Korsmo's news roundup: Chartering a new course

Here we are on the cusp of a big football playoff weekend and all I can think about are the brand spanking new pieces of legislation introduced this week which, if passed, could have a significant impact on student achievement – namely the achievement gap. So, on with it.

Chartering a New Course: This week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators introduced two bills sure to capture the imagination of parents and pols alike. One is focused on teacher and principal evaluation, while the other would bring public charter schools to Washington.   Representative Eric Pettigrew, Senator Steve Litzow, Senator Rodney Tom and others unveiled the new legislation at a press conference this week.  Pettigrew acknowledged that the charter piece, in particular may be a tough lift and controversial, but worth the fight. The teacher/principal bill is similar to the current teacher, principal evaluation pilots being tested, but would ultimately tie the teachers’ performance to staffing decisions. The charter legislation (which caught a bit of national edu-naut attention) would allow non-profit organizations to operate up to 50 charter schools in the state. The schools would focus on serving the disadvantaged, closing the achievement gap by providing another option for parents and kids who would otherwise have none. (Unless they have the money to go to private schools) As with anything, the devil here is in the details, and the bill outlines the public infrastructure that would authorize and hold accountable any charter operators applying to open schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools can be – and should be – shut down if they fail to serve their students adequately. Other states with charter management organizations (CMO’s) have seen fantastic results for kids traditionally left behind. Washington’s achievement gap is beyond an embarrassment. It’s a downright dirty shame. While some schools of excellence have worked hard at implementing what’s been learned (through public charter schools) to be effective for disadvantaged kids, statewide, we’ve failed. We’ve used the same tools over and over to try to close the gap. To no avail. It’s time for a new tool in the toolbelt.

There will be a lot of misinformation cast as truth throughout this debate. Hear from parents whose children attend public charter schools in California.  Get armed up with info.

Washington Way: In other Washington news, some opine that given the unanimous (I’d said the decision was 7-2, it was unanimous. They disagreed on whether the court should stay engaged in oversight and two dissented there. My bad.) decision, that the legislature wouldn’t dare cut school days this session. That doesn’t mean basic education is off the table, but even a budget balancing bureaucrat can see that school days are actually basic education. Alliteration. Cures all ills for the poorly written.

A new report out of the University of Pennsylvania paints a nasty picture of our state’s leadership on higher education. The report says our ranking in college completion masks the fact that we import a whole lot of those graduates. It lays much of the blame at the feet of our legislators whom they say have “abdicated” their responsibility. Ouch.

Here’s what Superintendent Dorn had to say about all the education issues of the day.


  • I’m not sure how many times we’ve said it, but when it comes to getting the jobs of today and tomorrow, education matters. And, yes, even for manufacturing jobs.
  • But don’t tell that to Rick Santorum.  Who apparently thinks that poverty is a fiction of the establishment elite. Or put another way;  Rick Santorum has gone and lost what little was left of his mind.
  • While Race to the Top was a watershed moment in moving education policy, it continues to be challenging in some places to implement.
  • Chicago Public Schools are awarding grants for the most innovative use of their extended school day. Oh. An extended school day. Now wouldn’t that be nice…
  • When two studies collide, it can be a good thing. The Education Trust West released a study this week showing that kids of color and low income kids are more likely to have the weakest performing teachers. The study underscores the need for a strong evaluation system – tied to hiring policies. The study mentioned here last week, showing the impact of highly effective teachers on student outcomes makes it all the more clear that great teaching matters – and may matter most to disadvantaged students.

Well, friends, that’s it. You know exactly what I’m going to say next. Wait for it…. GO Packers! Have a great weekend.

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  1. Melissa Westbrook January 14, 2012

    “…would allow non-profit organizations to operate up to 50 charter schools in the state. The schools would focus on serving the disadvantaged, closing the achievement gap by providing another option for parents and kids who would otherwise have none. (Unless they have the money to go to private school.)”

    Okay, let’s do a little fleshing out/truth telling.

    Yes, only non-profits would operate the charters. However, the bill allows for them to contract with any entity, public or private, to run their charters. So now we would have public schools run by for-profit companies. That’s a good thing?

    Also, while the bill wants the charters to serve economically disadvantaged students, there is no guarantee that most of them will. Anyone can open a charter.

    Also, as to Chicago Public Schools and the awards to have extended day. Interesting because you don’t need charters to have an extended day. We have a couple of schools here in Seattle that already do that.

    Anything a charter can do, a traditional can do except for hiring non-unionized teachers. I give traditional public schools credit for recognizing the need for fully certified teachers (which most charters don’t hire).

    The Legislature just passed TWO innovation schools bills last session. Why don’t we allow those to work?

  2. Charlie Mas January 20, 2012

    The real benefit of a charter school is that it evades the district-level mandates put on public schools. The schools are free to have a structure and strategy that works best for their students. Of course, that same goal could be achieved for all students in the public schools if we simply opposed bad district-level interference and standardization.

    Which leads to a curious question: if the League of Education Voters believes so strongly in the great benefits of freeing schools from district-level mandates and standardization, then why did the League of Education Voters so strongly support the Goodloe-Johnson administration in Seattle when the hallmark of that administration was mandates and standardization?

    Can someone offer an explanation for that?


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