The Battle for Seattle, Part 4

To start at the beginning, there is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to this series.

This is Part 4: Hijacked!

I want to reiterate at this juncture that what is happening in Seattle is a microcosm of what is happening around the country at this time.

When we first discovered the connection that our superintendent had with the Broad Foundation, many of us thought that this was a single episode of happenstance but as we began to dig deeper, it was discovered that this was happening around the country.

The other aspect that concerns me is that the quality of these Broad graduates is not that great. The Broad Foundation recruits people from other fields particularly in business and the military. There are no entrance requirements in terms of experience or interest. No test is taken. It seems to be basically first come first served. The one “quality” of these candidates is that their backgrounds, besides the retired generals, are “average” at best. They do not have stellar resumes. There is nothing that sets them apart from any other candidate. If you look at the background of our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, she was a special-education teacher and later a principal in the St. Vrain Valley School District which is in Longmont, Colorado, and an assistant superintendent in Corpus Christie, Texas. She attended the Broad’s academy for superintendents in 2003 and was soon after superintendent of the Charleston public school district. For a perspective from parents and school board members in Charleston about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s tenure there, see Charleston.

General Tata with, yes thats right, Sarah Palin.

Michelle Rhee, although not a Broad graduate, is the darling of the Broad Foundation and is on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors. Rhee has a total of three years experience teaching as a Teach for America recruit and then started her own foundation, The New Teacher Project. And then there is General Tata, a Broad graduate who was recently voted in as superintendent of the Wake County School District. See the side bar below for additional graduates and their less than stellar performances.

It is ironic that Eli Broad demands so much from teachers when his own recruits, with a few exceptions, wouldn’t even qualify to teach in a public school.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

In 2007, Dr, Goodloe-Johnson became the superintendent for Seattle Public Schools. She hit the ground running that year. One of the items on her to-do list, the Superintendent’s Entry Plan, was to Hold a (school) board retreat within the first week to discuss communication processes, policy governance goals and potential work with the Broad Foundation”.

In those early months, she also commissioned a study by the Broad Foundation on communications, basically how she could most effectively communicate her/ Broad message to the public in general. It is described in her Strategic Plan (page 38) that was published in June, 2008.

She then made friends, if she hadn’t already, with Don Nielson who hosted her, Patrick D’Amelio, Executive Director for the Alliance for Education (see Lines of Influence for that connection with Broad and Gates) and Kimberly Mitchell of the Gates Foundation who was the Senior Program Officer for the Gates’ Foundation’s  “Education for Washington State” division, at a luncheon given by Harvard Business School Club of the Puget Sound. The topic for the day was The State of Public Education in Seattle: A dialogue with key leaders.

Don Nielson

Don Neilson was also busy pushing the Broad/ed reform agenda in his editorial that was published in the Seattle PI in June, 2008 where he broached the subject of teacher certification which was the opening salvo for Teach for America, the “reward of excellence” to teachers and principals, later known as merit or performance pay, termination of teachers or principals by the superintendent, something that the superintendent brought up in 2010 but was not approved, a proposal that she be able to directly fire teachers or principals basically “at will”, control over what is taught in the schools by the superintendent now known as “curriculum alignment” and out-sourcing of services (privatization of services) such as food service, maintenance and Information Technology. There was, of course, also high praise for the Broad-trained superintendent who had not done much of anything at that point.

I would call Don Neilson the point man for Broad during this time. He had been steeped in the Broad way of thinking for several years by now and was strategically beginning to voice the agenda of the ed reformers.

Mr. Neilson was also on the Board of Trustees for the Seattle Foundation, an organization that received $1M last year from the Gates Foundation and whose president, Norman Rice, wrote an op-ed piece that same year during the teachers’ contract negotiations, siding with the superintendent on demanding the acceptance of merit pay and the devaluation of seniority. He was part of a chorus of voices representing Gates funded and Broad backed organizations in Seattle at that time.

In his op-ed, Mr. Rice states, “Research shows that outside of parents, an effective teacher is the most important factor in determining whether children will succeed in school. More than classroom size or curriculum, the teacher makes the biggest difference. It’s time we had teacher evaluation and compensation based on recognizing teachers as a critical factor in every child’s education”. A rather naïve and ill-informed viewpoint on the state of education but this has been the mantra of ed-reform spokespersons in Seattle.

Getting back to 2008, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson accepted a position on the NWEA board of directors early on in her tenure. A position that was not widely announced at the time but proved to be a good move on the part of NWEA. It was announced a year later that the MAP test, the rights to be bought from NWEA for millions of dollars, would be implemented in the Seattle public school system. It was revealed after the vote by the school board to approve buying the rights to the MAP test, that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was on the NWEA Board of Directors. There was an outcry of conflict of interest by the community and she finally stepped down in 2010, albeit reluctantly. Last year the Washington State Auditor’s Office also found Dr. Goodloe-Johnson in violation of the Ethics Code and decreed that it was a conflict of interest for her to sit on the NWEA board.

In 2009 the superintendent closed schools and laid off teachers even though neither action was necessary and ended up being a costly move on her part. This is when many of us as parents and teachers became more actively involved with what was going on with our schools at the district level. The decisions made by the superintendent were not making sense in the context of our community and school populations. We didn’t understand it. Was she completely incompetent or was there something else at play? That’s when we began our research.

Thomas Payzant

We discovered that in 2009, Tom Payzant, the Superintendent in Residence as part of The Broad Superintendents’ Academy, facilitated our superintendent’s evaluation that was to be done by the members of the school board. Needless to say, even though Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had achieved 20% of her goals for that year, she was still awarded “merit pay” or an “incentive bonus” by the board at the end of the year. This “merit pay” was an example, according to one of the board members, of what all teachers should receive if they also do well in their classrooms. This was one of the lamest reasons that I heard for why the board approved a year-end bonus for the superintendent even though we had a budget shortfall that year of $35M and she had fired teachers and closed schools based on that number. She was already making more money than the governor at $264,000 per year along with a car allowance of $700 per month and a $20,000 per year retirement fund investment. The Broad does ensure that their people are well taken care of when they are placed in various school districts. I believe that it also buys allegiance to Eli Broad and his edicts during their tenure.

March Against School Closures in 2009

More parents and teachers were beginning to make the connection between the Broad Foundation and what was happening in our school district and no one liked what they saw. There was an inherent conflict of interest between what Eli Broad envisioned for all schools everywhere and what our needs and strengths were as a community in Seattle. It was not a good fit of any sort and to this day has been a costly venture on both sides with no positive gains or outcome.

In the summer of 2009, several parents and teachers, including myself, met with one of our school board members and voiced our concerns regarding the superintendent being on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors. This school board director said that he didn’t think that there was a conflict of interest but we insisted that he and the other board members request a white paper from the superintendent stating her position on the Broad board and how that would not be a conflict of interest. The school board director finally conceded to requesting a white paper but it was never produced.

That same year, the NCTQ came to town hosted by the Alliance for Education. All you need to do is Google NCTQ to see that their arrival in towns and cities around the US is the first shot across the bow in terms of the introduction of ed reform to that school district or state. The NCTQ is about teacher evaluations and their reports become the basis for the introduction of evaluating teachers based on student performance also termed merit pay or performance pay. NCTQ receives money from Gates by way of TR3. That year NCTQ also received money from the Alliance for Education. NCTQ and TR3 refer to teachers as “Human Capitol”. That pretty much sums up how they, including Gates and Broad for that matter, view education and educators in general.

The report that they did put everything in motion in terms of beginning the attack on our local teachers union. The superintendent was to go into negotiations with the teachers the following year and the NCTQ report was the opening salvo.

To be continued.

Dora

Sidebar:

The less than stellar Broad grads include:

A No-Confidence vote for Broad-trained superintendent Jean- Claude Brizard in Rochester, New York.

Dr. Matthew H. Malone, superintendent of Swampscott Public Schools received a vote of No-Confidence in 2008.

Broad-trained superintendent Deborah Sims received a vote of No-Confidence from the Antioch Teachers’ Union in 2008.

Dr. LaVonne Sheffield, Broad graduate superintendent in Rockfield, sound familiar Seattle? Also a letter from a parent to the superintendent regarding their principal. There’s even a Facebook page on this superintendent.

And my all time favorite, Robert Bobb, the Broad-trained CFO for the Detroit school system who was hired to fix the budget and will be leaving in June with a worse financial picture. He was too busy trying to play CAO rather than CFO.

Upcoming highlights: The 2010 audit, the community’s evaluation of our superintendents performance and the Community Values’ Statement scam.

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That Was the Year That Was

New's Year's Eve, my view from our apartment.
The view from my apartment.

Wow, 2010 sure did come and go!

One of the reasons that I liked using 2010 as part of our blog title was because I felt that a lot would be going on in Seattle this year in terms of a big push towards ed reform and boy was I right!

A lot of money was poured into the coffers of a few non-profits in Seattle by Gates and Broad to further their agenda. Our schools have now successfully been resegregated by our Broad-trained Superintendent and are now ripe for charter schools. Ed reform legislation was passed in the form of Bill 6696 that was pushed by none other than our own PTA among other organizations. Teach for America was railroaded through by the superintendent and the School Board Broad-trained President, Michael DeBell . We had pro-ed reform op-ed’s coming out of our ears from the same Broad backed, Gates funded organizations in the Seattle Times and a lot of press releases from the supe passed on as “reporting” by so-called “journalists” at the Seattle Times which as of now is our only major newspaper in Seattle.

But, at the same time, educators, parents, students and community members have wised up to what’s going on and they do not like what they see.

TFA’s presence in Seattle will be litigated, folks are starting to cry out and demand our supe’s resignation as well as the replacement of school board members who have been a rubber stamp to the supe’s proclamations and demands.

The public here as in other towns and cities around the country are seeing the takeover of our public schools by privatizers and do not like what they see.

In keeping with what seems to be tradition with news outlets and bloggers, we too have our own Best and Worst for 2010 and here it is in no particular order:

The Best of 2010

1. The forum with Diane Ravitch was awesome. I am so grateful that we were able to find such a great partner as Seattle University in putting on this spectacular forum with Dr. Ravitch, Wayne Au and Jesse Hagopian.

People have been asking for another forum in the near future and there is one in the works.

2. BAMN and the school board of Detroit defeating the Broad-trained Emergency Financial Officer Bob Bobb. Not only will he be leaving Detroit in June, he has little to no chance to secede Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Schools in DC as Eli Broad had planned due to this court battle.

3. Karen Lewis becoming President of the teacher’s union in Chicago, Arne Duncan’s hometown.

4. People around the country starting to see what’s going on and pushing back. The parents of McKinley Elementary School come to mind as well as the state of Texas which is having second thoughts on the wonders of Teach for America and the parents of IEP students in New Orleans to name just a few of many.

5. Although this freedom was established over a hundred years ago, the right to speak out in no uncertain terms against those in power when we think that they are doing wrong. In 2010, I am grateful that I still have that right. Let’s ensure that we are always able to have that right.

6. Wikileaks.

7. Diane Ravitch.

8. Forming Parents Across America with people who I admire for their drive and determination.

9. Developing relationships and friendships with people around the country who also believe that education in this country is a public trust and should never be in the hands of just a few individuals.

10. Michelle Rhee and her cohort Mayor Fenty being run out of town in D.C. Yea!

The Worst

1. That Community Values Statement that was used by the Broad backed, Gates funded Alliance for Education organization to co-opt well-meaning members of the community and organizations into unwittingly backing negotiations with the superintendent who wanted merit pay based on test scores. She won and the community lost on that one.

2. The Seattle PTA for basically following orders from the top and aggressively going after all things ed reform for political brownie points.

3. President Obama defending Race to the Top although he has no idea what the ramifications are or basically anything about it. That’s what happens when you trust your basketball buddies.

4. Arne Duncan. Unfortunately the guy knows more about basketball than education.

5. Ben Austin and the charter franchises going after McKinley Elementary School.

6. Wikileaks coming under attack from the United States. Are we starting to lose that right to freedom of speech?

7. Gates as the keynote speaker at the AFT Convention.

8. The billionaire boyz club backed Our Schools’ Coalition in Seattle unethically if not  illegally giving over our children’s personal information to Strategies 360 to be used as data to promote the privatization of our public schools in Seattle.

9. And my personal favorite, Broad graduate Brad Bernatek, lying to the public along with our Broad-trained superintendent on crucial “data” that pushed the ed reform agenda in Seattle.

Sue and I are looking forward to what is ahead in 2011.

And what will we do about the title Seattle Education 2010? I thought that things would be over in a year but apparently we are headed for a heated debate if not a battle on many levels regarding public education in the next year or so. Our goal was to have an informed public on the issues of education in Seattle and show how that connected with what was going on in the rest of the country. We plan to continue in that vein and provide you with information that fits within that goal.

Oh yeah, and the name? It will still be Seattle Education. Maybe 2011?What do you think?

Dora

Post Script:

My last question to everyone this year is, if the Broads and Gates of this country thought that their ideas of ed reform were the perfect fit to the needs of our communities, why didn’t they just come out and present their ideas to a wide audience? They, instead, spent millions to create faux-roots organizations to carry their ideas to different communities, making it seem that it was a neighbor or another parent’s idea. They hired PR companies and think tanks to come up with reports and data to support their agenda and they created a need that is not really there as many corporations do to sell a product.

If it was such a great idea and truly the answer to how to successfully educate all of our children, these folks would not have felt the need to stealthily infiltrate our communities, lie and obfuscate the truth.

The challenge in 2011 will be to call these people out and show the way to a better and more successful way to educate all of our children.

And now for some fun, check this out. The people in London sure know how to put on a show!

Hijacked! The Battle for Seattle, Part 3

For the first two parts in these series, please see The Battle for Seattle, Part 1 and The Battle for Seattle: Hijacked!, Part 2.

I’ve been asked about the aspect of the Broad training received by school board members regarding comments and opinions from the public and how they should be handled. My source on this information has chosen to remain anonymous but this is the information that I received, “…at the Broad training they were told, as board members, they would get thousands and thousands of ideas from the public but the only ideas they should pursue were those from “professionals” at national conferences and at Broad meetings”.

If you watch the speech that Don Nielson gave on November 15, 2006, you hear him touch upon this also. In a rather condescending manner he describes all of the comments that a board member receives, “Board members are regularly assailed by irate citizens who have special issues or actions or agendas that they want to go their way and they make no bones about telling you about it”. He then launches into his proposal for an appointed school board.

In fact, that is where I wanted to begin Hijacked!:The Battle for Seattle, Part 3

Don Nielson

Mr. Nielson provides much insight into his own philosophy that has affected where we are now within the Seattle public school community due to his influence in his speech to the Rotary Club given on November 15, 2006.

During Don Nielson’s speech, he discusses school boards and shares his opinion that school board members should be appointed. He does not say by whom but one of the goals of the Broad Foundation is to have mayoral control of school boards with the board members being appointed by the mayor providing an end-run around the democratic process. He states that people who run for school board are “unqualified”. He states that qualified people seldom run. He does not state what those qualifications should be.

Nielson then continues, “School board races attract candidates who are social activist or union sympathizers”. Giving the sitting Seattle school board members as examples of being those kinds of individuals with the exception of Michael DeBell who was sitting in the audience. Nielson had backed DeBell in his race for school board but Nielson’s other two candidates had lost their run for school board seats so all of the other school board members were mere “activists” and “union sympathizers” in Nielson’s eyes.

And regarding small class sizes, Nielson says in his speech that some people believe the answer to the problem in education is smaller class sizes. He states, “You show me a small class with a lousy teacher and I’ll show you a small, lousy class”.

His remark is similar to what our current Broad trained superintendent has said in the past, that class size doesn’t matter. Same message, different mouthpiece.

And as the topper, Nielson continues describing his viewpoint on education by saying that the school day and school year should be longer. By achieving this, because of budget constraints, he stated that we should simply get rid of social services, food and transportation for our students, that these things were not provided 30 years ago, so basically, let’s just turn back the clock.

And his final words, “Ladies and gentleman, it’s time to declare war”.

On who. our children, our teachers, our communities? And what is to remain standing, any of the programs that work in Seattle? And what about the people who have the least, do their children just walk to school, hungry like in the good old days?

He did also touch upon alternative certification for people with experience in fields who would like to go back into teaching, an argument that was made to our state legislators before the vote last session on Bill 6696, the ed reform bill in our state that included alternative certification. Unfortunately the intention of the reformists was to use that new law to bring in inexperienced Teach for America recruits into our state, not experienced professionals who would like to have an opportunity to teach in the classroom.

Personally, I would like to see if I can also use this route to become certified just like the TFAers simply to challenge their original argument for alternative certification. For an excellent review of Teach for America in Seattle, see Controversial “Teach for America” Back on the Agenda for Seattle’s Schools by Sue Peters, my co-editor for Seattle Education, 2010.

During this time, Don Nielson was on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Education, a foundation that now receives the majority of its’ money from Gates and Broad, The Seattle Foundation, heavily funded by Gates and on the Board of Advisers at the University of Washington’s School of Education. As a side note, earlier this year, just before our superintendent introduced a proposal to bring in Teach for America to the school board, the Dean of the School of Education at UW wrote an Op Ed on how Teach of America was such a great organization and how students can benefit from their presence in the classroom. Coincidence? I think not.

That same year, Raj Manhas issued his district newsletter describing “strong partnerships” with the Gates’ and Broad foundations. This was also the year that Raj Manhas brought in Brad Bernatek, as a Broad resident. This action is described in the Status Report issued in 2006.

In 2007, the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School in Education hosted the Public Education Leadership conference. The participants included Richard Barth, founder of the KIPP charter franchise who recently as a guest of the Broad/Gates backed League of Education of Voters spoke in a forum on the glories of charter schools in Seattle,  Don Nielson, who at that time was Chairman of TeachFirst, a company that later was to become a part of editure, Thomas Payzant, an educator at Harvard who would later become active with the Broad Foundation and was to lead our superintendent’s evaluation with the school board in 2009 as a representative from the Broad Foundation, and, as always, Randi Weingarten who at the time was president of the UFT in New York. Eli Broad later states that his foundation had given money to the two charter schools that Ms. Weingarten had opened in New York. See Eli Broad Describes Close Ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson

This is also the year that our Broad trained superintendent, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, was appointed by the school board and began to “lead” our district.

Her reign as superintendent and the confluence of the Broad/Gates’ agenda in Seattle will be described in Hijacked!:Part 4.

Dora

To all of you TFAer’s, Don Nielson’s, Broadies and Gates’ backers and Wannabes

This is what you have done to the teaching profession.

You have made teaching a denigrated “job” that will now attract only people who cannot get a job doing anything else, really.

You wanted mindless automatons? Well, that’s what you and I and our children will be getting.

You want to compare yourselves to Finland?! At least there the teaching profession is admired and a position as a teacher is sought after.

From “Teacher Magazine”:

Dora

Teachers Wonder: How Much More Can We Take?

By John Norton

During a recent chat in the Teacher Leaders Network daily online discussion group, it became apparent that many established, expert teachers who once planned to teach well into their 60s are now rethinking that decision. While some of these frustrated teachers work in challenging urban environments, others teach in suburban and rural schools, in many subjects and grades.

As one teacher after another described working conditions they say are taking the joy out of a profession they care about deeply, a kind of virtual gloom descended on the conversation. “I can hardly stand to read this thread,” wrote one high school English teacher. “It sounds so familiar. And I am only 55. Wondering how much more I can take.” Other teachers noted that some younger colleagues are also expressing career doubts amid budget cuts, growing class sizes, and increasingly oppressive directives from above.

One theme that recurred again and again is expressed in this comment by an award-winning National Board certified teacher working in an urban middle school:

“I believe a lot of teachers have had enough and are ready to retire, and many will. There aren’t enough young people willing to come into teaching, and those who do are statistically unlikely to stay. I fear for the future of our profession and for our children for generations to come. Who will teach them?”

Here are some other brief excerpts from this lengthy, still-continuing dialogue.

Linda launched the discussion:

I came to teaching as a second profession when I was in my 30s. I knew right away it was where I was supposed to be, and I don’t regret it for a moment. Even last year, I said I would teach until I was 65 or until they had to remind me where my classroom was as I toddled along with my walker. Retirement was the furthest thing from my mind.

But around the end of last school year, things started to look different. I work in an urban school system in the Southeast. In nearly every district teacher gathering I’ve been part of this fall, I have heard many highly accomplished, experienced teachers saying the same thing: They were checking into the state retirement website to see if/when they are eligible to retire (in spite of their long-standing plan to work for years longer).

My district has had massive teacher layoffs the past two years, with resulting increased class sizes. Layoffs were not based on seniority, degrees or accomplishments, but solely on student test scores and teacher evaluations. Furthermore, the district is proceeding with a pay-for-performance plan, which will go into effect at the latest in 2014. It is not following any kind of best practices research in its structure. Pay would be dependent solely on teacher “effectiveness,” which every indication suggests will be based primarily on test scores.

I know that all of this is causing our most experienced, most accomplished, most prepared teachers to rethink their plans for work versus retirement. I also know that absenteeism among teachers is on the rise. At my high-needs schools, most of our teachers are very young, and I am the only nationally certified teacher. We have already had seven teachers resign since school started in August.

I’ve never before questioned my commitment to teaching the way I am now, and I have never felt so discouraged about the profession in general or the future of my school district or the welfare of and opportunities for our students. I’m not really ready to stop working, but I’m starting to think I’ve lost heart for teaching. I don’t know if I can get it back.

A teacher in California replied:

There are two issues this raises. One is very personal and has to do with your own life path. The other is bigger, which is about why it is that so many experienced teachers are getting ready to throw in the towel much earlier than planned. This will have a lot of repercussions down the line, and I think it could be generations before our schools recover what they are about to lose.

I am getting ready to “retire” from my school district as well, although I will only be 53 years old next June. I have had enough, and I am ready for a change. I am not really sure what will come. But I am ready for a new chapter in my life.

A Michigan teacher offered her bottom line:

I’ve never thought about retiring. It is so far off my radar, I have never even looked at how much money my plan will give me or the requirements to set the process in place. I’ve always said I would teach until it isn’t fun anymore. To me, that’s the bottom line. Each of us has to decide in our own heart whether we still love being there or not.

Linda replied:

That’s what I said, too. That I would teach until it was no longer fun. I think what I am feeling is somewhat beyond just being tired because it’s November (or name whatever month you’d like). This is a more serious discontent, exhaustion and frustration than I usually feel. And I’m just not alone in this feeling.

I am concerned about what comes after us, and I would like to help the next generation of teachers. I just don’t know who that generation will be if things continue as they are now.

A rural teacher in the Deep South wrote:

I am dismayed that so many great veteran teachers are feeling the need to either retire altogether or leave the classroom. I can’t remember when teacher morale has been as low as it is now around our state. Teachers are not just November-tired; they are tired of being harassed and unsupported. They are tired of watching their students suffer and having their hands tied when it comes to teaching ethically.

A teacher at a large suburban high school wrote:

Linda, I’m sad that teachers are being treated so poorly in your district. It’s probably not comforting to hear that what you’re experiencing is happening all over the country, but please know that you are not alone. Morale in my district is lower than a frog’s belly on mowing day, and I teach in what’s considered to be a really good system. Like you and others here, I do wonder what is going to happen to public education in this country. I feel that there is a storm building. I just hope that when it breaks, someone will FINALLY listen and “get it.”

A teacher in Los Angeles wrote:

Unfortunately, Linda, I think a lot of what has you discouraged to this point is happening all around the country. Today we got yet another letter from our union asking us to support our classified employees, as the district is apparently ready to cut even deeper. Our classrooms are filthy, and there’s been a huge upswing in fights on campus; I’m sure it’s because supervision is now almost non-existent. Education truly seems on the edge of disaster.

A 30-year veteran with Teacher of the Year honors wrote to Linda:

I’m feeling so very sad for you and for your school because it’s such a loss of energy and commitment when teachers such as yourself are worn down and boxed in until they lose their joy in their work.

Like you, I am beginning to wonder how long I will last. I’d planned on teaching at least until I was 65. Now I’m wondering if I’ll make it two more years. It’s not the kids. The demographics of our neighborhood have become more challenging, but that’s okay. Kids are kids; And these kids need someone to care about them, invest in them, and challenge them. But it’s the micromanagement, the factory-laborer mindset, the constant push to do one more duty, attend one more meeting, and follow one more prescriptive plan that is weighing me down and wearing me out.

And at the risk of sounding egotistical and maybe paranoid, I sense that rather than viewing my above-average amount of experience as a teacher leader as an asset to be utilized, my district level administrators seem to perceive it as a problem to be contained. As I watch gifted warhorse educators that I’ve worked with for over 20 years begin to buckle and the five-to ten-year teachers declare “Not for another 20 years, no way!” and walk out the door, I am deeply concerned about the fate of our profession, our kids, and therefore, the fate of our nation.

A high school science teacher, who retired reluctantly last year, wrote:

I’ve found a part-time teaching job at a small university that allows me to still work with students. As I talk with my friends working now in the public schools, they echo what many here are saying: new directives daily, the expectation that teachers will cover classes during their “planning periods,” more duties, larger classes, lack of respect and appreciation from administrators, and more. Realizing that they are coming to hate what they’re experiencing and seeing the stress on their faces makes me far more content with not being there.

Linda concluded:

I’m going back and forth between being relieved that I am not alone and being disheartened that so many other teacher leaders in my age range are experiencing the nearly identical feelings and questionings that I am.

I never wanted to leave this profession feeling so beat down and so concerned about the future of public schools. I believe we are facing a crisis in public education, but not the one the media or the national policymakers are claiming. In a short time, there will be very few experienced teachers, and new teachers will leave at an even higher rate than they currently are. Talk about low teacher effectiveness.

Isn’t it ironic and sad that the most effective teachers (and I am not talking test scores here, I am talking about teachers who foster a love of learning and a joy in discovery and being curious) are the ones being pushed out? I’m worn out, and that is the bottom line.

And while on the subject of teachers and teaching, here is a poignant post from a devoted teacher.

180 Days A Year

In a recent online discussion about the teaching profession, a blogger I respect made what I thought to be a snide comment about the easy life of teachers, and how “they only work 180 days a year, after all,” amidst concerns over teacher pay and standards.

Here’s what I spent most of a sunny fall Sunday doing:

  • Created a Powerpoint introducing the idea of the pastoral in literature, to begin my seniors’ unit on Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, which involved fresh research on my part.
  • Created a Powerpoint on the eight techniques of characterization, for use in same unit.
  • Wrote up three documents describing the major assignments of the unit, which have percolated in my mind for a few weeks until I could shape them more carefully on paper, and uploading these documents to my website.
  • Mapped out my senior class until the beginning of December, including uploading information to my course website calendar.
  • Emailed with a colleague about best teaching practices for Beloved, which she is about to teach for the first time. I met this colleague during a workshop I attended last summer.
  • Emailed with ninth-grade students about homework, grades, and organization questions while I checked their online notebooks.
  • Graded fifteen creative pieces for my seniors.
  • Graded forty analytical paragraphs on themes of envy and revenge in the Bible for my ninth-graders.
  • Finished final drafts for three college recommendations, with three left to finish this week.

Do I spend every Sunday this way? No, but I have spent untold weekend days this way since I started this job, and untold evening hours doing similar work. My school days are chock full with parent conferences, teaching classes, faculty meetings, department meetings, student conferences, my club responsibilities, and other school obligations, so I often need to spend a full day or block of evening hours attending to important business I can’t get done during the day.

And I consider myself, in many ways, lucky to have done so. Lucky that I have a smaller teaching load and class sizes with more free periods than many of my peers, lucky that I don’t need to work a second job on the weekends, as many teachers do, lucky to have a supportive spouse who can take my kids to lunch and pick them up from a sleepover while I work. I’m lucky to have found my vocation, and lucky to be in a workplace that values me as a person and professional colleague and gives me safe working conditions, with dedicated students who have access to technology and other resources and privileges. Many of my colleagues in the teaching profession don’t have what I have, and are still doing fantastic jobs against high odds.

If we really wonder why the best and brightest don’t go into teaching, one of my many answers would have to be because most of the country doesn’t seem to understand or value what my colleagues and I do, or just how many hours and days a year we spend trying to do it better.

And one more from Gates. Videotaping teachers while they work. 1984 anyone?

From the New York Times

 

1984?

Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher

Update: December 7, 2010

From Schools Matter by Stephen Krashen

I Vote No on VOTE (Videotaped Observations for Teacher Evaluation)

The New York Times recently ran two articles on videotaped observations for
teacher evaluation. One of the articles reported that Bill Gates has invested
$335 million on research to evaluate this approach (“Teacher Ratings Get New
Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher,” Dec. 3).

Research uses a bogus measure
The goal of the Gates-funded research is to find correlations between teaching
practices observed on the videotapes and achievement. Achievement will be
measured by the use of value-added scores, gains on standardized tests. The use
of value-added scores has already been thoroughly criticized as being unstable
and invalid as a measure of teaching effectiveness. The Times did not mention
the controversy surrounding the use of value-added ratings, sending the
incorrect message that the use of this method is perfectly fine.

The expense: If they are “validated,” the use of videotaped observations by
school districts promises to be extremely expensive. The estimated cost,
according to a private company quoted in the Times, is about one million dollars
per year ($1.5 million start-up, $800,000 per year) for a district with 140
schools and 7000 teachers.  Extrapolated to the entire country, using a
conservative estimate of 10,000 districts in the US, this amounts to about ten
billion dollars. (Assuming $150 per teacher, and about 40 million teachers in
the US, the estimate is six billion dollars per year.)  Paying this much money
to private companies for cameras, software, etc, makes no sense at a time when
school districts are suffering huge financial problems.

Unnecessary: Despite constant claims in the media, there is no evidence that
there is a serious crisis in teacher quality in the United States. When we
control for poverty, American students score at the top of the world on
international tests. This means there is no serious problem in teacher quality,
teacher education or teacher evaluation.

Conclusion: Videotaped observations for teacher evaluation (VOTE?) is another red herring, a distraction from the real problem. The real problem is poverty, and the real solution is protecting children from the effects of poverty.
Spending an extra six to ten billion per year on nutrition, health care, and
school libraries makes more sense than spending it on video-taping teachers.

I vote no on VOTE.

Sources:
Value-added measures: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of
teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy.  Washington
DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational
Research.); Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student
Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607
http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different
answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures.
American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
When we control for poverty:Bracey, G. (2009). Education Hell: Rhetoric versus
reality. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service; Payne, K. and Biddle, B.
1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement.
Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.

Nutrition, health care:Berliner, D. 2006. Our impoverished view of research.
Teachers College Review 108 (6): 949-995; Coles, G.  2008/2009. Hunger, academic
success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23, 2.
School libraries: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishers
and Libraries Unlimited.

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Seattle school district hijacked by Eli Broad and Bill Gates

For the first post in this series see: The Battle for Seattle, Part 1

Part Deux

The Broad Foundation was established in 1999 and Eli Broad wasted no time in providing funds to school systems around the country including Seattle.

In 2000, the Broad Foundation provided the Seattle Public School system with $800,000 for “teacher training” by way of the Alliance for Education.

That same year, according to the Broad Foundation’s Annual Report for 2009-2010, “Wendy Kopp, whose decade-old venture called Teach for America grew out of her senior thesis at Princeton University, visits Eli Broad seeking guidance and support. The Broad Foundation makes its first investment of $800,000 in the organization, which recruits and trains recent college graduates to work in urban and rural school districts for a minimum of two years. By 2009, the foundation’s investment in Teach for America exceeds $41 million.” As an aside, Wendy Kopp has no experience teaching and has no degree in the field of education.

In 2001 Superintendent Olfchefske participated in the New Schools Venture Fund Summit and spoke on the subject of Convergence of the Sectors: Public, Private, and Non-Profit. The moderators included Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dan Katzir, Director of Program Development at the Broad Foundation along with Wendy Kopp, Founder and President of Teach for America and an assortment of representatives from KIPP and Aspire charter schools.

According to the same annual report, the Broad Foundation awarded a $2.5 million grant to New Schools Venture Fund in 2002. The annual report states that NSVF “invests in public charter school management organizations and other entrepreneurial ventures working to increase the number and quality of charter schools nationwide. By 2008, the foundation’s total investment in New Schools Venture Fund exceeds $13.6 million.”

New Schools Venture Fund has funded and promotes the KIPP charter school franchise, the Greendot charter school franchise as well as Aspire charter schools and Teach for America.

In 2002, Don Nielson participated in the Broad Center for Superintendents Inaugural class training as a faculty member along with Randi Weingarten who is the President of the United Federation of Teachers and Don McAdams.

Also in 2002, Mr. Olchefske participated in the Broad Foundation’s Strategic Planning retreat along with McAdams, Weingarten, Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and Wendy Kopp, President of Teach for America.

The ties ran deep between Eli Broad, Superintendent Olchefske and Don Nielson during this time.

In 2003, Olchefske was a lecturer at the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent’s Academy and guess who one of his “students” was! Our very own present superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

That same year Olchefske received a vote of no confidence by the Seattle teachers’ union and resigned from his position as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools amid accusations of fiscal irresponsibility. $34M had been lost and no one could account for it.

The irony of that is that our superintendent, Dr. Marie Goodloe-Johnson, recently received a vote of no confidence by the teachers’ union and the recent state audit brought charges of fiscal irresponsibility, an apparent lack of knowledge of legal procedures and a lack of oversight by the school board.

Raj Manhas

Raj Manhas was appointed superintendent of the Seattle Public School system that year and was immediately sent to the Broad Foundation for “training” by Don Nielson.Don Nielson chose not to run for a school board position after his term ended in 2003.

The following year, Mary Bass became school board president. Ms. Bass and Sally Soriano, who was also a member of the school board and the Chair of the Legislative committee, organized with several other school districts against charter school legislation. Gov. Gary Locke was for charter schools and told the legislature they couldn’t go home until they passed a vote in favor of charter schools. The vote was close but voters turned charter schools down by 59%.

In 2005, according to a Seattle school district publication titled An Overview of Accomplishments, Seattle Public Schools received an $800,000 Gates Foundation Grant to fund the strategic implementation team, work on the first round of school closures, something that Manhas had not been “successful” at doing, and “implement additional recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee on Investing in Educational Excellence”.

It was also stated in the handout that “A grant-funded Broad Foundation resident is working on strengthening strategic planning capacity in the district”.

Gates was also busy in 2005 on another front, electing Michael DeBell, the now president of the Seattle School Board, to his first term as school board director. Gates, along with nine board directors for the Alliance for Education, including Hanauer, Don Nielsen, Anne Farrell, Peter Maier, who himself is now a school board member, and John Warner, a retired Boeing executive, funded the campaign to elect DeBell and two other candidates through a PAC named Strong Seattle Schools. According to an article in the Seattle Times, a PAC had not been formed “in recent memory” to support the election of a school board director.

As you will see in the next installment, The Alliance for Education will figure prominently in this race to “education reform” as dictated by Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

The one person who has been a common thread throughout this march towards ed reform has been Don Nielson who, in 2006 was quoted as describing the school board members as “social activists and union sympathizers.” Nielsen and others were “actively pushing the idea of an appointed board and talked about it with the mayor in a closed-door meeting with education leaders two weeks ago” according to an article in the Seattle Weekly.

Mayoral control is also another mandate of the ed reformists. Have one person, a politician, in control of a school district that the people with the most money can manipulate. This can be clearly seen with the mayor of Los Angeles and his side kick, Eli Broad. The school board is then selected by the mayor. The school board members then only answer to the mayor. There would no longer be a democratic process in who represents the best interest of your children. It then becomes purely political and is directly controlled by others outside of the school system. It’s an end-run around a democratic process.

Mary Bass

In a speech to the Rotary Club on November 15, 2006, Don Nielson again described the school board, with the exception of DeBell who was in the audience at the time, as “activists”. My guess is that he was referring to people on the board who had fought against charter schools, specifically Mary Bass and Sally Soriano as well as other board members who had, with the exception of Dick Lilly and Jan Kumasaka, opposed the privatization of our public schools in the state of Washington. Mary Bass and Sally Soriano were also against the proposed school closures on the basis that the choice of schools being closed and the process were discriminatory.

What I find interesting is that I had never heard of Don Nielson until I began to research the presence of the Broad Foundation in Seattle. Even though he has had a strong influence on what is happening within our school system now, he has remained behind the scenes and has only made himself known in the business and political sectors of Seattle. This is reminiscent to how Eli Broad operates. No input from parents, teachers, students, the real stakeholders in public education or even well-known and respected educators, just others in business and the military who may or may not have experience in teaching or in having children in the public education system.

Most of us as parents in Seattle would not have known about Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation if some of us had not done some digging.

I have decided to change the title of this series of posts to “Hijacked!” because that is the sense that I have now about what has happened to our public educational system not only in Seattle but around the country.

My hope is that with this research and sharing of information, that people in other parts of the country stop and see what’s going on in their districts. This kind of takeover by business interests of public schools is happening in most urban centers. If it isn’t happening in your community, please make sure that it doesn’t. We as parents, educators and students need to have our voices heard. All of us need to be part of the conversation. When a district is run by Broad and Gates, no one outside their realm of associates has a voice in the decision-making process. You will not have a voice in the vision and goals of the schools in your communities. You will not have any say in the nature of individual schools, the curriculum or the caliber of teachers, principals or superintendents who are a part of those schools. You will have no control over how your children are taught and who teaches them. Capiche?

Stay tuned for what might be the last installment in this series. Looking at my notes though, I see at least two more posts on the horizon. A lot has gone on in the last few years that needs to be described.

Dora

Post Script: Because this series is not about Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, I did not highlight the times that I saw her activities linked with Gates and Broad over the years but they are there.

She has developed a relationship with these people and it is coming to fruition for Gates and Broad. Bill Gates was the keynote speaker at the AFT Convention although it did cost him.

Just do a few googles, if you are interested, and you will see where her interests lie.

The Battle for Seattle, Part 3

Oops, I Did It Again!

What happens when you have a Broad resident doing the numbers for a Broad trained superintendent?

You get whatever Eli Broad wants.

Sounds pretty simple and basic doesn’t it? We had our naysayers but not anymore.

Brad Bernatek

It’s a long story with an interesting history that I am tackling now for an article but let’s just start with Brad Bernatek, a Broad resident, who was hired by Raj Manhaus in 2006. Raj, as he is referred to, was superintendent of the Seattle Public School system at that time and had received “corporate training” at the Broad Foundation shortly after his appointment as superintendent . The person responsible for him being sent to the Broad borg will be revealed in that article that I am working on so stay tuned for that interesting tidbit.

Brad was brought on board to be the interim manager for research, evaluation and student assessment and was paid by the Broad Foundation. He was a History major in college and received an MBA from Indiana U but has no experience in education. But education, schmeducation as far as Eli Broad, Bill Gates or Wendy Kopp with Teach for America, Inc. are concerned.

If you follow the ed reform movement closely enough, you will start to see a pattern develop. Whatever Bill Gates or Eli Broad want in terms of ed reform, they pay for. Right now, one or both of them will be paying for the next three years of TFA, Inc. recruits that will be marching into our school system in Seattle, that is, if they win one or two legal battles first. The other pattern you might be noticing is that the less experience you have in the field of education, the better candidate you will make to work  in the field of education, at least in the minds of Broad, Gates and Kopp. But hey, they don’t have any experience whatsoever in that area of expertise so who needs it?

Anyway, getting back to Brad. When I found that in 2008 he had been made head of the Department of Research, Evaluations and Assessments (of students) I was bowled over. To me that was like the fox watching over the hen house particularly when you understand how numbers can be manipulated to make a point. Brad was in charge of the MAP roll-out which later became the tool of choice for our supe to evaluate teachers. Oh, but “oops!” , according to Brad who several of us had met with previous to the superintendent’s decision to use the MAP test in that way,  said that the MAP test was not designed to measure a teacher’s performance. But I guess at the time he had no idea what the supe would do with this new tool of hers. Is it also a coincidence that he never mentioned that again to anyone, ever? Hmmm.

But that was not the only “oops” Brad has made recently.  The next one is even more egregious.

Our superintendent’s entire campaign to force the Broad’s idea of ed reform down our throats in Seattle was based on her 5 Year Strategic Plan, which to me seemed more like how long it would take to get TFA, school turnarounds and charter schools into Seattle and therefore into our state but that’s another subject for another article.

This 5 year plan of hers was based on the premise that, according to Brad’s numbers, only 17% of students who graduate from Seattle high schools meet the entrance requirements to make it into a four-year college. Wow, that was shocking! People started to freak out and ask the great one, our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, what shall we do?

Well, she had a plan and it included re-segregating our schools, therefore allowing less choice for families particularly in the minority communities (Can you see where this is going once Broad and Gates get our legislative representatives to vote for charter schools? Something that they are working on as we speak. Also, the League of Education Voters (LEV), backed by Gates money, invited the CEO’s of KIPP and Greendot charter schools to share with us the wonders of charter schools. Kevin Johnson, also sponsored by LEV,  was in town recently singing the praises of charter schools to an African-American audience at an African-American church here in Seattle. As the topper, we will be graced with the presence of Ben Austin, the director of the Parent Revolution, who has taught parents how to demand charter schools in their neighborhoods. All of this through the overwhelming generosity of the League of Education Voters by way of Gate’s  and Broad money ).

This “strategic plan” also included more testing for students, the MAP test, and new teacher and principal evaluations based on these MAP test scores. Because you see, with the ed reform movement, part of introducing charter schools into a community is to say that a school is so bad that it has to be “transformed” into… a charter school!

Just to let you know, our supe was on the board of the company that sold the MAP test to our school district, NWEA. She resisted stepping down after the community discovered this connection and demanded that she do so. She recently stepped down quietly. She was also on the Board of Directors for the Broad Foundation until recently when she again stepped down with no fanfare. Someone brought it to our attention one day that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was no longer on the Broad’s Board of Directors’ list. That was news to us and a huge surprise. We loved pointing out that fact every time that we wrote an article about our supe. No more fun for us. Oh well.

This 5 year plan of hers was the reason given by the school board to extend the supe’s contract. This is something that the teacher’s union and many parents and students were against. The school board members in their infinite Broad trained wisdom, decided to go along with her game plan and extend her contract.

And yes, it was Broad trained wisdom shared with the board directors through their Alliance for Education funded, Broad run school board retreats. The last retreat was led by Don McAdams.

But getting back to the “oops!”

The Alliance for Education, another Gates and Broad backed faux roots organization, along with the League of Education Voters, started beating the drum of ed reform based on this number that Brad had produced.

But Sunday, the Seattle Times, to their credit, came out with an article on the truthiness of that number.

As presented by Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times:

The claim: Starting in 2008, Seattle Public Schools reported that a meager 17 percent of its high-school graduates met the entrance requirements for four-year colleges. The district quietly quit using that number then recently revised it, without comment, to 46 percent.

What we found: A little shock wave went through Seattle’s education community when the district first began suggesting that so few of its students took the courses they needed to apply to a four-year college in this state.

The 17 percent was one of the numbers district leaders used to justify the district’s five-year plan that included a new system of assigning students to schools, more testing for students, and new teacher and principal evaluations.

That statistic was false, but the district used the number in presentations to the School Board and to the public.

Other groups picked it up as well, using it to lobby for their own priorities.

The Seattle Council PTSA, for example, cited the statistic in stating why the district needed to make the high-school curriculum more consistent from school to school. In a newsletter sent to school PTAs all over the city, the council said Seattle Public Schools’ data “shows that only 17 percent of its students finish high school able to meet the actual admission requirements to public four-year colleges and universities in Washington.”

And as recently as August, former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice cited the statistic in a similar way in arguing for what he wanted to see in Seattle’s new teacher’s contract.

The new teacher’s contract, by the way, includes merit pay based on student scores, a method used in charter schools to keep teachers focused on test taking and little else. The supe also tried to push through her agenda item of bringing in TFA, Inc. but that had been tabled during negotiations with the teachers’ union. Then the supe found another way to bring in TFA, Inc, through our school board, but that’s another story for another article. One thing that I must say as an aside, this supe has been keeping many of us busy on developing our writing skills.

All joking aside this is a very serious situation. Everything that our supe has gotten through in terms of her and the Broad’s agenda was based on a lie. A lie created by Brad Bernatek, a Broad resident.

A lie that was perpetrated and echoed far and wide.

And what does Brad have to say for himself at this juncture in his professional life?

From the Seattle Times:

In retrospect, Bernatek said, he wished he’d done more to make sure the public knew the issues with the number and why the district stopped using it.

“I didn’t communicate that well enough” he said. “In fairness to the people who used it, it was still on our website.”

Kind of sounds like Michelle Rhee when describing her failure as Chancellor of the DC school district. It was just a matter of not being able to get the word out about her program.

And our supe? What did she say? In her usual corporate style double speak, she was quoted as saying, “We should have changed the public conversation”. Huh? That’s all she can say after two rounds of unnecessary school closures, based on bogus census numbers that Brad’s office produced for the school board, and a new assignment plan that has been an enormous failure in terms of logistics and the overcrowding of schools and leaving others without appropriate programs?

Because you see, for some unknown reason, the number was recently changed from 17% to 46% with no announcement or fanfare. The 46% was always the true number but was misrepresented by the use of a much lower percentage.

As written by Linda Shaw:

While staff understood what the number was supposed to be, she (the superintendent) said, she acknowledges the district didn’t make its meaning clear to the public, especially after it decided to quit using it.

“We should have come forward sooner,” she said.

We should have come forward sooner!? How about just starting out with the truth and sticking with that?

One of my many reasons for disliking this ed reform movement is that it has not been a transparent process, at least not here in Seattle.

There are faux roots groups backed by Gates and Broad touting their idea of ed reform. The methods used have been underhanded. An example of that is when the supe put the TFA, Inc. proposal on the table to the school board. Our superintendent and the school board president Michael DeBell decided that community engagement regarding bringing Teach for America, Inc. into the Seattle Public School system, a huge deal to all involved, would simply be a Q and A with a TFA, Inc. rep, the President and Vice President of SEA, the teachers’ union in Seattle, and the Chief Academic Officer of SPS during a board meeting for about 15 minutes. The premise of such a hurried process without community input was based on TFA’s requirement that they needed to have a certain number of districts to buy into this idea within a very short period of time. If TFA had sufficient buy-in, they would move into our state, something that they had been planning to do for a while now anyway.That is what you might call the tail wagging the dog or the supe putting the pressure on the board to make a hurried decision without any significant community notification and involvement. Take your pick.

There are many examples of this tactic being used to gain the school board’s approval on the superintendent’s proposals including school closures.

Some people think that if the community as a whole understood what the final result of this push to ed reform would be, that we would not want it, therefore clandestine methods have been used by Broad and Gates to achieve their goals. The process that they are using does reflect a paternalistic approach to governing and is undemocratic. It also illogical due to the fact that their approach is corporate rather than based on the understanding of successful approaches to educating a child. There is a huge conflict in terms of their vision and what is reality.

Getting back to Brad and our supe. We have had too many disingenuous “oop’s!” by both of them. Whether this was based on complete incompetence, which I doubt, or a willful use of misinformation to mislead the public, we don’t need this in Seattle. We don’t need them and we don’t need the Broad/Gates agenda which is doing nothing in terms of encouraging the success of our children in the Seattle Public School system and has only brought about confusion, chaos and a lack of confidence in the leadership of SPS.

By the way, Jim Horn with Schools Matter did an even more brutal piece on this debacle. (I must be getting too “Seattle nice”.)

Looks like this story is taking on a life of its’ own. Check out Substance News.

To read what the Seattle Public School community is saying about this Brad/Broad lie, see the Save Seattle Schools blog.

Dora

Plummeting teacher morale in Seattle’s Public Schools — a serious issue

Here are some concerns I shared in a letter to School Board Director Kay Smith-Blum this week, after her disappointing vote in favor of Teach for America, Inc. I urge all members of the school board to investigate this matter of collapsing teacher morale, which is happening on their watch, largely as a result of the frenetic barrage of  dubious “reforms” being imposed upon our teachers, schools and children these past three years under the current district leadership, and with this board’s mostly unquestioning approval.

I understand that we will not always agree. But I honestly believe that with full information about TFA, Inc. and those behind it and where they are heading with it and other corporate ed reform agenda items, you would have voted differently.

Please take a look at this article in today’s New York Times in which Bill Gates speaks out against advanced degrees for teachers and against smaller class sizes.

Quite frankly, this is nuts. Research shows that children most definitely do benefit from more one-on-one teacher time, and professional development for teachers is indeed valuable.

Gates has zero expertise in education, yet he is a driving force behind ed
reform. He supports the deprofessionalization of the teaching profession, and along the way, is aiding and abetting the current, ugly national trend of teacher-bashing. (Local observers fully expect his foundation, or perhaps the Seattle Foundation with funding from Gates, to pay the TFA annual fees, thus enabling an agenda item Gates supports but which most Seattle Public Schools parents don’t even know about.)

This is serious business. I urge you — no, implore you — to conduct
some independent research like you did with that principal survey, and talk to SPS teachers and ask them what it is like to be working in their field and in SPS right now.

You will find their morale has collapsed, they are living in a culture of
fear created by constant local and national attacks on teachers, and
pressure to abandon their own knowledge and approaches for a standardized curriculum and methods pushed on them from SPS HQ, and the pressure to raise test scores uber alles. And they are being told in many different ways that they aren’t any good (or “effective”).

The board’s approval of the young, inexperienced, yet equally paid TFA-ers as the “cure” for the “achievement gap” in this town is just another kick in the gut to them.

As a parent I am very, very concerned about this.

Take a look at the chapter in Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education about the ravages of ed reform in San Diego. Teachers were literally made ill by the constant criticism and pressure from the district.  Only when the ed reform superintendent Alan Bersin left and his failed management style with him, did the district regain its health.

I know for a fact that teachers here in SPS are becoming similarly ill
from this stress right now.

Finally, the research shows that TFA-ers are not more “effective” than
professionally trained teachers. They will not “close the achievement gap.”

This so-called new “arrow” (TFA) in the board’s “quiver” may well be one
straight into the heart of our existing hard-working professional teachers,
many of whom, as Director Patu rightly pointed out in her eloquent dissenting speech, are already among the best and brightest the profession has to offer.

I urge you to investigate what is happening to teacher morale in Seattle’s public schools right now. It is serious and damaging to everyone.

— sue p.

SPS parent
Co-editor, Seattle Education 2010
Founding member, Parents Across America
Education contributor, The Huffington Post

Teach for America, Inc. is in Seattle

Our Broad-trained superintendent has spoken. There will be TFA, Inc. recruits in Seattle.

But the battle for Seattle is not over.

Why was it so important to bring TFA, Inc. to our state? Because there are well paid lobbyists and Broad/Gates backed organizations along with DFER, who just set up shop in our state, who are already lobbying for charter schools. Charter schools are populated with TFA, Inc. recruits. These TFA, Inc. folks, fresh out of college can be trained to feed the students pre-packaged curriculum that can be regurgitated back out on a standardized test. Low pay, long hours, no union to bother with and no questions asked. If you don’t know anything about the art of teaching, then you will have no idea that there is another way to educate a child and therefore you will not question the process.

The Seattle school board last night rubber-stamped the supe’s recommendation zombie style, 6-1. The irony of this is that the Board Director who voted against it was representing the schools who would receive the majority of TFA, Inc. recruits.

Parents, students and teachers spoke quite eloquently and in unison against having TFA, Inc. recruits in their schools. On the other side, the only folks who spoke up for TFA, Inc. were TFA, Inc. alumnae, go figure, who thought that doing their two year stint with TFA, Inc. was the best experience that they had ever had. No mention was made about how the students might have felt about it or the experienced teachers who worked alongside them and who had to spend their valuable time bringing these recruits along.

So what is our next step? Seattle Education 2010, in partnership with Parents Across America, Seattle will be working with other concerned individuals and organizations on three actions.

The first action is that we will start a school board watch on this website tracking each school board director, noting their votes, their official comments on school issues and tracking their funding in terms of who paid for them to have a seat at the table and who will be funding them during their bid for re-election. Sue and I would appreciate any observations that you might have regarding any school board members. We do receive a lot of information daily from folks about all issues related to education and truly appreciate the input. The more informed we are as community members, the better decisions we will make.

Our second action is that we will be recruiting school board candidates and supporting them during their bid for election.

We are communicating with community members now and meeting with potential candidates. If you know of someone who has developed critical thinking skills and can look beyond their next step up the political ladder, please let us know.

And finally, we will be pursuing legal recourse on the decision to bring TFA, Inc. to Seattle. Details on that will follow as we go through the process.

The Broad and Gates backed organizations like to remain secretive about what they are doing. We believe this is because if folks knew what their agenda was, there would push back big time. In reaction to this underhandedness and lack of transparency that these organizations have exhibited, we have decided to be transparent on what we are doing and why. We want true grassroots involvement and to achieve that, an organization needs to be up front and honest. That is my belief.

So that’s where we are.

Oh yeah, and speaking of transparency, three guesses on who the “mystery donor” is who will be paying for TFA, Inc. for the next three years.

Dora

Seattle School Board rubber-stamps yet another item on its Broad Superintendent’s ed reform agenda: Teach for America, Inc.

The Seattle School Board voted 6-1 Weds. night to approve the contract between Teach for America, Inc. and Seattle Public Schools. This will allow TFA recruits with only five weeks of training to join the already crowded pool of fully qualified teachers to vie for jobs in Seattle’s school.

This is not a big surprise to district-watchers who have observed this current board essentially rubber-stamp whatever this superintendent demands. Apparently the recent state audit that dinged the board for failing to direct the superintendent has made no difference to them.

Credit goes to Director Betty Patu, the sole No vote, for speaking eloquently and voting intelligently in defense of our existing teachers, and for noting that the “best and brightest” are already among us. Patu represents the south end of town, the area most likely to be affected by the TFA vote, since the district plans to place these recruits in Title I schools.

The biggest surprise of the night was Director Kay Smith-Blum’s Yes vote. She claims it was based on an informal poll she took of some principals, half of which said they would like TFA recruits in the hiring pool, half of which said they did not.  Community members and parents who had been impressed with Smith-Blum’s intelligent questions of the district staff and independence on the board in her first year, feel greatly disappointed by this sudden change.

It is surprising that even the fiscal irrationality of hiring young grads with only five weeks’ training at a premium  didn’t give Smith-Blum, a small businesswoman, pause. (TFA, Inc. demands $4,000 per recruit per year from SPS as well as a regular teacher’s salary for its corps members.)

Many in the local parent activist community are already looking ahead to next year’s school board election when four members are up for reelection — Sundquist, Carr, Maier and Martin-Morris. Tonight’s vote is likely to only fuel the growing fervor to find replacements for this current board.

HOW THEY VOTED

Should SPS approve the contract with TFA, Inc?

Sherry Carr    YES

Michael DeBell    YES

Peter Maier    YES

Harium Martin-Morris    YES

Betty Patu    NO

Kay Smith-Blum    YES

Steve Sundquist    YES

–s.p.

Teach for America and “Clinically Based Teacher Preparation”

With Jim Horn’s permission, I am posting his remarks on teaching and Teach for America. Most of the time I add a new link to an article or a blog post but this one was worth posting in its’ entirety.

Dora

“Clinically Based Teacher Preparation”

If there is a phrase that you are likely to get as sick of hearing in the next few years as you did “scientifically-based evidence” during the last few, it is likely to be “clinically based teacher preparation.”  No doubt, too, this new catch phrase will have about as much connection to science as the last one did, which is minimal to none.

“Clinically-based teacher preparation” represents a new scheme to further weaken the impetus toward child advocacy and ethical student treatment, the social justice mission of schools, and the progressive and humane philosophical grounding of teacher education that has been under attack since Reagan came to power.  The new plan was incubated and hatched by the gang that brought you the era of nonstop test and punish, corporate welfare charter queens, anti-cultural shrunken curricula, teacher demonization and union busting, Reading First parrot teaching, DIBELS, corporate tutoring, the super-sized junk food textbook, and unending data surveillance systems.  It has been marched out under the banner of what has been until now a highly-regarded teacher accreditation outfit known as NCATE.

First, a comment about the psychology of this “comprehensive” report, which bears the schizophrenic markings that only come from hurried committee construction by forces in clear opposition.  For instance, we see corporate America’s anti-preparation program, Teach for America, mentioned in the same paragraph with the highly-respected Alverno College, as if there is some equivalence of legitimacy between the two to teacher education.  And many alternative prep scams in between, all given full-throated support by the organization charged with the responsibility to uphold the integrity of teacher education in the U. S. Sad, but done. Very sad.

If NCATE really wanted to move to a clinical model that would emulate American medical education, it would have taken some effort the make changes much more significant than the ones outlined in this pathetic report.  For instance, in medical ed, we have pre-med preceding med school, which has its clinical internship, as well as pre-clinical component.  The pre-clinical is made up of three years of classroom study in basic and medical science, supplemented by heavy doses of acculturation and observation. Following the clinical comes at least three years in residency.

Based on the three “crucial goals” being advanced below, it would seem that very little time or coursework, if any, is being added to the “clinical” teacher model.  Rather, it seems that more of the existing time is being given over to the “clinical” with the effect being a further reduction of the pre-clinical.  If you can think of a doctor prescribing a medicine without understanding chemical interactions, or a surgeon cutting you open without knowing where the veins and arteries are, then you get the picture.  The pre-clinical body of knowledge–child development, educational psychology and sociology, educational philosophy and history, learning science, cognitive science, curriculum theory and practice, research skills, classroom management, and human dynamics–all will be subjected in the new plan to a further squeeze, rather than being expanded to really develop the heft, breadth, and depth that would truly emulate a medical model.

So does TFA, then, qualify as a “clinical” model?  Why not?  Let’s give these med students 5 weeks of pre-clinical education and then dump them into a hospital where people are dying left and right. But don’t worry, they are learning something about chemistry and anatomy at night after a ten-hour day at the hospital, where the roof is leaking, by the way, and there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom, and patients are being treated in broom closets.

This phony-baloney, scientifically-sounding super sham of a plan represents the final capitulation by a once-respectable organization to the corporate boards, corporate foundations, and the oligarchs who own them.  This will open the floodgates to “alternative certification” and the further diminution and marginalization of university programs that have never acceded to the new role of training prison guards, rather than teachers.  Teacher education, the real kind, will survive through this dark period, but it won’t be with the help of an agency whose integrity has been bought and paid for by the corporate oligarchy for the benefit a handful of dress up and go to lunch bureaucrats with the moral courage of slugs.

Oh yes, the crucial goals:

Specifically, the Alliance partners will focus on advancing three crucial goals:

1. Foster collaborative partnerships among schools, districts, and teacher preparation programs by:
Identifying demonstration sites that have or will develop a strong partnership between teacher preparation programs and school districts or schools with a particular focus on high-needs schools.

Testing different delivery models for clinically based teacher preparation such as year-long residencies as part of four year programs; two-year post-baccalaureate programs using spiral curricula that weave together content, theory and laboratory experiences in year one and full year school-embedded residencies in year two; and preservice practica experiences designed to engage candidates with a group of students throughout their professional programs to follow their cognitive, social, and developmental needs over time.

Establishing incentives to create joint responsibility for induction by hiring districts and preparation programs.

Developing innovative funding models to institutionalize teacher preparation through the  school/teacher preparation program clinical model.

Working with diverse preparation programs to assure that robust clinical teacher preparation is a central feature across all pathways into the teaching profession.

2. Assess all aspects of performance on a continuing basis by:
Collecting and analyzing multiple measures of formative and summative assessment data used by teacher candidates reflecting classroom learning and school improvement.

Linking performance assessments to state licensing requirements.

Expecting demonstration sites to establish and implement an accountability system based on assessment measures of graduates’ and programs’ performance through value-added and other measures in state and district longitudinal data systems.

Including performance assessment of establishing teacher preparation programs for the purpose of program improvement in the state’s teacher preparation approval system.

3. Develop more effective state policies to prepare teachers who meet school needs by:
Offering incentives or establishing policies that guide the numbers and types of teachers who are prepared so that school and district needs are met.

Identifying and eliminating or addressing state and local policies and practices that might impede innovation and shifting to clinically based teacher preparation programs.

Creating a “scale-up” plan to expand from a limited number of clinical teacher preparation partnerships to a state-wide system of such partnerships as a means for improving student learning – especially in high-needs schools.

Letter from two WA State Representatives to Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson opposing the use of TFA recruits as teachers in Seattle’s schools

November 2, 2010

Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.
Superintendent

Seattle Public Schools
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Dear Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson:

It is with great concern that we are writing regarding the Seattle Public Schools consideration of a contract with Teach for America. While we believe Teach for America is a fine program serving areas of significant teacher shortages with extreme urban and rural poverty, it does not meet the needs of students attending Seattle Public Schools.

As you are well aware, over the last several years local school districts have regretfully utilized a reduction in force program, eliminating the positions of many highly trained and experienced Washington teachers. At this time, we do not have a shortage of teachers. It seems drastically unfair to shortchange our students with teachers who are not adequately prepared to meet the
complex demands of a classroom environment.

We are in an education crisis. The design of our school systems reflect the needs of a society in the 1970s and are in desperate need of modernization. Students and families are suffering through a relentless economic recession, the achievement gap plagues our student populations, and student performance is lagging behind many schools in our nation and other countries. It seems unconscionable to hire individuals without a specialized education
preparation program, little professional work experience, and no classroom experience to be responsible for transforming the problems that our students face. Our students and the dedicated teachers who have worked so arduously to serve our students deserve much better.

Clearly, the problems facing our education system are multifaceted. They range from poverty, to the need for adequate health care for students and families, parental involvement, and the need to accommodate the diverse learning needs of every child in the City of Seattle. In the classroom, it will take experienced, professionally trained teachers, who have developed curriculum, worked with students and parents, and practiced their skills as educators to help our students achieve the expected standards, thrive in a learning environment, and reach their highest and best potential.

A Teach for America employee could be a great asset to trained and cultivated teacher in the classroom, providing instructional and classroom management support, but should not be a substitute for an education professional. Utilizing the Teach for America employee in that capacity would benefit the students, teacher, and the teacher in training. We urge you to consider a way to utilize the Teach for America program without abandoning our students and high standards for our education system.

Sincerely,

Eileen Cody
State Representative
34th District

Sharon Nelson
State Representative
34th District

(See: Letter)

Teach for America Testimony

There is a school board meeting this evening when it will be decided by the directors if they will accept the Broad trained superintendent’s proposal to hire Teach for America, Inc recruits.

Below is the testimony that I would like to give. Unfortunately, each person has only three minutes to speak so this will get cut down a bit.

Dora

Jim Horn, editor of Schools Matter, describes Teach for America, Inc. as, the “anti preparation program”.

Within the five weeks of preparation of a TFA, Inc. recruit, to paraphrase Mr. Horn, where does the study occur of child development, educational psychology, sociology, philosophy and history, learning science, cognitive science, curriculum theory and practice along with the development of research skills, classroom management, and the study of human dynamics that is part of the education of a teacher, at least a teacher who I want and expect teaching in my daughter’s school?

And what about the IEP and special ed students who are mainstreamed into the general student population? Does TFA, Inc. in their five week program provide adequate training to handle those students as well the remaining students in a class of 30 students?

In regards to “community engagement” that is required to take place with parents, teachers, students and other concerned citizens, that apparently happened two weeks ago when a TFA, Inc. rep, Ms. Ortega, along with Dr. Enfield and two representatives from SEA were available to answer questions asked by the school board in the last board meeting. That is not enough. Most members of the Seattle school community do not know what Teach for America, Inc. is. What we need is honest and open discussion with the entire community about this topic. SPS has failed again.

That “community engagement” attempt that DeBell referred to was a complete sham and no one was fooled by that weak attempt to avoid the democratic process that is supposed to happen within the Seattle community.

Several parents invited Ms. Ortega to join a forum with parents and students where questions could be asked about TFA, Inc.

About a week after the invitation, Ms. Ortega did respond by saying that she would be available sometime in December. That, by the way, is after the school board vote on TFA, Inc., and it would be too late.

So much for “community engagement”.

And what does TFA consider “community engagement”? Going to Rainier Beach High School as part of a program where the staff presented to Michael Tolley, the director for the Central District, their ideas on how to enrich the curriculum at their high school.

At the end of the program, Ms. Ortega spoke. What everyone got was a sales pitch on how wonderful the recruits are and how many people apply and how many people are selected and how 2/3’s of these corps members continue on in the field of education.

What she stated was misleading and did not include the fact that the recruits were contracted for a two year period or the fact that they receive only five weeks of training. And 2/3’s of the recruits staying in the field of education might include administrative work or policy making on some level, but does not describe the number of recruits who stay on to continue teaching after three years. That would only be about 20% of the recruits.

A teacher stated that three TFA recruits had been at Rainier Beach High School about 14 years ago. One of the recruits was great but the two needed a lot of hand holding which had to be done by the staff, putting more of a strain on other teachers and the students.

Ms. Ortega said that 14 years ago there was one “supervisor” for about 70 recruits. Now that number was down to around 45 recruits per supervisor. Somehow I don’t think that created a level of comfort for anyone in the audience.

Someone from the audience suggested that TFA, Inc. recruits could be teaching assistants because they are needed in the schools. Ms. Ortega said that wouldn’t work for TFA, Inc. I imagine it wouldn’t, not at $8,000 per recruit over a two year period. They’d have to come down a lot more in their price for our school district to buy that one…I think.

Even state Representatives Sharon Nelson and Eileen Cody sent a letter to the superintendent stating that TFA, Inc. would not be the appropriate fit for our students but suggested that they would make great teaching assistants.

The warm and fuzzy anecdotal stories that we heard in the last board meeting from former TFA, Inc recruits were sometimes sweet and sometimes interesting but there were no facts presented. These individuals might feel good about what they were doing during their first two years of on- the-job training as TFA, Inc. recruits in our schools but according to the Helig study, if they were typical of other recruits, they were no more “effective” than any other teacher who was also a first or second year teacher.

It is arrogance on the part of Wendy Kopp and her recruits to think that someone from Princeton, where Ms. Kopp attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and who does not have a degree in education or a subject closely related to education, would be able to go into these low poverty communities and think that they would be the answer in any form to what ails our schools.

When it comes down to it, TFA, Inc. recruits might be young and energetic but so are other teachers who are fresh out of college with their degrees in education in hand and who are better prepared to teach than any TFA, Inc. recruit.

Would I want a TFA, Inc. recruit teaching my daughter? No. Do I think that it would be OK for them to teach anyone else’s child who might need more involvement and support? Absolutely not.