Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bombs Away!

Got the preliminary science scores back for my school.

The picture isn't good. They not only went down, they went in the tank in about the most spectacular way you can imagine.

Thing is, a friend in a different district got a peek at her results, too, and she was also waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down. If it was just me, I'd eat the crap sandwich. If this is a statewide trend, though, there's going to be some impossible questions asked later this month when the statewide release rolls out.

Mark your calendars.

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Blaine Amendments

Blame my ancestors.
President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) in a speech in 1875 to a veteran's meeting, called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public money for sectarian schools. Grant laid out his agenda for "good common school education." He attacked government support for "sectarian schools" run by religious organizations, and called for the defense of public education "unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas." Grant declared that "Church and State" should be "forever separate." Religion, he said, should be left to families, churches, and private schools devoid of public funds.
Not much has changed in 135 years.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mythbusting: We Didn't Win Race to the Top Because We Don't Have Charter Schools

It's everyone's favorite theory of the day!

Randy Dorn:
Dorn said in a telephone interview that he believed Washington was not chosen as a finalist because its application did not include a plan for allowing charter schools in the state.

Josh Feit:
While the education reform bill that passed in Olympia this session did gesture toward some of the Race to the Top goals like giving the state authority to intervene in failing schools; approving of alternative paths to teacher certification; extending teacher tenure from two years to three; and creating a new teacher and principal evaluation systems (like a four-tiered rating system instead of simply good or bad—and lowering the legal standard for getting rid of delinquent principles), it did not radically alter the teacher evaluation system—as Obama wants—by tracking evaluations to student data. Nor did it embrace charter schools, another Obama standard.

The Association of Washington Business:
Washington was not included as a Round 2 Finalist. One of the key reasons is Washington does not allow charter Schools.

The Seattle Times:
The fact that Washington wasn't a finalist didn't come as a surprise. From the beginning, many voiced concerns that Washington wasn't making the kinds of changes that would earn a high score in the competition, given the federal government's criteria.

Washington lost about 40 points off the bat, for example, because it doesn't allow the creation of charter schools.

The Politics Northwest Blog at the Seattle Times:
Washington state on Tuesday failed to advance in the competition for $3.4 billion in education grants under Race to the Top, a performance that could not been helped by voters' rejection of charter schools that are a key -- albeit not mandatory -- part of the Obama administration's reform agenda.
And first out of the gate to lay this at Governor's feet, Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center. She brings up the charters thing, too.

This is all well and good, but how about we ask someone who really knows: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Finds Eight Race to the Top Finalists Supportive of Charter Schools
Well, that's interesting, since there's 19 finalists. Let's skip ahead in their press release, but I'd encourage you to read the whole thing:
Unfortunately, three finalists fail to meet at least one Race to the Top guideline because they continue to block charter school growth. They are: Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio. Despite education reform efforts that may exist in these states, they are keeping high-quality charter schools from bringing parents another public school option. Kentucky, in particular, has yet to pass a charter school law.
Three more states with no charter schools, and yet they made it through to round 2. If it killed us, how come it didn't kill them?
Maryland, also a finalist, was shown to have the worst charter school law in the country according to our rankings.
The worst charter school law in the country. The absolute worst. They're a finalist, too.

For more evidence, go look at the detailed scores from the first round of the Race to the Top grants. Remember there that 41 states had applied and only two (Delaware and Tennessee) were awareded the grants. Given that, you'd think from all the sturm und drang above that it must have been the charter school points that set them apart, right?

Not really. Out of 40 points, Delaware scored 31, Tennessee scored 30. 14 states scored higher than both of them. The two places that got perfect scores for charters, Colorado and DC, were only in the middle of the pack for overall score.

We won't really know what impact our lack-of charter schools law had until they release the scores at the beginning of September. I'd suspect it'll probably be a lower score than most, but we don't know what the overall impact of our "innovation schools" gambit will be until then (innovation schools like Aviation High, which Secretary Duncan visited two weeks ago. Given that, and based on the available evidence so far, it's intellectually dishonest to say that charter schools killed Washington State's application.

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I Got Your Dance of the Lemons Right Here

See Bob.

Bob is a Superintendent.

Bob is not a good Superintendent.

Bob is a bad Superintendent.

See Bob's employees.

These teachers are Bob's employees.

See these teachers vote No Confidence in Bob, because he is a bad superintendent.

These parapros are Bob's employees.

See these parapros vote No Confidence in Bob, because he is a bad superintendent.

See Bob's dog Spot.

See Spot vote No Confidence in Bob, because he is also a bad dog owner.

See the school board.

The school board is very smart. The school board will think!

Think, think, think.

See the school board's heads.

The school board's heads are up their asses. Silly, silly school board!

See the community.

See the community say to the school board, "Look, you don't have to listen to the teachers or the paras, but this crap has gone on long enough. Fire Bob, or face the consequences."

See the school board pull their heads out of their collective ass.

Let's see Bob again.

See Bob's friend, Rob.

Rob is a superintendent, too. Rob is leaving his job for a different job.

See Rob shuffle off to his new job. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

See Rob tell his school board, "Bob's swell!"

See Rob's school board pretend to be bobbleheads. Bobble, bobble, bobble.

See Bob shuffle into Rob's old district just days after Rob announced he was leaving.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

See Bob, who has never been good at his job, continue making six figures.

See Dick and Jane and Teacher Sally pay the price for years to come.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Randy Dorn Love Train... steaming full-bore through the comments section of this article at the Seattle Times.

My beef with the national core standards is the loss of local control--these might compare to or even be better than we have now, but will they always?--and the constant changing of the standards dictates a constant changing of the test, which means that you lose the ability to really compare kids, schools, and teachers from year to year.

If we don't get through the Race to the Top first round tomorrow, we will have adopted these standards for *nothing*.

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If You're Going To Be the People's Republic of Olympia...

....might as well get profiled by the Wobblies. Page 3 of the newsletter, if you're intrigued.

You can also read the IWW vitriol for New Jersey and their spending-cutting governor, Chris Christie, on page 5. He's gotten a lot of press in certain corners of the Evergreen-based blogosphere in recent months.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Rich Get Richer

So we had this bill in the legislature, 2893.

It lifted the levy lid, what school districts can raise themselves, from 24% to 28%.

It also lifted the levy equalization percentage, which benefits property-poor school districts, from 12% to 14%.

It was also written in such a way that if the increase in levy equalization wasn't funded, then the increase in the levy lid wouldn't be valid either.

Governor Gregoire used a line-item veto to take that away.

Now levy equalization for property-poor districts is being threatened with a 3% to 5% cut for the coming school year.

Property-rich districts, though, will still be able to ask voters for more and more levy dollars, while property-poor districts watch the one lifeline they have get frayed away.

There are two Americas. It's hard to tell that Governor Gregoire really gives a damn about the one I'm in.

Even beyond basic school levies, though, are programs like the Families and Education Levy in Seattle and the proposed Children's Investment Fund in Spokane where the levies are run through the city instead of the schools, meaning millions of extra dollars for programs for kids. I don't begrudge them their success, but see the title of this post.

More from KPLU here and the Everett Herald here.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Outsourcing Day!

This is fascinating.

I wonder sometimes what could be privatized in the schools. The obvious answers are food services, janitorial, and the bus barn, but in my district the occupational therapist is a contractor (who costs considerably more than a full-time employee would) and I'm seeing a trend that could send the speech therapists and physical therapist down that path as well.

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Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

The Fordham Foundation, talking about our math standards:
Washington’s standards are easy to read and well organized. They come with extensive explanatory notes and examples. They cover nearly all the essential content with rigor and do an excellent job of limiting and prioritizing the content to be covered. In elementary school, arithmetic is both given priority and developed well. The high school content is generally strong, but a few STEM-ready topics are not included.
Neat! Hey, what math document did they look at?
Washington State K-12 Mathematics Learning Standards. July 2008.
Accessed from:
Well, that's 2008. What does the Washington Policy Center say about things?
Washington's math standards, which in 2005 earned an "F" from the Fordham Foundation, were rewritten last year by a consultant hired by the State Board of Education in response to a legislative directive. This new set of math standards has now earned an "A" from the Fordham Foundation.
But....last year was 2009, and these standards came out in July of 2008. Easy mistake. Hell, I can barely remember my age most days thanks to years of Red Bull abuse.

Here's a mistake not anyone can make:
Here we have a clear example of how contracting out to a private consultant a government service (like writing learning standards) results in a superior product (math standards) and not doing so (English Language Arts) results in a mediocre product.

I'm guessing I can find some people who disagree with that. I'll open with OSPI:

The state’s K-12 Mathematics Learning Standards have been revised by dozens of educators and mathematicians from across the state and the nation.
Then consider the actual standards document, which lists 34 Washington State professionals who were involved in writing the standards (see page 249).

And to close? Go to the original WPC post and look at what State Rep. Ross Hunter, one of the legislators most involved in the ed reform legislation of recent years, has had to say. I took a picture for posterity:
I'll be curious to see how Fordham feels about the other Common Core Standards that are supposed to come down the line.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Congratulations, your school is no longer a hazardous waste site!

This is one of those cases where good news is "good news".


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Randy Dorn: "We're so screwed."

That's the gist of what I get from this press release, anyhow.

I can't help but note that he calls out levy equalization as a program that isn't considered basic education, which always makes my sphincter clench even though it is true.

It's going to be a hell of a year.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

...and a little follow-up

From the article about the split in the Spokane County GOP:
County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the club formed because of concerns that the county party wasn’t inclusive enough, and thinks the new party platform is too long, too specific and too far away from broad philosophy.

That platform, with more than 100 statements, calls for abolishing no-fault divorce, withdrawing the United States from the United Nations, privatizing Social Security, eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, repealing the Endangered Species Act, increasing drilling for oil on land and offshore, and declaring English as the official language.

Zapotocky, who disputes suggestions the party isn’t inclusive, said the platform isn’t a litmus test: “I don’t expect people to agree to every word of it. It’s a way to define terms.”
Nice enough, Mr. Z, but it's hard to reconcile what you're saying about the party platform here with this commentary that made a big splash on the Spokane GOP website earlier this year.

I think that line about "My 80% friend is not my 20% enemy" fits here.

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The Split in the Spokane County GOP

One interesting thing that came out of all the endorsement interviews I've been doing, and that finally made the front page of the Spokesman-Review on Sunday, is that there's a pretty big split in the County GOP right now. I think you can see it best when you look at the endorsements issued by the "official" county party as of now:

John Ahern, 6th Legislative District, Position 2
Ralph Baker, County Assessor
Michael Baumgartner, 6th Legislative District, Senate
Jeff Holy, County Commissioner, District 3
Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane County Sheriff
Justice Richard Sanders, Washington State Supreme Court
Matt Shea, 4th Legislative District, Position 2
Dave Stevens, Spokane County Prosecutor
Dave White, 3rd Legislative District, Position 1
Leonard Christian, Spokane County Auditor (Endorsement Pending)
What's notable to me is what's missing--Spokane County contains all or part of the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th Legislative Districts. That's 10 potential races, and they've only taken a stand on two of them. Further, some of the names I don't see on this list are emminently reliable conservative votes (Joel Kretz and Shelly Short in the 7th, Larry Crouse in the 4th, Susan Fagan and Joe Schmick in the 9th), but they're not on the official endorsement list. The Spokane County GOP was one of the first to get behind John Ahern's bid for re-election, and they've also been one of the only ones to get behind him--Shelly O'Quinn, who is a hell of a candidate, has gotten the Home Builders, the General Contractors, and an enviable list of names including the Spokane County Republican Club.

It'll be an interesting dynamic to watch, particularly as we get closer to the general election in November.

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Friday, July 02, 2010


A lot of folks have been saying for quite some time that the danger with grabbing onto the federal money represented by Race to the Top is that federal money can go away at a whim.

And now it's looking like $500 million of the next round of Race to the Top is going to be cut out to make money for a jobs bill for teachers. This, after applications were submitted.

There's an analogy to the FMAP health care money that we're desparate to get to cover our budget gap--promised, not delivered, and now we're deep in the pitch.

"We have to make these changes, for the money!" only works when there is, in fact, money.

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