Friday, January 22, 2010

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Given that this past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and from all the scenes we have seen in the wake of the tragedy in Haiti, I think it is worth mentioning some thoughts around the Alliance’s programs in the context of social justice and equity. All of our programs, whether it be continuing our work in community schools and community engagement, increasing college access and readiness for all students, ensuring the quality of all teachers in Seattle Public Schools, or our educational investments, have a significant impact on those students that are economically and socially disadvantaged. In much of our work, and in many of the grants we manage, our target population includes students of color and low-income communities.

We at the Alliance believe education is a fundamental right for each child in our community. At our recent Board meeting this past Tuesday, Dr. Goodloe- Johnson and Seattle Board President Michael Debell talked about the school district’s and state’s significant budget shortfall in light of the grim economic landscape we face. It is no secret that we are in tough financial times, but those who bear the worst of the impact will not have the necessary resources or skills to compete in our new economic landscape.

That is why the Alliance and the entire community need to redouble our efforts to help the school district adequately serve these communities. Whether it is providing more resources to counselors to help students get into college, or continuing a much needed discussion on teacher quality, or helping raising more money for the District so that it will ease some of the painful cuts they have to make; these efforts will go a long way in helping students excel toward a pathway of opportunity.

As Dr. King said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” Isn’t that the type of education we would like to impart on all children in the District?

- Mark Yango, AFE


  1. So, tell me about the continuation of "a much needed discussion on teacher quality".

    Dora Taylor

  2. Karen - the Alliance and the entire community need to redouble our efforts to help the school district adequately serve these communities. Whether it is providing more resources to counselors to help students get into college...

    Did you not know that the District is cutting funding of councelling positions?

    If a CEO of a school district wants a good example of how to keep them folks in their place,...they can look to MGJ as a mentor. The goals and directions of the Broad Foundation, and which she is implementing here, seem designed to drive out those who can afford private school, and to set up schools with high % title I funding for failure, and thus for conventional district interventions. Ultimately the intent is for failed schools to become charter schools, and for the remaining public schools to be mediocre at best.

    The bottom line is money, not "closing the achievement gap." Teach-to-the-test charter schools serving high % of low-income and minoirty students are the most profitable charter schools.

    If this district were genuinely interested in closing the achievement gap, they wouldn't be rigidly, stubbornly insisting on discovery math. discovery math helps this program to succeed, since

    1) it will lead to more title I schools failing to make ayp in math, thus leading to charter schools and paying work for education management organizations

    2) will channel district title I dollars to private tutoring companies through the SES program

    3) will drive families in the non-failed schools to seek either private school or private tutoring services

    It is this racist program that the Alliance is abetting.

    Karen and Solynn, is this something that you really want to be a part of?

  3. All of our counselors were rif'd in the spring even though enrollment was at that point 1,200 students above what was projected originally.

    If you want to help with providing adequate student counselors to help our children get into colleges, tell the superintendent to bring back the counselors that we had.

  4. Interesting post, Mark. I appreciate the acknowledgement that the the School District is working with an extremely difficult budget situation.

    There is a strong need for the variety of groups and interests to work together to the benefit of the students, the teachers and staff, and administration.

    It is important to step back and look at the forest, as well as the trees, and not to get caught up in the thorns...

  5. Thanks for the post. I agree with the points made, and I believe that the work cannot be done single-handedly.

    Joan, some of your comments are rather irrelevant, and vague in many ways. I don't know what you mean by "It is this racist program that the Alliance is abetting." You need to understand that when a group takes the initiative of bridging gaps and helping underserved students, it is a noble cause in all eyes (....yes, I'm still referring to your skin color comment). Your criticism lacks substance buddy.

    As an individual who works for an African non-profit, I understand the predicaments faced by our students in their academic lives. My firm belief is that pointing fingers will lead to a pile of uncertainty at the end of the day.

    So, Joan, if you really want to see changes in your school district, try understanding the Alliance as a conduit that helps our children in our rapidly changing, and ever-demanding global age.

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  7. Joan

    Describing the work we do as racist is inappropriate. Our organization is dedicated to ensuring that the work we do has a positive impact on students, particularly low-income and students of color.

    Check out some of the research and best practices around the country, and you’ll find support for these efforts as an attempt to address the achievement gap and better serve all students in the city.

    Again, we invite you and other bloggers to call, come meet us, learn more about the organization. Despite our regular invitation to do so, to date, no one has taken me up on that. On the other hand we work with dozens of community partners who take the time to participate, understand and learn. It’s really easy to criticize. I would invite you to be part of the solution.

    I strive to be open to learning new things, even when it isn’t easy. If that’s what we want for students, shouldn’t we model it as parents and community members?

  8. The problem as many of us see it, Karen, is that the Alliance has been created and controlled some very wealthy people who have very definite reform agendas and are busy infiltrating those agendas into the public school system without reference to most of us public school parents and community members... and its a pity that you're so good at the PR spin and many SPS constituents dont know how to deconstruct that language - low income families of colour from multiple other countries who are grateful to be here and to have an education provided for their children, but who dont know that the focus on their children is to ensure that the next generation of workers and consumers is being produced in the most cost-effective manner - the words of Mike Milken, junk bond king and educational philanthropist (Milken Foundation), an ally of the Broad and Gates Foundations...

    You have never answered out very direct questions about transparency etc, so pardon us for our cynicism and our refusal to waste time with you ...