The issues are myriad and the district has a job on its hands convincing the teachers both from what the tide is nationally and some of the district's own handiwork.
Some of the issues:
- apparently classified staff haven't had a raise in quite awhile
- the national trend towards teacher assessments. This is very touchy to teachers, Bill Gates recently chimed in (discussed in a previous post) and I think parents have mixed feelings.
- teacher pay
- teacher use of The Source
The newest parent/teacher group, Stand for Children has an online petition for parents to sign in support of teacher assessments. I had been exchanging e-mails with Brooke Brod, a local organizer, about why we should do this.
"The District is proposing creating a pilot program of Performance Management that would include the following features:
~ A better professional evaluation process
~ incentives for teachers who receive good professional evaluations and whose students show growth
~ incentives for teachers who take on assignments in high-needs schools
~ more support and professional development opportunities for teachers and principals in high-needs schools.
~ incentives for teachers who teach hard-to-staff subjects like math, special ed, science
Now the District hasn't put forth a specific program, what they want to do in the first year of the new contract is to work in partnership with the union to develop the specifics, which is a good thing. A Performance Management program shouldn't be imposed on teachers it should be created in collaboration with them.
Unfortunately at this point the Union has said no to considering the proposal and we're not sure the District will push for these proposals, which again is why Stand is circulating the petition, because we think it's important that both parties know that broader community wants to have a dialog about these issues.
One of the reasons the union, and sometimes other folks as well, say no is they hear "performance management" and think "merit pay" or "bonuses based on WASL test scores." This is not what's being proposed, not what Stand for Children is advocating and not how such a program would have to be crafted. There are a number of models out there including Denver's ProComp, Chicago TAP (Teacher Advancement Program), Minnesota Q-Comp (which is a unique statewide program). All of these programs were developed with teachers, are governed by collective bargaining agreements and do far more to support effective teaching.
Finally, the Obama administration last Friday announced that there is 4.35 billion dollars available to states AND local districts in the form of competitive grants. Unfortunately Seattle, because we lack any comprehensive reform program, will most likely be ineligible to apply."
I did look into the Minnesota and Chicago models and they are interesting. I think the trend is towards teacher assessment (but not using one single test as the basis). I did write to SEA and WEA and neither answered so it is difficult to know exactly what their stance is and, more importantly, why. Brooke is right that SPS is not going to be eligible for the "Race to the Top" fund from the feds because of lack of reform standards (and also because we don't have charters).
Here's the district's stance:
"Because the negotiations are not open to community members, the District will not be answering emails about our negotiations, nor will the District solicit public or staff input."