Monday, October 19, 2009


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.

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