Monday, September 29, 2008

What if.....? Superintendent of Public Instruction

What if.....? Superintendent of Public Instruction Edition (From: I think a Thought)

It's an idea that I've been playing with for a bit now, and a conversation I had at lunch today helped to spur it along even farther: what would the possible governor/SPI matchups mean for the future of education in Washington State ?

There's a great post up at the News Tribune right now comparing the differences between Terry Bergeson and Randy Dorn based on a debate that happened today. You can get the education platforms for Rossi and Gregoire off of their respective websites.
(An aside: Rossi's is much more fully developed. C'mon, Chris)

So let's dream about the future, shall we?

Scenario 1: The incumbents both win. What changes? Very little. The work of the Basic Education Finance Task Force is finished and promptly ignored, much like Washington Learns. Some version of the WASL remains in place, because there's no way in hell that Terry can back away from that test now. The biggest name in education in Washington State turns out not to be either Gregoire or Bergeson, but rather Rep. Dave Quall and Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, because the legislature has already shown an alarming disregard for our Superintendent and I see no reason why that would change. In that environment your committee heads become that much more important. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Results: A WASL, but a different WASL. We keep on keepin' on.

Scenario 2: Same Governor, New OSPI. Fun one to consider. Gregoire has come out in support of the WASL in past years, though that support has become noticably more tepid (especially towards math) as the test becomes a bigger and bigger target for the public. Randy Dorn has come out pretty strongly against the WASL and for ditching the entire system:
For over a decade, OSPI has clung to the test it created--the WASL--which is currently a bureaucratic, exorbitant waste of taxpayer dollars providing no useful information to teachers, students or parents. I will overhaul the assessment system to make it cost effective, less wasteful of precious class time, and capable of providing timely results that aid effective instruction and provide a national comparison of our students' performance. The new system will focus first on improving student learning and the money saved will be put back into the classrooms where it belongs.
Remember that piece about saving money, because it's a Dino plank as well.
A Dorn administration would give Gregoire cover. Don't like the system? Give our new OSPI time to fix it. Hate the WASL? Randy's working on that, too. Randy has some other views (notably merit pay) that would put him at odds with teachers, and it could create an odd dichotomy between the Governor, the WEA, and the OSPI.
In short: the pace of change slows as Dorn tries to shape OSPI in his own image. Governor Gregoire gets more cover. Eventually a new testing system has a chance to grow out of the relationship, but not immediately.

Scenario 3: New Governor, Same OSPI. Pick one to be Felix and the other to be Oscar:
Bergeson: "We've changed the culture of learning in our state and we're on a journey that's not over," she said. "It's well worth the time it's taken to do it." (1)
The first step in improving our education system is to replace the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) with a new test that has clear standards and a proven track record of success. (2)
I have a very, very hard time seeing how the two of them could work together. Bergeson has been pounding the podium for more school funding; Dino refuses to raise taxes. Bergeson would accept changing the periphery of the test; Dino proposes throwing the whole thing out entirely. In a Rossi administration you'd suppose that many of the categorical programs that contribute to the bloat of OSPI could be at risk, and that's not change Terry can believe in.
Rossi points out correctly that ditching the WASL could have the potential to save tens of millions of dollars, money which could be re-invested into the system, but he has his own designs on that money that don't match up with Terry's. Further, if you believe that Dino's transportation plan would siphon money out of the general fund and hurt education spending by making the pie smaller, then Terry's slice also gets smaller by default.
Results: dysfunction junction.

Scenario 4: New OSPI, New Governor. The hardest to predict. Randy and Dino seem to be the most compatible when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of how to change the testing system. Randy's made some noise about merit pay, which dovetails nicely with Dino.
With a $2.7 billion dollar deficit revenue shortfall staring us in the face, though, ideas are going to be hard to fund. Would this dynamic duo be able to get anything accomplished?
Results: Division of Yalta .
It's going to be an interesting November.
Crossposted from I Thought a Think.


Anonymous said...

Dem plans for slickening greasy axles. Aside from the fact we are entering a BIG recession.

Democrats ought not to try and reform the Republican's much maligned cart with square wheels. Merit pay may add lubrication, but it will fail to move the OSPI manure cart which presently has no driver, nor reason for one.

Meanwhile, school boards sit and wait for the stars to realign. They might have to wait until Halley's reappears. Carkhuff's manifesto and McCune's lets light up kids plan are two of the biggest policy failures to hit any state in the history of American politics.

Let's hope these fools decide to retire to another planet.

dan dempsey said...

What an incredible disappearance of Academic content over the last decade+.

So it appears that for the most part .."It is all about process" ... no wonder so few kids know much content. As a friend of mine asked: "So what is it they do in school for 180 days with the great lack of emphasis on content?
900+ hours of ??????

Anonymous said...

Madeline Hunter is rolling over in her grave about the lack of time on task.

dan dempsey said...

Instructional Theory into Practice.

ITIP ... RIP ... unfortuately

I was told in Seattle we don't Stand and Deliver .......

becuase it is far better to have the children work in groups and problem solve and develop solutions...

So much for that idea of standing on the shoulders of giants ...

Seems we don't even know who the giants were or are.