Local shorts: FWPS & NCLB, King Co screw up

1. The Federal Way Mirror, my home town paper, published a great piece explaining why the district (where I was superintendent 94-99) failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress. On one hand, Superintendent Murphy is lauded by EdTrust as a gap closer and consistently posts results higher than state average and better than surrounding districts with lower levels of poverty. On the other hand, by failing to make AYP for the second year, he is instructed by NCLB to implement a restructuring plan. A great example of local journalism, the story didn’t make the websites list of most read features (falling well behind the sports lead, Local Women Heat Up World Bikini Football League)

Other than the fact that most people don’t care, is the problem with FWPS or NCLB? I think the answer is both. FWPS is a well run traditional public school district. They have focused and competent leadership and a few schools of choice (in a state with no charters). But they’re running up against the limits of what can be accomplished in traditional schools. Our schools, especially secondary, are just not designed to prepare all students for college. The ‘No Excuses’ cadre of new small charters with a long day/year and heroic effort have pushed the boundary back but are a challenge to scale. Equity and excellence at scale will take innovative tools and schools to approach NCLB goals.

And speaking of NCLB, the FWPS example shows a couple of the problems that must be addressed in reauthorization. A growth model would cut FWPS some slack and a model that differentiated remedy would focus attention on chronic failure.

2. With Ron Sims in DC, King County (Seattle and sounding communities) is electing a County Executive. With a massive deficit and bloated bureaucracy, it’s time for a change. County services are still sized for a time when there were big swaths of unincorporated areas. Now that most of the county is incorporated cities, it’s time to rethink services and budgets. But voters advanced a TV anchor and a liberal Seattle council member to a run off—neither are equipped to deal with the disastrous reality of the next two years. Lost in the back of the pack were two talented state legislators, Fred Jarrett and Ross Hunter. Both have great business backgrounds and productive leg careers, were endorsed by the Seattle Times, and are thoughtful pragmatic problem solvers. I just don’t get it. Either one of these guys would have been a great Executive. Perhaps this is the price of the demise of local newspapers.

3. And soon to be former-Mayor Greg Nichols won’t even make the primary run off.   There must be  more than a few fellow former Sonic season ticket holders taking it out on the mayor.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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