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NCLB Outrages

Seattle Schools superintendent sets ambitious agenda

Ohanian Comment:Read the article and you'll see that a more accurate headline would read Seattle Schools superintendent sets Broad Foundation agenda. Kudos to the reporter for not relying totally on the District PR handouts but also including the voices of dissident parents.

from a Parent Comment on website: This is from the Broad Foundation's annual report for 2009 written by Eli Broad:

The election of President Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncanâ€Â¦the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted. [emphasis added]

There is a clash of agendas and values between what Eli Broad and Bill Gates think is best for us even though neither has any experience in public school education and what we know will work. Class sizes do matter. No, schools should not be closed, principals fired or half of a teaching staff removed because a school is "Low Performing." It takes money that can be counted on on a consistent basis, not one time bribes to the top, to ensure that each student receives the education that has been promised. It takes a commitment to those schools, students and families to work through the issues that face some of these children every day. You don't just close schools. That impacts the lives of everyone in that neighborhood and shows a lack of faith in those families that are impacted the most. . . .

Go to the Comments Page: People in Seattle are making strong opposition to Broadism.

NOTE: One more thing trumpeted in the Broad Foundation Annual Report:

4 Broad Residents have been placed in the U.S. Department of Education.

Note the wording: have been placed. They weren't "chosen"; they were placed.
NOTE:Broad Superintendents Academy fellows and Broad Residents have been appointed, placed or are currently working in the following locations [The inconsistency of providing some state names and not others is how Broad did it in their report:

  • Akron, Ohio

  • Albuquerque, N.M.

  • Andover, Kan.

  • Antioch, Calif.

  • Arlington, Mass.

  • Atlanta

  • Aurora, Colo.

  • Baltimore

  • Benton Harbor, Mich.

  • Boston

  • Brockton, Mass.

  • Burien, Wash.

  • Central Falls, R.I.

  • Charleston, S.C.

  • Charlotte, N.C.

  • Chicago

  • Clayton County, Ga.

  • Cobb County, Ga.

  • Denver

  • Detroit

  • Durham, N.C.

  • Duval County, Ga.

  • East Baton Rouge, La.

  • Elgin, Ill.

  • Elizabeth, N.J.

  • Fairfield, Calif.

  • Fort Bend, Texas

  • Fort Wayne, Ind.

  • Fort Worth, Texas

  • Fresno, Calif.

  • Fulton County, Ga.

  • Hartford, Conn.

  • Heampstead, N.Y.

  • Houston

  • Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Kansas City, Mo.

  • Knox County, Tenn.

  • Long Beach, Calif.

  • Lorain, Ohio

  • Los Angeles

  • Marlborough, Mass.

  • Mechanicsburg, Pa.

  • Miami

  • Minneapolis

  • Montgomery, Ala.

  • New Orleans

  • New York

  • Newark, N.J.

  • North Allegheny, Pa.

  • Oakland, Calif.

  • Oklahoma City

  • Paterson, N.J.

  • Philadelphia

  • Pittsburgh

  • Pomona, Calif.

  • Portland, Ore.

  • Portsmouth, R.I.

  • Prince Edward County, Va.

  • Prince George’s County, Md.

  • Providence, R.I.

  • Richmond, Va.

  • Rochester, N.Y.

  • Rockford, Ill.

  • Sacramento, Calif.

  • San Diego

  • San Diego County

  • San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

  • San Francisco

  • San Lorenzo, Calif.

  • Seattle

  • Springfield, Mass.

  • Sterling Heights, Mich.

  • St. Louis

  • Stockton, Calif.

  • Swampscott, Mass.

  • Upper Marlboro, Md.

  • Washington, D.C.

  • Washoe County, Nev.

  • Wilmington, Del.

  • Worcester,Mass.

  • By Linda Shaw

    In her first three years in Seattle, schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson closed schools, oversaw a new student-assignment plan, added an exam that students take three times a year and revamped the way the district funds schools.

    And she's just getting started. To date, much of what she's done has laid the groundwork for what's next: a handful of academic initiatives with the kind of accountability Goodloe-Johnson has talked about since she arrived.

    One big one, to be rolled out this November, is a new school-improvement plan that will include a new scorecard for each school that measures both achievement and improvement in a number of areas — not just test scores, but also such things as credits earned and number of students in advanced classes.

    Schools high in both will be able to continue much as before. But those with low scores and little improvement will get a lot of attention from the central office — more financial support, but also more direction.

    The idea is not to rank schools — that doesn't help students, she says. But in an effort to infuse accountability throughout the school district, Goodloe-Johnson says she wants to make it clear where each school stands, and insist on improvement where it's needed.

    "Accountability is key to success in anything we do," she said. "It's just like losing weight. Drink the water, exercise. Don't eat fat stuff. Then you hold yourself accountable by getting on the scale.

    "We can all dream," she said, "but if we want outcomes for kids, then we've got to work at it."

    Overall, Goodloe-Johnson's agenda for Seattle schools is similar to what's happening in many other urban school districts across the nation. She says she bases her approach largely on districts where achievement is rising — districts such as Atlanta and Boston.

    Her approach has been approved by the School Board, which recently gave Goodloe-Johnson a largely positive evaluation. The board is expected to vote this week to extend her contract through June 2013.

    The district's five-year plan, developed under Goodloe-Johnson's leadership, includes a big course change for the district's central office. Seattle is moving away from its decentralized, power-to-the-schools approach into a more centralized organization. Schools no longer have as much control over their budgets or what curriculum they use.

    One key element of her plan, Goodloe-Johnson says, are the new tests — called Measures of Academic Progress, which she says will give teachers information they didn't have before.

    "We had the state test," she said. "That's not an assessment system. That's a one-time, end-of-the-year test that gives zero information about student performance to teachers."

    She's also adding more training for teachers and working to make the curriculum more consistent from school to school and classroom to classroom.

    "Having 87 schools and 87 ways to teach math or reading does not get the system or our kids anywhere. It leaves too many kids out," she said.

    Goodloe-Johnson is convinced her path will lead to the results everyone wants: higher achievement for all students, and narrowing the gap among different ethnic groups.

    "It's proven, it's best practice, the research is out there," she said.

    Wrong-turn concerns

    But some say she's taking Seattle in the wrong direction. Some teachers say all the new testing — the Measures of Academic Progress, which is given three times a year — eats up too much time. Others say there will be downsides to a consistent curriculum, which doesn't allow teachers to tailor their approaches to students. And some wonder whether she's shifting too much money to the lowest-performing schools.

    The fact that test scores are flat in many areas is a concern, too.

    And her certainty that her approach is the right one may be one reason why she's sometimes viewed as out of touch, a leader interested only in her own agenda.

    Her recent evaluation from the School Board rated her low on "community engagement."

    Some critics think she's using Seattle as a steppingstone and that she promotes what they call a "corporate" agenda.

    Parent Sahila ChangeBringer, speaking at a recent School Board meeting said she thinks that Goodloe-Johnson came to Seattle "to push the reform agenda that's been sweeping the country. No one asked us if we wanted that."

    ChangeBringer and others point to Goodloe-Johnson's involvement with the Broad Foundation, where she's a board member of the superintendent academy that she attended, as evidence that she's out to privatize public schools. (The foundation, led by billionaire businessman Eli Broad, promotes charter schools as one way to improve public education.)

    And Goodloe-Johnson hasn't always fully explained her rationale, even when she has opportunities to do so. At School Board meetings, for example, she often reads PowerPoint presentations verbatim.

    But she gets credit from those who say the status quo isn't acceptable. The achievement gap is large and getting larger. The on-time graduation rate for the class of 2009 was 68 percent. Too many students don't take the classes they need to go to college.

    "Maria inherited a district with huge challenges, much more so than the public realized," said Steve Fink, who directs the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington.

    "You had years and years of a theory of leadership that created a system of individual schools and not a school system," he said. "I frankly have never believed that was the right theory of action, and I think history has borne that out."

    Fink said he's impressed with Goodloe-Johnson's efforts to improve teaching.

    "We believe, at the end of the day, that the way you improve learning is by improving the quality of instruction," he said. "When you talk to Maria, that's the theory she subscribes to."

    One example: Seattle is one of the first districts that's trying to use new research, also out of the UW, that shows successful districts organize their central offices to support schools in raising achievement — not top down, or bottom up, but something in between.

    "Seattle is poised to be one of the first districts to really take on these findings," said Meredith Honig, lead author of the study.

    Overhaul and success

    For her part, Goodloe-Johnson stands behind her involvement with the Broad Foundation. The only agenda of the foundation, she says, is to raise achievement in public schools.

    "They support students being successful, they support superintendents being successful," she said.

    She's impatient with those who charge that her connection with Broad means she intends to pursue charter schools.

    "We don't have charter schools. So let's put that over there, and let's talk about something else. How about kids being successful, how about kids being challenged? How about providing interventions to close the achievement gap?"

    She says the reforms she's pursuing should start to show results in the next year, and it will take eight to 10 years for them to fully show fruit.

    And she's proud that the district has invested in some new initiatives, despite the fact that its state funding has gone down.

    "We could have said we can't afford it," she said. "That would have done nothing to get us where we need to go."

    — Linda Shaw
    Seattle Times


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