Seattle Schools data guy has resigned – a casualty of 17 Percent-Gate?

Ever since the Seattle Times’ Linda Shaw published a “Truth Needle” report on the false statistic that the superintendent and the district have been using to declare that the majority of Seattle Public School graduates are not ready for college, rumors have been swirling in the blogosphere that the source of the false data, Brad Bernatek, would resign or be fired.

Using his own rubric, Bernatek produced a strangely low number of 17 percent to describe the number of high school graduates who are ready for four-year college. Turns out the true number is much higher — 46 percent. Not ideal either, but a far cry from 17.

So we asked SPS what the truth was about Bernatek’s future with SPS and here’s what we were told:

On October 29, 2010, Bernatek told the superintendent he would leave the district in early 2011.  His resignation is to be effective January 7, 2011.

This predates the Truth Needle revelation by a month, leading  us to wonder whether his announcement to the superintendent was preemptive, or whether the Oct. 29 date is incorrect. (SPS isn’t always precise with its dates.) Or maybe the timing is just a coincidence.

A bit of background and recap

The damningly low 17 percent number was publicized and repeated by SPS these past two years and used to justify Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s “Strategic Plan,” and the onslaught of controversial (and unwanted) ed reforms she has since imposed on the district.

It was also fed to other public officials and organizations who used and repeated that false figure in their communications and may have signed onto the superintendent’s “reform” agenda in part because of it.

This has led to some embarrassment and outrage. Representative Reuven Carlyle, to his credit, was one of the first public officials to publicly apologize for repeating that number and corrected the record on his blog.

The district claims that apologies will be sent to other public officials who were given that number.

As for the superintendent’s direct apology to the 47,000 SPS families whose kids she misrepresented and arguably insulted, we’re still waiting for that.

Many parents of the SPS blogging community were not satisfied with Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s non-apology about the 17 percent lie at the last school board meeting.

Meanwhile, some parents have wondered in the blogosphere whether Bernatek, who came up with the false 17 percent figure was “just following orders” to find a low number that would instill a sense of crisis in SPS that would justify the new’s superintendent’s severe reforms.

If so, is Bernatek merely the latest fall guy for this scheme?

Another speculation is that Bernatek will land softly in the Gates Foundation, alongside Vicki “Hurricane” Phillips, the former controversial superintendent of Portland’s public schools.

We’ll see.

Also of note, Bernatek is one of the “Broad residents” trained by and placed in SPS by the pro-privatizing ed reform enterprise, the Broad Foundation. Seattle’s current superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was also trained by the Broad Foundation and is a graduate of its “Superintendent Academy.” Broad states in its online reports that it likes to apply its brand of ed reform on struggling districts it deems “ripe” for intervention. Seattle did not meet that criteria. So some of us speculate that a shockingly low college-ready stat was a helpful tool to convince people otherwise.

In a way I feel a bit sorry for Bernatek. It must be hard to work for someone who is never wrong.



  1. I think that there was complicity on the part of many, starting with Brad and our supe. DeBell will ask a question but he never follows up. I didn’t see him do it regarding the rif’s which were based on bogus numbers. DeBell asked for backup, Don Kennedy said that he would get it to him in the next committee meeting but he didn’t. I followed that for awhile and he never got the numbers to back up the rif. The same rif where most of the teachers were called back for that fall.

    And as far as I can tell, that rif was just a conversation starter about seniority that our supe contrived.

    DeBell, by doing nothing, is complicit. He knows too much to know that inaction on his part is an action. DeBell, Sundquist, Maier and Carr all heard these numbers again and again, not only from the supe and Brad but heard it reverberate from the Alliance to Stand for Children to the League of Education Voters and back again.

    They all took that number and ran with it picking up the banner of ed reform and making it easier for them to vote for TFA, which they were going to do anyway, this just made it easier to justify.

    It would have also made it easier later for them to justify supporting the Race to the Top edicts of firing 50% of the staff, replacing principals or closing schools that are in the lowest 5% of test results citywide.

    Now, fortunately, every number that comes out of SPS will be questioned and require justification.

    It will be interesting to see if they replace Brad with Jessica DeBarros, the person who has been working with him on various projects and who is a Broad resident as Brad was.

  2. But wait, yes wait. MGJ wrote the plan after being here, as superintendent, for one year. Brad did the research but she wrote the plan. She listened to others read and say: “Only 17% of SPS grads meet the minimum requirements for entry into a four year college.”

    Brad may be resigning, but possibly not over this item. If he is resigning over this, MGJ deserves to resign twice. She is at least twice as guilty of misleading public officials in the doing of their duty, as is Brad.

    Did not Michael DeBell question the 17% figure, early on?

    Instead of getting back to him, on that and clarifying the situation, MGJ allowed this lie to circulate, linger and be used for making various judgments. Yup … I think she has now achieved “100%” NO Confidence.

    Guess the Board does not care about MGJ and her gross misdemeanors and her felony. Carry on, Brad is gone, all’s well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s