Here's the real reason people oppose charter schools in Washington State

Here's the real reason people oppose charter schools in Washington State

Yet again, charter schools and the principle of school choice prevailed this week in Washington’s courts.

Great, wonderful, fine, etc. This is important, but at the same time, we’ve had this conversation before. It’s time to dig deeper.

Why has all this been happening? Moving beyond talking points and rhetoric, why have people and organizations really been fighting charter schools so vehemently?

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Seattle needs a superintendent in the Bob Ferguson mold — someone who knows right from wrong and won't take any shit

Seattle needs a superintendent in the Bob Ferguson mold — someone who knows right from wrong and won't take any shit

By the time we reached the first floor and the elevator doors slid open, I was pretty sure I was standing next to Bob Ferguson, Washington State's attorney general. So, I asked him.

"Excuse me," I said. "Are you Bob Ferguson?"

"Yes, I am," he said.

Okay. Mystery solved. I told him my name and shook his hand.

What now?

"Thanks for doing what you're doing," I said. "You've made me feel proud to live in Seattle."

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Test results show Washington is making 'little progress' toward closing gaps

Test results show Washington is making 'little progress' toward closing gaps

The results of last spring’s Smarter Balanced tests are in, and Washington State’s students scored almost exactly the same as they had the year before on the standardized math and language arts tests.

Paige Cornwell dug into the uninspiring results recently for the Seattle Times. The only areas of statewide improvement over the previous year were sixth- and seventh-grade math, and seventh grade reading, which had the largest gain at 1.6 percent.

That’s it.

“What jumps out are the persistent achievement gaps and the fact that little progress is being made,” state superintendent Chris Reykdal said, “and it’s not enough.”

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Chris Reykdal wants to engage ‘our diverse community,’ so he scheduled a webinar

You’ve probably heard this story before. A folksy, man-of-the-people politician has a decision to make, and he needs to know what his constituents think about the matter. He needs to tap into the wisdom of the people so that his policies can “reflect the needs of our diverse community.”

So, the politician (in this case, let’s call him Washington Superintendent Chris Reykdal) rolls up his sleeves and meets the people where they’re at, right? He needs to hear from us -- the people! -- so Reykdal reaches out and connects with us on our terms, not his. He listens without making assumptions.

He… schedules a series of informational webinars!

Gosh, Chris. As always, you really get me.

With Washington’s ESSA accountability plan due to the feds in September, Reykdal’s office has scheduled four webinars in August to share details, recent revisions, and ways to give feedback on the plan. I’ve already had to drink an extra cup of coffee just thinking about trying to stay awake through it.

But seriously, this is all real. That line about “reflecting the needs of our diverse community” is taken right from Reykdal’s recent press release announcing these webinars. The stated goal is to get some feedback from people like me and you on our state’s new education plan -- a federal requirement.

If Reykdal is actually listening, here’s what I want him to hear about me and my community:

If you’re not willing to turn things on their head, you can’t solve our problems. The opportunity gap didn’t just arise a few years ago. People of color have always been oppressed in this country, and that has always played out in our education system as well. If you think a few tweaks are all it will take to set our schools on a different path, we disagree. We need you to be bold, or else to sleep at night knowing that your time in this office is coming at the expense of our kids.

OSPI (the state superintendent’s office) will officially release the revised plan on Aug. 7, opening up a 30-day public comment period. They will ask for comment and approval from Gov. Jay Inslee, the state legislature and the state board of education at that time as well. All this feedback will be compiled for Reykdal to review before submission, who promises in the press release to “use our new flexibility to support all students and address gaps for students that have been historically underserved by our education system.”

Nice. But as always, they don’t tell us how they’re going to do it. They just tell us how they’re going to pay for it. So, Washington’s plan describes methods of financial support for struggling students and schools, but it does not outline significant practical changes that can be expected to actually help close our state’s opportunity gap, which is one of the worst in the nation.

That’s going to take bold, drastic, at-times-unpopular changes. Real, concrete changes involving new policies, expectations and repercussions. Instead, we’re getting a lot of people sincerely agreeing that we should close the opportunity gap, then shaking hands and moving on with business as usual.

Reykdal shared his vision for our schools earlier this month, and it was similarly vague when it comes to equity, acknowledging our gaps and our systemic discrimination without offering tangible solutions.

For what it’s worth, just about every state seems to be struggling with this same issue. Still, I question just how effectively Reykdal’s office is truly engaging stakeholders, because that’s where these answers can be found. A group of Seattle educators and NAACP members, for example, offered a “concrete plan to close intolerable opportunity gaps” in Seattle Public Schools just a couple days ago. The Campaign for Student Success has authored a detailed plan for equitable school funding in the state. Organic, community-based ideas and leadership are not in short supply. They’re just not always recognized.

The 30-day comment period that will open up in August is our last chance to impact the plan that will guide our schools into the next decade.

Registration information for the four webinars:

• Tuesday, August 15, 4–6 p.m. (register)

• Saturday, August 19, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. (register)

• Wednesday, August 23, 5–7 p.m. (register)

• Wednesday, August 30, 6–8 p.m. (register)

 

 

 

 

Chris Reykdal's vision for our schools is blurry at best

Have you read Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s “K-12 Education Vision and McCleary Framework?”

It’s an 11-page document that Reykdal describes as a “long-term” (six-year) plan for “transformational change” to Washington’s public schools.

But instead of outlining true change, I’m finding Reykdal pays lip service to closing the opportunity gap, using it like a buzzword without sharing any concrete plans to impact it except to reallocate money. He proposes tracking students toward different post-secondary options starting in 8th grade with no safeguards against the discrimination these practices will create in districts struggling to overcome racial bias. He talks of “system redesign” and “fundamental change,” but the crux of Reykdal’s “fundamental change” is to literally add more of the same by lengthening the existing school day, lengthening the existing school year, and offering universal preschool access.

Neal Morton of the Seattle Times summed up Reykdal’s six main proposed changes as:

  1. Provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
  2. Add 20 days to elementary and middle-school calendars, and make their school day 30-60 minutes longer.
  3. Start teaching students a second language in kindergarten.
  4. Pay for all high-school students to earn college credit before graduation — and no longer require them to pass state tests to get a diploma.
  5. Create post-high schools plans for every eighth-grader before they enter the ninth grade.
And, of course, 6: Finally resolve the landmark McCleary school-funding case — and Reykdal has some ideas about how to do that.

 

Let’s start with what I appreciate about Reykdal’s vision.

Universal preschool access is an excellent idea. Especially as Reykdal is guaranteeing access as opposed to making preschool compulsory, he would truly be giving families more choice and more affordable options. I like that.

I also like the idea of teaching a second language starting in kindergarten, and Reykdal says without saying it that the language taught would be Spanish. I wonder how that might play out, but it’s a nice idea, no doubt.

And to his credit, Reykdal’s first paragraph is his most inspiring, so his vision starts strong:

The goal of Washington’s public education system is to prepare every student who walks through our school doors for post-secondary aspirations, careers, and life. To do so, we must embrace an approach to education that encompasses the whole child. In the ongoing struggle to amply fund our schools, we have lost this larger vision. The challenge to amply fund schools to the satisfaction of the State Supreme Court is not the final goal – it is merely the first step in a much larger transformation that will propel Washington state’s K-12 public schools atop the national conversation in quality, outcomes, and equity. In our state’s history we have engaged in this transformative work only a few times. This is a once-in-a-generation moment to redesign our public schools to achieve our highest ideals.

 This could be the beginning of everything I’m looking for: preparing students not just for college/career but for life, embracing a whole-child approach, declaring equity to be a pillar, recognizing that McCleary is just a distraction, and acknowledging that transformational change is needed.

But instead of backing this up, it’s mostly milquetoast and money from here on out.

Reykdal considers a McCleary fix to be “the first step in a much larger transformation that will propel Washington state’s K-12 public schools atop the national conversation in quality, outcomes, and equity.” Unfortunately, it’s not often that more money is applied to an inequitable situation with greater equity as the result.

Meanwhile, throughout the document, Reykdal mentions the “opportunity gap” once. He mentions the “achievement gap” once. Here is the only concrete change Reykdal suggests toward closing these gaps, and it’s all about money:

“State-funded turnaround dollars should focus on the schools who experience large performance gaps and multiple gaps across several student demographics.”

So, basically, the monies will flow toward the students we’re failing from a demographic standpoint instead of more broadly to their low-performing schools. That seems good, but again, not an answer — or even anything particularly new. Just a slightly different method of distributing dollars.

I guess that’s not surprising. Reykdal’s vision for the future of education does not include community engagement. He gives no indication that OSPI will be listening to anyone but itself, or that he will be actively soliciting feedback from the students and families most impacted by systemic oppression. He even says as much about his current process: “In thinking about what this might look like, talking to experts, and researching what makes our students successful, I’ve put together this plan.”

He thought about it, he talked to “experts,” and he did research. He did not listen, apparently, to any actual students or families. Then he, a white male politician, wrote this plan to guide our schools from now until my eight-year-old is in eighth grade.

As a result, Reykdal is able to offer only the administrative perspective, and he never mentions any of the many innovative practices being shown nationally to impact opportunity gaps. In his “truly bold thinking,” as he calls it, culturally responsive teaching or ethnic studies never occur to him. He makes no mention of implicit bias testing for teachers, let alone training, or of diversity training for any staff. No mention of bringing more teachers of color into classrooms or of setting high standards for all students.

Instead, he talks about doubling down financially on a public school system we already know is broken, and about tracking kids in eighth grade based on standardized tests we already know produce inequitable results: “In the 8th grade, use the multiple state and local assessments to develop a High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) for every student.”

A world exists where this could work out, but in a state like ours plagued by racial and socio-economic inequity in education, this will be executed inequitably. Unless we first provide intense DEI and implicit-bias training for all teachers, counselors and administrators, this will only amplify the disparate outcomes Reykdal claims to want to erase.

Even in the best-case scenario, it creates a culture where low expectations are allowed for some kids and not others. The kids are all capable. Yet Reykdal proposes to limit their future opportunities based on their past. That’s hardly cutting-edge.

My sense throughout last year’s campaign was that Reykdal was more interested in being a politician, in eventually being able to take credit for having fixed McCleary and fully funded our schools, and this vision of Reykdal’s seems to fit that profile.

He closes with this:

“We are in a highly competitive global economy and that means gleaning the best practices from around the world in our redesign. Success looks like a longer school day, a longer school year, substantially better compensation for our educators and support staff, and a completely new approach to developing globally successful students.”

That’s what success looks like? Based on what?

Is Reykdal really saying he’ll consider this a success if our kids spend more time in school, and the adults are better paid? Because he has not suggested anything resembling "a completely new approach" to education.

Shouldn't success look like empowering kids to grow faster and achieve more in school and in life? Shouldn't it be teachers that feel valued and push themselves to get better and better? You can lengthen the school days, but it doesn't guarantee students will learn more. You can raise teacher salaries, but it doesn't guarantee they'll teach better. Reykdal’s definition of success strikes me as one that doesn't move the needle. It’s certainly one that doesn’t take any risks.

How can we expect to close the opportunity gap without giving any kids any new opportunities? More instruction hours and more days in class will only produce more of the same if things haven’t fundamentally changed, and despite the number of times Reykdal tells us everything will be fundamentally different, his vision for the future is just more of the same, too.

That’s not good enough. Not when the status quo is already leaving so many kids high and dry.

 

OSPI's plan for collecting school data lacks transparency and urgency

We can all pretty much agree that parents deserve to know how well their child’s school is doing. We can also agree, I think, that parents should be getting that information in a timely fashion. I mean, it wouldn’t do me much good to get my son’s second-grade report card when he’s in fifth grade.

That’s basically what OSPI is planning to do, though, so maybe I’m assuming too much thinking we all agree on the importance of timely information about schools.

Under Washington’s new ESSA plan, the state will measure graduation rates, how many students are reading and doing math on grade level, how well students are growing academically (even if they’re not yet on grade level), and other important stuff.

They’ll use all of this to give schools a report card based on a three-year average. Unfortunately, Washington will only ask schools to report every three years.

In other words, in some years, parents would have access only to school ratings based on information that’s between three and six years old. Taking a three-year average makes sense — it can be misleading to judge the hard work of teaching kids by such a small sample size as a single year. But not recalibrating that three-year average every year is a disservice to parents and others seeking to have timely information about what’s happening in Washington schools.

Take my son’s school, Emerson Elementary in South Seattle, as an example. We will have a new principal in the fall, and when Dr. Erin Rasmussen officially replaces the outgoing Dr. Andrea Drake next month, she will be the school’s fourth principal in the last four years.

So, if I’m a parent looking for more information about Emerson under Washington’s new ESSA plan, I might be looking at a rating based on data collected four principals ago.

Of course, it’s not exactly a straightforward process trying to learn about school quality as it is.

Emerson Elementary School Student Demographics

Emerson Elementary School Student Demographics

GreatSchools.org rates Emerson a 2 out of 10 and seems to consider the school to be subpar by almost every conceivable metric except diversity, which, to the site’s credit, they do explain as being a genuine strength.

Thurgood Marshall Elementary, as another example, is also a public elementary school in Seattle, but it’s an option school, which means students can enroll from anywhere in the district and typically whitens up the student demographics. Thurgood in particular commonly draws students from the south end looking for a choice beyond their neighborhood school.

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Student Demographics

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Student Demographics

Great Schools gives Thurgood Marshall a 10 out of 10 rating. The test scores look good, and it’s a fairly diverse school, even if white students do outnumber any other individual racial/ethnic group by more than 2:1. So, it must be better than Emerson, right?

As clear cut as Great Schools would make it seem, they aren’t sharing the full picture either. Take this article from last year from the Seattle Globalist, whose second paragraph poses a simple question you wouldn’t have known to ask from looking at Thurgood’s perfect rating: “Why are the classrooms inside Thurgood Marshall so segregated?”

So, then I’m back at square one. I obviously don’t want my son, himself a student of color, attending a school that is systematically discriminatory. But I obviously don’t want my curious, intelligent, expressive, creative son going to a school that can’t challenge him academically, either.

As always, I have more questions than answers. One thing is clear, though: it’s almost impossible to make a fully informed decision with our current school rating and accountability systems.

We need that to change, and moving to a data collection plan that only checks in every three years is not a step forward. If parents are going to gain timely access to truly relevant information about their schools, it will happen by monitoring this process of developing a new ESSA plan and demanding more equitable schools and more thorough, transparent reporting processes.

Keep tabs on the ESSA transition with the superintendent's 'official' blog and newsletter

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the school superintendent’s office in Washington State (OSPI) rolled out a new blog and newsletter devoted to keeping us updated on ESSA proceedings.

This is a great development for parents and communities across our state. OSPI picked a nice forum for this in Medium, and Ben King is breaking down a complicated issue and a long process into small chunks. He’ll have an important role to play in helping us hold the state accountable throughout this process, and I appreciate that our office of public instruction has taken the initiative on establishing this point of contact.

King wrote last week about how the Federal Programs team had sorted and classified its 500-plus pages of public input on ESSA. I would love to know which suggestions will be adopted and to see especially those considered not to be feasible.

This week, King posted OSPI's first animated ESSA flyer "to help Washingtonians understand the changes coming to our schools as we transition away from No Child Left Behind."

 

 

Here’s the homepage for OSPI’s ESSA blog, and here is OSPI’s latest ESSA newsletter.

Superintendent Reykdal will outline his 'long-term education vision' at a press conference next week

Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced today that he will discuss his long-term "K-12 education vision and the McCleary funding compromise" at a special press conference next week.

From OSPI's press release:

“The OSPI team and I have been working with and supporting legislators from all four caucuses since I took office,” Reykdal said. “And like everyone else, I’d like the Legislature to come to an agreement and pass a budget before July 1."
"But I also know that this isn’t just about solving a court case. We must ensure our funding is targeted to best support all of the students in our state as they reach for success. And we must also be sure our funding system is sustainable over time.”

 

For the most part, Chris Reykdal has been saying all the right things so far when it comes to equity and McCleary funding, but he still hasn't earned my faith in his ability to follow through. For starters, he's a career politician, which is a path I find hard to trust. Secondly, I don't respect his camp's work during the campaign to quietly try to undermine Jones' credibility as a champion for equity.

I bring this up not out of sour grapes, but to say that Reykdal has lived out the politics I expect from a career politician taking over as superintendent of schools. I expect this to be a stop on his career path, and as such I expect him to be less willing to take risks and to make the potentially unpopular decisions that will lead to true changes in our state's education system.

I hope he proves me wrong.

In fact, as a parent with a son in a struggling elementary school, and in the name of what's right, I challenge you, Chris Reykdal, to be as bold as our kids need you to be in the name of racial and socioeconomic equity in education, regardless of its impact on your career.

We are not in an era where you can straddle the fence. Our state's progressive values are not reflected in our pathetic educational outcomes and segregated schools.

It's you, Chris Reykdal, who's been elected to change that. You will have to risk your popularity and your future electability, but I'm trusting you'll do that because it's what the job demands. I look forward to hearing your plans next week, and to seeing you in your role as the person our most overlooked families are quietly depending on to fight for our kids.

 

  • WHAT:    Press conference with State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
  • WHEN:    Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 10:30 a.m.
    • WHERE:  Brouillet Conference Room, 4th Floor
                     Old Capitol Building (OSPI)
                      600 Washington Street SE, Olympia

RSVP:  Nathan Olson, OSPI Communications Director: 

 

Chris Reykdal feels all the feelings about playgrounds.

Chris Reykdal feels all the feelings about playgrounds.

Finally, an update from OSPI about ESSA accountability plans

The Washington superintendent's office (OSPI) finally shared some updates last week about its plan for accountability under ESSA.

What does that mean? Here's some background from the press release released last week.

"The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which passed in December 2015, requires every state to submit a Consolidated Plan to the U.S. Department of Education. In part, Washington’s Plan details how school and district success will be measured and accounted for, as well as how the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will support success."

Okay, why is that important? Well, this plan will determine what happens when schools are failing to close achievement gaps and/or to safely and effectively prepare all kids for life. It's the only mechanism we have to know how our schools are doing and to hold our government accountable to the promises they've made when it comes to the compulsory education of our kids.

Here's a quick summary (plus green bubbles):

WashingtonESSATimeline.jpg

So, there's a timeline. What else?

They are not currently accepting public comment. There are also very few details about the actual plan itself. It's more of a plan for making a plan. Like scheduling a meeting to decide when to meet.

Read the PR buzzwords for yourself:

An accountability framework was developed in 2016 using input and recommendations from the ESSA Accountability System Workgroup (ASW). Reykdal reconvened the ASW to continue its review of some requirements in the Accountability, Support, and Improvement section of the Consolidated Plan.
In addition to reconvening the ASW, Reykdal has created a new Accountability Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC will analyze state assessment and accountability data and research-based best practices to provide recommendations or options to the ASW based on the analysis. The ASW can then make recommendations to Superintendent Reykdal.
OSPI will continue to collaborate with the State Board of Education to produce one statewide accountability framework. Also, to continue building foundations for data-informed decision-making, OSPI will align the ESSA indicators and other performance indicators to ensure a high-quality system of accountability for our schools.
“ESSA ushers in an opportunity to look at how we are supporting the needs of all students in all schools in Washington state,” said Deputy Superintendent Michaela Miller, who is leading the ESSA work. “OSPI is looking forward to developing a continuum of support that elevates a focus on equity, closing opportunity gaps, and continuous growth and improvement.”
Reykdal is also reconvening the ESSA Federal Programs Team. This workgroup will continue to:
  • align all ESEA/ESSA programs with the goal of supporting students in mastering the knowledge and skills necessary for success in career, college, and life;
  • encourage greater coordination, planning, and service delivery among programs; and
  • enhance the integration of programs under this ESEA/ESSA with state and local programs.

 

The press release does mention equity and opportunity gaps, but it does so in the same vague way the gaps are always mentioned in Seattle and across Washington State. Racial and socioeconomic inequities are baked into our schools, creating and perpetuating a shameful opportunity gap. Our leaders talk about how it must and will be closed! And then we carry on with business as usual.

This all sounds like more of the same so far: lots of frameworks and alignment and collaboration and enhancement and coordination and integration and continuua of support. A beehive of words, but none to inspire hope that Chris Reykdal and company will be able to solve the problems they're admitting exist.

Washington is a notoriously progressive state, and Seattle is calling itself a sanctuary city. Our education leadership needs to follow suit by making decisions and implementing policies that are unapologetically equitable. We need to be willing to make white folks uncomfortable, to risk unpopularity by doing the right thing.

Can we count on Chris Reykdal, a politician who surely hopes to get elected to some further office in another few years, to take those bold actions? To take those bold risks?

I'm not holding my breath. If it's going to happen, though, this would be a good jumping-off point. Let's start backing up our empty words about closing gaps by making our accountability plan the loudest, boldest, most unapologetic promise of equity that any state submits.

Why aren't we seeing any developments on Washington's ESSA plan?

Another ESSA deadline came and went like a thief in the night. Did you notice?

In case you missed it — which you probably did, because nobody’s really been talking about it — Congress revamped No Child Left Behind and renamed it the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. This new law changes a few things, but one of the most significant is that it hands over to states more control of their education systems.

One of the first steps in transitioning to ESSA is for states to submit accountability plans, essentially telling the feds how they plan to monitor themselves and hold themselves accountable within this new framework.

So, for the past year or so, states have been working on these plans, which will establish standards and accountability measures for things like upholding civil rights and serving traditionally neglected demographics.

Monday, April 3, was the first deadline to submit plans to the federal government. States were also given the option submit plans to their own governors on Monday, have them reviewed for 30 days, and then submit to the federal government by May 3. Colorado is doing that. In fact, nine states plus Washington D.C. submitted Monday, and more have announced plans to meet the April deadlne.

Here in Washington State, though, all is eerily quiet. Why aren't we seeing any developments on Washington's ESSA plan? Why is nobody -- aside from Chris Reykdal, who mentioned it once in a bizarre, obscure op-ed in the Eatonville Dispatch -- talking about it?

As I've said, it's hard to feel optimistic that Washington State, with its atrocious opportunity gaps and record of disproportionate discipline, will submit a plan to actually hold our schools accountable to standards they've never met. In fact, without vigilant public oversight, it's hard to see how our schools don't get worse through this process, which I had thought, given the current state of affairs, was inconceivable.

This whole ESSA process is supposed to include perpetual public input and feedback. Washington State has been utterly silent throughout this process. In fact, the state seems be intentionally minimizing public scrutiny — makes me all the more concerned about where we're headed.

 

Has Chris Reykdal already fallen behind as a watchdog for our kids?

We discussed Chris Reykdal, Washington's newly installed State Superintendent of Public Instruction, at great length last year. His opponent in last year's election, Erin Jones, was exceptionally qualified and the first Black woman to run for statewide public office in Washington, and we instead elected Reykdal, a white male career politician.

Now, after less than two months in office, Reykdal is already falling behind.

On Friday the Eatonville Dispatch published an op-ed from Superintendent Reykdal in which he vaguely pledged to "fight for supporters of public education."

He started by highlighting Congress' effort to repeal the regulations on school accountability (emphasis is mine):

On Feb. 9, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our nation’s 11th secretary of education. A few hours after the confirmation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal certain rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The rules clarify how ESSA will be implemented in regard to teacher preparation programs and how schools and districts measure success.
The Senate must now vote on the repeal. If the Senate votes in favor of the repeal, the DeVos administration will write its own rules. 

I don't expect most parents to track all the policy developments happening in our nation's capitol, but I do expect the state superintendent to keep up. The U.S. Senate voted to repeal the regulations on March 9, more than a week before this op-ed posted. 

Here's a screenshot just in case they figure it out before something posts and take it down.

 

Reykdal got one thing right: the Betsy DeVos puppeteers will write their own rules if left unchecked, and we can count on those rules to be oppressive in ways both familiar and newly alarming.

Let's hope this is Reykdal's wake-up call, and maybe a reminder that he's the one, as our elected champion for students, who's supposed to be on top of these things.

Catching up after a busy month

I'm home.

A lot, it turns out, happened while I was gone. And having spent most of the past month with little cell service and lots of things demanding my attention, I'm still getting caught up.

For starters, Donald Trump was elected president. That seems bad.

Trump has also nominated Betsy DeVos to be our new Secretary of Education. She supports charter schools, which seems good at first, until you find out she's obsessed with them in a bizarre, fairly extreme way. She also wants to "Make Education Great Again," which requires no dissection to be rendered obviously ridiculous (though I do look forward to dissecting it soon anyway).

But the point is, Trump and DeVos will be making decisions very soon that have very real implications for our kids. What will we do?

In Washington State, meanwhile, we showed our own backwater stripes and failed to elect Erin Jones to be our new state superintendent of public instruction. Instead, we shout hooray for Chris Reykdal, a white male career politician! He's the change we've been looking for, no doubt.

The frivolous challenge to Washington State's charter school law was dismissed, and the same law has since been called the strongest in the nation, so our locale hasn't been completely bereft of positive developments. Our budget crisis remains, however, and the broken systems that created the inequity are still the ones trying to fix it. We are still scales on a snake trying to eat its own tail.

Luckily, there's reason for hope. Our kids are beautiful geniuses, and we (their parents and their community) recognize this and love them all the more for it. They will not be denied the education they deserve. We won't stand for it.

Chris Reykdal: Misrepresenting Himself, Misrepresenting Erin Jones

Chris Reykdal: Misrepresenting Himself, Misrepresenting Erin Jones

Chris Reykdal, a privileged white man, just compared Erin Jones, a black woman vying to become the state’s first elected black leader at the state level, to Donald Trump.

There are some Donald Trump tactics being used here, only it’s Chris Reykdal, not Erin Jones, who is gutter diving.

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The Stranger's overwhelmingly white 'election control board' no longer supports Erin Jones for OSPI

The Stranger's overwhelmingly white 'election control board' no longer supports Erin Jones for OSPI

The Stranger’s overwhelmingly white “Election Control Board” has rescinded the paper’s endorsement of Erin Jones for state superintendent of public instruction.

Jones is the first African-American woman to run for statewide public office in Washington. The Stranger is now backing her opponent, Chris Reykdal, a white man from Tumwater who has most recently been serving in the state legislature.

Staff writer Sydney Brownstone seems to have spearheaded the campaign against Jones.

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Erin Jones leads primary voting for state superintendent

Today is the final day to vote in Washington's primary, and according to Paige Cornwell of the Seattle TimesErin Jones sits atop the field of nine candidates for state superintendent of schools with 24 percent of the vote.

That is great news for our students and our schools, and it puts a crack in one of our remaining shameful glass ceilings. Jones would be the first black woman to hold statewide elected office in Washington.

With 20 percent of the vote, state Rep. Chris Reykdal will likely join Jones on the November ballot. Reykdal has been an outspoken opponent of charter schools, but he said last month he would support charters as part of the public school system if they are upheld as constitutional by the state Supreme Court.

Ron Higgins, amazingly, is currently third at 17 percent -- the same Higgins who has said he wants to "stop sexualizing education" and would do away with gender-neutral bathrooms.

Jones and Reykdal have seemed to be the frontrunners for some time now, so this preliminary news comes as no real surprise, though I find it interesting that the majority of voters chose one of the other seven candidates. (More on them here.)

Hopefully enough of those soon-to-be-disenfranchised voters will swing Jones' way. My concern now is that it's hard to imagine someone voting for Higgins, say, in the primary, and then for Jones over Reykdal. We'll see.

 

Who's running for state superintendent in Washington?

I went to the OSPI Candidate Forum on Tuesday and got an up-close look at how important this superintendent’s race is for our kids.

If you read nothing else, read this: Erin Jones is the clear choice to be Washington’s next state superintendent. She is the first black woman to run for statewide office in Washington, and she has been a lifelong advocate for racial equity. She has been a classroom teacher and a school administrator, and she’s worked for OSPI. She is a champion for students.

I have written about her in the past as well, but I want to be explicit and call on everyone who considers themselves equity-minded to vote for Erin Jones in this election. Focus on your common ground. She represents the bold change and unwavering equity lens that has been missing in our public school system. She needs your support now because our kids need her leadership.

Okay, you can stop reading if you want. Though I will say, Tuesday’s OSPI Candidate Forum was a pretty fascinating event. Extremely intimate.

I was impressed from the beginning by Erin Okuno’s introduction of the whole thing. Before ever mentioning a candidate’s name, she urged everyone in the room to use this chance to talk about race and inequity and to maintain that focus. It set a powerful tone.

Then we sat in groups of roughly 10 and talked with each of six state superintendent candidates for a full 15 minutes apiece. One right after another. It was surprisingly excruciating at times, but it was deeply insightful as well.

As far as I can tell, Chris Reykdal is the only other remotely reasonable candidate of the six. He demonstrated some understanding of the opportunity and achievement gaps, a willingness to talk about racial inequity, and a plan to convince privileged white folks that it’s actually in their (our) best interest financially to close those gaps. He has been an outspoken opponent of charter schools over the past year, but he said Tuesday that he would support charters if the Supreme Court and the legislature uphold them as constitutional. He wouldn’t be an offensive choice for superintendent, but he’s not an inspiring choice either.

Ron Higgins wore an American flag tie and showed us the copy of the U.S. Constitution he carries in his breast pocket. One of his ideas for funding schools was to de-modernize and stop wasting money on expensive new technology that the kids only use to watch obscene music videos and sports and play video games on anyway. (He said that.) He also said he would immediately do away with any gender-neutral bathrooms.

“There’s X and Y,” he said. “That’s it.”

He used the term “inner-city” at least 10 times.

David Spring really wants to be a state rep, not the superintendent. He’s a former teacher, and he’s run for the state legislature multiple times in the past but never won. His main talking point was about corporate tax breaks, and his interest in the superintendent’s seat comes off as political. He just seems to be pursuing a very specific agenda in a very energetic way, and he pins all his hopes for improving student outcomes on reducing class sizes.

The list below comes from his brochure. I’ll highlight #9 as especially problematic, but you’ll want to read them all. It really gets good around #7 and definitely ends with a shot at the moon. Remember, he’s running for superintendent of public schools.

Woof.

Woof.

 

Robin Fleming said in her introduction that she had been fighting the opportunity gap throughout her career as a school nurse, educator and administrator. She talked repeatedly about the importance of allocating resources equitably, but she didn’t strike me as someone who would actually know how to do that. She spoke out against standardized testing, did some subtle family-blaming, and revealed some low-expectation bias when talking about students of color. She wants to avoid judging teachers based on student progress and would have individual teachers to be the sole evaluators of their own students — largely anecdotally, it seems. This would be a complete disaster for all students, to be sure, but especially students of color. She also talked in closing about her opposition to charter schools, and then said as she left the table, “I actually taught in one last year.” This does not seem to be true unless it was in another state, and it was pretty strange.

Al Runte is not particularly distinguishable from Higgins, though he’s less cartoonish in his embellishments. Like Higgins, he advocates for something vague about getting back to basics, and he also has an outdated, bigoted view of gender identity, and honestly, by the time he came around, I’d been trying not to react to the mostly depressing things I was hearing from the mostly depressing field of candidates for a full hour already, and I gave myself a break and let my mind wander during this one.

Erin Jones is the clear choice here. If that wasn’t clear before, it’s excruciatingly vivid now. Reykdal is the only other candidate who could do the job, and that’s a low bar. Erin Jones represents a chance for real change in a state whose status quo desperately needs to be shaken. She has earned my vote.

Be a voice for equity at the OSPI Candidate Forum in Seattle

Five candidates for Washington State Superintendent -- Robin Fleming, Ron Higgins, Erin Jones, Chris Reykdal and David Spring -- will come together to discuss their positions and plans for our schools this month.

Hosted by Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), Equity in Education Coalition (EEC), Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC), and League of Education Voters (LEV), "this is your chance to hear from candidates about what they hope to accomplish, what their strategies are to close the opportunity gap, and to share with them what you hope they will focus on if elected."

I believe our students need Erin Jones to be the next state superintendent in Washington. She doesn't have the endorsement of the WEA, which at this point I take to be a good sign.

She does, however, have an unblemished track record of putting students and families first, and she has maintained that focus even during her campaign. She will be a powerful voice for equity and a real agent of change in our school system. She needs support.

No matter which specific candidate ultimately receives your vote, we need to ask hard questions and to make it clear to each potential superintendent that it takes a demonstrated investment in equity to earn this vote in Washington.

 

 

OSPI Candidate Forum

Tuesday, July 19 from 5:15-7:15 p.m. (doors open at 5:00 p.m.)

at the New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave S, Seattle).

Advance registration is required, so check out the flyer and register here.