From the WSSDA Legislative Update

  • SSB 5328 would create a pilot program school A-F grading system for the 2013-14 school year, with full implementation in the 2014-15 school year. The bill would require the accountability index being developed by OSPI and the State Board of Education (SBE) to use A-F grades, give added weight to student achievement in reading and graduation rates of all eligible “at risk” students. (At risk is defined as students scoring at level 1 or level 2 on the 8th grade reading and math MSPs).
    • The bill also would require OSPI to contract with an organization that “conducts and disseminates action research, partners with state and local agencies and organizations, and provided data services and support for school and district improvement planning to conduct an independent evaluation of the school-grading pilot program.”
    • When asked in committee which organization the bill was referring to, Chair Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said he had one in mind but couldn’t remember the name.
    • The bill was sent to Rules; Democrats moved to have the bill directed to the budget committee, but the motion was not adopted.

Around the country, grading schools based on test scores is the final step taken before neighborhood schools are closed and either left abandoned with students scattered to all four corners of a district or converted into charter schools. Needless to say, these schools are in the neighborhoods that are made up mostly of minority families.

Because of the toll this practice has taken on communities around the country, parents, teachers and students converged on Washington, D.C. last month in their Journey for Justice to let Arne Duncan and President Obama know that this is not working and in fact is decimating neighborhoods and even cities.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm-bo is proposing closing an additional 100 public schools.

From Chicago Middle-School Students Berate Officials: ‘Don’t Close Our Schools!’

At a heated meeting in Chicago, students, teachers and parents from Cooper elementary demand their school stay open. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)
At a heated meeting in Chicago, students, teachers and parents from Cooper elementary demand their school stay open. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

Catalyst revealed that the school closings hearings were funded, to the tune of $478,000, by a major proponent of charter schools–and a major opponent of unions: the Walton Family Foundation, affiliated with Wal-Mart. The foundation’s largest grant for charter schools is going to Chicago. Catalyst reporter Sarah Karp also revealed that the consulting firm retained by the city to provide advice on the closings meetings, the Civic Consulting Alliance, received a separate $220,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation and is housed in the same offices as a pro-charter organization, New Schools for Chicago.

Chicago Public Schools  CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is in the process of recruiting a retired Marine with experience negotiating prisoner exchanges in Kosovo to help students transition safely to their new schools. The symbolism was not lost on some parents and teachers, who have said students and families face extreme stress and danger when switching schools.

To read this article in full, go to In These Times.

This bill, led by Republican State Senator Litzow, is right out of the privatizers playbook and needs to be stopped. It’s senseless and costly in many ways.

Please contact your legislators and let them know.

Better yet, if you have Monday off, take your children with you to Olympia and let them know in person what you think. Both the House and the Senate will be in session.

For more on grading and closing schools, see:

Diane Ravitch’s blog: NYC’s Pointless School Grades

Chicago School Closings Found to Yield Few Gains

Drastic School Turnaround Strategies Are Risky

Firing Everyone, Even the Lunch Ladies, to Fix Failing Schools

Dora Taylor

POST SCRIPT: On a personal note, how do you think a child would feel thinking that their school is “failing”? Particularly if their circumstances are difficult to begin with?