I have written two posts on Universal pre-K which in Seattle is now termed “Preschool for All”; Race to the Tots: Universal (for profit) Pre-K, DFER and the suits and Universal Pre-K in Seattle: Reasons to be cautious. Now it’s time to look more closely at the two initiatives that will be on the ballot in November during the general elections and the “Action Plan” that the initiatives are based on.
At this writing the titles have not been selected for the two initiatives or a description of each ballot item. When that is determined, I will reference them in this post. For now, I will refer to the first resolution that was presented to the Seattle City Council by Tim Burgess as Bill #1 and the alternative bill as Bill #2.
The two initiatives are different in terms of four items.
1) Alternative Bill #2, which was proposed by Councilmember Sawant, states all child care teachers and staff that are part of a new business shall be paid not less than $15 per hour. In January of 2016 and each year thereafter, the minimum wage is to increase based on the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners for the Seattle, Tacoma and Bremerton metropolitan areas.
All previously established small businesses will have the opportunity to phase in over a three year period the appropriate minimum wage as described in the paragraph above.
2) Alternative Bill #2 states that a family should pay no more that 10% of income on child care thus making it affordable for all.
3) Alternative Bill #2 would prohibit “violent felons” from providing child care in licensed and unlicensed facilities.
4) Alternative Bill #2 would require all child care teachers and staff to obtain training and certification through the Professional Development Institute, an all-online program.
As an aside Tom Stritikus, the former Dean of the College of Education at the University of Washington and former Teach for America recruit who pushed for a Teach for America five week training program within the College of Education, helped create an all-online bachelor’s degree for early childhood education before moving on to work at the Gates Foundation.
Coincidence? I think not.
Burgess’ plan, Resolution 31478, advocates for preschool teachers to have four year degrees. The plan also supports “alternative teaching pathways” which in the past has referred to Teach for America.
5) Alternative Bill #2 would create a City of Seattle Early Care Workforce Board to recommend policy and investment priorities. The board would reflect the ethnic, racial and economic diversity of the city’s children and would include parents, child advocates and low income communities.
6) Alternative Bill #2 would require hiring an organization to facilitate communication between the City of Seattle and “facilitate the expression of child care teachers and staff’s interests in workforce development and training programs”. The selection of this organization would include involvement of child care teachers and staff.
Now, let’s look more closely at The Seattle Preschool Program Action Plan that Burgess based his proposal on and the initiatives as they are written so far.
Much of how the program is to be structured and implemented is to be developed if and when one of the initiatives passes.
As per page 22 of the Action Plan:
The City of Seattle’s Office for Education will develop an Implementation Plan that addresses all program standards outlined herein. The Implementation Plan will be included in an ordinance package to be approved by City Council by 2015.
For that reason, I am referring to the City of Seattle’s Preschool Program Action Plan for clues on what the implementation plan will be.
One of the items noted in the introduction of the Action Plan is that one of the consultants hired to create this Action Plan was BERK Consulting. BERK was also the consulting firm used to develop “The Road Map Project/CCER Local Race to the Top Application Development”.
For more on the Road Map Project as developed in conjunction with Community Center for Education Results (CCER) , see CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy, The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy and A Look at Race to the Top.
Will the Preschool for All program in Seattle be taking Race to the Top money for that program?
It’s happening in Federal Way with the concomitant Common Core Standards and testing as the basis of their preschool program. With the acceptance of Race to the Top money also comes a requirement to share all student information. Is this what we want in Seattle?
As Susan Ohanian wrote in the Burlington Free Press:
Gov. Shumlin and congressional representatives Leahy, Sanders and Welch couldn’t make it to the October 2013 ceremony honoring the state teacher of the year, but all except Leahy were at the December press conference announcing Vermont’s “winning” a federal $37 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.
Unmentioned at the money announcement was this sentence from page 352 of the 451-page application: “Our request will be leveraged with $61,999,383 of other funds.” So in an unexplained fiscal scheme, Vermont is expected to spend $62 million to receive $37 million?
But there’s a larger cost than money.
I worry about how the very real needs of the pre-K set will be met. Vermont politicos have promised to obey the federal directive to align this new program with the controversial Common Core State Standards.
This sends shivers of apprehension down my spine. The Common Core chief architect emphasized that kids must be taught that “as you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a **** about what you feel or what you think.” Common Core expects all students in a class to read the same text, and here’s the chief architect’s advice to a student reading several grade levels below the complex text assigned to his class: “You’re going to practice it again and again and again and again … so there’s a chance you can finally do that level of work.”
As a longtime teacher I know that no good can come from such theories. And holding four-year-olds captive to this kind of pedagogy is child abuse.
The real winners in this Race to the Top grant seem to be managers, data collectors and assessors. At the same time the feds cut food stamps and heating subsidies, they offer money for a gaggle of coordinators and consultants. One can only guess how the job functions of a home visiting data analyst differ from those of a home visiting coordinator. There is also an expert evaluator, an expert researcher, and a contractor to manage data governance process.
On and on
Faculty members from each Vermont college with early childhood education programs will be brought on board — to make sure everything is aligned. Plus a consultant to support the colleges’ work. And on and on and on.
This whole deal looks like bureaucratic careerism, not child care. Data collection is mentioned a lot. Just how children’s lives will be enriched is not.
According to the grant application, 42 percent of Vermont children age five or younger are “high needs,” primarily as the result of being low-income. I’d like our politicos to explain just how data collection addresses the very real needs of these children.
Read the grant application and you’ll see new positions for upwards of five dozen consultants, managers, trainers, inspectors, technologists, assessors, and one graphic artist. As the grant writers admit, Vermont already has a remarkably strong and enduring commitment to the early learning and development of young children, particularly children with high needs. Kids Count ranks us No. 2 in the nation for the overall well-being of our children.
If it ain’t broke, why let the Feds break it?
An excellent response by a teacher to David Coleman’s remarks is Children the core of our schools.
Here in Seattle, if one of these measures passes, we will need to carefully watch what funding sources are part of the implementation plan that has yet to be written.
Health and Nutrition
Another concern of mine is ensuring that these children have a well-balanced breakfast and lunch during their time in this program. I don’t know how it is now in the Head Start program but when my dad was Director of Head Start for Southern California, he was always pleased to say that the children received two hot meals a day knowing that those might be the only decent meals they got. You can’t focus when you’re hungry.
I did not come across any language pertaining to ensuring these children are fed and fed well in the Action Plan, the Resolution or the Initiative. When I say “a good meal” I am not referring to what the Title 1 students are given for what is termed “breakfast” in the Seattle Public Schools. I saw what they were fed first hand when I was teaching an early morning enrichment class at an elementary school and what the children received could not possibly be called a healthy, well-rounded meal.
The reason so many lower income children are not learning in school is because they’re hungry, homeless, sick, or have a myriad number of other issues that are brought on by poverty.
Pre-School/Kindergarten will work only when issues of poverty are addressed.
The Involvement of the Seattle Public School District
On page 7 of the Action Plan it is stated:
The program will be provided through a mixed-delivery system, with classrooms offered by Seattle Public Schools and community providers.
The School Board of Seattle was never officially contacted about the Action Plan, the Resolution or the Initiative and yet these documents refer to the contribution that Seattle Public Schools will make to the program.
As of now, our schools are bursting at the seams. There is not enough space for the students who have enrolled in our district.
On page 15 of the Action Plan:
The City will:
Work alongside Seattle Public Schools Special Education department to meet the needs of children with Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs).
This sounds like a wonderful idea but no one has officially consulted with the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Board about this either. SPS is financially stretched as it is, how are we to pay for the district to add more staff and time to work with these various pre-K programs that will be popping up?
There is a lot of pie in the sky with this plan that some pricey consultants have put together.
On page 9 of the Action Plan it states:
The plan calls for ongoing monitoring and evaluation to ensure we meet our school readiness, quality, and achievement Goals.
☑ A comprehensive evaluation strategy for the program, designed with independent evaluation experts
☑ Ongoing assessments of classroom quality, which includes making full use of existing assessment infrastructure
☑ Use of developmentally-appropriate, performance-based assessments
☑ External evaluations of implementation and outcomes
“Existing assessment infrastructure”…what does that mean? What existing infrastructure?
This language is vague with lots of room to fill in the blanks with costly assessments we wouldn’t want our children to go through. See A Kindergartner’s Nightmare as an example.
On page 11 of the Action Plan:
To be eligible to contract with the City to provide preschool through this program, qualified organizations will need to meet the following criteria:
They must be licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning to provide preschool services (or exempt from licensing requirements by virtue of being a public school or institution of higher education).
Charter schools like to call themselves “public schools” because they are benefiting by using our tax dollars, but when it comes time for transparency, they are no longer “public”. See Are Charter Schools Public or Private? Neither or Both?
The KIPP charter school chain has geared up for yet another business opportunity. See A Model Built on Rigor, Structure Adapting to the Schooling Needs of a Younger Group of Students.
Yes people, our three and four year olds must have “rigor” as part of their pre-school programs.
KIPP has gotten its foot in the door in our state and I am sure they are rubbing their hands gleefully at the thought of bringing “rigor” to Seattle.
Teach for America, Inc. is now staffing pre-school programs in San Francisco and the State of Oklahoma, two jurisdictions that the draft Ordinance, Version #4 regarding Universal pre-K, refers to.
They have all seen the gravy train coming down the tracks with Universal pre-K and they want a piece of the action.
It’s all about the “Data”
On page 17:
The City will work with the Washington State Department of Early Learning and Seattle Public Schools and execute written agreements to:
Align practices, responsibilities, and timelines and to address data sharing, academic expectations, curriculum alignment, and professional development.
I have included a few articles within this post about student privacy, or the lack thereof, but it has now gone farther than we ever thought would happen in our state.
The OSPI has agreed to share teacher and student information with the Seattle Times. See State Data Deal with Media Should Alarm You.
There is a push to create and share private student information and use it to track each child from pre-kindergarten through high school and beyond.
A related thread that continues to weave its way through all of this is a program called Jump Start.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report titled A preK-3rd Coalition, referring to the school districts of Seattle, Edmonds and Everett, and under the heading:
An Early Opportunity to Work Together: WaKIDS
- Use Jump Start to collect student data.
- Establish a fall PreK-K Early Learning event on assessment to connect with PreK partners and share assessment information.
- Pilot the use of electronic tablets for data collection.
Jump Start also comes up in the BERK report as a tool for parents to use under the heading of Recommendations:
Ensure that preschool providers are aware of the Jump Start program and help connect families.
Jump Start was created by Aaron Lieberman who also founded Acelero, a for-profit company that is taking over Head Start programs and is staffed with none other than Teach for America, Inc. recruits. See A for-profit approach to Head Start.
Another line in the BERK report states under the heading:
Phase-in Plan to transition Head Start, ECEAP and Step Ahead
The City should work closely with Head Start providers to develop a phased-in plan to transition these providers into PFA providers.
What does this mean for the future of Head Start in Seattle? The BERK report also recommends including the Head Start funding into the working budget for Preschool for All.
The intent to provide pre-school for all is admirable and I hope that we can acheive this for children in Seattle but there are pitfalls to avoid.
Per the most recent proposed Ordinance that I have, there is to be an Oversight Committee. If either of these Initiatives passes, make sure that you as a teacher, parent or well informed citizen are represented on this committee either in person or by way of someone who you trust can represent the best interests of our children.