Friday, March 13, 2009

Labor contracts expiring

Seattle Public Schools has nine labor contracts terminating this year. They will all have to be re-negotiated. The Superintendent negotiates them with the unions and the Board ratifies them. The public does not have a role.

What do you think should be included in the next contract with the teachers? the prinicpals? the classified staff?

This is where there can be changes to evaluation procedures and criteria. This is where the District can push for teachers to update the Source. Think of everything that you wanted but were told that the union contract would not allow.

CPPS wants to invite The National Council for Teacher Quality to provide an objective analysis of the school district's current teachers' contract and make practical recommendations for improvements that put students' needs first.

17 comments:

wseadawg said...

From NCTQ's website:

NCTQ "is a nonpartisan research and advocacy group committed to restructuring the teaching profession, led by our vision that every child deserves effective teachers."

"Committed to restructuring the teaching profession?" That sounds pretty radical to me.

Hey, CPPS folks: What's this all about? Anyone else know who these NCTQ folks are, where they've gone before, what they've done, etc.?

I'd think after the audits we've seen thus far, we might do better to stick with our own local folks rather than bringing in more "experts" from afar, but I'm in the dark on who these folks really are, so if anyone can chime in with a little knowledge, that would be great.

speducator said...

Here's who funds the NCTQ. Funding from the Exxon Foundation doesn't instill me with confidence.

Our Funders

The National Council on Teacher Quality receives all of its funding from private foundations. Here is a list of our funders:
Achelis Foundation
Bodman Foundation
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
The Brookhill Foundation
The Louis Calder Foundation
Daniels Fund
Exxon Mobil Foundation
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Fisher Family Foundation
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Gleason Foundation
Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
Houston Endowment
Joyce Foundation
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Koret Foundation
Milken Family Foundation
Searle Freedom Trust
The Teaching Commission

AutismMom said...

It will be interesting to see how the district will handle special education teaching contracts. Will the programs (and associated contracts) be maintained? Or will there be a new type of contract for special education teachers? The current contracting protects teachers and students by spelling out the teaching ratios in each type of program, as well as the number of assistants. How will that protection happen now, especially if we're moving away from having programs? The results of these contract negotiations will speak volumes about the actual direction the district will take.

During the last round of teacher contracts (3 years ago), the union increased some ratio's (special education teachers teaching in level 4b) in order to fund raises given to everyone else.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The two things I would like to see for teachers are:

-use of The Source. It is just wrong to have invested in this idea (which is a good one) and then have some teachers say no to using it (except on a very limited basis). I know teachers at RHS who use it twice a DAY versus those who do the contractual twice a quarter. My son had a teacher his freshman year who told the kids to tell their parents to quit e-mailing him about using The Source. The same teacher called those parents "helicopter parents".

By high school, you do need to back off a bit but it is also a very serious time and if you let things go too long, your child can fall behind. One of the responses from the student focus groups at RHS was that students feel they don't get enough feedback soon enough and The Source could be a place for that if the teacher doesn't have time for each student every day.

I tell parents that at the Open House or Curriculum Night to ask every teacher how often they use The Source and get a real answer. This puts them on notice in front of other parents so that they know it means something to parents.

And if teachers have problems using it, then have some professional development time around technology.

- I would like it spelled out - for parents - what the procedure is for complaining about a teacher if you feel they are ineffective and/or unprofessional. What is the procedure if a group of parents is strongly worried about a teacher? I know of a couple of situations currently at a couple of different schools where parents are very upset and worried about teachers. One has to do with an aggressive teacher and the other with an ineffective teacher. Just tell us what parent input is and what meaning it has to the process. Does it go into their personnel file? How many complaints does it take before any action is taken? When does a principal go to the district about a teacher? Ditto on principals.

I realize that these are personnel matters that involve a union contract. But we are the end users and for us to have no clear idea of what to do or what the process may be is very frustrating. The fact that I've been around for awhile and STILL don't know says something.

Keepin'On said...

I agree with Melissa - especially on Parent rights in regards to ineffective or abusive teachers. It certaily is the case now that the teacher has all the rights, and the kids and parents have none.

I would also like to see tenure granted after 5 years of employment - not the two years as is currently the case. I would also add that this should be reviewed every five years (I realize this negates the idea of tenure - but when you have so many inneffective teachers out there who need to go elsewhere, but cant be removed because of tenure - it grates on me)

I am sure none of this will happen though, the teachers will go on strike, and we will be going to school until August 2010!

old salt said...

Our experience with teachers in SPS has been very good. Most that we have had are skilled & dedicated. I hate to see this kind of teacher have their hands tied by poor standardized curriculum or pacing guides.

I have seen a few very bad teachers. Teachers who know less about their subject area than their students, teachers who use humiliation as a part of classroom management, one teacher who is routinely out of compliance with ieps. I would like to see principals have more power to fire a teacher like these.

kprugman said...

NCTQ destroyed Denver and LA. Ready or Not Seattle will get NCTQ. They have a social agenda like reform math - a mile wide and an inch deep. Being a non-profit will not prevent them from getting paid with school dollars that sadly should go to classrooms and teachers. I'm convinced and I moved on.

wseadawg said...

Melissa & Keepin'On, I guess I've been real lucky so far. While I've had a teacher or two I didn't share philosophies with, overall, my kids' teachers have been great.

Kprugman: Could you elaborate on what you mean? That's a pretty strong statement to dump and move on from.

If there's something scary about these folks, I'd like to know it ASAP. I'm concerned that more radical changes to the district are in the pipeline, and I want to know who's behind them and why. Corporate donating isn't inherently evil, but often comes with strings attached, as the recent Gates gift might have. It at least signifies Gates's support for the recent controversial closures and program moves, along with broader support for more standardization and testing (which I don't like). So with an expiring contract and more outside think tanks or action groups or whatever lurking in the wings, I'd like to know what's coming at us parents in the future.

kprugman said...

The opinion in education is that the NCTQ is a conservative 'reform socialist' thinktank that subscribes to market-based reforms in all aspects of education policy making.

This is why I feel Obama will probably fail first in education and then with the economy. Its more to do with his team.

We do not hear much from Paul Volker on the economy and that should be a major concern for everyone. The US is not in a depression yet, but one will come very soon.

Let's use the NCTQ's controversial vision for reading education as an example, where the NCTE has been one of the NCTQ's strongest critics.

http://www.ncte.org/pubs/chron/perspectives/127003.htm

The research published by the NCTQ does not meet even minimal professional research standards, yet it gets front page headlines.

In a report very similiar to UW applied math/LIFE department study on math textbooks, NCTQ authors asked whether the teaching of reading in schools of education is being faithful to the findings of the National Reading Panel.

To answer this question, they examined course syllabi and assigned readings from reading methods courses at 72 US colleges. Based on their survey, the authors concluded that most universities are not teaching prospective teachers the “science of reading.”

Teacher educators (like scientists, doctors, and lawyers) get “no respect.”

Look at the results of their merit pay reform policy in Denver. It is mass public exocus.

emeraldkity said...

i would like to see measurement of how many vacation/sick days teachers/schools show during the year and transparency and accuracy about how those positions are covered

I believe there is a direct relationship to days teachers are out of the classrooms to student performance

kprugman said...

Comparisons can only be made between other teachers and let's say their classroom's WASL test scores. In many ways your comparison is no different than NCTQ's research. But one should look at other factors that might actually have a larger affect on achievement.

As teachers get older, they gain more experience, but they also tend to get sick more often. Also, the stress of teaching in an inner city school will result in more absences - there are some stress disorders associated with teaching in loud, dysfunctional environments under duress.

A classroom full of chatty, confrontational, off-task kids who resent whites can be a challenge even for a well-rounded teacher. So while merit pay might sound attractive, beware of small, odd gifts. Public schools have used merit pay systems in the past and it didn't work then.

Denver, the current 'leader' in structural reform, is a case in point. Seattle is near, in the top ten. Educators need to address curriculum and most important, the public has to buy into it.

Bess said...

I am the issues director at the National Counsel on Teacher Quality--NCTQ.

pkrugman wrote that NCTQ "destroyed Denver and LA," yet NCTQ had no hand in Denver's teacher pay reform plan and has not done any work that I aware of in either Los Angeles or Denver. Much of our work has concerned state policy and the preparation of teachers.

I'm not sure what a "conservative 'reform socialist' " organization would be, but the only one of those words we would embrace is "reform." We aim to take practical positions that increase the number of effective teachers. Our perspective stems from what's best for students and not free market solutions.

Eric B said...

Bess - Thank you so much for replying and participating. What does the NTCQ consider an "effective" teacher? Do you have documents that can help us decide if should support CPPS's trust in your suggestions/evaluations? Also, it was noticed that you are supported by many philanthropic organizations, some of which do have agendas. Do you have a way of insulating your recommendations from the goals of some of your funders so there is not the appearance of conflict of interest or influence? Thank you!

seattle citizen said...

Eric, well-articulated questions!

My question, Bess would be around merit pay. It is my understanding that there is some considerable interest in this.

What metrics would be used for such a plan? My concern is that there are so many variables ivolved in a classroom that merit pay would be inherently unfair.

If the only metric used is, say, WASL performance, than how would merit be judged fairly, as classrooms differ widely in classroom preparedness.

If some other form of merit is determined, what data would be used to determine merit?

Variables in the classroom include these varieties:
levels of student knowledge coming in; speed at which individual students process information and learning; interests (student performs more in one subject than another); external support (parent, community etc); teacher training and expertise; stressors present in students; expectations of districts within a state, of principals within a district, of teachers within a school.

How would merit pay measure growth given these variable? Not to say it couldn't be done, but do you have some information that shows it CAN be done?

Thank you

wseadawg said...

Bess: Thanks for chiming in. I know CPPS folks follow this blog, so their silence in response to my ?'s concerns me a bit.

Why does NCTQ want to come to Seattle and involve itself in our teachers labor contracts? How can you help us? What have you done elsewhere? Has it worked? What is your philosophy on tenure? Is two years too short? How would you propose merit pay? Would you base it upon standardized test scores? Or would you base it upon the amount of improvement? How could it be equitably implemented? Could it be done with controls to prevent conflicts of interest or playing favorites by administrators? Does it help or corrode relations between teachers? What about between schools?

I know NCTQ wants to audit the district and make recommendations that will improve teacher effectiveness, but does NCTQ have a proven track record of improvements elsewhere? If so, where?

I want to know as much about your ideology, methods and philosophy before I would support bringing in more outside auditors. That hasn't served this district well recently in my opinion.

Thanks for any information you can share.

emeraldkity said...

As teachers get older, they gain more experience, but they also tend to get sick more often. Also, the stress of teaching in an inner city school will result in more absences - there are some stress disorders associated with teaching in loud, dysfunctional environments under duress.


The instances I am thinking of, did not have to do with the classroom teacher being ill.

In one case the teacher was pregnant and took a great deal of time off at the end of pregnancy and after the baby was born. This is fine, except a permanent sub who could adaquately cover the class was not found for the time she was gone-

Another case was when during the 1st month of school, a classroom teacher took a week off to go to the east coast for a relatives 80th birthday celebration. Why they thought that was more important than their classroom, I don't know, but it was only their 2nd year of teaching.

THe most egregious case IMO, was when a classroom teachers' parent was ill and they wanted to take care of her. Fine except they didn't put in for a leave, instead they arranged day by day, month by month to be gone for basically the whole year, which turned into a five year period, which only ended when the parent passed on.

So the classroom was covered by rotating substitutes, starting from the 2nd month of school. The parents were not informed until the end of the 3rd month of school

I accept teachers being ill, but when it is a choice not to be at work, I think they need to either correct their priorities, or do something where they are not letting down thirty children everyday

owlhouse said...

I just checked back to see if we'd heard more from Bess.

In case she might still respond, I'm curious about the outcome of the Inspector General's 2005 report that found that NCTQ and The Oquirrh Institute misused Ed department grant money in advocating their "teacher quality" programs. I'd also like to hear about any potential conflict of interest in Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, sitting on the board of ABCTE while advocating the end of teacher credentialing by state.

Kprugman may have overstated things, but NCTQ did work in Colorado in 2008, publishing a report that gave the state a c- on policies relating to new teachers. This followed a 2005 A for "The alignment of Colorado teacher performance-based preparation
standards with Colorado student content standards..."

And, in 2007, NCTQ did put together a proposal on for a state by state database of the the "Rules, Roles and Rights of Teachers"- essentially compiling all sorts of collective bargaining info, to make it available for public scrutiny.
This proposal included data from California’s 4 largest school districts, including LA.

I'm not sure what came of these works, but I've not been impressed by NCTQ's agenda or methodology, and would not value their insight into strengthening Seattle schools.