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May 15, 2013 at 8:20 AM
A major study of public education philanthropy found that education reforms have been accompanied over the last decade by a shift in financial support from private foundations. The biggest example is the shift of philanthropic dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools, a finding guaranteed to fuel flames in the charter vs. traditional public schools debate.
The Michigan State University-led study tracked grants over a 10-year period from 15 U.S. foundations that give the most money to K-12 education.
“Not only are they giving more, but they are giving more, faster, and we find that very interesting,” one of the studies co-authors, Jeffrey W. Snyder told Education Week.
“Beyond Grantmaking: Philanthropic Foundations as Agents of Change and Institutional Entrepreneurs” was released at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco last week. I wrote about that meeting in this column. The research is thick but fascinating because of the power of philanthropic foundations to make social change. Total assets of the United States’ 76,000 foundations has grown from an estimated $272 billion in 1995 to $625 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2012, according to the Urban Institute. How that money influences, and improves, social conditions is worthy of ongoing attention.
But any takeaway that philanthropy is a corrupting influence is too simplistic a view. Nor do I think the authors intend for their research to be used to make that narrow point. The issue is far more complex. Funders are becoming much more active in shaping how their money affects change. They are holding themselves accountable for results. I would warn against rushing to judge this shift. The impact of private funding, particularly from large foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is far more complex than a good versus bad paradigm allows. Here’s one reason why.
May 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM
President Obama’s efforts to regain America’s economic edge by ramping up science, engineering, technology and math businesses has a fan in Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Fresh from attending the White House’s third annual Science Fair, Nye spoke this week with the Huffington Post about the smart intersections of science and technology. Nye emphasized a point I’ve often made: America’s success depends on getting more at-risk students to take STEM courses.
The White House last month announced the US2020 campaign encouraging companies to commit 20 percent of their tech employees to 20 hours a year of mentoring or teaching by the year 2020.
Local examples lead the way on the president’s efforts, particularly the robotics club at Tacoma’s Lincoln Center High School. The club is receving widespread recognition, including an expected visit Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee, for computer application designs and a partnership with Bellevue-based Concur Technologies. Employees from Concur have been teaching Lincoln Center students basic coding and software development.
On the national level, Nye – a popular scientist who hosts television shows on PBS, The Science Channel, and Planet Green – is optimistic about the president’s efforts to harness private companies and government efforts. He also underscores something I believe will be the best thing to come out of all the attention on STEM: every student getting a solid ground in science and technology regardless of their career aspirations.
“We want our whole society to know and appreciate the value of science … whether or not you become scientist or an engineer,” Nye told the Huffington Post.
President Obama has committed $3.2 billion to bolstering STEM education in K-12 education and creating a teaching corps with expertise in STEM fields. Other critical initiatives include encouraging more girls to study STEM as this Seattle Times op-ed noted last fall. Nye, film actor LeVar Burton and others talk about STEM on the White House lawn in the video below.
May 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM
Civil Disagreement pits two members of the Seattle Times editorial board against each other on a question of the day. It is an occasional feature of The Times’ Northwest Opinion blog. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner take on the recent report that the pay gap between men and women is wider in Seattle than in any other major city.
Bruce, I don't believe that women are the victims of some vast conspiracy to work us harder and pay us less. Salaries are based on a subjective algorithm that includes education, experience and the personal choices we make in our lives.
In large measure, we women determine our pay by the choices we make, argues this New York Times piece. I agree. We move in and out of the work force more than men. Our work/career trajectory accelerates while we're single and, for many women, drops after we marry and begin to raise families. That smacks to me of punishing us for the choices we make - choices I might add that work well for society. Better that I raise my child to be a contributing member of society than shirk that responsibility in favor of chasing wages.
But gender disparities in pay are not solely about personal choices. If so, that would be a Mommy tax we could easily dispense with. Changes in public policy are needed to address the problem in a comprehensive way. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would fix the problem in part. The proposed law would make wage and salary information more transparent and easier to share for the majority of American workers. For example, companies could annually publish job titles and corresponding salaries in an accessible database. Employees seeking this information would be protected from workplace retaliation. I like this. We have to get over the American reluctance to discuss salaries and money.
Fifty years after passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, I hope society is beginning to view pay equity as not a women's issue, but an economic challenge faced by families. Nearly half of households headed by women live in poverty. Your tax dollars go to help those families. About 12 percent of women over age 18 were the heads of their households. Their earnings are critical and society pays the cost in terms of social services for poor households, most of which are headed by women.
In turn, I and other women have to do more than get upset about the yawning gaps in pay based on gender. I was rooting around the website of a national organization devoted to equal pay and found a list of things women can do. Here's some of what I gleaned.
Discuss pay rates with friends.
Read salary surveys, some are available free online.
Look for companies that not only pay well, but promote women throughout the organization, from the file clerks to the department heads.
Take more science, technology and math courses. Techology and engineering industries pay well and the fact that women are not as highly represented in those fields as men contributes to the wage gap. Also, research shows that women earn more for every math course they take.
Lynne, I wouldn’t be too worried about the “gender pay gap” being wider here. I doubt if the gap is about the Seattle area being a hotbed of discrimination. It is about the kind of jobs we have, which are jobs that disproportionately benefit men.
The Seattle area has a lot of computer, engineering and science jobs that pay well. I know a 22-year-old computer-science grad who has been hired for $120,000. I see tech people every day at lunch: most are men. That's not discrimination; it's that more men can do, and are willing to do, the sort of computer work for which Seattle's employers are willing to pay good money.
The Seattle area also has well-paid blue-collar jobs: aircraft assembly, shipyard work, machine shops, stevedoring, commercial construction, etc. (In the rural areas it's timber jobs, sawmill jobs, fishing, mining, etc.) There are women in all these fields, but more men. Women can work hard for long hours, and from time immemorial many have, but more men than women can handle a jackhammer or a big chain saw, or hoist a garbage can full of trash.
Women have made huge strides in indoor work: law, accounting, finance, medicine, human resources, academia and government. Look at what has happened in journalism. Nursing, which was a low-pay "pink ghetto," has become better paid because women had more alternatives to it.
The "gap" everyone talks about is not between men and women with the same jobs. It's between men and women as groups. The comparison reflects the fact that more men than women are employed full-time, and that more men than women work overtime. It reflects that women leave the job to bear and raise children, and fall behind the men who don't leave. It reflects women’s preference for jobs with family friendly policies, and safer jobs, even if the jobs pay less.
After looking at the "problem" of the pay gap, a federal study (“An Analysis of the Reason for the Disparity in Wages between Men and Women,” U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2009) found that “there may be nothing to correct. The difference in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
The raw difference in pay has been shrinking. In 1979, women's aggregate earnings were an average 62.5 percent of men's; in 2006, it had risen to 80.8 percent. The reason for the rise, the study said, is that women have been making career decisions more like men.
A final note. For more than a decade, more women have been graduating from college with bachelor's degrees. By age 25, some 30 percent of women have bachelor's degrees, but only 22 percent of men have them, because more men drop out to work in construction, shipyards, etc. As this cohort ages, I think the aggregate pay gap will shrink further.
April 16, 2013 at 7:00 AM
On Tuesday, people are marking the 50th anniversary of the day Martin Luther King, Jr. began writing his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” with public readings of the letter around the globe, including libraries, museums, schools, universities, churches, synagogues, temples, work places, public parks, bookstores, coffee shops and street corners.
You can read King’s “Letter” here. Every time I have read it I have come away in awe of its vast trajectory across the globe and across the span of history, condensing civil disobedience efforts from biblical times up to the moment King began pressing pen to paper.
April 11, 2013 at 4:09 PM
President Obama released his blueprint for federal spending this week and it would be a shame if it flew under the radar in the Puget Sound region where attention is on state budget proposals in the Legislature.
Obama’s 2014 $3.77 trillion budget proposal tackles the national debt and that will garner most of the attention. But new, targeted investments in high-quality early learning are worth underscoring.
The White House proposes expanding preschool to cover all low- and middle-income 4-year-olds nationwide through a federal-state partnership backed by $66 billion over the next decade. The money would come from raising the federal cigarette tax from $1.01 to $1.95 per pack. This would be a huge game-changer in early learning policy. The preK expansion was singled out in a Washington Post political blog as one of the three best ideas in the president’s budget. There’s a reason for that. (more…)
April 10, 2013 at 7:00 AM
I read with great interest, and no small amount of sympathy, the Seattle Times story about high school seniors who may not graduate because they have not passed the state required math test. As Times education reporter Linda Shaw noted, these students have “rented caps and gowns, purchased graduation announcements, made plans for college or career training,” and it will all be to no avail if they cannot demonstrate proficiency in math.
I feel for the students whose walk across the stage is threatened. And I hate to sound like a parent wagging a finger and saying, “This is for your own good,” but the tough approach taken by schools is for students’ own good. Graduating from high school without proficiency in basic math is an academic short cut with serious economic consequences.
A real-world example is General Plastics Manufacturing Co. in Tacoma where prospective employees need only a high school diploma. Applicants are given an 18-question math test and they can even use a calculator. Questions include asking how to convert inches to feet, reading a tape measure and finding the density of a block of foam. It may be basic math but as a recent McClatchy story pointed out, only one in 10 General Plastics applicant passes the test. (more…)
April 5, 2013 at 6:30 AM
Within big-tent groups like unions, various agendas, factions and viewpoints successfully, or not so successfully sometimes, meld into a coherent single voice. The struggle is always to unite, and hold, all of the different groups in order to retain the clout big numbers offer. The Republican Party has been open about its struggle to represent its conservative wings while trying to reach out to more moderate voters.
That battle is also being waged by the powerful Washington Education Association, and as I wrote in my latest column cracks are beginning to appear in the facade of the 82,000-member union.
Dissent in the WEA is growing, a sign perhaps of how high the stakes are for teachers. On virtually every significant education issue, from merit pay to tenure to testing, the union weighs in strongly and unequivocally, meanwhile my email inbox fills with more nuanced, or even dissenting, views from teachers. Some, like a candidate to replace WEA president Mary Lindquist - Oak Harbor Education Association President Peter Szalai – believe the union concedes too much to pro-education reformers. Others, like teacher advoacy group, Teachers United , think the union should embrace reforms more. There are other examples of teachers operating on the margins of the union, offering a broader viewpoint. The challenge for the union is to embrace differing views while holding its sizeable center.
The WEA surveyed 600 of its members in February and found most were satisfied with the union. Members with six years or less reported the least amount of satisfaction. The most support was found among members who had been teaching between six and 10 years.
April 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The last thing proponents of linking standardized tests with graduation and other high stakes wanted was teachers in handcuffs. But the indictments of 3 dozen Atlanta Public Schools educators for falsifying test scores will put the test on trial.
The group, ranging from classroom teachers to principals, face steep fines and jail time on 65 counts that include racketeering, making false statements and writings and influencing witnesses. Former superintendent Beverly Hall is accused of encouraging the vast cheating conspiracy through threats and monetary bonuses.
“Not only were the children deprived, a lot of teachers were forced into cheating, forced into criminal activity, said one of the scandal’s investigators, former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers. “Now, granted they did wrong, but a lot of them did this to protect jobs.”
Some of the teachers will argue that they were in a no-win situation. The public wanted better academic performances from schools but it can take anywhere from three to five years for positive changes – such as better teachers, curriculum and parent involvement – to show up in standardized test scores. Fake it until students make it may have been a more attractive choice than risking painstakingly slow, but real, academic gains.
That excuse is no more acceptable than the bank employees who argued that their livelihoods depended upon fraudulent mortgage loans. Refusing to commit a crime is not a brave sacrifice, it is our moral obligation. Some educators in Atlanta may be headed to jail. The vast majority of administrators and teachers do not cheat. When they do, it is just as wrong as when students do it.
High-stakes testing should surive its day in court. The expectation that all students can achieve ought to remain. And public education should continue to search for the proper balance between teaching and verifying that students learned something.
April 1, 2013 at 9:29 AM
The headline’s question is explored in a New York Times report that one in five high-school-age boys in the U.S. and 11 percent of all school-aged children have been diagnosed with attention deficity hyperactivity disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study was a broader one about children’s health but noted the marked rise with some concern – not just about rate of medical diagnosises but the possible overuse of medication to treat the disorder. According to the Times, about two-thirds of those diagnosed were prescribed stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall. Those drugs can have a dramatic and positive affect, calming young minds and bodies enough to stay on task during the school day, but they can lead to addiction, anxiety, and in rare cases, psychosis.
The rising rates may be because ADHD is better recognized by doctors and better accepted among parents. Or more ominously, the New York Times suggests ADHD drugs’ ability to dramatically transform the academic performance of some students may be proving too much of a lure for schools, parents and doctors. A media firestorm about a college graduate addicted to Adderall likely frightened many parents. The plethora of news stories about the downsides of treating ADHD wtih drugs, alongside the less breathy stories about the efficacy of ADHD drugs has left parents confused. I found this New York Times dialogue helpful in sorting out many of the issues.
I believe the diagnoses are more often real than not. But that does not mean the treatment has to be medication. A study published in the Lancet medical journal pointed to diet as a way to help kids with ADHD. The study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, believes 64 percent of kids with the disorder are experiencing a food allergy that can be treated with a change in diet. Pelsser compares ADHD to eczema.
The skin is affected, but a lot of people get eczema because of a latex allergy or because they are eating a pineapple or strawberries.” That is not always the case, however.
“In all children, we should start with diet research,” Dr. Pelsser says. If a child’s behavior doesn’t change, then drugs may still be necessary. “But now we are giving them all drugs, and I think that’s a huge mistake,” she says.
March 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM
Seattle Public Schools’ talks with teachers union are rightly influenced by parents and community groups
This Times editorial captures what could serve as a new model for community groups seeking a more influential voice in public education. The efforts by an umbrella organization, Our Schools Coalition, to influence the next contract between the Seattle Public Schools and its 3,000+ teachers is worth watching. The coalition’s 2013 platform is a large list of education goals, ranging from better training and compensation for teachers to broader student access to summer learning programs. The teachers union and district officials have been open to the coalition’s proposals. Indeed, the coalition successfully lobbied for changes in the district-Seattle Education Association contract inked three years ago. That’s a testament to improved relations between the district and the union, but also the coalition’s careful balancing on the line between influencing negotiations and demanding a seat at the table. The latter is verboten under collective bargaining rules.
Labor talks are private, workplace-oriented negotiations between employers and unions. But more visibility can serve public transparency and accountability efforts. As I’ve said, no one can sit at the negotiating table except representatives for the union and the employer. But that does not mean parents and taxpayers do not have a vested interest in how negotiations will impact classrooms. Once a contract is ratified it is public knowledge, but most of us probably don’t know what’s in our district’s teachers contract, even though it directly impacts the success of our students. The Our Schools Coalition delved into the 2009-10 teachers union contract and offers in-depth comparisons with the 2010-13 contract. One doesn’t have to agree with all of the coalition’s goals to see it as an important resource on Seattle education issues.
- Democrats for Education Reform
- East African Community Services
- El Centro de la Raza
- Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
- Horn of Africa Services
- Kevin Washington, Chair, Tabor 100 Education Committee
- King County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- League of Education Voters
- Moderate Voice of Parents (MVP)
- Partnership For Learning
- Powerful Schools
- Rainier Scholars