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: http://www.munileague.org/candidate-evaluations/previous-ratings/2009/candidate-questionnaires/McGinnQCEC09.pdf

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 http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2009/11/public-hearing.html 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: http://showmeinstitute.org/docLib/20070411_smi_study_7.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.

36 comments:

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Tom Hoffman said...

My first comment is that you probably need to turn moderation on to catch more comment spam. ;-)

Second, Providence has had mayorally appointed boards for years, long before it was the hot new thing. Hasn't done much good performance-wise. Only in the past couple years, however, have we gotten an apparently much more compliant board together with a Broad-trained supe. The resulting steamroller effect has been... unpleasant.

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