Archives for category: Seattle

Jesse Hagopian, who is a veteran high school teacher in Seattle, writes here about the Seattle teachers’ strike:

Members of the Seattle Education Association—the union that represents Seattle’s teachers, nurses, librarians, instructional assistants, office professionals and educational support staff—voted Tuesday, September 6 to authorize a strike, which was triggered when the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) did not meet the just demands of the union. After SPS failed to even show up to the bargaining table on Friday and Saturday, about 95% of SEA members voted to authorize the strike, with some 75% of the members voting.

Wednesday, September 7th was supposed to have been the first day of school for 50,000 students who attend Seattle Public Schools—but the strike will close all of the schools until a contract is reached. The last time SEA went on strike was in 2015 when the union’s work stoppage won a visionary set of demands including, expanded racial equity teams, more recess time for students, an end to the use of standardized tests scores being used in teacher evaluations, and small wage increases.

Again today, a rank-and-file upsurge spurred the union to vote to strike for, among other issues, maintaining “staffing ratios for special education and multilingual learners and that the district seeks more staff input as it aims to provide services for those students in general education classrooms.” In addition, the union is demanding more counselors, nurses, and to increasing the wages of classified staff—including instructional assistants—so that they can afford to live in Seattle, a city with one of the highest costs of living.

Open the link and read more.

Jesse Hagopian is a high school teacher and social justice activist in Seattle. He has been a leading force on behalf of Black Lives Matter Movement.

He wrote this opinion article for the Seattle Times to explain why Seattle educators want money redirected from policing to social services.

He writes:

Seattle’s Education Association representative assembly — the union body that represents Seattle’s teachers, nurses, librarians, instructional assistants, office professionals and educational support staff — has overwhelmingly passed seven resolutions in solidarity with the movement for Black lives. These included removing police from schools and the King County Labor Council, (which was achieved by a recent vote of the council), educating SEA members on alternatives to calling 911 on students, and my own resolution to defund the Seattle Police Department and reinvest the money in education, health care and programs to support families.

These bold resolutions, adopted June 8, were surely spurred by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and the ensuing uprising that’s swept the nation. But this vote wasn’t only about injustices elsewhere. Seattle’s educators have been fighting institutional racism and the school-to-prison-pipeline here for some time.

In Seattle, our “Black Lives Matter at School” movement erupted September 2016. A white supremacist threatened to bomb John Muir Elementary School when the educators there — in conjunction with parents, community and the group “Black Men United to Change the Narrative” — declared they would celebrate Black students with an assembly, and by wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school.

Black Lives Matter at School then went national, thanks to educators in Philadelphia who organized a full week of action and broke down the 13 principles of the Black Lives Matter Global Network into teaching points for each day of the week. Last year, educators in more than 40 cities participated in BLM at School, reaching many thousands of students.

Each year, Seattle’s educators have voted to support the demands of the national Black Lives Matter at School week of action during the first week in February, including the fourth SEA demand, “Fund Counselors, Not Cops.” And when Seattle Public Schools parent Charleena Lyles was killed in her own home in front of her children by Seattle police department officers on June 18, 2017, the Seattle Education Association urged our members to wear their Black Lives Matter shirts to school and join a rally to stand with her family.

Building on that legacy, educators took a bold new step to call for a 50% cut from the $409 million already budgeted for the Seattle Police Department this year. Seattle educators now understand the words of Michelle Alexander, leading human-rights advocate and author of “The New Jim Crow,” who recently wrote:

After decades of reform, countless commissions and task forces, and millions of dollars poured into ‘smart on crime’ approaches, the police behave with about as much brutality today as they did in 1966 … More than 95% of arrests every year are for nonviolent offenses like loitering, fare evasion and theft.”

Yet the resolution passed by Seattle’s educators wasn’t simply about shrinking the size and malignancy of the police but about re-imagining justice, education, public safety and our society. The resolution also demands that,
“Seattle’s Mayor and City Council must protect and expand investments to make our communities safe, prioritizing community-led health and safety strategies. Full access to affordable housing, community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and treatment, universal child care and free public transit are just a few of the non-police solutions to social problems.”

As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people. Whole people heal people.” Massive wealth inequality and structural racism are hurting people in our city and constitute the biggest threat to public safety. We now have an opportunity to make the kind of social investments in housing, education and health care to create whole and healthy communities and create new paradigms for addressing the root causes of violence.

Several Seattle-based organizations are already providing a restorative justice and community building approach to public safety, including Community Passageways, Safe Passage and Creative Justice. These programs provide such services as alternatives to youth incarceration, mentorship to youth who are involved with the legal system and staff trained in de-escalation techniques to help mediate conflicts, providing an alternative model for public safety. These and other programs are limited by their budgets, however, which pale in comparison to the funding lavished on the punitive system of policing.

Minneapolis has already vowed to dismantle its police force and start over with a new vision for investing in social workers, public-health workers and conflict mediators who are trained to care for people’s well-being.

Seattle’s educators have a lesson for city officials. We hope they are sitting up straight and taking notes: We can create safe and thriving communities by joining the growing number of cities who are re-appropriating funds from a punishment-based system and re-aiming them toward a new system that builds thriving communities.

Jesse Hagopian teaches Ethnic Studies and English Language Arts at Garfield High School, is an editor for Rethinking Schools, serves as the director for Black Education Matters and is the co-editor of the book “Teaching for Black Lives.” He is the recipient of the NAACP Youth Council’s 2019 Racial Justice Teacher of the Year award.

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, warns of the dangers of coronavirus capitalism. She notes that some elected boards have granted unusual powers to their superintendents to make contracts. Seattle’s superintendent, she says, has signed some doozies.

It is especially sad to see Seattle in this trouble, as the parents and educators there have been unusually vigilant in protecting their public schools, especially after a Broadie made some terrible decisions.

One inexplicable decision was to hire a “strategy firm” to improve her image at the same time that teachers were being laid off.

Juneau also hired a private strategy firm Strategies 360, while teachers were losing their jobs due to budgetary restraints. Seattle Public Schools has a communications department well established within the district. Why was an additional private firm needed? A former Seattle superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, hired the same firm to assist with her public image, but to no avail.

Audrey Watters reminds us of Rahm Emanuel’s immortal words, “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.”

And she see the enthusiasts of the ed-tech industry ready to pounce and take advantage of the current crisis. She lives in Seattle, possibly the epicenter of the crisis.

She writes:

Some schools in the Seattle area — both K-12 and colleges — have closed, and there has been intense pressure on administrators to shut everything down and move instruction online. (Governor Inslee has just announced the state is considering “mandatory measures” to combat the spread of the illness, so we shall see what exactly that means.) I’ve heard lots of local tech workers complain angrily that, in a region that’s home to Microsoft and Amazon, there is really no excuse for schools staying open. Digital learning, they argue, is already preferable. And now, they say, it’s necessary.

But that just strikes me as wildly uninformed — although that’s never stopped the tech industry from intervening in education before. It’s an assertion that rests on the assumption that ed-tech is good, that it can replicate at home what happens in the classroom. “This may be our moment,” ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving “to the cloud.” Of course, education technology — as a field, an industry, a discipline, a solution, what have you — has had decades and decades and decades to get this right. It still hasn’t. So when you hear “this is our moment,” you should recall perhaps the thesis of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. What we’re poised to see in response to the coronavirus — and not just in education, to be fair — is more disaster capitalism, and “disaster capitalists share this same inability to distinguish between creation and destruction, between hurting and healing.”

People are hurting and people are frightened right now. And thanks to the utter incompetence of the Trump Administration, there’s surely still more to worry about; still more people are going to suffer. This isn’t the time to be triumphant about ed-tech’s possibilities. This isn’t the time to prove anything about ed-tech, quite frankly. This an emergency response to a crisis.

Do all students have access to high-speed broadband at home? K-12 or otherwise? Nope. Do all students have access to laptops at home? Nope. Schools know this, and it’s part of the calculation they make whether or not to move everything online. But closure isn’t just about classes. The function of schools extends well beyond instruction. This is particularly true in K-12 schools, which also serve for many students and families as childcare, community centers, health care providers, disability support services, and places to eat breakfast and lunch. To close the doors to a school shifts the burden of all these services onto individual families.

Spare me the techno-solutionism. Let’s talk about big structural change. (But let’s not act like we’re gonna implement that tomorrow morning, ok?)

Hi, Bill and Melinda,

We have never met but I feel that I know you because I am so familiar with your education projects.

I have tried in the past to meet you and have a candid conversation but have never had any luck.

You were always too busy or out of town.

But I am trying again.

I will be in Seattle on February 3-4.

I arrive on the afternoon of the 3rd and am speaking at a public event on February 4 at Town Hall. The wonderful teacher-leader Jesse Hagopian is introducing me.

I have some down time and wondered if we might be able to meet at last.

Are you available to meet in the late afternoon or evening of February 3 or during the day on February 4?

Please let me know if you can make time on your busy schedule.

My partner will be with me.

I hope you can do it!

We have a lot to talk about!


The latest speculation is that Amazon will
split its second headquarters between northern Virginia and Long Island City, in Queens, New York City. The following story assumes that Amazon will choose northern Virginia, but wherever the giant corporation locates its second headquarters, this is a fascinating article about Amazon and Jeff Bezos.

This is a fascinating article that appeared in The New Yorker about Amazon, the financial behemoth of our age. It is based on the guess that Jeff Bezos will choose to locate in northern Virginia, for reasons explained in the article. Cities have been offering Amazon all sorts of tax breaks and incentives to choose them. But the smart money is betting on the proximity to DC.

Amazon has made Bezos the richest man in the world, with an estimated wealth of $150 billion.

This will be his new home:

“On October 21, 2016, an entity called the Cherry Revocable Trust purchased two adjacent buildings in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for twenty-three million dollars. The buildings, which previously had housed the Textile Museum, were to be converted into a private residence—at twenty-seven thousand square feet, the largest in the city. In January, it was revealed that the anonymous purchaser represented by the Cherry Revocable Trust was Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon. The finished property will have eleven bedrooms, twenty-five bathrooms, five staircases, and a large ballroom suitable for gatherings of Washington’s notables. It will be, in the words of the journalist Ben Wofford, “a veritable Death Star of Washington entertaining.”

Americans have long been fascinated with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But there is something obscene about the accumulation of $150 billion—and growing.

Will any party have the guts to raise taxes for the wealthy now that the 1% of the 1% has amassed so much wealth?

Growing inequality endangers the well-being of our society, as do concentrations of vast wealth in the hands of a small number of people. Their wealth is weaponized when they use it to undermine and control public institutions.

The National Education Policy Center reported on the success of a high school in Seattle that adopted the principles of “schools of opportunity.” Open the link for sources and other links. Valerie Strauss posted an article about the school here.

These Comeback Kids Don’t Bake Cookies: The Community-Based Transformation of an Urban School

You could call it the comeback kid.

In 2010, Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School was on the edge of closure. Just 320 students occupied a building constructed to serve nearly four times that number. Its on-time graduation rate of 48 percent was among the lowest in the state of Washington.

Fast forward to today and the picture has completely changed. Enrollment exceeds 700. The graduation rate is 89 percent. And, unlike many other school turnarounds that superficially look successful, the school has continued to serve the same families and community. At Rainier Beach, nearly three-quarters of the students hail from low-income families, and 40 percent come from immigrant or refugee backgrounds. The school’s diverse population is 49 percent Black, 26 percent Asian, 14 percent Hispanic, six percent multi-racial, three percent White, and two percent Pacific Islander/Native American/Alaskan.

In 2016, NEPC recognized Rainier Beach as a School of Opportunity, making particular note of the school’s rigorous but supported classes and its thoughtful and powerful community outreach.
Too often, transformations like Rainier Beach’s are attributed to external forces such as state accountability measures or the introduction of a new and charismatic leader.

But in a recent article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Educational Administration, Ann M. Ishimaru, an associate professor of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington’s College of Education, uses interviews, document analyses, and observations to tell a very different tale about Rainier Beach.

Truth be told, some aspects of the Rainier Beach story are not out of the ordinary. It brought in new leadership. It struggled with and benefitted from the implications and resources associated with accountability-based reforms.

But another part of the school’s story is indeed unusual—and offers important lessons for other schools now struggling to improve. Professor Ishimaru traces the school’s transformation to a groundswell of activism led by local families, students, and community members. Working together with educators, these activists were able to benefit from structures of conventional schooling by transforming those structures to better suit their needs. As Ishimaru notes, these were practices and institutions often imposed on low-income, “majority-minority” communities—structures that often do little to engage those communities or respond to their voiced needs.

For example, activists leveraged the power of the PTA, using it to spark change. As one parent leader explained:

We don’t make cookies. We’re not here to fund raise for your school. We’re here to be transformative change agents for the school. We need you to deploy us to spaces that you can’t get to, like School Board meetings and the Superintendent […] No, we don’t make cookies. […] We infiltrate, that’s right.
Other community-based strategies Ishimaru identified included:

Participating in the accountability-based school turnaround/school improvement grant process;

Holding community “cafes” to build support for the school’s new International Baccalaureate program; and

Supporting academic and behavioral interventions (such as introducing Freedom Schools and hiring a restorative justice coordinator) that empower youth.

“This study is a testament to the changes that can unfold when parents and communities drive priorities and action in school change efforts,” Ishimaru concludes.

Still, she cautions that work remains to be done at Rainier Beach: Key community leaders have moved on. Parents worry that African American students are still under-represented in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. And there’s no guarantee that the program itself will continue to attract the resources it needs to operate.

Jesse Hagopian, star teacher and organizer, reports that the Seattle Education Association voted for a moratorium on all standardized testing.

This is a stellar example of teachers taking control of their profession and their classrooms. They are wresting control from uninformed legislators and the greedy testing industry, as well as Congress, which heedlessly imposes mandates without a clue about the damage they do to children, teachers, and education.

He writes:

I am bursting with pride for my union.

The Seattle Education Association voted at this week’s Representative Assembly to support a resolution calling for a moratorium on all standardized testing! This vote comes in a long line of organizing and opposition to high-stakes testing in Seattle.

In 2013, the teachers at Garfield High School voted unanimously to refuse to administer the MAP test. The boycott spread to several other schools in Seattle. When the superintendent threatened the boycotting teachers with a 10 day suspension without pay, non of the teachers backed down. At the end of the year, because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students around the country, not only were no teachers disciplined, but the superintendent announced that the MAP test would no longer be required for Seattle’s high schools. In the subsequent years we have seen the movement continue to develop with Nathan Hale High School achieving a 100% opt out rate of the junior class of the Smarter Balanced test in 2015, with some 60,000 families opting their kids out of the common core test around Washington State.


Despite these heroic efforts to stand up to the testocracy, they are still trying to reduce teaching a learning to a score and use that score to punish students. Thousands of students will not graduate from high school across Washington State simply because they didn’t pass the common core test. The average student in the public schools in the U.S. takes an outlandish 112 standardized tests in the K-12 career–forcing teachers to teach to the test, rather than teach to the student. Study after study has reveled that these tests are a better measure of family income that aptitude. These test measure resources and your proximity to the dominant culture, negatively impacting English Language Learners, special education students, students of color, and low income students.

For all these reasons and more, my colleague Jeff Treistman, introduced a New Business Item (NBI) to bring before the Seattle Education Association this week to consider taking a bold stance against the outrageous over testing of students. Below is a short statement from Jeff explaining his reasoning behind the successful resolution, and gives us the language of the NBI. It is my sincere hope that the Seattle School Board heeds this resolution and moves to implement a “two year moratorium on all standardized testing, at the district, state, and federal levels and to open a public forum along with Seattle Public Schools on the best way to assess our students.”

Continue reading for the statement of Jeff Treistman, who introduced the resolution, as well as the text of the resolution.


Dora Taylor, parent activist, wonders why the Seattle school board would consider another Broadie, in light of the city’s horrible experience with another Broadie.

“Many of us painfully recall our last Broad Superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and the pain she brought with her through school closings, successful programs being decimated, an increase in bureaucracy, nonsensical rifing of teachers and a regime of fear.

“This kind of disruption has been felt by other districts who hired superintendents trained by the billionaire Eli Broad who thinks all schools should be privatized.”

Dora Taylor , parent activist in Seattle, wonders when the results from the SBAC tests will be released. The tests were given six months ago.

“Remember the Common Core SBAC test that was given to students in Seattle during the month of April and May, the test that was sooo important for students to take, the test that certain school administrators threatened, coerced and embarrassed students into taking, that SBAC test? Well, parents and students have yet to see the results of the test.

“So then the question is, why haven’t the results been published? Does OSPI or our superintendent hope we’ll forget about the test? That it will be just a vague and very bad memory when precious class time was lost and millions of dollars spent on a test that is of no value to teachers or their students? Even if and when we see the results, will it matter? Teachers, students and parents cannot see the questions or the answers.

“Is it because the results were so bad that a narrative is being created by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction OSPI/Bill Gates (Bill Gates has provided OSPI with $14M in grants since 2009)? We know that the Common Core Standards test results in other states were so low that parents began to question the test’s validity.”

How long does it take the computer to grade the tests?