Searching for the intersections in layers of oppressed identities

Searching for the intersections in layers of oppressed identities

THINX, a company that designs menstrual hygiene products, has teamed up with the nonprofit PERIOD to call on school leaders and local elected officials in 10 cities across the country (including Seattle and Portland) to provide students with free menstrual hygiene products.

This is a powerful example of why we need to think in terms of intersectionality. Systems of oppression overlap, and folks at the intersection of multiple non-dominant culture/oppressed identities have worse outcomes for a reason.

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What do we really mean when we talk about school choice?

What do we really mean when we talk about school choice?

What do we really mean when we talk about school choice?

It’s a much-debated idea in the education world, this idea of school choice. Just a mention of the term often has people jumping onto either side of the charter-school line in the sand.

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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.

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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Why is Massachusetts top dog in education while Washington is in the doghouse?

By Tracy Dell'Angela

The Seattle Times’ Education Lab just published the second of a two-part series that should be a wake-up call to all the self-congratulatory states and school districts who think they are doing all they can to prepare students for success.

The series, artfully authored by reporter Claudia Rowe, opened with two provocative questions:

Massachusetts is a lot like us, so why are its schools so much better?
For a decade, Massachusetts has led the nation in student performance, ranking high internationally, too. What are they doing that we aren’t?

The us, in this case, is the state of Washington, which is strikingly similar in the kind of demographics that make this a fair apples-to-apples comparison: They are about the same size (around 7 million people); both are about 80 percent white, with similar rates of homeownership and non-English speakers. Both boast household incomes well above the national average, yet both see their schools filled with increasing numbers of low-income kids.

So what is Massachusetts doing? A whole bunch of common-sense things, which the stories lay out in compelling detail. But what is really comes down to is this:

Massachusetts is not happy with the status quo. It is not resting on its laurels. It is not crowing about tiny bumps in graduation indicators and ignoring its mediocrity (as Washington is). Rather it is bemoaning its stubbornly high achievement gaps between middle-class and low-income children and re-upping its commitment. As the quoted experts say:

“One of the most notable aspects of education in Massachusetts is the constant push to improve, even when indicators look good.”
“I’ve always praised Massachusetts for their work on education, but they never want to be praised. They want to know where they’re weak.”

So what is Massachusetts doing? Here are the tangible factors identified by the stories:

  • Spending more money overall on their schools, about $4,000 per pupil more.
  • Devoting more resources and money to schools with higher percentages of low-income and high-risk students.
  • Beefing up preschool.
  • Investing in higher pay and more training for teachers.
  • Re-inventing vocational high schools and career preparation.

This windfall of resources was welcomed by reformers and union leaders alike, but it came with big strings:

  • More stringent standards for teacher preparation and licensing
  • Higher standards and a demanding accountability structure that require exit exams for high-school graduation.
  • The threat of state takeover for failure to meet accountability requirements, which has happened to three districts.
  • Exemptions from hiring rules that allow senior educators to bump newer teachers at will.
  • Redefining the structure and length of the traditional school day from the typical six hours up to eight hours—in a way that recognized how kids learn and not by tacking an hour or two of math and English tutoring to the end of the day.
  • Opening up honors classes to all students, not just those preselected by teachers.

Not surprisingly, union leaders now want to cut those strings while still enjoying a funding windfall that teachers in other states can only dream about.

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, complained in this article that her members are living under “a hyper-accountability system.” And she groused about Massachusetts’ standing as a national leader on nearly every metric of success, a big smack in the face to her members who are training harder, working longer and rejecting the status quo in the interest of student success:

“The premise that Massachusetts is somehow doing so well, based on testing data, is suspect for me. We’re a wealthy white state, relative to others, so lo and behold, we get these scores.”
Massachusetts’ “Grand Bargain” lays bare the myth that reformers are pushing a magic-bullet, overnight-miracle solution — and that reformers don’t acknowledge the pernicious effects of poverty on school outcomes.

It also gives lie to the idea that only failure—not success—should be rewarded with more resources and the freedom to innovate.

Massachusetts’ Grand Bargain is more than two decades old at this point, and the cracks are starting to show. The school funding formula hasn’t kept up with costs, achievement gaps remain unacceptably high, and the introduction of the Common Core standards and assessments have revealed shortcomings in the once-revered Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

And that’s where that relentless self-reflection comes to bear. Because when you’re at the top of heap—not only on national and international exams, but also in access to early education, high-school graduation, college enrollment and adult employment—it would be so tempting to crow about your success and stick your head in the sand about what’s not working.

In the end, what happened in Massachusetts could have happened in Washington. The same set of reforms started two decades ago, but the big promises around funding and accountability shifted and faded. Massachusetts, in contrast, struggled with setbacks but stayed the course.
Determination and grit. It is what we value in our students. Now we have to figure out how to elect state leaders and union officials who possess the same qualities.


This piece was originally published on March 21, 2016, on the Head in the Sand Blog.

Comment /Source

Tracy Dell'Angela

Tracy loves to ask questions and write stories. She roots for the underdog, wants our nation to reimagine schools and the teaching profession, and seethes about how much school inequity she sees. She spent most of her career as a journalist covering schools and crime. She and her husband raised two daughters in a diverse suburb of Chicago and are now paying two college tuitions. She currently works as the managing editor of Education Post and formerly explored her wonkier side communicating school research at the University of Chicago and the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. She is Californian by birth and a Chicagoan in spirit. She loves the outdoors and all animals, especially her spoiled "dingo" dog.

Second Bill to Save Charters Proposed in Washington State Legislature

A second bill to save charter schools was floated in the Washington State Senate yesterday.

Proposed by Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Renton), the bipartisan bill would use state lottery earnings to fund charter schools. It joins a bill proposed earlier this week by Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) and Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) that would assign more control over charters to local elected school boards, giving the legislature at least two options to consider to save the state's charter schools during the January session.

As reported by John Higgins of the Seattle Times:

"Their proposal would, among other things, direct charter-school funding to come from the state’s Opportunity Pathways Account, which uses state lottery money for early childhood education, higher-education grants, scholarships and other programs aimed at innovation.
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Sept. 4 that the charter-school law is unconstitutional because charter schools aren’t “common” schools and therefore aren’t entitled to public money exclusively intended for those schools.
Lottery revenue isn’t restricted to common schools, but the high court also ruled that lawmakers couldn’t use money from other general-fund accounts because the state can’t tell which dollars come from which sources."

This bill has garnered significantly more support from charter school proponents because it offers a pathway to save the entire charter school system without sacrificing control over operations.

“We applaud Sens. Litzow, Fain, Mullet, and Hobbs for their commitment to reinstate the will of the voters by fixing the mess that threatens to close public charter schools," said Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters). "Today’s proposal demonstrates legislators' commitment to Washington families and students. We are especially pleased to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together around a solution that maintains the ability of all parents in Washington—not just those in some districts—to choose the public school that best fits the needs of every child.”

Litzow has been a steadfast champion of charter schools.

“Public charter schools provide a meaningful opportunity for students—especially minority children from low-income families—who are disproportionately failed by Washington’s inequitable public school system,” said Litzow, chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, in his announcement of the bill yesterday. “Education quality—and inequality—is the paramount concern for students, parents, teachers and lawmakers, as well as voters, who made Washington the 42nd state to allow charter schools. No single reform will alone ensure we can meet Washington’s duty to provide a high-quality education to all children. Historic investments for public education in 2015, the expansion of charter schools and other research-based reforms supporting our most at-risk students will help close the state’s opportunity gap and strengthen the entire public education system.”

The proposed bill will receive a public hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the second day of the 2016 legislative session, at 1:30 p.m.