Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Alliance's Public Event

Thanks to all of you who attended the NCTQ event. It was a good start on a difficult and complex topic.

Here's a quick rundown of the evening. We started a little late because of issues with microphones that worked during soundcheck but were unreliable at a few points during the evening. But that's the beauty of a live event, right? We're flexible when we need to be.

After a welcome delivered by Patrick, our president, and George, our board chair, Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ gave her presentation which ran longer than expected, but covered all of the key points of the report including:

  • Teacher Compensation
  • Transfer and Assignment
  • Work Day and Year
  • Developing Effective Teachers and Exiting Ineffective Teachers
All of the recommendations made by NCTQ can be read in the report. Here's a link:

Immediately following the presentation, Glenn Bafia of SEA and Maria Goodloe-Johnson of SPS gave a short response to the presentation.

After a shortened Q&A session (due to being behind schedule) we broke into table discussion. There was a facilitator at most tables who captured responses to questions and additional comments. Individuals sitting at tables without facilitators were invited to join the conversation at other tables. Those comments are currently being consolidated and will be display on this blog asap.

Below are the questions we asked the individual groups. Having been a blogger for a full day now I'm getting better at this (I wouldn't say good yet). I'll anticipate that these questions will not be some of the same questions you would have asked. So I invite you to ask your questions on the blog. Our commitment is that we keep this a constructive dialogue and invite you to do the same.

1. Do you agree with the recommendations for improving teacher quality that were proposed in this report? Why or why not?
2. What opportunities can the following groups create in making sure all students in our schools are learning: school leaders, the teacher's union, teachers, parents and community members?
3. What is the concern or issue about teaching quality that you find yourself most often telling?

Additional comments were invited along the way.

I will separate individual questions into a separate thread because there were a lot of responses to sort through. This will also allow for a conversation specifically around tonight's comments which I will post as soon as possible.



  1. 1. I do not agree with the recommendations proposed in this report for improving teacher quality because this report does not define teacher quality.
    2. To make sure all students are learning, school leaders should set and maintain high expectations for their whole community. They should set academic and behavior expectations for the students. They should provide students working below standards with early and effective intervention and refuse to promote them if they have not met the Standards for their grade level. They should provide additional rigor and challenge to students working above grade level. They should provide all students with a safe and structured learning environment. They should create a culture that values learning. School leaders should also set clear expectations for teachers: to deliver the curriculum, to differentiate instruction, to teach in multiple styles to reach students who learn differently, to identify students who are falling behind and students who are ready to move ahead, and to manage their classrooms. School leaders should also create a culture that has expectations for student families: to take an active interest in their children's education, to attend conferences, and to contribute to the school. School leaders need to check for all of these things and confirm them.

    The teacher's union has no responsibility to students; that organization's responsibility is solely to teachers. It is unreasonable to expect the teacher's union to contribute to this effort as it is not their mission or purpose. I don't see the question about what the principal's union will do or what the superintendent's lawyer will do, so don't ask what the SEA will do.

    Teachers can provide more differentiated instruction. It is hard to do, it takes a lot of planning before and a lot of work after, but it is necessary to keep every student working at the frontier of their knowledge and skills. Teachers can meet the other expectations set by school leaders - to deliver the curriculum, to teach in multiple styles to reach students who learn differently, to identify students who are falling behind and students who are ready to move ahead, and to manage their classrooms.

    Student families and other community members can take an active interest in their children's education. Ask them about what they are learning. Review their homework. Communicate hopes and concerns with their teachers. Attend teacher conferences. Contribute to the school. In addition, student family members and community members can advocate for students politically at the district, local, and state levels. Sometimes this advocacy will put them in support of institutions and sometimes it will put them in opposition to the institutions.

    3. My primary concern about teacher quality is defining it. We cannot meaningfully discuss teacher quality until we are all talking about the same thing. We need to define it and be able to measure it. We need to agree on a set of metrics, assessments, and benchmarks. Unless we can definitively say what we are talking about, we're just talking. Once we define it we can begin to take action.

  2. The NCTQ Presentation

    I walked into the ballroom early hoping to pass out flyers and was almost immediately greeted by a happy person in a red Alliance jacket who introduced herself and asked me who I was. I gave my name and she said "Oh, I know who you are. I've seen your picture!" I asked where she had seen my picture and she said "Well, you posted on our blog". No further introduction was necessary. That “oh, she is that troublesome troublemaker” expression came over her face but I kept smiling and continued the light banter about being a parent of a high school student, etc. She ended the conversation by saying that she hoped that they could dispel some of the pre-conceptions that people had about.... she kind of left that part hanging, but apparently a lot of us have preconceptions about things and that is our only problem.

    It was obvious that no Gates or Broad money was spent on this affair. It was cold cuts and mayonnaise with Diet Pepsi's in a can. Two huge containers of water but no coffee. Where do these people think they are?

    While I was waiting for the show to begin and munching on turkey and cheese, people in red shirts with A+ on them were walking around and shaking hands with people. I guess they were the Wal Mart greeters.

    Looked around the room. No other familiar faces. Oh well.

    Finally, the lights go up, such as they are, the mic finally works and the show is on.

    D'Amelio says a few words like there will be a "series of community engagement opportunities" and throws in an "equitable access for every student" thought and then the show is on the road.

    Oh, just saw our superintendent at the front table and oh, there is Brad Bernatek to the left of me. I wonder if he knows who I am. Hmmm.

    Then George Griffin III gets up and talks about the achievement gap, particularly in the African American community. Is it at all a coincidence that this gentleman is African American? Either way, this will be an on-going theme throughout the presentation.

    Then finally, Kate Walsh, a no nonsense kind of gal with a lot to say and so little time comes to the microphone and begins her PowerPoint presentation.

    She started by saying that she does not bring local context into this report (OK) but can compare other districts with ours. I'm with her so far.

    But first, she wants to reiterate that the NCTQ gets all of their funding from private sources. That we know. (Gates, Exxon and Milken, as in junk bonds, to name a few.)

    Then she starts in on how no one is able to tell how well a teacher will do and that it is not based on the amount of education that they receive or the courses that they take. She says that someone with a Masters degree is no more effective a teacher as a teacher without an advanced degree. She said that it has to do with experience and that teachers do not reach a point of being "effective" until their 4th or 5th year of teaching. She went on to say that the worst teachers are first year teachers. They are the worst teachers that a child can have. That's what she said.

    (continued below)

  3. And after that she said "So that's you primer."

    So OK, let’s see, we are to believe this premise, no questions asked. Well, that's a lot to swallow. So, she is saying that you don't have to be that well trained or educated to be a good teacher. In that case, maybe my dog could qualify in her program.

    She goes on to say that every, and I do emphasize EVERY, study that has been done so far shows that not only does teacher training not have a positive impact on teaching but that sometimes it even hampers the effectiveness of teaching. Please note: The word "effective" and "effectiveness" comes up in about every other sentence. Kind of how the term "9/11" used to be used in every sentence that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld said.

    She made a big deal about teacher absenteeism in Seattle. We saw a few graphs and charts on that and then she went on to "objective data to evaluate" a teachers performance. This part got interesting. She said "not necessarily standardized tests" but could have a district-wide conversation about how, let's say, French teachers know when they are being "effective". Whoa, I think that there is a third rail appearing and it might be standardized testing and student assessments.

    Again, "huge achievement gap" was thrown into her presentation kind of out of the blue.

    Then it was over. Wait a minute. What about all of that stuff in the report about student assessments and teacher's performance being evaluated by, gee, I don't know, using standardized tests? Not a word. It was over and from what I could see, the people were left wanting.

    $14,000 for this? I could see people kind of wondering what this was all about. It didn't seem like much from all of the hoopla that had been generated about this presentation. What they didn't know about was the rest of the report.

    After that, the SEA Director got up and did damage control about first year teachers and mentors, about losing $9M in state funds and about errors in the report that had not been corrected.

    Our superintendent then got up in her red jacket and said a few words like this would provide "more information for dialogue", something about "date points" and the "horrific gap" in terms of, I guess, black students and white students.

    Then there was time for Q and A. Someone got up and challenged girl wonder Kate about continuing education. He mentioned the fact that doctors and other professionals take courses that benefit their practice and how could she say that courses taken by teachers and Masters' degrees had no value? He also mentioned the fact that the study that she was referring to that made her case about the fact that additional education was not needed to be an "effective" teacher was paid for by Bill Gates. Oops. She started to back peddle and said that it was the structure that is in place and not the course work itself that was not effective. What? Well, she said, that teachers choose the cheapest courses that they can find to take because they have to pay for them and...

    Her sentences were incomplete and when she said "Do you understand what I am saying?". I had to shake my head and audibly said "No" although she was not asking me the question.

    Some of the questions were kind of off track and one mom towards the end got up and thanked the superintendent and NCTQ for having the guts to "do this". What? That was out of the blue. In fact, besides myself, there was one other parent there. The rest of the folks were related to the Alliance, Broad or Seattle U with some other educators there who I didn't recognize. Someone thought that the comment had been staged but I don’t know.

  4. (continued from above)

    There was another question about continuing education for teachers and its’ value, same answer, and another question about how they would evaluate teachers whose subjects are, for example, art and foreign languages. The answer was the same as per her presentation. That teachers in those subjects could decide on district wide “benchmarks”.

    They had us break up into groups to discuss the presentation and I took the opportunity to get more information from one of the questioners on the McKinsey Company, the Center for Reinventing Public Education and other good stuff.

    FYI. The League of Education Voters is associated with this Alliance group. They have someone representing them on the Alliance Emeritus Board. They also got a mention during the meeting. My buddy, Brad Bernatek, is on the Alliance's "Educational Investments Task Force". Also, 46% of the Alliance's total grant revenue comes from Gates, the Broad, the Stuart Foundation an Boeing. The Alliance also mentions "Stand for Children" in their literature as a local education advocacy group that they recommend joining.

    That's all I got out of that meeting except for the cool stuff that I found out about.

    Post Script: Fasten your seat belts, the Alliance plans more community outreach in the next three years to spread the good word. See:

  5. Excellent recap Dora, thank you for your effort.

    Only comment: The superindendent should have been at Ballard last night for the community "engagement" meeting. Very telling what her priorities are at the moment.

    Question: Who is Brad Bernatek? I see his name come up a lot on blog threads.

  6. Brad Bernatek was a Broad resident within SPS - you know, one of those 'gifts' with strings attached that Harium thinks we should be so grateful for - who then moved onto a senior position (as per Broad Foundation EXPECTATIONS) responsible for data gathering... which data was used to justify the last round of school closures, which data and assumptions was found by Meg Diaz to be seriously flawed, which data resulted in the closing of schools and programmes for a purported savings of $3 million, only to have to re-open school buildings this coming year, at a cost of more than $40 million...

    Brad's name comes up on the SaveOurSchools blogs in discussions about Broad influence in the district and the costs to the district.

    You can find him listed in the SPS senior staff directory....

    And if you go to

    and check out the links relating to Broad, you will find out all about the Broad fellows/residents programme, what Broad intends in placing these interns around the country, what it costs our District to take on these interns and what expectations there are for them to be incorporated into the permanent FTE staff of the District... they all move into senior, influential positions where they can have a direct impact in moving policy towards achieving Broad Foundation goals...

    Its like a virus, a plague... its sickening...

  7. One other bit of information that I discovered is the number of people and organizations on the NCTQ advisory board who are linked to charter schools and Bil Gates.

    For example:

    Michael Feinberg, Founder
    The Kipp Foundation
    Charter school franchise

    Michael Goldstein, CEO and Founder
    The Match School, Massachusetts
    It's actually the Match Charter School

    Paul T. Hill, Director
    Center for Reinventing Public Education
    This organization is all about charter schools and receives Gates' money

    Michelle Rhee, Chancellor
    DC Public Schools
    Huge supporter of charter schools

    Stefanie Sanford, Senior Policy Officer
    Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    Laura Schwedes, Social Studies Teacher
    KIPP: STAR Prep, NYC, New York

    Deborah McGriff, Partner
    New Schools Venture Fund
    Backed by Gates

  8. So the Alliance, which refuses so far on this blog to answer questions as to its relationships with Broad/Gates/charter schools/reform, pays $14K (of Gates/Broad/Boeing money)to the NCTQ for a formulaic (insert the name of the school District)teacher bashing report and the NCTQ Board of Advisors is made up primarily of charter/Gates/Broad-linked people....

    And our Broad Board Director Superintendent MGJ (earning $264K+) sends her daughter to the New School/South Shore, which is a charter school in everything but name - because Washington doesnt allow charters yet - funded by Stuart Sloan, where her child gets the best that a private/public education can buy, while the rest of us poor plebs have to watch our SPS kids scrambling for educational rations, all the while fund-raising like crazy and begging the District - please Ma'am, can we have some more for our kids... and the Alliance, which is supposed to be fund raising for our kids, spends $14K on reformist propaganda....

    And then, on the SaveSeattleSchools blog we have Laura Kohn, Director of the New School Foundation, which funds the school where MGJ's daughter attends, remember, joining Blogger on October 14 2009, specifically to post in support of the NCTQ report on the thread that's running hot in criticism of the Alliance and the report...

    And MGJ being on the Board of the Alliance - such a busy woman with all these Director duties, how does she have time for SPS? Oh that's right, she doesnt... she has to attend the Alliance launch of the NCTQ report, rather than attend a community meeting on the SAP proposals...

    And they wonder why some of the natives in Seattle are restless?

  9. Very interesting. My next question (again just trying to understand) is was a director position created for Mr.Bernatek or did he replace somebody?

  10. I dont remember, SPSMom... I think its on the SSS blog, on the Broad influence thread (there were a couple), and Dora might have that information on the site... sorry I dont have time now to go and find the answer for you...

  11. For those of you interested in the experience of other school districts who have been the lucky recipients of Gates' interest and funds:

    "For instance, the founders of Providence, R.I.'s highly successful MetSchool are being funded by Gates to try to "franchise" their model to 50 other small schools.

    Klonsky, however, warns not to draw too many conclusions from that. "The MetSchool is tiny, with no classes, just internships. It's very, very successful, but it is very hard to duplicate. It was set up by special state legislation. They [the Gates Foundation] are trying to drive change from the top, and there's not a lot of support for that critique. They are lumping all schools together. Typical top-down approach, you try to fit one model over everything. The Gates grants are very proscriptive "either do it our way or there's no money."

    As a result, some school districts are backing away from the foundation. Maureen Ramos, teachers' union president in Spokane, explains that the issue came up last year. "The Gates people approached the district last year, and because of our previous experiences with the Gates 'hoops' you have to jump through, there was a lot of resistance. Our experience was that they'd tell us we had to do such and such, and people were dying, there was so much to do. Then they'd back out of it. It was a very frustrating experience."

    "I know of no Spokane school now that is looking for a Gates grant," Spokane's assistant superintendent of schools, Timothy Riordan, adds. "That's not a district goal. We all want to decrease the achievement gap [between upper-income and minority students], but we are divergent with Gates in our methodology. The public and the staff are just not on board with Gates' vision."

    source: article by Bob Gabelle entitled:
    "The Gates Foundation wants to remake American education, and ground zero for their billion-dollar experiment is Mountlake Terrace High School. Results so far? It's been a learning experience."

    You can find it on the Susan Ohanion blog...

  12. Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but aren't the principals supposed to be supervising the teachers?

    If there is a teacher who isn't doing his or her job, and that teacher isn't dismissed, then there is also a principal who isn't doing his or her job. Isn't there?

    If all of our principals did their jobs, which is to supervise the teachers, then we would know that all of our teachers were doing their jobs.

    The key to teacher effectiveness - whatever that means - is principal effectiveness. It doesn't appear that anyhing else is needed.

    Where in this report is any mention of the principals' responsibility to supervise teachers and to dismiss the ineffective ones? I didn't see it.

    Of course the principals, in turn, have supervisors: the education directors. So that means that if there is a teacher who isn't doing his or her job, then there not only is a principal who isn't doing his or her job, therefore there must also be an education director who isn't doing his or her job because they are letting principals get away with failing to do their work.

    So where is the "report" on principal effectiveness and where is the "report" on education director effectiveness? I haven't seen them. All of the blame is falling on teachers despite the fact that there is blame enough to go around.

    By the way, the chain of accountability can be followed further from the education directors to the Chief Academic Officer, to the Superintedent to the Board. They are all culpable and they should all be accountable. None of them are.