Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has an op-ed in yesterday’s Seattle Times about the new teacher’s contract, “Much work needed to build on Seattle’s groundbreaking contract.” What a surprise! There has been such a parade of fawning and blinkered (and downright inaccurate) editorials and articles coming out of the Times this year in support of the superintendent and her unmandated, often underhanded, Broad/Gates ed reform agenda that some of us suspect the school district PR office has its own cubicle inside the newspaper’s building.
Here are my Friday morning thoughts on this latest effort at SPS spin.
First off, the superintendent has got a better writer crafting her texts for her these days. She sounds more human in this one. Nice appeal to fellow parents with the last paragraph about her own child. (Of course her own child attends the most highly funded school in the district in a new — if problematic — building, so she’s not exactly feeling all our pain.)
Secondly, glad to see she’s finally dropped the redundant and kind of regal “Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D” title from her every byline.
Thirdly, the SPS or MGJ spin machine is at work here. I’m not sure how “groundbreaking” the contract actually is. The superintendent didn’t get “SERVE,” her radical and unacceptable last-minute Molatov of a deal she threw at the teachers, so she’s got to spin this compromised contract into gold somehow, perhaps to save face.
And maybe shore up some support for the upcoming levy, because various elements of this contract depend on the levy passing this November. (The third education levy in a year for Seattle voters. Levy fatigue anyone?)
Next, she is wrong about this: “The research is unequivocal: Quality teaching trumps all other factors in determining student success.”
Research is not “unequivocal” about teachers being the number one influence on a child’s performance in school. Teachers are certainly important. But research shows that the number one factor that influences a child’s ability to perform in school is their socioeconomic status. That doesn’t mean poor kids can’t do well in school; it just means that there are a lot of factors in their lives that make it harder for them. Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone fame seems to recognize this, and that’s why his approach to helping underprivileged kids do well in school takes a lot of time (years) and money (millions).
But the quick-fix, increasingly McCarthyite, corporate ed reformers are not interested in tackling this larger, more complex issue. Instead they are throwing all the blame for “underperforming” kids at teachers, and chaining our kids to standardized tests. They really need to read their Diane Ravitch, because these “reforms” are doomed to fail. Maybe Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson can take a cautionary lesson from the fall of her fellow Broad Foundation board member colleague Michelle Rhee whose slash and burn treatment of teachers in D.C. has possibly ended her career in D.C. along with that of the mayor (Adrian Fenty) who brought her.
(One of Fenty’s first moves as mayor of D.C., by the way, was to dissolve the democratically elected school board and take mayoral control of the school district. This is directly out of the Broad Foundation public-ed privatizing playbook. He then hired Rhee, and this lack of public oversight arguably allowed for such an imperial chancellorship. Seattle should definitely take a lesson from this and not allow our mayor to do the same.)
I had to laugh at Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s reference to the “local public-opinion research” which, she claims, “also demonstrated overwhelming support among Seattle parents and taxpayers for the changes outlined in the new agreement.”
I assume she is referring to the so-called “Our Schools Coalition” telephone poll and survey of earlier this year. If so, her statement is incorrect.
It was paid for and used by the Alliance for Education to fabricate the Astroturf “Our Schools Coalition” in order to put pressure on the teachers union to accept reforms that the Gates-puppet Alliance is pushing.
They apparently felt the need to try to trick teachers into caving into their demands at the bargaining table by creating the illusion of grassroots support for a discredited ed reform agenda that no parents or teachers asked for.
A big clue that this survey was a nonorganic, outside agenda being grafted onto Seattle is the survey’s out-of-the blue final suggestion of bringing “Teach for America” recruits to Seattle’s schools. (That’s “Teach for America, Inc.” by the way, a multimillion dollar enterprise with ties to the Broad Foundation and support from the Gates Foundation.)
Who among us asked for that? Fresh college grads who only do 5 weeks of training, are underpaid and placed in the neediest schools, and only required to stay in teaching for 3 years CORRECTION: only 2 years before abandoning the profession and the kids for their “real” careers?
My first laugh was at the byline, though. Yes, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson certainly is “special to the Times.”
‘Wish our kids were special to them too. Maybe then our city’s only remaining print daily would offer better coverage of what’s really going on in Seattle’s schools.
–sue peters, M.A. (;-)