Friday, June 19, 2009

My Best School Board Testimony

Instead of joining the Toastmasters I've spent the last two and a half years writing and giving testimony at the Seattle School Board meetings. Although whether this has accomplished anything is unknown as the a majority of the board always rubber stamps the superintendent's proposals no matter how flawed. One thing is certain: I've improved writing a three minute speech and delivering it.

In part two of three for 6-17-2009:

You will need to use the slider by clicking just above the arrow head.
Move the slider to minute 101:30 and get ready for a three minute blasting.

Here is the text:

This evening you are asked to approve spending around $800,000 for legal fees. Let’s investigate why?

Recently Jennifer Aspeland eloquently testified the SPS is pursuing a legal position at great expense, which common sense says is indefensible. The district’s response to the Plaintiff in regard to Nathan Hale’s mold not only lacks common sense it lacks common decency. Who is accountable for this decision?

This is not an isolated incident there is a pattern.

$800,000 bought Seattle the knowledge that a racial tiebreaker is a legally bankrupt idea. This should have been obvious to anyone passing a high school civics class. Who is accountable for this decision?

The district ceased using race as a tiebreaker as soon as the case was filed. Instead of saying “We got that wrong and corrected it.” the district put the appropriate correction in place, but pushed “the wrong” indefensible position. Over one million dollars in combined legal expenditures achieved absolutely nothing.

The message from such actions is clear: the Seattle leadership does what they wish to do without regard for board policy, common sense, common decency, or the law.

Legal action is the only way to stop or even effectively challenge Seattle’s erroneous decision-making.

Last board meeting, four directors voted to continue the inefficient ineffective expensive Everyday Math program. Some of you appeared to vote yes out of an obligation to continue a two-year old defective math decision. This is not accountability. The obligation is to educate all the children effectively and efficiently. There is no obligation to continue failing programs.

Article IX of the state constitution states:

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, {without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.}

The “Discovering Series” high school math adoption discriminates. The proven practice for under achieving students is explicit instruction, which the administration ignores. The Superior court action is a direct result of a decade of discriminatory math practices, which the board chose to ignore despite repeated warnings. Please fix these problems now and save the taxpayer legal costs. Fix k-12 math rather than forcing those continuing to be harmed to proceed to Federal Court.

When the administration and the children’s needs are at odds, the board should be the champion of the children not the administration. Where is your accountability?

When will be Math materials with the explicit instruction so needed by the children be available? Now? before or after large legal expenses? or NEVER? Where is any common sense or any accountability?


Anonymous said...

Rodriguez v. San Antonio

I have good news and bad news. Here's the only precedent and unfortunately its not so good for your case. Washington Superior might interpret things differently, but the burden of proving discrimination rests with the feds and not the state. The state does not have to guarantee that all kids are "receiving" an equal education. For starters, your complaint has to be filed with the Department of Education.

This makes absolutely no sense to insensed parents and educators, but that is what our courts maintain is the law.

"Sracic’s background work on the cases leading to RODRIGUEZ is significant. He discusses major cases relating to educational rights and cases that had an impact on the education of marginalized populations throughout the country’s history. Many of these are well known to readers outside the academy and legal profession, but other, less familiar cases, such as CUMMING, are of equal importance and deserve the attention Sracic grants them. He states: “in 1899, in the case of CUMMING v. BOARD OF EDUCATION, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge by a group of African American parents in Georgia when the school board cut off funds for a segregated black high school. The Court decided in favor of the school board” (p.9).

This case essentially gave the legal cover necessary to institutionalize the PLESSY doctrine in America’s schools that ostensibly already existed. Clearly, Sracic makes use of this background section to set up why the country’s educational system was so dramatically unequal in the time before RODRIGUEZ."

If parents want to turn around a corrupt (indifferent) school district then a community's only option is to either boycott or publicly humiliate it.

Some school leaders are so dense they still don't get it. You would think absurdly low test scores and high drop out rates would cause enough embarrassment for some people to resign or retire early.

Its a shock to most of us because we all thought Brown v. Board solved discrimination. Far from it, the problem only became more complex.

dan dempsey said...

Article IX of the state constitution is violated by Seattle's k-12 math action. Thus the appeal of 9-12 math materials has substance.

Thanks for the Department of Ed complaint suggestion.

For starters, your complaint has to be filed with the Department of Education.

Are you talking:
#1 .. US Department of Education or #2 .. WA office of Superintendent of Public Instruction or
#3 .. WA State Board of Education?

Anonymous said...

This is how you go about doing things officially - don't expect any help from these guys. They'll listen but that's all. There are several ways your filing will fail and most of it is procedural, so be very careful. Not even the ACLU is willing to touch this - they've tried.

Anonymous said...

Please show me where you find SPS to be in violation of Article IX.

When you need help, its useful to think of the American Disabilities Act and how we go about enforcing the federal regulations in this act. Only in this case, who is the regulator for enforcing school policy? The Office of Civil Rights cannot dictate what textbooks schools adopt for students. They can say that each district must provide for each student an 'approved' textbook. If the textbook adoption committee was stupid enough to choose Everday Math or Discovering Algebra - that's not a Federal problem. In a wacked out sort of way, it makes sense.

So organize charter schools, stop attending school board meetings, and poke deserving fun at pretentious, racist bigots.

Anonymous said...

Here's some interesting examples, which might give you some ideas.

1. A principal provides textbooks written in Spanish for a group of Mexican-Americans who don't speak Spanish. The teacher doesn't even speak Spanish.

2. A (new or experienced) teacher is provided textbooks for students, but is then directed by a principal to not provide any assistance to those students (she calls it discovery or inquiry-based learning). As a result, most of the students do not pass the class, in fact most give up and quit.

What usually results in this case is the teacher moves on or gets fired. The kids drop out of school anyway.

In my case, the conditions for discrimination were definitely present and in fact after I left (followed by the Superintendent), I ceased reporting and the school environment deteriorated even further. Faculty meetings about ethnicity had more to do with which Mexican restaurant we were going to be eating at. I'm sure I caused more than heartburn for most of my peers.

Here's what I saw -
1. Mexicans and whites were dropping off their students in different places at the HS.
2. Fighting between students had racial overtones. Kids carried weapons. Even some of the organized sports were motivated racially and violent.
3. Meth and Marijuana were readily available.
4. High failure rates.
5. Low academic achievement.

You should differentiate between 4 and 5. They're not the same thing. A class of physics students might be above average students, but their capacity for doing algebra puts them at about a sixth grade level. Failing students went to another campus and proceeded to fail out of alternative school. You would be better off bagging groceries at a fruitstand than wasting your time on independent study trying to earn credits.

A 6% graduation rate is ridiculous and in actuality probably much worse.

This is a redneck district closed to outsiders and the entire community (including Mexicans) knows about it. Most of them moved to another school district and the rednecks lost 20% of their staff this year alone.

So what makes you think your case has more merit? The feds would rather let communities decide their own fate.

Anonymous said...

Here's another example:
A textbook is adopted that uses calculator-based instruction. The majority of exercises require calculators. In fact, its impossible to use the textbook without a calculator.

The staff decides its too risky to give some classes calculators because the kids are either pulling apart the calculators, tagging the displays, or stealing batteries for their i-pods. How getto is that?

Does the district have a policy regarding calculator use?

Is there a policy?

This is, of course, after-the-fact. Hindsight is an exact science.

Anonymous said...

In the same vein, I had a principal give my classroom $15 basic calculators for students for teaching with Core Plus. I told her these were the wrong calculators - other classrooms got the $90 graphing calculators, but my classroom did not. That's discrimination...

Their should be a district policy for calculator-based instruction, not just for calculators. That would be very significant for your case.

dan dempsey said...

Article IX provide education of all the students without regard for race, caste, etc.

SPS has math WASL passing rates for Black students at grade 10 of 16.0% producing an achievement gap greater than 50 points. District refuses to use "Explicit Instructional" materials.

k-12 does the exact opposite of Project Follow Through recommendations and ignores NMAP.

Anonymous said...

All students (regardless of race) use the same textbooks. As far as the Feds are concerned everyone is being provided with the same opportunity - it might be a lousy way to educate kids, but that's not discrimination. If I have the means I'll educate my children somewhere else. If I'm a teacher, I won't teach in that district.