Monday, January 30, 2012

Seeking reasons for a waiver . . .

In an earlier post I asked for some feedback on how our system should respond to the opportunity to file for a waiver for making up the days lost to the recent storm. I received three comments and an e-mail response with the commenters sharing the importance and need for the 180 days of instruction. The one issue that emerged in more than one was the unknown of potentially losing more days during the year requiring us to go further into June and the hardships that this might cause for individuals.

In this Tacoma News Tribune Post we are beginning to see what some surrounding districts have chosen to do.

• Tacoma – Looking into waiver possibilities.
• Sumner – Scheduled two of the lost four days, undecided on whether to apply for a waiver for the remaining two days.
• Federal Way – Will make up all four days, two in May and two at the end of the year.
• Puyallup – Scheduled three make-up days, one in March, one in May, and one at the end of the year.
• Steilacoom – Scheduled four make-up days, one in March, one in May, and two at the end of the year.

At this time, we have scheduled our four make-up days for the end of the year and have left open the potential for a waiver. We will schedule a discussion and decision for a future board meeting. As we prepare for that meeting I would like to know reasons why we should consider the waiver opportunity. I believe that we should make up the four days, but I am open to being influenced.  Other than the hardships identified in comments to my earlier posts, what other reasons should we consider in making this decision?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Comments and expanded visibility . . .

So far I have three comments from my last post on waivers for the weather emergency.  Thanks to Scott for also sharing the post in an e-mail that may result in a few more comments.  I'll give others a chance to respond before sharing again.

Today I received an e-mail notification that an excerpt form one of my posts was chosen by School Administrator Magazine for sharing in the Best of Blog section of the February magazine.  This followed sharing full posts I think for a month earlier this year.  I'm wondering who has the resources to follow education posts and then decide which should be shared.  The excerpt is the one below.  Sharing this will certainly not impress the reformers or others supporting changes to teacher and principal evaluations.  Who knows, I could find my name on some list of those to avoid if this keeps up.  I don't know if  I like this expanded visibility.  I am learning first hand that once online you lose control.  It is like having no control over the volume knob, I like it Minimum not MAX!

“I think it is unfortunate that in our state and in states around the country millions of dollars are

being spent to create evaluation models whose stated purpose is to support teacher growth over

time, but whose intent is to get rid of ‘bad’ teachers.”

From “The Frenzy for Accountability” by Michael Maryanski (superintendent, Maple Valley, Wash.)

in his blog, Seeking Shared Learning

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waiver or no waiver . . .

At Tuesday’s board meeting the calendar was revised to make up for last week’s lost days. As previously agreed to with the bargaining units, tomorrow will be a student day and the remainder of any lost days will be added to the end of the student year. There are some in the community who question why they can’t be made up during the mid-winter break so we share how the calendar is a condition of employment and the board does not have authority to unilaterally change it.

The other issue that is emerging both from community and staff is how the governor’s declaration of an emergency situation will play out. They are asking since it was an emergency why do we need to make up the days. Let’s just ask the state for a waiver. We know that this will be a possibility because OSPI has shared that districts can apply even though the official process required for emergency situations is not complete.  It could take weeks before it is official.

The bigger question for me is the importance to us of the lost instructional days. Recently, a coalition of of our school and community groups was prepared to lobby legislators to not cut the school year from 180 to 175 days to save money, one of the governor’s budget saving options. We believe that it was important to not lose the instructional time given the standards and expectations imposed on our students and staff. Does that change because an emergency was declared? If they were simply snow days we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Does the need for the days change because of the event that requires making up the days? Does being able to waive the days without loss of state revenue and potentially salary influence our choice? These are some of the questions that must be asked and answered before making a decision on a waiver request.

What are your thoughts on this choice that we face?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Textbooks plus = big dollars . . .

I found this follow-up to the Apple announcement last week on textbooks interesting. I knew that publishing textbooks is a lucrative business, but not to the scale I learned in this Alexander Russo post. In it, he shares a chart and an article from Epicenter that followed the announcement giving some insight into the publishing world.

The biggest publishers in the world today are education publishers.

It’s not even close. In 2009, Pearson’s Education division alone brought in more revenue than any other book publisher besides number two, Reed Elsevier, whose biggest businesses are Lexis-Nexis and Elsevier Science.

Education publishers dwarf trade presses. Only the top trade press, Random House (itself owned by Bertelsmann) is bigger than Cengage, the little-known education publishing division that Thomson spun off in 2008 before merging with Reuters.

To bring this closer to home, since 2010 we have purchased new math materials in grades K-12. These purchases totaled about $609,000; huge for us, but in the big picture we are a very small piece of the pie. In other words, there are millions of dollars to be made in each state every year as districts are on different textbook review cycles and this is only for one content area.

So, why would Apple not try to take a bigger cut than the 30% figure they reached with three of the top publishing firms?  The article puts forth the following thinking.

But Apple has literally billions of other reasons to play nice.

Let’s suppose you don’t really care about textbooks. Pearson also owns Penguin, the world’s second largest trade publisher. They also own the Financial Times and a 50% share of The Economist.

That’s the same Penguin that partnered with Apple to help launch iBooks along with the iPad. And that’s the same Financial Times that proved publishers could bypass the App Store’s 30% cut and still grow their subscriber base on iPhone and iPad.

The article goes on to share some further insights into this world.

Their giant size and reach throughout the education and media landscape gives these publishers advantages and disadvantage. One disadvantage: they move slowly. One big advantage: You cannot outflank them.

One after another, Apple, Inkling, Barnes & Noble and other digital publishers have given up trying to outflank academic publishers. Now we will see whether Apple’s spotlight can get them to move.

It would be nice if Apple could have taken a bigger bite out of this behemoth, one that would make it easier for school systems and students to access current content.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hopefully behind us . . .

I lost power Thursday morning about 8 and got it back Saturday night about 6. I got to join the lines for gas for the generator and put up with the inconveniences of no electricity for two plus days. That was not fun, but ok to deal with. When it went out again this morning I waited about an hour before going out to once again get the generator going. Just as I was about to start it the power came back on and has stayed on since. Hopefully, this is the last gasp for this storm.

We lost many trees over the road and the driveway plus some beautiful bushes and shrubs that have been with us for twenty plus years. The place looks like a tornado hit it. Given all this it still doesn't approach the hardships faced by so many across the world each day. We are so fortunate and have so much that I sometimes lose sight of it and complain when I should be thankful.

This morning we still had three schools without power, but have been told by PSE that we will have it by tomorrow and they rarely make that kind of prediction. Given this, we should be back at school in the morning, but it will take time to get all the systems up and running. I guess we chalk this up to a lost week and move forward.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple's new partnership . . .

Like many people I’m out of power at home so I didn’t get a chance to follow-up last night on Apple’s announcement shared in this Education Week piece.  It is not the hit to traditional publishers that some expected and that I was hoping for.  Apple has entered a partnership with three major K-12 textbook publishers—McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—to offer interactive textbooks through its iBooks store at $14.99 or less. 
With textbooks selling for upwards of $100 that sounds like a pretty good idea until we learn that it is $14.99 each year and you must have an ipad to access the content.  Sound like a good idea for all concerned, Apple will get 30% and the three textbook publishers the rest.  I don't see it resulting in significant savings to districts.  It does, however, allow for content delivery not possible with a textbook and more importantly the capacity to annually update content instead of on the current five year cycle.
The textbooks feature multimedia elements, including video, three-dimensional graphics, and photo galleries. They also allow students to highlight text to create flashcards and search within a glossary.
It leaves us with interesting questions to ponder as we look to the future.
I hope you are keeping warm and safe during this difficult weather period.  I'll share some of my travails at a later time.  For now, lets pray that the thaw doesn't cause significant flooding and that power is restored as soon as possible. We need power to open schools and the latest news is that some customers might not be back on line until Monday.  That usually means places like my home in Ravensdale and our Junior High.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Apple media event . . .

Tomorrow could be a big day in our profession as Apple is holding its first media event of the year with speculation that the focus is on textbooks. If true, it would be aligned with Job’s ideas as described in his biography and shared in this NY Times piece.

Mr. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson says in the book that Mr. Jobs viewed textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. His idea, according to Mr. Isaacson, was to hire textbook writers to create digital versions of their books for the iPad.

Obviously, this could have a significant impact on a multi-billion dollar industry and on future technology purchases in our school system. Textbooks are very expensive.  The cost is also one of the reasons why we must use them over a period of time even as standards change from year-to-year.

Having access to online texts at a competitive price would be a welcome addition to our work. More importantly, it would allow for regular and timely adjustments to the content something that is very critical with shifting targets and a rapidly changing world. This would be especially welcome as we prepare to move to the Common Core.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Charter conversations heating up . . .

I know that I said I would change my focus to the proposed legislation around evaluations, but the recent blog posts on charters deserve a mention and link. Lisa Macfarlane, Washington State Director of Democrats for Education Reform shares what she sees as a significant change for some democratic legislators.

New flash to the haters: There are many Democrats who support charter schools. Our country's top Democrat, Barack Obama, the man we all fought to elect, is a big charter school fan. He believes in the ability of successful charter schools to help some of our most educationally disadvantaged kids.

In the post she shares a rationale for charters and why this is the time. Once again the achievement gap is providing significant leverage for this push by a bipartisan group of legislators. She also uses as leverage the state PTA’s support that emerged in their fall legislative assembly vote.

What great charter schools have in common is a relentless focus on high student achievement for a group of kids that the traditional system has failed, and their results are making urban educators and policy makers take notice.

What concerns me is that this is taking place with the significant budget issues our legislators face while there are still many questions about the effectiveness of charters. In this Washington Post article there is a link to a study published in the journal Science that suggests that most of the research on charters has been conducted with methods that “tell us little about causal effects.”

They wrote in their study, “Better Research Needed on the Impact of Charter Schools,” that charter schools have been embraced by the Obama administration — and by the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations before it — as “the saviors of a broken educational system.” But, they said, researchers still can’t answer the question: Does attendance at a charter school improve student outcomes?

Given this and other research that suggests results for charters are at best mixed, raises questions about this being the savior for low income and minority students across our state. With only 50 charters authorized in the legislation and ten new each year, it would take a long time for enough “successful” charters to emerge to meet the needs of all of these students. Given the sense of urgency implied by legislators in filing these bills one would wonder if the proposed fix is aligned with the expressed need.

What is the plan to assure that these fifty charters end up being successful in meeting the needs of ALL students that is not currently in place in other charters identified in the research? I am not anti-charter, I just believe that there are other priorities and that much more thought is needed before this legislation is approved. This editorial in the Seattle Times, the multiple posts over at the League of Education Voters, and many others, however, disagree with me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Seen here first . . .

Still no easy decisions given the current situation, so we decided to do a phone message to update everyone on best case scenario for tomorrow - two hours late.  Our staff have been driving the roads and tell me at this time that we can make it to most of the district using some emergency routes. 

Once again the amount of snow varies in different parts of the district.  In Ravensdale, we have 3-4 inches with less in Maple Valley.  The big unknown will be how much more snow we get and how cold it gets this evening.  If it freezes, it will be much more difficult to have school tomorrow.  It also seems that it may get worse before it gets better.  This post on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog suggests that it is possible that we may see 8-15 inches over the region on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weather related stress . . .

I don't know whether to be thankful that we haven't yet had to worry about weather related late starts or closures or upset that it appears to be upon us. Though it would have been nice to make it through the year, today's snow and the forecast for the next few days make that unlikely.

Stay tuned and be ready for that early morning phone call.

Fixing through legislation . . .

As expected, two new bills were introduced this past week to "fix" public education in our state.  One of the bills would allow for charter schools, something that I blogged about here.  I agree with Scott's comment to that post that this short session is not the place or time for this debate.  The budget issues that they face, in my mind, are enough.  They don't other major issues to consume their time.  When you read the comments of legislators in the media our system needs fixing and they believe that this is one of the components to the fix.  They also use the argument that charters are in most other states.  Part of the leverage for this move is the growing achievement gap in our state as shared by one of the sponsors Rep. Pettigrew in this LEV post.

“It’s time to confront the fact that our school system is failing the same set of students, year after year,” said Pettigrew, the Majority Caucus Chair in the House. “Traditional efforts over past decades have failed to close the achievement gap, and today we have the opportunity to lay the foundation for a new approach. This bill will provide a much-needed alternative for students who wouldn’t otherwise have one, without compromising the effectiveness of our public school system.”

Other information can be found in this Education Week and Olympian articles.  Even though the data shows mixed results for charters, some legislators see this as a key component of education reform missing in our state.

Asked why lawmakers were pursuing legislation instead of again asking voters to approve charters, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he is not willing to risk defeat.

Asked why lawmakers were pursuing legislation instead of again asking voters to approve charters, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he is not willing to risk defeat.

"I don’t think education is something you take a gamble with,” said Tom, a co-sponsor of the bills. “It’s high time that we take care of that here in Olympia.”

The second bill is designed to "strengthen" the teacher evaluation system something that I will save for a later post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Polar guest opinions . . .

In case you missed the Guest columnist in Tuesday’s Seattle Times here is a link. It is by Stephanie McCleary, a party to the education funding lawsuit leading to the recent State Supreme Court ruling. She shares her thinking concerning the ruling and public response by some legislators that education is still being considered for cuts in this session.

With those words, each Washington legislator promises to abide by our constitution. Admonished very clearly by our state's highest court that they are currently violating that oath, those same legislators are nonetheless poised to continue breaking that solemn vow.

Shame on them.

As with many of the guest columns and editorials, the real story is in the comments to the article and there are many for this one. Reading them makes me think that Russo may have it wrong when he says that anti-reformers have a greater online presence than reformers. At least on this topic, with this one guest opinion, that would not be the case as there are more disagreeing with McCleary. Below, are a few comments from those that take exception with McCleary’s position.  To see a a different opinion on the court's ruling read today's guest opinion by Liv Finne the education director at the Washington Policy Center.  The title describes her opinion well, "On K-12 education, Washington Supreme Court makes itself a super-legislature".  I'll try to follow the comment string tomorrow night.

What if people found out that public funding (per pupil) has gone up 4x since the seventies but outcomes are flat to down?

What if they found out teachers are paid very well but most of the funding has gone to a bureaucracy surrounding and restricting them?

What if you (living under a rock) suddenly found out that public schools force classroom/teachers to take all comers and more: such that teachers must deal with disciplinary problems without authority, challenged kids who take huge amounts of time/effort, and students ready to be taught end up low on the priority list? If you are a parent this is not a feature.

You won't see any of that in this paper.

There's one heavily entrenched party supporting one heavily entrenched special lobby that decides the big answer is more money!

WA Public Schools = failed, corrupt, wasteful, state-sponsored babysitting service.

To change, MUST: (1) introduce vouchers (2) introduce charter schools (3) abolish all teacher unions (4) remove illegals (5) fire all bad teachers

The court decision was nothing but a cynical attempt by the WEA union to further pad teacher salaries and benefits by ripping the taxpayers off for more money. It has nothing to do with improving education of our kids. The schools have more than enough money its just not being wisely spent.

We can fix their goose. Just make all the local tax levys state levys and then 100% of the school funding comes from the state. The state fully funds education and they don't have a leg in court.

There is already plenty of existing money sloshing around in the K-12 system.

The legislature should take act upon TRI-Day elimination BEFORE it acts to create new taxes for education.

At the local level, voters should reject all levies until all TRI-Day dollars are going to fund ACTUAL school day expenditures.

The WEA's 295 local affiliates presently extract $350 million to $400 million of expenditures annually OUT of the General Funds of the local school districts from revenue derived either from the state, Maintenance and Operations levies and/or Federal Impact Aid and then claim that K-12 education is not "fully funded".

They do this via TRI-Days.

In Washington state the legislature has the sole power to increase teachers' salaries via cost of living adjustments (COLAs) or base salary increases. School boards cannot provide these types of across-the-board salary increases to teachers, but the WEA as found another way to increase pay; Time Responsibility and Incentive (TRI). TRI was set up to improve academic achievement, but the WEA has managed to use it for cost-of-living increases above the level funded by the legislature. Since these funds must come out of local levies, TRI contracts are negotiated above what local districts can fund and they then reduce basic education funding or use local levy funds and claim that the legislature is not fully funding basic education.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are Charters in the future . . .

I thought I would share this article from Education Week, partly because of the content and partly because I don’t recall seeing anything in the local media about. Based on the article and quotes from Senator Rodney Tom, a charter school bill will be introduced later this week in Olympia.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said charter schools have proven to be effective in nearly every other state. In many cases, a stampede of parents have tried to get their kids into charter schools, he said.

"That should be the attitude we have at every school," Tom said. "Why would you want to prevent schools that people are clamoring in other states to get into."

The legislator’s passed a charter school bill in 2004 that was later rejected by voters that followed a voter rejection of a charter initiative in 1996. Though we have this history in our state of turning down charters, Toms believes that it is a safe topic of discussion.

Now that most other states are successfully using these alternative public schools to raise student achievement, Tom says it should be a safe topic for Washington again. He said he expected a bill to be introduced on Thursday.

Do you believe that this is an appropriate subject for conversation in this short legislative session?

Monday, January 9, 2012

A different perspective . . .

My last posts have been about the McCleary supreme court ruling and how it is a victory for public education in the state.  Even with some legislators suggesting that there may still be cuts our spirits were lifted by the ruling.  Well, in this Educationnext post by Joshua Dunn he provides us with a different perspective. 

The title describes his thoughts, "School Finance Litigation: With defeats like these, who needs victories?"

The response from the state legislature only confirmed that the Court’s decision is going to be largely irrelevant. The Seattle Times reported that, after the Court’s decision, “lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made clear that when the Legislature convenes Monday to address a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, education cuts will still be on the table,” despite the Court’s decision. Washington, like most states, has faced declining revenues, and funding education at the level desired by the plaintiffs would require drastic cuts to other essential government services.

If McCleary counts as a victory for school finance advocates, then states facing these lawsuits should hope for similar defeats in the future.

Just when I was thinking that we might make it through the session without additional loss of revenue, I come across this post and it makes me wonder what impact the ruling will have in the short term.  I'll find out more next Monday when we visit our legislators and share what we learn with you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A positive message . . .
The editorial in Saturday's Seattle Times told the legislators that they need to support the recent court ruling and NOT cut education in the session starting tomorrow. 

The state budget crisis continues. There is no easy money. The Legislature must see the ruling as a strong impetus to speed up education reforms that save money and improve efficiencies. And it should make cost-saving reforms in other parts of government, funneling that money to education.

This is good news, but some of you may not be supportive of other sections of the editorial especially those focused on reviewing whether it makes sense to allow bargaining of contracts (salary) in all districts and a recommendation to remove options in the health care program.  They also believe that the solution to the budget gap will require some new revenue and should not be an all cut budget.

Related to this is an opportunity through the League of Education Voters to sign a petition urging the legislators to NOT cut education.  Once again you may disagree with other positions of this organization, but on the subject of revenue they are pushing for increases not decreases in revenue. 

Let’s face it – we’ve been asking for more school funding for years, and you might think that a petition won’t make a difference. But the political and economic landscape have changed, and even though you are tired and frustrated, this will make a difference. Now is the time for every one of us to act. Sign this petition, and ask your friends to join you.

So, we have some options to consider.  The court ruling provided leverage, but comments from legislators suggest that education may not be immune from continued cuts.

"We cannot simply put a check mark next to one category and walk away," said Carlyle, D-Seattle. "It is simply not possible to balance the budget without courageously putting all spending on the table."

Protecting education funding at the expense of other programs would be devastating to the social safety net, said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

Next Monday on our off day a team of TEA, PSE, PTA, and administrators will travel to Olympia to share our message.  What plans do you have to influence the outcome to eliminating the state's budget gap?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A celebration . . .

This morning the State Supreme Court released their ruling in the NEWS lawsuit. In a lower court ruling last year the judge ruled that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirement to fully fund education. The state immediately appealed and this morning was informed that they lost and must fulfill their requirement for fully finding public education. Below are excerpts from the ruling posted on the League of Education Voters blog.

“If the State’s funding formulas provide only a portion of what it actually costs a school to pay its teachers, get kids to school, and keep the lights on, then the legislature cannot maintain that it is fully funding basic education through its funding formulas. Even assuming the funding formulas represented the actual costs of the basic education program when the legislature adopted them in the 1970s, the same is simply not true today.” (Decision, page 60)

“In sum, the legislature devised a basic education program to provide the constitutionally required “education” under article IX, section 1. The program defined the resources and offerings the legislature believed were necessary to give all students an opportunity to meet state standards. Yet substantial evidence shows that state allocations have consistently fallen short of the actual cost of implementing the basic education program. By the legislature’s own terms, it has not met its duty to make ample provision for “basic education.” (Decision, page 66)

Though this is a clear win for those of us involved with the NEWS lawsuit and for supporters of public education, the ruling did not force the legislature to take specific, immediate action to correct the situation. They instead chose to maintain jurisdiction over the case and monitor the legislature’s progress to fully implement its reform package by 2018 as shown in this Seattle Times post.

Instead, the court deferred to legislation already on the books that gives the state until 2018 to provide enough funding to meet its own definition of "basic education."

"The judiciary will retain jurisdiction over the case to help ensure progress in the State's plan to fully implement education reforms by 2018," according to a near unanimous ruling. "This court intends to remain vigilant in fulfilling the State's constitutional responsibility."

Though this ruling, I would think, makes it more difficult for legislators to again cut funding in the session that will resume next week that may not be the case as seen from this comment in the Times post.

But state Rep. Reuven Carlyle said that while the ruling will influence the Legislature's work, it will not take education cuts completely off the table.

"It is a powerful signal," said Carlyle, who represents Seattle. "At the same time, from a purely fiduciary point of view, we have a $32 billion budget and we simply have no choice but to look structurally at categories including health care, human services, nursing homes, parks as well as schools and universities."

One fear that I have as the legislature prepares to convene is that this ruling will give legislators leverage to make deeper cuts in other areas and simply say the courts have tied our hands. I don’t want this to make their very difficult job of balancing the budget easier by making dramatic cuts in other services. It should instead make the need to examine a balance between more cuts and increasing revenue more urgent. Starting next week we will learn what impact this ruling will have on the process and decisions that must be made. I hope that the parties and two houses can collaborate on decisions that do not result in other agencies and social service providers pointing fingers at us or at each other.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Over at This Week In Education, Russo did a follow-up to his post on the battle for online presence between reformers and those perceived to be against reform that I blogged about here.  In it, he shares his response to the unexpected flurry of comments that he believes supported his position that those against reform efforts currently have a more visible and effective online presence.

Nearly all of it came from those opposed to current reform efforts, which sort of proved my point. They were confused by my praise, simultaneously pleased and disquieted at having their efforts acknowledged, angry at me for praising them using code words like "feisty." They denounced the post, then bragged about it, or did both at the same time. (One thing is clear: they hate being called reform critics or reform opponents, which I understand but to me seems an uphill battle without a better alternative that someone will actually use.)

Reading his post followed by viewing a video that Amy shared with me about Stand for Children and then an eduflack post on It Takes an Educational Village created more dissonance for me.  The video (sorry you need to go to the site, I still can't get them to embed) was developed by Rethinking Schools, an organization that Russo would probably label as against reform.  The intent of the video is to show how Stand for Children has gone from a grass roots organization fighting for poor children and increased public school funding to one that is now funded by those in the forefront of the reform movement.

What happened? How did Stand morph from an organization with a focus on children’s health issues, nonschool factors, and research-based school improvements to an organization that pushes core elements of the corporate destruction of public education?

Stand has seen an enormous influx of corporate cash. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began by offering a relatively modest two-year grant of $80,000 in 2005. In 2007, Stand for Children received a $682,565 grant. In 2009, the point at which Stand’s drastically different political agenda became obvious, Gates awarded a $971,280 grant to support “common policy priorities” and in 2010, a $3,476,300 grant.

They go on to identify other organizations providing support such as the Walton Foundation.  You can read their description of the change on their web page here.  The video and article do a good job of painting Stand as completely aligned with corporate reformers.  On the other hand, in this editorial from a Rethinking Schools Newsletter you can  get a sense about who they are and what they are fighting for.  They describe the current situation in the words below. 
For defenders of public education, that civic courage must enact the realization that our schools can only be saved if they are simultaneously transformed. Teachers must ensure that our unions and professional organizations stand on the side of children and parents—that we embrace an expansive democratic practice that engages community members as vital allies and addresses the deep inequities beyond the schoolhouse door that imperil the well-being of our students.
Contrast this with words from the Stand for Children web page that describes their work.  I see some similarity in the words being used.
We have more than a decade of experience working together with parents, communities and organizations as partners. Together, we elect state legislators and local officials who will be champions for education. We deliver policy victories at the state level. And we follow through to ensure new policies are effectively implemented in public school classrooms.
Finally, I'll share this eduflack post that laments the fighting and speaks to the need for collaboration with the community as did the Stand for Children and Rethinking Schools words above.
Ultimately, it really does take an educational village to improve our public schools. Teachers, parents, community leaders, policymakers, taxpayers, the business community, and students all have a vested interest in seeing our schools improve and our kids succeed. And all have a potential role they can play in the improvement process. Now is not the time to say I can do this myself, and try to walk the road alone. We need all the help we can get.

As I read these posts it is ironic how using similar words by these diverse organizations leads to such different responses.  All recognize the need for change that requires a collaborative effort, but the behavior is not consistent with a collaborative approach.  Reading and reflecting on these pieces results in more dissonance for me and concern for the future of public education.  No one is positioned to win this battle wherever it is being fought.  There is too much money to ignore the influence that the corporate reformers bring to the table and there is too much knowledge and commitment that educators bring to expect anything but a protracted fight.  In the mean time, energy is wasted and finger pointing increases.  One would think that those on both sides are too smart to continue this battle, but that is not the case.  Maybe we need a new language to describe the need because the current words are not bringing us together.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Comments on the reform message . . .

Jonathan and John made comments to my post on the reformers and scrappy traditional educators online presence as identified in an Alexander Russo post on This Week In Education. Jonathan shares his thinking about the intent of Russo’s post considering his body of work and relationship to the reformers. He suggests that what the reformers need is leadership and a convincing collection of evidence.

What I do know is that what reformers need is leadership, not some hope for viral influence using the internet to achieve change. Russo's post about comments and Twitter responses as a coordinated 'battle' between David and Goliath is absurd. Assembling a convincing collection of evidence and spreading the word is a lot tougher than generating $$$ from a 'debate' website.

In his comment, John agrees with Jonathan on the need for evidence to support the claims of the reform movement.

I think there is leadership, Jonathan, but until they can find concrete, scientific evidence that their reforms will bring about positive change in our school system, their message will continue to lack strength. As educators, it should be our mission that we continue to demand these facts.

I believe that there is leadership, but what is lacking is coordinated leadership. We see the education department pushing their reform priorities through waivers to NCLB and required changes to qualify for initiatives such as Race to the Top. Foundations such as Gates provide revenue to those systems aligning with whatever their flavor of the year is and then there are others looking at the potential revenue associated with promoting choice. If they were to in some way find enough common ground to organize their efforts the “scrappy traditional educators” would be in serious trouble. This would be especially true if it would lead to a credible online presence in the online debate, something Russo says is lacking.

But these voices are neither coming from the classroom nor active in the online debate during the days and weeks between mainstream news stories, which are an increasingly large part of the education discussion. This leaves others - think tankers and crackpots and Whitney Tilsons and such -- to fill in the empty spaces. But those folks aren't numerous or prolific or tenacious or, ultimately, credible enough, either. They are too self-important to leave comments on other sites, and too professional to post on weekends or after hours when everyone else with a day job is most active.

Jonathan ends his comment with this question.

We should ask ourselves, has 'reform' really made things better?

What do you think?