Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NCTQ "report" wastes Alliance money

The Alliance for Education wasted $14,000 on a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality that doesn't say anything different from what the NCTQ always says and doesn't recommend anything different from what the NCTQ always recommends. The Alliance could have spent that money in classrooms improving outcomes for children and the NCTQ could have made their recommendations for free.

This is no different from the evaluation of your insurance from the insurance salesmand that indicate - shockingly - that you need more insurance. Except that the insurance salesman does the evaluation for free.

The full report is available on the Alliance web site, right here. According to this story in the Seattle Times, "The report focused solely on policies that affect teacher quality, such as how teachers are hired, paid, assigned, trained and evaluated." That's a remarkable statement since none of those things, except maybe training, actually affect teacher quality. And it is the NCTQ who says that the training doesn't matter. According to the story, "'There's absolutely no research that says a teacher who takes more course work is more effective in the classroom,' said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality."

The conclusions of this "report" were pre-determined. The recommendations were pre-determined. The Alliance could have had them without making the gift to the NCTQ.

65 comments:

adhoc said...

According to the article "just 16 of Seattle's nearly 3,500 teachers received an unsatisfactory rating last year."

Can the public find out which teachers received this "unsatisfactory" rating last year? Can we find out the ratings that all of the teachers received?

SPS mom said...

This brings up the possible use of MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores as a component of teacher evaluations.

The question of how MAP results will be used by the District remains unanswered. From Linda Shaw's Seattle Times article, "the report makes a number of controversial recommendations, such as basing pay on how their students perform."

The MAP testing is being paid for by a Gates Foundation grant. And at the Board presentation, it was suggested that parents may not get winter and spring test scores (thank goodness for FERPA). The winter and spring scores will provide longitudinal data - or measure yearly growth - which is data that SPS has not had in the past.

another mom said...

adhoc- employee evaluations are confidential. It is unlikely that NCTQ was given information that would identify the individual teachers.

southend girl said...

Can someone start a thread about the SAP meeting at Aki last night? Boo hiss is how I should begin.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

"the report makes a number of controversial recommendations, such as basing pay on how their students perform."

Great...now no one will want to teach in schools with the most challenged children. Or we will see more discipline-oriented, teach to the test automatons in the classroom. That will make things better...NOT!

Until we, as a society, admit that primary caregivers (parents/grandparents/guardians) and home life situations are equal parts of the equation for a child's success in school, we will continue to bash teachers.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

And, yes please...a thread for the Aki meeting! The southend has very different issues with the SAP than the northend, so we need to see how it all went down.

SPSMom said...

Wasn't it the Alliance that printed that really fancy annual report last spring? How much did that cost?

I would love to see a breakdown on how they spend their money - is ANY of it going to the classroom? Aren't there school with shortages of textbooks? Aren't there schools that are in need of art supplies, instruments? Is there any system in place where teachers or school staff could apply for grant money from the Alliance?

I don't see anything like that on their web site.

The more I learn about the Alliance the more I think it is PR corportation that fancy's themselves as education experts, without actually knowing anything about education that comes from being in the in the trenches, like our children.

southmom said...

The meeting last night at Aki did not have a happy tone. The superintendent did not attend, and the district officials there seemed very bureaucratic. There were plenty of people demanding to know why their children were assigned to middle and high schools with very low test scores and few options. There were few answers.

wseadawg said...

SG72: Don't hold your breath!

NCLB is a sinister plot to undermine public education as we know it by declaring as many traditional public schools as possible "failures," and turning them over to profiteers. Even the non-profits pay their executives hundreds of thousands per year (so much for non-profit).

NCTQ is all about NCLB on the teaching side. Alternative certification routes, standardization and more standardization, then measuring outcomes as the basis for pay. You are dead on in saying that nobody will want to teach in the worst schools if outcomes are what they are graded on, because a little bonus each year will never get it done, and folks like NCTQ know it.

The Edu-Reformers want to demonize traditional teachers and education colleges as the scapegoats for society's failures, parents' failures, and communities' failures instead of admitting that teaching disadvantaged kids and having an achievement gap are permanent fixtures in our society that won't go away without huge investments of dollars and time like those currently in place in the Harlem Children's Zone. Look there for what it really takes to close the achievement gap, then realize it will never happen across the nation because we just won't make the investment, ever.

But all the while corporate and big-money interests will keep saying "yes you can" while fleecing our tax dollars from the classrooms and putting them into their own pockets and those of their closest buddies.

Kind of like all the consulting contracts SPS spends hundreds of thousands on already.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So I did find this interesting (I haven't finished reading the report):

"We were dismayed to find a pay structure that worked so clearly against the interests of younger,
newer teachers. Unlike most districts which provide relatively equal raises for each additional year of service to teachers,
regardless of their experience, Seattle reserves the more sizeable raises for its veteran teachers (approximately $2,000 a
year), while teachers with five or fewer years of experience are eligible for only about a third as much (approximately $800).
Seattle needs to provide equitable pay increases—with one exception: the year a teacher earns tenure should bring a sizeable
pay increase."

So far I have found it an interesting report although I think that it didn't need to be done by an outside consultant at such a high cost.

I am attending the media event for the release of this report. Any questions?

Charlie Mas said...

So teachers will get full responsibility for student performance? As if there were no other factors to student performance other than teacher quality?

And where, exactly, is the definition of "teacher quality"? The closest I can come is this:

"Seattle enjoys clear advantages in the quality of teachers it attracts. The district is attracting a high percentage of teachers who have attended more selective colleges. Fifty-eight percent of its new hires last
year attended 'more selective' or 'most selective' colleges as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
"

This presents an interesting contradiction. The only defining characteristic the NCTB provides on teacher quality is whether they attended a school that was highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report. This magazine - which makes no credible claim of expertise in education - is the same magazine that ranks high schools almost entirely by the average number of AP classes taken per student. What is the metric for ranking colleges?

The contradiction comes when the NCTQ completely dismisses the value of college coursework and professional development for teachers. Apparently it doesn't matter what classes or how many classes a teacher takes, only the school where they take them.

The NCTQ also considers batting average on licensing tests and scores on aptitude tests as important measures of teacher quality. That's just odd. It is also contradictory to their insistence that student performance be the primary determinant of teacher quality. If student performance is primary, then why is it that the only measure they actually mention is one that comes before the teachers ever even see a student?

They go on quite a bit about teacher salary structure, as if this were a determinant of teacher quality. It isn't. They try to point out that the only way for a teacher to really improve their pay in Seattle is to take additional coursework - in short, professional development. But NCTQ insists that this professional development has no relation to teacher quality.

It seems to me that NCTQ believes that great teachers are born, not made, and that the District should gather them up by outbidding the surrounding districts for these few precious gems who can be identified by aptitude tests and degrees from colleges approved by a magazine.

hschinske said...

In theory, a test like MAP should help, because you can actually measure progress from the child's own starting point forward, regardless of whether that progress is made within the areas measured on a grade-level test. That should solve the old problem of "Teacher Smith takes above-level kids and lets them coast all year, since they get 3s and 4s on the WASL anyway. Teacher Jones takes way-below-level kids and teaches them an incredible amount, but doesn't get them up to the point where even half of them pass the grade-level WASL. Jones is obviously the better teacher, but the WASL says Smith is better."

Whether it will actually work out like that is anyone's guess, but the basic idea is a perfectly good one.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just finished reading (most) of the report. I don't find it all that disturbing except for, as Charlie says, the lack of the perception that teachers are the only influence on student performance.

However, there is some good information in the report. Page 43 has a chart (and this whole section is about)about the amount of time teachers spend in class. Our elementary teachers spend less time in class than other teachers. (They explain why this is but it doesn't really hold up and they say so.)

Page 44 discusses how much sick leave teachers have (and it's a higher figure than you might imagine) and a very interesting chart on page 45 showing which schools' teachers take the most time. It is a very mixed bag of schools and it made me wonder why this would be.

I might make a separate post with attention to these charts as they cover issues we have discussed before and are quite eye-opening.

Charlie Mas said...

As I read the report I keep seeing, again and again, the NCTQ making associations between the teacher's academic background and teacher quality - which is in direct contradiction to their contention that the amount of the teacher's education doesn't make much difference in teacher effectiveness.

In the section titled "Equitable distribution of teacher talent" the headline reads: "Seattle has done a good job making sure that high-poverty schools get their fair share of teachers with
strong academic backgrounds, with less success of retaining experienced teachers in high-poverty schools." They clearly equate teachers' academic backgrounds with their talent, while they contend that no amount of teacher training - their academic background - matters.

It must be that they mean the quality of the background rather than the quantity of the background. And they measure "quality" by the U.S. News & World Report. That's just stupid.

Shannon said...

"the lack of the perception that teachers are the only influence on student performance."

Melissa,
Do you mean "are NOT" or am I missing your argument?

In general I found the article in the Seattle Times interesting. I am sure many other parents without background on the politics would be interested in the data and the concerns the report itself raises about teacher time in elementary school, about quality of teachers and about the raise structure (or the implication that we do not provide newer teachers with as many incentives to remain in the profession as we do to veterans.

Whether or not the research method and approach is valid, it is effective PR - create research findings, create a newsworthy event and public concern for your cause.


I am very interested in comments on MAP Testing. At our school there have been comments as follows:
1) Is this to provide data for teacher evaluation.
2) Will it be used as the means of identifying kids for ALO (integrated with APP?).
3) The data MAY be given to parents but probably not because it is "operational" data. Its being discussed.
4) The test machines reveal the scores to the child at the end of the test. As a result many children know (and compare) their results and have told their parents their scores.

LynneC said...

I haven't read the report but think it's interesting that the article describes the Alliance as "launching a blog on teacher quality to which anyone can contribute." Which would seem to indicate to the casual reader that the purpose of the blog is to give the public a place to sound off about teachers they are unhappy with.

Laura Kohn said...

I have found this report to be incredibly informative and well-researched. It compares Seattle's teacher personnel policies and union contract with other districts nationally and with a collection of Puget Sound districts. Even though I've been involved in education policy in this region for more than 15 years, there are some rules/practices that I thought were a result of state policies but are actually determined locally. And these things have a huge impact on our kids!

The most shocking information for me was the 7.0 hour teacher work day for elementary teachers - I knew it was short, but I didn't know that EVERY other district in our region has a 7.5 or 8 hour work day for elem teachers. Which means that those teachers have more time for planning and differentiating for kids.

Like Melissa, I thought the analysis of Seattle's pay structure was illuminating - and again, I hadn't realized how much latitude Seattle has with that. Other districts around us have more rational salary policies.

And they do a thorough analysis of Seattle practice of forcing teachers who have a documented history of lousy teaching and/or lousy attendance onto schools - this is a MAJOR problem for kids, and the report offers constructive suggestions for how to fix it.

The report also details state-level policies that should change, which will help all of us with advocacy.

Some people may oppose the idea of pay-for-performance, but you should know that this report covers a lot more ground than that. I would recommend that any parent who wants to be an advocate for improving Seattle schools should read this report, and I think that EVERY teacher should read it.

Charlie Mas said...

Still reading the report. Again, I'm noticing this disconnect between the NCTQ's dismissive attitude towards professional development as not meaningful to teacher effectiveness and other elements in their report.

For example, the recommended solution for teachers who are not proving effective is to give them professional development - that strikes me as odd considering the NCTQ's belief in a "weak to nonexistent correlation between teachers’ advanced coursework and higher student achievement".

To the NCTQ, professional development and advanced coursework are synonymous.

Sahila said...

Laura - I havent seen contributions from you before and I notice on your profile that you have just joined Blogger...I'm a former journalist and am interested in the focus of contributions to this blog. Would you please identify your affiliation/interest/experience in Seattle education and the Alliance and NCTQ?

Thanks...

Laura Kohn said...

Regarding the teacher quality questions that Charlie raises, major studies with large data sets have found that (1) students with teachers from more selective colleges outperform students with teachers from less selective colleges (ON AVERAGE!) and (2) additional coursework and degrees for teachers DO NOT correlate with higher student performance, unless that coursework is subject area (such as math courses for math teachers). The citations for these studies are in the report. Yet the Seattle pay structure places huge emphasis on coursework, meaning you have to do it to make more money - and ours does this more than any other surrounding district or the national benchmarks.

Nationally, our teachers tend to come from the lowest third of their academic class, whereas in many other countries teachers are recruited from the top third of college graduates. Happily, one of the positive findings in the NCTQ report is that Seattle's teachers are disproportionately from the most selective colleges and universities (as determined by the US News folks, separate from their overall rankings), so our teachers do not match the national data.

Laura Kohn said...

Hi Sahila and all - I'm the mom of 2 Stevens students and I direct the New School Foundation. I was moved to comment on this thread because I am so impressed with the quality of analysis in this report, and I hope school advocates like the readers of this blog will read it (with an open mind), not just rely on the newspaper article. You may not agree with all of the recommendations, but I suspect that many of us will agree with many of them, or at least will find the analysis insightful.
Laura

Sahila said...

Ah, never mind Laura... I see you are executive director of the New School Foundation.... guess that explains your enthusiasm for the contents of the report... you're already half way down the road to privatisation of public education...

http://www.newschoolfoundation.org

Question for me is: why cant what the kids at New School/South Shore get be given to all the kids in the public system, WITHOUT SELLING OUT to private funding?

SPS mom said...

More MAP test info:

It is true that the child's score is shown on the computer at the end of the test, but the scores will be somewhat meaningless to the students. It is showing the raw RIT score which then needs to be interpreted using the NWEA norming data and tables. What's good for parents is that they can ask their child to report their scores to them, as the District may not release scores to the parents (more on that below).

You can look up the meaning of your child's score here:

http://www.rsd.edu/assessment/monitoring-growth-in-student-achievement-(map).html

Look at your child's grade level and see where the score falls (there are separate scores for both math and reading). It's grouped into above/at/below grade level. Your child's score may also fall several grade levels above or below their actual grade level. You can also use the NWEA norming data to find percentile score.

As far as parental rights to test data, the federal laws are quite liberal about what is considered an "educational record":

http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

http://www.fetaweb.com/04/ferpa.summary.htm

"The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal statute designed to protect the privacy of students and parents. FERPA deals with privacy and confidentiality, parent access to educational records, parent amendment of records, and destruction of records.

'Education records' are broadly defined as:

those records, files, documents, and other materials, which (i) contain information directly related to a student; and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution. 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A). See also 34 CFR §99.3."

If SPS does not release MAP scores (they have committed to releasing initial fall scores at conferences), parents can write to the District and request them under FERPA.

hschinske said...

At Hamilton we've been told that the parents will hear about MAP results at the fall conferences (not sure about administrations later in the year). I didn't realize the kids saw the numbers -- the only comment I heard was "I think I got an A," and I'm sure the test didn't say that! The program probably shows RIT scores, which would look like random three-digit numbers to anyone who didn't know the scale. At the middle school level some kind of adaptive reading test was already being used in years past, I am pretty sure, so the teachers may be more used to such data.

www.nwea.org/support/article/1355 may be useful. Tons of information available through links from there.

If you ask, they have to give you the scores, by the way. It's your right under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

Helen Schinske

Laura Kohn said...

Sahila asked:
Question for me is: why cant what the kids at New School/South Shore get be given to all the kids in the public system, WITHOUT SELLING OUT to private funding?

Although I take umbrage at the term "selling out", I completely and totally agree with your point! A primary purpose of our work with South Shore is to show Olympia what our kids could accomplish if schools in WA were appropriately funded and the "ample" funds were spent smartly. Every student in our state deserves the quality of education that the South Shore kids are getting...and more.

seattle citizen said...

On further perusal, I wonder why there is only one "study" included in the appendix, why there is not a bibliography or references, and how many (and who) the interviewees were (teachers, principals etc.)

Without substantive correlation via citation (building on the work and research of previous studies) and without knowing who was interviewed, how many, what they were asked, etc, this report seems to be merely opinion.

Any educator will tell you that research must build on previous research, cite it, and/or at least reference the survey tools and targets...

I still just think it's opinion, driven by agenda, until I see:
a) how long the report took and what was done (methodology)
b) citations to back up various claims (teacher pay, etc)
c) raw data and numbers of interviewees, etc

Ms Kohn, you state that everybody should read this report: Why? As far as I can tell, it's agenda-driven, not based in good research, and is opinionated. The only reason I could think of for everyone to read this is that they might have an idea of the issues (and get some information about hours worked, pay scales etc). To use it as some sort of substantial research, as if it had documented, cited and referenced conclusion, would be a corruption of the idea of good research.

hschinske said...

Looks as though SPS mom and I posted at almost the same time. Great minds and all that :-) Technical nitpick: the RIT is a scaled score, not a raw score. The raw score would be the number of correct answers (which would be even less useful).

Helen Schinske

Dora Taylor said...

Economic definitions for the word “capital”:

“Capital is something owned which provides ongoing services. In the national accounts, or to firms, capital is made up of durable investment goods, normally summed in units of money.”

“In economics, capital or capital goods or real capital refers to factors of production used to create goods or services that are not themselves significantly consumed (though they may depreciate) in the production process. Capital goods may be acquired with money or financial capital. In finance and accounting, capital generally refers to financial wealth especially that used to start or maintain a business.”

On the cover of this NCTQ report, teachers, the human beings who teach our children every day, watch them grow and develop, use their own money to pay for materials because the district doesn’t have the money to provide those additional resources, are referred to as “capital”.

This is the business perspective that has been the model for the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates in terms of how they think schools should be run and children taught.

This report was sponsored by the Alliance for Education and has received funds, $9M from Bill Gates and $1M from the Broad Foundation. Some of that money was used to pay for this report as is described on page 2.

This report is a precursor to merit pay, high stakes testing and ultimately charter schools. This has been the method that the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates have used in other school districts around the country to introduce their ideas of “venture philanthropy” in our educational system.

To read my take on this, you can check out my latest post at:
http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/2009/10/alliance-and-nctq-study.html

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I read the report last night, and I thought much of it was good. I like bringing in a national perspective -- i.e. all the comparisons to other districts that SPS should take into account when coming up with the new teacher contract. And we absolutely need changes to the way things are done.

Unfortunately, I can't make it to the "community forum" tonight. If I could, here are the questions I'd love to ask:

1. Why no email address on the report for feedback?

2. A big issue that I discovered via some very unhappy parents is that -- per the current teacher contract -- once a teacher with an unsatisfactory rating earns a satisfactory rating then NO RECORD is kept of the unsatisfactory rating. So, as we juggle principals (as so often we do), there's no history on which teachers are chronic poor performers or information that could be used for making staff decisions.

3. I totally agree with Dora that the term "human capital" shows a lack of respect for the personal side of negotiation. It's so 1980s! I hope the district disregards that tone in how they use the data.

4. And along those lines, maybe someone should ask NCTQ and the Alliance about "Community Assets" (otherwise, known as parents and neighbors). I saw no mention of parents or students in their report. Did they interview any of us? Shouldn't we have a say in this area that they say is so important for our kids? The superintendent, staff and board come and go, but we're the ones here for the long term. Holding a "community forum" is NOT the same as real stakeholder involvement, which is on-going and iterative, not a single event so they can say they "listened to us."

Trish Millines Dziko said...

After reading all these posts--particularly the earlier ones--it seems to me that you all are throwing the baby out with the bath water. So you don't like that $14K was spent on the report, you don't like that the Alliance for Education paid for it, and you don't like the firm that actually did the study. The bottom line is that a lot of the data and recommendations in the report are sound. Could it have been done internally? Yes, but you all would have griped about that too because you don't trust the district.

All that aside, you have to be disturbed by some of the findings, but instead you attack the report. It certainly bothers me that only 16 of 3,500 teachers got an "unsatisfactory" on their evaluation? I personally could name at least 6 teachers in my kids old school that shouldn't be teaching at all.

You could argue (as many have) we shouldn't be bashing teachers when parents also play an important role in educating their kids. However, teachers have a job and they should be held to a particular standard, evaluated and coached through professional growth. Don't you all want great teachers teaching your kids? They don't get that way just because they got a degree, did a little student teaching, and stepped into your child's classroom.

This blog seems to have mostly non-educators contributing. I know there are a few teachers and former teachers, but for the most part everyone else is a layman. So teachers/former teachers only, let me ask you a few questions:

1. Do you believe a teacher should get tenure after only 2 years of experience?
2. Do you think teachers should be evaluated at all?
3. If so, do you think that student growth (notice I did not say test scores or achievement) should be a part of that evaluation?
4. If not, then how should you be evaluated?
5. Why isn't the union willing to come to the table and talk about better ways to evaluate teachers instead of standing firm on the already obviously ineffective methods of today?
6. How do you know your students are learning?
7. Do you ever witness a fellow teacher just slacking off or just plain screwing up? If so, do you do anything about it?
8. One study I read said that teachers don't know themselves if they are good or bad. They have no idea where they stack up. True?

Thanks in advance for indulging me in my questioning.

Shannon said...

I think the association of performance with certain types of credentials would make sense. I have been in a situation considering a new teacher (1st year of teaching) with a City University masters and finding the salary point higher than some very fine but less trained staff.

Sahila said...

Trish - I dont have a problem with expectations that teachers have a certain degree of passion, enthusiasm, skill and are willing to maintain their professional skills and knowledge base with frequent in-service training... dont know how this country has gotten by so long without national certification... I dont have a problem with discussing how to assess teacher performance and about redirecting poorly-skilled teachers out of the profession if, after a period of time and opportunity to improve, they dont measure up...

However, I dont want to discuss those issues on a parallel/in conjunction with a report such as this one, which has an obvious agenda of union and contract busting, voiding the principles of seniority (to make way for younger/cheaper teachers) and bringing in performance pay...

How could we expect teachers to commit to dialogue on these very sensitive issues if they were under threat of possibly losing their positions?

We need to have this dialogue as a community... not as an 'us versus them' scenario, which is what reports like this set us all up for...

Patrick said...

I'm on page 45 of the report and discovering that Sacajawea teachers used the highest amount of leave that year. As it happens, two (there might have been a third one as well) of the teachers were pregnant that year and took extended periods of leave. If the report writers couldn't account for pregnancies or extended illnesses, maybe they should have omitted that section altogether.

Charlie Mas said...

I absolutely agree that Seattle Public Schools needs an authentic performance measure for teachers and they need apply it so ineffective teachers are either made effective or made to go away.

No one has to spend any money to get that conclusion.

I absolutely agree that effective teachers, once identified, should be rewarded for their work.

I absolutely agree that effective teachers, once identified, should be incented to take assignments where they can do the most good - which is likely to be in challenging schools and in front of introductory classes.

Again, we could reach those conclusions for free.

Likewise, the teacher pay structure should be aligned with those things that contribute to effective teaching and help the District to attract, develop, and retain effective teachers. Moreover, the District should be more efficient, purposeful, and professional in how they manage and address other conditions of employment including hours, sick time, personal time, continuing education, assignments, hiring, layoffs, and - when necessary - firings.

None of this is in dispute. Not before the report and not after it.

I would really like to see the District and the Union work together to reach agreement on how to make these things happen.

Also a point of universal agreeement and also available free of charge.

There is nothing in this report that was worth paying for. There is nothing in this report that we all didn't already know to one degree or another. We may not have known how many hours in an elementary teacher's work day, but we did know that contract provisions are not focused on contributing to student achievement.

This report does not constructively move us in any of those directions. Moreover, I don't think the report was intended to move the discussion forward. This report is a club designed for the sole purpose of beating on the SEA in the press. The report lays all of the blame on the SEA for the provisions in the collective bargaining agreement that the NCTQ doesn't like. The purpose of this report is to paint the SEA as a bunch of villians, robbing children of their academic opportunities.

Because every conclusion in this report leads to the SEA making concessions and getting nothing in return. They aren't going to go for that - they shouldn't - and so they will be made to appear obstructionist and the barrier to improved outcomes for our children.

seattle citizen said...

Well put, Charlie

While there is interesting data brought together in one place in this report, the purpose does seem to be to provide a bludgeon with which to whack the SEA (and, by extension, teachers - the SEA is a representative of teachers in contract negotiations.

There are YEARS of contract negotiations that slowly build to where we're at - give and take on both sides. While some aspects of teh contracts as they now stand might be faulty, they do represent the negotiations on both sides towards common ground. To say that the union is at fault ignores the negotiations, the give-and-take, that generates contractual obligations.

Collaboration is key, and both sides could move towards this, but it won't happen when third parties bring dog-and-pony shows to the Seattle media with a bunch of gee-wow figures meant to make the union look bad and to influence public opinion with conclusions drawn from scanty rationales, methodologies and research.

I mean, seriously: How much time did this really take, time that was specific to Seattle? Much of it is a rehash of the Hartford report, and most likely the other reports being generated nation-wide, all with similar conclusions derived by guesswork and opinion.

Laura Kohn said...

The report doesn't blame SEA at all. It highlights aspects of district practice, state law, and the collective bargaining agreement that the authors believe are barriers to the goal we all share of ensuring that our kids all have good to excellent teachers every year.

It's true that the report includes a pro-merit-pay bias, and that their advocacy of merit pay is not sufficiently separated from their analysis of performance evaluation. But it's really only a few sentences on merit pay, and they make many other well-supported points.

They do include footnotes, and the appendix is a meta-analysis that lists about 30 academic studies. But it would be helpful to have more citations.

wseadawg said...

Were they actually a real "commission" they might carry some weight. They aren't. They are deliberately trying to fool people with that name. In fact, they are a private think-tank with an agenda, and nothing more.

They are not a National Commission on anything; that's pure fantasy, not to mention self-indulgent. No government body ever commissioned them to do anything. They made it up.

If they had the basic human decency to practice "truth in advertising," I might care what they thought. They don't, so I don't.

seattle citizen said...

Laura, I respectfully disagree about the report's take on unions.

No, it doesn't attack the SEA, per se, or the NEA, but waay beyond mere merit pay it looks to tear down many, many union/district negotiated parts of the contract:
*pay
*sick leave
*displaced staff (that's a rich one! District closes the school a teacher is in, if no one hires that teacher in a year, out they go! Gone!)
*hiring
*evaluation

almost all of the report's recommendations break current contract stipulations.

Pretty anti-union, if you ask me. I mean, what's the point of a union then?

And the writers are sitting pretty, because if the union balks at these new "suggestions" they will be painted as oppositional dinosaurs, the usualy paint used on teachers generally.

This is one of the most anti-union pieces of writing (in the guise of a "report") I've seen in quite some time.

(You're right about the citations, tho, I hadn't notice them. I've since copied them and will shortly do some research...many of them are, in fact, titled with some sort of reformist taglines....hmmmm...)

WV just called me mufvboy...WV, don't you ever call me that again!

MathTeacher42 said...

Can anyone tell which pages show the detailed steps required to implement any idea, AND, the costs in human time to pay for those steps?

I'm kind of busy ... so I won't get to it until the weekend.

thanks,
bob murphy

Teachermom said...

1. Do you believe a teacher should get tenure after only 2 years of experience?
No. I am not even sure what "tenure" means for a public school teacher. This is my 4th year with the district, and I am still on the "Performance" cycle. It is 4 years of satisfactory reviews before you are on the "Professional Growth" cycle. Is that "tenure"?

2. Do you think teachers should be evaluated at all?
Yes, but it should be mindful, fair, and consistent. I have not had a year where it was made clear to me exactly what I was being evaluated on, or given constructive feedback to improve my skills. But they have all been positive!


3. If so, do you think that student growth (notice I did not say test scores or achievement) should be a part of that evaluation?
Yes, but it should be a combination of measures, as well as portfolio and anecdotal data. As a special ed teacher, I would prefer to be rated on my students' growth (not whether they "pass" a certain test or not), keeping in mind their area of disability, level of disability, and other factors besides me that may have affected their academic growth in a given year.


4. If not, then how should you be evaluated?N/A

5. Why isn't the union willing to come to the table and talk about better ways to evaluate teachers instead of standing firm on the already obviously ineffective methods of today?
I don't think they trust the admin of SPS. There is already a system that is not consistently applied, and the quality of the evaluators (principals) varies wildly.


6. How do you know your students are learning?
I assess them regularly, and compare how they do on said assessments.


7. Do you ever witness a fellow teacher just slacking off or just plain screwing up? If so, do you do anything about it?
I do not witness fellow teachers slacking off. I see people make mistakes, and I make mistakes. This is complicated work, and no matter how many years you have taught (9 for me), there is always something that throws you for a loop. If I notice the mistake of someone else, I try to offer help. If someone notices a mistake that I have made, I hope they will help me. If there is something I want to learn to improve, I ask for help if it feels safe to do so. Not always so.


8. One study I read said that teachers don't know themselves if they are good or bad. They have no idea where they stack up. True?

I think being a teacher is like being a parent. Everything feels so critical, you want to do everything right, and yes, you do mess up, reach your limits, emotionally and intellectually, and it is very scary to admit the need for help with this critical responsibility. Especially true in a climate where teachers are scapegoated.

Aurora said...

See NY Times Op-Ed today on the arguable harm done to children in today's public schools

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/opinion/15kristof.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Chris said...

Also in NY times:
U.S. Math Tests Find Scant Gains Across New York

"Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union, said the federal results showed that the state tests were not reliable yardsticks.

“We’ve designed a school system that is just test-taking prep, and we have teachers saying, ‘I know I am not teaching children what they need to learn,’ ” he said."

Chris said...

Andrew said:
A big issue that I discovered via some very unhappy parents is that -- per the current teacher contract -- once a teacher with an unsatisfactory rating earns a satisfactory rating then NO RECORD is kept of the unsatisfactory rating...

Andrew, could you supply the text from the CBA that says this? I have not read the thing myself but I have heard this refuted by prople who have. Thanks.

Dora Taylor said...

The NCTQ Presentation

Note to self: Bring a laptop next time so that I look like a blogger.

I walked into the ballroom early hoping to pass out flyers and was almost immediately greeted by a happy blonde (no disrespect to other people who have blonde hair) in a red Alliance jacket who introduced herself and asked me who I was. I gave my name and she said "Oh, I know who you are. I've seen your picture!" I asked where she had seen my picture and she said "Well, you posted on our blog". No further introduction was necessary. That “oh, she is that troublesome troublemaker” expression came over her face but I kept smiling and continued the light banter about being a parent of a high school student, etc. She ended the conversation by saying that she hoped that they could dispel some of the pre-conceptions that people had about.... she kind of left that part hanging, but apparently a lot of us have preconceptions about things and that is our only problem.

It was obvious that no Gates or Broad money was spent on this affair. It was cold cuts and mayonnaise with Diet Pepsi's in a can. Two huge containers of water but no coffee. Where do these people think they are?

While I was waiting for the show to begin and munching on turkey and cheese, people in red shirts with A+ on them were walking around and shaking hands with people. I guess they were the Wal Mart greeters.

Looked around the room. No other familiar faces. Oh well.

Dora Taylor said...

Finally, the lights go up, such as they are, the mic finally works and the show is on.

D'Amelio says a few words like there will be a "series of community engagement opportunities" and throws in an "equitable access for every student" thought and then the show is on the road.

Oh, just saw our superintendent at the front table and oh, there is Brad Bernatek to the left of me. I wonder if he knows who I am. Hmmm.

Then George Griffin III gets up and talks about the achievement gap, particularly in the African American community. Is it at all a coincidence that this gentleman is African American? Either way, this will be an on-going theme throughout the presentation.

Then finally, Kate Walsh, a no nonsense kind of gal with a lot to say and so little time comes to the microphone and begins her PowerPoint presentation.

She started by saying that she does not bring local context into this report (OK) but can compare other districts with ours. I'm with her so far.

But first, she wants to reiterate that the NCTQ gets all of their funding from private sources. That we know. (Gates, Exxon and Milken, as in junk bonds, to name a few.)

Then she starts in on how no one is able to tell how well a teacher will do and that it is not based on the amount of education that they receive or the courses that they take. She says that someone with a Masters degree is no more effective a teacher as a teacher without an advanced degree. She said that it has to do with experience and that teachers do not reach a point of being "effective" until their 4th or 5th year of teaching. She went on to say that the worst teachers are first year teachers. They are the worst teachers that a child can have. That's what she said.

Dora Taylor said...

And after that she said "So that's you primer."

So OK, let’s see, we are to believe this premise, no questions asked. Well, that's a lot to swallow. So, she is saying that you don't have to be that well trained or educated to be a good teacher. In that case, maybe my dog could qualify in her program.

She goes on to say that every, and I do emphasize EVERY, study that has been done so far shows that not only does teacher training not have a positive impact on teaching but that sometimes it even hampers the effectiveness of teaching. Please note: The word "effective" and "effectiveness" comes up in about every other sentence. Kind of how the term "9/11" used to be used in every sentence that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld said.

She made a big deal about teacher absenteeism in Seattle. We saw a few graphs and charts on that and then she went on to "objective data to evaluate" a teachers performance. This part got interesting. She said "not necessarily standardized tests" but could have a district-wide conversation about how, let's say, French teachers know when they are being "effective". Whoa, I think that there is a third rail appearing and it might be standardized testing and student assessments.

Again, "huge achievement gap" was thrown into her presentation kind of out of the blue.

Then it was over. Wait a minute. What about all of that stuff in the report about student assessments and teacher's performance being evaluated by, gee, I don't know, using standardized tests? Not a word. It was over and from what I could see, the people were left wanting.

$14,000 for this? I could see people kind of wondering what this was all about. It didn't seem like much from all of the hoopla that had been generated about this presentation. What they didn't know about was the rest of the report.

Dora Taylor said...

After that, the SEA Director got up and did damage control about first year teachers and mentors, about losing $9M in state funds and about errors in the report that had not been corrected.

Our superintendent then got up in her red jacket and said a few words like this would provide "more information for dialogue", something about "date points" and the "horrific gap" in terms of, I guess, black students and white students.

Then there was time for Q and A. Someone got up and challenged girl wonder Kate about continuing education. He mentioned the fact that doctors and other professionals take courses that benefit their practice and how could she say that courses taken by teachers and Masters' degrees had no value? He also mentioned the fact that the study that she was referring to that made her case about the fact that additional education was not needed to be an "effective" teacher was paid for by Bill Gates. Oops. She started to back peddle and said that it was the structure that is in place and not the course work itself that was not effective. What? Well, she said, that teachers choose the cheapest courses that they can find to take because they have to pay for them and...

Her sentences were incomplete and when she said "Do you understand what I am saying?". I had to shake my head and audibly said "No" although she was not asking me the question.

Some of the questions were kind of off track and one mom towards the end got up and thanked the superintendent and NCTQ for having the guts to "do this". What? That was out of the blue. In fact, besides myself, there was one other parent there. The rest of the folks were related to the Alliance, Broad or Seattle U with some other educators there who I didn't recognize. Someone thought that the comment had been staged but I don’t know.

Dora Taylor said...

There was another question about continuing education for teachers and its’ value, same answer, and another question about how they would evaluate teachers whose subjects are, for example, art and foreign languages. The answer was the same as per her presentation. That teachers in those subjects could decide on district wide “benchmarks”.

They had us break up into groups to discuss the presentation and I took the opportunity to get more information from one of the questioners on the McKinsey Company, the Center for Reinventing Public Education and other good stuff.

FYI. The League of Education Voters is associated with this Alliance group. They have someone representing them on the Alliance Emeritus Board. They also got a mention during the meeting. My buddy, Brad Bernatek, is on the Alliance's "Educational Investments Task Force". Also, 46% of the Alliance's total grant revenue comes from Gates, the Broad, the Stuart Foundation an Boeing. The Alliance also mentions "Stand for Children" in their literature as a local education advocacy group that they recommend joining.

That's all I got out of that meeting except for the cool stuff that I found out about. I will share that at a later time.

Signing off for now.

Post Script: Fasten your seat belts, the Alliance plans more community outreach in the next three years to spread the good word. See:
http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=15788

Trish Millines Dziko said...

TeacherMom, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Great answers and a lot for me to ponder.

I would like to maybe have coffee with you if you're up for it. I really want to get an understanding of the environment directly from a teacher. If you're interested, please email me at trishmi@techaccess.org. You name the place and I'm there.

WenG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WenG said...

Dora: Next time, bring that laptop! Great recap.

Kate Walsh is confusing me with this notion that new teachers are toxic. Teach for America strongly encourages rookie teachers (the ones without ed clock hours or credentials), to move into managing their own schools very quickly, well within three years of hitting the classroom. Teach America is on board with the Alliance, part of the same edu-industry cabal, yes?

Seniorita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...

Yes, a short list of the Advisory Board for NCTQ. Let me first say that all of these organizations and individuals are intertwined and interrelated. Gates in particular will fund one organization for testing and assessment of students and then another organization for assessing the "effectiveness" of teachers and all of those groups are associated with charter schools to one degree or another.

Case in point:

The Advisory Board for NCTQ

Michael Feinberg, Founder
The Kipp Foundation, charter school franchise

Michael Goldstein, CEO and Founder
The Match School, Massachusetts
It's actually the Match Charter School

Paul T. Hill, Director
Center for Reinventing Public Education
This organization is all about charter schools and receives Gates' money

Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder
Teach For America

Michelle Rhee, Chancellor
DC Public Schools
Huge supporter of charter schools

Stefanie Sanford, Senior Policy Officer
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Laura Schwedes, Social Studies Teacher
KIPP: STAR Prep, NYC, New York

Deborah McGriff, Partner
New Schools Venture Fund
Backed by Gates

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tell you what, I'll post what I learned from going to the media event in the afternoon. I'm a little surprised at the community meeting report. Is there a relevance to what color of hair the greeter had or that she was friendly or the food to the actual report?

At the media event, I got to ask questions about the content of the report and got some interesting answers.

So are we hear to get a full picture or blast the Alliance and NCTQ? I'm not their friend or their enemy. I'm just trying to figure out what will help make public education better. For me, the jury is out on both groups.

Dora Taylor said...

Oh, and one more.

NCTQ Board of Directors' Chair
Founding Director and Principal of a charter school in Boston (name not provided).

Sahila said...

Start connecting the dots like Dora is doing and you'll see its all so incestuous it absolutely sickening...

So the Alliance, which refuses so far on its own blog to answer questions as to its relationships with Broad/Gates/charter schools/reform, pays $14K (of Gates/Broad/Boeing money) to the NCTQ for a formulaic (insert the name of the school District) teacher bashing report and the NCTQ Board of Advisors is made up primarily of charter/Gates/Broad-linked people....

And our Broad Board Director Superintendent MGJ (earning $264K+) reportedly sends her daughter to the New School/South Shore, which is a charter school in everything but name - because Washington doesnt allow charters yet - funded by Stuart Sloan and aimed at helping low income minority children bridge the achievement gap, where her (not low income)child gets the best that a private/public education can buy, while the rest of us poor plebs have to watch our SPS kids scrambling for educational rations, and we're all the while fund-raising like crazy and begging the District - please Ma'am, can we have some more for our kids... and the Alliance, which is supposed to be fund-raising for our kids (though none of the money they do score from their reformist backers ends up in the classroom), spends $14K on blatant reformist propaganda....

And then, on this blog we have Laura Kohn, Director of the New School Foundation, which funds the school where MGJ's daughter reportedly attends, remember, joining Blogger on October 14 2009 (check her profile), dipping her virginal blogging toe into the water specifically to post in support of the NCTQ report on the thread that's running hot in criticism of the Alliance and the report...

And MGJ being on the Board of the Alliance - such a busy woman with all these Director duties, how does she have time for SPS? Oh that's right, she doesnt... she has to attend the Alliance launch of the NCTQ report, rather than dialogue with SPS parents at a community meeting on the SAP proposals...

And they wonder why some of the natives in Seattle are restless?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Laura Kohn has blogged here before.

Sahila said...

I clicked on her name when she first posted on the thread, to get her profile details...blogger says she joined in October 2009... maybe she contributed under a different name...or via a different ID mechanism... I havent seen her name in the 10 months I have been active here...

WenG said...

Melissa, my impression from Dora's report is that the Alliance meeting was a dog and pony show. Kate Walsh didn't stand up to scrutiny. They're a PR machine managing millions in grants. Their findings, if credible, would be important toward doing what everyone says they want to do. What frustrates me is the appearance of an endless circle that sustains itself and uses words like "powerful" and "passionate" while doing nothing to help teachers move beyond test prep. Also, please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't someone from the Alliance conduct MG-J's last review?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sahila, I know Laura has posted here before. I've been posting here for a very long time. She has always used her name. I'm not sure what your point is but I would let it go.

I will write a post on the report and the event I attended. (did anyone read the report?) It had some interesting data even if you don't like their recommendations.

BullDogger said...

Dora said

"Some of the questions were kind of off track and one mom towards the end got up and thanked the superintendent and NCTQ for having the guts to "do this". What? That was out of the blue. In fact, besides myself, there was one other parent there."

I was there along with 3 other parents. I thought this question your referencing was the most powerful one of the night. The parent went on to say how her second grade son had a good teacher but the teacher in the next class was the worst and then commented on how 25 students have had a years worth of education wasted.

Whether you like the NCTQ or the price paid for them does not matter. That parent is speaking a basic truth in how unsatisfactory teachers are not either improved or removed easily at SPS. .5% teacher removal rate is fairly astounding. In my experience it should be far higher. Could SEA and SPS please fix this for the sake of our children.

seattle citizen said...

Bulldogger,
If there is a problem with removing teachers, is this not a problem that can be resolved by the District and SEA (and the teachers!) without relying on input from an organization (NCTQ) that has an agenda beyond this issue?

It DOES matter if we "like" NCTQ or not - we might not "like" it because it is somehow holding itself up as a neutral research group that has supposedly neutral suggestions to fix the "problem" when in fact it is NOT neutral.

To fix the problem, hold everybody accountable to existing (or modified) procedure - don't throw out the whole system (and it's accountability) by tasking outside groups to have their way with the District.

Charlie Mas said...

If there is a teacher who isn't doing his or her job, and that teacher isn't dismissed, then there is also a principal who isn't doing his or her job.

If all of our principals did their jobs, then we would know that all of our teachers were doing theirs.

The key to teacher effectiveness - whatever that means - is principal effectiveness. Nothing else is needed.

wseadawg said...

Charlie: Stop making things so simple. You'll put all the Edu-Consultants and coaches out of work!

The parent who thanked the NCTQ could just as well have blogged right here or confronted their principal to get something done about a bad teacher. Anyone can. The boogeyman "union" scapegoating never ends, and never will. How about the worthless P.O.S. so-called negotiators from the district who SIGN THE UNION CONTRACT? Where is the blame they should get if they area selling us parents down river by signing a bad contract?

It's all negotiated people. Blame the teachers union all you want, but it takes two sides to agree to and sign a contract.

Now go ahead and flame me with all the horror stories of "the union did this, or won't allow that." But wake up and smell the coffee. The unions power comes directly from the contract the district signs and agrees to.

If you aren't happy with what the union contract does or doesn't do, start talking to your school board and administration now, and tell them what you want. There's a new contract being negotiated again this summer - which, I needn't tell anyone is why the NCTQ was just here.

But let's get off this anti-union diatribe. They can't do anything the district didn't previously agree to and sign off on. Where does the accountability really belong?

Dora Taylor said...

First, let me say that I didn't know anything about the NCTQ and not much about the Alliance until a few days before this event when I heard that this report was coming out.

I would see e-mails and comments about these two organizations but I had so many other irons in the fire that I felt like I would go into information overload with yet another issue to look at.

When the report came out the day before this presentation, I looked it over and made my comments on this blog and my seattle-ed blog.

I had planned to go to this presentation and I didn't know what to expect. I was very surprised at how it was handled from the moment I walked into the door. That is why I put my report in a narrative form. You had to see what I saw.

By the way Melissa, I can write a mean set of minutes. That's what I did for about 20 years as an architect working on corporate projects but I felt that this required something different, a sense of the event as well as the content itself.

I did change the narrative later to "a very happy person in a red jacket" which I think better described the scenario and the red jacket was important because it was an A+ red jacket. That was part of the theme for the evening. The greeters were in red t-shirts with an A+ on their chests. It was context. Kind of corporate, staged, happy people spreading the good work
disneyesque kind of context that I was describing. I thought that "I Sing America" was going to pop up any minute with a catchy lyric and have everyone swaying, clapping their hands and singing along. (I couldn't help that one.)

About the parent who spoke, Charlie and others are correct. What she was referring to did not have a connection to what the presentation was about.

Well, next week I'll be off to the Town Hall meeting regarding K-12 funding. It will probably be similar to the one that I attended a few weeks ago that was sposored by the PTSA. Representative Chopp spoke, he was great by the way, and a few board members were there. The focus was on the education reform bill.

I'll take notes and put it on the seattle-ed blog, context and all.

http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

Happy trails.