Seattle Organizers: Values Statement for Teacher Contract Negotiations

(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, ( or Glenn Bafia, Executive Director (, 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.


Lori said…
the thought that our teachers could strike overwhelms me, what with all the other changes coming for September. I don't think I can handle much more school-related stress this year! I look forward to reading the statement - thanks to all who are working on it.
reader said…
What can Mr. Bafia and his crowd do for schools hit with the new model for delivering special education services? There is just no way a resource room teacher with a caseload of all the run of the mill disabilities can add on downs syndrome and autism. They should demand a better staffing ratio.
seattle citizen said…
My take on the contract is that since there is little money, and since educators are already being stretched to do a number of new things, a new contract (say, three years) should pretty much continue current work load and expectations. While there are any number of things management (and parents/guardians and community stakeholders) would like to see added, there really is only so much time in the day and to add new initiatives with no money to pay for the increased workload (unless there are proposals to ease the workload in other areas) seems like it would be asking too much of teachers as they negotiate MAP, mainstreaming, common curriculum, and other recent challenges.
Our document only has one real "add" and is more value statements about what we believe both the teachers and the district should do for quality education. How it gets worked out is their business.
zb said…
I agree that asking teachers to do more can't be the solution to the issues faced by students, parents and communities.

But, I look forward to seeing what the "value" statement says.
dan dempsey said…
Do not forget increased class sizes while 111 academic coaches are employed at $10+ million.

Step one for improvement...

is to realize that much of what passes for education research is so badly done that it is unusable for most important decisions in the real world where you are spending real money on real teachers to teach real students.

We must demand a much higher quality of education research and data from our research institutions (that provide consulting, teacher training and ongoing prof. dev.) and education material providers. This will apply pressure to these institutions and suppliers to demonstrate effectiveness based on high quality research rather than testimonials from experts. This is the only way that we can expect to halt the unproductive lurching from fad to fad in our school systems.

MGJ seems to be convinced that dazzling the School Board with one program after another is the way to keep her job.

She has clearly demonstrated an inability to stay within available resources. There is just no enough manpower to keep all these balls in the air successfully.

The board has continually bought baloney. Now with a huge deficit staring them in the face will they buy STEM while failing to fix buildings, the k-12 math program and a myriad of other ignored problems. Will they continue to allow MGJ to take us where rational beings would not go?

Cheryl Chow is NOT on the board, perhaps thinking about decisions instead of rubber stamping is OK now.

Research is rarely used by the board. Consider the Supe's bonus clause .... can anyone rationally connect paying MGJ a bonus to better decision making and increased academic achievement?

DeBell admitted that the bonus was a step toward merit pay for teachers. So where is the research on that one? Could he lay out a complete rational plan based on quality research?

Just because the Broad foundation likes it, does not make it advisable.

Betty Patu gets it. She asked what will get shorted with STEM spending.

MGJ is the queen of chaos.
She should try reading her strategic plan and living within available resources.

The contract negotiations could be really interesting if the SEA is no longer the servant of the administration as in the Wendy Kimball era.

Wendy Kimball was a librarian prior to her stint as SEA president. After her presidency ended, she became an administrator downtown.
She is in charge of National Board certification efforts. I wonder what qualified her for that cushy job?

When Carla Santorno got tired of questions about the elementary math adoption in April 2007. She said I was mistreating her because she was a Black woman and refused to meet with me even after she initially offered to do so.. When I contacted the Union, Wendy was completely useless. She eventually managed to get a commitment from Santorno to meet with me after the Math adoption.

Even when there is high quality research available (not very often) it is rarely used because the "elites" running this game wish to do something else and valid research just gets in the way.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Yet MGJ finds her SE initiative a success.

The big question is......
when if ever will the directors direct MGJ?
seattle citizen said…
This could be an opportunity for some real collaboration on making the current changes efficiently. The things I mentioned are all intended to a) identify student skill levels and b) address those levels. This is somewhat different than current practice, in that classrooms typically address one level: student is expected to be at-level and receive at-level education. The change is that student is identified as being at some degree of skill level, and teachers address that. Much more student-centered.

So how does SPS/SEA enact these changes (and others) in an efficient way? What can teachers STOP doing in order to free up time for these new directions?

In order to have that discussion, they need to know what the ultimate plan is - what will the "ideal" district look like in, say, five years? This is something I haven't seen yet, the "vision" that results from all these changes. There seems to be little vision, but plenty of changes towards that vision, whatever it is. Somebody needs to write up this vision, the big picture, so all parties can collaborate on making it happen in a way that doesn't cost additional money. Or take more of a teacher's time.
Citizen, I would echo that comment and say the "vision" needs to not be dreamy and in the clouds. Specifics of what we want to look like as a district in each classroom would help.
Charlie Mas said…
For myself, I would like to see an end to social promotion. Students working below grade level should get the support they need to bring them up to grade level, not just be passed along without being able to do the work.

For all of the talk about the teacher needing to engage the students, let's remember that the students cannot engage with the grade level work if it is beyond them.
seattle citizen said…
I can't state this strongly enough: Parent/guardians (as we see here), teachers and other educators, administrators...all are willing, able and (mostly) excited to lend a hand to create a new "vision."

But at this point there is little evident cohesion stated, there is NOT a "grand plan" made visible, it is left to the public (and maybe the educators) to imagine the "finished product." We can see multiple pieces...that all SEEM to want to go together...
seattle citizen said…
Charlie, I think the MAP system will daylight this issue. If MAP scores trend low for a student, then why are they being promoted?

When grading was purely a teacher function, it was easier to socially promote a student. But MAP (IF it is done reliably) might show discrepencies between grade and MAP scores, so what about that, one might ask.

Plus, differentiation only goes so far (maybe a level or two either way) so MAP would be useful in either not promoting a student, giving them AOL, or giving them some additional remediation or acceleration (if schools can afford this....)
Lori said…
SeattleCitizen said: This is somewhat different than current practice, in that classrooms typically address one level: student is expected to be at-level and receive at-level education. The change is that student is identified as being at some degree of skill level, and teachers address that. Much more student-centered.

We've been in the school system only 2 years, but I already have concluded that one change I'd like to see is that every child would have an IEP (individual education plan). I have a math-brain, and I see bell-shaped curves everywhere! And I agree that part of the problem is that our schools teach to the "middle" and don't necessarily appreciate or aren't set up to accommodate the children who fall at the high and low ends of the curve. Teaching "at grade level" will meet the needs of many children in any given class, but what is being done for the outliers and both ends of the spectrum? My child is a high-end outlier, but we left our conference this past fall feeling like the teacher was satisfied that her work with my daughter was done. She scored well on MAP and sits quietly in class all day. Nothing more to do here folks, this kid is doing great, let's move on... Sorry, but that's not okay. My daughter has needs that aren't met by teaching to the middle. And I'm sure she's not alone, because like I said, children's abilities fall all over the place on the curve.

If every child had an IEP, we could also use that information for measuring teacher quality. It really isn't appropriate to just look at test scores because there are so many variables that ultimately affect that outcome. What we need to look at are the processes that teachers use rather than the desired outcome itself. What does an effective teacher DO in the classroom? That is what we need to measure because that is the one and only thing the teacher truly controls. If every child had an IEP, then you periodically measure compliance with the IEP, progress on the IEP, etc.

I know this is sort of pie in the sky thinking because there are neither resources nor time to put every child on an IEP. But maybe there should be.
Joan NE said…
Melissa left this note: "(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.)"

The New York Times Foundation supports regressive reform agenda for education. This may explain why the normally compassionate and pragmatic Bob Hebert is advocating for regressive education reform.

Randi Weingarten was a guest lecturer at the very first Broad Academy of Superintendents weekend training workshop.

The following quotation is from Press announcement on convening of first Broad Academy weekend training workshop.

"1-2:45 p.m. Adam Urbanski, President, Rochester Teachers Association
[*****]Randi Weingarten[*****]
[now president of AFT; AFT accepted a Broad Foundation Grant called the American Innovation Award, I believe], President, United Federation of Teachers Becki Wissink, President, Denver Classroom Teachers Assn John Grossman, President, Columbus Education Association Panel of Union Leaders: How are education associations changing and how do they need to change? How can urban superintendents build positive relationships with the teachers' union? What are union perspectives of urban districts and issues for CEOs?"


Use this as a search term
["The New York Times Foundation" "charter school"].

Here are two of the results I got with this search string:

Gotham Gazette -- Going Private... of parents or teachers as well as small community groups, the charter school ... Foundation, and receives support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Times Foundation ... · Cached pageleadership « Minnesota Council on Foundations Blog – Philanthropy ...... board of Yinghua Academy, the nation’s first Chinese immersion charter school. ... The New York Times: Foundation giving for 2008 fell by just 1 percent on an inflation-adjusted ... · Cached page
Joan NE said…
On social promotion. Charlie, Chicago had a strong anti-social-promotion policy for some time. I don't know if they still have it. The research I have seen shows unequivocally that holding children back does not improve outcomes, and may even make them worse for the affected kids.
Chris S. said…
Re: Dan and what passes for research: Aye, aye!

I just want to clarify that there is good research out there, such as the research Dan cites, and you can tell the good from the bad. If it's not published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's not good. If it does not have academically-connected authors, it's not good. (A university affiliation is not an automatic assurance of honesty, but the academic tenure system at least assures that faculty jobs are somewhat protected, making them less dependent on private or political agendas, plus most institutions have disclosure requirements regarding conflicts of interest.)

The best studies, and some of the ones Dan cites fall in this category, are reviews or meta-analyses, meaning they look at all the peer-reviewed studies of a topic, assess their validity, and decide how compelling the overall evidence is.

On the other hand, much of the "research" MGJ cites is published as private foundation reports, or comes from places like "Achieve, Inc." - (that name should tell you something.) This is to be expected when your superintendent has close ties to one of the business-related foundations that produce this stuff. You have to ask, is this research or is this "research?" You have to ask for citations. Maybe even read the articles, or ask an academic for a second opinion.

I'm going to try to educate the board members about this someday, hopefully even testify. Bug me about this so I do, please!
seattle citizen said…
Lori, you conclude with the comment that resources for this sort of individual attention are scarce, and this is where we have to have a plan that both introduces new ideas to address this (and I think elements of this plan are in place) and also finds areas where teachers can become more efficient, lose out-dated structures and expectation, create new pathways for learning (leveled classes, for instance) so teachers CAN do this sort of individidualized IEP (teachers would call it an SLP, Student Learning Plan, and some schools already do this)

SLPs, differentiation, and other ways of addressing individual needs are time-consumptive, no doubt. So what can we do to give teachers more time?
Unknown said…
SC: One thing that might help would be "looping" classes -- so that teachers have the same kids for two years. That might make it easier for teachers to do the initial assessment and establish an SLP, and then give them two years to work on getting kids through it.
Another thought would be to gather and train a LOT more parent/community volunteers to work with kids individually or in small groups on tasks (reading comprehension/writing/math drills (oh, wait, we can't do those any more), etc.
When my oldest child (Spectrum at that time) was in 3rd grade, I recall that his teacher had the entire math curriculum (this was pre TERC/IMP/Discovery Math -- thus a "classic math" book) separated into "units" with assigned problems, etc., and kids were invited to proceed at their own pace. One child (not mine) covered the entire third grade AND fourth grade books, and was working well into the fifth grade book by the end of the year. I think mine got about half way through the fourth grade curriculum. It takes some time to set this stuff up in advance and it may not work with math anymore, if math is now mostly discovery/discussion done in groups, which seems to be the case with some of the "discovery" curricula), but it sure as heck would work with Singapore -- which is an approved (though unsupported) part of the elementary curriculum.
One of my kids for a while attended a private school for dyslexic kids where all class subjects met at the same time, and kids went to whatever room was working at their "level" for at least reading and math -but science too, I think. (Done right, this turns into a de facto ALO -- where kids can REALLY advance at their own pace).
Some schools use "alternate" books for things like social studies, etc. So, if you are studying the history of the American west, different groups are reading (and doing projects on) different books, at different levels of difficulty -- while the class studies the same basic time unit.
I knew a 4th grade teacher at what is now West Seattle Elementary years ago who did individual spelling lists -- if you missed words, they stayed on "your" spelling list until you got them right, and you only added new words up to whatever the maximum was (20?) -- so good spellers streaked ahead at 19 or 20 words per week, while slower ones maybe only added 6 or 7 -- but the point was to learn the correct spellings, not just take the test and go on regardless of whether you had learned to spell the words. She had a system (and this was before computers made it easy) for keeping track of each kids' word list. I don't recall how she gave the tests.
Unknown said…
Charlie: Now that I have had a student who performs below grade level, I have to say, I don't agree with holding them back. I DO, however, think that we should be using individualized education plans to make sure that they cover the material they need to cover before they graduate. My "underperforming" student didn't even know he was a "special ed kid" until he hit Garfield (we kept him OUT of public schools for just that reason, through 8th grade). By 10th grade, he was reading with 12+ grade comprehension, but at a 7th grade fluency level (i.e. -- really slowly). His PSATs in math are above the 75th percentile, but he failed the math WASL.
For the record, I also think that we should be making classes available for APP/Spectrum/ALO kids (who are, after all, performing at 2 grades ahead of grade level) that get them college credit -- AP courses do, and so do running start classes -- but I think we can, and should do more. I think "high school" should "end" -- for the purposes of awarding a diploma, when the "work" has been done -- not when the hours have been put in. I realize that kids may stay in the building and continue their education -- but at that point, it should all be college level work and credit.
In my opinion, the amount of our kids' lives that we waste, either by teaching them too slowly, or by teaching over their heads, is really a shame.
seattle citizen said…
As I've said here before, I'm all in favor of a complete revision of the school system away from "grade level" and to "skill level."

I forget my history of education, but can someone point out the problems of a skill-level structure? Besides scheduling and probably some extra cost for more variety of classes in a school?

Imagine a world...where students who were above level in, say, history took, say, Level 10 classes while taking Level 7 classes in Math because they weren't as adept at that...

This would require both educators and students to recognize the variety of learning rates in kids (and adults)...what a horror! We're not all the same! Eeek!
dan dempsey said…
Seattle Citizen said:

"When grading was purely a teacher function, it was easier to socially promote a student."

Chicago has had very poor schools for a long time. These schools have supposedly improved a bit over the last decade. The University of Chicago research that I read on non-promotion in Chicago reported that when looking at students retained and compared with those who were barely promoted showed:

Grade k-4 non-promotion was positive
Grade 5 neutral
Above grade 5 a negative.

They mentioned that non-promotion may have a positive effect on motivating others (students outside the group examined) to perform but that was NOT measured.

Seattle has had a "de facto" social promotion policy contrary to the written policies D44.00 and D45.00.
This has nothing to do with grading being a teacher function. The leadership actively discouraged non-promotion.

Unfortunately effective interventions were never seriously undertaken. In math for a considerable length of time there were no required necessary skills to be learned at each grade level.

MG-J has certainly avoided the policies D44.00 and D45.00.

The State math standards require that students learn the standard algorithm for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Everyday Math emphasizes its own focus algorithms. MGJ's math team (contrary to the Strategic Plan's language) did not use the State Math Standards as the curriculum up through 2008-2009.
The increase in academic coaching and RIFing of teachers is unlikely to improve this academic situation.
Their is nothing in Hattie's "Visible Learning" to indicate coaches for teachers will improve academic outcomes for students.

It would be fabulous if the contract negotiations could bring a more rational approach to instructional practices and materials. In math TEAM MGJ remains clueless.

Unfortunately not enough board members care to actually read the available valid research before pulling out their rubber stamp.

I remain outraged at Director Sundquist's statement about finding refuge in reading "Foundations for Success" and relying on NMAP recommendations in his vote for "Discovering Mathematics" for high school. This is to use Charlie's term ... Bullshit.

Listening to OSPI's Greta Bornemann about math given the last decade in WA math is insanity ... supporting data to follow.
dan dempsey said…
Education Week has just released Quality Counts 2010. It uses NAEP data for math.

In math WA scored 65.0 which is above the national average of 64.7. WA has very favorable demographics. California with extremely challenging demographics scored one point higher at 66.0

WA's 8th grade math poverty achievement gap was 28.2 slighly worse than the national average of 26.9.

While the nation's gap shrank by -1.5 the WA gap change from 2003-2009 was among the worst in the nation at +5.6.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Anything that the bargaining process could do to facilitate a move toward intelligent decision making would be appreciated.

Perhaps Judge Spector can push the district toward an appreciation of intelligent decision making in the coming hearing in regard to the High School math adoption on Jan. 26
gavroche said…
On the subject of teachers, Jesse Hagopian, former Madison Middle School history teacher and ESP Vision co-founder, and his wife Amy Wilhelm happened to be in Haiti during the quake and are now helping the wounded.

Seattle couple in Haiti suddenly become medical workers

Jesse was laid off from SPS last year in the allegedly budget-cutting RIFs.

Imagine what he could teach his students about this terrible and intense first-hand experience in Haiti if given the chance to teach again.

Remind me again why Supt. Goodloe-Johnson riffed 165 teachers when SPS enrollment increased by 1,500?

Good work, Jesse & Amy.
Charlie Mas said…
Let me make myself clear.

I have been told that holding a student back does not help the student.

We all know that promoting the student does not help the student.

How about instead of doing either of these, we do something that helps the student? How about providing the student with an extended, intensive, and enriched academic program designed to accelerate their education and return them to their general education class working at grade level?

Extended, meaning extended time on task - 90 minutes for each of the core subjects: reading, writing, math and science. Also an extended day, starting with breakfast and continuing into the afternoon and an extended week that includes a half day on Saturdays.

Intensive, meaning smaller class sizes. Also intensive work during the school day as the students' education is accelerated. They have to learn more and learn faster to catch up to their peers.

Enriched with music, art, and field trips. Lots and lots of field trips. The zoo, the aquarium, the ballet, the theater. This isn't boot camp. This isn't a punishment. Also, studies have shown that it is the lack of this sort of enrichment that contributes over 30% of the academic achievement gap between students from low-income homes and other students. The enrichment would be done in the afternoon during the extended day. Also, in the afternoon, structured homework sessions and instruction on study habits.

The program would be strictly a temporary assignment. When the student is working at grade level they are returned to a general education class. There, they will be able to engage in the work because they will be able to do it. They will have the study habits and skills necessary to succeed.

That's not social promotion and that's not holding them back. That's something that will help the students.
seattle citizen said…
Charlie, that is a FANTASTIC program you've described. Let's do it!
BullDogger said…
I'd like to see some steps towards performance evaluation of teachers and full 360 evaluation of principals that include the staff and community. Principals are key to teachers getting "real" reviews, not the xerox reviews presently given.

A bigger concern to me than the 165 RIF is that the wrong part of the workforce is, in many cases, being exited. That's where the system needs fixing but without better principal effectiveness you won't get there.

Just a comment on Lori's fear of a strike. A teacher's strike is not legal but they happen anyway. The courts issue fines that are never collected. When teachers do sign the contract districts simply shift the school year so no paid days are lost.

Teachers are the only trade I know of where no personal financial risk exists to strike outside of cash flow. The system as it works now encourages a strike.
Sahila said…
Its kinda funny to be reading this blog a year down the track from when I first started contributing, watching people suggest that all kids need an IEP and trying not to laugh/cry at the memory of the derision and the accusations of being "naive, idealistic, there's no money, go to private school" that came my way when I suggested the very same thing... IEPs for all kids, vertical curricula so all kids could learn and progress at their own speed...

Oh dear.....

wv= earyl ... seems I was a little early? Ahead of the curve as is so often the case...maybe if I live to be 120 I will finally see real 'education' happening in this country for our kids... pity my son and your kids will be 80 or so by then! You'd think that if such plainly reasonable, rational, sane, commonsensical ideas had any value we'd all be out in the streets demanding them for our children, instead of letting regressive reform in through the door, courtesy of MGJ and Broad and an acqueiscent Board...
Joan NE said…
[Note: I am copying these comments out of a different strand, since they really belong on this strand]

Joan NE wrote...Melissa - ...I received reports about last night's [Thursday jan 21] PTA general meeting, at which a vote was taken on the Community Values Statement.

I agree with the priorities and values stressed in the CVS.

From reports on the meeting, though, it sounds like PTA leadership, and, of the many orgs that participated in writing the CVS, most or all endorse Race-to-The-Top (RTT) and the version of merit pay, performance management, and standardized testing that RTT--and our District leadership--favors.

Can you tell me if this is correct?

Melissa Westbrook said...
"From reports on the meeting, though, it sounds like PTA leadership, and, of the many orgs that participated in writing the CVS, most or all endorse Race-to-The-Top (RTT) and the version of merit pay, performance management, and standardized testing that RTT--and our District leadership--favors."

Joan, no, it is not correct (and thanks for bringing it up because I need to get this document on the blog).

Our coalition did not discuss RTTT money or performance management or standardized testing (so obviously no endorsement).

Our document is deliberately simple and short. We wanted to put forth, in the most basic manner, what we all find to be community values for our district. We deliberately did not dive deep because we aren't the ones to define the criteria or benchmarks used for teacher assessment (except that we do say for RIFs that we do NOT want seniority to be the only criteria used).

1/22/10 12:36 PM
Joan NE said…

I think that the priorities in the CSV can be implemented in a very constructive way. On the other hand, they can also be implemented in a perverted way.

What worries my collegues and I about the Community Values Statement is that it will be used by the League of Education Voters as showing that SPS families are in favor of the reforms called for by RTT. There is a very strong push to get RTT friendly legislation through the STate legislature in this session, and this document can help with the lobbying effort.

In my opinion, and I think that of my colleagues, RTT represents a perverted implementation of the priorities listed in the CSV.

The District may also use this document in a similar way to help them wring concessions from the Teachers Union that will open the door to reforms consistent with RTT priorities.

If this was not the intent of the good folks who helped to write this admirable document, then these people have been and are being used and abused.

So Melissa, are you worried about this document being misused?

Was it LEV that was most active in organizing the CSV initiative?

Why was the PTA leadership so eager to get this document ratified, and without giving membership much time to contemplate it?

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