Friday, December 16, 2011

Alliance for Education statement on Interim Superintendent Enfield's announcement

Seattle – December 16, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education has released the following statement concerning Dr. Susan Enfield’s announcement today.

Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield’s leadership over the last nine months brought tremendous energy and focus to the work of the district. Her announcement today that she will not seek the permanent Superintendency is deeply disappointing.

We are now on pace to have our third Superintendent in five years.

The Seattle Public Schools family – of students, parents, teachers, principals, staff and community supporters ‐ deserves stability and quality. We know this is possible. Indeed, the positive academic momentum demonstrated this year – both system wide and at many individual schools – is proof of what can be done with intentional leadership. But today we fall short of our shared goals.

The task now falls to our community to determine how to move forward. Over 48,000 students attend our public schools – three out of every four children in Seattle. Our obligation is to them, and to providing the excellent education they deserve. In this city of gorgeous natural resources, brilliant entrepreneurs, devoted public servants and generous, engaged citizens, we should expect no less than the best. A new conversation begins.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Finally here! Footage from the State of the District Address

Dr. Susan Enfield, Seattle Public Schools' Interim Superintendent, delivered a very strong State of the District report at the end of November. The achievement gains and operational improvements cited give great reason for hope and confidence in what can be accomplished. While much work remains to deliver on the promise of a college-ready education for all, the forward momentum is palpable!

Reference was made to potentially lowering the 2013 outcome goals. The Alliance believes that this should not be considered an option. Instead of having a conversation around whether and how far we should lower our goals, we should be having a conversation around what we - as an entire community invested in the success of our public schools - need to do faster and better to meet or exceed the goals that have been set.

"Attacking Gaps, Raising Expectations Everywhere" means just that. Lowering outcome goals flies directly in the face of the spirit of AGREE, which is a very compelling rallying cry.

The individual schools cited in this presentation demonstrate just how much progress can be made in a short period of time under strong, deliberate leadership. Let us look to those and other high achieving schools for the path forward, rather than be content to lower our sights and ambitions on behalf of school children across our city!

For more information in on the data referred to in Dr. Enfield's presentation, CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seattle education events

The Alliance has recently begun curating an events page as part of our new website.  We aim to develop this as a valuable resource that houses information on events from the Alliance, Seattle Public Schools, and the wider community.

Please let us know if you have any ideas for additions to this page!  Leave a comment on this blog or email me:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Common Core Standards: what are they and how do they effect our students?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, which advocates for the adoption of a set of education standards by all U.S. states, articulates the mission of Common Core Standards as: 
"provid[ing] a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy." 
What are the implications of these standards?  Watch this video for a good summary of the context and  implications of Common Core. With Washington State having recently adopted the Common Core Standards, and with Washington chosen as one of 20 states that will help develop new national science standards, this is highly relevant to us in Seattle public education.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Public school parents: classroom materials funding available!

On Oct 5th, all Starbucks stores in King County will be giving out free $10 DonorsChoose gift cards that parents and citizens can use to make a donation toward a classroom project posted on the DonorsChoose website. Right now there are nearly 300 Seattle classroom projects listed from which to choose. Through a generous gift of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, $500,000 will be made available through these gift cards, and anyone can make additional personal donations if they so choose.

Please consider taking advantage of this great opportunity to support your teachers and your schools. All you need to do is:
  1. Stop by a King County Starbucks on October 5th and pick up a free $10 Donors Choose gift card. 
  2. Go to
  3. Enter your gift code. 
  4. Choose a classroom project at a local public school. 
Important: Gift cards will be applied to projects on a first-come, first-served basis until the grant is spent, so be sure to apply yours soon!

About is a nonprofit that empowers teachers to request and receive needed classroom materials and student learning experiences.

The average teacher project request made of DonorsChoose is for just over $400 in student materials. 70% of these are funded each year by citizens, corporations, and foundations. This school year, DonorsChoose aims to bring $40 million dollars in innovative classroom project requests to life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Every 26 seconds...

Every 26 seconds a student gives up on school in America. That's over a million every year.

Students at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as 6th grade. City Year can help reach the right students, at the right time with the right support.

City Year unites 17-24 year olds for a full year to serve as tutors, mentors and role models, keeping students in school and on track to graduate.


City Year is one of the services available to Seattle Public School students and featured in the Alliance's new Student Services Directory. To see more services, try out the search tool

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Day's Top Ed Lines

Tacoma School District Teachers Contract
A Pierce County Superior Court judge said in court this morning he might authorize the Tacoma School District to hire replacement workers if striking teachers do not return to work as he ordered Wednesday.

Chushcoff suggested such an authorization might convince the vast majority of the teachers, who have not shown up to work since Sept. 12, to return to their classrooms while their negotiators try to reach a contract agreement with the district.

“I’m seriously considering doing that,” the judge said. [...]

Seattle schools
Seattle's Loyal Heights Elementary has been named a national Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education — one of just 304 schools in the country to achieve the designation this year.

The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels, or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Since 1982, more than 6,500 of America's schools have received this award, according to the Department of Education.

The school will be honored at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C. [...]

For years, the debate has been over what types of standardized testing students need to pass to get a high school degree.

This week, educators talked about what types of classes students need to take -- and those requirements may be changing.

The Washington State Board of Education discussed changing credits that students need to achieve in high school. If the changes occur, it would be the first time since 1985, and would affect students now in eighth grade.

The potential changes would keep the state-mandated number of high school credits at 20 but change the allocation of those credits. The number of English and social studies would increase while the number of elective credits would decrease. [...]

WASHINGTON – President Obama this morning laid out his vision for deficit reduction, calling for $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue and $583 billion in spending cuts during the next 10 years.

The president’s proposal would cut the deficit by $3 trillion overall, taking into account savings from troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new tax revenue would come from closing loopholes and ending subsidies for oil and gas companies, among others, and from instituting minimum tax rates for Americans who earn $1 million or more annually.

“This is not class warfare, it’s math,” Obama said in an address in the White House Rose Garden. ``We can’t just cut our way out of this hole. It’s going to take a balanced approach.” [...]

Education policy
Educators and analysts are taking a hard look at whether the $55 billion K-12 portion of President Barack Obama’s nearly $450 billion jobs plan will provide the jolt to schools still feeling the pinch of a sputtering economy that the administration hopes.

The plan faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are struggling to trim at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years in a climate hostile to tax increases. But, if the plan does pass, some sympathetic analysts argue it would help school districts cover the cost of long-delayed school repairs and avert big layoffs and program cuts.

Others, however, question the White House’s prediction of 280,000 teacher layoffs this year—a key argument raised in favor of the need for $30 billion over two years in job-preservation aid. [...]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top recent education headlines

On national education policy
Congress too split to revise No Child Left Behind, Rep. John Yarmuth says, Lousiville Courier-Journal
Saying that Congress it too dysfunctional to come to an agreement, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said Monday he doubts the federal No Child Left Behind law will be revamped anytime soon.

Speaking at the “Kentucky Leads the Nation” roundtable in Shelby County, where educators and policy makers are working to help the state’s school districts navigate federal education law and challenges, Yarmuth said he can’t imagine the Republicans and Democrats coming together on the issue this close to a presidential election.

That means it is likely that Kentucky education officials will be relying on the federal Department of Education to grant a waiver if they don’t want to continue offering both state and federal proficiency tests to students. [...]

Column: Why DREAM Act is right for U.S., young people, USA Today
At Miami-Dade Community College's commencement ceremonies last month, 181 students marched across the stage, each carrying the flag of a different country. As each student stepped on the stage, individuals cheered for the flag that represented their heritage. But when the last flag went across the stage — the American flag — everyone applauded.

The scene reminded President Obama, who was there as the commencement speaker, of our national motto —E pluribus unum— out of many, one. The graduation is also a reminder that first-generation Americans are hard-working and understand the value of education. With degrees from Miami-Dade, some of those graduates will become nurses, IT professionals, and the next generation of entrepreneurs and business owners. Others will enroll in four-year universities and graduate ready to be teachers, engineers and leaders in their communities. By earning postsecondary degrees, they will earn 30% to 70% more than high school graduates. With that earning power, they will buy homes, cars and other goods to drive economic growth. [...]

On education access
Some thoughts about school and the struggles black kids face. Lots of folks with lots of experience have lots of opinions about what to do to better educate young African-American males. Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates recently offered yet another glimpse into the issue, suggesting in a piece for the website The Root that the need is dire, which of course it is.

But for many of us in education — and to my mind that includes parents, family and friends — the problem is more than knowing what's needed. It's knowing how to get it done and make it work, how to get young African-American men not only interested but engaged in learning, and enjoying rather than dreading the journey. That requires a lot of commitment from them and from us, and there are no shortcuts. [...]

On higher education
College price calculators may not paint complete picture, Seattle Times
When the annual college search season gets under way this fall, parents and students will have a new tool at their disposal.

By the end of October, the nation's colleges and universities will be offering net price calculators on their websites, providing an easier way to compare attendance costs from one school to the next. At least, that's the goal of the federal law requiring the calculators.

Most higher education experts like the idea behind the new rule, which should give students and families a better idea of college costs much earlier in the game. But they also see potential for problems with the fledgling rule. [...]

Even for Cashiers, College Pays Off, New York Times
ALMOST a century ago, the United States decided to make high school nearly universal. Around the same time, much of Europe decided that universal high school was a waste. Not everybody, European intellectuals argued, should go to high school.

It’s clear who made the right decision. The educated American masses helped create the American century, as the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have written. The new ranks of high school graduates made factories more efficient and new industries possible.

Today, we are having an updated version of the same debate. Television, newspapers and blogs are filled with the case against college for the masses: It saddles students with debt; it does not guarantee a good job; it isn’t necessary for many jobs. Not everybody, the skeptics say, should go to college. [...]

If you're feeling behind in the national debate over whether college is still "worth it," here's a quick refresher:

Opening arguments
FOR: The more education you have attained, the more likely you are to be employed and earn a higher salary.

AGAINST: College is too expensive, the pay-off is too risky, and the learning experience is woefully inadequate.

FOR: If college is so worthless, how come 86% of grads say that college has been a good investment for them personally?

AGAINST: The college payoff has hit a wall. Graduates are seeing slowing wage gains even as the cost of college is increasing four times faster than wage growth. [...]

On education reform
School Reform, Chicago Style, Wall Street Journal
CHICAGO—At 7:15 on a chilly May morning, Marshall Metro High School attendance clerk Karin Henry punched numbers into a telephone, her red nails clacking as she dialed.

"Good morning, Miss MeMe," she said to Barbara "MeMe" Diamond, a 17-year-old junior with a habit of oversleeping. "This is Ms. Henry, your stalker."

The timing of the call was key. Earlier in the year, Ms. Henry and a co-worker were spending nearly two hours a day calling every student who hadn't checked into school by 9:30 a.m. But weekly data tracked by their office found that only about 9% of those students ever arrived. So they changed tactics, zeroing in on habitual latecomers like MeMe, and delivering wake-up calls starting at 6:30. On that May morning, 19 of the 26 students called showed up. [...]

On school funding
Supreme Court to hear arguments on school funding, Seattle PI
CHIMACUM, Wash. (AP) — Stephanie McCleary has known about the disparities between rich and poor school districts for most of her life, how cities with a robust local tax base can pay for fancy microscopes and video cameras and the newest laptop computers, while small towns like Chimacum — where she works and her kids go to school — can't afford window blinds or parts to fix classroom heaters and may need a grant to buy a new battery and pads for a donated portable defibrillator.

She was 13 years old when the Washington Supreme Court decided the state was not fulfilling its duty to the children of Washington by forcing school districts to use local dollars to make up for the money they weren't getting from the state. More than 30 years later, the mother of two school-age children has her name on a similar case about to be heard by the state's highest court. [...]

In Lean Times, Schools Squeeze Out Librarians, New York Times
Budget belt-tightening threatens to send school librarians the way of the card catalog.

The schools superintendent in Lancaster, Pa., said he had to eliminate 15 of the district’s 20 librarians to save full-day kindergarten classes.

In the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon, all 48 elementary and middle school librarians would lose their jobs under a budget proposal that faces a vote next week.

In Illinois’s School District 90, which spans several rural and suburban communities in the southern part of the state, parent volunteers have been running the libraries in the district’s seven schools since September, in what the schools superintendent, Todd Koehl, described as “a last-ditch effort” to avoid closing their doors. [...]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Give BIG June 23

The Alliance for Education and The Seattle Foundation team up for the GiveBIG Challenge

On June 23, 2011, there's an exciting event that will amplify the impact of your gift to us.

GiveBIG is a community-wide giving challenge created by The Seattle Foundation that will increase the size of your donation to us.  This new, one-day, online charitable giving event will rally together our community on behalf of the amazing nonprofit organizations in King County
Mark your calendar! Donate to the Alliance for Education between 7 a.m. and midnight on June 23.

Thank you in advance for giving big. With your help we can ensure that all students in Seattle Public Schools are prepared for college, career, and life.

PS: You can learn more about GiveBIG online at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mercer Middle School teacher wins Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence

L to R: Mr. Ettinger; Carol Pawlak, 
Amgen; Andra Lutz, Principal.
(Photo credit Jeffrey Luke)
On April 15, 2011, Robert Ettinger, a teacher at Mercer Middle School, was awarded the prestigious Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence with a prize of $10,000: $5,000 for the teacher and $5,000 for the school. The award ceremony in Mr. Ettinger’s classroom drew cheers from students.

Robert Ettinger was chosen to receive the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence because of his creative teaching methods and effectiveness in the classroom.

"Mr. Ettinger has a passion for science and shares that passion with his students, not only to get them to learn science, but to love it as well,” says Carol Pawlak, who is responsible for Amgen’s philanthropy in the state. “Mr. Ettinger lives science and translates his teacher development and summer science adventures into exciting, relevant curriculum for his students. When Mr. Ettinger looks at his class, he doesn’t just see students, he sees scientists.”
Robert Ettinger, teacher,
Mercer Middle School

(Photo credit Jeffrey Luke)

His methods are successful; the number of students at Mercer Middle School meeting or exceeding standard on the WA state science test have more than doubled from 31% in 2008 to 69% in 2010. Mr. Ettinger’s goal is to have 90% of students pass the state science test.

About the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence
Robert Ettinger is among four recipients of the 2011 Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in Washington State.

The program was designed by biotechnology company Amgen to recognize teachers in the K-12 grade levels in public and private schools whose dedication to their student’s education has had a significant impact on the learning and interest of the future generation of scientists. Each teacher will receive an unrestricted $5,000 grant and their schools will receive a restricted $5,000 grant which can be used for the expansion or enhancement of a school science program, science resources, or the professional development of the school’s science teachers.

The Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence will be presented to 34 recipients throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada in locations where Amgen has a presence.

Nominations are solicited every fall with winners selected based on the following criteria: innovative science lesson plan showcasing novel teaching methods in the classroom, creativity and effectiveness of teaching methods and the plan for the use of grant money to improve science education resources in their schools. Since the program’s inception in 1992, Amgen has awarded more than $2.5 million dollars to educators who have made exceptional science-teaching contributions and who have had a measurable impact on the lives of their students. For more information visit:

Friday, April 1, 2011

"I gotta drop some knowledge on ya'll right quick."

My full armor 
is my diploma
with the tools I learn in school
I will smell
victory sweet aroma.

Don't miss this incredible spoken word duo at the Alliance for Education's Community Breakfast, April 14th.  Click here for more information.

Entire spoken word poetry performance by students of Franklin High from Get Schooled on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oregon Senate Education committee approves bill to make Oregon governor the state education superintendent

Portland Oregonian - Gov. John Kitzhaber moved one step closer this afternoon to becoming Oregon's top education chief. The Oregon Senate Education Committee, with little discussion, unanimously approved Senate Bill 552, which would make Oregon's governor the state superintendent of schools.

The bill would require the Governor to name a deputy superintendent, who would run the education department and oversee the public school system.

But if approved, Senate Bill 552 would not unseat current superintendent Susan Castillo, who was re-elected to a third term less than year ago. 

Elwha ecosystem classroom project gets state grant

Peninsula Daily News - A class of young scientists who will gather data while two dams on the Elwha River are removed has received a $10,000 state grant.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced the winners of this year’s Qwest Teachers & Technology grants Tuesday. Nine received grants statewide.

Brenda Manson’s class at Stevens Middle School in the Port Angeles School District was the only North Olympic Peninsula class to receive money.

Her 31 eighth-grade students will take field trips to the Elwha River this fall, taking new probeware devices to collect ecosystem data as the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam are torn down beginning in September.

The dams are coming down to restore salmon habitat in the largest project of its kind in the nation’s history.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Fight for Space, Educator Takes On Charter Chain

New York Times - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Joel I. Klein, the former schools chancellor, are strong supporters of charter schools. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein have repeatedly told principals at New York City’s traditional public schools that a new age of reform has dawned, that charter schools are the cutting edge and that if these principals want traditional public schools to survive, they must learn to compete in the educational marketplace.

And so, last summer, Julie Zuckerman, the principal of a highly regarded public elementary school — Central Park East 1 in East Harlem — applied to open a new elementary school on the other side of Manhattan, in Washington Heights. Her plan was to create something truly rare: an urban school not focused on standardized testing.


President focuses on needs of Latino students in town hall meeting

CNN - President Barack Obama took to the Spanish-language network airwaves Monday to discuss challenges in educating Hispanics students.

In a Univision-sponsored town hall meeting with Hispanic students and educators at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, the president said to out-educate and out-innovate the global competition, the Latino community must play a key role in the future.

"Our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won't succeed as a nation," Obama said.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Interim Seattle schools superintendent sets priorities

Seattle Times - Susan Enfield, interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, announced her top priorities for the rest of the school year Friday, along with a list of opportunities for parents, teachers, principals, students and others in the community to share their views and concerns with her.

Enfield, now in her fourth week in the school district's top job, said she will report what she's learned from all those groups by early May, and how their perspectives might be incorporated into the district's plans.

At the same time, Enfield said, she intends to continue the five-year plan crafted under her predecessor and former boss, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, "although with an eye to making adjustments in light of budget constraints."

"Before taking on significant new initiatives," she said, "we want to closely examine the current work under way and make sure we're doing it well."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Middle-school principal honored

Seattle Times - Jeff Clark, principal at Denny International Middle School in Seattle, is the winner of this year’s Thomas B. Foster Award for outstanding leadership.

The award, which includes a $50,000 grant, is given each year to a Seattle secondary-school principal by the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit that supports Seattle Public Schools.

Clark, in his sixth year at Denny Middle, led the effort to bring an international program to his school, which includes classes in Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. Under his leadership, Denny’s test scores are going up.

Last year, Clark said, Denny improved more than any other middle school or K-8 in the district.

Clark said he plans to use the $50,000 prize to buy one book for every student to recognize their hard work, to purchase musical instruments, and to start an endowment fund that can be used to help pay field-trip or other fees.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Recent state action on teacher seniority and tenure

Teacher pay-tenure bill passed in Florida Senate,
TALLAHASSEE –– Split nearly along party lines, the Florida Senate voted to abolish teacher tenure and link pay raises to student advancement today.

Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, a retired teacher who heads the Senate public education committee, said the schools need serious reform if Florida is to compete. He likened the provisions of his "pay for performance" bill to management of a baseball team, with .205 hitters making less than .300 batters.

NYC Weighs Seniority vs. Merit as Layoffs Loom, Education Week
The jobs of up to 4,600 teachers—about 6 percent of the city’s teaching force—as well as others in districts across the state, hang on the answers.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said those cuts are necessary to plug a spending gap exacerbated by a proposed reduction of $1.4 billion in state aid to the city in the governor’s budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year. And the mayor has urged the state legislature to allow the city to let go of teachers with “unsatisfactory” evaluation ratings before other teachers. State law currently requires layoffs by reverse seniority.

“What we’re looking for is an opportunity to lay off teachers based on merit now,” said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

State Senate Passes Bill to End Last in, First Out for Teachers, WNYC News
In a win for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Republican-led state senate narrowly approved a bill that would end seniority protections for teachers in New York City. But its fate in the Assembly is far less certain.

The bill would do away with the so-called "last in, first out" (LIFO) rule that requires new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs regardless of merit. Seniority could no longer be the sole criteria. Instead, the city could eliminate teachers with unsatisfactory ratings and other performance issues. Mayor Bloomberg plans to layoff more than 4,600 teachers to close a budget gap. Another 1,500 positions would be lost through attrition.

Pressure Mounts To Ax Teacher Seniority Rules, NPR
Last week, the New York state Senate passed a bill that would end the use of seniority as the sole factor for deciding which teachers get laid off. The bill faces long odds in the state Assembly. But the vote is a sign of growing frustration with what's known as "last in, first out" — a rule that says the last teachers hired get dismissed first when there is a layoff.

Like local leaders around the country, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will soon have to lay off teachers because of shrinking state aid. He says he cannot have his hands tied by a system that judges teachers solely on their years of experience.
"We need a merit-based system for determining layoffs this spring," Bloomberg says. "And anything short of that is just not a solution to the problem we face."

States tangle with teacher tenure,
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been especially outspoken on the issue, leading a handful of states that are seeking to eliminate teacher tenure completely.

“Teaching can no longer be the only profession where you have no rewards for excellence, and no consequences for failure,” Gov. Christie told crowds earlier this year. “Let New Jersey lead the way. The time to eliminate teacher tenure is now.”

Appellate court allows teacher layoffs to go forward under new rules, Los Angeles Times
Though the settlement shields some schools -- and reduces layoffs at others -- it also means that some campuses with veteran staffs could have layoffs for the first time, or more layoffs than under the old rules. And it means that teachers with more seniority could potentially lose jobs before teachers at other campuses with less seniority.

“Kids win,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which sued the district along with Morrison & Foerster and the Public Counsel Law Center. With the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attorneys sued on behalf of students at three middle schools that were especially decimated by layoffs during a previous round of budget cuts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Opinion on the superintendent role: is the job description at fault?

It's time to change Seattle schools superintendent's job, Seattle Times
Everyone knows the pattern, particularly in urban districts. Superintendents' average tenure is about 3 ½ years, and by that measure Goodloe-Johnson's departure is right on schedule.

To break that pattern we will have to change more than the person, we'll need to change the job.

Expecting too much of a superintendent is part of the problem, Crosscut
Problems arise […] when people start talking as though this were an opportunity for change, a chance to reverse all or some of the educational policies and programs put in place by departing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

What’s wrong with that? Well, even though there are some things lots of us would like to change, it buys into the belief (and typical behavior) of school boards that the next superintendent will be a “white knight” or “superman” whose policies will fix everything, close the achievement gap, increase high school graduation — everything!

Supply vs. Demand: Rock Star Superintendents, Huffington Post
They command six-figure salaries, often with annual bonuses and car allowances. (Generous health care and pension plans are a given.) Sometimes their employers also foot the bill for their life insurance policies.

There are very few of them, for their skill set is rare. They must be savvy politicians and managers. They must be obsessed with constant improvement.

They'll be under the bright lights of the media, so the camera shy need not apply.

No, we're not talking rock stars, pro athletes or even pro coaches.

We're talking school superintendents. Especially those of large urban districts that have struggled from time immemorial. The original rock star superintendent was Rudy Crew, who asked for -- and got -- a contract from the Miami Dade school system in 2004 that paid him upwards of $500,000 a year. He defended his salary by saying, "I think people are really hungry for leadership. We shouldn't underestimate the value of this kind of leadership. This is public servancy with highly developed skills."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

News & Opinion Roundup: New Leadership at Seattle Public Schools

Seattle School Board ousts Goodloe-Johnson, names Enfield interim superintendent, Seattle Times
The Seattle School Board unanimously voted to dismiss Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson on Wednesday night, amid a financial scandal that left the board scrambling to repair the damage.

The board appointed Susan Enfield, the district's chief academic officer, as interim superintendent. Betty Patu was the only "no" vote, saying she wanted a candidate that wasn't tainted by being part of Goodloe-Johnson's staff.

Goodloe-Johnson ousted as Seattle schools chief, Seattle PI
Also shown the door Wednesday was Don Kennedy, the district's Chief Financial and Operations Officer. Like Goodloe-Johnson, Kennedy, who came from South Carolina, was fired without cause, meaning he must be paid a severance of $87,000 -- half of his annual salary -- under the terms of his contract.

School board members described the decision as a difficult one, yet necessary to restore the public and the board's trust in the school system and to change a management culture that bred an "atmosphere of fear and intimidation." Board members said it was important to act decisively and to refocus on the mission of serving children.

Seattle Public Schools name interim financial officer, Seattle Times 
Robert Boesche, a school-finance consultant and former finance chief in the Northshore School District, will be the interim chief financial officer in Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle's ousted schools superintendent apologizes for financial scandalSeattle Times 
Maria Goodloe-Johnson has issued a public statement about the financial scandal that cost her her job as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, saying she had no part in the misuse of taxpayer dollars but that the wrongdoing was on her watch "and for that, I am deeply sorry."

Rewind | Seattle Times Editorial Board interviews school officialsSeattle Times 
What comes next for a school district rocked by financial scandal? The Seattle Times Editorial Board met for an interview with Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield and Seattle School Board President Steve Sundquist. Watch the interview below.

Interim superintendent described as 'driven’, Seattle PI 
"I know the community's faith has been shaken by recent events," she said. "But its commitment to its students remains strong. I share and I will honor that commitment by serving this community, especially its students, to the very best of my ability."

She said her immediate priority is to restore trust in Seattle Public School and to address questions about fiscal stewardship. She pledged to keep an "open-door" policy and to be out in the community listening to questions and concerns. She pledged to provide strong leadership and to support teachers and principals.

Interim Seattle schools chief says she's here 'as long as I'm needed'Seattle Times 
Susan Enfield's contract as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools runs through June 2012, but it was clear from her first day on the job that she hopes to stay longer.

"I want to do the very, very best job I can for as long as I'm needed," she said, when asked if she wants the job permanently. "I'm committed to this community for as long as I can be there and help them."

New Seattle Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield must restore trust and order, Seattle Times 
IF Susan Enfield would like her job as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools to become permanent, the route is straightforward: restore public confidence and trust.

No major changes or new efforts come close to the need to end the chaos and distrust permeating the district.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Statement of the Alliance Board of Directors on the appointment of Dr. Susan Enfield as interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools

Seattle – March 3, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education has released the following statement concerning the appointment of Dr. Susan Enfield as Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

We commend the Seattle School Boards’ choice of Dr. Susan Enfield to serve as Interim Superintendent. As Chief Academic Officer since 2009, Dr. Enfield has demonstrated a resolute commitment to the success of all students, high intellect, decisiveness and charisma. We have confidence she will lead the district ably.

Outgoing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson deserves credit for many significant accomplishments during her four-year tenure: student gains in reading, math and graduation; a landmark teachers’ contract that links student achievement to teacher effectiveness for the first time; a return to neighborhood schools; and a robust new performance management system that holds schools and administrators accountable. We appreciate her service to Seattle Public Schools and her willingness to take on tough challenges.

Superintendent Enfield faces a significant task. Simultaneously she will need to rebuild trust, listen and lead. Provided her administration commits to a course of action that dramatically improves student outcomes and restores confidence in the District as a steward of public funds, we stand ready to partner with her in tackling the complex challenges ahead.

The School Board has faced several difficult decisions in recent weeks, all in the context of a painful budget cycle. Under the leadership of President Steve Sundquist, the board has acted with thoughtfulness, care and deliberation.

On Monday, 47,000 students returned to their classrooms from mid-winter break. Let us always remember that our obligation is to them. This is a difficult moment for Seattle Public Schools, but if handled well, the district and the city will be better for it. We remain more committed than ever to our mission to ensure every child in Seattle Public Schools is prepared for success in college, career and life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The latest on the Seattle Public Schools financial scandal

Board likely to oust Seattle schools superintendent, Seattle Times
After 3 ½ years as Seattle Public Schools superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson's tenure appears to be over.

The Seattle School Board clearly signaled Tuesday night that it intends to dismiss Goodloe-Johnson and immediately appoint Chief Academic Officer Susan Enfield as interim superintendent.

The board will vote Wednesday night on both actions, one week after two investigative reports revealed the misuse of public money and mismanagement at the top.

The seven-member board also is poised to oust Chief Financial and Operations Officer Don Kennedy.

Likely interim superintendent is experienced educator, Seattle Times
The woman likely to become interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools is an experienced administrator who once taught high-school English and has degrees from Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Susan Enfield, 42, joined Seattle Public Schools in 2009. She was hired by schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who is likely to be ousted by the School Board Wednesday night over a financial scandal.

Silas Potter: 'I've been thrown under the bus' in Seattle schools scandal, Seattle PI
"It's a lot bigger than Silas Potter," he said. "They're trying to minimize their exposure of what they've done and maximize what Silas has done."

Potter denied being the mastermind behind the misappropriation of district funds, which has triggered a criminal investigation, state audit and possible firing of the school superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

Seattle's School Board forced to depend on superintendent's honesty, Seattle Times
School Board members work for per diem only — a max of $4,800 a year. The seven-member board has just two helpers, who mostly do scheduling and office support.

"The way it's set up, the board is almost totally dependent on the superintendent's staff to give them honest information," says Dick Lilly, who was on Seattle's board from 2001 to 2005. "Because of that, what's in that e-mail, alone, is cause for firing."

The mixed record of Seattle school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle Times
We like some of the results of her tenure, including more high school college-prep classes, more college-bound students and the transparency offered by new districtwide report cards.

But the good cannot outweigh the bad. In all honesty, the scales have been tipping in the wrong direction for some time.

A fear of retaliation and an official policy that keeps Seattle Public Schools employees from directly raising concerns with the school board are at least partly to blame for a scandal involving $1.8 million in misused public funds, auditors and investigators say.

In January, the city yanked a $500,000-a-year contract for the Urban League's youth-violence prevention work and awarded it to other organizations. The city criticized the Urban League for submitting vague, inaccurate invoices — accusations similar to those raised by auditors in the schools scandal.

The city also cut long-standing financial support of the Urban League's center to help minority small-business owners to get construction contracts, deciding to seek other bidders for the first time in years.

Urban League on school scandal: We 'did nothing wrong', Seattle PI
Responding to an audit report that the organization took $595,000 in questionable payments from Seattle Public Schools, leaders of the Urban League on Wednesday said the organization did nothing improper.

Interim CEO Tony Benjamin said the money in question was spent as specified by the district contract.

"The Urban League did nothing wrong," Benjamin at a news conference at the League's Seattle office. "The Auditor's report challenged us to get better. This is a real challenge and it's not just a challenge for the Urban League, but for all of us."

Just bringing in a new superintendent won't really solve things. A much deeper approach is needed, and I hope you will heed the Rahm Emanuel axiom that "you never want to let a serious crisis go to waste." You will be tempted, particularly with an election looming, to go for a quick fix, avoiding a damaging flood of further revelations and firings. That would be to waste the crisis.

Unlike several other local governments, King County declined to participate in a business development program run by the Seattle Public Schools that is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

"We couldn't understand what value the county would receive, and as a result, King County made no financial contribution to this program," Ray Moser, the county's Economic Policy Advisor & Business Relations Manager, said in an e-mail.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Statement of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education

Seattle – February 23, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Alliance for Education has released the following statement concerning today’s Washington State Auditor’s report:

“The findings released today by the State Auditor’s Office are deeply disturbing. The alleged actions of a small group of mid-level school district employees and their associates represent an egregious breach of public trust.

As an independent non-profit supporting all students in Seattle Public Schools, we take seriously our role as a steward of private dollars augmenting the District’s resources. We are reviewing the District’s response to the investigative report and are evaluating the set of corrective actions management has indicated it has taken or will take to address the underlying issues. Finally, we are considering what actions we may take to support greater third-party financial oversight and accountability at the district.

Let it be noted that this episode should in no way negate or tarnish the truly heroic efforts of the teachers, principals and other dedicated staff throughout the system who work each and every day on behalf of students.

Through what is sure to be an intense public conversation in the wake of these developments, we call upon all Seattleites to stay focused on our children. Our collective obligation to the 47,000 students in Seattle Public Schools is profound. Each and every one of them deserves no less than our full attention and support.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Register now for the 2011 WCAN State Conference

The Washington College Access Network (WCAN) strives to improve access and preparation to higher education through a network of community organizations that collaborate to promote and support the use of best practices, leverage training opportunities and support public policies ensuring the success of each student.

The WCAN Conference is designed to engage professionals from College Access Programs, Two- and Four-year Colleges and Universities, Schools/Districts, Educational Agencies, Workforce Development Organizations, and Youth-Serving Organizations interested in promoting college access for the students they serve.

Please click here to register online for the WCAN State Conference. The conference is FREE. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact Chrislyn Johnson at 253-439-5807 or

Thank you for your interest in attending. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
8:30am Registration Begins
4:30pm Networking Reception

University of Washington Tacoma

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recent Education News from Across the State

We've pulled together several press clips over the last few days from papers across the state, as various education bills have dropped in Olympia.

The Columbian
In Our View: Disregard Seniority  
Countless owners of downsized businesses throughout Washington state can recall the “been there, done that” horror of reducing a work force. The process begins with sadness, then surrender, and proceeds to the painful task of assigning value to each position. Business owners and personnel directors keep reminding themselves that they’re talking about jobs, but they can’t escape the fact that they’re talking about people. In the midst of the heartache, it all comes down to a purely business decision: Keep the best, lay off much of the rest.

That’s not the way it works in Washington’s public schools, where collective bargaining contracts typically dictate laying off teachers according to seniority. Usually, a teacher’s ability or value doesn’t matter. A group called Excellent Schools Now wants to change that awkward system, and the intent is reflected in Senate Bill 5399, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina. If passed, the bill would require the use of teacher evaluations in determining layoffs. A companion bill is expected soon in the House.

This is an excellent proposal and deserves support of all legislators. The list of co-sponsors shows no lawmaker from Clark County, but they are urged to recognize the merit of this proposal. Particularly, state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, is encouraged to help lead the effort as a member of the Education Committee. [...]

SEATTLE (AP) -- The sponsor of a bill that would make teacher effectiveness the main determining factor during layoffs says the proposal is worth billions of dollars in school improvement.

But the president of the state's largest teachers union wonders why lawmakers are spending time on distractions like this proposal when they should instead be focusing on how to avoid teacher layoffs in the first place.

Mary Lindquist of the Washington Education Association says lawmakers started last year to move toward a new teacher evaluation system. This new approach likely will change the way school districts lay off teachers. But Lindquist says school administrators and teachers need time to develop the new system. She says Sen. Rodney Tom's proposal would get in the way of that work. 

The Olympian 
Washington state must close achievement gap
Washington's African American students cannot wait 105 years to realize the same levels of academic achievement as their peers.

That is the amount of time that is estimated it will take if Washington state continues to improve at its current rate. In a report issued last month, the Center on Education Policy studied more than 40 states to find out how long it will take to close the achievement gaps that exist between low-income and students of color and their highest achieving counterparts at their current pace. When compared with Louisiana, a state that has faced much adversity in communities and schools because of historical inequities, Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, Washington should be ahead in providing for our students. Yet, if Louisiana continues on the path it’s headed, its achievement gap will be closed in 12.5 years. [...]

Seattle Times 
Legislature must keep bar high on science education
Washington's students aren't at the bottom in science education but neither are schools preparing them for an economy ever more reliant on science, innovation and technology. 

WASHINGTON'S students do not rank anywhere close to the bottom in science education but neither are they prepared for a future economy reliant on scientific innovation and technology.

Scores released this week from the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirm Washington students' grasp of basic concepts in physical, Earth, life and space sciences.

But basic is not good enough, fueling a call by Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn to delay until 2017 a looming requirement that students pass a science test to graduate. No more delays. [...]

Study questions seniority-based teacher layoffs
A study of Washington state teachers has found that deciding layoffs based solely on which teachers have the least seniority has a significant impact on students' ability to learn, adding to a growing chorus calling for schools to take a hard look at union contracts dictating who gets to keep their jobs.

The study comes as tens of thousands of teachers around the country stand to lose their jobs next year as federal stimulus money dries up. In most places, union contracts and other policies generally dictate that the least experienced teachers are the first to go.

But that comes at a price, according to the study released exclusively to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, which studies the relationships between education policies and student outcomes, looked at the 1,717 Washington state teachers who were given layoff notices in either of the past two school years. [...]

No more delays in Washington state's math and science requirements
STATE Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn's most recent proposal to delay mathematics and science graduation requirements would be a step in the wrong direction for Washington students. It also calls into question whether our state is serious about ensuring all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in career and life.

Growing up, I dreamed of being many things, including an astronaut. I was fortunate to attend schools that encouraged, challenged and prepared me for success. In 1978 I realized my childhood dream, eventually flying on three NASA space missions.

Washington's students deserve the same support to obtain the knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue their dreams. Regardless of the path a student chooses after high-school graduation, be it an astronaut or auto technician, mathematics and science literacy is critical for every student's future. These subjects give students the power to think clearly, solve problems and design innovative solutions. [...]

Tacoma News Tribune 
Gov. Chris Gregoire still opposes delays in math and science grad requirement
Bills in both houses of the Legislature are responding to state schools chief Randy Dorn's request to delay from 2013 to 2017 the requirement that state students pass math and science assessments.

Today, however, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she is not interested in delaying the graduation requirement for four years.

"We're letting our kids down," Gregoire said during her weekly press conference. "When we say we haven't been able to get our programs up and running enough to meet the needs of our students, that's us, it's not our students."

Gregoire was referencing concerns that new assessments called end-of-course exams in math and biology are not ready for the class of 2013.

"I'm very troubled by the fact that we are delaying," she said. "The last thing we should be doing in this economic recession, in my opinion, is delaying the recovery of our students to compete in a global marketplace in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. [...]

Bill looks to sidestep seniority issues in future teacher layoffs
It could be seen as adding insult to injury. As state teachers face layoffs under Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget plan, some education reform groups now want to alter who would get the pink slip. Why now? The backers say this is the crucial time to alter the traditional – and collectively bargained – seniority-based layoff rules. Otherwise, good teachers who suffer from a lack of seniority might be jettisoned while less-competent teachers stick around.

The current system is transparent and clear. But it hits struggling schools harder as they already suffer from high turnover among teachers and tend to get the newest teachers.

A bill proposed by Excellent Schools Now – a coalition of 32 organizations including Stand for Children, The League of Education Voters, the Washington State PTA and the Black Education Strategy Roundtable – would require the use of teacher evaluations to govern layoffs. Seniority would only break ties between equally evaluated teachers.

The House bill is expected to be sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle. The Senate version, Senate Bill 5399, is sponsored by Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and has a bipartisan group of cosponsors. [...]

Union Bulletin 
Layoffs that unnecessarily damage children’s education must be avoided
It is the responsibility of school superintendents to evaluate their districts’ teachers and needs.

A study of Washington state teachers recently concluded: Teacher layoffs based solely on seniority aren't in the best interest of the students.

It took a study to figure that out?

Whether it is the teaching profession, the journalism profession or any other job, if you determine who gets laid off using only seniority you aren't always going to end up with the best remaining staff.

There is great value in on-the-job experience. Your most experienced teachers should be your best teachers. But that's not always the case. There are older teachers who have "retired" on the job, content to just put in their time. There are young teachers who bring an excitement and a different way of looking at things that can translate into success. There are other teachers up and down the seniority scale who are able to inspire students and spur them to greater achievements. [...]

Spokane Spokesman-Review 
Gary Crooks: Smart Bombs Column
Add it up. Some sobering figures from Excellent Schools Now, a coalition of Washington state interests that want to reform education:

• Half of children are not ready to succeed by the time they reach kindergarten.
• Washington state is one of only a few states where the achievement gap is growing.
• We rank 46th in the nation on the chance for college by age 19.
• To fill current shortages, the state will need 400 science teachers and 460 math teachers.
• In the class of 2008, 54 percent of students entering community or technical colleges needed remedial course work.
• Of the 36 states that vied for federal Race to the Top funds, only four finished behind Washington state.

The simple response is to indict the educational system. In fact, we all need to look in the mirror. [...]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SAVE THE DATE: The Alliance for Education Community Breakfast

Join us at the 2011 Alliance for Education Community Breakfast as we celebrate our educators and students! 

There is no cost to attend the breakfast, though we hope to inspire guests to make a gift in support of our work.

For more information or to RSVP, click here