(Update: Here's a link to a Bob Herbert column about teacher assessment. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is urging her members to accept some form of evaluation that takes student achievement into account.)
If you hadn't heard (and with all that has happened, you could have missed it), the Seattle School District and the Seattle Education Association will be negotiating a new contract likely starting in early April. This will replace the one-year contract that was easily agreed to last year. This negotiation is likely to be more of a multi-year contract and it will be a very tough negotiation. The district has no real money to offer teachers so all those issues of what teachers do with their day, when and for how long are are on the table.
Parents and communities can't be at the table but that doesn't mean we can't have a voice.
For the past couple of months I have been part of a coalition group to form a joint values statement for parents/community groups to give to the School Board, district and SEA. The groups include Campana Quetzel, Seattle Council PTSA, Successful Schools in Action, CPPS, Stand for Children and others. Organized by the good folks at the League of Education Voters (our leader is Kelly Munn of LEV), we sought to create a streamlined document that is simple and basic.
I can't put up the document yet (we are going to all sign off on it next week and take it to our various groups). But we state, in clear and direct terms, what we believe for principals, teachers, students and families. We tried to steer clear of jargon and be specific in what we would like to see. (The principals are likely to have their own negotiations but we included them as part of a school team.)
We are setting up meetings with all Board members, leadership in the district and leadership in the SEA to show them the document. We hope it will help all of them to remember to include parents and communities during the negotiation process. We hope it will give all sides a place to point to if they get stuck.
I hope when this document comes to your group (most likely via PTA) that you will read it. The ideas have been shaped and the document has been edited. We hope that everyone will read it and, we hope, support it. We certainly know that we didn't include everything and probably missed something. But I feel good about this document and I support it.
But the Board and the district and the SEA have to hear from us or they may make some assumptions about what they believe they know about our communities. This is our opportunity to make our voices heard in a big way.
However, if you have your own thoughts, then contact the Board or the Superintendent or the head of the SEA, Olga Addae, President, (email@example.com) or Glenn Bafia, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org), and let them know what you think. They can only interact with the public until the end of January. You can still send them thoughts and opinions after that but they won't be able to respond to them.
Please support this effort so we can avoid a strike (the more that gets understood going in the better) and help our district and Board and teachers union work together for better public education and honorable careers for our teachers.