It has finally come to pass in Seattle as many of us had begun to discuss over a year ago when we began to hear the distant drumbeat of ed reform; high stakes testing, merit pay and not far behind, Teach for America bringing up the rear and populating charter schools with cheap labor.
About the meeting, unbeknownst to me, bright orange anything was de rigueur for the evening at the Stanford Center. I happened to have on a toned down orange striped shirt so I almost fit in.
The Alliance for Education, Stand for Children and Our Schools’ Coalition, basically one in the same group at this point, had dressed up unwitting students for the evening in bright orange t-shirts that said “kids first” on the front. There was also a contingent of the SPS construction team members in their orange and yellow construction vests displaying unity against staff being laid off so it was a visually lively event.
Several of the speakers were the usual cast of characters from the Alliance. Someone wondered if they get paid for these appearances. I imagine that many of these folks are Alliance staff and do get paid but that can be the focus of another article. They went on and on about how we need to have effective teachers and how the state of Washington has relatively low test scores compared to other states. NO ONE in that group mentioned anything about the fact that the school system in our state has always been poorly funded and that there is a direct correlation between the amount of funding a school or district has and how well the students do. Inadequate funding has nothing to do with the teachers except for the fact that all teachers I know feel it necessary to use their own funds to make their class budgets meet, paying for books and materials. None of these folks mentioned class size as a determining factor or poverty and how that can impact a student’s life in school. Nope, it’s all about the teachers.
Meg Diaz did her usual awesome job of pointing out the financial details of STEP and Melissa Westbrook came down hard on the board for not meeting their responsibilities as board directors in overseeing the superintendent as reflected in the recent audit.
What I want to focus on briefly is how the Alliance shamelessly used our students to promote their, rather the Gates and Broad, agenda last night. Under the umbrella of the Alliance for Education and paid for by Broad and Gates money is their offspring “Our Schools’ Coalition” developed and produced by Strategies 360, a national marketing firm paid for by Stand for Children. Stand for Children, also backed by Gates’ money, apparently has joined forces with the Alliance or at least they did last night.
Here were these people with shirts that say “kids first” using our children as a foil for their agenda. The Alliance staff made sure that they took lots of pictures of these kids that will more than likely be used in their literature and as photo’s provided to the press.
This to me shows a complete lack of respect for our students and reflects their willingness to do anything to achieve their ed reform goals.
How do I know that these students hadn’t even heard of Our Schools’ Coalition before last night? Because someone asked them! One student said “I know nothing. My friend brought me”. Another young person said that they had worked with the League of Education Voters on getting out the vote last year and they were asked to show up at the board meeting. Using young, optimistic, hardworking volunteers to promote the ed reform agenda. Another student said that he was part of an organization called “Youth Ambassadors” and someone told them that if they wanted their voices to be heard, that they should come to this meeting. NONE of these young people knew anything about what they were cheering about. This is truly shameless usury on the part of these groups. And they call themselves concerned about children.
The Alliance, Stand for Children and Our Schools Coalition showed their true colors last night and that color is more of a murky gray not a bright, sunny orange.
I could go on but I will save a post just about these organizations in a future but not too distant post.
Below is the testimony that I gave at the Board meeting regarding SERVE:
Much in SERVE has to do with tying the performance of a student on the MAP test to the evaluation of a teacher. Salaries can be based on a student’s performance, but worse than that, SERVE goes on to propose that when there is a rif, the superintendent can then fire teachers based on their evaluations. This is referred to as high stakes testing.
Do I want my daughter’s teacher to be that concerned about how she does on a single test or do I want them to teach the whole child a broader view of the subject, helping her to develop her creative and critical thinking skills?
It would be human nature that a person who is concerned about their livelihood and career would want to focus on ensuring that their students know the correct answers to a multiple choice test, drill and kill as some people call it. Make sure the student knows simple answers to simple questions and kill any desire on the part of the student to want to learn more, subverting any sense of curiosity or wonderment about the world around them. Teach to the test and nothing more.
And who cares about seniority and knowledge of teaching gained from years of experience when you can hire Teach for America recruits on the cheap, another item on the SERVE agenda.
Hiring Teach for America recruits straight out of college and placing them in the classrooms for a stint of two years is the latest rage among ed –reformers, particularly with for-profit charter schools that can hire TFA recruits, keep their cost down and make a profit. Remember, charter schools do not hire union teachers.
Hiring Teach for America recruits works well for charter franchises but not for the students. These recruits, who are planning to go into other fields once the economy picks up, commit two years to teaching, receive six weeks of training, go into the classroom, do their thing and then move on to their chosen fields. Most do not continue on into education. That creates a high rate of churn, as well as a lack of stability with the students, the school and the community. There is no long-term commitment on the part of the teacher to the school or the community and leaves students who have developed bonds with these teachers with nothing at the end but the broken promise that the teacher would be there for them forever.
These elements of SERVE would not work for our students or our community and should not be accepted by the teachers. And teachers, even though you are being bombarded by messages brought to you by Broad-backed and Gates funded faux roots organizations, such as the Alliance, Our Schools’ Coalition and Stand for Children, know that we as parents support you during these negotiations and consider you a precious resource in the development of our children.