In the last few days I was alerted to some information that I find the most egregious about Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess’ Preschool for All plan that is now Proposition 1B and I am therefore placing it as #1 on the list, revising the list from 10 Reasons Why to 11 Reasons Why Proposition 1B is truly a bad idea. This first one is long but stay with me.
1. I was assured by those supporting Prop 1B that only one test would be given to preschoolers at the end of the year to ensure that they were “kindergarten ready”. Wrong. (Actually this is wrong on many levels. Did you need to be tested to find out if you were “kindergarten ready”?)
Since then, I found out some very disturbing information. Levy funds have been used to punish schools by taking away money from programs when test scores do not meet standards established by the Families and Education Levy committee and staff.
If you look at page 39 of the 2012-2013 Annual Report provided by Seattle’s Families and Education Levy, you will see under Innovation Schools: Beacon Hill International that there was a target in terms of percentage of students who should reach a specified goal. (This goal was established by the city’s Office for Education staff.)
The student population tested did not reach that goal. Under the heading of % of Contract Target Achieved, you see 79.9%. Full performance pay is achieved only when 90% of a given performance target is achieved, something that is not shown in this chart. What that means is that there is a proportion of money taken away from the school or program when less than 90% of a target is achieved. So, if you look at the various schools and program you see that many of the schools did not meet a specified goal determined by those who have no understanding of what is happening in the classroom and using MAP test scores. That means money has been lost to these schools and students. In fact, levy-funded schools and programs collectively lost $322,563 in performance pay in 2012-2013 as a result of failing to achieve academic targets, including test scores (pg 37) . This is just like the No Child Left Behind program that we wanted to get away from but more insidious.
According to the same report, on page 38, the pre-K students are to be assessed twice during the school year, not once as expressed by supporters of Proposition 1B.
On page 49, you can see “Roadmap Milestone Targets”. The irony is, as was the same with No Child Left Behind, the schools and programs that need the most in terms of resources, as gauged by these targets, will actually receive less funding.
Through the Families & Education Levy, the City is already applying assessment-based performance targets to the city funded Step Ahead preschool program. Step Ahead funds are currently tied to Teaching Strategies Gold and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test results for preschool children (pg 6).There is no reason to think that this performance structure would not be applied to the Seattle Preschool Program, and in fact the same assessments have been proposed in the Mayor’s Plan.
By the way, the oversight committee for the mayor’s preschool proposal would be made up of 4 members of the levy oversight committee and four members appointed by the mayor.
2.The city and its employees do not know enough to create such a program and then run it.
For example, the city has such a limited knowledge of how to establish and run an education program that they have hired expensive consultants, rather than local experts who have had years of experience and training in this area, to come in and create the program for them. Unfortunately they don’t know who they have hired. See reason number 3 as an example.
3. One of the two consultants who was hired to create and implement the preschool program, Ellen Frede, is also an employee of Acelero, a for profit group that has taken over four Head Start programs in other cities where Universal preK has been established in a similar fashion by the city.
Ellen Frede is Senior Vice President of Education and Research, for Acelero. See A for-profit approach to Head Start and Seattle PreSchool for All Proposition 1B: Acelero, the fox watching over the hen house
4. Even though the city wants to use Seattle Public School space and money for the program, the district has neither, they do not have a seat at the table and so far have not been invited to be part of the oversight committee.
Throughout the development of the initiative and now proposition, the Seattle Public School Board was not brought into these conversations until last week when the Mayor and Tim Burgess’ plan was presented to the board. By the way, Mayor Murray recently called Burgess the “King of Preschool” at a public event for Proposition 1B.
Councilmember Burgess comes from a background in law enforcement, not education.
5. There is already talk by the city to increase their influence by growing into a prek-3 and preK-5 program. This project appears to be led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
6. Test balloons are being floated via the Seattle Times on the idea of mayoral control of our schools in Seattle.
Not a good idea, see Mayoral Control: The short of it. You can see where this is going with Preschool for All as a vehicle.
Needless to say, I am sure Seattle is one of their next targets, using city and possibly state and Federal money to increase their coffers. See A Model Built on Rigor, Structure Adapting to the Schooling Needs of a Younger Group of Students and TFA’s Early Childhood Initiative.
KIPP is one of the approved programs for Washington state and Teach for America is struggling to stay alive in Seattle.
8. There will be a bloated city administrative staff with the addition of 42 individuals which comes out to 1 administrator for every 50 students.
This does not include actual teaching and support staff in the pre-schools.
Approving Proposition 1B comes with a price tag of over $50M to implement. Read your ballot carefully.
9. Programs such as Montessori and Reggio Emilia will not be included in the Preschool for All Proposition 1B plan because the material that is to be used in the pre-schools will be standardized and prepared by Pearson or a similar publishing company.
Certain established and successful programs will not be willing to take on a curriculum that is standardized and requirea testing.
Pearson has been bandied about by city staff as the corporation who will devise the standards, lesson plans and assessments (tests).
10. Will the Preschool for All program in Seattle be taking Race to the Top money for their program? It’s happening in Federal Way with the concomitant Common Core Standards and testing as the basis for their preschool program.
With the acceptance of Race to the Top money also comes a requirement to share all student information.
Federal funds, Race to the Top money, is available for pre-school initiatives and the City of Seattle has expressed an interest in these funds. But buyer beware, these funds come with lots of strings attached including assessments and personal information gathered and shared.
See The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates and your student’s privacy and A Look at Race to the Top. By the way, the seed for this Proposition 1B was planted by none other than Bill Gates whose people put together a presentation for the City Council. This presentation was also seen by some of our state legislators.
11. There is no specific language in the Action Plan or Proposition about providing meals to the children.
Many of these children will be living at or below the poverty level and the first thing they will need is a good hot breakfast to start off their day. Breakfast and lunch might be the only opportunity for them to have well-balanced and healthy meals.
Looking at the framework of Proposition 1B, this is not a school I would send my daughter to. In response to that, someone who is part of the push for Proposition 1B said that it’s not a mandatory program. To that I say, then we are creating a two tier system, one that has programmed lessons and assessments for lower income children and another tier for those parents who want their children to grow and develop at their own pace and within a preschool that is rich with intellectual exploration and stimulation with no standardized testing and lots of time for singing, dancing, art and playing, which develops an excitement about going to school and a lifelong love of learning.