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The Stepford Wives of Race to the Top: Our PTA

My Day with the PTA

This is going to be one of those long ones, so get yourself a cup of coffee or hot tea and get comfortable.

Because of my interest in education and legislation, I volunteered to be the PTA Legislative chair at my daughter’s school. That was almost two years ago. I followed what was going on and reported back to the membership. That was easy. I do remember that the Seattle Council Legislative VP, Heidi Bennett, seemed a tad bit over the top about Race to the Top but at the time I thought that was her personal view. She did seem to be pushing it a bit too much after a while but again, I couldn’t imagine that this had anything to do with the PTA but possibly another organization that she might have been a part of like the Alliance for Education or the imaginary Our Schools’ Coalition. I had no idea that she was following an edict by way of the PTA, not until Friday, October 8, 2010 when I participated in the statewide PTA Legislative Assembly. Being a legislative chair for our school, I attended this meeting.

I got to the Marriott at SeaTac on Friday just in time to sit in on the “Issue Education Session” described as Issue 3: New Model for Teacher Compensation. Below is a description of the issue as provided by the PTA. It says:

Issue Statement:

The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that lead to a new research-based state teacher compensation model that emphasizes rewarding teacher effectiveness in improving student learning.

Before I go on, let me give you a little background about one of my motivations for going. I wanted to be able to speak to the issue of performance pay and seniority, two issues that were on the PTA agenda. I had sat in on a couple of Seattle Council PTSA meetings, these are the citywide meetings, and said my piece about how the PTA shouldn’t get involved in backing the edicts of the Race to the Top agenda. The SCPTSA President said that there was a time and opportunity to make a difference at the Legislative Assembly so I was looking forward to having the opportunity to have a real debate on the issues and maybe make a difference.

The meeting started and a person who I assumed was the leader for this session, was in the front and the first thing she said was “Did anyone here see Superman!?” Uh oh, this was not starting out well. She started to gush that the movie was so “heart wrenching” and that it brought tears to her eyes. Then she held up what I imagined was going to be our required reading for the day. “Has anyone seen this?” and she waved a Time magazine with a school bus on it, Well, at least it wasn’t the one with Michelle Rhee on the cover with her broom stick. For that I was relieved, but only momentarily. On the cover it said “What Makes A School Great?” And below  that, “It all starts with the teachers” and the last line, “Why is it so hard to find good ones”. And the cover story? “Waiting for Superman: A Call to Action for Our Schools”

At this point I knew it was going to be a rather long day.

There were two parents in the front and I assumed that they were going to provide both sides of the issue (Right? This was to be a day of sharing, debate and exchanging ideas.) But boy was I wrong. It was all about how “old” teachers had seniority and there were all these new young teachers who didn’t have seniority and they were so good but they might be fired unless …unless we drop “tenure”, a word that they erroneously used interchangeably with the term “seniority” over the course of the day. And then one of the parents said that they had all the reports and data on everything that they were talking about right here. The parent kept raising her notebook and pointing to it. I assumed that’s where the data was.

Then the leader, the one with all of the data, said that education doesn’t matter when it comes to a teacher’s “effectiveness”. She went on to say that having a masters’ degree didn’t mean anything and most of the time, when a teacher gets additional training or a degree, it’s in something else that has nothing to do with the subject that they are teaching. I couldn’t believe what this woman was saying. I would say that all of us in that room thought that education was important, but not for teachers?

I had to raise my hand at that point and ask just that question. How can you say that getting additional education is not important to developing as a professional when you seem to value education, at least for your child?

Well, it’s not that. It’s the kind of education that our teachers are getting. They take classes in subjects that don’t have anything to do with the subject that they are teaching. So what’s wrong with having a well-rounded education? I asked.  Well, not if it’s in basket weaving. I kid you not, that’s what one of the other parents said, one of the parents who was to be monitoring the meeting piped in and said that. OK, now I knew that this was going to be a very long day.

Then they got to teacher compensation. They actually called it merit pay.

The first question that the leader with the notebook asked was, “Why is it that we can’t retain our good teachers?” I thought, I haven’t seen them leaving in droves recently although at this point I wouldn’t blame them for finding the closest exit. Then she went on, “We still don’t see scores going up.” That was true. “We need to send a message to our legislature”, OK “We have to raise the bar of rigor…we have to reward” the teachers I assume.

My hand went up again because I knew where this was going. “If you are referring to merit pay, there are studies and reports, two in particular, that show that merit pay doesn’t affect student performance.” I named the EPI report and the Vanderbilt study. I went on to say that in Texas, where they had merit pay for three years, it was not effective in raising test scores so they abandoned the idea. I also brought up Chicago where Arne Duncan was CEO for four years before becoming secretary of education. Test scores hadn’t budged there or in New York where they had actually plummeted and all things RTTT were in effect in both of those cities.

Another parent who is part of the Seattle Council PTSA said that where she works and in fact in many corporations, there is merit pay.

I answered with the question, but is the corporate model appropriate in terms of education? Aren’t both of these institutions different? People were getting a little flustered with me at this point. I was asking too many questions and challenging what for them had become the acceptable way of thinking. It was apparent that they were not ready for this line of questioning and had not expected this to happen. We were just supposed to drink our coffee, sit and listen. Apparently there was not much room or time for debate.

We were not here to question. We were here to vote for a platform that had been previously decided on and that was that.

I began to wonder where these platforms came from. They were right out of the RTTT play book. These folks didn’t come up with this on their own.

The time for conversation in our session was limited and the two leaders had to come up with a resolution of some sort at the end of the session. Why? I don’t know.

They were running out of time and so the other parent standing at the front said, “Do we all agree that things need to be improved?” Some people nodded their heads, “That things need to change?” Another nodding of heads, “Then voting for this is voting for change!” Wow, end of story. Just like that. We want change so vote for this. Well, that’s one way of doing it.

So, the real reason for these “Education Sessions” was to provide reasons to vote for their platform, basically market it. No questions were expected, no opposing sides represented. There was not to be any debate but only a presentation. I had just spent an hour listening to an infomercial for RTTT.

I was truly let down.

Out of curiosity, I went up to the leader with the notebook, the one with all of the data in it, and asked her what studies she was referring to. She showed me a copy of an NCTQ report, (see: The Lines of Influence), a report done by CRPE and a paper titled The Caldwell Report. The NCTQ report, bought and paid for by Bill Gates and a report done by CRPE, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a foundation funded by Bill Gates to provide all with the NCTQ Report and all things charter schools . And the Caldwell Report? I had never heard of it. I called on my best data gatherers by cell and asked them if they had come across the report and both said “No”.

I goggled it later and came up with all sorts of entries but nothing pertaining to teachers, teaching or merit pay. If someone else can find a report relevant to teaching or education referred to as the Caldwell Report, please let me know.

And where were all of the teachers in this “Education Session”? This was the PTA, the Parents and Teachers Association. Had we thrown them out with the bathwater too? There was someone in the “Education Session” who said she was a teacher. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from her about student testing and merit pay and how it was all such a great idea. She was young so I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. As it came up later during the general assembly, she was a Teach for America teacher and during her two minutes said “Rhee did some good things while she was in DC”, like fire 271 teachers and replace them with Teach for America recruits? A ringer? Possibly.

After the “Education Session” was a presentation in the ballroom to be given by the senior Bill Gates. You just can’t seem to get away from those folks these days. I decided to take a break and not hear about how we should all vote for Bill 1098 basically to pay for all of this ed reform that they are pushing. Bill Gates, Sr. wants to make sure that the Gates Foundation doesn’t have to keep forking over the dollars to maintain their idea of education.

Then, finally, an Education Session with someone who made sense. A wonderful woman, Adie Simmons, Director of the Education Ombudsman, spoke to us about the Achievement Gap, which she referred to as the “Opportunity Gap”. What was interesting about this Education Session is that for all of the hoopla and hand wringing about test scores and the achievement gap that I was hearing about in the building that day, this room was fairly quiet and empty. Oh well, everyone else had it all figured out anyway. All it would take is merit pay and no seniority for teachers.

The Ombudsman Office had real data or as I like to call it, information, about how our students are doing now in the state of Washington. She showed that test scores over the last ten years have trended downwards. She asked us why we thought that was. This wasn’t a lead in to another infomercial, she was really trying to come up with some answers herself. No one else said anything so I mentioned less class time with teachers due to budget cuts over the years, more parents working and not being able to spend enough time to help with homework. Larger homework loads because the teachers do not have the time to cover all of the information in class making it the responsibility of the students to teach themselves and the pressure by the schools to meet graduation rate quotas therefore pushing students along without being prepared for the next grade. Nothing was ever mentioned about “teacher quality   or “teacher effectiveness”. How refreshing, an entire hour without hearing those two phrases.

Ms.  Simmons told us of the services that the office provides. She referred to the Ombudsman as a “third party”. She said “We help resolve problems, conflict and disputes between parents and schools that affect student learning”. This can range from language barriers to transportation. She said that they were an advocate for the child. Ms. Simmons also stated that many of students they advocated for  were in special education programs and there was an increasing amount of bullying that was happening particularly towards students who were ELL or in special education. She said that there was a lack of civility these days and that was reflected in the behavior of young people. Indeed.

The Ombudsman Office also contracts with Language Line which is an amazing service. You just call, tell them your language and there is instant availability to someone who can speak to you.

The most amazing part is that there are only five people in the office of the Ombudsman and they successfully handle cases throughout the state of Washington every day. Bravo to them!

Unfortunately that hour was over too quickly. It was time for lunch and then  the general assembly meeting.

The General Assembly Meeting

In the ballroom where the meeting was to take place, I found my spot with my region, the Seattle area. I settled in and started looking around.

Mostly women, a few men. There were two African Americans in our Seattle group and I was one of them. So much for diversity. In the general population, I saw maybe 3 or 4 African-Americans out of an audience of about 300. Not exactly a crowd that was representative of our state.

This meeting started at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning and went to about 10:00 PM that night so that eliminated a lot of parents who were either working, needed to be with their children or couldn’t afford childcare for that length of time. It was a vacation day for the Seattle public schools.

The meeting began and there was some mention made about the Common Core State Standards, you know, the standards that Bill Gates is paying  four states so far to apply for at the tune of $1M.

The state president of the PTA, Scott Allen, spoke about how we had so much to be proud of like Bill 2271 that will fund education reform. That was a “big win” for us according to our president. Mr. Allen went on to say that we did that by networking not only with the legislators but with other policy makers like our city council members. He said that the PTA is considered a “trusted source” in our state, that the PTA is a go-to source for policy makers. Is that why Vicki Phillips, the Director of Education with the Gates Foundation thinks that our national president, Byron Garrett, is the cat’s meow? Because we are tooting their horn for them?

In her speech to the National PTA, Ms. Philips stated, “I hope you’re as proud to call Byron your leader as we at the Gates Foundation are to call him a partner”. Later in her speech she says “So we know master’s degrees have almost no value. We know certifications don’t make a difference. We know that after three years, seniority doesn’t really matter.” Wow, that’s what I had been hearing all day.

It was all starting to fall into place. So much for the PTA being an advocate for my child, they had become advocates for the Gates and the Broads and the hedge fund millionaires. They had sold our children out for a few shekels, high stakes testing, merit pay, union busting, and charter schools. That was all part of the package. Gates had provided the PTA with all of the “research” material that they would need to sell their ideas. The deed was done and the troops, or rather the Stepford Wives, would be marching forward into the offices of the state legislators and other policy makers waving their notebooks filled with data.

Oh yeah, about that data. After our last Education Session, we were to go to our groups in terms of the issues that we wanted to support. Unlike past years’ legislative assemblies, there would be “debate” between those who supported each issue and those who didn’t. That sounded great! Finally, I could present another side of the issue.

I sat in the room where the supporters of Issue number 3, “New Models for Teacher Compensation” were gathering. I wasn’t sure if I was to be there or not but decided to stay and just be quiet because this was their time to get organized.

First thing from the leader with the notebook? “We’re not looking at studies or data” I am paraphrasing here, “This doesn’t have anything to do with data, anyone can show data one way or another.” Well, that was a change of tune from the morning session. Without going into the details, they got their list of items done and then it was my turn to see if anyone besides myself was interested in giving an opposing viewpoint.

Two other parents showed up and we worked out what we were going to say. We only had ten minutes total, I thought, for each viewpoint, two minutes each. I would start, then the other two parents would do their two minutes and then I would do a conclusion. Great! During dinner I put my thoughts together.

They were basically:

  • Basing a teacher’s performance on test scores causes many teachers to begin to teach to the test. The curriculum becomes dumbed down and the focus narrowed to what will be on the test and nothing more.
  • We need to first even the playing field for the teachers by addressing the other issues that are up for consideration during this session such as increasing literacy instruction, math and science education and ensuring that there is physical education in the schools as well as health programs, good breakfast and lunch programs, wrap-around services for the students in need  and smaller class sizes.
  • We need to get our teachers on board with whatever we recommend otherwise we will begin to pit the PTA against the teachers and we really don’t want that.
  • Let’s focus on putting our resources into other areas that directly support our students and teachers and not on trying to create a corporate model out of our public schools.

Well, that was the plan. There was more that I wanted to say but six minutes isn’t much time.

It was finally our big moment in the general assembly.

I went to the microphone, gave my two minutes, then another parent and the third parent, then I was back at the microphone to give the final four minutes, but wait! I wasn’t being called on. What was going on?! They kept calling on the other side because they had more people and as I found out standing there, I wouldn’t have a chance to speak again because I had already spoken. So even though we had time left over it went to the other side because they had more people who hadn’t spoken! So basically, the side with the most people gets the most time. That’s not a debate!!!

Needless to say, even though their arguments were pre-packaged ala NCTQ and some not even relevant, that platform got the vote by an overwhelming majority. So did the seniority plank, Issue 4: “Teacher Reduction in Force Policies”. Heidi Bennett, the Legislative Vice President of the Seattle Council PTSA said that the teacher’s contract should be “seniority free”.

Issue 1, which was “Following Up on Education Reform Efforts”, regarding the Race to the Top Bill 6696 and similar bills got the majority of votes. Afterwards I wondered how some of those parents from the small towns and rural areas of the state of Washington would be able to justify how they voted to approve closing a school, firing half of their schools staff or firing a principal if test scores do not meet a specified standard. Where would they be if that were to happen? Without a school? With Race to the Top funding worked out on the last go-round as about $71 per student that would certainly not be enough to pay for “turning a school around”. And what about finding new teachers to staff a school in a rural area or a small town? I suppose they could get Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training and little else to teach their children for at least two years before those recruits move on to their chosen professions.

Issue 2 “Fund Education First” got the majority vote. That’s the idea that education funding should come before anything including social or health services. Please explain the logic of that one to me. It doesn’t matter if a child has a place to live or food to eat or is sick, as long as there is a classroom for that child to be in, that‘s all that matters. And you want teachers to perform well and be “effective”? You have to give them and the child the support that they need first to succeed.

Literacy Instruction passed although one woman said that there was concern by her teacher that this would become standardized curriculum with no room allowed for the teacher to do what they think would work best for their students. Her concern is about “curriculum alignment”. Teachers will have to go “by the book” based on “Common Core Standards”, leaving little to no room to apply what might work for their class or for an individual student. And why is following a pre-packaged curriculum so important? Because the test given has to match the curriculum, right? It all has to line up so that we can get our test scores. This all comes down to that test score, that number that will determine a teacher’s livelihood, whether a school is closed or half of the staff fired, whether a school keeps its’ principal or not, it all comes down to that.

After the last vote I saw where it was all going. Everyone was in step, well, almost everyone. They were in step with our national president who was in step with our benefactor, Bill Gates.

Now on to Olympia, notebooks in hand.

Dora

Update October 14, 2010

Someone sent me a link to this article in the Seattle Times,

National PTA gets $1 million from Gates Foundation

The $1M is going to North Carolina, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia.

Well there you go! And Washington State is doing it for free.

 

 

36 comments on “The Stepford Wives of Race to the Top: Our PTA

  1. seattleducation2010
    October 12, 2010

    And to keep the record straight, I never did run against Heidi Bennett. At the last minute I did decide to run for the Legislative VP seat because I was concerned with how much Ms. Bennett was advocating Race to the Top. There were certain things that needed to be confirmed by SCPTSA leadership before I could be placed on the ballot. Our school PTSA president couldn’t be reached in time so I sent an e-mail to the SCPTSA President the day of the vote telling her that I would withdraw because everything was not in place alleviating any last minute craziness and confusion.

    The SCPTSA President was gracious and understanding through the entire process.

    Dora

  2. seattleducation2010
    October 12, 2010

    I appreciate reading all of these comments and ironically have seen more discussion here than I did last Friday at the Legislative Assembly.

    I have also received e-mails over the last 24 hours in support of what I posted from other parents and others who participated at the assembly. From all of the responses, people seem to be split down the middle which is not what I saw at the Legislative Assembly.

    The important aspect of all of this is to stay focused on what ed reform means . It’s not some vague notion about change, it is very specific and the edicts of Race to the Top are harsh.

    What RTTT means is a focus on test taking. For us in Seattle that is the MAP test. Already students and teachers are complaining that
    1) There is no access to the libraries for one week to a month at a time because of the testing,
    2) that many of the questions are not developmentally appropriate for the age groups that are being tested. This could have to do with the fact that the MAP test will continue to ask the student questions until they repeatedly get the wrong answers. Apparently that means that they have reached their upper level of “knowledge”. This causes fatigue and frustration on the part of the student and a sense at the end of the test that they have failed in some way. No student leaves the test feeling like they “aced” it because you can’t.
    3) Why the focus on test taking? Because so much besides the child’s individual performance rides on it. Test scores are to be used to determine if a teacher gets a raise or is possibly let go. It would determine that if the school is in the lowest 5% district wide that 50% of the teachers by law are to be fired or the school closed and either way, the principal would be fired. All thanks to Bill 6696. And the emotional toll that it would take on the student who after a while understands the ramifications of the results of their test is something that I would not want my child to go through. This is completely unfair to our children and our teachers.
    4) And, according to Brad Bernatek ,who is responsible for the implementation of this test in the Seattle School District, the MAP test was not designed to be used as an evaluation tool for teacher performance. He told several of us that in a meeting that we had with him regarding the MAP test.

    The final aspect of this is charter schools. We don’t have charter schools in this state and for good reason, they don’t work and they take money away from the district. These days, private parties and franchises establish charter schools in other states as part of the turnaround model that is also part of Bill 6696. Most charter schools will not accept special ed students or any child that they don’t think will perform well on a test. The test scores determine whether these charter schools remain open or close according to state laws. If a student doesn’t perform well on their test, the charter school has no obligation to keep that student and will let them go.

    These CEO’s that head the charter schools make a lot of money. How? Because they hire cheap labor by contracting with Teach for America and getting recruits fresh out of college who don’t require very much pay and are not part of any union. Why do you think that there has been so much union bashing going on lately? Because charter schools do not hire union teachers. Think about it folks. Teachers are the greatest expense in terms of a school budget. The labor force is always the greatest cost. To make a profit, these charter schools need to keep their cost down. That’s how it’s done.

    And if you don’t think that charter schools are going to be pushed soon, check out the League of Education Voters’ speakers’ series here in Seattle. LEV is sponsored by Gates and Broad, both big proponents of charter schools. Last week there was Kevin Johnson telling the African American community that charter schools are the way to go and next week will be Richard Barth with KIPP charter schools. By the way, the leader with the notebook mentioned KIPP as a great example of a successful school in our “Education Session”. Before you take that hook, line and sinker, check out KIPP Schools in the right-hand column of this blog and decide for yourself.

    So there you have it. Teach for America, charter schools, low wages for teachers by busting the unions, charter schools brought into Seattle due to lack of school choice particularly in the minority communities because of the supe’s directive for “community schools” (The supe by the way is on the Broad Board of Directors) and charter schools as part of the school turnaround package. We have watched this happen in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. It almost happened in San Francisco but didn’t. They figured it out there and threw out the supe and most of the school board. It happened in Oakland but eventually they did the same thing there and threw out the supe and most of the school board.

    There is absolutely no reason why these failed ideas of ed reform need to happen here.

    We provide on the right hand side of this blog articles that describe the big picture. Please read a few of these articles and come to your own conclusions. You don’t need anyone making these vital decisions for you. It’s up to each of us to inform ourselves, discuss and debate and then make our own decisions.

    Dora

  3. Carmen
    October 12, 2010

    I feel the need to correct at least one factual error you made here. I attended the Legislative Assembly meeting. I am African-American. And there were *more* than two of us who represented Region 6. At least— there were when *I* was sitting in the General Assembly meeting.

    Also, I find it disheartening that you made your decision about Bill Gates, Sr.’s involvement in the assembly without even hearing him speak. IMO, it diminishes your argument. Something I learned from a very young age— if don’t participate, it’s hard to make an informed decision.

    As for the rest, while I had a remarkably different experience from you (most likely because I attended different education sessions than you), I don’t completely disagree with every opinion you have here. But I have to wonder if you approached anyone (I’m positive you didn’t approach me) to let them know you were dissatisfied with how things were going? How can you promote change when you don’t let your voice be heard? Why wait until the weekend is over to express your dissatisfaction? And what is the point in making personal attacks here? You could have easily made this entry without using names.

    Again, I’m not in complete disagreement, but I have to question your motives and your conclusions based on what I say above. I sincerely wish you had approached this differently.

  4. India Carlson
    October 12, 2010

    Dora
    thanks for going. I am a SPS parent and teacher. I am part of my school’s PTSA, and it has been very difficult to get any airtime with the membership. Now I understand why. As a parent and a teacher I have a deep interest in what happens in my children’s classrooms and my own. The current drive in education reform narrows opportunities for students to learn, increase the gap between socio-economic groups, and marginalizes groups such as ELL students. I can say this because it is what I am seeing every day.

    I want reform in the schools. It is why I changed careers at 38 to become a teacher. I want real life experiences for students to connect classroom learning to their own lives. I want rich, multi-level, student driven curriculum. I want my colleagues to have the time to do all of these things, and with the direction education is traveling these things will not happen. Pay is not what motivates me – good working conditions do. Do I see weak teachers who need to leave the profession. Yes, but not many, and I have worked enough jobs to know that their is dead weight in every profession. Do I want a mechanism for exiting teachers like that. Yes. Of course.

    I am happy to talk to parents about what I do and why. PTA is parents and teachers and we should be working together not slamming each other.

  5. Ramona Hattendorf
    October 12, 2010

    First, Dora spoke eloquently at the assembly and well-represented members who do not favor merit pay and who are concerned about high-stakes testing. She was not alone, but if you care about these issues, she could use more people showing up at meetings.

    Second, the issues debated extended beyond teacher effectiveness. Take literacy and addressing the instructional needs of kids who have learning disabilities, like dyslexia. That was placed No. 3 on the platform, behind math and science education (No. 2) and following up on education reforms. (No. 1)

    Now about those reforms we’re behind:
    -HB 2261 is about a new program for basic education.
    It’s about making sure our schools provide for what kids need: Increased instructional hours, the opportunity to meet college-entrance requirements; all day kindergarten; funding for highly capable programs; new transportation formula. It’s a significant law that remains unfunded. We want the state to pay for what kids need.
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2261

    -HB 2776 is about funding formulas, about coming up with a model that more accurately reflects what it takes to run a successful school.
    Incidentally this model is also supposed to make the process more transparent so people can participate better at both the state and local levels of budgeting. (A group in Seattle concerned with district budgeting decisions would find this model helpful.)

    This bill also sets up a technical work group; touches on transportation funding (state has underfunded that for years); and deals with K-3 class size, all-day kindergarten and maintenance, supplies and operating costs (also significantly underfunded by the state).
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2776&year=2010

    -SB 6696 is the “Race to the Top” legislation.
    It addresses school and district accountability, educator preparation, teacher and principal evaluations, academic standards and parent and community involvement in schools. (Yes, it has a provision for intervention in chronically underperforming schools. Schools get an audit, community and staff decide what action to take. One choice is school closure.)
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=6696&year=2010

    I would encourage anyone from Seattle to visit the Seattle Council PTSA website and the Washington State PTA website. http://www.seattlecouncilptsa.org, http://www.wastatepta.org. I would also encourage you to visit the governor’s education ombudsman’s website, http://www.governor.wa.gov/oeo/ (Full disclosure: I’m on the parent advisory committee for this office. Addie Simmons is a longtime PTA supporter and has served in many PTA leadership roles.)

    – Ramona Hattendorf, Seattle Council PTSA president

  6. Beth
    October 12, 2010

    Hello Dora and everyone — thanks for sharing your thoughts on the recently completed legislative assembly. Like Dora, this was also my first legislative assembly. I have been actively involved in the special education policy arena for nearly 10 years in many capacities, including as a special education attorney, policy advocate, speaker, and volunteer. I recently became involved in statewide PTSA when my school asked me to take on the job of legislative chair for our school PTSA. I also follow the education reform debates closely (in fact, that is why my school asked me to take on the job).
    Interestingly enough, Dora and I had remarkably different experiences at Legislative Assembly. Prior to arriving, I sent out the Legis Assembly survey via Survey Monkey to every family at my school (representing over 600 students) multiple times, with explanations about the signficance of it, as well as discussing the same at our PTSA meetings, providing hard copies to those who requested it, and posting it on our PTSA bulletin board in the main entry of our school. The statewide PTSA listserv was INCREDIBLY gracious about answering my questions during that process. And I had lots of them, large and small.
    I attended two different causcus sessions (Math/Science and Funding Education First) b/c those two issues were the ones families from my school expressed the most interest in.
    At both sessions the exchange was cordial and open to discussion. No views were dismissed out of hand. Opposing views were expressed eloquently. There were also caucus meetings held for the express purpose of organizing opposing viewpoints.
    At the general session, viewpoints were shared pro and con prior to voting.
    While Dora clearly has many disagreements with the outcome, I think it’s important to stress how transparent the process is/was. At ANYTIME in the process, from the proposal issue drafting that occurs at the local level before legis assembly, all the way up to the final voting day, the process is transparent. Questions are answered. The outcome may not be one that everyone agrees with, but voices are heard. Too bad the same cannot be said of the recent “no confidence” vote in Seattle School Chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson — for that vote, the Seattle Education Association closed its doors to the public. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012795082_seattleschools03m.html
    As I examine Dora’s criticisms, what seems to be happening is a conflating between notice/opportunity to be heard (of which there was ample supply, and certainly far more than in other components of the education system that have far greater implications for students, such as teacher contract negotiations) AND substantive disagreement over education reform. Yes, there is signficant disagreement over how to solve the problems that plague our education system. Stakes are high, how could they not heated discussions? It’s a debate we should all have, even if feathers are ruffled.
    But to accuse PTSA of being limited to the viewpoints of a few Stepford Wives misses the factual mark by (several) miles.
    I disagree with many positions taken by PTSA, but have never felt my viewpoint isn’t heard. When they take a position contrary to mine, I try to think of better ways to persuade. Calling them (or, I guess “us”?) Stepford Wives doesn’t really move the needle substantively.

  7. seattleducation2010
    October 12, 2010

    I didn’t mean to post anonymously before, so here’s my post again.
    — Sue Peters

    I too am a parent and member of the PTA and I too have been shocked and disgusted by the way the city and statewide PTA leaders claim to represent all of us. They don’t.

    We have seen firsthand here in Seattle how elected PTA “representatives” close out discussion of issues (for example, not notifying members of an important vote and meeting until the night before), or stand before our school board and speak in support of damaging “reforms” that we oppose, or send out mass emails to their parent list telling us how to vote on an issue — without soliciting anyone else’s input.

    Dora called it as she saw it and her track record on reporting and interpreting the ways, manipulations and players and enablers of ed reform is beyond reproach. This blog is a testament to that. Dora is a nationally recognized parental voice of reason in the wilderness of the corporate ed reform monologue.

    What’s more, what she observed at the meeting, and what we have seen here in Seattle, is not an isolated event. This is going on in other parts of the country – the co-opting of PTAs; PTAs who deign to speak for us all, but strangely only espouse one view: that of the current teacher-bashing ed reformers.

    At the very least, it displays a severe lack of independent thinking.

    Look, Stepfords, Johns and whoever else still want to beat the drum of corporate ed reform, the statistics are not with you. The facts are not with you. And parents do not support this form of abusive and punitive measures disguised as “reform.” Parents in Washington D.C.’s schools voted overwhelmingly against the mayor (Adrian Fenty) who brought them the arrogant and ignorant school chancellor Michelle Rhee (she too will likely be out of a job soon — though she’ll probably bring her machete-swinging magic to Sacramento next); recent Gallup Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose President Obama’s education policies.

    And common sense and human decency would inform any ethical person that scapegoating and publicly humiliating teachers, forcing a corporate mindset and business model on our kids and their schools, lashing kids and teachers to endless, mindless standardized testing will not result in richer, healthier, successful schools by any measure.

    These “reforms” DON’T WORK. How many more studies of “Performance/merit pay” by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives will it take for the reformistas to get a clue and realize they are pushing failed ideas on our kids? (See: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2010/09/teacher-performance-pay/) Just because Bill Gates is willing to throw millions of dollars at school districts to make them experiment with “merit pay” doesn’t mean this is a sound investment. Quite the contrary. Gates has a record of investing in education ideas that either don’t work, or he abandons.

    The most comprehensive study on charters, done by Stanford University’ CREDO, shows that 83 percent of privately run charters perform NO BETTER or PERFORM WORSE than traditional public schools.

    High stakes testing narrows curriculum and drains enrichment and true learning out of educational experience.

    Class size DOES matter.

    The most significant influence on a child’s educational experience is not the child’s teacher, but the parents and economic status of the child.

    The current ed reformers ideas are bankrupt, so why should any of us get behind them?

    Do the research, PTA leaders and members. Think for yourselves. As mentioned above, some of us parents here in Seattle have now spent over two years researching all of this, and our conclusions match those of nationally recognized education scholars like Diane Ravitch and Yong Zhao — not dilettante venture philanthro-reformites like Gates, Broad and the Waltons, whose ideas are being discredited over and over again by legitimate research.

    Dora did not attend the meeting in order to be frustrated. She went to participate in what she hoped would be a democratic discussion leading to sound and intelligent decisions. She certainly hoped for more and was greatly disappointed.

    As for the PTA Mom commenter who said about Heidi Bennett “…I will continue to follow her as she has not lead us a stray!” you make Dora’s point perfectly. Such blind-faith trust and following so-called leaders is dangerous and lazy. Do your own research. Think for yourself. As for Heidi’s reelection, [CORRECTION]=> owing to a technicality, Dora decided not to run for her seat.

    Unfortunately, a disregard for democracy and open debate is a common thread among the current crop of ed reformers. What are they afraid of?

    — sue p.

  8. Audrey Bennett
    October 12, 2010

    Hi, Dora – thanks for sharing your feedback about the WSPTA Leg Assembly here on your blog and with our attendees. It’s always good to hear multiple viewpoints.

    I share your concern about the lack of teachers speaking up in PTA. I strongly believe we need more teacher members in our association, not just because we need the membership numbers, but because we need the teacher voices. It would be extremely helpful to hear the professional viewpoint on all issues, not just the one you have identified.

    Our Legislative Issues process is purely member driven. Members submit the issues and then we learn about them and vote on them at our Assembly. We know it is not a perfect process – because we know the delegates represent a fraction of our membership – but we prefer it to one where an even smaller group of leaders tells the members which issues to support.

    (This year we established an Outreach Director on our State Board. We agree with you that we need to do more to ensure that our membership matches student demographics.)

    Our Legislative Survey is distributed every September by the Leg Chairs in each PTA. I am not surprised that you know of parents who have never seen it. Not every PTA is able to find a leg chair, and those who do find leg chairs sometimes don’t have well developed communication systems that allow for 100% distribution of the surveys. I agree with you that better distribution of this survey is important for our association. I sincerely hope you’ll be watching for it and helping us distribute it next year.

    Of course, a significant and ongoing dilemma is that our Legislative Assembly often takes place on Friday and Saturday. We do this to save money because we don’t have very much of it. We wonder if attendance would be higher if it took place on Saturday and Sunday, but scheduling it that way would be an extremely costly experiment.

    My own group of PTA friends is extremely supportive of teachers. (I am certificated myself.) The WSPTA works shoulder to shoulder with the WEA in Olympia. I believe we agree in more places than we disagree. But it’s clear to me we all need to spend more time together. I hope you will join us again. We need your voice.

    Audrey

  9. Rosie
    October 12, 2010

    I’m sure you could add to your lines and arrows charts and connect every single person in the room who spoke in favor of the proposal with the Gates or Broad Foundation. It has to be that way, because you’ve been telling us that for a long time. It’s simply not conceivable that smart, thoughtful people might have been led by their own research and reading to a conclusion different than the one you have reaches. It is far more logical to believe that they have all been bought off in some way, or are just plain old fashioned stupid.

  10. Patrick Manley
    October 12, 2010

    “I believe in what we are doing with 2261 and the follow up, and I believe it is in the best interest of our children and frankly, the teachers.”

    Really John? Have you followed the national Education Reform movement as closely as Dora and others have done for the past 2.5 years? If you believe in 2261, then do you also believe in what has happened, and is happening in New York, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and L.A., and want it here for Seattle too? Inflated claims about test score gains, which turn out to be false, ultimately doing more harm than good? Greater than 50% attrition rates at Charters? Do you support the revolving door teaching corps offered by TFA? How does that give us a better teaching corps? Do you support temporary infusions of cash from billionaires, in exchange for the surrender of control and schools converting into testing factories at the expense of actual intellectual growth and the acquisition of independent learning skills? Need Evidence this is happening? See MAP testing.

    2261 was a Trojan horse for the Ed Reform Industry. When the reformers agenda ultimately crashes, which it already is, despite the acutely slanted, manipulative and misleading “W.F. Superman” and the media’s full court press, and/or the billionaire philanthropists pull their funding when parents push back – watch D.C. closely – then how expensive will the cleanup of the landscape be?

    Sure, there are bad teachers out there, as there are bad employees in every field. How would you like it if any organization or corporation you belonged to continually treated you as “just as bad as the worst apple in the barrel,” because you belonged to the same department/location/union/whatever?

    Frankly, I’m appalled at the behavior of the local PTSA and the statewide PTA. How many of any of them have ever walked ten feet in a teacher’s shoes, but will be quick to complain about their “summer’s off” or “sick days”? Judge not, lest ye be judged, right Christian brothers and sisters? And both sides sign that labor agreement, so, DUH, if you don’t like the terms, take your complaints to the administration and board.

    Where, from the PTA folks, is the support and gratitude for the awesome performance of 95% or better of our current union teaching corps? Huh? Where is it? Especially in this current, teacher-bashing environment? Non-existent. I’ve watched my own gullible PTA’s bite and swallow this Gates driven agenda myself, and it they do it without any critical thinking whatsoever, nor asking themselves for one second where it might lead. Invariably many are loyal to Microsoft, having worked there or benefited from people who do, so objectivity is hard to find. Not that it matters to anyone. But who really believes Microsoft’s conduct in the marketplace over the last three decades is a model we should consider imposing on our schools? Competition between our teachers for merit pay? Working under the threat of non-union TFA youngsters taking away your livelihood because you have a family and they don’t? Employing strike & union-breaking (scab) labor used to be frowned upon, and for good reason. It didn’t help the strike breakers either. Grapes of Wrath, anyone? And on that note, how come all the unionized states have the highest performing students and the non-union states have the lowest? If unions are so inherently evil and the cause of so many problems, why did the automaker Saturn fail? Sorry Kool-Aid drinkers! You need to find another boogeyman. That dog doesn’t hunt.

    And why assume corporate America cares so much about our kids, versus their own bottom line for the future? Any pragmatic person should expect that someday, like Boeing, Microsoft too will off-shore and relocate most of the highly paid jobs they have in this region today, because, as they’ll cry, “we have to do it to stay competitive.”

    All we need to ensure more good teachers – like the great ones we have now – is parental involvement and support, strong and competent principals, and an administration that treats the current student population in the schools today, as well as they do their billionaire benefactors. Would Microsoft tolerate the conditions in the overcrowded schools? Do you support the current administration’s budgeting skills? Do you want more of it? Then support the reformers, because that’s what you’ll get. To date their performance has been scandalous.

    Go ahead, PTAs: Be sunshine patriots when it’s the latest fad, but where will you be when the real work needs to be done? Helping out at your schools, or sucking up to Gates’s latest digital dream for changing the world of education as we know it, destroying collaboration and good faith all along the way by maligning and scapegoating teachers, which is oh so convenient. And why can’t the teachers reply and fight back? Gee, maybe its hard for them to do when working 70 and 80 hour work weeks, like all my kids teachers do.

    Nice gratitude Washington PTA. Classy. Real classy.

  11. Sahila ChangeBringer
    October 12, 2010

    Well, I’ve watched Heidi in action at SPS Board meetings, and she does a terrible job, including going to the lengths of outright lying about what the membership wants/doesnt want.

    Twice now I have heard her say that all the membership has been surveyed and this (whatever stance she is pushing) is their collective point of view, when I know members who were never asked for their opinion, and whose views certainly dont match the position she is espousing supposedly on their behalf …

    And she has been one or the main cheerleaders for the deformist agenda in this city…

    And this “teachers are bad” approach is unfair and a misrepresentation of reality, and it drives an unnecessary wedge between parents and teachers, playing right into the union busting, teacher demonising deformist agenda…

    I too have been looking for/working to create another organisation to represent parent views, because I think the current deformist stance of the PTA is not in the best interests of children…

  12. PTA Mom
    October 12, 2010

    Stepford wives,
    Having this name I think stands alone for cookie cutter REPORTING as it did in the movie. I must have also been not at the same confrence. As the RULES are clearly stated in the GUIDE given in your registration packet and also clearly stated By our Wonderful President Mr Scott Allen.
    I think that your Beef Dora is with Heidi Bennett and should stay there. You lost to her! While Sometimes in life we loose its because the VOTING population Knows where the right is and the left is. She was Voted in and there is obviously a reason why YOU were not. Leave her alone she does her job and a darn good one at that! I have learn so much from this woman its amazing and I will continue to follow her as she has not lead us a stray!

  13. Chris
    October 12, 2010

    Jenny Forbes said:
    “The point of the education session is to explain what the issue is about, not to debate it’s merits.” That puts you in complete agreement with Dora, as far as I can see. The difference is she values debate and you do not. The PTA needs to engage in authentic debate if they are going to continue to present themselves as representatives of the parent community. I myself am looking for other parent organizations because of what the PTA supports and their unwillingness to budge. Anyone with me? Try Parents Across America-Seattle.

    • Brooke
      October 12, 2010

      From what I understand the Education Sessions are meant to give the issue submitter and opportunity to explain why they felt this issue was/is important and share background information, research or other information they think the voters should have, and for members to ask questions. Later after learning more about the issue you can attend a caucus session that is either for or against any issue, and finally before the issue is voted on time is allowed for debate. The issue guide and resources are online on the PTA web site in late August and a survey is sent out to all local units, this is done so that voters can do their due diligence regarding issues before they arrive and hopefully arrive at the convention with some basic knowledge of the issues.

      I don’t mean to offend you in any way Dora, in fact I am glad you wrote this post and shared it with us, I just wanted to let you know my impression of your article. From my perspective it does sound like you had your mind made up about how things would go before you arrived, its very likely that you weren’t the only one. But let me ask how are we going to open up the minds of others if our minds are closed.

      It seems when it comes to the topic of Ed Reform over half of our time is spent either deflecting the blame or blaming others. Often I want to scream “Guess what everyone it isn’t always about you!”

      It is shocking how defensive these conversations can become, I am shocked at how mad we get at each other and our apathy at the real life students who are falling through the cracks on a daily basis. While we approach the microphone to bicker a generation of children is being left behind. We easily conger up large amounts of emotion to attack and defend while little progress is being made for kids TODAY!

      Look see here I am joining the fray, I suppose it is just that easy to loose focus ~ I think I will go now and see if I can volunteer in the classroom I am sure if I hurry I can actually help a student today.

  14. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    KJ,

    I am glad that you were able to be there as I was.

    If you believe that you were able to understand all sides of each issue, that you understood what the ramifications were of high stakes testing see: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/8/29/019/53210 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqTJvpfv6J4&feature=related, teaching to a test, See: Open Letter to Arne Duncan, the privatization of a public trust by way of charter schools, see: Arne Duncan’s Brand of Equality, eliminating protections granted by most citizens in this country by way of union membership, the ramification of closing schools in your community or firing half of a teaching staff that is by law per Bill 6696, see: “Central Falls Teachers Fired! – Joann Boss Speaks Out” , firing a principal no matter how good they were because test scores did not meet an established standard, then fine.

    If you are not clear on what that means, then it will be your responsibility to understand what that means for all of our children.

    Dora

  15. KJ
    October 11, 2010

    I am a single parent of three children. I have been unemployed for 17 months, but I have a vested interest in my childrens education and a vested interest in the PTA…so Yes , I was there from 745 am to 1030 pm on Friday drove home an hour and was back bright and early the next day at 8 am until 345 pm with another hour drive home. I had to get child care and I paid for the assembly registration and parking and gas, etc. on my own dime. I spoke with several other parents who are in similar situations (ie. single parent, low income, no job, no childcare, etc.) However, they and I were there as “advocates” for what is best for our children, as a elected voice for our local unit and the children and educational needs of the children in our local units and for ALL children in Wa State.

  16. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    First, I want to say that I appreciate the fact that everyone, from what I perceive, have used their real names. That seems to make the conversation more reasonable and civil.

    Secondly, I would say that before the PTA goes to Olympia or the “policy makers” with this pre-determined agenda, that we really do need to reflect and discuss what would work best for our children and our communities.

    Dora

  17. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    John Stokes,

    Yes, I do believe that discussion is in order, but it should have happened during the Legislative Session and it did not.

    If you would actually respond to what I said in my post, I would appreciate it starting with the referendum of Race to the Top.

    Let’s talk specifics, like high stakes testing, the pressure put on students to perform on one test that determines the future of a teacher, a school or a community.

    Do we want that kind of pressure placed on our children?

    And what about charter school schools with their checkered history so far. Is that what you want in this state?

    Do you want college recruits with five weeks of “training” teaching your children?

    Do you honestly think that additional education does not complement the knowledge of a teacher?

    And who am I? I am a parent who is as concerned, as anyone else would be, about my child’s education. It is that simple.

    Status quo? I love that. That’s the term that’s used now for anyone who has an issue with RTTT. If you knew me you would know that I am not the poster child for the status quo. My daughter attends an alternative school in Seattle that is outstanding but it would not fit within your idea of how a child should be taught. Not if you believe that RTTT is the answer.

    I know what debate is. I know what an exchange of ideas is. The legislative session that I attended was neither. It was all pre-determined. I went in thinking that I would have a voice but that was not possible.

    If that is the way it has been for all these years, then I think that it is time for a major overhaul. I know what the democratic process is. I know what it is like to caucus. What I experienced last Friday was none of that.

    Have you actually tried to have a conversation with teachers on a formal level?

    If you knew me you would know that I am not the angry type of person, far from it. I am actually a reasonable, most folks call me calm and understated, although curious person who wants to understand what is going on and takes time to view all sides of an issue.

    I always enjoy discussion over a cup of coffee.

    Name the time and the place and I will be there.

    Dora

  18. FOIA Gras
    October 11, 2010

    Dora, thank you for your Voice In The Wilderness take on Legislative Assembly, which I also attended. I share your concerns about RTTT-as-gospel as well as some of the “change everything” mantra that has been readily accepted by a critical mass of PTA active members. Where NCLB was a vehicle for diverting public education funding into private hands through the high stakes testing industry RTTT does its damage by luring states into a whipsawing match at a time when all are starved for resources during this persistent down economy.

  19. John Stokes
    October 11, 2010

    Much of what is being offered here as critical commentary of the multiple decades old WSPTA Legislative Assembly is simply loaded jargon and mindless polemics, along with a few “civilized” comments such as “Crappy deformist puppets…” which is too bad for there are some real issues being discussed here and they deserve more than a review that starts with a demeaning and derogarory labeling of all PTA women.

    There is so much invective and gross misunderstanding of what transpired and the issues themselves that it is hard to respond in short piece. Dora (who?) seemed to have come with a chip on her shoulder and left with a dark heart toward PTA, parents and all the people who are genuinely trying to make better sense of our education system. I do not agree with all of the reform efforts, I think they do not go far enough in opening up the school systems to real innovation and more differential learning so that truly all children can learn and succeed at the top of their potential. The problem in defending the status quo, and that is what Dora and Change Breaker and others are simply doing, is that it makes you fussy and unable to reach out and learn and grow along with the rest of us.

    I think once again Dora heard what she wanted to hear, from someone telling her that the first time for debate was in the evening session, not in the history of the WSPTA Legislative Assembly. Though far from perfect, it has been the only truly grasroots process for determining a state wide organizations legislative agenda for dozens of years, and there always has been debate like the one that transpired Friday night. I know, I have been there since around 1993, and we certainly had a spiritied debate last year too. The issues are not, I repeat, not, formulated by the state organization , unlike with WEA and WSSDA, and the delegates from the local units and councils come to the assembly to vote on their top issues. They are submitted by individuals and local units, and then vetted by the Legislative Committee and the state Board for adherance to general guidelines, but without altering the meaning of the issues, and then reviewed by the parents at the local units. Others here have given a good summary of the actual process, unlike the posting by Dora. I personally wrote the implementation of education reform issue and the one on math and science, and it was not dictated by Mr. Allen or anyone else in WSPTA. I believe in what we are doing with 2261 and the follow up, and I believe it is in the best interest of our children and frankly, the teachers.

    I find it interesting that some teachers resist any efforts to evaluate them for effectiveness, but then hide behind the shield of “we know what’s best” when they are questioned. If teachers, like any other professional with a state license and a significant public responsibility, would open up, work with us, and embrace a system that would allow growth and instill confidence in them by the public and specifically their customers, the parents whose children we bring to them for services, then maybe we could get over these hissy fits and move toward a higher standard of education where ALL children learn at a high level.

    The WEA attack on the reform bills two years ago was a misguided and ultimately selfish attempt to control the debate and formulation of education reform, and thank goodness it did not succeed.

    My final question to you is how many children will we as the community at large, and you as teachers, let fall off the sides and be lost before we act and work together as adults and follow the work that is being done at the state level, with WEA participation, to bring about a truly better system for supporting and challenging teachers to be their best, and as a side benefit raise their professional level and pay. Instead of firing off an angry and grossly misleading post, how about sitting down with a bunch of us PTA “types” and having a little peaceful and positive dialog on how we get to a better future working together? Try it, you might like it.

  20. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    Jenny,

    Take a look over to your right to see how Bill Gates and others have fashioned the debate on education. It’s not a Seattle issue or a Washington state issue. A few very wealthy individuals have decided what is best for our children without the benefit of a background in education or any understanding of our public school system.

    In terms of “debate” or addressing any other side of any issue, there has been none within the PTA. I have received all of the e-mails as everyone else has from PTA Central. It has been one-sided without any information to come to an informed decision.

    Again, look at the right hand side of this page and you will see that there is a debate going on nationally that is multifaceted.

    There is no silver bullet. It will take far more discussion and introspection to come up with what is right for us now with our children.

    Dora

  21. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    Stepford Wife,

    Are parents frustrated about one thing or another? Yes, maybe. Are they all frustrated because of a teacher? Possibly. But to assume that all parents are frustrated about teachers is assuming way too much.

    That sort of rhetoric is exactly an attempt to pose this discussion in a way that is slanted towards the teachers. It’s based on a false assumption.

    If you really want something or someone to blame, consider the fact that education in this country has not been funded properly for 40 years or so. See: “Where Do We Go From Here?”, https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/where-do-we-go-from-here-2/.

    About “exceptional teachers”, how do you measure that? At our school we lost an “exceptional teacher”. He was an art teacher, a graffiti artist. He connected with the students and brought in some of the best graffiti artists in the city to participate in a school festival.

    Exactly where in your system of testing and curriculum alignment would he be evaluated and found to be exceptional?

    What you are proposing is a limited method of “measuring” the success of a teacher.

    Your comment about sick leave or a teacher taking an extended weekend is right out of the NCTQ playbook. I have not heard of a parent say that they noticed that a teacher took off a Friday or a Monday on a regular basis. Teachers get sick and actually get sick more than we do because of their exposure, particularly in elementary school, to colds and all other childhood diseases. That is a weak argument for what you are suggesting.

    There are very strict Federal guidelines in place now in terms of how you can fire anyone unless you come under the category of “fire at will”. Working in the corporate world for almost 20 years, I understand how it works. You have to have clear reasons to fire an employee and they have to be documented. Under the teachers’ contract for Seattle, a teacher has an opportunity to rectify the situation through one-on-one counseling. This is their profession. As an architect, I would want the same protections and fortunately I have those protections. That is not because I belong to a union, it’s because I live in the United States.

    Just because there might be a teacher who does not live up to a parent’s or school’s expectations doesn’t mean that you then institute draconian measures statewide such as high stakes testing, closing schools, firing half the staff and firing the principal.

    Unions were developed over time in our history as a way to protect workers. All you have to do is look back into our US history before we had unions to see how individuals were used without any protection. It was a brutal time. Seniority protects teachers from being fired if they disagree with how a class should be taught or if they question a principal about technique.

    Think about it. Think about how little teachers are paid in this country compared to professional athletes, doctors, lawyers, or any other professional. Do you honestly think that they are in it for the money or the benefits? They do what they do because it is their passion, because education is their passion.

    Of course not everyone is perfect. Not everyone in any profession is perfect. Is that a good reason to vilify most teachers?

    And it also seems that if you want to work this out realistically, the conversation would begin between teachers and parents. Why don’t we try that first before marching to Olympia and demanding legislation that is of no benefit to the students, the teachers or the communities?

    I would suggest that your anger be aimed at decisions that have been made over the last 40 years or so about corporations and wealthy individuals who have not paid taxes to support education before getting angry at me or teachers. And for that, I would start with Bill Gates, Eli Broad and others who have paid very little back into this country and yet have taken so much.

  22. Jenny Forbes
    October 11, 2010

    Dora, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I was in the education session that you were in and I thought they addressed your issue. The point of the education session is to explain what the issue is about, not to debate it’s merits. Also, there are many teachers who do attend Legislative Assembly. But the point of a delegate isn’t just to vote how they personally feel, but to vote how their local unit has asked them to vote, or at least take the unit’s views into account. And as far as the debate goes, it sounds like you just didn’t do your homework. The program clearly explained how the debate would work, and so did Scott Allen. Your assertions about the Gates Foundation are just ridiculous.

  23. Sahila ChangeBringer
    October 11, 2010

    Wow Dora… you hit a nerve… the PTA defenders out in a swarm… I just wish the PTA would stop claiming its THE authoritative voice for public school parents, cos it certainly is not…

    And here in Seattle, it stands there in public and claims its surveyed its membership and the membership thinks this and says that, when most of the time a position statement comes out of the mouths of its leadership without any reference at all, ever, to the membership prior…

    Crappy deformist puppets…

  24. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    Michelle,

    The person in one of our “Education Sessions” who was for some reason monitoring the session, told me that if there were additional minutes left, that we would be able to use them. I asked that question specifically.

    To be fair, this person said that this was the first time that “debate” was to be allowed so I can give her some slack for not knowing.

    Secondly, so far everyone who comments on this post is civil and I will ask you to be the same. I will not delete this post because I want, unlike the PTA, to have opposing viewpoints. Please understand for future reference that the language that you used in your post is unacceptable on this blog.

    I stand corrected then. 12 African Americans. That makes 5% of the audience African-American. That’s still not representative of the population in Washington. Did you also count how many Latino’s participated or Asians? If you know, please share that information also.

    And to your point of childcare. Some parents, particularly single mothers such as myself, or working families, would not be able to attend. When you are on a non-existent budget, going to a PTA meeting is not a priority unfortunately. Particularly in this financial situation that we find ourselves in, we must be sensitive to that.

    Any parent can be part of the PTA or at least that was my understanding. Has it come down to if you are of a certain belief, you can participate, if you don’t agree, don’t bother. I don’t think that’s what the founding members of this organization had in mind.

    Dora

  25. Stepford Wife
    October 11, 2010

    Parents are frustrated. They see a system where the teachers are rewarded for warming a seat, not for being an effective teacher. They see good new teachers, with lots of energy and ideas, be the first cut in a downturn. They see the best and brightest go elsewhere, since there is no recognition in and being exceptional teacher.

    Parents see teachers who take sick leave when they don’t feel like showing up to work, or want to extend a weekend. They see teachers who are ineffective or reprimanded moved to another school, like a merry-go-round, rather than being fired for being a bad teacher. The union is too strong, and the administration is too cozy with the process. After all, this is where they came from. Administrators move up to management because they want more money, not because they are good managers.

    Parents see good teachers. They see inspirational teachers. They just get frustrated that they are overshadowed by the ones who can ruin a school year for a student, setting education back a year or two. And, they are tired of teachers not really caring, who elect the same strident union leadership. The priority of the union is pay and benefits, and protecting those who no longer bring value to their job, as it should be, I guess. That’s what unions are for.

    Too bad teachers don’t have the self-respect to view themselves as professionals, who aren’t afraid to stand on their own abilities, but instead hide behind seniority and meaningless degrees.

    So go ahead and blame your woes on Gates and money. It is easier than looking at the problem, and it is easier to hold the parents in contempt. Who wants to admit a problem, when you can blame everyone else in the room?

    Nice little echo chamber you have here.

  26. Michelle
    October 11, 2010

    Wow! I’m trying to figure out if we were at the same confrence! I was at the against mic alot and am having a hard time sallow the load of crap you are dishing! First of all you get 2 minutes at the mic to make it fair for everyone, do I think they should have gone back and forth yes but it was explained to everyone that you speak once for two minutes and then if there are others to speak you must wait, and no person can speak more the twice and no topic can go longer than 10 minutes with out a motion! Were did you get that the Gates family had their hand in everything! Sr. spoke and left! As for the number of African Americans in the room there was 12 I can tell you that because we also counted the number of men and woman for an article in our newsletter! This confrence was open to all, my husband took the day off and we found child care for our two children so that we could both attend! I heard someone say outside the ballroom that PTA was full of a bunch of white people and the next comment was that maybe some of this womans friends should get off their rumps and join! I thought to myself wow! My final question or comment is why are you apart of the PTA? You don’t seem to believe in their platform!

  27. seattleducation2010
    October 11, 2010

    Kristin,

    I do believe that the PTA does need to go onto the Lines of Influence chart with the arrow directly from Gates with a dollar sign.

    Dora

  28. kristinking
    October 11, 2010

    Dora,

    Thank you for spending all day on this, and reporting back! I’ve attended two PTA meetings at my school, and I’ve seen Heidi Bennett speak, so what you report is no surprise. What I’d like to know is: who is the PTA leadership? Maybe the PTA needs to be in a “Lines of Influence” chart.

  29. Susan Ohanian
    October 11, 2010

    Dora,
    You have taken on a righteous cause. I thank you for your energy and information. Bill Gates has proven that money talks but I like to believe that voices like yours talk louder.

  30. Arthur Getzel
    October 10, 2010

    Only goes to prove that this fake reform is not a democratic movement, but being orchestrated from above. I think, in the end, teachers will have to go to the courts over this issue and will probably have to strike. We can never accept any contract that does away with seniority and tenure. Teachers must come to such meetings in droves and we may have to force our way to the podium to be heard.

  31. Anastasia Samuelsen
    October 10, 2010

    Thank you for this informative post. I am a Wash. state certified teacher, a parent of a Seattle Public Schools student and I have a MEd. I worked so hard for these things! And my training, without question, makes me a better teacher. Thank you for the time and effort you have put toward being a legislative chair–I hope to join you. You are right to question where the teachers were at a PTA gathering. I wish I had been there, and I will be at the ‘next thing’ to support your positions and share my own.

  32. seattleducation2010
    October 10, 2010

    After seeing what’s happening in terms of the co-opting of the PTA, I think that the more voices, the better.

    Dora

  33. Kristina
    October 10, 2010

    Barf. And to think I was in professional development all day. I haven’t joined my school’s PTA yet. Now I wonder if I should.

  34. George Batten
    October 10, 2010

    Dora, A great post as always. I have been to meetings with the same bash the teachers approach. When are teachers going to stand up and start kicking up some dust? Teachers are not the problem. Please go to my blog for new insights about what the real problems are and how to solve these problems. (georgebatten.wordpress.com)

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