As many of you may know, the SEA has been running some focus groups where teachers and support staff have come in and looked at, analyized and discussed the latest contract offer from the SPS.
I recieved the following analysis from a fellow teacher (who I am not going to name or identify in any way) that I think is very thought provoking and sheds much light on what the district is proposing. I look forward to the discussion.
I attended one of the "focus group" meetings put on by the Seattle Education Association regarding Seattle Public School's proposal to tie our evaluations to our students' test scores.
Firstly, I think the move by SEA is a good one and I respect the process they created to elicit feedback. They sat us in small table groups, had us introduce each other. It was refreshing to work with folks that aren't usually at any union meetings. Many different perspectives. Maggie Crain (SEA Uniserv Director)and Olga iAddae (SEA President) ntroduced the district's proposal, and let us know that the negotiations are basically not going anywhere. We had a chance to read the actual proposal for awhile then Maggie broke down the proposal into small chunks, told us about it and let us discuss and make table group comments, questions and concerns on a table notesheet. We had many chances to interact and to ask questions.
The intention of these sessions in their words was to elicit feedback on the proposal. I think there was much more value than that however. The negotiations between SPS and SEA by mutual agreement are not "public". Therefore, the masses have no idea what is going on and documents presented are not available to anyone but the negotiation teams. But they can share the information with members. This was a great chance to learn about what is going on and have some info to share with others. More importantly, there were many chances for members to get educated on these issues. I couldn't have imagined learning more in 1.5 hrs about the "ed reform" goals of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and her team. These interactions are crucial for organizing. And, regardless of the outcome of our negotiations, the time for organizing is NOW. I daresay that these meetings likely galvanized many for the fight ahead and educated them for this fight.
First, some observations and a summary:
The district proposal is called SERVE Seattle. This neatly packaged acronym that means "Support Empower Recognize Value Educators". At the top of every page it says "Dependent on Supplemental School Levy". This part is actually very insidious. As you may know, the legislature widened the levy lid that voters can allocate for local districts (a huge legislative goal for the WEA). Seattle is primed to ask for more money and will likely get it this fall. SPS is trying to tie the money they will need for this program to the levy. Therefore, if you support the levy, you support the program. It is a simple politicization of the levy process, money that is supposed to be used for basic operations costs (it is stupid we even have to ask voters for this money, but that is another issue).
The SERVE program would do a number of things:
-Allocate more days for early release on Fridays for staff to collaborate. The district would not pay teachers more, not take away any additional class time for this. They plan on adding 12 min to the end of the school day every day, to make up for the lost time on every other Friday. The contracted day would not change- we would just have less time at the end of the day that is "unstructured". Some of the early release days would be teacher directed, some principal directed and some SPS directed.
-Have a program of evaluation that you can "opt in" to. All new teachers would be in the program. Anyone who wants could opt in which would automatically give them a 1% raise of their base salary (amounting to about $400 if you make 50k with your TRI pay) added to your total TRI pay. Those we don't "opt in" would continue on the old system. The plan is to have all teachers on the program in 4 years, with new negotiated agreements.
-The evaluations would two tiered. There would be "tested" teachers, including LA, SS, Science, Math and regular Elementary teachers and "non-tested" teachers who don't have a MAP test with their subject category in the name.
-"tested" and "non-tested" teachers would have different evaluation matrix. Tested teachers would have 50% of their evaluations based on the 4 tiered eval system we are going to anyway, as developed jointly by SPS and SEA during the last two year. Non-tested teachers would have 65% of their evaluation based on the 4 tiered system. Your "score" on this eval system would be based on teaching standards and admins would have to cite specific strengths and weaknesses in their reports (this was going to happen, or is supposed to happen anyway)
-All teachers will have 5% of their evaluation based on "stakeholder input" including parents, fellow teachers and students. From what I understand, this is a some sort of survey and not a formal observation and evaluation.
-Both tested and non-tested teachers would have a portion of their eval based on success of their own goals- these goals have to be achievable, attainable and testable. That is, based on data that you collect yourself. We have been dong something similar the last 3 yrs at Ballard, but our success at achieving the goal never determined whether we had a positive evaluation. Now it would. Tested is 10% and nontested is 25%.
-Both tested and non-tested would have a portion of their eval based on documented success of a SCHOOL WIDE goal, also based on testing. 10% I think. (not 100% sure of all these numbers). The idea is have a common goal and increase collaboration schoolwide, across grades and subjects.
-Tested teachers would have the rest (I think 25%) of their eval based on documented expected improvement in their students on MAP tests, MSP tests, end of course exams, etc. It is fairly sophisticated and based directly on what is happening now in Denver, CO. Your students would be tested twice in the year, and would have to show a significant improvement in where your students are, compared to other students in other schools, districts and programs (apparently the MAP test is all over the USA). Your students would be norm-averaged over two years before any judgement of your success was judged. If you had low level kids, you would be expected to make some improvement, but from what I understand they wouldn't be expected to become A students overnight.
-In addition to the 4 tier rating system being rolled out, there is a new 5 tier system (with new names, that I don't remember) for this program. Teachers in the highest category would be "invited" to apply for a "career ladder position". These include "demonstration teacher" who is willing to open up their classroom to others, a "master teacher" which is one step above that and a "mentor teacher" which is sort of like a coach within a school. No clarity on whether these folks would be required to work more, be offered release time or what to do their new positions. But they would be offered a stipend of 2500, 3500 and 5300 respectively for their position. (not 100% these numbers are correct)
-If you are in stage 4 at the bottom, you will be given support. If you are at the bottom you will be given additional support and given 60 days to improve. Then you are terminated.
-The teacher evaluation will be the primary determinator as to who is let go when there is a RIF, NOT Seniority.
-Teachers who are "innovative" in the 4 tier scale (or maybe it was the high mark in the 5 scale) and teach at "the lowest achieving schools" (which is 15 buildings or programs right now, not sure how they decided that) would be offered an additional stipend of 2500.
-This program would cost 3.9 million over 4 years with 600,000 alone going to software (I presume MAP testing)
-In case you think it couldn't get weirder- there will be a panel of evaluators that will oversee the program and they have the right to change ANY teacher's evaluation. It explicitly states that the superintendent could also have this power and (caps mine) THIS COULD NOT BE GRIEVED.
As you might imagine, there were many, many questions. Most of the questions had already been asked by the Bargaining Team, and most had no answers. It is clear that the district has not thought this through completely. They are shooting from the hip, if you will. On this point alone, I am against it.
Other thoughts and MY opinions. Take it with a grain of salt.:
- This is merit pay with unequal categories. It creates an unequal system. I am opposed to creating an unequal system.
- I actually like supporting teachers in lower performing schools. I am not sure that paying them more is the right way to go- this is also merit pay. I think a better way is a collaborative process to attract and retain the best for those schools. Their proposal is vague and subject to much revision
- I also think it is good to set school wide goals. This might be the only form of merit pay I could stomach. But this isn't what they are proposing. They are suggesting that the school's success will impact individual teachers' evaluations. In this new system, this could mean their job.
- Taking a survey of parents, teachers and students is divisive, non-scientific, not respectful of teachers as professionals and just plain silly. It will only be 5% of evals potentially but it could also be a tipping point for a teacher to get a negative evaluation or lose their job. And it would be, from day one, a popularity contest or an ass-kissing contest. Idiocy.
- Having any group or the supt have veto power over evaluations is simply crazy. We won't stand for it. This would create unprecedented power for our Supt. We need more local control, not more micromanaging by people who don't know our students or even our subjects.
- This proposal would increase the bureaucracy of the SPS. In addition to the current managers of assessment etc there would 3 additional managers hired. These are folks who make more than 100k. This is already a huge problem in the Goodloe-Johnson administration. It needs to go the OTHER direction.
- The MAP test was not designed by its makers to be a test to show improvement. Every study says that. It is acknowledged on its own website. The test if flawed for many, many reasons and should not be used for teacher evaluations. Maybe it can be used as a helpful diagnostic tool for teaching (that too is arguable) but it is simply crazy to use it for this purpose.
-The other evaluations and plans are only vague ideas at this point. I think the district was hoping they could force this on us, than "collaboratively" develop the assessments. Hmm...
- It is evil to tie basic funding for education to a school reform plan that is likely opposed by most if not up to 90% of teachers (just a guess) and is not based on any scientific data.
-There is no program that exists like this nor any similar program with any record of success. The SEA Bargaining team asked this question right away.
What is the solution? Where do we go from here?
1. Fight like hell to stop this plan. There are very few parts that are palatable. It shouldn't be amended or changed. It should be scrapped.
2. Continue to work in a collaboration to develop a better evaluation system. We were already doing this and the district proposal is giving a big F to the process and the work of the team. The work should continue.
3. Send an email to the SEA Bargaining Team letting them know what you think of the SPS proposal. Maggie Crain said she would forward any email about this to the bargaining team. firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Organize in our communities to publicize WHY we might oppose this, citing data, research (or lack thereof) and the multiple problems with the MAP tests. And tell everyone you know- Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is on the board of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that sells Seattle Schools the MAP tests (http://www.nwea.org/about-nwea/our-leadership). She did NOT disclose this before the contracts were signed. This is a clear conflict of interest, even if there is no direct financial gain from it. Similar to Dick Cheney offering no-bid contracts in Iraq to Halliburton after he left being CEO of the company. Wait, this one is worse- she is still connected
5. Tell every teacher you know about it and convince them to be in solidarity with other educators and our students who would be negatively affected by this plan.
6. Think very very carefully about how much you care about these things- and organize for a possible strike. Seriously.