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Race to the Top through the gift of new eyes

March 29, 2010

Let’s have the courageous honesty to acknowledge that Monday’s bold announcement by Education Secretary Arne Duncan of Round One Race to the Top winners–only Delaware and Tennessee–is one of the most important teachable moments in our state’s history of education reform.

Not only did we fail to win anything, of course, we were unable to even get to the starting gate due to our state’s lack of key criteria for the Race to the Top competition. We have been betting everything on Round Two. Today I was on hand as Governor Gregoire signed Senate Bill 6696 to qualify us for Round Two. Is it enough? Looking at today’s results from Round One, the answer seems to be ‘no’.

The Governor took special pains in her remarks to point out that she was uncomfortable with my provision eliminating de facto tenure for future Seattle principals. She nearly vetoed the section but decided to work with me this year to craft new legislation addressing more authority (and likely taking the current legislation statewide) next year. The inside story is that I had to lobby her all week long to maintain this legislation, and it stayed in the bill with the passionate community organzing of Stand for Children, League of Education Voters and many other education reform advocates. Thank you!

The irony of today’s dual events is not lost on anyone. Secretary Duncan rejected conventional wisdom in D.C. by rejecting all of the Round One applications save two. We all essentially failed these tough new standards. Just as so many are failing our children everyday.

At the same time we were on hand in the Governor’s own high school gym in Auburn to sign our state’s Round Two legislation. Still, we learned that now is the time not for congratulations on our recent legislation–despite it’s enormous potential and the hard work to get here–but to look deeper into our larger journey of education reform both before, during and after the Obama Administration. Now is the time to see that we too often battle over inputs, money, process and effort, but rarely do we see graduation rates rise or quality improve.

From a systems level, now is a time for reflection and humility, and to see the wide gap that exists between our romantic image of ourselves as a progressive, entrepreneurial, innovative and evidence-based state to one that is clearly in the middle of the pack in terms of educational quality.

We are so much more than what we’ve become.

We have done so much to build partnerships and coalitions, funding models, data structures and new evaluation tools. We all know the people within education care deeply from teachers and principals to administrators, legislators and governors. And yet, through years of hard work, we continue to slip in terms of outcomes. We continue to see high drop out rates, high under achievement, poor quality results and questionable use of dollars. We continue to struggle to operate the bureaucracy of education in a way that reflects the soul of learning. No one–from principals to teachers to administrators to legislators–ever seems lose their jobs or pay a price of any sort when our kids fail. We seem to rationalize, excuse, explain and justify each failure.

Many of our schools are very good. Most are not. Many are extremely ineffective. But our larger system is not strong. We do not demand greatness for our kids. We don’t seem to look outside the proverbial box for innovation. We have the same basic structure that we’ve had since the 1880s when our state was founded.

We don’t really, truly and genuinely seem to put kids at the center of our systems. We have 296 school districts in our state only because it decentralizes political power. We have superintendents who make large salaries but show little improvement in outcomes. We have part time, citizen school boards easily intimidated by full time bureaucracies. We don’t seems to directly link money and resources to anything that can be measured.

President Obama ran for office embracing a bold, energetic call for change in America. He challenged us to look deeper at ourselves and summon the moral courage to tackle the hard work of change beyond the headlines and slogans. His courage in rejecting so many states in Round One is a heroic act of leadership. It is a challenge for all of us to wake up to the larger systemic challenges of our day.

I honor his willingness to demand more, to push us to think harder, to act with moral conviction about a new type of educational system in America.

Now, with this deeply humbling lesson in hand, I hope the Governor will call a summit of education leaders in the public and private sectors to courageously look at our progress and our efforts to win Race to the Top with the gift of new eyes.

Your partner in service,


5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 12:35 am


    This is all such an incredible sham. In the last “Couple of Weeks”:

    #1 Seattle Superintendent MGJ has appealed the Judge Spector HS Math order of remand.
    Apparently because it violates the right to exclude evidence in decision making and that is how most Seattle school board decisions are made. This is especially true of decisions made by Maria Goodloe Johnson’s favorite four directors: the class of 2007 elected with just a bit less than $500,000 in campaign spending.

    #2 Seattle Schools have once again failed to meet the requirements of RWC 28A.645.020.
    This time in regard to submitting the transcript of the administrative record by March 25, 2010 in the appeal of the $800,000 NTN contract on Feb 3, 2010. Apparently 50 days is not enough time to run the administrative record through the copying machine ….. or perhaps once again the administrative record is inadequate …..
    On March 17, the re-do of the NTN contract, which had already been approved but never seen became an introduction item….. On April 7, 2010 the approval of the NTN contract, which has been revised from the approved but never seen contract of Feb 3, 2010, will me sought from the board ….. My prediction at this point in time is the class of 2007 win with a 4-3 vote…. as Carr, Sundquist, Martin-Morris, and Maier all voted for the contract that did not exist on 2-3-20 … this time a contract exists so surely they’ll vote yes.

    #3 Filed “Writ of Mandamus” with the Supreme Court on Friday 3-26-2010.
    This was served on Seattle School Directors by Tom Leonard at the School Board meeting on 3-17-10 and yet it took SPS General Council’s legal beagles until 3-19-10 at noon to agree that yes the SPS had been served and they agreed to accept service. Same time School Board video was available as streaming video showing the service.

    The Superior Court on more than one occasion has not required the SPS to follow the law RCW 28A.645.020. Some Judges think that the district can defend themselves successfully without a transcript of the decision appealed. Named in the “Writ” are
    Honorable Judges Theresa Doyle and Laura Inveen. They and all judges need to hold SPS accountable to following the law.

    The Court and these two judges were served Monday 3-29-10. Once proof of service is provided the Supreme Court then the “Writ” is ready to roll.

    #4 Naturally Issaquah voted 4-1 to adopt “Discovering” on 3-24-10 as four directors were confused as to what OSPI is saying (aren’t we all) as well as what their actual responsibilities as directors are all about in a School Board adoption of instructional materials.
    Director Chad Magendaz said it best:

    OSPI recommends “Holt”. SBE says “Discovering” is mathematically unsound. That is a high bar to get opver and “Discovering” has not done it. I vote “NO”.

    The other four directors seemed unsure of what the actual facts were and what their job of approval entailed. All four voted “Yes”.

    I am greatly in favor of dumping this entire centralized control of education whether MGJ is doing the controlling or Obama-Duncan or George Bush’s complete NCLB.

    Give me data especially like the NCLB achievement gaps etc. but please just Stuff the Rest.

    Give me a more responsive WA OSPI not control from WA DC.

    I want my local principal to be held accountable and responsive to the Community his school serves through an individual school board of directors. I want teachers teaching not following pointless scripts that Mike Reilly liked in B’vue.

    As for the Microsoft Math/Science partnership that fouls up local math adoptions and the Eli Broad and other corporate meddlers …. they can take their unproductive self-serving corporate Philanthropy and go away.

    Note: “The Broad” pays 100% of Carol Rava Treat’s $141,000 salary and she is assisting MGJ with “MJG’s” strategic plan ….. Amazingly MGJ’s strategic Plan which is supposedly hers looks like every other strategic plan in the “Broad” PhilantroPhized school districts throughout the Urban USA.

    Those who receive “Corporate” Philanthropy from “Broad” resemble Prostitutes more than Educators.

    “Writ of Mandamus” available:

    Microsoft partnership info here:

  2. March 30, 2010 12:43 am

    March 29, 2010

    I filed a “Writ of Mandamus” on March 26, 2010.

    As of March 29, 2010:
    In the case # 10-2-09408-3 SEA


    The administrative record was due on March 25th, 2010
    This has NOT been provided by Seattle Schools. The judge has yet to rule on extensions requested. I believe extensions should not be granted. The district had 50 days in which to gather materials used on Feb. 3, 2010. A judicial ruling needs to be made.

    Plaintiffs need this certified transcript now. This transcript will be useful in the Seattle School Board’s nearly identical $800,000 New Technology Network contract approval scheduled for April 7, 2010, which is a re-do of the flawed Feb. 3, 2010 approval.

    Can the Supreme Court expedite this process?

    This failure on the part of the Seattle Schools to follow RCW 28A.645.020 is a continuing problem as outlined in the ‘Writ of Mandamus” filed on March 26, 2010.


    Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

  3. Rosemary Daszkiewicz permalink
    March 30, 2010 6:31 am

    So what’s the new vision? I’m ready to listen.

  4. Charlie Mas permalink
    March 30, 2010 4:42 pm

    Rep. Carlyle wrote: “Many of our schools are very good. Most are not. Many are extremely ineffective.” And how do you measure school effectiveness? Surely not by student test scores. If one middle school gets well-prepared students who could pass the 7th grade WASL on the first day of 6th grade, is that a reflection of the quality or effectiveness of the school? And if another middle school gets poorly prepared students who arrive at the school working two or more years below grade level, is that a reflection of the quality or effectiveness of the school? In all of the talk about school effectiveness/quality I have yet to see coherent criteria, metrics, assessments, or benchmarks for these comparative adjectives. So what are you talking about? Specifically.

    You write about these things as if we all had some common understanding of them, but we don’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please let us know. What is an effective school? How would we recognize one?

    Instead of talking about successful schools or struggling schools, we should be focused on successful students and struggling students. We will never do better for the students working below grade level until we identify them and get them the early and effective interventions that they need. I don’t see any effort to provide students working below grade level the resources they need to get up to speed. Instead, I see students working below grade level get passed along to the next grade or the next school still ill-prepared to do the work and un-motivated to engage in the lessons that they cannot understand.

    Where is the plan for early and effective intervention for students instead of schools? It’s not the schools that need the help; it’s the students. Where are the state resources to bring them up to grade level?

  5. April 1, 2010 8:23 am

    Catbert speaks:

    on legislation, RttT and so much more.

    Go Catbert.

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