OSPI candidate Erin Jones’ statement on the recent charter school grant to Washington State

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We sent the following question to OSPI State Superintendent candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal:

“Given the legal uncertainty of charter schools in our state, as head of the OSPI, would you distribute the Federal money to the existing charter schools and provide funding to set up new charter schools?”

The post Our question to OSPI candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal about the recent charter school grant to Washington State provides more information on the $245M Federal charter school grant.

Both candidates responded and to follow is the response provided by Erin Jones:

I have said throughout this campaign that I do not believe charter schools are THE answer to closing the opportunity gap. I voted against charter schools in 2012, because I believed we had an obligation to focus resources and attention on the schools that currently exist. In addition, what many are seeking in the few charter schools – less regulation, opportunities for innovation, greater curricular freedom, a focus on equity – is what I want for every school, not just a few in select communities. As the state leader, I believe it must be my first priority to ensure every student has access to quality options in a system that is accountable to the public.

I am concerned by this temporary infusion of cash to our legally-challenged current network of charter schools. I have worked in and with many schools that were recipients of federal school improvement grants in similar amounts. These schools were able to hire additional staff and purchase special programs and supports for 3 years. When the money went away, too many of these schools ended up right back where they began – struggling. After a conversation with community members in Walla Walla (where one of the financial grants for a new charter school has been promised) this past week, they have similar concerns about sustainability.

Infusing schools up front with resources is great, but who will ensure funding beyond that? Will the state be required to pick up the tab? What will happen to students and staff should there not be enough resources?

The handful of charter schools currently operating in our state are under Constitutional review and funded through a narrow revenue source that may not be sustainable.  I would not recommend distribution of these funds until we know with certainty whether these schools can legally remain in operation.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of maintaining charter schools, then I would release the funds– but only as an offset to state funding; we need EVERY available dollar to meet our McCleary needs. If charter schools are required to cease operations due to lack of public oversight and accountability, I would inquire about using those funds as a bridge to help ease the impacted kids and families transition into other learning environments.

Erin Jones
Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016
Erinjones2016.org

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Our question to OSPI candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal about the recent charter school grant to Washington State

gravy train

While another lawsuit is pending in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of the Charter School law, the Washington State Charter School Commission and State Superintendent Randy Dorn fell all over themselves to get a piece of the US Department of Education’s (USDOE)  $245M pie for “high quality” charter schools.

This is so generous of the Obama administration considering our public schools are broke and in disrepair with public schools needing nurses, librarians, books, adequate resources so that teachers don’t have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets, up to date IT systems and enough school buildings and teachers to provide adequate classroom space for our growing population.

As my dad would say, “that’s real white of you” USDOE.

Even though charter schools are a multi-billion dollar business with little to no public oversight and where scandals abound, the USDOE, swayed by billionaires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, have decided to be generous with our tax dollars.

In Washington State, look no further than the Green Dot charter chain that has opened a school in Tacoma to see what’s considered “high quality”. See: Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech and Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary TaleAnother charter school that opened in Seattle with a promise to open a second school in West Seattle, Sierra Summit charter school, promotes “blended learning” which means putting students in front of computers most of the school day.

Looking for “high quality” charter schools in the US will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

As I wrote in an article for the Progressive: 

This is exactly what voters in Washington State were concerned with over a decade ago, and still are fighting against.  Washington citizens watched the march toward privatization of a public education in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit, and never wanted charter schools in their state.

They have seen how in California, for example, “despite the tremendous investment of public dollars and the size of its charter school population, the state has failed to implement a system that proactively monitors charters for fraud, waste, and mismanagement.” There is the problem of co-location of charter schools within public schools throughout the United States, resulting in public schools losing more and more classroom space each year along with their cafeterias, auditoriums, gyms, and libraries to charter schools that are not paying rent.

There is the also the resegregation of students created with charter schools as described recently by the NAACP, a high suspension rate of black students in charter schools and students with disabilities, the fraudulent use of funds by the charter school operators, theinstability of charter schools leaving students and communities at a loss when charter schools unexpectedly close, and the use of unqualified and inexperienced teachers in charter schools to keep their costs down.

Randy Dorn is ending his career on a low note as the State Superintendent of public schools in Washington State but no doubt he will have a golden parachute based on the actions he has taken. There is a race now between candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal to see who will be the next State Superintendent.

We will be asking both candidates the following question about the $6,973,684 grant to be received by Washington State:

“Given the legal uncertainty of charter schools in our state, as head of the OSPI, would you distribute the Federal money to the existing charter schools and provide funding to set up new charter schools?”

The question will be sent out this evening to both candidates and we are requesting a response in one week.

Carolyn Leith

Dora Taylor

Here are the responses of both candidates:

OSPI candidate Chris Reykdal’s statement on the recent charter school grant to Washington State

OSPI candidate Erin Jones’ statement on the recent charter school grant to Washington State

For more on Green Dot charter schools, see:

 

OSPI Candidate Ron Higgins’  Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

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In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Ron Higgins:

I fully support Seattle Public School’s request, as stated in the Seattle School Board Directors’ resolution passed during the May 18th board meeting, to establish a system to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments and use such assessments as an alternative to standard statewide assessments to measure achievement and student growth.  I am a big believer in local control, and as State Superintendent, I would take any and all action necessary to allow the Seattle Public Schools, or any school district, to use an alternative assessment in place of the standard statewide assessment. 

Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution, enumerates the activities over which the federal government has jurisdiction, and education is not one of those activities.  The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  I’m glad that Congress  “authorizes states to establish a system that allows districts to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments,” but Congress and the federal government have no jurisdiction over education, so their authorization is meaningless.  I believe that Washington State should allow local school districts significant autonomy to determine the testing requirements to ensure that students have mastered the essential knowledge prior to high school graduation, whether Congress approves or not.  I do not trust the competence, integrity, or agenda of the bureaucrats in the US Department of Education, and I would not depend upon them to select an appropriate test.

I have read numerous articles questioning the validity of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that it does not accurately measure the student’s knowledge of the subject, whether English or Math; that the Assessment is not objective.  I am therefore strongly opposed to the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.   

Ron Higgins, Candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Certificated Math Teacher in Washington; Credentialed Math Teacher in California; Former School Bus Driver

Ron Higgins for Superintendent of Public Instruction

OSPI Candidate Chris Reykdal’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

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In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Chris Reykdal.

The Seattle School Board appropriately interprets intent language in the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding alternative summative assessment options.  Sadly, the U.S. Dept. of Education is still tinkering with punitive rules.  I support the Seattle School District Resolution and their interest in local-option summative assessments.

Local districts should have greater flexibility in adopting summative assessments.  However, even with local options we are still left with a powerful policy question; what is the real purpose of a summative assessment?  Is it to measure state, district, or school progress?  If this is the purpose, then sampling, as is used in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test is an appropriate technique that would provide us with statistically significant results about system performance without the massive sacrifice of resources and instructional time currently dedicated to standardized testing.

However, if you believe the purpose of summative assessments is to make a determination of grade promotion, graduation, or other student-specific purposes, then the Smarter Balanced Assessment and most locally determined alternatives summative assessments will come up very short.  That’s not what they were designed to do!  So we can save time and money with better summative assessments, but nothing replaces the critical diagnostic role of teachers and formative assessments along the teaching and learning process.

If Seattle School District believes the purpose of a new locally determined alternative summative assessment is to decide whether students graduate, then they run the risk of simply replacing one instrument for another but missing a larger opportunity.  I believe standardized assessments should only be used to measure system progress – not individual student determination.  If Seattle School District or others want to use a summative assessment for individual student determination, I believe two critical options should be embedded in their policy:

1) That any parent has a legal opt out right without sanction to the student; and

2) Whether a student takes the summative assessment and scores below proficient or chooses not to take the assessment, that the alternative is not another standardized test, but rather a course or set of courses aligned to standards.  Pass the course(s), meet the standard, graduate on-time!  This empowers educators, allows for multiple measures throughout the course, and undoubtedly allows for work ethic and determination to influence the result.  The latter is not to be discounted in what employers really want.  Few employers ask applicants about their test scores, but they all want to know about persistence, work ethic, and determination.

I hope the Seattle School District will adopt a second resolution making it clear that every student has a pathway to on-time graduation via a series of standards-aligned courses (not simply state tests or locally determined tests).  This policy expression will honor the alignment work of K-12 and higher education to mutually agree on standards-based courses, that when passed, will ensure that students do not take expensive remedial courses once in college.  It’s time to trust teachers and quality courses over standardized tests!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

David Spring’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC

david-spring

In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by David Spring.

The Seattle School Board Resolution asks to replace the unfair SBAC test with a fairer locally determined alternative and calls on the State Superintendent to “take all actions necessary to allow Seattle Public Schools to move forward with the use of an alternative assessment.”  This is the 500 word version of my Statement supporting the Seattle resolution. A more detailed Statement is on our website SpringForBetterSchools.

01

I fully support the Seattle School Board Resolution. In fact, I worked with members of the Seattle School Board for the past several months drafting this resolution. I provided the school board with numerous reports detailing the legal framework for the resolution and educational research on the benefits of alternatives to the SBAC test. A summary of the legal framework and educational benefits is provided in my more detailed statement.

I oppose the SBAC test because it is not fair or age appropriate.

02

In February 2015, I started Opt Out Washington to provide parents with information on why they should opt their kids out of the SBAC test.

03

In December 2015, I read the entire 391-page ESSA which permits use of local alternative assessments. I then met with members of the Seattle School Board to address their questions about how to replace the SBAC test.

04

As Superintendent, I will end the draconian SBAC test as a graduation requirement my first day in office. While other candidates claim they support the Seattle School Board Resolution and oppose to the SBAC test, there are reasons to conclude they will not assist the Seattle School Board in actually getting an alternative assessment. Nor will they end the SBAC test as a graduation requirement.

05

First, let’s look at Chris Reykdal’s record. While Chris claims to be opposed to the SBAC test as a Graduation Requirement, he voted to bring the SBAC test to our state and make it a graduation requirement in 2013. He has repeatedly voted to keep it a graduation requirement every year since 2013. In fact, Chris is the prime sponsor of House Bill 2214 which not only continues the SBAC test as a graduation requirement but punishes any student who opts out by forcing them to take an additional math course during their senior year that is harder than any previous math course they have ever taken. So if they passed Precalculus during their Junior Year, they would have to pass Calculus during their Senior Year in order to graduation. Chris’s bill would force on students in our state the most draconian graduation requirements in the nation!

06

Sadly, none of the other candidates would help Seattle Schools get an alternative assessment either – because none of them support my assertion that Article 3, Section  22 and Article 2, Section 28 of our State Constitution prohibit the legislature from imposing  unfunded mandates like the SBAC test on our schools. If I am not elected State Superintendent, students will be forced to endure four more years of the SBAC test as a graduation requirement. For the detailed version of this article, visit Why I Support the Seattle School Board Resolution to Replace the SBAC Test. 

Regards,

David Spring M. ED.

Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Spring for Better Schools.org

We’re asking the OSPI State Superintendent candidates their position on Seattle Public Schools pursing alternative assessment frameworks under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

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The following letter was sent to each candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Their responses will be published on June 5th. -editor.

Hello Candidates,

My name is Carolyn Leith and am co-editor of the blog Seattle Education. I’m asking each candidate for their thoughts regarding Seattle Public School’s request to pursue alternative assessments under the ESSA.

During the May 18th board meeting, Seattle School Board Directors voted 5-1 to seek, under the newly authorized ESSA, a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.  From the resolution:

School Board Resolution

I’m asking each candidate if they will honor this resolution. In addition, please include your thoughts on using the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.

Statement will be:

  • no more than 500 words in length
  • published, unedited, in a separate blog post – so all candidates will receive equal attention
  • (please include campaign photo )

The deadline for submission is 10 PM on June 4th. Statements will be published on June 5th.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

-Carolyn Leith

Background information below:

SPS Resolution 2015/16-15

YouTube: School Board Meeting Date: May 18, 2016 Part 2 Minutes 0-49:50

An interview with Larry Seaquist, candidate for WA State House of Representatives

01w Larry Seaquist

… We are going to have to opt out, and in my view…we are going to have to lawyer up, go into federal court, and sue the feds to remove the testing requirement, the whole ESSA…My view is that we should plan right now to opt out as a state and to go to federal court and sue the feds on the grounds (that) their own ESSA tells the states that they are to resume local control, but it (the state) can’t implement its own provisions. So I think we’re going to have to start by opting out as a state, now, and then go to court, and make that stick.

My co-editor, Carolyn Leith, and I are interviewing the OSPI candidates and this second interview is with Larry Seaquist.

The first interview we did was with Erin Jones. See An interview with Washington State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones.

Recently Mr. Seaquist was asked to run for the State House of Representatives for the 26th District and decided to file but we decided that what Larry Seaquist had to say was substantive and of value during this campaign season. It is apparent he has given issues facing our state a great deal of thought and are worthy of review.

Mr. Seaquist is a retired Naval Captain who served as a State Representative for the 26th Legislative District for four terms. While in the House, he was the Chair for the House Committee on Higher Education.

Looking through his PDC, we could not find the usual corporate reform suspects and feel certain he is not beholden at this time to any Gates/Bezos/Nielson/ALEC/Walton/DFER/LEV/Stand for Children/TFA, Inc. related financial backers.

Mr. Seaquist developed the Apple Action Plan which includes restoring trust in educators, adding up “the full price of McCleary” which includes “A detailed accounting of exactly what state resources each district needs to fully deliver ample and basic education to their student population without local levies”, delivering education equity to all students and removing “intrusive laws and regulations”.

His full interview can be found here. I suggest, after looking at the following excerpts, that you take a moment to read through the transcript. I found his answers to be well thought out and deserve a careful read. I also thought Seaquist’s time in Olympia would have given him the knowledge and know-how to get things done for our state’s students.

We hope the best for Seaquist and he has our full support as a candidate for the 26th District.

To follow are excerpts from the interview.

Question:

In 2013 8.6% of Washington’s revenue came from the federal government. It included the acceptance in the past of programs such as No Child Left Behind where the money received from the federal government did not cover the total cost of its implementation. The state has also taken on the Common Core Standards, which is basically an unfunded mandate that is costing each district millions of dollars to implement….

As superintendent, what would you do to stop the legislators from voting for programs that cannot be adequately funded by the federal government or the state?

Seaquist:

The constitution says it is the paramount duty of the state to provide an ample education. That’s all of us. Politically, my view is that the way to make the legislature move is to mobilize the public. How do you do that? I believe you use this year’s OSPI campaign, make it the marquee race of the state. Get the whole state immersed in the questions like this one that revolve around our educational system. So that, after November, we not only have a new superintendent, but we have a state that is recommitted on a state-wide basis to moving forward.

Question:

Part of your action agenda is to cut local costs with a better budget and you propose adding consultation with districts at the front end. Would you please explain what your thinking is on that?

Seaquist:

…I walked in and asked Randy Dorn’s budget director, a very smart woman, how do you build your next year’s budget, your next fiscal budget. And she said, we take last year’s budget and ask Randy what he wants to do. Now I tell you, as a professional career budget guy, I am just stunned. This is not process. What I would do, and I would do this if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, the day after the election…I would immediately, in November, ask our ESDs around the state, to convene local budget hearings and let everyone show up and talk about budget priorities. And then rebuild that budget…now in the formal process, that the legislature goes through, for the governor to deliver a budget to the new legislature, OSPI sends over his budget proposals, argues with the governor’s staff, Office of Financial Management…they make the final decisions, and package the governor’s budget. So my second departure from that, I would do well in representing us inside that budget building process that happens in November and December, but I would also independently, because the superintendent is independently elected. I would independently deliver to the legislature the complete…McCleary, 100% with no levies required, budget to the legislature.

So my view is that the superintendent should not only play a more full…well-organized role inside the budget hearing process in Olympia, but then again, we can connect that back, to the public and to the education system.

One more point, hearing over just a week ago as we were all sitting on pins and needles waiting to see… a final budget deal, we didn’t know what was going to be inside that budget deal…

Dora, something that enrages me, is this back room budget making, where a couple of guys, one Republican Senator, one Democrat from the House, maybe somebody from the Governor’s office, make deals about what’s going to happen in a more than 30 billion dollar budget and then roll it out. What I would like to do, what you certainly can do, is to keep the public and the education system fully informed about what’s happening in Olympia, and make sure the Olympia legislators understand what those public views are. That’s an inherent part of being a legislator…legislators representing your constituents…in this case my constituents would be everybody in the state.

There is something, another very important change in the way I believe we should do budgets. This is a major proposal of mine. Right now, as you know, budgets are made on a two-year bi-annual basis, and the legislature’s timeline is always out of sync with the school district’s timeline. Here’s how we can fix that. You can have the legislature do their two-year budget, but have for the schools, the operative budget being the second year of the two-year budget. So that when the legislature finally in the late spring of the odd numbered year, delivers its new two year budget, the school districts have actually got what they have in front of them, the numbers that they can plan to start their own budget process.

Then how you get into the first year of the two-year biennium, you caseload it forward, and let the next legislature tweak that, we do that automatically anyway… What that would do is give every one of our districts enormous planning ability…You would not have teachers being fired, rehired, you would not have the legislature changing the deadline on how long you’re going to wait to tell your teachers that you’re going to pretend to fire them this year. Just imagine the savings in the effectiveness in your school district budgets and school district operations by doing it.

Now is that practical? You’re darn tootin’ it is! It’s practical. And, notice that on Republican trends, they use this phrase, “fund education first”. In part that’s a political slogan, but to the extent that there is some merit to that content, this does exactly that. And it allows the legislature to be a legislature with a two-year biennial budget, and it allows the districts to plan on where they’re going. The final thing I’m going to add to that is a six-year projection. I always liked the fact that the federal system, we plan budgets out six years. The Congress knew where we proposed to be… and giving us money for the first year…in the state’s case, the first biennium, that money is being enacted in that budget. But we all need to know where every district, where the whole system, is planning to go, in the next six years. School districts are big operations, and they need a better planning process.

Dora:

Okay, next question. There’s a person, Peyton Wolcott in Texas, who is helping school districts become more transparent with a check register online. So the public is aware of all the expenditures. Would you be willing as superintendent to do the same for expenditures made by OSPI?

Seaquist: Yeah, that’s an interesting…I hadn’t thought about…here’s what I had thought about. That sounds like a very interesting idea, and the answer is, my belief, all of this stuff should be made public. If the official can see it, the legislature can see it, then the public needs to be able to see it in real time. We’ve got computers, we’ve got websites, so there should be no mysteries in where money’s going. So as a general principle, I’m not familiar with the Texas check register technique, but as a general principle, I totally agree with you. And, as I suggested earlier, my view is that the superintendent OSPI needs to do a much better job of not just being transparent too, but making sure that you’re proactively providing everybody, all the educators, all the schools, and the public, with information about what’s going on.

That touches on something that’s really important, Dora …we have to get to 100% totally funding McCleary. That is not an option, that has to happen. That’s in the constitution, it’s in the court case… All we have to do is get the totals right, make sure where the border is, and double check those totals with the low-income minority kids. But to do that… if you are then going to turn to the taxpayers and say, I want you to save more money in this new arrangement, where rather than spending, voting on local levies, now your money is going to go to Olympia, and you can trust that it will come back. We need a system in which those taxpayers…both know where that money is, and they can see it coming back (with) …openness (and) transparency… we will have to create, a new level of public trust for the voters, taxpayers.

Question:

Getting back to unfunded mandates and SBAC and what the SBAC requirements are doing to our teachers and students, a school in the Bethel School District in Washington State punishes students who opt out of the SBAC test by taking away a student’s privilege to participate in orchestra or band. What do you think, what are your thoughts on school districts punishing students and families for opting out of the SBAC?

Seaquist:

…I’m in favor of the opt outs to be clear. In fact, the state… needs to opt out… right now.

It is perfectly clear, and I’m talking about the new ESSA. The new ESSA left us stuck with a federal testing requirement, and it left us stuck with the 95% participation rule.

… We are going to have to opt out, and in my view, Dora, we should, the superintendent, who by the way needs to hire some more lawyers, to work with both the Attorney General, who does the lawyering for the agencies and hire in a new internal law staff…we are going to have to lawyer up, go into federal court, and sue the feds to remove the testing requirement, the whole ESSA…My view is that we should plan right now to opt out as a state, and to go to federal court and sue the feds on the grounds (that) their own ESSA tells the states that they are to resume local control, but it (the state) can’t implement its own provisions. So I think we’re going to have to start by opting out as a state now and then go to court and make that stick.

Question:

The Common Core has an insidious way of creeping into school life with the SBAC testing, and is being used for admittance into AP programs, to receive a GED and soon to be a graduation requirement. The SBAC test has not been judged to be valid or reliable and there’s also an anticipated failure rate. What are your thoughts on requiring the students to “pass” the SBAC to graduate from high school or receive their GED? You’ve already answered that, but do you have anything to add?

Seaquist:

So how do we get out of the Common Core? And the problems with the Common Core are multiple. This idea that the 12th grader, or high school graduate, is essentially a twelve-story high building…we add up, piece by piece, kindergarten through 12th, we add all the little things to build a twelve-story building… Children are not like that…The whole central idea of Common Core, as an architecture of increasing skills to me, doesn’t make any sense. Obviously there are levels…teachers want to have standards, they want to be able to move students forward, but that architecture of Common Core itself…it looks at children as simply uniform buildings and you want every one of them to look alike.

The second thing is, there is no feedback. It’s not our standards, they were forced on us. We didn’t have any say in them and there’s no feedback loop. I was thinking, for example…if you get on an airplane, your pilot has got standards about how to take off, how to check in, but… if there’s something in those procedures and those checklist isn’t right, they fix it. They improve, they change the process. Nothing in Common Core can be fixed now. It’s simply frozen.

Year after year, we went from the WASL, the HSPE, we keep changing these things, and we have to take the step forward to our standards that are very high quality and managed by us, in a very careful way so we don’t drive these teachers, and their students, and their families crazy, with another whiplash. So, once again, I would turn to the educators and say, okay guys, move forward from the Common Core Standards, simplify those things, make sure they truly are at the altitude we could be at, that they are ours, simple, and adaptable, and let’s transition to that stage.

… (And) it’s statistically nonsense. Those numbers are absolutely meaningless…These teachers, every day, are doing tests, they’re measuring their kids, they’re adjusting, that’s what teachers do. Along the way they are generating a lot of information. Frankly, I believe that we could use big data analytics, and sampling…we could sample at random, we could sample schools with these drop-by exams once in a while that you couldn’t prepare for it…I would give a state-wide measurement stop, by analyzing the river of data that the teachers are already producing. Now we need to go back to teacher colleges… and make sure that we’re equipping our teachers with the analytic skills…I think there are ways to generate the metadata, without tying yourself on to… this crazy high-stakes testing that has done so much damage to our schools, and to our kids. And our teachers.

Question:

About the teacher shortage, how would you attract teachers back to the profession?

Seaquist:

I was thinking, if there was one thing that I would like to be known for, it would be that the climate around being a teacher had changed.

If we’ve got great teachers, we will have great results. And our teacher crisis is really, really serious. It’s more serious than the legislature is understanding. They didn’t bother to do anything.

As I travel around the state, and I have looked at this corp of…more than 80,000 teachers…we have all, our professional educators, all the counselors, we’ve got all of the people who do lunches and buses and maintenance. Those are educators too, all of those people. We’re not treating them as a corp of career professionals.

I went to SPEEA, the aircraft engineer’s union, and the Boeing engineer’s SPEEA does a very good job of not only being a union, but being a professional association, of looking at how many young engineers are we bringing on… are we doing things in our mid-career, people who are in their 30s and 40s staying really energized, fresh, updating themselves. When are people retiring?

We need to build the ability to manage our educators, the teachers and these other corps of education professionals, in a much more intelligent way. And so what I would do…is something where…at one of our colleges…we’ve got 22 teacher colleges in the state, have them combine and have a real center where that kind of analysis, that kind of questioning… We would interview, why did you leave? What could have made the difference? So a lot of much more thoughtful career management would help.

Yes, money is important. We are simply going to have to radically increase the amount of income…Is $35,000 for a starting teacher fair? The starting pay for a state trooper is $54,000, $19,000 higher, and our state troopers can’t hire people to do that… job, they can’t even survive at $54,000. So frankly, I say that no teacher should start at anything less than the starting pay of a state trooper, and that number has to go up.

…One more thing I’d like to mention…if we don’t have good teachers, if we don’t have high quality teachers, it doesn’t make any difference what else we’re doing. We have got to restore a sense of trust in our teachers. You do that with public affairs, by making sure, this is something OSPI can do, that we’re making sure the public understands the competence, the skills, the expertise, and the successes of our teachers, and that we restore that trust in being a teacher, in being a school counselor, in being a principal…that we’ve got not just admiration for, but trust in our educators.

Question:

Where do you stand on charter schools?

Seaquist:

I’m still in the same place I was when I voted against the charter school bill, I’m a “No”.

My expectation is that the governor’s action of letting that fix through will be quickly found by the court to be insufficient and that the court will confirm that the system set up in the state is unconstitutional and has to be stopped. My view is that the real answer for creativity, these charter school people are coming to us, saying, your schools are not giving my kids enough options…every teacher that I know, every class I’ve been in, those teachers are full of creative ideas. They are just overloaded with too many students, too many bookkeeping requirements, these unfunded mandates…you know, they are crushed by the workload…they have neither the resources to be creative, nor the time to do that. And if we fully fund McCleary, restore trust, the answer to the charter schools business is… our schools are perfectly creative. We’ve got lots of creative schools here. So I would not let the charter movement into the state and, by the way…we know darn well that there are big money forces behind some of these charter school moves, to try to actually move in and try to capture some of the revenue from our schools and this includes Pearson, all the testing. We have got to cut those budget relationships off and get those big corporate interests out of our schools.

So, my assumption is A, the court will find this summer that the fix was unconstitutional and that will be the end of charter schools. If it turns out that somehow the court allows the charter schools to move forward, then I will do two things, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected in November, I will follow the law. If the law says in the constitution that the court says it’s legal, then I will make sure that we’re following that law, and that we’re doing it in public. They’ll be no backroom deals, no clever ways of slipping money into charter school hands that is actually state money.

By the way, I’m enraged by the fix, they came up with, once again going to the lottery money and saying, okay, now we’ll put the lottery money over to charter schools. My constituents here, and I served in the legislature eight years, every constituent I’ve got is angry that the original deal, that lotteries are supposed to fund schools, the legislature keeps screwing around with it. And that is not going to set well with our voters, that once again, the legislature is playing footsie, with the lottery money. Now, if that’s the law, I’ll follow the law but A, I will go to that law staff and write a new bill and take it to the legislature, to get rid of charter schools in the state. If the court doesn’t do it, I will.

Here’s the fix that they (the state legislators) left us in. Because the legislature didn’t do their homework… year after year, it is now no longer possible to do the McCleary deal this year. None of the essential homework has been done. We haven’t fixed the teacher crisis, we haven’t even added up the total cost of McCleary. We haven’t removed the old regulations. We haven’t (completed) that list of things that we need to do, including career and tech ed kind of things, we haven’t done any of that and we urgently need to do that homework so… then we can climb the McCleary mountain and make this grand bargain where a lot more money is going to go into the state’s education system, that there will be no more local levies, that the local districts will be able to trust the legislature to deliver the money, the legislature will know that they have the money.

…We’ve got to do our homework, and we need to do that in public. So I invite you, and everybody else in this state who’s interested in these things…if you haven’t got other work lists, to look at my 12-point agenda. We all need to go to work.

…Don’t just wait for the next legislature. The paramount duty is ours and…this year’s election gives us the opportunity to act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris Reykdal’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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OSPI Superintendent candidate Chris Reykdal

Opting your child out of a standardized test is a parent’s right.  Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of particular courses or content areas.  It is not the role of the federal or state government to question the motivations of parents; they are parents and a standardized test mandate does not supersede a parental rights.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but a few glaring faults remain.  The contradiction of a 95% test requirement while simultaneously acknowledging a parent’s right to opt out their child is still the cause of great confusion.  States are now assigned the task of compliance to 95%, and the sanctions, if any, for districts that don’t comply.  And yet the U.S. Department of Education still claims the power to withhold certain funds from states. This is where our State has to take a stand!

To address this contradiction of policy we must do five things:

1) Delink standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement;

2) Defend the right of parents to opt out their child;

3) Clearly define alternatives for students to show proficiency if they chose not to participate in federally-mandated testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

4) Do not require a student to test and fail first before utlizing alternative demonstrations of proficiency; and

5) Use assessment results to create intentional strategies to improve districts, schools, and where applicable, targeted interventions for students.

I believe very few parents would opt their child out of assessments if they believed the tests would be used to help their child improve AND they were confident the test would be used for  system accountability only and not to penalize or stigmatize.

Professional educators should determine a student’s grade promotion and ultimate graduation – not a test.  Incredibly, the research continues to tell us that high school GPA in combination with transcript evaluation is the better predictor of college success – not standardized tests.  Colleges and universities across the country, and the world, are reducing the weight of SAT and ACT in college admissions; for some they don’t require any tests as part of admissions.  Instead, they are seeking multiple measures – GPA, course evaluations, writing samples, community engagement, and so many other factors that are far more predictive of student persistence and success.  Clearly,  48 diverse teacher grades (4 years X 2 semesters X 6 classes per semester) are more  valid and reliable than one single measure in time.

Standardized assessments do have a role to play– to measure state, district, and when statistically significant, school building progress toward closing the achievement gaps.  But, no single test should ever be used as a high stakes factor in grade promotion or graduation and they should never be used as a hammer. 

Ultimately, educators should decide the best diagnostic tools to propel students to greater cognitive and social/emotional growth. It’s time to put the teaching and learning process back in the hands of educators!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Erin Jones’ Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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OSPI Candidate Erin Jones

The bullying tactic being used by OSPI regarding SBA is unacceptable. Parents are the primary educators of their children and should be allowed to opt their children from testing. The fact that so many families have decided to opt children out should be a clear message to the state about the impact of testing. Until this year, opting out did not have consequences, beyond the occasional angry interaction with an administrator claiming that avoiding the test could put the school or district in danger of losing Title I funds (not yet happened). This year, however, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a graduation requirement. Parents of elementary and middle school students may have to endure the ire of an administrator or classroom teacher, but do not believe the lie that your student will not move to the next grade level if s/he does not take the test.

Far too much pressure is involved in the current testing process. Creating better and broader tests does not improve learning. My husband, who is a teacher, uses this analogy about testing -” we are just weighing the same pig with a different scale, without consideration for how and what we are feeding the pig.” We must focus our attentions for students, particularly those who have been most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, on meeting social-emotional and physical needs, on student learning and support – feeding the pig – not on testing.

There is value in assessing students throughout the year to determine where they are growing and where they need additional supports. Although there are still requirements at the federal level for statewide testing, most assessment decisions must be made locally, with a focus on moderation and allowing educators to do most assessment in their own classrooms. We must provide teachers with smaller classes, so they can make effective daily decisions about student growth. With regard to state testing, we should be partnering with educators (including ELL and SPED teachers) and community-based organizations (including those who serve families), as well as testing experts, untied to a particular test company, to determine a better process that will help us garner the kinds of results and experiences that will lead to increased learning for students.

As we enter the “test season,” there will be thousands of families considering whether or not to opt out a child, carefully weighing the impact of the consequences and whether they are willing to advocate at the state level for a child whose graduation is called into question. Other families, often those whose students are most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, will not even know opting out is possible or will not have the same ability to advocate for their child’s needs. As state superintendent, I will not be strong-armed by the federal government but will advocate for a better, more effective assessment process that considers the needs of ALL students and educators, that puts instruction and student support at the center of public education once again.

Erin Jones, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Friends of Erin Jones

David Spring’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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OSPI Candidate David Spring

The SBAC test is an unfair bubble test designed to label as failures more than half of the students who take the test.

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The makers of the SBAC test falsely claim that it can predict if students are “college ready.” In fact, no bubble test has ever been able to predict if a student is college ready. The only predictor of college readiness is a students high school GPA.

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In short, the SBAC test not only harms students, it is worthless as an assessment tool.

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In 2015, 62,000 parents in Washington opted their children out of the SBAC test – resulting in Washington having a “participation rate” of only 91%.

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Since federal law requires a rate of at least 95%, Washington received a letter from the Department of Education threatening to reduce federal funding unless school districts completed an enforcement plan. In fact, no school district has every lost federal funds due to a failure to force students to take high stakes tests.  In December 2015, Congress passed a revision of the ESSA prohibits the Department of Education from threatening states with loss of funds.

Sadly, on April 12, 2016, the Superintendent of Public Instruction violated the new ESSA by sending letters to about 100 school districts threatening them with a loss of federal funds unless they submit an enforcement plan.

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On April 24, 2016,Carolyn Leith sent an email to candidates for Superintendent asking us to comment on this threat by OSPI in 500 words. However, this issue cannot be properly answered in only 500 words. I have therefore published a more detailed statement on our campaign website: https://springforbetterschools.org/

For years, I have been a leader in Washington opposing the harmful SBAC test. I have written dozens of reports explaining why the SBAC test harms children. I have also published a book, Weapons of Mass Deception summarizing how the SBAC test harm children. You can read this book here: https://weaponsofmassdeception.org/

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In 2015, I started the website Opt Out Washington to give parents information on how to opt their children out of the unfair SBAC test. More than 50,000 Washington parents have downloaded our opt out form. http://optoutwashington.org/

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By contrast, in 2013, two other candidates, Larry Seaquist and Chris Reykdal, voted for House Bill 1450 – the bill that forced the unfair SBAC test on students here in Washington state. 

In 2015, Reykdal sponsored House Bill 2214 – a draconian bill that would make Washington one of the only states in the nation that would punish opt out students by placing them at risk of not graduating from high school.

The new ESSA states on page 24 that its purpose is to determine “whether the student is performing at grade level.” Because the SBAC test does not provide accurate information about whether a student is achieving at grade level, the SBAC test does not comply with the ESSA. As superintendent, I will therefore suspend the SBAC test and replace it with assessment options such as Teacher Grades and/or the Iowa Assessment that do accurately measure whether a student is achieving at grade level.

Regards,

David Spring M. ED.

Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Spring for Better Schools.org

Post Script:

You can listen to my interview with David Spring  at “An interview with OSPI candidate David Spring”.

Larry Seaquist’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

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Larry Seaquist

LIBERATE LEARNING. It is time for us to opt out of Federally mandated, high stakes testing.  The whole state. Right now. It is time to return the management of teaching and assessment to our educators, time to stop wasting a river of money on test vendors who deliver meaningless “data,” time to restore trust in our system of public education.  Above all, it is time to let our students love learning, to enjoy school. Our schools should be as free of toxic testing as they are of cigarette smoke.

DECLARE INDEPENDENCE.  How to do it? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn – Chief Schools Officer in Federal-speak – can sign a letter to our schools and send a copy to the Feds. He’s an independently elected state-wide official.  If he’d like political cover, a quick series of public hearings around the state would doubtless generate a groundswell of support. 

PUSH BACK HARD. We’d need to preempt a Federal response. Acting on Mr. Dorn’s behalf, our Attorney General might lodge two actions in Federal District Court.   The first would seek an injunction against Federal retaliation. We’re already familiar with the retaliatory redirection of Title One funds intended to support the education of our low income students – students who are still here and still poor.  The second would sue the Feds to do what they promised to do in the new ESSA.  With deep thanks to Senator Patty Murray for the miracles she worked to get this far, we challenge the new Federal education law – the Every Student Succeeds act – as internally inconsistent.   The new law restores the principle of state and local control of public schools.  But ignoring its own precept, the ESSA renews the Federal requirement for pervasive high stakes testing and continues to insist that 95% of all students participate.  Our case to the court: the new ESSA is self-contradictory and interferes with the state’s historic right of local control.

FULLY FUND FULLY FUNCTIONAL SCHOOLS.   Removing high stakes testing will immediately improve teaching and learning in our schools and save many $millions. It will eliminate one of the several factors that bias our schools against success by low income and minority students.  But we’ll still need to fully fund our schools to the “McCleary” standards. Perhaps our Seattle Ed hosts could next ask us SPI candidates how we propose to fully fund McCleary.

CORRECT OSPI’S ROLE AND TONE.  One more step:  This writing assignment is triggered by an imperious letter from an unelected Ass’t. SPI who reaches inside a local school district to command remedial action at the level of individual schools. Those actions will certainly disrupt already insufficient budgets, damage student learning, and accelerate our teacher crisis. That’s just as wrong as meddling by the Feds. Constitutional Job One of the SPI and their staff must be to support and protect our school districts, our educators and above all, our students.  I ask SPI to rescind the letter and to revisit our state’s Constitution and values.

-Larry Seaquist, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Larry Seaquist for Superintendent of Public Instruction

We are asking the OSPI State Superintendent candidates their position on opting out

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The following letter was sent to each candidate for Superintendent of Public instruction. Their responses will be published on May 1st. -editor.

Hello Candidates,

My name is Carolyn Leith and I am co-editor of the blog Seattle Education.

At a recent Seattle School Board Director’s Meeting, Superintendent Nyland shared information with the board about communication the district had received from OSPI concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment currently being administered in Seattle’s schools.

In the letter, OSPI informed SPS that 40 schools had fallen below the 95% participation rate. Now these schools are required to create an enforcement plan to improve participation rates. From the letter:

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I’m asking each candidate to make a statement concerning OSPI’s actions.

Statement will be:

  • no more than 500 words in length
  • published, unedited, in a separate blog post – so all candidates will receive equal attention
  • (please include campaign photo )

The deadline for submission is 10 PM on April 30th. Statements will be published on May 1st.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

-Carolyn Leith

Background information below:

School Board Meeting

Letter from OSPI to Superintendent Nyland