Wednesday afternoon the Seattle teachers' union (SEA) achieved a huge victory over the proponents of what is popularly (and erroneously) known as "education reform."
After many, many hours of hard negotiations, the SEA negotiators achieved a tentative contract with the district. What is remarkable about this contract is that:* Teachers' final evaluations will not depend on student test scores. * Teachers' jobs will not depend on student test scores. * Teachers' pay will not depend on student test scores.
This tentative agreement was reached despite intensive efforts by the Broad-Foundation-connected superintendent to insert test scores into all three of the above areas.
And actually, it is a real victory for the teachers (in terms of ridding themselves of what they did not want in the contract) and anyone who does not support the ed-reform push by wealthy foundations and the DOE.
The descriptions about Seattle are fun to read (do we agree?):
MHO, Seattle is the epitome of a live-and-let-live, can't-we-all-just-get-along kind of city. In this vein, there is a well-established historical tradition of amicable dealings between the Seattle Public Schools administration and the union (in fact, the late superintendent John Stanford has all but been canonized as a saint in this city).
That is, until the current superintendent came on board.
Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is Seattle's version of Michelle Rhee. I'm sure she would consider that comparison quite a compliment.
The thread does lay out the issue that there has been a joint union and district task force working on teacher evaluations for two years.
Here's their analysis (italics mine, bold theirs):
But Seattle teachers had three advantages coming into this battle, which put them in a uniquely advantageous position to try to fight back.
First, as noted above, there was already a well-designed plan that had been jointly negotiated by representatives of both sides.
Second, Seattle is a well-educated, very blue city that largely supports public education and public school teachers. That support is not universal; there is a substantial portion of public commentary that focuses on the red herring of how important it is to be able to fire all the horrible, terrible, very bad teachers who are sitting in their classrooms eating bon-bons while our children drown in ignorance. Still, those comments are countered by many articulate, well-informed and thoughtful responses by the supporters of public education.
But the Seattle teachers' third advantage was the one that was really unique: a very specific set of facts that undermined the superintendent's ability to insist upon using test scores to evaluate teachers. Months after she spent a considerable chunk of district money to bring in a new computerized testing program -- part of what she advocated using to evaluate teachers -- it was disclosed that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson sits on the Board of Directors of the company that produces the test. The company that was awarded a no-bid contract to supply testing services to the Seattle Public Schools.
One thing I might add as I have been talking with other people is that there is some belief that the district (and the Board) is mighty worried about the levy (and well they should be - there is a lot going against it). I think there is an understanding about how much having teachers support and work for the levy is important to winning. I don't know if there is some tacit agreement that the union will support the levy (and that support turns into teacher turnout to work for it) but maybe that was in there.
What is still puzzling is that part of the contract revolves around winning the levy and/or getting federal grants. Neither is guaranteed. So why sign a contract if what's in it might not come to pass? Oh. So maybe none of the money issues in the contract matter a whole lot to teachers? Maybe it's just a sop to the ed reformers ("see, there is merit pay in there").