We haven't had a lot of discussion here about the upcoming teacher negotiations and how they may (or may not) be tied into Race to the Top money. For some reason, some here believe that the coalition group of education groups that I belong to that wrote a Values Statement on the upcoming teachers' contract and the issues around it, is a sinister group bent on supporting Race to the Top and undermining teachers. (Or we are naifs who have been hoodwinked.)
Here's the first thing to understand (and the takeaway message): every single thing in the teacher's contract affects how your child may be taught, the length of time they are in class, everything. That is why the teacher's contracts should interest every single parent and anyone who cares about education. The Values Statement we created was about PARENTS. As I have said in the past, NO one is going to advocate for children except parents. Not teachers, not principals, not the Board, not the district.
We wanted to create a document that stated what matters to parents. Yes, the first page is quite the Mom and Apple Pie page (we've heard that from all corners) but we wanted to be very clear it is about student, teacher, principal and district. The following two pages (we kept it short and simple) does indeed give some specifics.
Also, I'm sorry if the word "effective" is lost to some of you as a word. It seems it is some educational code word. I take credit for it being in the values statement because I didn't want to use offensive or derogatory language like "poor", "bad" or "terrible". I think it would hurt to have those kinds of words used and I thought "effective" gave the statement of a teacher who did his or her job well. But that word was not chosen to be or used as any code.
About Race to the Top. I don't believe it will work and I believe it is just the Gates Foundation grants on steroids. I could reel off many reasons but really, I think that it will send into motion many projects that will never see fruition. Could all 40 states who applied get the money? And just how much money could it be if they all did? I think that will enlarge the grasp of charter schools that are still unproven as working better AND will divert energy away from existing schools.
Harium told us at his community meeting that Washington state couldn't qualify for RttT because of the charter issue (or rather, we lose 50 big points for not having them). What about our innovative non-charter schools? None, I repeat none, will count because each school has to be able to control its staff and its budget. The new STEM school over in the Tri-Cities? Won't count because it has three districts instead of one. You'd think that was innovation in getting three small district together to create something great but no.
Want many expert opinions? Here you go. This link is to the National Journal Online and they invited experts of all stripes to weigh in on RttT. One overarching criticism is that Arne Duncan promised transparency and yet the RttT reviewers are not to be named nor is it to be explained how they were selected. There is worry how it may affect rural districts, states without charters or what happens if a state doesn't follow thru on what it says it will do in its application.
Here's on of my favorite quotes from this group, a guy named Steve Peha from Teaching That Makes Sense:
"Innovation-via-bribery or even via compensation, doesn’t really work. Yes, Apple made the iPod to make money. But they didn’t make it because they had money. Even with more money than God, Microsoft has produced only the flaccid Zune to compete with it. When it comes to innovation, I’ll take Steve Jobs in a cabin for a weekend with three felt pens and a pad of sticky notes over a building full of Microsoft code jockeys, three years, and all the free Mountain Dew they can guzzle."