day and night, or at least it was when my child entered K.

Go check out Aki Kurose, and Cleveland, and some of the other schools where their FRL populations are over 75%, parent involvement is almost nill, fundraising is non existent, many kids are grateful for a school breakfast and lunch, are unmotivated, drop out, fight, join gangs. An ALO, a few honors classes, the SE initiative.....not enough. Not even close to enough to make these schools anything near what north end schools are.

So, yes, I agree, the district is making some moves to equalize and standardize schools (like making every school offer an ALO), but is that really all it takes? Is that enough? If not, then parents who don't have access to great schools will keep on sending their kids to private schools in droves.

By Tracy Record, reporting for West Seattle Blog on Steve Sundquist's community meeting Nov 7 2009:

"Several in the room Saturday afternoon wanted to discuss the concern reported here Friday night - the observation that the newest revision to the West Seattle attendance-areas map seems to draw a sharp line largely following West Seattle’s north-south economic divide, with the feeder-school list for Denny International Middle School and Chief Sealth High School dominated by those with more students from lower-income families, while the feeder-school list for Madison Middle School and West Seattle High School is dominated by those with more students from higher-income families."

comment: ...“Swapping” Gatewood [Elem] for WS Elementary on the maps would also considerably change the demographs for Denny/Sealth [middle school/high school] (i.e. less diversity- Sealth loves to say they are 25% each) and bring substantially less district and state funding to Denny/Sealth because of the drastic lowering of F&RL funding that Gatewood would bring (Gatewood with the new elementary boundaries will have only 20% F&RL, whereas WS Elementary will have almost 80%).

My proposal is that West Seattle Elementary, which has historically been a cross-cluster school, that the line dip down at West Seattle Elementary for it to go north, and for Gatewood to go to Denny. … With the current map, Madison winds up being a very white school. I think both (Madison and Denny) would benefit from the diversity of that line switch.”

That suggestion sparked murmurs of support around the room.

A similar point was made by High Point resident Kathleen Voss, who said, “You can’t draw a blind eye to the socioeconomic realities of this map. … If you (have to move another school into the northern section), why wasn’t it West Seattle Elementary?” She talked about that school’s predominance of students from lower-income families, and asked, “what I don’t see in the plan is, what’s the plan to balance the inequity? It’s great that schools are going to teach the same thing, but schools are (filling out) their needs with PTSA funds.”

Sundquist took sharp issue with that, calling the money raised by PTSAs and other such efforts “a tiny tiny sliver of the funding” schools get, while suggesting that perhaps conversations between north and south end PTAs/PTSAs, and involvement with “organizations like the Alliance for Education,” might “realign those monies.”

...As for the rationale behind the proposed line between the Madison/WSHS area and the Denny/Sealth area, Sundquist said a more even north/south geographic split wasn’t feasible, because northern West Seattle has fewer children than southern West Seattle. ... He acknowledged the boundary appears to create economic segregation, ...[but that] ethnic diversity would not change significantly, according to the district’s latest breakdowns (by the way, the book of data that he referred to, dated this past Wednesday, IS available online - for those at the meeting who wondered - it’s available as a three-part “data book” from links on this page).

Susan McLain. “… I would urge you strongly to consider not basing the (West Seattle) boundary line on elementary attendance areas." ..
Sundquist countered that he’s heard other concerns about “income segregation” and has brought it up with the district’s top leaders, regarding the issue of creating “a school that can deliver a high (level) educational program in a high poverty areathey say … it can be done. … We understand that as school leaders we don’t have a lot of legislative tools to deal with the fact that the income is unequally distributed.”

McLain countered, “There IS a legislative tool to deal with ‘redlining’ - one of those tools is to draw the line right, and not in such a way that exacerbates that.” She suggested community support could be mustered in an attempt to support Sundquist if he chose, as she put it, “to make the stand that I think you know you need to make.”

From Blog post at

"There is worry about the high (proportional to the other NE elementaries) F/RL [Free and reduced price lunch-eligible students] number at the new Sand Point. As well the district is going to migrate the ELL [English language learners] program at Bryant over to Sand Point (over the next few years). What will be done to make this program attractive and successful to parents? Superintendent will appoint principals who will start the design teams which will include parents, blah, blah."

Local anti-reform blogs

Go to Table of Contents

Go to Opposition to reform of SPS [Index] This blog serves as a warehouse of links to on-line articles, reports, studies, and websites. The owners of this blog (Seattlites Dora Taylor and Sue Peters) have compiled many dozens of articles, and are adding new articles daily. The links are organized by topic.

The current topics, in order of presentation on the right bar of the seattle-ed blog, are the following:
  • Regarding Charter Schools and the Privitization of a Public Trust
  • Charter Schools and Public Funds
  • Arne Duncan [U.S. Secretary of Education;  pro-charter & pro-reformist]
  • President Obama
  • The Race to the Top [Federal Dept. of Edu. pro-charter bribes to states that don't yet allow charters; funds to promote school district reform]
  • The Broad Foundation: "The Underground Department of Education" 
  • About the Gates Foundation and Charter Schools
  • Mayoral Control of School Districts
  • Alternative Schools in Seattle
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Merit Pay and High Stakes Testing
  • Kipp Schools [KIPP is a network of charter schools]
  • Teachers' Unions (e.g., "This is What Happens When You Don't Have a Teachers' Union")
  • Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Seatte Public Schools Superintendent; documenting that she is reformist, and has very strong connections to the Broad Foundation)
  • Seattle School Board
  • School Closures
  • Food for thought [miscellany]
  • Ideas on Education
  • Recomended Sites on Education (locally and nationally)
  • Don Fisher: Union Buster, Egomaniac, Rube, In His Own Words

Opposition to Reform

Go to Table of Contents

Media attention
 Opposition to reform in other larger urban districts

 Organizing efforts in Seattle and how YOU can help

Opposition at State Level:

  • dan dempsey said...Perhaps something like the legal action by the ACLU in Florida would get the Board and the Superintendent to take results more seriously.From the ACLU Florida web site: Aho et al. vs. State of Florida et al. was filed in the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County Florida. Attorneys in the class action lawsuit include Hansen and Vanita Gupta of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, Lewis of the ACLU of Florida, Deborah N. Archer of the New York Law School Racial Justice Project and ACLU Cooperating attorney Ramona Hupp. A copy of the lawsuit is available online at: This comment appeared at this URL:

Organizing Efforts in Seattle

Go to Opposition to Reform [Index]

Article: Local anti-reform blogs [Index, with description and links]

Coming soon: Articles on these topics:

  • Organizing against Reform and Charter Schools
  • Organizing to Bring Authentic Education and Assessment to SPS
  • Organizing to Save Alternative Schools in SPS
  • Organizing Teachers
  • Organizing Parents & How You Can Help
  • Organizing Students & How You Can Help

Anti-Reform/Anti-Charter Organizing in Other Large Urban Districts.


Go to Table of Contents Back to Opposition to Reform [Index]

Please help me find appropriate links!

This is a SHORT list of large urban school districts around the country that have undergone or are undergoing reform.

For each school district, I list websites of community groups that are trying organize opposition to the reform, and news articles that report on successful anti-reform efforts.



Los Angeles

New York City

Oakland, CA



San Francisco, CA

San Diego

  •,0,4471467.story  | "After nearly two years of grinding battles with the union and school board on this and other issues, Grier recently left for Houston, where the district uses value-added results as a basis for teacher bonuses....The opposition in San Diego, Grier said mildly, was "more entrenched than I thought it would be." [Seattle

Consequences of School Reform in Other Districts

New York City

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reform of Seattle Public Schools


Internal Links:
  • The Sun is Going Down on Board Policy C54 and Alternative Schools  | Created October 15, 2009 "...There are VERY FEW reasons to be encouraged that Alternative Schools will continue to flourish. There are MANY reasons, however, to be discouraged about the future of non-charter Alternative schools within SPS...What can a parent of an Alternative School student do?...

School Reform

Go to Table of Contents

Articles:  School Reform Lexicon   |  The two sides of School Reform (School Reform defined)  |  Industrialized Education |  NCLB Interventions: District Induced Instability; see also Importance of Stability  |  What has School Reform accomplished in other large urban districts? [coming soon]

Studies, essays, and op-eds by reform thinker Lisa Snell

Progressive Education

Progressive Education: What is it?

  • Pointers to informative web-articles, book titles, etc. 
  • Created October 18, 2009

Progressive public schools in Seattle
  • Brief descriptions and links
  • Created October 18, 2009

See also Topic="Board Policy C54 and Alternative schools in Seattle"

Table of Contents

Upcoming Events  [Index].  Next event: Wednesday Nov. 18

Newest Articles

Favorite Local Links

Article: Introduction  [2 articles: October 17; October 19, 2009]

Topic:  The Pillars of Strong Schools and Strong Districts [Index to articles]

Topic:  Progressive Education  [Index to articles]

Topic:  School Reform [Index to articles]

Topic: Charter schools [Index to articles]

Topic: Reform of Seattle Public Schools [Index to articles]

Topic: Opposition to Reform in Seattle and elsewhere [Index to sub-topics and articles]

Topic: Reform Efforts at the State and Federal Level [Index]

Topic: Teachers, their unions, and the "Human Capital" agenda of the School Reform movemement [Index to blog essays and articles; coming soon]

Uncategorized essays [Index to essays]

SPS Community blog - Comments on announcement of Scott Oki event Nov 10 2009 . Read the comments to see why people compare Alternative schools and charter schools, and find Alternative schools to be preferable.


This page contains two entries (posted in reverse-date order):
  • October 17 2009:  Original introduction to blog: When and why I started researching reform of SPS; brief summary of my concerns about reform.
  • October 20 2009:  The two main purposes of my blog: 1) Educate the community; 2) Organize the community.

October 20, 2009====================================

I have two main purposes for this blog.

First Purpose:  Educate the Primary Stakeholders

  • The Primary stakeholders of Seattle Public Schools are the Students, the Teachers, and the Parents. These stakeholders want great public schools provide a intellectually challenging and engaging curriculum, a small achievement gap, and that have low drop-out rates and a respected certificate of graduation.

  • The Secondary stakeholders of Seattle Public Schools are comprised of the resident community of Seattle. These stakeholders understand that great pulic schools mean a safer, more democratic, wealthier city that is a sought-after place to live.

  • The Tertiary Stakeholders of Seattle Public Schools are the public and private organizations that will employ the graduates of our schools.

Very few of the primary stakeholders of SPS understand that the District is being "reformed" in a regressive sense.

The first purpose of this blog, then, is to let stakeholders know that this is happening, what reform means, and what the effects of reform will be for our children, teachers, and city.

I presume that most of the well-informed stakeholders
  • will not want reform and, instead,
  • do want strong and well-credentialed teachers, and
  • do want the best schools for all students that public school district can offer.
Second Purpose: Organize the Community

The second purpose of my blog is to help organize the primary stakeholders and pro-authentic eduction tertiary stakeholders
  • to expell the Broad-sponsored Superintedent and all of her men (the Broad Residents), to prevent the School Board from bringing in another reformist as a replacement, to help identify and recruit a strong progressive Superintendent candidate;
  • to save the progessive non-charter schools within Seattle Public Schools (the Alternative schools), which clearly are not favored by the Broad-sponsored Superintendent; and
  • to work to oppose reform advocacy and charter schools (Washington has not yet legalized charter schools) at the state and federal level,

October 17, 2009====================================

At the time that I started this blog, few people in Seattle were aware that the public school district had been enrolled some years ago by the School Board in the School Reform Movement. The term "school reform", when it is used, nearly always refers to a teaching/learning format of a regressive, back-to-basics, traditionalist type coupled with

  • public-private partnerships;

  • increased state- and federal-spending within reformed school districts;

  • core curriculum and curriculum alignment;

  • high-stakes standardized testing;

  • data-driven decision making;

  • performance management systems;

  • instructional leadership;

  • performance incentives and bonuses;

Seattlites, do these terms sound familiar?

Within this blog, wherever I use the term "reform" without an adjective, I am referring to reform of the regressive type.

I agree with reformists that K-12 education could and should be much improved, especially for low-income and minority children, but I disagree with reformists as to the best means for achieving this goal.

The research I have seen so far shows that reformist approaches are NOT best practice in K-12 public education, and, where they have been implemented, have mostly failed to produce good outcomes for the children that are most in need of the best that public schools can offer:  Minority children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It so happens that within Seattle Public Schools our non-alternative schools tend to adhere to the back-to-basics, teach-to-the-test, "school reform" paradigm, whereas our Alternative schools take a more progressive approach to education. In a progressive school, teachers do little teaching-to-the-test, and, instead, provide children with an engaging and intellectually-challenging curriculum.

Despite little exposure to teaching-to-the test, Alternative school students tend to do quite well on the very measure that is most treasured by the reformist--the high stakes standardized exam. This is true even for Alternative schools that serve student bodies with a relatively high proportion of minority and disadvantaged students.  Here are two examples:

  • Nova Alternative High School is a testing ground for a progressive curriculum developed by author and thinker Riane Eisler of the Center for Partnership Studies. This is a popular school serving a racially and economically diverse student population. It is considered one of the best high schools in the city.

  • Thornon Creek K-5 Alternative school curriculum centers around a theme-based model called Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound.  This school won the prestigous Imag'nation Grant from the Lincoln Center of New York City in spring of 2009.  Thornton Creek is the first school outside of New York City to receive this award. The percentage of students at Thornton Creek passing the WASL exams is on par with peer traditional schools in the northeast region of Seattle.

Because they provide a standout counter-example to the supposed need for the reform prescription for improving public school education, it is no wonder to me that under Superintendent Dr. Maria-Goodloe Johnson, herself a sponsoree of a powerful pro-reform organization (i.e, the Broad Foundation), there is little support from Seattle Public School executives and Directors for these successful Alternative schools to continue to flourish.

In upcoming blog entries, I will

  • summarize and refer the reader to research showing what is and is not best practices in K-12 public education, with emphasis on what is best-practice in schools that educate economically-disadvantaged and minority children.

  • explain how to identify regressive reform agents, advocates, and organizations.

  • interpret recent and proposed changes at the local (district executive, School Board), state, and federal levels.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Progressive public schools in Seattle

(Blog note:  Check back later for brief descriptions and links)

Nova High School
Middle College High Schools
Inter-agency schools (re-entry programs)

AS#1 K-8
Orca K-8

Pathfinder K-8
Salmon Bay K-8

Thornton Creek K-5

School Reform Lexicon

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

Synonyms for and terms indicative of "School Reform"
  • Closing the Achievement Gap (i.e., white-black and white-hispanic difference in mean scores on high-stakes tests)
  • Traditional education
  • Back-to-Basics
  • Basic education
  • Corporatist School Reform
  • Industrialized education
  • Charter schools... [Index]
  • Miltary charter schools
  • Militaristic or highly regimented charter schools
  • Top-Down administration
  • Centralization and elimination of Site-Based Management
  • Renaissance
  • Community engagement
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Weak school boards
  • Mayoral appointment of School Board Directors
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) - Federal legislation
Terms Pertaining to No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
Reformist Terms Pertaining to Monitoring and Assessment
  • High Stakes Tests (internal article)
  • Teacher Quality Assessment
  • Instructional Leadership
  • The Learning Walk
  • Benchmark tests
Terms Pertaining to Use of Assessment Results
  • Data-driven decision making (DDDM)
  • Performance Management System
  • Failed schoools
  • Student promotion decisions
  • Teacher promotion/dismissal/incentives/bonuses; Merit Pay
  • District interventions: School closure, reconstitution, "Turn-around," interim principals,
  • Reconstitution of failed schools as charter schools
Reformist Terms Pertaining to Pedagogical Approach
  • Teaching-to-the-test
  • Narrowly-focused instruction
  • Direct instruction and Scripted lessons
  • Drill-and-skill 
  • Industrialized education 
Reformist Terms Pertaining to Curriculum
  • Core curriculum
  • Curriculum alignment
  • Uniform national standards
  • Unpaid internships in high school
  • on-line learning
  • small rewards and punishments
Terms that are identified with the Charter Schools:
  • Innovation
  • Competition
  • School Choice movement
  • Military
  • "Bubble kids"
  • Parent-student-school contracts
  • Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics (U. Chicago)
Miscellaneous terms that signal a corporatist reform agenda:
  • The Broad Academy of Superintendents
  • Superintendent's Plan of Entry
  • Strategic Plan;
  • Outside Stakeholders
Major financial supporters of Corporate School Reform and Charter Schools
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Broad Foundation
  • The Stuart Foundation
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Progressive Education: What is it?

"Global Achievement Gap" by Tony Wagner. "A fantastic book" suggesting ways to help students become more creative and innovative thinkers

Teacher Quality Assessment: Open letter to Patrick D'Amelio, president of Alliance For Education.

Go To Table of Contents

Back to Teacher Quality Assessment Agenda in SPS [Topic index]

[Blog note:  Alliance For (A4E, is a local foundation that is supporting efforts by the School Board and the Superintendent (and other external entities) to reform Seattle Public Schools.  Recently, A4E hosted a presentation by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a reform advocacy nonprofit.  This comment was submitted October 18, 2009 to, in response to the blog entry entitled: "Final Thought For Friday."]

Joan NE said...

Mr. D'Amelia, please favor me with a reply to the questions and assertions contained herein

(not to mention the numerous thoughtful, relevant--and as yet unanswered--questions and assertions submitted to this blog site).

How is A4E assisting the District in moving toward a TQ assessment system, other than hosting the NCTQ workshop Oct 13, 2009?

Please rebutt the following assertions:

With respect to current efforts within SPS and its (business) Community Stakeholders ("partners" to "public-private partnerships") to design and to PREPARE to put in place a TQ Assessment System, two purposes are

1) to create data-based decision making infrastructure/exostructure [see note at end of comment for definition of term] that anticipates the District's overcoming teachers' union resistance to incentive, merit pay, and ending of seniority-based placement/promotion/retention/etc. policies;

2) to provide another entry point for private business to earn income by providing contract services to the District.

Let's suppose we could suspend, for a moment, the second purpose as a priority.

Now, let's put our creativity, insight, intelligence, and research skills into contemplating this question:

What are appropriate objectives for any TQA program?

Can we conceive of a sensible, cost-effective, meaningful, and respectful TQA system which serves well the intended objectives, and which is likely to be well-received by teachers, principals, Directors, and the public?

I suggest that the answer would not look like a Reformist-friendly solution--such as NCTQ (a Reformist advocacy group) might propose--, because Reformist solutions must satisfy additional objectives, the most obvious being these:

--Provide an opportunity for business income.

--Maximize the potential business income.

I look forward to and welcome a response to my question, and a rebuttal of my assertions.


Joan Sias ("Joan NE")
Note: I use term "exostructure" to mean the outsourcing to private business entities functions that will be required to support data-driven TAPPPS (Teacher Assessment,Promotion, Pay, Placement System), including technology-based assessments, data archiving, data-analysis, and Instructional Leadership professional development (for training principals to coach and monitor teachers for fidelity to core-curriculum objects).

October 18, 2009 1:25 PM

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eavesdropping: Essays by reform thinker Lisa Snell, written FOR pro-reformers


In trying to understand the reform movement, I have found it helpful to make the following assumptions.

1. Reform advocates are very smart. When senior school officials and Directors make decisions that seem crazy, unproductive, counter-productive, self-inconsistent, or just plain stupid or incompetent, I always reject stupidity, incompetence, stubborn attachment to impractical idealogy, and sadism as plausible explanations. 

2. Every decision and behavior of reform agents has, at its root, one of the following motivations or purposes:
  • direct or indirect business-income opportunity;
  • garnering public support for charter schools (charter schools being desirable, in  part, because they are a more productive business income opportunity than is providing services to public schools and public school districts);
  • training our disadvantaged and non-college bound youth to be submissive, effective, and reliable workers;
  • winning tax-payer subsidy of private-school tuition
  • disrupting opposition to and winning increased public support for reform
  • re-segregation of schools

These are some of the reasons that reform agents give to the public, and which I do not believe:
  • cost savings necessitated by a budget crisis;
  • serving equity and predictability;
  • a genuine, altruistic, non-self-serving desire to Close the Achievement Gap;
  • to win Federal dollars (e.g., Race the the Top Funds)

Often, but not always, I am able to explain actions, decisions, and preferences of the Superintendent and the Directors of Seattle Public Schools as serving one of these purposes. 

Sometimes I am stumped. 

I have found articles by Lisa Snell very helpful for showing me the link between otherwise inexplicable behaviors of reform agents and the purposes I list above.  In particular, her articles have helped me to understand how recent developments in Seattle Public Schools conform to and support reformist priorities.

Since 1994, Lisa Snell has been the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, "a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets."   Her biographical sketch appears at this URL:

Lisa has written many essays on the topic of school reform. From reading her essays, it is clear that she is writing for a pro-reform audience.  Go to  and click on any one of the three tabs at the end of the biographical sketch ("Studies | Blog | Op-eds") to find a complete listing of her essays. Her op-eds date back to 1999.  Over the decade spanned by her essays, one can see how the thinking, priorities, and strategies of the reform movement have evolved.

This is the first Lisa Snell essay that I read:   Defining the Education Market - Reconsidering Charter Schools; July 1, 2005;

This one essay makes it abundantly clear that for people such as Lisa and her intended audience, the foundational motivation for school reform (of the regressive type) is private business access to public-school-directed taxpayer dollars--in short, MONEY.

Questions for and requests to whileseattlesleeps blog readers:
  1. In your opinion, is my list of purposes (above) incomplete and/or off-mark? If so, please provide a specific non-comforming example of an action of decision by a reformist Superintendent or reformist Board of Directors. 
  2. Do you disagree that reasons of cost-saving, equity, predictability, etc., are not the genuine motivations for the unpopular actions and decisions of Seattle Superintendent Maria-Goodloe Johnson?
  3. Tell me if you agree (or disagree) with my assessment of this essay by Lisa Snell. 
  4. Report back to me and the readers of this blog any insights you are able to glean from her articles. 
I am particularly interested in comments and responses that pertain to Seattle Public Schools: where it is, where it has been, and, most importantly, where it is likely headed, which is to say, what quality of education will be provided by Seattle Public Schools in the future if we stay on the reform path.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Good News or Bad News? State Board of Education Strongly Supports Pro-business Education Reform

These articles copied from the State Board of Education website show that the pro-business reformists have made great progress on their strategy of influencing policy at the state and federal level, in order to force changes at the district level across the state. It is much less costly to influence a single Board of Education (state level) and a single voting body (the State Legislature) than it is to try to influence every large district-level Board of Directors, and every community electorate (the voting public).

This is good news if you believe regressive reform is good for our children.

This is bad news if you do not believe that regressive reform is good for our children.

Oct 14 2009:SBE (State Board of educ) press release, copied from SBE website [] on Oct 16, 2009:

"Recently, a new education reform committee [proabably a reference to " new Quality Education Council [which] has been charged with creating a plan to phase in many education reforms, including "Core-24," and with finding the money to pay for them"] held its first meeting in hopes of one day meeting the state's constitutional requirement of providing basic education to all students in Washington.Whether this state has met that requirement has been hotly debated and is now the focus of two separate lawsuits to determine if basic education is indeed being fully funded." [Are they reformists that have brought these lawsuits? Knowledge and logic leads me to predict that this is true. Here is my reasoning: Reformist bottom line is to extract as much business income (and profit) from taxpayer dollars. Education-business can extract more business income from taxpayer dollars if 1) the reform agenda for accountability/standardized teaching and testing/charters/etc. is fully implemented, and 2) if OSPI and the School Districts have more money. This is a testable predication.]

The Seattle Times article By Donna Gordon Blankinship, Associated Press Writer September 17, 2009, "; copied from on Oct 16 2009

School officials in La Center, Wash., aren't waiting for the state of Washington to finish reforming high school graduation requirements. The small Southwest Washington school district has decided to adopt a version of a 24-credit high school graduation requirement while implementation of State Board of Education's "Core-24" plan is still being discussed by that panel and the state Legislature. Board member Eric Liu said at the board's meeting Thursday that La Center is not alone in its desire to "get ahead of the curve" on education reform. He said school officials around the state are watching the process and figuring out how to adopt the changes that seem inevitable....state Higher Education Coordinating Board says [Core-24 requirements] are needed to get into a four-year university in Washington state...Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the State Board of Education, said she would like to help other districts find the money and the will to move toward the new graduation requirements. She suggested some districts may be able to get a federal grant for innovation to pay for early implementation. Bellingham [did you realize your school district is being reformed to create market opportunity for private business?] is another district working toward early adoption of the new standards... Ryan said she was delighted the project the state board has worked so hard on has such an articulate champion in Mansell [Dr. Mark Mansell, Superintendent, La Center School District ]. Core-24 was adopted by the Legislature earlier this year as part of its education reform bill . The state's new Quality Education Council has been charged with creating a plan to phase in many education reforms, including "Core-24," and with finding the money to pay for them....[TRACKING: vocational, technical, and college-prop] [Under the La Center high school reform plan,] students  are given the choice of three different paths to follow in high school: one would prepare them for technical college or on-the-job training, the second would get them ready for college, and the third would prepare them for a more competitive four-year university and graduate school.  Mansell [Dr. Mark Mansell, Superintendent, La Center School District ] described the 24 credits as a means to the end [But are you sure, Director, that Core-24 is the RIGHT means and the RIGHT end?]. The real goal of the new diploma is to help kids think about what they want to do with their life and then get the education they need to make their dream happen. Among the other topics on the [SBE] agenda at the State Board of Education meeting that continues Friday were federal government school reform initiatives, online learning and the state's new assessment system.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wake up, Seattle: Our district is being reformed. Do you want this?

Did you know that Seattle Public School system is being "reformed?"

Do you know what "school reform" means?

Until less than one month ago (mid-September 2009) my answer to both questions would have been "No."  Motivated by concern that the SPS Superintendent, her staff, and the School Board is no longer supportive of Alternative schools within SPS, I began to do research that would enable me to better communicate to parents at my child's Alternative school the importance of our conveying to the Board our concerns about the future of our beloved school and of SPS Alternative schools in general.

Less than a month after starting this project, I can now answer "Yes" to both questions. I now understand that SPS is being "reformed," and that Alternative Schools as we know them (and as defined by Board Policy C54), are antithetical to the reform philosophy.

And I also know that I dislike nearly every pillar of  "school reform", and what the future of Seattle Public Schools is likely to be if the School Board insists on keeping the District on this path. 

  • I foresee that Alternative schools will be phased out within several years. 

  • I foresee purposeful dumbing-down of the SPS curriculum, purportedly serving the goal of "closing the achievement gap." 

  • I foresee that the public school system will not adequately serve the educational needs of my children, who still have nearly about a decade each before they will graduate high school, are highly-motivated, high-achieving, and come from an advantaged background.

  • I foresee de facto resegregation: Disadvantaged children being further disadvantaged by being concentrated into low-performing neighborhood schools with intellectually unsatisfying, non-engaging "drill-and-kill", "teach-to-the-test" narrowly-focused and aligned core-curriculum, large class sizes, lengthened school days, and increased number of school days per year.

  • I foresee de facto resegregation: Economically-advantaged children being concentrated into predominately caucasian, high-performing, neighborhood schools with intellectually unsatisfying, "drill-and-kill", "teach-to-the-test" narrowly-focused aligned core curriculum.

  • I foresee drastic and harmful "district interventions" in "failed" schools, all of which are located without exception in low-income neighborhoods and serving predominately low-income/minority students.

  • I foresee low- and middle-class parents whose children attend low-achieving schools calling for charter schools.

  • I foresee parents of all economic classes whose children are high-achieving calling for charter schools.

  • I foresee charter schools, some of which will be highly punitive and regimented (i.e., those serving disadvantaged students), some of which will be outstanding schools with intellectually-challenging and engaging curriculum (such as my child's Alternative school already offers) and serving students that are predominately white and middle- or upper-class

  • I foresee a negative feedback of charter schools on the quality of Seattle Public Schools.

  • I foresee corruption, arising from the striking conflicts of interest inherent in the reform model of public school education.

I am very interested in reform that would lead to closure of the racial gaps on authentic measures of achievement. These include, for example, decreased drop out rates, increased college admission rates, and increased attainment of baccaluareate and advanced degrees.  I am convinced that school reform as SPS is now undergoing will not produce authentic success in closing the achievement gap.

In my research, I have noticed that

  • it is VERY EASY to find evidence that shows that school reform (sometimes referred to as corporatist, traditional, regressive, back-to-basics, or standards-based) has failed to fulfill its low-bar goal;

  • it is RARE to find evidence that shows that school reform has succeeded to meet its own low-bar goal, much less authentic high-bar goals. Such evidence that does exist is usually limited to individual charter schools, and is rarely peer-reviewed.

In future entries on this blog, I hope to

  • explain why our Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was reported as saying, "What you need to know about me is that I don't lose sleep."

  • provide a definition of "school reform;"

  • explain why the School Board has not wanted the public to know that they put our school district on this path;

  • answer the question of what is research-based best practice in public education for closing authentic measures of the achievement gap, and for providing quality education for ALL students being served by Seattle Public Schools;

  • provide a concise history of regressive reform in Seattle;

  • make predictions as to the probable future of SPS, based on patterns in other reformed and reforming school districts across the nation;

  • identify who are the stakeholders that are financing and pressing for reform of SPS, their hidden motives and agenda, and their conflicts of interest;

  • outline the progress of the well-financed school reform movement to take control of the many large urban school districts across the nation, and to bring charters to the ten hold-out states;

  • show that the goal of providing a quality, authentic education for ALL students in SPS is much more difficult to achieve if charter schools are added to the mix.

My hope is that this blog--and other blogs and websites that I will point readers to--will help Seattle to

  • wake up from its slumber;

  • come to understand what school reform means for our children;

  • instigate a call for an informed public debate as to whether regresssive reform should continue;

  • inform the public and the School Board as to what kind of reform is most likely to lead to wholesome, humanistic, and authentic fulfilment of the Seattle Public School District's goal of "Excellence for All."

Joan Sias

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sun is Going Down on Board Policy C54 and Alternative Schools

Are Alternative schools in danger?


Board Policy C54.00 defines "Alternative", and gives Alternative schools curricular autonomy. If C54 is rescinded or adversely revised, then option schools formerly known as Alternative, will be, in principle, academically and philosophically indistinguishable from traditional schools.  I suggest you read the page 1 of the policy before you continue reading this blog:  (  Notice especially that by definition, Alternative schools possess curricular autonomy, which is to say, they do not have to "earn" their autonomy. This is important to understand when contemplating the denial of the Thornton Creek school application for a math curriculum waiver.

Note:  There are a number of assertions here which beg for supporting evidence or logic. I intend to address this in future blog entries.

There are VERY FEW reasons to be encouraged that Alternative Schools will continue to flourish. There are MANY reasons, however, to be discouraged about the future of non-charter Alternative schools within SPS. Here are some of them:
  • Though few parents realize this, SPS is undergoing "reform" of a specific type. The reform is top-down, traditionalist, regressive, and corporatist, and does NOT easily accomodate the philosophy, curriculum, and pedagogy that makes Thornton Creek Elementary school a sought after school by "those in the know."
  • As of last check, (October 17 2009), All K-8's are now listed as non-alternative on the SPS schools page--  including Summit, AS1, Pathfinder, Orca. The only elementary school still listed as alternative is Thornton Creek.

  • The District no longer uses the term "Alternative."  Schools formerly known as "Alternative" are now designated as "option" schools. The term "option" as it is being used by the School District has no relationship to the concept of "Alternative" as defined by Board Policy C54.

  • The District has signaled an end to Thorton Creek Elementary School's independence by denying our request to use math materials in lieu of the District-mandated Everyday Math curriculum.
  • The Board has shown no interest so far in directing the Superintendent to honor policy C54, even though Board Policy B60 calls for the Superintendent to uphold Board policy.
  • Board President Michael DeBell believes that the Board has "few tools" to enforce Board Policy, says the Board is having the entire Policy manual rewritten, and is a strong supporter of regressive reform (as already indicated, Alternative schools, as defined by C54, are incompatible with and antithetical to reform priorities for non-charter public schools.). Director DeBell also says that the number of option schools will likely "diminish over time." Reference:
  • The District has eliminated the term alternative. Their use of the term "option" is consistent with the very limited definition that Tracey Libros gave at a recent public meeting: the term “option school” refers to "any school without an attendance area, without regard for philosophy or pedagogy." (Tracy Libros, 10/7/09; verbal communication at a public meeting, as quoted by Melissa Westbrook on
  • Given this definition of "option schools," the schools formerly know as Alternative are, in principal, NOT differentiable from traditional schools only, except in a trivial and limited sense.
  • With Board support, the Superintendent closed one alternative program this year (Summit), with each justification given being either false or weak.
  • They have put AS#1 on notice that the school will close if enrollment does not increase sufficiently. We have heard reports that the Enrollment office has been telling parents who enquire about space availability at AS#1 that the school is filled.
  • All Board members seem to be supporters of regressive reform of SPS, with the Director being highly supportive (see (The President of the Board is, along with the Superintendent, a member of the Board of Directors of the Alliance For Education; this is an organization that is dedicated to helping the reform of SPS, in part by making what it calls "investments" in SPS.
  • The School Board: Director (and President) DeBell, on his blog, says option schools will not disappear but may diminish over time. This statement has us very worried. Will alternative schools be "disappeared" as the number of option schools diminish over time?

What can the a parent of an Alternative School student do?

  • Continue to refer to Alternative schools as "Alternative." 
  • Ask that alternative schools be listed twice on the District web site's list of schools - once under the grade-levels categories, and again under alternatives.
  • Remind the Directors that Board Policy B60.0 implies that the superintendent is expected to uphold Board Policy. Reference:
  • Ask the Directors to write a memo to the Superintendent, reminding her which schools have autonomy under C54, and reminder her to uphold C54.
  • Tell directors that it is rumored that the Board is planning to rescind C54, and that you oppose any modification to the policy without buy-in from designated representatives of the stakeholder communities.
  • Tell the directors that the term "option" as used by the District conveys no meaning other than "lack of attendance area and no direct assignment."  Therefore it is an affront to the Alternative School community that the District refuses to call them by that name.
  • Tell the directors you want schools that are alternative in the sense defined by C54 to be referred to as either "C54 option schools" or "alternative" by the Superintendent and her staff.
  • Complain to the directors that the Superintended is violating C54 by not allowing alternative schools to choose their own curriculum, and by imposing District-preferred standardized assessments on the schools.
  • Ask the directors to instruct the Superintendent that she must not interfere with alternative schools' right to exercise the autonomy accorded them by C54,
  • Remind the directors that the Board has not given the Superintendent unlimited power to obstruct alternative schools from exercising their right to autonomy.
  • Express the opinion that the Superintendent's limitation on Alternative School autonomy should not be tolerated, unless she can demonstrate that intervention is necessary, and that the proposed intervention is best-practice in education.
  • Remind the directors that Board policy B60.0 calls for the Superintendent to fulfill Board Policy.
  • Remind the Board how well you Alternative school's students do on the state standardized exam. The "data" proves that the school are an asset. 
  • Remind the Board that the mission of the district is to serve all of the students, not just those who are compatible with traditional schools. There are students in the school district who would not succeed at a traditional school, but who are succeeding at their alternative school.

     "What is an option school?  Options schools provide a variety of
     programmatic opportunities for families lookgin for choices in
     addition to their attendance area." "Notes on Oct 7 Board meeting" article drew many comments. Here are representative comments (quotes and paraphrases) :
  • "The District needs to clarify what an International School is and provide resources and equity."
  • Language immersion and Montessori should be treated as option school, but they are not. Does the District have a defensible rationale for this policy? 
  • "Maybe [ the Montessori programs were not made option schools]because there is not enough "programmatic opportunities" in the one Montessori program. ...If it isn't a special pedagogy, what is?"
  • "...first South Shore was alternative, then regular and now we're back to Option. South Shore WAS created to serve the neighborhood. It has something of an alternative feel (see their website) but frankly, I would call it alternative light. ..."
  • "...from what I understand, Southshore families do not consider the school to be 'alternative' and did not want it to become an option school."